I recently completed a 5-night business stay at the Residence Inn Seattle South-Tukwila. As this was a pure business stay in a very much non-downtown area, I’ll just post a few pictures and thoughts just in case anyone is looking for recent experience with the hotel. The hotel is just a few miles from Sea-Tac, and is less than a mile from the popular Southcenter Mall. If you have business in the area, as I did, it is a viable option, especially if you appreciate the Residence Inn style – which I call comfy-cozy-homey.

Check in was friendly, and they found a room for me even though I was arriving around 11am. I was advised that breakfast was served daily, and there would be a manager’s reception on Tuesday through Thursday night. This Residence Inn is what I call “apartment complex” style, with multiple two-level buildings. I received a room in building 2, adjacent to the main guest building. The room itself was fine, but obviously not the most modern, recently updated version of the Residence Inn style. Think popcorn ceilings. :) Otherwise, everything was about as expected – comfortable, with an apartment-like feel. I snapped a few photos of the room.

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View from near entry door

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 Fireplace

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Desk with two power outlets

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Kitchen area

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Relatively comfortable bed but not the latest most comfortable RI version

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Large vanity area with adjacent shower

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Bath area

The Bottom Line

The hotel was fine for the purpose of my visit – business in the area. There are two Courtyard hotels nearby, as well as an Embassy Suites, but they were booked solid. You can walk to the mall which has several sit-down restaurants. My favorites – Duke’s Chowder House and Joey. For 5 nights, I came to appreciate the apartment-like feel of the Residence Inn.

I’m starting something new here at MJ on Travel. Once per week, I’m going to highlight a cruise deal that offers the right combination of relaxation and price to make it notable. As you might imagine, I shop a lot of cruise itineraries. Sometimes with a specific focus, and other times, just seeing what great cruise vacations are out there for remarkable prices….frequently for friends and family. Today, I found a great price for a 4-night Carnival cruise from Miami aboard Carnival Ecstasy. Departing Miami on August 18, 2014, you’ll visit wonderful Key West and Cozumel before enjoying a great day at sea before returning to Miami.

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Best of all, this cruise is part of the Carnival LIVE™ series featuring a concert by Gavin DeGraw. Carnival LIVE™ represents a great opportunity to catch a live show by a well known artist at sea. What a great way to add more enjoyment to your cruise vacation! You can spend time in Key West, my favorite place on the planet, enjoy a concert, and a great 4-night getaway, all for as low as $199 per person. Check it out.

-MJ, July 30, 2014

…but is it good for travelers? This morning’s news of 4 percent GDP growth in the USA during the last quarter caught my eye with thoughts of how that impacts us as travelers. Of course there are the givens (we hope) of increasing employment and incomes that should flow from increased economic growth. But what about its impact on us as flyers? Historically, airline fortunes have ebbed and flowed with GDP growth and contraction. Expansion in the good times, contraction and layoffs in the bad times. In general, substantial profits will likely continue to be a factor of increasing economic growth, but the industry has become more stable in many ways. Granted, some would say concentrated and oligopolistic, but I’ll leave that to economists and others to debate. Airline managers have developed capacity discipline – an ability to not flood the market with new seats because times are good, and are doing a much better job at managing airline finances in general. That is good news for flyers.

An airline that is consistently profitable can accomplish things that one living from payroll to payroll between fare sales cannot. The next generation of lie-flat premium seats, enhanced premium economy offerings, and entertainment options for all have to be paid for, and an airline that is solidly and reliably profitable is the one that can offer them. That profitable airline can also offer stable employment for its people who can then focus on service, not survival.

On the other hand, these profits I speak of would not exist without the arrival of “unbundling,” aka bag fees, etc, and a lot of customers do not like “fees.” I’ve always thought JetBlue had the best model, because I believe that one piece of luggage is an integral part of the travel experience, but it appears from recent news reports that even they may be catching on the idea of a fee for the first bag. Further, I think improved financial discipline at airlines makes it even more likely that the remainder of the industry makes the move to a revenue-based reward model for their loyalty programs. You know where I stand on that, but I’m not unsympathetic to the fact that a lot of people are going to be less-rewarded than they they were before.

In the end, I think that an improved economy and improved airline finances are a good thing for all of us. That said, it’s hard to ignore the changes in the airline industry and in their rewards programs in particular. Looking ahead, I think 2016 (not 2015) could be the most interesting year ever for flyers. The new moniker may be WWAAD? What Will AAdvantage Do?

-MJ, July 30, 2014

Delta Air Lines announced new branding for the inflight entertainment options today with the introduction of Delta Studio™. Delta Studio will be available on all domestic and two-cabin regional jets beginning August 1. According to Delta, “Delta customers, in every class of service on flights longer than one and a half hours, will have access to a selection of free entertainment options, either at their seat or through their laptops, mobile and tablet devices. Free entertainment options are available on flights with seat-back entertainment systems or on demand video streaming onboard Delta’s Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft. All Delta customers will have a selection of free options, but customers seated in BusinessElite®, first class, and Economy Comfort will have free access to an even greater variety of entertainment. Economy class customers on international flights will enjoy the same access.

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Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

One of the most interesting things to me personally is access via GoGo inflight wi-fi. I know this is not necessarily new, but even more demand via inflight wi-fi would seem to create further strains on the GoGo network. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve noticed a significant deterioration in the quality of inflight wi-fi……almost no doubt because more and more travelers are taking advantage of it. It will be interesting to watch and see if Delta can deliver quality internet and streaming entertainment content. Given Delta’s proven ability to execute, I think there’s a good chance that Delta Studio™ proves to be yet another product differentiator when it comes to choosing which airline to fly for business and leisure travelers alike. From personal experience on three Delta flights over the last 1.5 weeks on AVOD equipped aircraft, color me hopeful. Though I think it’s important that wi-fi quality not be impacted for those of us that just want a reasonable internet connection speed. Kudus to Delta for their latest efforts on inflight entertainment.

-MJ, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014, a date which will go down in history – the day MJ on Travel trekked to the House of Miles. My reasons for going were two-fold. First, I wanted to meet the team behind BoardingArea.com, learn as much as I could in one day, and come away with a few ideas about making MJ on Travel better. And second, I suppose it’s been 15 years since I started getting semi-serious with my miles, but it’s been 27 years since I joined my first mileage program – the Piedmont Airlines Frequent Flyer Bonus Program. A visit to the House of Miles was long overdue.

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The majority of the day was spent meeting with the technical folks that keep BoardingArea ticking. We talked social media, SEO, and site design. I learned exactly how much I did not know about the technical work that goes on behind the scenes! A highlight of the day was lunch with the BoardingArea team, including our godfather, Randy Petersen, who shared some details about BoardingArea’s future. We talked about a lot of things blogging related, even cruising. :) I’ve got some work to do – mainly behind the scenes, but at some point down the road you’ll see a new look for MJ on Travel on the public side too. In short, I’m feeling really good about the future of BoardingArea, and MJ on Travel.

There was another highlight of the day, the personal tour of the House of Miles with Randy. I dubbed Randy’s office “the inner sanctum.” It was a great lesson and reminder of how much has changed in miles and points. I loved the story of how Randy managed to obtain the Frequent Flyer Point address for the House of Miles. Walking around I was reminded of some of the joy I’ve gotten from my miles. I laugh now, but that first domestic first class award I redeemed 20 years ago or so….I thought that was really something. :) Here’s a picture of Randy and me.

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No case of the Monday’s for me, as yesterday was a great day!! A big personal and heartfelt thank you to Randy and the entire BoardingArea team for their time and support!

-MJ, July 29, 2014

So…I had to take a business trip to Seattle, and when I looked at the options, a 3-letter/number combination caught my eye – 76W. It turns out that at the moment, the 8amish flight from Atlanta to Seattle is serviced by an internationally configured 767. In other words, lots of seats up front that lie flat. Here’s an image of the cabin courtesy of Delta Air Lines. I was excited to try out the BusinessElite® seats on the 767. 767+BusinessElite+seat+1+hi I booked this flight without hesitation, and as luck would have it….my Sunday morning upgrade cleared at the window as a Platinum Medallion. I was a little too excited given that it’s just a seat, and while the flight was on an internationally configured airplane, the service would be standard domestic service featuring what I have now named “the always reliable Delta First Class omelet.” Things got off to a rocky start because our flight attendants were late in arriving…actually, two of them were late in arriving. Funny thing is, I got a heads up from TripIt Pro before Delta said anything. IMG_1377 No idea what the issue was, but soon enough, they arrived and shortly thereafter, boarding began. With the compressed boarding time no pre-departure beverage service was offered. Funny thing – with some AAirlines, it’s a notable event when you actually get a PDB, with Delta, it’s notable when you don’t. There was water, we boarded in a hurry, and soon enough we were pushing back an on our way to Seattle. I videoed the takeoff roll on a dreary day in Atlanta. http://youtu.be/YHmMC6DnNV8 Inflight service began shortly after takeoff, and it was here that I noticed one flight attendant seemed to be working both aisles until well into the service when she was joined by another from the back. This made service a bit slow in my opinion, at least until the other flight attendant appeared. Here’s what the always reliable Delta First Class Omelet looks like. IMG_1385 And what kind of guy would I be without trying out the seat. Here’s a shot of the legroom. IMG_1378 And the IFE. IMG_1375 It’s a little easier for me to use this image courtesy of Delta Air Lines to show you the seat in lie flat mode. 2009-55DSC_2963 hi You’ll notice some blue plastic molding or something similar encroaching on the legroom in this shot. I learned from my buddy, The Weekly Flyer, that row 1 does not have this which adds a bit to legroom, so I chose a seat in row 1. Another note, the odd numbered rows feature the console (tray table, power outlets, etc. separating you from the aisle, and they felt a good bit more private. In the end, all that matters is could I sleep in this seat, and the answer is yes. It was a bit tight when lying on my back, but I sleep on my side, so I found the seat perfectly suitable for sleeping. However, there wasn’t much need for sleep on this westbound domestic flight. Since this was an international aircraft, there is no wi-fi yet. However, something just seemed to make the flight go a lot faster this time as opposed to my last trip to Seattle in coach. :) For good measure, heres a scene from the approach into Seattle. IMG_1394 In the end, it was a great flight, with reasonably friendly service, good inflight entertainment, and a comfortable seat. Turns out, I really didn’t miss the wi-fi that much, but I won’t make a habit of flying non wi-fi aircraft if I can help it. -MJ, July 28, 2014

OK, about the only good thing that I can say about last week is that it’s over. It’s been a minute since I was that overcome by events… I apologize. I’m in Colorado this week, and there are rumors of an appearance at the House of Miles tomorrow by MJ on Travel. Yes, indeed! Thank you for your tolerance. Here’s a look at what’s up for this week, and yes, I realize most of this is from what should have been last week.

  • A Word About the Delta B767 BusinessElite® Seat
  • Hotel Reviews – Residence Inn Seattle-Tacoma
  • Credit Card Inventory

These travel topics, and no doubts at all about posting a few more too, this week at MJ on Travel.

-MJ, July 27, 2014

How often does this happen? The winner of the GoGo pass chosen via Random.org is Up&Away, commenter # 1! Up&Away will use their promo code on a trip in about 2 weeks. Congratulations! And you’ve got email.

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My apologies for the dearth of posts this week. OBE or overcome by events would be an apt description of the week I’ve had. I’m at Sea-Tac now waiting for my flight home to Atlanta, and I’m about to board a very nice internationally configured 767. The problem? No GoGo! The ideal opportunity to catch up on blogging will pass me by for nearly 5 hours. But that doesn’t have to happen to you on your next flight. I have one more GoGo day pass code to give away courtesy of my participation with the #InsideDelta event last month. The rules are the same as always.

  • Enter by commenting to this post. Travel-related is nice, but say anything you want as long as it isn’t profane.
  • Enter only once.
  • The contest will close at 10:00AM EDT tomorrow, July 26, 2014.
  • The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org.
  • Include your email address in the email block so I can contact you.
  • Respond within 24 hours after I contact you.

That’s it. Now GoGo!!! :)

-MJ, July 25, 2014

Contest closed, winner TBA.

While I’m out of pocket this week, I’ll be posting some “best of” content to fill in the blanks during a time of limited posting ability. One of my most often asked questions revolves around cruise line elite status. Here’s a quick primer, and links to the scoop on several cruise line loyalty programs.

There’s more to elite status than meets the eye. Most readers will be intimately familiar with the benefits of holding elite status with airlines, hotels, and even rental car companies. But did you know cruise lines offer elite programs as well? Not unlike the programs you are more familiar with, the more you sail, the more elite you can become. You’ll recognize a lot of elite benefits with cruise lines, especially the level names like Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. No, they don’t call their levels helmsman, second mate, chief mate, and Captain! :) The benefits are even similar like priority check in and boarding, upgrade opportunities, and even lounge access. That’s where the similarities end. I’ve toured the bridge of the largest cruise ship in the world thanks to my elite status. Can’t think of any cockpit tours I’ve received thanks to my elite status with airlines. Other elite benefits run that gamut from complimentary shoe shines to free laundry. We’ll cover them all here.

With cruise lines, your progress towards elite status is cumulative for life. OK, sure, they can change the benefits, but you need not requalify each year. In other words, once you hit a certain elite level, you’re there. You only need to worry about getting to your next level, and once you hit that mark, it’s yours from then on no matter how often you cruise.

In this series, I’ll cover the elite programs of the big cruise lines, and wrap things up with a summary of elite reciprocity amongst brands. In other words, Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity and they offer elite reciprocity between the two lines which we’ll talk about here. Much like air travel, I find that I’d rather cruise with elite status than without it. Feel free to ask questions along the way.

-MJ, July 23, 2014

Introduction — Status Matters – A New Cruising with MJ Series

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Carnival

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Disney

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with NCL

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Princess

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Holland America

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Celebrity

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Royal Caribbean

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status Reciprocity with Affiliate Brands

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status Summary

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