Tag Archives: club carlson

Random Thoughts on 2/25/2014

1) American Airlines Executive Platinum status is awesome. I’m already 5/5 on systemwide upgrades, and I’ve cleared all domestic upgrades except for a Monday morning JFK->SFO flight that was booked one week in advance. This is making me want to maintain my ExPlat status more, but it still seems a little silly to me to try to do so.

2) You should always register for mileage promotions, even if you don’t think you’ll satisfy the requirements. I registered for AA’s double miles promotion to Tokyo and Seoul a long time ago, and what do you know, I’m currently in Tokyo and earned double miles on my flight from LAX to NRT. I’ll happily take an extra 10k AA miles, thank you very much.

3) Speaking of Tokyo, I really don’t understand the craze for popcorn here. Some of the longest lines I’ve seen in this city are to buy popcorn.

4) Club Carlson announced their devaluation last week. It could have been much, much worse. In fact, to me, this devaluation is largely a non-issue, since they didn’t really change redemption levels that much, and they didn’t touch the 5x earning on the credit card and free award night on any stay of 2 or more nights. Even at 70k points for the top tier, that’s 14k of spend to get two free nights on the credit card. What other hotel program can you get that kind of bang for your buck? Granted, the hotels maybe aren’t as aspirational, and the hotels are mostly concentrated in Europe, but Club Carlson is a great hotel program for people who don’t stay in hotels much and instead get points from credit cards.

5) I’ve got a trip planned to Vietnam and Cambodia later this year, and I’m trying to figure out how to get from Hanoi to Siem Reap in a reasonable amount of time. I think the answer is to either pay cash for a one-way ticket on Vietnam Airlines (~$240, which is more than I want to pay), or else to transfer some Amex points to Flying Blue to redeem for a one-way award (10k points). Unfortunately, the Flying Blue website isn’t displaying space on any of the Vietnam Airlines flights and instead wants to route me through Guangzhou, which means I’d have to call in to book and deal with the Air France call center and incur a phone booking fee. The phone booking fee and fuel surcharges would also seem to make the points redemption not as good of a deal. Anyone have experience booking on Vietnam Airlines or have an alternative that I haven’t considered?

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Review: Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Helsinki Finland

The first redemption that I made with the Club Carlson points acquired from my credit card sign-up bonus (or rather, using my friend’s Club Carlson points since mine didn’t post quickly enough, but that’s another story) was at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel in Helsinki. For 44k points, I got a 2-night redemption, since the second night was free with my credit card.

The hotel is located very centrally, just steps away from the main train station in the city center. To get there, I took an airport bus that was 4.50 euro each way and took me straight to the train station.

Outside of the hotel

Outside of the hotel

Given that my flight arrived relatively early, by the time I got to the hotel, it was only around 10:00am, and they said that they were completely sold out and couldn’t offer me early check-in. But instead of telling me when they might be able to offer me a room, they told me to come back at 3pm and no earlier (3pm is the official check-in time). When I asked if they could offer me something earlier than 3pm due to my Gold status with Club Carlson, they said that they couldn’t. Throughout my stay, it seemed like having Gold status did nothing.

Check-in area

Check-in area

After exploring Helsinki for a couple of hours, I got back to the hotel at 2pm and the check-in agent at that time was happy to give me a room. But again, there was no acknowledgement of status, no welcome amenity, no upgrade, etc.

Hallway

Hallway

The bedroom itself was ample for just myself. The bed was large and comfortable, although the covers are only twin-sized, so they have two sets on the bed, which I found a little strange. I enjoyed the lounger in the room, as well as the numerous lighting options.

Nice bed, but oddly split into two

Nice bed, but oddly split into two

Seating area in the room

Seating area in the room

Smallish bathroom, but completely adequate

Smallish bathroom, but completely adequate

Breakfast is offered complimentary to all guests. It’s a buffet with a wide variety of hot and cold options, including some local specialities like karelian pasties with egg butter, herring, and elk pate, and an omelet station. Many things were labeled as gluten-free or lactose-free, which I found helpful. In general, I found the food to be good for a buffet, in particular the pancakes and the karelian pasties, which I had never had before.

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Buffet features items like elk pate and herring

Buffet features items like elk pate and herring

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Interesting pancakes and karelian pasties

Interesting pancakes and karelian pasties

Like any good Finnish hotel, this hotel had a sauna. There were separate saunas for men and women, and the men’s sauna had a changing area, a conference table, and showers located outside of the sauna. I used the sauna twice during my stay and only encountered one other person using the facilities in that time.

Conference room in the sauna?

Conference room in the sauna?

Sauna

Sauna

Overall, the room and bed were comfortable, breakfast was tasty, and the location was killer. There was essentially no recognition of elite status, though. But for 44k Club Carlson points for 2 nights, I would definitely stay there again.