December 30, 2016

Hotel Review: Free Night Stay At Radisson Blu Hotel Mall of America

Beautiful Lobby at Radisson Blue Mall of America
I used the free night certificate earned by Club Carlson credit card to spend one night at the Radisson Blu hotel in the Mall of America, Minneapolis. We had never been to the Twin Cities, so we decided to go check it out. Our stay at the Radisson Blu Mall of America was fantastic. Here is my review:

Price & Award Stay

This hotel nightly rate can be anywhere above $200-$300, close to $400 easily depending on the seasons. It is Club Carlson's current highest category hotel, which is 7. So it requires 70,000 points for a free stay. As mentioned, I used the free night certificate so I did not have to use points.

Visit Mall of America in Minneapolis and Stay inside the Mall!


This Radisson Blu hotel is located right inside the Mall of America. As name suggests, this mall is huge. What I love about the mall in fact it's not the shops but the Nickelodeon Universe theme park inside the mall. We had a blast there with roller coasters! At first trying to find the Radisson Blu wasn't that fun given how big the mall is. It's actually located so close to the Legoland and the Nickelodeon Universe, which makes it even better for us as we stayed mostly in the theme park area. Overall, the location of this Radisson Blu is fantastic if you want to stay right inside the Mall of America. You can shop and when you are tired, you could just walk right into your room to relax and then shop for more :-)

The Mall of America has department stores that you can find in other cities as well. Some store has more shops in the mall on different level, but they are all the same. There are also restaurants and bars, which is another reason that we enjoyed staying at this hotel because we could drink and then just walked back to the hotel in the evening.

Go Play at Nickelodeon Universe While Staying at Radisson Blu Mall of America


Our room is located on the high floor. There's no view that's worth talking about. However, because of my Gold Elite status with Club Carlson that comes from being a Club Carlson credit card holder, we got upgraded to the Business Class room which gives us access to the Business Lounge up there. Our room is beautifully designed with comfortable bed. I really love their colors choice. The mini bar inside the room is very cool.

Beautiful Decor Business Class Room
I Love the Bright Color Choice in the Room!
Mini Bar Inside Room


The lounge is also very nice and spacious. There are several seats available, and the decor is really nice. The complimentary breakfast items in the lounge include eggs, ham and cheese, etc. The menu may change daily though. Access to the lounge is with the room key, so guest can go in and out during the lounge's operating hours. Lounge has snacks and drinks, a great place to relax.  

Radisson Blue Mall of America's Business Lounge
Plenty of Seats Inside The Lounge


The service at this Radisson Blu is worth mentioning. The check in staff was really friendly and polite. She acknowledged my Gold status and the manager also gave me a welcome note along with small m&m candy nicely wrapped gift. I was very pleased with their customer service.

Club Carlson's Gold Elite's Welcome Note

Airport Shuttle

Given how close the Mall of America to the airport, Radisson Blu also provides complimentary airport shuttle for the guests. We took advantage of this service. Do keep in mind, it's not a 24 hours service, so make sure to check with the hotel. We found this service very useful during our stay and thought I'd share this as part of my review. Our driver was prompt and very professional.

Complimentary Airport Shuttle


Overall, using a free night certificate to stay at the Radisson Blu in Mall of America is a great choice. It was a good opportunity for me to check out Minneapolis and the Mall of America all together. The prime location of this hotel makes our stay really enjoyable. The room and lounge are great. Customer and complimentary airport shuttle service are nice. However, I am not sure if I would stay there paying with cash though as the rate can be too expensive for our pockets! If you are looking for a place to redeem your Club Carlson points or to use your free night certificate that's earned from the Club Carlson credit card, then I'd recommend staying there.

This is one of the memorable stays for me in 2016. The location, the service, the room and the lounge, etc. are so nice. One free annual night certificate allowed us to stay free with upgraded room, lounge access with complimentary breakfast, and complimentary airport shuttle. Thank you Club Carlson credit card.

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New York City Planning Part 2: Crown of the Statue of Liberty

New York's Iconic Statue of Liberty Monument
Yesterday I wrote about my New York City Planning to see the Book of Mormon at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. While checking on my list of things to do that I have not done in New York City, there's one more thing at the Statue of Liberty that I have not done - Go up to the Crown!

Any first timers to New York City should pay a visit to the Statue of Liberty. But did you know you can go inside the Liberty's Pedestal (the piece what the Liberty stands on) and her Crown?

I took my mom to the Pedestal before because I could not get the Crown ticket. The Crown tickets can be sold out months in advanced, especially during the tourist seasons. This time, we'll be visiting at the end of February, so scoring the crown tickets wasn't too difficult.

Pedestal ticket costs $18/adult, same as the regular reserved ticket without the Pedestal access, but for only $4 more, you have access to both the Pedestal and the Crown. All tickets include the roundtrip ferry ride to the Liberty and the Ellis Islands. So getting the Crown ticket is a no brainer. For more pricing information, please refer to the Statue Cruise website.

You Can Checkout the Museum Inside the Liberty Monument
With Pedestal or Crown Tickets

Here are top 3 things to consider if you want to go up to the Liberty's Crown:

Plan Months In Advanced

According to the Statue Cruise, "tickets to the crown sell out months in advance. We recommend purchasing your tickets to the crown 3 to 4 months in advance." This is very true.

Fit Test

There are 393 steps to the Crown with limited elevator access. 162 of those steps are narrow and tight from the top of the pedestal to the crown, no elevator. So you need to make sure you can do this without any assistance.

Crown Ticket Time

You select the time that you want to reserve for the crown access. The time that you pick is not the time that you will go get the ticket and onto the crown. Remember, getting to the Liberty ground requires ferry ride, queues, and security screening. Email delivery ticket is also not possible, you have to show up with proof of ID to get the reserved ticket at the ticket booth.

I contacted the Statue Cruise to clarify the time that I picked at 1pm, and here's their response:
"Please plan to arrive 1 hour prior to 1:00pm to pick up your tickets from the ticket booth. You will then proceed to the security line before boarding the ferry. Once you are on the island, the tour is self paced and self guided. You may enter the monument to tour the crown once you get to the island."

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December 29, 2016

New York City Planning Part 1: Broadway Show Tickets

We Are Going to See the Book of Mormon in New York City!
I have been to New York City twice now, but I have never been to the Broadway Show there yet. We are heading to New York at the end of February to fly out from there to Asia via Singapore Airlines Double Beds First Class. That Airbus 380 currently only operates out from New York JFK airport in the US. Anyway, this is a great time for me to go see a broadway show. Being the first timer to the show, especially in NYC, I was clueless how and where to get the tickets.

From my research, here are ways to get discounted tickets:

Online Discounted Websites:

My first intuition is to purchase the tickets online. If the show that is popular like Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, etc. chances are you won't be able to find any discounts for that. But if you just want to see a broadway show in New York, then check out BroadwayBox and TheaterMania websites. These two sites have discounted codes that you can use but subject to availability. You won't be able to get discounted codes for the popular shows though, but instead they redirect you to the official broadway ticket selling site: TicketMaster. Make sure to plan and purchase in advanced unless you are visiting NYC during the off-peak, which is typically in the winter time.

TKTS Booths

This option is like a gamble. It really depends on how much you really want to see the broadway show. In return, you will get substantial discounts on the tickets. The TKTS booths are operated by the Theatre Development Fund. On any given day, the show producer decides how many show tickets to send to the TKTS booths. This type of ticket allocation method therefore can run out quickly and it is first comes first served. So if seeing a broadway show and especially a particular show is a deal breaker to you, then this option does not make sense. For me, staying in queues especially in the winter to get tickets that I don't even know if it'll be available or not by the time I am at the booth is not worth my time. For more information on TKTS Booths, you can check out their website at

American Express 

You see that right. American Express is a credit card issuing company, what does it have to do anything with the broadway shows? American Express is a proud sponsor to certain broadway shows. From time to time, they pre-purchase amounts of tickets and allow their platinum card members access to those tickets at a very nice discounted price. Recently, they bought tickets for the Hamilton in Chicago and sold the ticket around $80/seat to their card members.

Being an American Express Business Platinum Credit Card holder myself, I phoned up the 24/7 concierge service (one of the benefits that come with that card) to see if I can get any deals on the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, there's no discounts for that show. But the agent was so helpful and patient with my questions to help me search for availability and seats selection. She's a basically my concierge helping me booked the broadway show tickets so that I don't have to do all the work, without any service fees. I ended up getting the tickets for the Book of Mormon $129 a piece for a Friday night show. The price seems alright, but we really wanted to check out that show in New York City. So we decided to do it! That's right, we are going to New York to see the Book of Mormon. I can't wait to have my first experience at the broadway theatre in New York City. Our seats are on the Mezzanine level and you can check out seats configurations on Ticketmaster.

It is worth mentioning too that, if you have credit card that earns you American Express Membership Rewards Points:
  • You can redeem the points for the broadway tickets, but the rate is not so great. For example, 10,000 points = $50. If you want to go with this method, you will have to book with Ticket Master. During check out, you will have the option to use Amex points to pay for the tickets.
  • Another better option is to redeem your points as a credit back to your purchases. For 10,000 points = $100. This appears to be better. All you have do is make the purchase, then call the rewards membership number and tell them you want to use the points to apply as credit to a particular purchase. 
Keep in mind, the best way to redeem Amex points is to transfer them to airline miles/travel. You will get more values out of that redemption. However, paying cash out of pocket is not for everyone, and everyone's situation is completely different.

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December 28, 2016

Review: Capt. Andy's Na Pali Coast Kauai Boat Tour

A visit to Na Pali coast is a must do on Kauai Island. You can hike, boat, or helicopter to look at this stunning beautiful nature. During our visit to Kauai Island, we decided to do the boat tour with Capt. Andy's Na Pali Sunset Dinner Sail

See Na Pali Coast State Park With Boat Sailing Tour
Here's our review of that tour, but do keep in mind that there are several kinds of tours available offered by Capt. Andy's


First and foremost, the price isn't too bad for a 4 hours tour on the water. The tour also includes: Snacks, Salads, Buffet Style Meals, and Beverages. All for $119 for adult and $89 for child. But if you make booking online, it costs $109/adult and $79/child. If you are driving, free parking is also available.


Our tour's service on board was outstanding. There are three crew members on board and they were super nice. Their service exceeded our expectations. They were attentive to everyone. They went around bringing snacks and drinks to passengers, as well as taking dirty plates and trashes from the passengers. The crews were also quite entertaining.

Food & Drinks

The snacks were good. The buffet style meals include chicken, beef, rice, and salad. They were delicious and very good quality. There are various kinds of drinks such as sodas, water, beers, and a specialty cocktail.

The Boat Tour

The boat that we were on was alright. It got the job done. They have different kinds of boats, so there's a chance you would be on a newer boat than what we were on. The 4 hours tour were spend nicely as we enjoyed it very much. When the boat was out towards the Na Pali coastline, the water was really rough. A word of advice here is, take dramamine. You will thank it. The last thing you want is to get seasick. I am not joking here! If you can bring towels, do that as well because you will get wet, but that's what makes it fun! We also saw dolphins which were really cool. The Na Pali coast and mountains are beautiful.  You really need to see it in person to believe me.  One of the movies such as King Kong took place there. On the way back, of course we got to see the beautiful sunset of Kauai. The water was calmer then so it was really relaxing. We were lucky enough to spot a whale as well.

Stunning Na Pali Coast View
Kauai's Beautiful Sunset


Overall, I definitely recommend Capt. Andy's boat tour to those that want to see Na Pali and Sunset of Kauai. Their onboard service was outstanding and the food was delicious. It's a great way to spend time in Kauai. We had a blast! Again, keep in mind they have several kinds of tour. Head over to Capt. Andy's website and explore yourself.

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December 27, 2016

3 Places To Stay On The Big Island Hawaii

Hawaii island is also known as the Big Island. It is the biggest island in Hawaii state. Driving from one town to other town takes little bit of time. I suggest that you stay a few days on the island to be able to enjoy what this island has to offer. Consider the following three places to stay when you visit the Big Island:


There are two airports on the Big Island. One of them is located in Hilo. This town is close to the Volcano National Park. If you want to start out visiting the national park early morning, staying in Hilo is a good option. Downtown Hilo is nice with shops and restaurants. Consider staying at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo that was just acquired by DoubleTree Hilton this year. We stayed there for one night and it was a nice property.

Stay in Hilo Close To the Volcano National Park


The other airport on the Big Island is the Kona airport, which is close to the Kailua-Kona town. This town is a very touristy one on the island. Lodging prices here are not too bad. Kona Square has several shops and restaurants. The Atlantis Submarine is also located there. Beach area isn't that great. But if you want to be in the center of actions, then consider staying in this town.

Kona Square Full of Restaurants and Shops - Right in the Center of Kailua-Kona

Kohala Coast

I am saving this one last because this is the most expensive area compared to the other two mentioned above. If you are looking for white sandy beaches and relaxation, then look no further. Kohala Coast has variety of resorts. This resort area is far from all the hustles and bustles, so your options are very limited to just what the resort offers. We stayed at the Hapuna Prince Beach Hotel. It was really nice as we mainly wanted to stay close to the sandy beach as much as possible. We had a rental car, so we just drove to the touristy town such as Kailua-Kona when we felt like leaving the resort for a few hours.

White Sandy Beach At the Hapuna Prince Beach Hotel on the Kohala Coast


In short, if you want to visit the Volcano National Park, consider staying in Hilo for one night; otherwise, you will have some driving to do back and forth. If you want to stay right in the middle of actions, then you can't go wrong with Kailua-Kona town. Accommodations there are a little bit more  expensive than Hilo, but a lot cheaper than resorts in Kohala Coast that offers tranquility and sandy beaches.

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December 2, 2016

5 Cruise Tips for First Timers

#1 Cruise Check-In

The main thing about cruise ship check-in is you must give plenty of time before departure. Cruise ship operates nothing like flights. There will be thousands of people all come at once to check in and to get on that ship. I’d recommend that if you can travel light, that’d be ideal for your first time on a cruise. You will simply walk straight through security, etc. and onto the check in counter where you receive your boarding pass. If you love the convenience of check in online, please do so. But please be aware that online check in let you put in all your travel document information before hand, but you still have to go through queues to get your boarding pass like everyone else. Therefore, if you don’t have time to do online check in, don’t worry about it. If you must travel with big luggages, you drop them at the port where you get tags for your bags, then walk through security, etc. to go to check in counters.

#2 Aboard Questions & Answers

It's overwhelming for the first timer on a cruise ship. Once you board the ship, you notice that there are so many people onboard. To make things worse, the cruise company tries to upsell you things and drink packages at the entrance. Try to avoid all that and head straight to the elevator to get to your stateroom. You will get a chance to buy those packages any time during your cruise. Talking of elevator, that's another nightmare. The amount and performance of the elevator cannot be efficient enough to operate for that many people. Be patient and if you have just carry on, sometimes stairs are much quicker if you are in good shape and your floor isn't too high.

Furthermore, it is human intuition that I need to go check out the ship, I need to go get internet, I need to go reception desk, etc. Slow down! It may ruin your excitement when you try to get up and down using the busy elevator and realize that there are long lines at the reception desk. It's not worth it. Instead, familiarize yourself with your stateroom. Check out the brochure and any information provided to you in the room. Turn on the TV and go to cruise guide channel if available. You'll be surprised a lot of information are answered right in your room. Don't even bother to call reception desk as they are too busy!

#3 Be strategic

When there are thousands of people on the ship, it's inevitable that there are lines to do everything. After browsing all the information in your room and you get yourself to explore the ship, be strategic about time and places. For example, which elevator that's less used by others? What time that's less people go eating? When reception desk is not too busy to answer my call from the room so I don't have to go down there? So on and so forth.

#4 Port of Call Exit & Enter

This is another crazy time when everyone tries to exit the ship all at once to enjoy the port of call or destination. I'm sure you are excited to get out too. At that time, the elevator is crazy busy again. If you can wait until the crowds are all gone, you will exit the ship easily. But if you can't, remember to be strategic, which elevator that's less used by and the rule applies the same when you return at unfortunate time that everyone returns as well.

If you don't want to go out, you will have the entire ship to yourself! No one competes with you for the lounge chairs, swimming pool will be yours to enjoy alone, etc.

#5 End of Cruise

After your cruise, if you need to exit the ship early and you can carry your bags by yourself to exit the cruise ship, make sure you register for self-assist at the reception desk. There's a deadline for it, so the sooner you do that the better. I don't recommend doing it last day or last minute as others are doing the same thing.

Moreover, this is an important part. Make sure all your bills are cleared and if you open any accounts during your entire time on the cruise ship, make sure you close them. Because if you do not, the cruise attendant won't let you get off once they scan your boarding pass and it shows that you still have unpaid or unclosed account with the cruise line. Trust me, you don't want to be in that position because you were in a long line to get out then you get sent back, and guess what, the line at the reception where you go to close the account is even worse because apparently lots of people make this type of mistake.

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December 1, 2016

Four LaGuardia Hotels With Shuttle and Within Walking Distance to Subway Station

If you are flying into LaGuardia New York airport (LGA), to get to tourist destinations such as Time Square and Downtown via public transportation, it requires two transfers. You need to catch bus then transfer to Subway. If you are arriving late night, this might not be ideal, especially in the cold winter time. Taxi or uber is your best chance, but you want to watch your budget and taxi isn't for everyone given how congested traffic can be in New York. Airport shuttle services are also expensive if you are not traveling alone.

My suggestion is, since you are arriving late night, you can't do much in New York city anyway. Why not pick a hotel airport that's close to a Subway station and provides airport shuttle pick up from LaGuardia airport? Catch your sleep at night, check out the next morning and walk to the nearest Subway station to your next destination.

If this plan sounds good to you, here are the 4 hotels that I have scoped out that is within walking distance to the Subway station and provides complimentary airport shuttle pick up from LGA. In fact, two of them also provides free breakfast in the morning.

Best Western Plus LaGuardia Airport Hotel Queens

This hotel's location is really close to the Subway station #7. It's only about 3 minutes walk. They offer free airport shuttle service to/from LGA. The room rate is very reasonable around $100 before tax and it comes with free hot breakfast buffet in the morning. If you like to redeem points for a free stay, it requires 20,000 points.

Holiday Inn : LaGuardia Airport

This comfortable hotel is about 8 minutes walk to the nearest Subway station #7. They offer free airport pick up and drop off. Nightly rate is above $150 with no breakfast unless you pay extra for it. You can also redeem 20,000 IHG points for one free night stay.

Hyatt Place Flushing/LaGuardia Airport

This Hyatt suite type hotel is only about 4 minutes walk to the nearest Subway station #7. They offer complimentary hotel shuttle to/from LGA airport and free hot breakfast every morning. The rate is above $170 per night. This hotel requires 12,000 Hyatt points for a free night stay.

Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel

This cozy nice hotel is only about 4 minutes walk to the nearest Subway station #7. They offer free airport pick up and drop off services. The rate is a little bit steep above $200 per night with no breakfast. They do have club room that comes with lounge access. If you have access to the lounge based on your status with Starwood hotels, you can enjoy free breakfast there. You can also access the lounge if you have SPG Business credit card. You can redeem 10,000 star points for one free night stay there. 

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November 30, 2016

Good and Best Hyatt Category 1 Hotels in United States

Beautiful high ceiling Hyatt Place St. Paul/Downtown for just 5,000 Hyatt points per night
Hyatt Category 1 hotels require only 5,000 points per night for a free stay, or 2,500 points + $50 per night.

Below are the ones that I think is good and best Hyatt category 1 hotels for redemption in the United States:


Hyatt Place Santa Cruz - Within walking distance to downtown and beach boardwalk. Free hot breakfast.


Hyatt Place Boise/Towne Square - Within walking distance to Boise Town Square mall. Free hot breakfast.


Hyatt Place St. Paul/Downtown - I stayed at this hotel during my visit to the Twin Cities. This new hotel is inside the old post office. The high ceiling of the room is incredible. Located right by the Amtrak station, Metro light rail to Minneapolis. Centrally located in downtown area. Free hot breakfast.

New Jersey

Hyatt House Jersey City - Free breakfast, rooms with New York skyline city view. Good location to escape from the hustles and bustles of NYC.

New Mexico

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque - Central downtown location


Hyatt Regency Tulsa - Central downtown location.

Do you have any favorite Hyatt Category 1 hotel in the United States?

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October 20, 2016

Getting to Maho Beach from Cruise Port in Philipsburg St. Maarten

You can spot plane flying over Maho Beach in Philipsburg
Maho Beach is also known as the airport beach because of how close the airport is to that beach. It's one of the tourist attractions in Phillipsburg as visitors enjoy spotting airplanes flying over the beach during flights taking off and landing.

If you are traveling to Philipsburg through cruise ship, you can follow the steps below to get to Maho Beach from the cruise terminal in Philipsburg:

  1. After you are allowed to disembark the cruise ship, walk towards the tourist information desk's direction. At the back of it, that's where you will find the taxi stand.
  2. You will see orange shirt people at the taxi stand. You walk up to them and tell them you want to go to Maho Beach or just look at the signs that are posted at each stand.
  3. Beneath each sign poster, you will see the taxi fare. Don't get intimidated of the fare that says 1-2 people $20 for Maho Beach. Taxi in St Maarten is not the typical taxi we are all used to. It's basically a shared van. The more people get in the taxi, the lesser price the taxi costs. So if there are just two of you traveling, wait until you get more people to go to Maho Beach as it will get much cheaper to get in the taxi. You don't have be related to other passengers.
  4. Hop on the van and enjoy the ride. It's about 20-30 minutes journey. Once you get to the beach, you pay your shared fare directly to the driver.
Not Typical Taxi - It's A Shared Van
Enjoy the beach and hopefully you get a good photo shot of airplane flying over the beach. My suggested time to go there is between 2pm and 3pm in the afternoon as there are usually big International flights come in. There's a surfboard in front of the Sunset bar that posts flights arrivals and departures information, or you can watch on their big screen tv for more flight schedules.

This surfboard has daily flight schedules
When you are ready to go back to the cruise ship, follow the same steps to get the taxi back to the cruise terminal. The fares remain the same based on how many people in the taxi.

Taxi Fare to Maho Beach
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October 2, 2016

My Experience With Delta's Basic Economy Fare Ticket

When it comes to purchasing airline tickets, I am one of those buyers out there that I only go for the cheapest and the most economical ticket if I cannot redeem air miles. I recently bought two tickets with Delta and had my first experience with their Basic Economy fare.

The fare rule is pretty simple straight forward, and Delta warns you before you pay for the ticket:
No seat assignment is available until after check-in
Refunds and any ticket changes, including same-day changes, are not permitted
No paid or complimentary access or upgrades to premium seats or products, including Delta Comfort or Preferred Seats, and no paid access to Priority Boarding

As you see, the rule is very restrictive. I decided to purchase the Basic Economy anyway because it was the lowest fare for two tickets. It's not the end of the world if we did not get to sit together and I could check in like the usual 24 hours before the flight's departure time and select our seats then. I called Delta and confirmed this before making the purchase.

When it was time to check in, I checked in right away on my mobile phone, hoping to score two seats and print our boarding passes. To my surprise, I was able to check in but I could not print boarding pass and could not select seats. That did not excite me because our flight was super early at 5:30AM in the morning. Since we would not check bags, I would prefer not to bother the Delta's agent desk or the kiosk at the airport. We just wanted to be dropped off at the airport and walked right to the TSA check with our carry-on bags.

I decided to call up Delta and told them the above concerns and what I was told by Delta before I bought those tickets. The agent was very helpful and she helped me out by allowing me to be able to print my boarding passes and she gave us two excellent exit row seats for two, plenty of legs room. We even got zone 1 boarding passes so we were able to get on the plane sooner than other zones and stored our carry on bags away.

There you have it, that's my experience with Delta Basic Economy fare ticket.

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September 23, 2016

Transfer SPG Points to Marriott at 1:3 Ratio and Instant Status Match

SPG and Marriott announced exciting opportunities today based on their merger.

The gist of the merger is:
Member can transfer points from SPG to Marriott at 1:3 ratio and Marriott to SPG at 3:1 ratio.
Member can get instant hotel’s status match with both programs. Since my SPG Gold status obtained from my American Express Platinum credit card, so I now become Marriott Gold Elite status. "You’ve been upgraded! Because you are an SPG Gold member, you have been upgraded to Gold Elite status with Marriott Rewards."

This merger definitely opens to a few great perks and opportunities that these both programs bring to consumers. My SPG credit card just keeps getting better and better as each dollar spend on that card, I can either earn 1 Star Point or 3 Marriott Points.

You don't have to go to both hotels websites to link the accounts.
SPG Link
Marriott Link

Quick Glance At Benefits of Being Marriott Gold Elite:
Gold Elite members are credited with a 25% bonus on base points earned during stays.
Get a 10% discount with your Elite membership card at participating Marriott-operated and managed gift shops.
Complimentary Room Upgrade.
Late check-out.
Free enhanced in room Internet.
Free daily continental breakfast, light snacks and beverages for members and one guest in the Executive Lounge at JW Marriott®, Autograph Collection®, Renaissance® and Marriott Hotels® (resorts excluded), Delta Hotels®. In the U.S. and Canada, select hotels will provide 750 or 1,000 points in lieu of breakfast in the event the lounge is closed.
Marriott Benefits Link

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September 21, 2016

SPG Birth Rate: Second Night Stay's Rate Equal to Your Birth Year

SPG has an interesting promotion that is going on for quite some time now. When you stay one night at regular rate, you second night's rate will be equal to the year you were born. For example, if you were born in 1968? You pay $68 for the second night. The older you are, the cheaper the rate is.

Rates will be confirmed at check-in, meaning when you make your reservation either online or on the phone, you will see the regular rates for your night stays, but you will get the birth rate's discount upon check-in to have your birth year verified.

Terms and Conditions:
Offer Link
Offer is valid at participating Starwood Hotels & Resorts across the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
Guests may book the lowest flexible or pre-paid rates at hotels that do not participate in Pay Your Birth Year.
Advance reservations are required and may be made online or by calling 877-782-0108 and mentioning Promotion Code NBR.
This offer is valid for stays of two or more nights. Rate discount applies only to the second night. Select properties may allow this discount to apply to the second and third nights. Best available rate prevails thereafter.
Length of stay requirements may vary by participating hotel.
The rate at certain hotels for the second and third nights of the stay will be $100 + the value of the guest’s birth year. For example, if the guest’s birth year is 1970, then the rate for the 2nd and 3rd night would be $170 per night.
The rates for the second and third night of stay will be confirmed at check-in upon presentation of valid ID and confirmation of birth year. Please note that your ID will not be photocopied and your birth date will not be added to our records.
The rate for reservations containing multiple rooms will vary based on the age of the oldest adult staying in each room. Valid ID and confirmation is required for the oldest guest staying in each room.
Must be 18 or older to participate in this promotion.
Consecutive reservations for this offer will not be honored.
Stay and arrival restrictions may apply. Please see individual property terms and conditions for details.
Reservation rates are quoted in local currency and are subject to currency fluctuations.
Rates are per room, per night, based on single/double occupancy and availability at time of reservation and do not include additional per room, per night charges that may be imposed or state/local taxes.
A limited number of rooms may be available at these rates.
Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Offer not applicable to groups
Not to be combined with other offers or promotions and subject to change.
Not responsible for omissions or typographical errors.
Void where prohibited by law.
Starwood reserves the right to discontinue this offer at any time.
Starpoints, SPG, Starwood Preferred Guest, Sheraton, Four Points, W, Aloft, Le Méridien, The Luxury Collection, Element, Westin, St. Regis and their respective logos are the trademarks of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., or its affiliates.

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August 25, 2016

Earn Unlimited Choice Hotels Free Night After Every Two Qualified Separate Stays

Between September 1 and November 11, 2016, Choice Hotels is having a promotion that allows you to earn one free night stay after two qualified separate stays. You can earn an unlimited number of this bonuses! After you register, you'll earn points for a free night after every two separate trips.

Terms and Conditions:
Offer Link
Free night is based on an 8,000 point Choice Privileges reward night level.
Registration required at before check-out.
Members must book trips via, the Choice Hotels mobile app, or 800.4CHOICE at qualifying rates. Corporate travelers may book through a corporate online booking system.
Choice Privileges member number must be provided upon check-in.
After a second qualifying trip with arrival between 09/01/16 and 11/11/16, members will be awarded a minimum of 5,000 and maximum of 8,000 bonus points, depending on the number of base points earned from the two (2) separate qualifying trips.
These bonus points will allow redemption for a free night at the 8,000 reward night level at over 1,500 hotels. A free night at most Choice Privileges locations requires more than 8,000 points.
A trip is defined as a stay that is any number of consecutive nights at one hotel regardless of check-ins or check-outs.
To be eligible to earn the bonus, members must set their earning preference to Choice Privileges points in their online account.
Allow 72 hours from check-out for points to post.

Best Use of Choice Hotels Points in Europe
I personally love redeeming Choice Points for hotel stays in Europe, specifically Scandivania. You can check out my full article on Best Use of Choice Hotels Points From 6,000 to 25,000 Points in Europe.

What does this mean? "After a second qualifying trip with arrival between 09/01/16 and 11/11/16, members will be awarded a minimum of 5,000 and maximum of 8,000 bonus points, depending on the number of base points earned from the two (2) separate qualifying trips."
Choice member earns 10 points per dollar spend at any Choice hotels properties. For example, you do two qualified separate stays at a Choice hotel. You pay $100 per stay, so your total base points are 2,000 Choice Points. With this promotion, Choice will award you additional 6,000 Choice Points so you have 8,000 Choice Points in your account.

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August 22, 2016

Play the SPG Open More Game to Win Starpoints or Free Night Award

Play the SPG Open More game for your chance to instantly win 1,000, 5,000 or 10,000 Starpoints or 1 Free Night Award. Plus, you’ll be entered to win the grand prize regardless you win the game or not: 5 Free Night Awards and 50,000 Starpoints.

Terms & Condition:
Offer Link
The Game is scheduled for play starting August 22, 2016, 11:00 a.m. ET and ends September 12, 2016, 11:00 a.m. ET.
Limit one (1) play per person, per day, during the Game Period.
Quantity  & Instant Win Prizes
630 1,000 Starpoints
420 5,000 Starpoints
210 10,000 Starpoints
210 Free Night Awards Category 1–5
One (1) Grand Prize winner will be awarded 50,000 Starpoints plus five (5) Free Night Awards, Category 1–6
Full Terms & Conditions

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(Extended) Wyndham 5,000 Bonus Points With Visa Checkout

Wyndham has extended their Visa Checkout promotion that after you complete your qualified stay, they will add 5,000 bonus points to your Wyndham Rewards account. Book by Sept 30, 2016 and complete your qualified stay by Oct 1, 2016.

Terms & Conditions:
Offer Link
Must be Wyndham member (free to join).
Must book through Wyndham mobile app.
Between April 27, 2016 and September 30, 2016 use the App to book a Qualified Stay at a Participating Hotel.
Use Visa Checkout as payment. (Free to create account with Visa Checkout and add your card of payment).
Each member receives 5,000 Wyndham Rewards bonus points for each qualified stay during the promotion period, up to a maximum of two (2) separate stays.
One stay includes all consecutive nights at the same hotel, regardless of check-ins or check-outs.
Stays with check-out dates after October 1, 2016 will not be counted towards the Promotion.
Members who have elected to earn Travel Partner Currency in their member profile and who book and stay in accordance with the Promotion, will receive their base point earning in Travel Partner Currency with the Bonus denominated in 5,000 Wyndham Rewards points.
Full Terms & Conditions

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August 20, 2016

IHG Accelerate Now Open For Registrations For Stays Between September 6 through December 15, 2016

IHG Accelerate is now available to register for IHG members (free to join) for stays between September 6 through December 15, 2016. This is yet another regular IHG offer for members to earn bonus IHG points, but each member's offer is different. So you must first register to discover what the offers are for your specific account.

Terms & Conditions:
Offer Link
Must be an IHG Rewards Club member
Must register your member number in advance to participate in “Accelerate” (Promotion).
Upon Registration (as defined below), members will be presented with the opportunity to earn at least 30,000 bonus points upon completion of all offers presented.
Each Offer must be completed between 6 September 2016 and 15 December 2016 (both dates inclusive)
Bonus points are not issued for Non-Qualifying Room Rates or Non-Qualifying Stays. “Non-Qualifying Room Rates” or “Non-Qualifying Stay” include the following: any stay at a Kimpton Hotel, net wholesale individual and group rate, certain package rates, employee discount rate, friends and family rate, crew rate, special discounted contract rates, seasonal worker/crew rate, 50% travel club discount rate, travel industry discount rate, distressed passenger rate, IHG Rewards Club Reward Nights/Airline Hotel Reward rate, rates booked through third party web sites, complimentary hotel Stays and any other rates not defined as a Qualifying Room Rate at IHG’s sole discretion.
Complete Terms & Conditions

My Accelerate Offer:
3,000 - Stay Once Get 3,000.
10,000 - Stay 5 night(s) and earn 10,000 bonus points.
20,800 - Stay at 3 brands and get 20,800 bonus points.
8,000 - Stay at 2 Holiday Inn hotel(s)—including Holiday Inn Resort and Holiday Inn Club Vacation and earn 8,000 bonus points.
1,500 - Book and pay for one stay with your IHG Rewards Club Credit Card and earn bonus points.
17,000 - Complete 4 of the 5 offers and earn (an additional) 17,000 bonus points.
5,000 - Stay once in September and get 5,000 bonus points.

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August 19, 2016

Buy Hilton Points Up To 50% Off Discount Price

For those that need to top of your Hilton account to redeem free night stay(s), now through September 16, 2016, you can purchase Hilton points at a discounted price that is up to 50% off based on your account. I am targeted only for 40% off.

This is a pretty straight forward offer from Hilton's points purchase. Sign into your account and click the following link to display your % discount.

Offer Link

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Save 12% on Points and Cash Bookings With IHG

If you are the IHG credit card holder, now through September 18, 2016 when you redeem reward nights by combing IHG points and cash for all stays through November 30, 2016, you will save 12% on the cash portion.

This is also another opportunity to purchase IHG points at a discounted price because when you book stays with IHG by combining points plus cash, and then cancel that booking, you will receive your points back but the cash portion that you paid will be refunded back in points and not cash into your account.

Terms & Conditions:
Offer Link
As an IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite member, you’ll save 12% on Points & Cash bookings made now until September 18, 2016.
This offer is valid for all stays through November 30, 2016.
12% discount is offered at time of booking and only pertains to the cash cost of bookings.
Must be a Platinum Elite member at the time of booking to be eligible for offer.
Bookings for The Venetian and The Palazzo hotels are excluded from discounts.
You’ll also earn 5 points per $1 spent when you use your IHG Rewards Club Credit Card to book and pay for your stay.

Bonus: If you search for one of the IHG hotel's reward night in Burbank California, you are able to purchase IHG points at 55 cents a piece by doing the points and cash booking.

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August 17, 2016

IHG PointsBreak: Only 5,000 IHG Points For Participating Hotels Through October 31, 2016

IHG has released their popular PointsBreak promotion that's valid for booking through October 31, 2016. Each IHG hotel property around the world that participates in this promotion only requires 5,000 points per night stay during promotional period. This is a fantastic use of IHG point if you are able to take advantage of this promotion.

Terms & Conditions:
  • Link
  • Due to the limited availability, each member may only book two PointBreaks® Reward Nights reservations per hotel during the special offer time period. 
  • Offer and participating hotels are subject to change at any time, valid for booking through October 31, 2016
  • All other Reward Night terms and conditions apply. 
  • Please note that Reward Nights booked through PointBreaks® may not be sold or used for commercial gains. Doing so is a program violation and may result in the freezing of your account, the forfeiture of all point transfers, rewards, vouchers, or merchandise issued pursuant to point redemptions and any accrued points or miles in your account, as well as cancellation of the account and your future participation in the Program.

To book, note down the participating hotel property from the link provided above. Then go to IHG website and search for that specific hotel/location. The 5,000 reward points required per night stay should automatically show during the promotion period according to the above terms.

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50% Off IHG Reward Nights in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean (including 4 all-inclusive resorts)

IHG currently offers 50% off IHG Reward Nights for hotels and resorts in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. 4 of those resorts are all-inclusive resorts, and they are:

Holiday Inn Resort Ixtapa in Mexico
Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas in Mexico
Holiday Inn Resort Los Cabos in Mexico
Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay in Jamaica

Key Terms:
  • Offer subject to hotel’s availability and valid only for bookings from August 15th to 28th, 2016 for stays from September 1st to October 30th, 2016
  • Rate will vary at each hotel. Rate quoted includes discount. 
  • Not valid with other promotions. 
  • A fee for an extra bed may be charged by selected hotel. 
  • Not valid with group reservations. Guest will earn IHG® Rewards Club points for food and beverage, accommodations excluded. 
  • Hotel policy varies regarding the number of guests allowed per room. 
  • Offer valid only at participating hotels in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. 
  • Blackout dates may apply.
To book, simply search for reward nights on IHG website, and the points required for stay(s) will automatically show 50% off during the promotional period according to the above terms.

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Club Carlson 50% Off 2 Night Stays Or 4 Night Stays In Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

UPDATE: This promotion is no longer available!

If are a Gold member of Club Carlson, you can take advantage of the 2 for 1 nights rate or 4 for 2 nights rate in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Basically, you get 50% off 2 night stays or 4 night stays at those locations. This deal has been around and its expiration is unknown. Availability varies by the property.

2 for 1 Nights Terms
  • Link
  • Stay Thursday night, get Friday night FREE!
  • Stay Friday night, get Saturday night FREE!
  • Two days advanced booking required.
  • Valid for up to two rooms max. One of the rooms must be occupied by a member.
  • Breakfast and taxes inclusion depend by hotel and local policy.
  • Dates must be consecutive and include a Friday or Saturday.
  • Rate shown is for the first night and the second night is for free.
  • Two night minimum stay required.
  • Offer subject to availability and valid at participating locations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa except at Radisson® Edwardian Hotels.
  • Offer must be booked on or the Member Service Center; and ask for the 2 for 1 Weekend Extend Offer.
  • Member must present Elite Gold card upon check-in.

4 for 2 Nights Terms
  • Link
  • Stay Wednesday and Thursday night, get Friday and Saturday night FREE!
  • Stay Thursday and Friday night, get Saturday and Sunday night FREE!
  • Two days advanced booking required.
  • Valid for up to two rooms max. One of the rooms must be occupied by the member.
  • Breakfast and taxes inclusion depend by hotel and local policy.
  • Dates must be consecutive and include a Friday or Saturday.
  • Rate shown is for the first 2 nights and the second two nights are free.
  • Rates shown for the last two nights will not be charged.
  • Four night minimum stay required.
  • Offer subject to availability and valid at participating locations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa except at Radisson® Edwardian Hotels.
  • Offer must be booked on or the Member Service Center; and ask for the 4 for 2 Weekend Extend Offer.
  • Member must present Elite Gold card upon check-in.

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August 13, 2016

Hotel Review: Khemara Guesthouse Phnom Penh Cambodia

Khemara Guesthouse
While on the way to visit the famous Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, I stayed a couple nights in Phnom Penh at Khemara Guesthouse. This guesthouse is an excellent choice for budget and has a great location. If you want to get away from all the hustles and bustles of the tourist area such as the riverside, then Khemara Guesthouse is the place to be as it puts you right in the central location to entertainment places, yet far away from all the touristic areas. Staying at this guesthouse will make you experience how Cambodian people and cultures are like over there. In this review, I'll be focusing on the Price & Room, Location, Transportation, People and Culture.

Price & Room

You can't really beat the price with this Khemara Guesthouse. Nightly rate is only USD$10 per night if you book directly with them for their Apartment Room which is newly renovated with tiles throughout and modern shower room. It's very spacious. It has living and kitchen areas, private bedroom, private bathroom, and a balcony. Wifi is also free both in the room and in the public area for certain rooms. The only downside about the room is that it does not have air conditioning but it has fan. This is the only reason why I decided to go with the Superior Double Room instead. The Superior Room is also spacious, it has two beds that can accommodate up to 4 people. The nightly rate is USD$20 per night. It comes with both fan and air conditioning. It is a private bedroom and has a private bathroom that has a hot water system. In reality though, given how hot and humid Cambodia is, hot water wouldn't be necessary and the Apartment Room with fan could have been enough for me as the nightly rate is cheaper than the Superior Room. It is worth mentioning too that if you want to stay longer at the Khemara Guesthouse, they have weekly rate and monthly rate also that are cheaper than the nightly rate.

New Modern Shower Room In Apartment Room
Modern Sink In Apartment Room
Private Bedroom In Apartment Room
Both Fan and Air Conditioning In Superior Double Beds Room
Lovely Balcony infront of the Apartment Room


The location of the Khemara Guesthouse is fantastic. It's very central and all within walking distance to entertainment district such as shopping, restaurants and bars. Central Market is just a short walk away from the guesthouse for cheap souvenirs. A short "Touk Touk" ride will get you to the Royal Palace, National Museum, Independence Monument and other major attractions. Khemara Guesthouse is also situated in the business district in Phnom Penh where you get to experience how Cambodian people live and do business on a daily basis. It's a great way to learn about their people and cultures. I really love the fact that the location of this guesthouse is far away from the touristy places that can get really noisy and bothersome due to people party all night long and loud music. Another thing that I love about the location of this guesthouse is the fact that I can just walk to just about anywhere, even the bus station to get me to the coastline Sihanoukville, Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, Thailand, Vietnam to name a few.

Central Market for Cheap Souvenirs is Within Walking Distance
You Can Visit the Royal Palace While Staying At Khemara Guesthouse
The National Museum Is Just A Short "Touk Touk" Ride Away


As I mentioned earlier, I can just walk to just about anywhere for shopping, restaurants and bars during my stay at Khemara Guesthouse. If you want to go somewhere else, the "Touk Touk" is a great cheap taxi service that gets you there. Phnom Penh International Airport is also just a short drive from there. You can contact the guesthouse to arrange the service if you'd like them to pick you up and drop you right at the guesthouse. To me, bargaining for the transportation price right after my long flight isn't something that I am looking forward to doing.

People and Culture

I feel like this deserves its own section because a visit to Cambodia isn't complete without getting to know the authenticity of Cambodian people's life on a daily basis. Khemara Guesthouse provides this type of opportunity. First of all, this guesthouse is family owned. They are friendly and nice people with smiley faces. I felt like I was up close to the people and culture there. People there are very hard working from sunrise to sundown. From the guesthouse, I was able to see how busy the street can be over there, thanks to the hotel's balcony. Personally, I feel that when I travel away from home, I want to see something that's different than my own country. That is why I decided to stay away from the touristy areas that are mostly tailored to American/European lifestyle. I wanted to be as close as possible to Cambodian people and culture so that I have good story to tell at home, and memory to cherish.


In summary, I had pleasant stays at Khemara Guesthouse. This is a very budget hotel, but has several perks such as very affordable price with spacious rooms, private bedroom, private bathroom, balcony, and great location. If you are expecting a fancy hotel at this guesthouse, then this is not for you. This is an economical hotel that is centrally located in the heart of Phnom Penh city, yet far away from all the hustles and bustles touristy areas and put you in the heart of Cambodian people and cultural experiences. Do keep in mind though Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia, and therefore with city life, noise is inevitable and it's very common in Cambodia no matter where you go. I highly recommend this guesthouse to travelers that are looking for a few night stays in Phnom Penh. You can book directly with them at - there are photos of the rooms for you to look at as well.

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May 30, 2016

Cruise Ship Review: Oslo to Copenhagen With DFDS Pearl Seaways

I took the ferry crossing from Oslo to Copenhagen. The ferry is operated by DFDS Seaways. DFDS calls this trip as mini cruise, but let me tell you that it's nothing like a ferry or mini cruise, it's practically a real giant cruise ship. Her name is Pearl. I didn't expect that until I saw it from the cruise terminal before I boarded.
It's Not A Ferry Nor A Mini Cruise. It's A Real Cruise Ship!
In this review, I'll focus on the Price, Boarding ProcessRoom & Bed, Amenities On Board, and last by not least the Shuttle Bus from the DFDS Terminal in Copenhagen to the City.


I booked a single bed room for a total of around $84 USD that includes the tax and one way shuttle bus from Copenhagen DFDS terminal to the city when I get to Copenhagen. I think this is a fantastic deal to be able to experience the cruise ship, get to Copenhagen from Oslo vs. the typical train ride, and save one night at hotel. You can check out the price on their website, but do note that I wrote an article on how to save a few dollars booking with DFDS that you may want to check out here.

Don't worry about pre-booking meals, you will find restaurants on board along with a casual coffee bar that has sandwiches, pasta salad, and Danish party. Major credit cards and cash are accepted on board. However, watch out for credit card fees if you use Mastercard ones.

My Pre-Departure Meal: Danish Pastry And Heineken

Boarding Process:

For me, the boarding process at DFDS Seaways Oslo was a little bit confusing. That's why I decide to note this down as part of my review for those that will be traveling from Oslo to Copenhagen with DFDS Seaways. 
  • Locate the DFDS ferry terminal. It's located at the following address: Akershusstranda 31, 0150 Oslo, Norway
  • After entering the building, you should see many blue kiosks where you do the self check-in process to get your boarding pass if you are not traveling as a group. 
  • To your left, you may see people queue up to do the boarding, but don't be fooled because I did and was told it wasn't my boarding time yet. The agent said my room wasn't ready. Look at your confirmation email and it should list on there what time you should be checking in. They really mean it!
Self Check-In Kiosks  To Get Boarding Pass
Don't Be Fooled! This Is Not Your Boarding Queue!

Room & Bed:

As I was traveling solo, and DFDS Seaway has various types of rooms, I specifically picked the 1 bed with seaview room. The Boarding Pass is the key to the room. The moment I walked into my room, I was very happy to see the seaview window is bigger than the picture shows on the website. It provides a good ocean view and the single bed is comfortable. The room is a little bit small but it's practical. It comes with a desk, chair, and a private bathroom. It also has temperature control. It's just like a real hotel's room. I was very pleased with my room.

Single Seaview Room
Sunset View Taken From My Seaview Window
Decent Size Practical Bathroom
You Can View My Video Of The Room Below: 

Amenities On Board:

Because this is a real cruise ship, there are several decks on board. My deck is number 5. Deck 6 has a pool, spa and massage for family and relaxation, but it's not free. The wifi zone and hang out area is located on Deck 7. That deck also has a coffee bar, an arcade room, a shopping center and a casino. The casino though has an entrance fee but comes with 1 free drink. In addition, the guest service is also located on that deck and you can also book any Copenhang tour there as well. If you did not buy the ticket for the Copenhagen shuttle bus, you can purchase it there as well. The buffet restaurant is also located on Deck 7. There are restaurants and bars located on Deck 8, and a sky bar on Deck 11 where you can enjoy the outside open space seating. It's also a great deck to enjoy the sunset. Deck 10 has a pool and two hot tubs.

Pool And Hot Tubs On Deck 10 
Wifi Zone And Hang Out Area On Deck 7
Shopping Center On Deck 7
Skybar On Deck 11. Great Deck To Watch Sunset!
Sunset View Taken From Deck 11

Shuttle Bus From DFDS Terminal In Copenhagen To The City

I think this is worth a review section because I did not have a positive experience with this. Part of it was my fault as well that I didn't read carefully about the shuttle bus and where it drops passengers at.  It does NOT go to Copenhagen Central Station; it goes to the Norreport Station, which is the second biggest station in Copenhagen. It is located in the Central area, but about 15 minutes walk to the Central Station. So plan accordingly if you hotels are around the Central Station!

Another thing that is confusing as well is how to get on the shuttle bus. After exiting the DFDS terminal, although there are signs that guide you to the shuttle bus, but you will be greeted with several of tour buses, and none is clearly marked as DFDS Seaways Shuttle Bus. It only says that on the windshield if you look close enough. Human intuition, just ask someone! From my experience, those buses line up by the curbside. You should be able to spot them right after you exit the terminal building. Show the driver the shuttle bus ticket that you purchased before boarding. Please note that you cannot purchase the ticket from the driver. It costs 1 Euro and you can either purchase the ticket when you make reservation for the DFDS Seaways or purchase the ticket on Deck 7 after you board the ship.

The Shuttle Bus Drop Off


For the price that I paid and got to enjoy all the amenities on board this flagship, it's totally worth it! I'm not crazily impressed by those amenities per say, but it's still much better than just a regular ferry. The 17 hours cruise ride was pleasant and I'd love to do it again to experience this with someone else. I love my little seaview room. It's the best way to get from Oslo to Copenhagen. It's not all about the destination, but the journey.

Check out more articles on Oslo Norway

Pearl Cruise Ship Layout

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