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Trip Report: Palm Springs, CA – Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa: Part 2, Staying There


Primer:

I visited Palm Springs, CA in late February 2012 on a business trip to attend the Association of Test Publishers Innovations in Testing conference. My week-long trip included four flights on American Airlines, visits to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), and Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) along with their Admiral’s Club lounges, and a stay at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa.

Part 1, Getting There
Upcoming: Part 3, Getting Back

When I arrived at the Westin, I went to the Starwood Gold Preferred check-in desk (which, incidentally, was the only manned desk so it was performing double-duty with non-Elite check-ins). Upon arrival, I was told that my room was not quite ready yet. I got there a bit earlier than anticipated, so this was not unexpected. They informed me that I could check my bags with the bellman at the valet and enjoy the facility while I waited. This seemed a bit extreme since I only had 20 minutes or so to wait until the room was ready, so I asked about it. It turns out that at this property, they shuttle you to your room in a little golf car. It’s primarily a golf resort, and there are several buildings (all about 2 stories) so I thought this was a cool little touch. I walked the 100 yards or so to the bellman, checked my bag and got a phone call that my room was ready and I could come back and check in. I wish I would’ve waited the 2 minutes it apparently took to finish my room. That would’ve saved me a bit of walking… On the bright side, they “upgraded” me to a golf course view room. More on that in a second :).

Westin Entrance

My Room

My room was spacious, well appointed, and nicely decorated in a Southern California style. The view from the window was great. The bathroom had two sinks, a separate water closet, and a Heavenly shower head, so what’s not to love.

View Looking Left

View Looking Right

Bathroom

Shower Head

Now, about that upgrade… As I said, I was upgraded to this golf course view room–which had a great view. The issue? There was a car show going on the weekend that I checked in. There were some pretty amazing cars parked around the property and I was looking forward to taking a closer look on Sunday when the show began in earnest. The show started a little early on Sunday… I know this because a decent bit of it was being conducted on the golf course. Right outside my room. I awoke to the sound of music blaring, engines roaring and an auctioneer. This would have been a concern to several people, and I admit that I had about 15 minutes of annoyance out of it. But, once I got up and around, I appreciated the coolness of being able to watch the cars getting shown off and sold from my patio. So again, I thought it was cool. YMMV :).

Cool Car

Car Show

The Westin Mission Hills Spa and Resort is a very nice property and was a pleasure to call my home for the week. Here are some more great pictures that I snapped while there.

Waterfall

My Building

Walking Path

Fountain

Ducks

Another Path

I will follow this post with 1 more when I get it written. Stay Tuned.

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Trip Report: Palm Springs, CA – Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa: Part 1, Getting There


I visited Palm Springs, CA in late February 2012 on a business trip to attend the Association of Test Publishers Innovations in Testing conference. My week-long trip included four flights on American Airlines, visits to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), and Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) along with their Admiral’s Club lounges, and a stay at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa.

I started my day with my travel-day routine of checking to see if there were any changes to my flight itinerary. Fortunately, I do this before I leave the house because I found that my flight had been delayed 45 minutes–that bit of extra early-morning sleep time was precious! After a 30-minute drive to RDU, and a light wait at the security line, I headed to the RDU Admiral’s Club for a quick snack to use as my breakfast substitute. I reviewed the RDU Admiral’s Club in an earlier post, so I’m only going to mention that it was the same experience as usual this time around.

I boarded AA 1041 which left at 8:36am en route to DFW where it arrived just less than 3 hours later. The flight was uneventful and was spent reading the first several chapters of The Hidden Europe by Francis Tapon. (Incidentally, this book is a great read and I plan on featuring a review in an upcoming post, so stay tuned for that.) Once in DFW, I headed to the Admiral’s Club for a bite of lunch (where I have to say, I had a great mushroom/Swiss burger). This lounge was large and well furnished with plenty of semi-private spaces and comfortable seating–in addition to shower facilities, free WiFi–even with no lounge membership (I use my American Express Platinum for lounge access), and a pleasant staff.

DFW Admiral's Club Chairs

DFW Exercise Facilities

After my stay in DFW, I boarded AA 1767 bound for PSP. This was another uneventful flight (the best you can ask for in coach) that also clocked in at just under 3 hours. PSP is quite possibly the most pleasant airport I’ve ever frequented. Being in a desert environment, they are able to have much of the airport design be open-air. There were plants and grassy spaces everywhere, benches to sit upon and even a little playground for the kids. It was absolutely beautiful.

PSP Entrance

PSP Playground

PSP Gate Access

Sonny Bono Concourse

A 30-minute cab ride later, I checked in at the Westin.

Westin Entrance

I will follow this post with 2 more as I get them written. Stay Tuned.

Part 2, Staying There
Upcoming: Part 3, Getting Back

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Trip Report for Prague, Czech Republic


(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.

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Rockville, MD Trip Report


American Airlines operates in RDU out of Terminal 2. Terminal 2 is a “not bad” terminal as far as airports go, it’s long, has lots of open spaces, and generally high architecture. The décor is typical airport, as are the vendor selections. Once past security, I headed to the Admiral’s Club lounge. At RDU, both the Admiral’s Club lounge and the Delta Sky Club are a one-floor elevator ride up from the main floor.

RDU Terminal 2

RDU Terminal 2

RDU Admiral's Club Entrance

RDU Admiral's Club Entrance

RDU Admiral's Club Entrance

RDU Admiral's Club Interior

My American Express Platinum nets me free access to Admiral’s Club when flying AA, so I was looking forward to getting some work done while awaiting my flight. As it turns out, that free access doesn’t come with free Wi-Fi yet (though the receptionist told me it was coming). I didn’t feel like paying for the Wi-Fi pass, so that nixed getting much work done. Instead, I started this trip report. (Incidentally, I later saw a FlyerTalk post about a crazy eShopping mistake listing and convinced the receptionist to let me have the free Wi-Fi so that I could take advantage. I hope that one works out!)

The lounge is fairly nice as lounges go. It features several large-screen LCD TVs tuned to CNN and prominent arrivals/departures boards so you can keep up to date on your flight information. There is a lot of seating—far more than they probably ever need—in the form of leather chairs of average comfort. The seating area is divided into 3 sections separated by 4.5-foot privacy glass. The bar is well apportioned and the bartender kept asking me if I wanted a shot of rum to go in the Cokes I ordered. There are showers for the long-haul travelers and plenty of snacks and reading materials. All-in-all, not a bad way to spend time waiting on a flight.

I flew AA 4400 from RDU to DCA operated by American Eagle on an Embraer RJ140 as MQ 4400. This is a single-cabin commuter aircraft seating 44, and I sat in seat 2A which a single seat on the port side of the cabin (across the aisle from the coat check). The flight left on schedule and had a great flight attendant. Takeoff and landing were very bumpy, but the weather was not cooperative, and the RJ140 is a small plane.

After arriving at DCA, I made for the Hertz rental counter where I had a 2011 Buick Enclave waiting (we were a party of 5—one arriving from Venezuela and sure to have checked baggage). I rented this vehicle on an “AA/Hertz 2X miles, save 20%” promotion that I saw on FlyerTalk and also received 500 bonus Hertz #1 Club points (enough for a free weekend-day rental) from this promotion.

Buick Enclave Exterior

Buick Enclave Exterior

Buick Enclave Interior

Buick Enclave Interior

We made the 25-mile drive to the Chase Suites Hotel in Rockville, MD where, after much confusion at the front desk related to our Hotels.com reservation, I checked into room 308. The walk to room 308 included a stroll along an outside hallway that was not very upkept. When I reached my room, it was a nice-enough room. Not what I would call a “suite” given that it was one room with a kitchenette, but it was okay. The biggest drawback was that the Internet connection was non-functional (it would take me to the login page, but the login failed). After struggling with it for about an hour (and the front desk not really helping), I took a stab at guessing another password (based on the name of the hotel) and had success. Nice. One bar is better than nothing.

Chase Suites Rockville Exterior

Chase Suites Rockville Exterior

Chase Suites Rockville Interior

Chase Suites Rockville Interior

Chase Suites View From Room

Chase Suites View From Room

Chase Suites Rockville Room 301 Bed

Chase Suites Rockville Room 301 Bed

Chase Suites Rockville Room 301 Living Area

Chase Suites Rockville Room 301 Living Area

Chase Suites Rockville Room 301 Kitchen

Chase Suites Rockville Room 301 Kitchen

We had a late dinner at the Thai Farm restaraunt in Rockville which was excellent, though it is not a participant in the AAdvantage Dining Program (which I typically try to take advantage of when given the chance). After dinner, I headed back to my room to get a little work done, now that I finally had Internet connectivity.

I had breakfast at the hotel restaraunt–the Rock Grille. Breakfast was in keeping with the quality of the room. They were out of everything except for some soupy canteloupe and over-heated scrambled eggs. The from-concentrate apple juice was the best part of the “meal.”

After spending the next morning in business meetings in Gaithersburg, MD, we left for the DCA to return the car and begin the homeward trip. Upon arrival, I visited the Hertz counter to return the car and headed to the terminals. I waited for the flight in the Admiral’s Club, where there were no issues with the free Wi-Fi (DCA has free Wi-Fi for the entire airport). The lounge was a typical Admiral’s Club, if a little larger–but also much more crowded.

DCA Admiral's Club Interior 1

DCA Admiral's Club Interior 1

DCA Admiral's Club Interior 2

DCA Admiral's Club Interior 2

I flew AA 4527 back to RDU, again operated by American Eagle on an Embraer RJ140 as MQ 4527. I sat in seat 1A this time which offered a *touch* more legroom. It was another bumpy ride, but I did have my first experience viewing a rainbow from the window on an airplane. The best part of this view? The rainbow was upside-down! My camera was in my carry-on bags about 8 rows back (it’s a small plane), so I didn’t get any pictures, but here is a picture of one that is similar.

All told, it was a pleasant trip, but I definitely feel I could’ve done better on the hotel.

Thoughts?

PS. The next trip is a business trip to E-ATP/mini-vacation in Prague next month. There will be posts between now and then, of course :).

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