USA

Lounge Review: Guam (GUM) Sagan Bisita Lounge, 05 February 2017

Guam Airport Sagan Bisita Lounge

Where: Main Terminal, Opposite Gate 7

Hours: 12.00 am – 10.00 am; 1.00 pm – 5.00 pm

The Sagan Bisita Lounge is a small-ish L-shaped lounge with a lot of sofa seating. There are no tarmac views, but it is an adequate lounge. I spent an hour there during my layover from Palau to Narita, and was there in the wee hours of the morning. I accessed it via my Priority Pass Select, compliments of Citi Prestige.

So, groggy review alert! (Yes, I have other priorities in life)

Guam Airport Sagan Bisita Lounge

Food/Drinks

Even for the wee hours of the morning, there were some breakfast foods on offer. There were eggs, some sort of meat, baked beans, and instant noodles (amongst others). I only noticed the eggs because I went to the bathroom, and came back to see my friend with a plate of eggs. She apparently has special talent to find eggs anywhere in the world!

There was a decent alcohol selection. At the end, there was also a fridge stocked with all sorts of soft drinks. I believe I had an iced tea.

Bathroom/Shower

The bathroom was a bit dim, but otherwise, clean. No complaints.

Guam Airport Sagan Bisita Lounge

Wifi/Power Outlet

There was some wifi, and it was ok. I believe there was also a power outlet by the sofa I sat.

Overall

It’s a perfectly ok lounge for stopover. It has sufficient food/beverages/wifi to keep you happy, and I had a great nap on the couch.

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Lounge Review: The Club at SEA, South Satellite, 12 Jan 2017

The Club at SEA, South Satellite

Where: Seattle, South Satellite, next to Gate S9 (aka international satellite)

Hours: 6 am – 5.30 pm

Why have I not been here?? Oh wait, it’s in the South Satellite, and every time I fly from the South Satellite, it’s closed.

The Club at SEA, South Satellite is accessible via Priority Pass, but also serves as a contract lounge for several airlines. I actually visited it as part of my Business Class ticket on All Nippon Airways.

Featuring tarmac views and high ceilings, this rather compact lounge is decent, and comparable to other “The Club” lounges in the US. It was pretty crowded when I visited in the morning.

The Club at SEA, South Satellite

Food/Drinks

When I visited, there was a decent selection of food. It ranged from sandwiches, to soup, to popcorn. There was also instant noodles, and decent packaged snacks, like chips and cookies. The quality of the food was ok.

The drinks selection was also decent. They have beers, wine, and cocktails. Although drinking at lounges is a rarity for me, I actually ordered a Lemon Drop, because I’m a sucker for cocktails.

The Club at SEA, South Satellite

Service

There were quite a lot of servers. Service was brisk, and despite the rather crowded lounge, dirty dishes were cleared very promptly.

The Club at SEA, South Satellite

Wifi/Power

Available, and decent. Power outlets were also available at more obvious work areas, like the high tables/high chairs.

The Club at SEA, South Satellite

Overall

While I’ve not visited the Delta Skyclub, and The Club in Seattle, I’d rate this lounge as my #2, tied with the British Airways Terraces Lounge. They have a nice selection of food and beverages, which is better than the Alaska Airlines Boardrooms. The Amex Centurion Lounge, however, still gets my top vote, because I prefer the quality of their food, and I’d probably never get my ass over to the South Satellite just for this.

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To the Islands: Guam, Palau, Tokyo – the Non-Survivor Edition, 29 Jan – 07 Feb 2017

Palau

I’ve actually never watched Survivor, but Palau is on my list, because it’s a miles&points redemption dream. It’s one of those places that’s so close (~2000 miles from Singapore as the crow flies), yet so expensive (over 1000 USD) and hard to get to (multiple stops).

Enter United miles. Palau is in the same region as Japan and Korea, making it a cheap redemption (12,500 miles one way for economy saver). It’s not often that one can get over 500 usd for a 12,500 mile redemption. Ok, in reality I paid 50,000 United miles because while waiting for my friend to confirm, economy saver availability went away, and I ended up taking business class saver one way, and economy standard the other way.

Anyway, here goes my island-hopping itinerary!

29 January 2017: Singapore to Haneda (on Japan Airlines Business Class redeye for 25,000 Alaska Miles)

30 January 2017: Narita to Guam (on United Airlines Business class, priced as a free stopover, 25,000 miles)

31 January 2017: Guam

01 February 2017: Guam to Palau (on United Airlines Business class)

02 February 2017: Palau

03 February 2017: Palau

04 February 2017: Palau to Narita (redeye, United Airlines)

05 February 2017: Tokyo

06 February 2017: Tokyo

07 February 2017: Tokyo – Singapore (Delta, I paid for it, and got 5,000 Alaska miles from the flight)

Categories: Itinerary, Japan, Miles&Points, Palau, Premium Travel, USA | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Lounge Review: San Diego International Airport Terminal 2 Airspace Lounge, 05 July 2016

San Diego International Airport (SAN) Airspace Lounge

I had a 2 hr layover in San Diego. Using my Amex Platinum card, I had access to the Airspace Lounge.

I *think* the Airspace Lounge is a third party lounge, which caters to a bunch of different airlines. So, depending on how you entered the Airspace Lounge, you’d get a fairly different service. For instance, those who entered on a premium ticket flying Japan Airlines (JAL) had a menu selection involving ramen. Using Amex Platinum to enter, I was given a different menu with different items.

I could have entered using my AA premium ticket, but the front desk agent suggested I use my Amex Platinum, as that entry would come with a $10 credit to spend on items. I wasn’t hungry at that point, but $10 would probably get you a small food item. Sodas and snacks are free. I simply got a fruit smoothie for $6.

San Diego International Airport (SAN) Airspace Lounge

Space
The Airspace Lounge has a high ceiling, and tarmac views. Its white theme also gave it a very bright and airy feel. There are several armchairs alongside the windows, and there are some dining tables closer to the bar area.

There are many power outlets located between the armchairs. I had the misfortune of being unable to locate a power outlet that actually worked (I tried a few – other seats were occupied).

San Diego International Airport (SAN) Airspace Lounge

Food/Drink
The menu looked pretty good, although I didn’t try the food. It’s refreshing compared to the usual selection available at UA/AA lounges, and they were made after you place an order at the bar.

I only ordered a smoothie, which was a Naked Juice smoothie.

San Diego International Airport (SAN) Airspace Lounge

Wifi
Slow…. Painfully slow. That’s my main complaint.

Overall

It’s an above average domestic lounge, but don’t rely on the wifi speed or availability of working power outlets.

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Lounge Review: DFW Terminal D Centurion Lounge, 05 July 2016

Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Amex Centurion Lounge

One of the nice perks of having an Amex Platinum or Amex Centurion card is access to their amazing lounges. The DFW Centurion Lounge is one of the best lounges I’ve visited so far in the United States.

Located in Terminal D, it’s on the upper level. The layout of the lounge is slightly weird in that there are corridors and many different spaces. On the upside, it’s fairly large. When I was there, it wasn’t hard to get a seat.

I read online that I could get a massage, but unfortunately, by the time I got there (~6pm), their massages were booked out. Nevertheless, that left me about 2 hrs to enjoy the lounge before the flight to Sao Paolo.

Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Amex Centurion Lounge

Showers

First order of business? Showers. The front desk agent opened a shower stall for me, and I was told to just inform her when I was done. The shower stall was clean and spacious. They also stock L’Occitane amenities. I had a very refreshing shower.

Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Amex Centurion Lounge

Food/Drinks

One of my main gripes about US lounges is their limited food selection. If I’m lucky, there’s a sad sandwich. If not, I’d have to just eat snack mix. Beggars can’t be choosers, but beggars can still be whiners! 😀

Not the Amex Centurion Lounge.

Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Amex Centurion Lounge

The DFW Centurion Lounge served Tex-Mex at Dallas. I had some amazing beef brisket, fish, and tortilla chips. I wasn’t that hungry at that point, but I’d imagine this would be a satisfying dinner for most.

Most other domestic lounges also don’t provide overly exciting drinks. The DFW Centurion Lounge had quite a cool cocktail menu. I tried a White Mimosa, which was pretty strong.

Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Amex Centurion Lounge

Overall

I had a really pleasant 2 hr stay at the DFW Centurion Lounge. I can see why it’s a highlight for travellers with layovers.

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Hotel Review: Sheraton Airport Tempe, 25 March 2016

Sheraton Airport Tempe

Sheraton Airport Tempe was a category 2 SPG property when we first booked it, and costs 3000 points, because it was a weekend when we stayed. They offer a complimentary airport shuttle from Phoenix International Airport, and the property is in the process of being upgraded.

Location:

It’s a short drive (~10 min) from Phoenix International Airport, and located near the restaurants/services near Arizona State University. Those are about 10 mins drive away, and if you are there for Spring Training, it’s really close the Los Angeles Angels training complex – Diablo Stadium.

Check In/Check Out:

Painless and quick. I showed my SPG business card, and was granted lounge access. We were given an updated room.

Room:

It’s an average-sized room with a balcony. Our room overlooked the parking lot, so not much to see there. The room is updated, meaning there’s new wallpaper. They do have a decent-sized fridge, where we stored our beverages.

The bathroom is updated, but on the small-to-average side of things. It has a tub with a shower head.

Sheraton Airport Tempe

Club Lounge:

The evening hors d’oeuvres was pretty decent. I have a thing for potstickers, so whenever that is offered, I do tend to be happy. They have a self-serve fridge with soft drinks and water, but no coffee machine. It’s pretty small, with room for about six tables. We didn’t eat breakfast because we couldn’t wake up in time for it.

Parking/Wifi:

Parking is complimentary. Wifi is also complimentary, but very spotty. I was doing my annual fantasy baseball draft, and it crapped out in the middle of the draft. I ended up with Ryan Braun. I let out a scream when the wifi died on me. True story.

Overall:

It’s a pretty nice property with a pool. The club lounge is also pretty decent. I don’t feel a compulsion to return, but I also don’t have any negative feelings about it.

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, 24 March 2016

Morning view from Junior Suite #1909 @ Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

I’m working on re-qualifying for Hyatt Diamond in 2017, so I’ve been mattress running Hyatt properties whenever possible. The HR Albuquerque is one of the cheaper properties (<100 USD), and also close to the airport for our early flight, making it a perfect candidate. Additionally, I also have a number of Diamond Suite Upgrades expiring soon, so I used one on this one night stay.

Location:

It’s in downtown. It seemed rather dead in the evening, because the downtown is a business district. But it’s a quick, 15-min drive to the airport, so there was that.

Check In/Check Out:

Check in was relatively quick, but not without some drama. Our parking charges (~18 USD) were waived on account of my Diamond status, which I appreciated. We were given suites, which are two connecting rooms, but to our shock, we opened the door to an un-cleaned, previously-occupied room. We were given the wrong room.

While check out was quick, there was also some fuss with the bill. One of the diamond benefits is complimentary breakfast for up to 4 guests in the same room, but I ended up getting charged for it.

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite Living room

Room:

The suite (#1909) is decent, but not much to write home about. It’s basically two rooms joined together. The living room actually has a murphy bed, giving it the opportunity to transform into another room, if required. We basically had two rooms. It’s a high floor, so in the morning, we had great views of Albuquerque and the hot air balloons floating over the mountains.

The rooms are of an average size, and the bathrooms are slightly larger than average, and come with a bathtub with shower. One annoyance is that they don’t provide complimentary water, and the bottles they leave in the rooms are charged at $5 a bottle.

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite Bedroom

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite bathroom 1

Breakfast:

The HR Albuquerque does not have a club lounge, so we could have our breakfast at Forque restaurant. I ordered French toast, which was amazing, a juice, and a latte. The breakfast was excellent.

Forque @ Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Sticky Bun French Toast with Pecans and Blueberries at Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

Overall:

It’s an ok property. I’ll probably stay here if I’m in Albuquerque and need a cheap Hyatt mattress run. The breakfast is great, but I wouldn’t use a Diamond Suite Upgrade on this property.

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Hotel Review: Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque, 23 March 2016

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque is a category 2 SPG hotel. We opted for it because it costs 4000 Starwood points. Sheraton Uptown is about 30 min drive in average traffic from the Albuquerque airport and in a good location if you want to buy things or eat, because it’s located in strip malls and close enough to a freeway.

Check In/Check Out:

Quick and painless. I am just a SPG preferred member, which is what you can get if you sign-up for their loyalty program, and was given a room at the second highest level. I showed my SPG Business card, which gives me Sheraton Club Lounge access, and this was processed with no problems.

Room:

The room is very large, and had some views of the surrounding mountains. The King bed took up about 2/5 of the room, and there is also a nice lounge chair in the room.

The desk and TV console are together. While this created more space in the room, it also left less space for work. I do prefer standalone desks.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque

Bathroom:

It’s an average-sized bathroom. Part of it contains amenities like coffee brewer and complimentary bottles of water. The toilet seat is slightly broken, but ok. The bathtub and shower was also average. I did appreciate that they had a wall-mounted container with the bottles of shower gel and shampoo.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque shower amenities

Club Lounge:

Located on the top floor, the Club Lounge is a decent size. We didn’t get up in time for breakfast, but the evening hors d’oeuvres was substantial. They had two types of lasagna, one meat, one vegetarian. There were also other usual crudités. There’s also a great self-serve coffee machine in the Club Lounge.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque Club Lounge Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque Evening Hors D'oeuvres at Club Lounge

Parking/Wifi:

Wifi is free with SPG membership and of decent speed, as is parking.

Overall:

This is a lovely property, and excellent candidate for redemption or a cheap paid stay (depending on season). I won’t hesitate to return to this property if I’m in Albuquerque.

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USA: Day-trip to Oakland for some Freak Pitching, 18 June 2016

O.co Coliseum

18 June 2016: Oakland Athletics vs. Anaheim Angels (Andrew Triggs vs. Tim Lincecum)

We would have been ok either way – staying in Oakland overnight, or simply day-tripping from Seattle for a day baseball game, but the stars aligned perfectly. This also gave me the opportunity to return to Seattle for dinner with my friends. The truth is, we couldn’t have planned the day better. The Angels signed Tim Lincecum after his showcase, and he was slotted to be the starter for this game. As a Giants pitcher for all of his career to date, this will be his first start in any other MLB uniform. It’s always interesting to watch the Freak pitch – the guy has some crazy mechanics to generate sufficient torque to pitch.

Because it was a one-pm game, we didn’t feel compelled to go into Oakland too early, so we booked the 10.20 flight, which arrives in Oakland at 12.30 ish, giving us plenty of time to make it to the Coliseum.

O.co Coliseum

Getting there and back:

The ride from the airport to the Coliseum is really, really easy. The sky shuttle from the airport literally drops you in front of the Coliseum. Unfortunately, it’s not free, even though you don’t have to pay at the shuttle station. You will have to pay $6 to get out of the shuttle and into the BART station, and ditto for the way back from the Coliseum to the airport. Nevertheless, this is about as easy as it gets.

O.Co Coliseum and seating:

Pulling into the O.Co Coliseum from the airport sky shuttle, I can see why people hate the Coliseum. I have no strong feelings about it, but it is a really run-down park. When I pointed it out to my boyfriend, he was in disbelief, and thought I was making stuff up again. Turns out I was right – the run-down stadium is indeed the Coliseum. The stadium itself is also rather run down. The barricades are made of that green plastic that you are more likely to see at older college baseball stadiums. This stadium really reminds me of U Hawaii baseball stadium, the one and only college baseball game I ever attended.

We started our tour from the top (Level 3oo), which offered great views of the stadium. If you want to do panorama shots of the stadium, do it here. Most of the upper level seats were not for sale at this point, with only 3 sections for sale. These tickets are affordable (~$18) and comes with $6 credit on a weekend game.

You can peep into half of the Level 200 seats, but otherwise, the rest are closed-access club seats. The view ain’t too bad, and if you need some shade from the sun shining down, these seats will be great.

Oakland Bullpen Warming Up

We had seats at Level 100, behind the As bullpen. The bullpens are by the foul lines, and the mound is really just right there. If you sit around section 127, you will be right behind the As bullpen. If you are in the business for heckling, you’d be in perfect heckling distance. Or signatures. Whatever floats your boat.

Food: 

They do have some interesting options as well. Price-wise, it’s pretty average for ballpark food. They have a nice looking deli, serving freshly carved sandwiches, and I thought their hamburger poppers ($8) looked really interested. It was a shame that by the time I decided I wanted to try them, the stand was closed by the sixth inning. I wound up with cheeseburger and fries ($10), which was pretty good value and tasty as well.

Overall:

The O.Co Coliseum is probably the most rundown stadium we went to so far. I actually enjoyed it nevertheless. The atmosphere was great – the game was well-attended and the fans are super friendly, and I got to see quite an offensive display by the Angels. Oh, and I specifically picked up Tim Lincecum for this game, and he only gave up 1 ER, and got me a W.

Tim Lincecum is Pitching - first time in Angels uniform

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USA: My Queendom for the A/C in Chase Field, AZ, 11 June 2016

Chase Field

We were in Phoenix earlier this year for Spring Training, but decided to make a second visit this time as part of our US MLB Ballpark tour. After our stressful car rental experience, we booked into the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, which is a couple of light rail stops (~30 min factoring in waiting time and transfers, $2 per ride) from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and a short walk to Chase Field.

I shall come out and state the obvious – Phoenix is HOT in June. I was born and raised in Singapore, where 90+ temperatures are the norm, but man, this was really on the edge of unbearable. We had plans to explore downtown Phoenix, but we ducked into a Carl’s Junior at Talking Stick Resort Arena across the street from our hotel.

Chase Field

Chase Field

It was Native American Day at Chase Field, with a hat giveaway (the hat is really pretty!), so we decided to head over early, to check out Chase Field and check out batting practice. The lines waiting to get in were long!!! I have a couple of fantasy players in the Arizona D-backs vs. Miami Marlins game, so I didn’t mind checking out some of the guys on my team.

Batting Practice @ Chase Field

Hat giveaway

First off, Chase Field is pretty cool. Like Safeco, it can open or close, depending on the weather. It was REALLY hot outside, so it was closed, and they had turned up to the A/C. Inside the stadium itself, it was a nice, cool, 80 degrees.

Native American Day @ Chase Field

Chase Field - Open Roof

Tickets:

They are really cheap relative to many other ballparks. Their club level seats with an all-you-can-eat buffet is $45 even for weekend games. Their home plate seats are available for ~$95, which is great value, considering that these run around ~$300 at other ballparks. They don’t come with special perks like complimentary dining, but if you just wanted to sit behind home plate, this would be a good ballpark to do it.

We got front row seats at the 300 level for $40 for 2 tickets. It offered a great view of the game, though I did have to lean over from time to time because of the railing.

Food: 

They have very interesting options. They have gourmet burgers featured in Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They also had some other eclectic options like Churro Dog, which is donut patties with a churro wrapped inside, topped off with ice cream. Sugar bomb!!!

But they are most famous for the D-Bat, which is an 18 inch corn dog stuffed with cheese and jalapeños, set on a bed of chips. It’s not cheap at $30, but I guess if you are attending the game with a group of friends who really love corn dogs, it’s a good sharing food.

D-Bat - 18 inch corn dog

I personally went with a Sonoran dog, which is a foot-long hotdog, wrapped in bacon ($11), topped with pico de gallo and beans. It was pretty ok. I wouldn’t rave about it.

Foot-long Sonoran Dog

One note about their souvenir soda cup ($7.50). We were surprised to find out that they do not offer free refills like other ballparks. They only offer $2 refills to their season ticket holders. They do have a bunch of $2.50 for 2 dogs, $2 sodas, and $2 popcorns, but these are limited in supply, and involve standing in line while waiting for fresh batches to be made.

The more interesting food options are one the first level. The third level just has rather standard ballpark fare.

Chase Field Concourse

Self-Upgrading:

This is probably one of the few ballparks where the attendants take their job rather seriously. We were standing along the concourse to take some photos, and were constantly being chased away by the attendants. This was true even in the late innings. This is not a ballpark that would be friendly for self-upgrading.

Overall:

Chase Field is pretty enjoyable. The highlight of the game? I got to see Ichiro get his #2974 MLB hit. He’s now been relegated to the role of pinch-hitter, but I’m still rooting for him to get to #3000.

Ichiro is at bat - got a hit. #2974 in MLB.

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