Author Topic: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip  (Read 8619 times)

Offline Marco Polo

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SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« on: November 19, 2015, 10:10:06 AM »
Ten Year Friendaversary Trip.

Spending time in Israel post high school is almost a rite of passage for Jewish teenagers. During this time, you are usually thousands of miles away from your family along with what seems like every other Jewish teenager. It was during this time that I became friends with people from all over, and even established lifelong friendships with some of them.

Little seeds about a friendaversary trip had been planted over the past couple of years with one of my friends, but were mostly in jest and never thought of as realistic. That is until my wife had a wedding in London and was leaving me to watch the kid for four days. Armed with all those days of single parenting, I figured I would have enough ammunition to get away for at least a few days. Little did I know how soon an opportunity would arise for me to take advantage of my single parent days. On the day I was to pick my wife up from the airport, I was scrolling through the SPG Moments site and came across an interesting event that seemed too good to be true.



Given the fact the hotel runs around 12-16,000 SPG a night, 10,000 SPG was a bargain for the package and was an amount I did not mind parting with. Add In the golf clinic and round of golf with a golf pro, cocktail reception and dinner both nights, plus the hotel nights, this was a no brainer. I called my friend in LA (about 20 times) and told him we were going to Greece. After a brief moment of confusion and calling me names, he said he was in and left me in charge of everything.

 At this point I still had not even mentioned it to my wife as she was flying and I did not even have official permission.

 Once I had verbal agreement, I started looking into flights that would get us into/near the hotel and event. I discovered the closest airport was in Kalamata, Greece (KLX) and started playing with flights that would get us there. KLX seems to only operate on weekends with limited flights which made finding flights a bit of a pain. This would also be an issue for us when leaving, but getting there I was able to find something.



We would be running to EWR right after Shabbat was over and then spend a godawful amount of time in economy seating along with multiple stops before we arrived in Greece. For the return flights, the only option was to fly out of Athens which was not bad, except that having a one-way rental fee on the car would be very costly. As it turned out, we were able to avoid that entirely and did not even rent a car (more on this to follow). For my friend’s ticket, I/He used 60,000 UA for a RT ticket LAX-EWR//EWR-MAN-MUC-KLX, ATH-MUC-LAX. My ticket was EWR-MAN-MUC-KLX, ATH-ZRH-EWR for 90,000 AC in Y/J.
Original Flight



Well as the trip got closer, I started checking the LH F availability to EWR in hopes of switching and getting a more exciting flight home. About a week before the trip I saw LH F space when searching on UA and on AC. Figuring I was all good to go now, I called Aeroplan and requested to change my flights and upgrade to F. My great fortune, the space was phantom availability and was unable to be booked. Being a loyal DDF’er, I PUTPAC and HUCA’d a few times with no luck. The next morning I saw the space still there and again struck out with getting myself rebooked. On the third day with space still showing, I called again and much to my pleasure I was told they were able to change my flights and I was going to be on LH F. The first leg seemed to have phantom J space so I was put in Y for the 3-hour flight. As most know, the J seats are really Y with a blocked middle, so I wasn’t missing out on much. At a week out, I took a look at the first leg of my return and saw J still available, so I called and was able to be switched into that at no extra cost or change fee. Like I mentioned before, J is nothing special, but being in front of that curtain and having a J BP was enough for me.

New Flight:


 During my hasty research and posting in the Greece Master Thread, I received an invitation from fellow DDF’er PETERP to have lunch with him in Greece. After connecting via email, I sent him a link to the deal I had purchased and mentioned it being the reason for my trip to Greece.  We had some back and forth about his wife wanting to go there and how he could not believe it was only 10,000 SPG for the package. At the end of many emails, he tells me he booked the package and had another friend book it as well. Even better, since he was driving from Athens, he could give us a ride back (what a Saint!).

By this point I had picked my wife up from the airport and broke the news to her after a few minutes. Completely unfazed, my wife said she knew this was going to happen the second she went on her trip. While I knew it as well, I did not think it would happen so soon. About the only thing that was expected of me was to fly in Y just like her trip (I somewhat followed that rule).

The initial email I received from SPG about the event wanted to know about golf handicaps (info here)  for myself and my guest. While I have done some par 3’s and took golf in college, I do not have a handicap, and my friend falls into an even lower category than myself.  Additionally, PETERP mentioned he could not tell a golf club from a tennis racket. This golfing event certainly seemed like it was going to be a “sitting around and drinking” event by the end of the day. I responded with some kind of an answer describing our playing abilities and lack of ability, and that was that.

The weeks leading up to the event were spent just staring at pictures of the hotel, sitting in disbelief that the trip was actually happening and a potential wrinkle in the plans. It was initially thought that PETERP would need to leave early on the last day which would mean we would need to leave early or rent a car. We decided we would rather leave early than deal with renting car and get to spend some time seeing Athens. Turns out 11/17 is a national holiday and PETERP would be able to stay for the day’s events.

Photos From Hotel Site:
Click Here.

Event Schedule:


Saturday night we were out the door and sprinting to the airport. We made it through parking, check-in and security fairly quickly and stopped into the United Club for a few drinks before boarding. Boarding was efficient and I was pleasantly surprised to be seated in Economy Plus. As this way to Greece I was booked all in economy. The cabin door was closed and we were ready to go, or so we thought. About a minute after they closed the door, the captain came on the PA and said that ATC was down in NY and all airports were grounded. This did not look good at all. With no one knowing what was going on and right after the attacks in Paris, who knew if we would even get off the ground and if we would even make our connection in Manchester. An hour into the delay, there were announcements that people could go off the plane and wait by the gate area until we heard more news. Taking this opportunity to get up, I went to see if I could venture to the lounge and at least drown my anxiety away. The gate agent said I needed to stay at the gate and I went back to my seat dejected. A half hour later after hearing there were 35 planes on the runway, and that they would be clearing planes at a reduced rate, I got back up, signaled my friend and decided we were going to the lounge one way or another. This time the agent didn’t say anything to us and we went up to the Club. After a few hasty shots, beers and a snack, we went back to check on the gate as the monitor was showing it as boarding. On the way there we saw some other people from the flight and figured we had strength in numbers and they couldn’t leave without us. At the gate we saw that nothing was actually happening, so we went back to the lounge with a new friend in tow. A few more shots, beers and snacks, it started getting really close to us potentially missing our connecting flight, so I went to speak with the club agent. She started looking for alternative options when there was a boarding call for out flight. If we got on we would have very little connecting time in MAN, but we did not have any real alternative. Re-boarding was once again fairly quick and we were taking off not long after. I was able to sleep for the majority of the flight thanks to the liquid help from the lounge. Just a couple hours later we were landing in MAN and on to the next leg of our journey.

UA Club:


From what I remember, MAN airport was fairly simple to navigate when connecting and we were at our gate with about 10 minutes to spare. Going along with the trips theme, this flight had a delayed boarding, as there was some issue with the planes AC and needed to be fixed. This would further complicate things as we had an even shorter connection in Munich. We eventually boarded and were on our way to MUC. Nearing landing in MUC we were told there was a gate change for our flight and even less time to connect. As we were leaving the plane and getting ready to run through the airport, we saw someone with a sign listing our destination. We made ourselves known and were brought down to the tarmac and a waiting van. We were then whisked into some kind of private passport control and then back onto the van for a ride to our plane. This was probably the only way we would have made our flight and extremely thankful for the wonderful staff at Munich airport.

MUC Staff:


Stepping out of the van at the steps to the plane was reminiscent of when I flew LH F, but alas this was on a Y ticket and was not expecting any kind of service like this. The flight to Kalamata, Greece was about 2 hours and uneventful. By that point we were happy to have made all our connections and on to our final destination. Landing in KLX we were off the plane and into a taxi in under a minute. Yes, 1 minute! The plane stopped right in front of the door to the airport, there was a passport control booth setup that was unmanned, and then a door leading outside. I had arranged a driver through the hotel and he was there with a sign ready to take us. The ride to the hotel was about 50 minutes through some very dark and windy roads.

KLX:


Entering the hotel we could tell it was going to be amazing. We were upgraded to a family suite (I had tried to get the infinity room with a pool, but they had closed up parts of the hotel already because the busy season has ended), which was very spacious. Finally being able to drop our bags and take a shower was really great after a long day of traveling. After getting cleaned up, showering and getting ready we headed down to the cocktail reception.  Once there we got some drinks and sat down with fellow DDF’er and part time local Greek resident, PeterP and his wife. DO’s are always fun and interesting, but this was something I’ve never experienced before and it was great. We met some of the other people who purchased this event package and met our golf pro, Tino Schuster. From there we went down to a family style buffet dinner and spent a couple hours getting to know everyone a little better.

Room:


Room:


Room:



Room:


Our first morning we were up early and ready to see what the breakfast buffet had to eat when it opened up. After snacking on some stuff, we went down to the beach and went to get a better view of the grounds. After that we went to get ready for our golf clinic and the days event. We spent two hours with Tino and Yanis the golf pro from the hotel going over all things golf and got personalized instructions on bettering my swing (or learning to swing for some people) before we stopped for lunch and our free time. For our free time we went to the gym and bounced around the Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and some other areas at the hotel and then went out for some sightseeing with PeterP. We drove down to Pylos and Methoni and got to see some of the local culture and history. Definitely was nice to get out of the hotel and see some authentic Greece. Back at the hotel I got to take care of some work and get ready for the nights events.

Night View:


Morning View:



Sunrise View:


Lobby View:


Walkway to Room View:


Golf Course from Room:


Driving Range:


Water Options:


Methoni Castle:


The next morning after snacking at breakfast it was off to the driving range for some warm-ups before our 9:30 tee time. We were able to get some additional guidance from Tino and then we were off to the first hole. Tino was going to be staying with each group for six holes so he could see how everyone played and then help with their game. My friend and I each got our own golf carts and started out on the course. While I will not bore you with details of every single hole, we had great time, great views of Greece and played some adequate golf. For some reason Tino didn’t show up until the 12th hole and very close to when we needed to leave back to Athens. We were able to play a couple of holes with him and learnt a lot from his instruction. Once we finished, it was off to the clubhouse to say goodbye and finish packing our things.

Tino Schuster (Pro):


View from one of the Tee's:


Activity Center at Hotel:


We left the hotel around 1:45 with PeterP and got into the city center of Athens around 5:15. Due to a demonstration that was taking place and the violent nature it took in previous years, PeterP had to drop us off at the subway station to get to our hotel. There is a subway stop right by the hotel, but that was closed because of the riots as well. We would have to walk from a different station. After saying goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. PeterP we were off into the subway and our next adventure. While the subway ride was pretty quick and uneventful, things got a lot more colorful on our walk to the hotel. There were 6,000 police that were out because of the demonstrations and I do not think that number was exaggerated. Walking to the hotel we saw all sorts of military personal and vehicles. As we got closer to the hotel, the crowds got a little fuller and the police presence was felt even more. Much to our dismay and fear, the hotel entrance was right through the demonstration line and a gauntlet of police in full riot gear and gas masks. When we got even closer, we saw the hotel was shuttered as well and no visible entrance. After slipping through the demonstrators, we found out we would have to just sit and wait for the hotel to open again. This was a but unnerving as we were right in the middle of the action, but the never-ending line of police did bring a little solace to the situation. Eventually the gates went up and we were able to check into the hotel. Once inside our room, we changed and headed out to Gostijo for dinner.    

Shuttered Hotel and Protestors:


Police Gauntlet:


Hotel Sign:


Walking through Athens to the restaurant, we felt it closely resembled a stroll through Ben Yehuda in Israel. Not sure if others had similar feelings, but we thought Athens was very much like Jerusalem. Sitting down to eat we had some great appetizers and so-so main dishes. It was really nice to sit down to a warm meal and something I really appreciate being able to do when traveling. After dinner we went back to the hotel and spent a couple hours trying the different steam rooms/saunas and some of the other spa features at the hotel. From there we went to the rooftop bar for some drinks and relaxation while viewing Athens from above. Once done that and getting settled back in the room, we were off to sleep for a couple of hours before heading to the airport.

Athens:


View Rooftop Bar:


At 4:30 we went downstairs to get a taxi to our final destination of our trip. At the airport we would be heading our separate ways, me going on to FRA and EWR and my friend to MUC and LAX. Checking in was smooth and we were sitting in the Lufthansa lounge in no time. Soon enough it was time to go through security and board the plane. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many x-ray machines up and running which made going through security that much faster. Once through security, it was off to the gate and boarding my blocked middle seat in Business and off to Frankfurt.

LH J Athens:


Once in Frankfurt, I headed to the exit and made the short walk over to the First Class Terminal. Once there, I went through a security screening and had my passport and boarding pass take from my designated handler at the lounge. Once I reached the inner sanctum, I headed off to the showers to get my duck and freshen up. From there I took a nap in the resting room, had some snacks, tried some options from there very extensive bar and did some work. Before I knew it, I was ready to go downstairs for my ride to the plane. They put me in a car with another passenger and we were off to our plane. Boarding from there quick and I was sitting in my seat having another drink shortly after. The flight time was 7.5 hours and I wished it were longer. The crew on this flight was great and gave me a much different experience this time around. Before I knew it we were landing in Newark and signaling the end of my trip. I was able to get off the plane and over to my car in about 15 minutes thanks to Global Entry and was home about 30 minutes later.

Tarmac Boarding:


LH F Seat:


LH F Goodies:


Runway Traffic:


While this trip was thrown together fairly quickly, I had a great time even with some of the trouble getting there. Being able to pull off this trip with my friend and getting an incredible value out of my SPG points on this package made it even better. I wanted to quickly thank Mr. and Mrs. PeterP for all that you did for us on this trip, it was way beyond anything that any normal person would have done and it was greatly appreciated. To all the others who answered my questions gave advice or were just there, thank you guys (and gals) as well.

Until next time…


« Last Edit: November 19, 2015, 10:27:49 AM by Marco Polo »
Quaerite et Invenietis.

Offline yoruel

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Freindaversary Trip
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2015, 10:28:03 AM »
Looks like you had a great time.
Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
Is it a lot harder to write "Live TR" or this style?

Offline benjie1305

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2015, 10:30:26 AM »
Fun times. Cant wait til we find an SPG event to crash!  ;) :D
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Offline Marco Polo

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Freindaversary Trip
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2015, 10:30:37 AM »
Looks like you had a great time.
Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
Is it a lot harder to write "Live TR" or this style?
Both are fine for me, it really is just having the time to post every day. I was running around too much this trip for that.
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Offline yakrot

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2015, 10:49:28 AM »
Great report thanks for sharing

Offline 3yummyboys

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2015, 10:54:32 AM »
I've never heard of spg moments/events. Are they open to everyone?

Offline benjie1305

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2015, 10:55:01 AM »

I've never heard of spg moments/events. Are they open to everyone?

If u have spg points, you can bid.
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Offline Marco Polo

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2015, 10:56:46 AM »
Some of the other people who got the package were from Spain and Abu Dhabi.
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Offline LoLo

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2015, 10:58:47 AM »
Inspiring! Thanks for taking the time.

Offline tageed-lee

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2015, 11:14:33 AM »
Incredible!! Thanks for sharing...

Offline Joe4007

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2015, 01:52:34 PM »
Great report. Thanks!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2015, 02:37:54 PM »
Wow, great mini-TR! Looks like you had a blast!

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2015, 02:38:39 PM »
Wow, great mini-TR! Looks like you had a blast!
It was a whirlwind trip, but we did have a great time.
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Offline Emkay

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2015, 03:08:51 PM »
Was this specific spg moment strictly spg members?

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2015, 03:10:47 PM »
Was this specific spg moment strictly spg members?
Do you mean CC holders?
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Offline Yehoshua

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2015, 03:18:59 PM »
It was a whirlwind trip, but we did have a great time.
At least of my solo trip it'll be longer.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2015, 03:24:32 PM »
AWESOME! Great read. Really cool trip, glad it was fun.

Did you have to pay more than 90K for the trip once you switched to F on the return?

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2015, 03:31:36 PM »
AWESOME! Great read. Really cool trip, glad it was fun.

Did you have to pay more than 90K for the trip once you switched to F on the return?
Yes, i should have updated that part. IIRC, i had use another 20,000 AC to upgrade plus the YQ on it.
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Offline Emkay

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2015, 03:35:17 PM »
Do you mean CC holders?
No, was this an open event that people had paid for or it was strictly an spg moment event?

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: SPG Moments and My Ten Year Friendaversary Trip
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2015, 03:37:06 PM »
No, was this an open event that people had paid for or it was strictly an spg moment event?
I think it was only to SPG members. Though i do recall seeing an ad for it on the hotels website, but not sure if it sent you to the SPG Moments site. I do not think they put a $$ amount to purchase the package.
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