Points and miles pay off!
Just in case you haven’t been following along on my points-hoarding progress, I took my parents on a trip of a lifetime to Italy and the Adriatic for two weeks using points and miles to offset almost 95% of the cost. I’ll be writing up my final totals within the coming months as the last of my points are added up. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the fun details of my trip, so here we go!
- Getting there
- Venice and the JW Marriott
- Exploring Rome
- Boscolo Venezia
- Embarking on the Norwegian Jade
- Port day in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Port day in Piraeus, Greece
- Port day in Kusadasi, Turkey
- Port day in Split, Croatia
- Getting home
Booking the flight
It was somewhat of a miracle that I had been able to find three business class tickets on the same flights from Rochester to Venice, but persistence paid off. One day, during what had become my daily ritual of trying to piece together flights at low level, I happened across three open seats on an Atlanta to Venice Delta flight and knew I had to act fast. With just a little searching, I found low-level first class Rochester to Atlanta flights the same day and quickly put the pieces together to book the tickets. 62,500 miles apiece. It meant we would have a nine hour layover in Atlanta, but it was worth it to score the deal.
To earn the 187,500 miles needed for the three tickets, I had been saving up for quite a while. Up until this year (damn SkyMiles changes), I had been earning 100% bonus miles on all Delta flights as a gold medallion. This allowed me to rack up over 100,000 miles in half the time it would take a flyer without status. I also transferred 30,000 SPG points over to Delta, which gave me 35,000 Delta miles with the transfer bonus. Many of the rest of the miles came from credit card spending, with my dad transferring a few of his miles to top off my account.
Arriving in Atlanta bright and early off our flight from Rochester, we had plenty of time to head downtown and explore. We wasted a few hours at the World of Coca-Cola (because it’s such an Atlanta-y thing to do) which was mildly entertaining, but I can’t say I’d run back. Aside from learning some of the history of the soda, it felt like one big advertising bonanza. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, but it was a bit disappointing compared to some of the large beverage-related tours I’ve enjoyed (I’m looking at you, Heineken!). But the tour did end on a happy note with the opportunity to sample hundreds of different varieties of Coke products from around the world.
Although we still had a few hours to kill after swallowing pounds of sugary drinks, we decided to head back to the airport to take advantage of the lounge access that comes along with flying international business class. Being Delta’s home and largest hub, Atlanta is home to several of Sky Clubs. We opted for the newest Sky Club in the international terminal, near our gate. At the check-in counter, we were
greeted doted on gushed over by a more than enthusiastic attendant, who thanked my dad (*cough, cough – not me. Stereotype much?) profusely for being a loyal Delta customer. As Delta One (Delta’s new name for business class) passengers, we were entitled to a new light snack menu with wine accompaniments. Because we had just eaten lunch and knew we would have more than enough food on the plane, we decided not to take up this offer and just stuck with the free drinks instead. The lounge wasn’t too crowded, so we were able to kick back and relax for the couple hours left until boarding.
Flying to Venice
Shortly before our scheduled boarding time, we made our way from the lounge to the gate, arriving right on time. We quickly got on the plane and settled into our seats on the 767. Business class on this plane had 4 seats across – one on each side at the windows and two in the middle, so each seat had direct aisle access. My dad is a window guy and my mom is a talker, so we gave him the individual window seat while mom and I took the two in the middle.
The seats had a ton of leg room, but could have been a little wider. When the seat was reclined into the lay-flat position, it was somewhat coffin-like. On my back, my shoulders touched both sides of the chair and it was a little challenging to move my feet around in the cubby cut out. I guess I shouldn’t complain as I was flying in a lie-flat seat for what amounted to $5.60 out of pocket, but an inch or two of more width would have gone a long way for sleeping comfort. Regardless, the seats were comfortable enough, the food was decent, and the drinks kept flowing. It was a really enjoyable flight.
Let me segue here for a minute and talk for a minute about flight delays, as we did experience a somewhat significant one on this flight. Few things get passengers’ blood boiling more than flight delays. Even worse is when you’re stuck on the tarmac for said delay. But let me clue you in on a little-known fact: flight delays in first/business class aren’t really so shabby. What happened immediately after the captain announced our delay for a mechanical issue? We got champagne. When he came back on 30 minutes later and said it would be a while longer? We got more champagne. We reclined our seats, put our feet up on our leg rests, and sipped champagne to the sound of angry grumbles coming from the back. If this is what flight delays are like up front, I think I’m sold!
Arriving in Venice
I wouldn’t say I was well rested when we landed in Venice, but I was MUCH better rested than I would have been flying economy. This being my second international red-eye to Europe in business class, I can’t stress enough the value of being able to get some rest on the plane so that you’re better able to enjoy that first day of your trip. It makes such a difference. And flying business or first class makes it light years easier for the non-plane sleepers like me.
Anyways, arrival and customs went smoothly and we quickly found our way to the water taxi that the concierge at the JW Marriott (where we were staying that night) had booked for us. Water taxis in Venice aren’t cheap. The direct ride from the airport to the hotel cost us $120, but it was worth every penny. We didn’t have to lug our suitcases around and, more importantly, we got an awesome, scenic tour of Venice. The taxi ride skirted around the main island of Venice, but took us through Murano, the nearby island famous for its glass, and another small island. And if the ride wasn’t fun enough, it concluded with us pulling into an indoor dock at the JW, a lá James Bond. Pretty swanky, don’t ya think?
Up next: Exploring Venice and the brand new JW Marriott