FHR Hotel Review: Le Meridien, New Orleans - Plus Points Summary and Tips!
Quick note: I'm not "affiliated" with any credit card companies or hotels, so I'm not going to draw out every explanation of every card option and detail. I'm going to assume you know some things. If you need help finding it, let me know and I'll link you to a blogger who has relevant info. I'm also going to assume you book directly through everything - not using Priceline, etc.
American Express Platinum
- Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status (Free Drinks + Points)
- Fine Hotels and Resorts Program
- 5 MR Points Per Dollar on Hotel Reservation
Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 3 UR Points Per Dollar on all Food and Drinks
Founder's Card for Total Rewards Diamond Status (Harrah's)
Uber rides for SPG Points
Lyft rides for Delta Miles
Major Cash Cost:
$542.68 - Three Nights through FHR at Le Meridien.
$26 - Additional Hidden Costs: Was $155. Finally credited for meal voucher.
$11 - Southwest Fees.
-15,378 Rapid Rewards Points for 2 Roundtrip Flights (1.9 Redemption Value)
+108 Delta SkyMiles on Lyft
+74 SPG Points on Uber
+$80 Free Drinks - Total Rewards Diamond (Harrah's/Caesars)
+399 Chase Ultimate Rewards (Lyft/Uber 3x)
+2715 American Express MR (Hotel booked on FHR 5x)
+5046 Starwood Preferred Guest
-I earned 3x Points Per Dollar with SPG Gold Status through Amex Platinum!
-Then I doubled my points with the SPG Double Promotion...
-THEN I TRIPLED my points with the SPG Triple Promotion!
Starwood Room Cleaning Bonus: (1,000 SPG Points)
-They'll give you $5 credit or 500 points per day you decline room cleaning. Departure day doesn't count. Two out of three ain't bad.
Gold Elite Status 50% Bonus: (578 SPG Points)
Brittany and I decided to spend a long weekend in beautiful, delightfully seedy New Orleans, Louisiana - what can I say? I'm a sucker for a party town! - and I'm going to share exactly how we did it, how much it cost us in points and dollars, and how many points and perks we earned as well.
Houston Hobby Airport is our main hub for most North and Central American flights, so this is where we'll start. I watch those Southwest sales like a hawk! With their easy booking and no-fee cancellation policy, there's no reason not to. Watch them and book as soon as you can to get those good rates. You can always cancel if your work or family schedule wont permit the dates. No harm, no foul.
We are fortunate in that we have some flexibility in our travel days and the best rates for this trip were leaving on Friday evening and returning on Monday morning. New Orleans is a 45 minute flight for us, so we can leave at the end of a work day and come back in time to work most of Monday, so we do that when the pricing is right. I'm thinking you might agree that the price was definitely right...on the flights at least. Easy way to maximize the weekend and I wanted to book my first stay with the American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts program to kind of test it out and see if it's worth it. More on that shortly. Here's the damage on flights:
Departing August 18, 4:15PM
Returning August 21, 8:50AM
Two Round Trip Graaaaaaaand Total: 15,378 Rapid Rewards Points
Cost vs. Cash Analysis: $300@ .01c/$1 = 30,000pts / 15,378 = 1.95c Value!!
I'm very satisfied with this redemption, but there are a ton of options and your needs may require you to go a different direction. I'll do a write up on what I look at to decide what points I use for a trip like this so you can replicate the same type of travel with the points that give you the best value redemptions. I have a "Lowest Acceptable Points Value" to decide if I spend cash or points and I'm going to show you that too. It's something that you can learn here and then apply it to every trip you plan, so USE it!
Into New Orleans:
You have a little ride to get to the heart of the city, so pick Uber or Lyft. Just link your SPG account to your Uber account and earn points! You earn 1 SPG point per every two dollars spent on Uber every time you use it, but when you are checked into an SPG hotel, you earn 2 SPG points per dollar! Why not, right? Same goes for Lyft and earning Delta Miles. May as well get the free miles.
Now, into the real substance of this post! As I mentioned, this was a test run of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program (FHR). There are some pretty great perks to booking this way and in some cases, it actually costs LESS than booking direct or even through other booking services. In any case, I compared direct vs FHR vs Visa Signature Collection before I booked this trip. When I calculate this, I assume I'm going to spend on drinks and food, so I account for the free drinks and food. The Signature Collection from Visa is the same concept with sometimes different hotels and rates. In this case, FHR won out. The perks were marginally better, but they were running a special for three nights at the price of two. That sealed the deal. I knew I wanted to book an SPG hotel so I could activate the Uber/SPG earning deal. My first SPG stay ever, actually. I'm incredibly satisfied with how many SPG points I earned from this stay. More than enough for a one night stay at some of their hotels!
The Le Meridien Hotel was the best value for me and here's a breakdown of the related FHR / Status perks:
-Free drinks or 250 SPG points at check in with SPG Gold Status (Amex)
-Early check in at 12PM when available
-Free Complimentary Premium Internet
*This is already included for Gold Preferred status, which you get from Amex Platinum already. Not much of a bonus here.
-Free breakfast each day for 2 guests
*Might want to check on this one...One person says "continental only" and anothersays "up to $60/day." Breakfast isn't cheap here, folks...Neither is it very good. But, hey, it's free, so that's something. It also clearly says room service is included in this breakfast as well as the dinner voucher, but they fought me on that. I eventually got it credited.
-Free upgrade when available
-Late checkout to 4PM
-Unique property amenity
*This changes by property. Here, it was a $100 credit for dinner one of the nights. We'll talk more about that later...
-Complimentary rental bicycles with SPG Gold status (Again, Amex)
-Complimentary cup of Illy Coffee
-Free Passes to Art Museum
We also got the choice between 250 SPG points or 2 drink vouchers. We opted for the vouchers since the drinks are $15ea. Pretty good value, honestly. I enjoyed their drinks. If you're into math, here's how that would go according to the August 2017 points valuations by The Points Guy: SPG $.021 x 250 = $5.25 versus $30 in free drinks. Makes for an easy decision.
When we walked in, our desk agent acknowledged that we were part of the FHR program as well as Gold members, so that was nice. He mentioned that we were definitely due for the best upgrade available. We were assigned 2203. Since there is a floor 23 I had to ask: ummm...so what's on 23? Apparently floor 22 and 23 are the preferred guest floors and most of the rooms are mostly the same.
I spent a little cash doing some due diligence with our front desk agent. His name was Alvarez and he was fantastic, by the way. I wanted to know how they really feel and really handle things like "FHR guests" and "Gold Preferred guests." I was surprised to hear that they do actually upgrade these folks - AS LONG AS they aren't assholes when they come up to the counter. You know who you are. I have to WORK at not being that guy when I'm flustered and running in ADHD overdrive, so I can call you out if I want to! He even offered to upgrade me to a suite with two bathrooms. I asked this the second day instead of the first day, so I declined when he offered to upgrade us to the room with two bathrooms instead of having to move all our luggage. Our room already had a very large living area with a big screen TV, couch, table, sofa, etc.
I'm naturally suspicious, unfortunately, so I'm not ready to buy in that Gold Preferred guests (or even Diamond...I'm talking to YOU, WYNDHAM) get these upgrades even close to how often they are supposed to be given.
The bathroom was well appointed too. Felt like I had to show it. Is that a thing? Not sure. New at this and I'd have wanted to see the bathroom. When I walk into a hotel room for the first time, I look at the bathroom and that's generally my first impression and largely how I judge the quality of the room. Weird. Sorry.
The MAIN thing, though...THAT BED. Damn. When you fall onto that bed it just sucks you in and cradles you like the warmest of hugs, but somehow...more? Not sure. It was so good, I wouldn't have been mad at just laying around for the day. The bedroom area had a couch and a desk too. Can't imagine this desk being useful for much with it being so high and with their being a more comfortable dining table in the living room. Best part of being somewhat low-maintenance is that you can forego getting the room changed over for 500 SPG points each day! Given that I can get a room at as little at 3000 SPG points, that's a no brainer for me. No pictures, but the pool and fitness center were really nice. The pool has a DJ and Bar on Saturday and Sunday. Tip: Go downstairs to the bar for your drinks then ride the elevator back up.
Can't though because New Orleans, right? Here's the view from 2203.
We were ready to eat and why would we not burn the $100 meal voucher? The restaurant in the Le Meridien is LMNO. It was 7:30pm and the place was DEAD EMPTY. We walked in as the only patrons in the place. There was one lone attendant or maybe waitress at what looks like it used to be an in-restaurant bar. That's now handled by the lobby bar. I guess that was an indicator of how this would go.
I ordered the 12oz New York Strip which came with roasted fingerling potatoes and sautéed spinach. It took, ohhhh, I'm not sure...Maybe 35 minutes or so for this to come out. Drinks probably took 18-20. Having said that, this steak was DAMN good and the spinach was arguably the best I've ever had. I'm not gonna miss out on giving credit where credit is due. Good work, Chef. GM, you need to work on this service, though. Since it was a three courser, out of consideration for you, I ordered the root beer float for science. It was awesome. You should maybe have that. Could absolutely make it for yourself in your room 6 times for the price of that one, but hey, you're here to splurge a little. Total bill: $128. Here's where I mention that you need to check your final bill. They failed to credit me for my $100 FHR Meal Voucher and I had to fight to get it credited. That's a bit of an annoyance and pretty disappointing for me. I'll be watching final bills closely from now on. Easy way to learn a good lesson.
While we're on the subject let's cover breakfast right quick. Sure wish I had taken pictures of this, but I just couldn't bear it. It was $14-18 for each plate. Maybe a $9 outlier here or there. This was the poorest excuse for a pricey breakfast I've ever seen. Denny's would have been better. Look, I paid for the FHR program, so I'm gonna EAT MY DAMN FREE BREAKFAST! So eat it we did. For three days. I want to mention that this is NEW ORLEANS. We could have had OUTSTANDING breakfast at a number of places within walking distance. Easily. That's exactly what I'll do next time. Service was on the same level as dinner: terrible. I'll leave it at that. I do need to note that we had the first day delivered as room service. I tipped her with cash because I figured that would be better for her. THEN I found out there was $26 in gratuity/fees for room service. Sigh...Come on Meridien. Let's get this shit together.
Everything else and a tip on Harrah's:
You get Total Rewards (Caesar's properties) Diamond status as a benefit of the Founder's Card if you have it, so that gain's you access to their Diamond Lounge for free drinks and a few food options as well. In a city of $10-16 drinks, that can help some!
If you're going to go Cocktail hopping (not to be confused with Bourbon Street Bar Hopping - just holler if you want some....special advice there), I recommend these places to start out:
Carousel Bar for Jazz and Cocktails. They're known for their rotating, carousel themed bar. Worth hitting for a drink. Also hit the Sazerac Bar and Bombay Club for a similar experience.
The rooftop at the ACE Hotel is a hotspot right now as is Monkey Board. Worth checking out.
We wandered into Cavan while shopping Uptown and I love these happy accidents. Another great cocktail by our new bartender friend, Didier! Glad to meet you, friend. Stop by. Very nice restaurant built in a beautiful, historic New Orleans home.
We had a fantastic dinner at Picayune Social House. The beef tenderloin was much better than expected; excellent actually. Brittany had the Rosemary Chicken Kabob which she really enjoyed. The highlight for me was the kindness of Ryan, who I'm thinking was GM or Owner, when he comped us down to happy hour pricing, though we were about 2 minutes late. Thank you, Ryan!
That sums it up. I'll endeavor to be less long winded next time! Here are a few more for you!