Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

USA - New York and West Coast

USA - New York and West Coast

Old Aug 24, 13, 11:52 am
  #1  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
Four Seasons 5+ BadgeSPG 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
USA - New York and West Coast

This year we did a trip from Europe to the US. Because we had to visit a fair we started in New York, before we moved on to San Francisco. My focus will be on the flights and hotels.

My report will be divided into the following parts:

BA LHR - JFK First
Mandarin Oriental New York
AA JFK - SFO First
Chateau Sureau Oakhurst
Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe
Ritz Carlton San Francisco
Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Post Ranch Inn Big Sur
Four Seasons Santa Barbara
Wynn Tower Suites Las Vegas
Amangiri Page
BA LAS - LHR First
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 12:09 pm
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Ba lhr - jfk

We arrived in LHR in Club Europe, which isnīt really a pleasure. Itīs time to update this useless product. First we went to Concorde Room, which is really nicely furnished. We had breakfast, but I forgot to take pictures.

Our 747 had the "new'" First on board, but some pieces of the furniture looked already worn. Also you canīt compare BA-First to First-Suite products. But itīs still a nice experience.

The cabin (14 seats) was only occupied by my wife, me and 2 other persons. The seat was pretty good, the entertainment system OK. Food quality was quite good, even if not on the same level as other First-products. They had a wide selection of alcoholic beverages.

What really impressed me was the service. We were greated by the captain and the crew was exceedingly friendly and attentive. The best service-experience we had so far.

The seat

Television

Starter

Main course

Dessert

Chocolate (sadly not only for me)
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 12:29 pm
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Mandarin Oriental

This time we decided to stay at the Mandarin in New York. We booked 4 nights via Virtuoso in an Executive Suite and got a guaranteed upgrade to a Central Park View Suite.

I have to say that we really liked the Mandarin. The location at Columbus is great and the design is exactly what we like.

We arrived and were greeted promptly. We got a suite on the 53rd floor with a good view over the Central Park and Columbus Circle. Only the ugly Trump could be torn down to improve the sight. The room wasn't particularly big for a suit of that category but the design was modern and fit the overall style of the hotel and the furniture was in good condition. Especially the bathroom with its window that allowed natural light to flood the room was something we enjoyed. We could see the hudson river from the bathtub. The bathroom amenities was a nice change from the usual overly perfumed stuff you get in hotels of that class. It was an organic brand that gave off only a faint smell.

The service during our stay was without excemption very good. The breakfast was on all 4 days (2 times at restaurant, 2 times via room service) great. Their homemade granola served with a wide array of berries and other fruits and yogurt was the best hotel granola we had so far. Their soy breakfast shake is something we wouldn't mind drinking every day. A wonderful selection of breakfast choices even for vegetarians.

Bathroom

Bedroom

Living room

View

Breakfast with a view
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 1:02 pm
  #4  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Aa jfk - sfo

We needed to fly from New York to San Francisco, and after careful research of the possible airline choices, I realized that I would have to lower my standards. Thankfully there was a reward with AA available at the time of our booking and I had enough Avios.
AA uses airplanes in three-class configuration on this route. Sadly, there were only business class seats available. Better than paying $5000 for AA, so I made the booking.
After a few weeks, my reservation was changed to First. I found out that the plane had been changed and now one with two-class configuration would be used for the flight. Another few weeks later, they changed the airplane again and it was a three-class configuration once again, but we still had first seats.
When we tried to check in online, it wasn't possible. So we decided to use the desk at the airport. After we arrived at the airport, an employe of AA at the quick check-in wasn't able to check us in. He eventually led us to the "normal" check in desks. It was quite busy even in the first class line so we had to wait a bit. When it was finally our turn, the nice woman at the desk encountered even more problems with our check in. After several phone calls, she finally found out that we had business class tickets with first class seats. More phone calls followed to find out how to handle the situation. They were trying to find seats for us in the business class (of course we weren't too keen for them to be successful). After another fifteen minutes, the woman informed us that they didn't have seats next to each other. Seeing our expressions, she decided to book us into first class where we could sit beside each other. It took over 30 minutes but the end result was worth it.

The woman explained to us that we could use the first class lounge. So we made our way to the lounge which was closest to our gate. We had only thirty minutes left. The woman at the reception explained that we were in the business class lounge but that we were welcome to use the first class lounge. Unfortunately the walk to the first lounge would have taken another ten minutes one way, so it didn't make sense for us. We received vouchers for drinks which was a new experience for us. This was the first lounge where guests had to pay for their food and beverages. The lounge was old and ugly, and the coffee was an insult to my wife's tastebuds. At least the internet was free. Of course I forgot to take pictures.

After boarding, our bad first impressions of AA were only confirmed. The seats were shabby and ripped, and the entire plane could have used a huge renovation. Plastic pieces of the seats were ripped off, and sometimes tape was used to put them back in place...Welcome to Bancrupt Airways.

Of course they didn't have built in entertainment systems. Instead we were given Samsung tablets to watch movies. The movie selection was good (even if you wanted to watch in German). The food selection was mediocre. We had breakfast. The only vegetarian option was yogurt...so we had to ask the stewardess to serve the frittata without the sausage which of course made the course very small and not really fulfilling. The food quality was okay, but not as good as one would expect in First. The tablet solution made eating difficult since you had to put the tablet somewhere. The wine tasted horrible.The service could have been friendlier, especially in the beginning the stewardess who served us was close to being rude (maybe because she was French...).

At least we arrived on time.

Seat

nice

Tape saves the world

like at home

Very elegant
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 1:26 pm
  #5  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Chateau Sureau Oakhurst

When we planned our itinerary we had to find a hotel from which we could visit Sequoia and Yosemite, so our choices were limited. The only luxury option was Chateau Sureau in Oakhurst. At first, I was sceptical since the hotel doesn't have suites. But the price was relatively moderate compared to other hotels. We decided to book the Saffron Room, which we liked the best. It is one of the few rooms that has a shower and a separate bathtub. Another advantage of the hotel is that it has a well-known restaurant. They claimed to be happy to accomodate special diets. We asked for a vegan menu.
After a three hour drive, we arrived at the hotel and were greeted by the staff which were dressed in old-fashioned maid clothes. If I remember correctly they even curtsied...
The hotel looks like a small castle with old-fashioned furniture. Every room has its own design. Our room had an over two-hundred year old bed - which was made of ebony and ivory. There was an old tapestry beside the bed that served as decoration and was something you might expect in a museum; the remaining furniture was also antique and gave the room a unique atmosphere. There wasn't a television. As a welcome, we got homemade iced tea, cookies and a small fruit cake. Delicious!

The food in the restaurant wasn't as good as we'd hoped. They prepared a vegan menu for us but it was obvious that they didn't have much experience and it was a bit uninspired. The meat dishes on the other tables looked good.

The breakfast was small. There was a small buffet of granola, milk, and cereals on an old-fashioned cupboard. The rest of the breakfast was served by a very friendly woman. The fruit, cake, veggies, cheese and freshly baked brioche were very good.

The Chateau Sureau is a European style hotel which you will never find in Europe, but it has style and the service is superb. If you want something extraordinary and memorable, this hotel is definitely worth a visit.

Our bed

old fashioned but with style

fire place and balcony

sink

tub

shower

pool

The Chateau

Common Room

Common Room
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 1:50 pm
  #6  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe

Our next stop was the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe. The name is a bit misleading since the hotel is situated in a ski area about a 15-minute drive away from Lake Tahoe. The hotel is quite new and held in a rustic style. We booked a one-bedroom suite via Virtuoso. The next category would have been a mountain view suite. The only difference was the view. Apparently, the view isn't even good in the summer, since you're only staring at the bare green hills with their ski lifts. The upgrade would have been a downgrade, so we chose not to take it.
The suite was quite large, with a small living room and bedroom, but a big entrance area, dressing room, and bathroom.
The hotel has two restaurants, but one of them has a self-service concept - which is quite unusual for a luxury hotel. The main restaurant served rustic, but tasty food. They had very few vegetarian options, but they offered to prepare dishes to our wishes. The service was informal but very friendly.

Overall a lovely hotel with a mountain cottage feel.

View from our suite

One of the sinks

Separated toilet

Jacuzzi

Part of dressing area

Bedroom


Living room

offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 2:16 pm
  #7  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Ritz Carlton San Francisco

In San Francisco we decided to stay in the Ritz Carlton. We booked a one-bedroom suite via Virtuoso. As expected we didn't get an upgrade. We decided against booking a club suite since it was $200 more per night and has basically the same layout. We had made plans for dinner for both night, so we didn't need the club.

The hotel is regal from the outside and is situated in Nob Hill. It wasn't the perfect location for sightseeing. Our suite was on the second floor, which was two floors below the lobby. When we first entered the suite we thought the windows were open, since the noise from the street was incredible.
The suite was spacious, and furnished in the typical old Ritz Carlton style. Nothing special and quite boring to be honest.

We had lunch in the restaurant to use our $100 credit. The food was okay, better than the service. The service in the entire hotel was average.

Overall we weren't too impressed with the hotel. It wasn't really bad, but nothing we will remember either.

Outside view


Nice welcome treat

Living room



Bedroom


Dressing area

Bathroom




Entrance hall

View from our room

offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 2:46 pm
  #8  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

Because of its spectacular location we decided to stay in the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. We booked a one-bedroom suite via virtuoso, and again we didn't get an upgrade.
When we arrived we got a taste of what was to come...the driveway was crowded with cars. We had to wait a while before someone in golf clothes greeted us. The staff was seriously overwhelmed and not very professional. I thought about turning right back around. the hotel was just as crowded as the driveway. There was a wedding, so maybe that was the reason for the chaos. Eventually we got our room keys and had to find the way to our suite. The suite itself had a lovely layout; a long entrance hall, with guest bathroom, an oval living room with fireplace, a nicely-sized bedroom, and small bathroom. The furniture wasn't modern, but in a good condition. From the window we could see the driveway, a part of the golf course and a tiny sliver of the ocean. Over all I liked the suite.

We didn't eat in the hotel. Instead we had dinner in a Peruvian restaurant with a Michelin Star, La Costanera, which was close by. It was great!

Breakfast the next morning was a buffet. You had a nice view of the ocean and the golf course from the restaurant. The food quality was pretty good.

The location was the best thing about the hotel and worth the visit. The walk along the coastline and on the beach was spectacular.

We don't regret to have stayed there, but one night was enough, especially if you don't play golf. The crowd was terrible. The property itself is a bit dated and mainly lives from its location. The service could be improved.

Living room



Bedroom



Bathroom


View

Coastline

offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 3:02 pm
  #9  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Post Ranch Inn Big Sur

We wanted to stay somewhere in the Monterrey/Big Sur region. We had to decide between the Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Post Ranch Inn. In the end, we chose the latter because of its great reviews.

We knew from the start that we would arrive late in the afternoon and leave early the next morning. At first I didn't want to book the hotel because the rooms had tub/shower combos, and that's something I hate. In the end I decided to book the lowest category because there are a couple of rooms with walk-in showers. But when we arrived we received an upgrade so we got the hated shower/tub combo after all.

Immediately after arriving we realized that this was a special place. The location was quite remote and the nature breath-taking, especially the cliffs. The welcome by the staff was friendly and casual - we were addressed by our first names which is quite unusual, especially if you're from Europe. The hotel is divided into many small cottages that reminded us of tree houses since they were embedded into the surrounding forest. Other cottages perched on the edge of the cliffs and overlooked the ocean. We were taken to our cottage in a Lexus SUV. The butterfly cottage wasn't big but very cozy, especially the fireplace and the sofabed with a view into the forest through a big window. The main bed itself was across from the fireplace so you could fall asleep watching the embers die down.
Freshly baked cookies as well as a well stacked complimentary minibar awaited us. The cookies were delicious. There was also French cheese, chips, chocolates and homemade glazed nuts and granola bars. We didn'T even get the chance to try everything, but what we ate was delicious. We also had a bowl with fruit and a bottle of red wine.
The hotel has three pools, but we only tried the hottub closest to our cottage. We had to take a short path that meandered through the forest and past more cottages to the hottub that was situated at the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The hottub was the size of a small swimming pool and made from steel. The water temperature was quite hot which was appreciated since it was quite cold when we took a bath in the evening.
Afterwards, we headed to the restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had floor-to-ceiling windows which provided stunning views over the cliffs and ocean. We got a table in the second row, but on a platform, so that the view was still very good. The food was good, albeit a bit over-prized (4 courses = $120). Nevertheless a wonderful experience which we can also highly recommend to non-hotel guests.
The next morning we had breakfast in the restaurant, too, and this time we picked a table directly at the window. The view was even more spectacular. We could watch vultures and some kind of prey bird gliding over the cliffs. There was a buffet of homemade produce. You could also order pancakes, eggs, waffles at a cooking station or from the kitchen.

We are really glad that we stayed in the Post Ranch Inn, and wouldn't mind staying there again for a longer time. Next time, we would probably book a room near the cliffs, since the views were so spectacular.

Art at the grounds


The cottages




Our room





Terrace

The hottub


Last edited by offerendum; Aug 25, 13 at 6:42 am
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 3:02 pm
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara

Our next stop was the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara. We booked a one-bedroom suite and received an upgrade via Virtuoso to a deluxe one-bedroom suite. The hotel is a historical building in Spanish style.
Immediately after our arrival, we noticed the high service level. The staff of the valet parking were very helpful and friendly.

The room was very big and even had a partial ocean view which isn't standard in this hotel. The furniture matched the Spanish mission style and provided us with everything we needed. Especially lovely was the fireplace. As a welcome present we got chocolates and macarons. We had a nice balcony with lounge chairs to enjoy the sunshine. A special feature of the bathroom was the shower/steamroom. It created a lot of steam and heat if you wanted.

The hotel has two pool areas - one is situated in the garden and the other is in the beach club overlooking the beach which is separated from the hotel by a road. The beach is quite nice but not private.

The Italian restaurant Bella Vista surprised us positively. We sat outsideon their terrace which provides an ocean view. The menu wasn't too innovative but the food quality was good and the service attentive. Especially the truffle fries knocked my socks off.

Overall a beautiful hotel where we would definitely stay again if we found ourselves in Santa Barbara. A small disadvantage is certainly that you have to drive into the old town, but the beach location is really lovely.

Floor

Powder room

Living room




Bedroom




Bathroom




Terrace

View


Beach-Club

Beach


Last edited by offerendum; Aug 25, 13 at 8:39 am
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 3:03 pm
  #11  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Wynn Tower Suites Las Vegas

It took us a long time to decide which hotel to pick in Las Vegas. At the end, we chose the Wynn, since it's a typical Vegas hotel. We arrived at the hotel at the main entrance, not the Tower Suites entrance. That meants we had to walk through the building to the Tower Suites reception area, which gave us the chance to get our first glimpse at the hotel facilities.
We didn't have to wait at the reception, other than at the main reception there wasn't a line, which was nice after our long drive. The welcome was professional, but not overly warm. Nice detail: our name was printed on the keycard.
We had booked a salon suite, which we got. Our suite was on one of the highest floors. The suite was very big and was flooded with light thanks to the amazing floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the entire wall. The room was held in light colors like white and beige, which made the room appear even more welcoming. There was lots of art. We were especially impressed by the vegan room service menu and the possibility to eat vegan dishes in almost every restaurant in the hotel. In the evening we went to the buffet, but were dissappointed. The food quality was mediocre. The fish overcooked and bland. If you don't eat meat, the options were very limited and as mentioned above not very well executed.

The pool area was very nice. It was divived into the main pool area and the Tower Suites area. We used the latter, which had two pools and was empty. We only had to share the pool area with a few birds.
The breakfast was a highlight because we got the chance to try their vegan breakfast options which were good.

Overall a good choice. You pay little and get a lot. I'm sure the Mandarin Oriental would have been the better hotel, but also without the Vegas feeling. And a suite of the same size would have cost twice as much. Especially for Vegans and Vegetarians the Wynn is the place to be.

Entrance

Your own SPA-Room

Powder Room

Living Room




Good to know

The view (hard to photograph)

Bedroom

Bathroom



59th Floor

Casino

Detail

Shopping passage

Nice


Last edited by offerendum; Aug 25, 13 at 12:27 pm
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 3:07 pm
  #12  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Amangiri Page

The hotel we were most excited about during our trip was the Amangiri, our first Aman resort. The booking already proved to be rather difficult. Our decision to make the detour to the Aman happened quite late, so that the Amangiri Suite was the only room available when we checked online. But through our travel agent, we could eventually get a standard suite which we booked immediately. IT got really tricky when we were trying to reach the Amangiri, since neither of our two navigation systems had ever heard of it. Even on the hotel's website we found only a rather useless map. In the end we had to enter Lake Powell into our navigation system with the hopes of finding a sign of the hotel on the way.
Finally, we arrived. To get onto the premises of the Amangiri we had to ring the bell at a gate and were then granted entrance. Via a long winding road we drove past beautiful stone formations to the hotel where we were already expected by several members of the staff, including the general manager. After a short tour of the hotel, we were taken to our room. The rooms in the Amangiri are all more or less the same, their only distinguishing feature is their location and if they have a pool or terrace.
The design of the room is quite spare and maybe even cold, since it is dominated by beige concrete - the walls, floor and even the frame of the bed and the sofa. But it fit its surroundings perfectly. Apparently the Aman used a local architect to design the hotel. The hotel blends in great into its surroudings.
The most prominent feature of the hotel is its pool. It's U-shaped and in its middle a huge rock rises up. Even though the pool is spectacular, we didn't appreciate that it bordered onto the terrace of the restaurant, so that people who were having lunch or dinner or even just drinks were watching you swim.
The best thing was definitely the landscape. The hotel offers guided tours around the property, for example to a cave that was used by Native Americans and where you can still find old cave paintings. There are several trails on the property. You can, for example, hike to a small slot canyon.
We weren't too impressed about the food. The positive: they had a vegetarian menu. But neither the food from the "normal" menu nor the one from the vegetarian menu could convince. One dish had seen way too much salt, and a fish we had was too dry. Overall the food was bordering on bland. Considering that you pretty much have no choice but to eat in the restaurant (or order room service which comes from the same restaurant), the lack of tastiness of the provided food can become a huge problem, especially if you're staying for a longer time. The menu isn't very big, so you'll have to eat the same thing at least twice if you're staying for four or five nights, especially since the lunch menu and the dinner menu are almost the same.
The location of the Aman is its huge plus and there isn't really an alternative in the region, so we wouldn't mind staying there again. Hopefully the food will have improved by then. Even if the service was very good and we really liked the design, we weren't blown away.

The hotel

Way to the Suites


Entrance area

The Suite


Bathroom

Tub with 2 showers


Toilet

Art in Restroom

Terrace with fire place

The main pool

View from the cave

The slot canyon



Last edited by offerendum; Aug 26, 13 at 1:47 pm
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 3:08 pm
  #13  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Ba las - lhr

Everything comes to an end...now only our flight home lay ahead of us. After our check in, we headed to the lounge. There's only one lounge in the terminal, which admits business and first class passengers. In addition you can access the lounge if you have a priority pass. The lounge wasn't anything special. At least non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic beverages were for free, as well as a selection of chips, wraps, sandwiches and a soup.
Our Boing 747 was completely booked and had the old first class. Even though the seats were fairly comfortable, they couldn't compare to the seats of the new first class. The crew as well as the seats weren't as good as during our first flight. Maybe the lacking service was due to the completely booked first class. The crew seemed seriously overwhelmed. Part of our food order was forgotten, and we didn't get our dishes at the same time like usual. The taste of the food wasn't all that great either. It couldn't compare to other flights.
After our arrival in London, we went to the Concorde Room. Before that we had to wait in the "Fast lane" which took twice as long as the other lines. A total joke. Next time we definitely won't wait in the fast lane, at least when there's only one station opened for the entire line! Heathrow sucks.
In the Concorde Room, we'd booked a Cabana beforehand via phone. That way we had our own shower and toilet, and even a sofabed and a TV. We could change clothes. But the bathroom and the living area aren't separated, so we didn't stay longer than absolutely necessary. After a while, staring at a toilet from your spot on the sofa really gets old.
We went to the restaurant of the Concorde Room where you order food from a menu. We ate a three-course lunch. It was good, definitely better than during our flight.

The Lounge in Vegas

Seats

Appetizer (Scallop)

Tomato Soup

Main course

Cabana @ Concorde Room




Last edited by offerendum; Aug 26, 13 at 2:11 pm
offerendum is offline  
Old Aug 24, 13, 6:41 pm
  #14  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Programs: AA Gold AAdvantage Elite, Rapids Reward
Posts: 37,337
Wow! What a fantastic trip report!! Keep'em it coming!!!
N830MH is offline  
Old Aug 25, 13, 8:39 am
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
SPG 5+ BadgeFour Seasons 5+ Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Germany
Programs: Some
Posts: 10,006
Originally Posted by N830MH View Post
Wow! What a fantastic trip report!! Keep'em it coming!!!
Thanks so much!
offerendum is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread