(Note, I will be updating this with pictures from the Crowne Plaza and a link to a photostream with all of the tourist shots we took. That update will post tomorrow or Wednesday).
I attended E-ATP in Prague last week and tacked a couple of vacation days onto each end of the conference to make this a nice little getaway for the Mrs. (courtesy of Delta SkyMiles) and me. Her mother had never been on an intercontinental trip before, so we took her with us, too.
We dropped the car at my workplace and took SuperShuttle the 3 miles to the aiport (for a “hit” in the US Airways Grand Slam promo). At RDU, we hung out in the Delta Sky Club for a little while. This was my first time in the Sky Club at RDU and it is a nice little lounge. It’s fairly new having only opened in December 2009. It’s not too different from any other Sky Club, but it was clean and equipped for the breakfast snacks we needed. We took Delta flight 4283 (operated by Delta Connection partner Pinnacle Airlines) from RDU to JFK on a Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200 which took off about 10 minutes late, but was a nice smooth ride.
While in JFK, I had my interview for Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) membership. This is a fantastic program that lets you take a dedicated kiosk through customs when entering the USA. It just takes a scan of your passport and a fingerprint to get you through with no lines in sight. Very nice and highly recommended. Incidentally, it’s also free for American Express Platinum cardholders (the $100 fee is reimbursed in the form of a statement credit). So what’s not to love?
After the interview, I met back up with my wife and mother-in-law at the JFK Sky Club. This lounge was fairly nice, but crowded. It took us a few minutes of waiting in the café-style bar area before we could find 3 seats at a table together. At this lounge we were joined by a fourth traveling companion who was also attending E-ATP. We snacked and drank our way through a 6-hour layover and hopped on Delta flight 210 which took us to Prague aboard an Airbus A330-200. This was as good as an intercontinental flight in coach could be. Complete with having to tell the passenger in front of me to not listen to music without headphones during a redeye flight. However, it did get us to Prague :).
When we arrived in Prague, we had a pre-arranged airport transfer to take us to our first hotel (which hosted the conference), the Corinthia Prague (part of the Wyndham Grand Collection). This hotel was fantastic in terms of service. Everything was top-notch and we felt completely catered to. Our room had a beautiful view and the property adjoins the Vyšehrad metro stop on the red line, so the location is perfect for a tourist.
On Friday, after the conference closed, we checked out of the Corinthia and transferred to the Crowne Plaza Prague. This hotel is not quite in the convenient location that the Corinthia was in. It’s about a 5-minute walk to the Podbaba tram stop where you can catch either the #2 or #8 tram, go 3 stops and transfer to the metro at Dejvická on the green line. (For an overview of the public transportation system in Prague, which is easy to use, inexpensive and expansive, visit here.) At the Crown Plaza Prague (a Priority Club property), we picked up two rooms for two nights on a Priority Club Point Break. So it was only 5,000 points per room, per night totalling 20,000 points.
The Crown Plaza Prague was also fantastic hotel in terms of amenities. In terms of room layout, it beat the Corinthia hands-down. The room was substantially larger, featuring a king-sized bed and larger bathroom. The service at the hotel was also comparable to the Corinthia. If I return to Prague, I am more likely to book this hotel than the Corinthia based upon my stay. The location is not as good, but it is serviceable and the price was €85 compared to the €179 for the Corinthia, so the value was a lot better.
After the first two nights, the three of us bunked up in one room. That may seem like a bad plan given the 5,000 points per night cost, but there was no award space available on the third night. In fact, when I booked there was no space at all and I had to use my Platinum Elite status with Priority Club to force a reservation (see previous blog post).
We checked out after our three nights and took a taxi back to PRG to begin our homeward journey. We hung out at the Crystal Lounge prior to takeoff which was a nice VIP lounge. The décor was interesting, the furniture comfortable, and the snack/drink selection was pretty good.
We then took Delta flight 1383 from PRG to CDG serviced by Air France aboard an Airbus A319. The flight was great, but CDG is a giant mess. We had to leave the airside of the aiport to transfer to our terminal which required another trip through security. Our layover here was 3 1/2 hours, but we only had about 30 minutes of that to spare. We didn’t even bother with a lounge.
We took Delta flight 332 from CDG to BOS on another Airbus A330-200. Here we had to go through customs. Given that I had just finished my GOES membership on the way out, I was curious to try out the kiosk-based entry as opposed to waiting in the line. However, since mother-in-law had to wait in the line anyway, we opted to just stick together. I’ll give GOES a shot next time :). This was another flight serviced by Air France and I have to say that the flight staff on both of the Air France flights was top-notch. They were attentive, gallant and not there when I didn’t want them to be. For our last leg, we hopped Delta flight 4923 aboard a Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-700 operated by Delta Connection partner Atlantic Southeast Airlines which took us back to RDU and another SuperShuttle ride back to the car for the drive home. The service on this partner flight left a lot to be desired. None of the flight staff were rude or anything, but curt instead of courteous.
All-in-all, it was a fantastic trip. A great conference bookended by a beautiful vacation with my wife and mother-in-law. If you haven’t been to Prague, you should go. It’s beautiful.