Sunday, January 30, 2022

Winter Woes As Northeast Flights Canceled

It's rainy and windy here in Northwest Washington State, but nothing compared to what's happening in other parts of the country, with about 1,400 flights canceled today alone. 

As we resume some travel, including three trips in February, we recall all the times we've kept our fingers crossed while routing through airports like ORD (Chicago O'Hare) this time of year. 

Fortunately, our connections or destinations include Fort Lauderdale (non-stop from Seattle), Honolulu via Portland), and Albuquerque (non-stop from Seattle), so we're not too worried about snow. 

Still, cancelations have a way of spreading throughout the system, so we won't be complacent.

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Birch Bay Berm

A lot of wood washed up on the beach during the winter storms.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

A Sunny Walk in Bellingham’s Boulevard Park

It’s been foggy and chilly in Birch Bay for a few days and a walk over the water at Boulevard Park made for a pleasant outing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Guess Who Earned Alaska Airline's New Top Tier: MVP Gold 100K?

 Aren't we special? We received congratulatory emails from Alaska today that also include a link to the benefits.

The highest status in the sky.

Congrats on joining a very elite group of flyers! You're one of the first ever to reach MVP® Gold 100K status. Bask in the moment, then look below for the great perks you've just unlocked.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Does My Butt Look Big in This Airplane Seat?

Travel Weekly: Legal petition seeks long-overdue standards for airline seats

"The consumer group Flyers Rights has filed a legal petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. asking that the FAA actually act on a 2018 mandate that would set baseline minimum standards for commercial airline seat widths and lengths. The FAA had been congressionally required to set the standards by October of 2019, which feels like eons ago, and yet they have not. Indeed, from November 2019 to January 2020 the agency conducted tests over whether the increasingly dense coach configurations can still be evacuated within the 90 seconds prescribed by law; they still haven’t released a report on the results of those tests."


Will 'Dressing Up' Help You Score an Upgrade to First?

 It's just another urban legend, as one of our favorite travel bloggers, Ben, explains at One Mile at a Time

Years ago we were awarded operational upgrades on United both outbound and return, on a flight to SHA (Shanghai), if memory serves us.

We had volunteered to give up our seats in a potentially oversold situation, and the gate agents moved us into Business Class just before boarding. What a treat, and to have it happen both ways!

The catch is that at the time we were top-tier 1K flyers with UA, so they didn't just pick us out because we were well dressed (spoiler alert - we weren't), or even because we're such nice people.

It's a little like the old joke about the visitor to New York asking directions from a local on how to get to Carnegie Hall. "Practice."

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Hilton Upgrades: Reality or Myth?

We've gotten some pleasing upgrades to suites as Hilton Diamond members over the years, most notably at Asian and European Hilton Hotels. Other than that, we generally get what we pay for. 

The Frequent Miler offers an explanation:

Hilton DisHonors: More Than 75% Of Hilton Properties Worldwide Don’t Have To Offer Upgrades

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Best Small U.S. Airports?

The Discoverer has posted on article about The Best Small Airports in the U.S.

Of the ten airports listed, we've flown into and/or out of  three: Dallas-Love Field (DAL), Paine Field (PAE), and Reno-Tahoe (RNO). We might have flown into Long Beach once to board a cruise, but that's in pre-blog days and we can't remember.

DAL and RNO strike us as medium size airports, but the writer is putting some emphasis on airports that may be more conveniently located than nearby large airports. DAL is a potential alternative for Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), and Paine Field, not too far from us in Everett, WA virtually next door to the Boeing Factory, saves a drive to Seattle (SEA). While the article touts RNO as an alternative to San Francisco (SFO), that would be a foolish alternative in the winter months, when I-80 can be treacherous. 

As "ten best" lists are designed to generate discussion and controversy, we won't fall for the bait. We will, however, add two small airports to the list of our favorites, Durango-La Plata County Airport and our own Bellingham International Airport. Neither airport is a "cheap alternative," but they are pleasant facilities with friendly employees (even the TSA!) and of course are among our preferred destinations.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Car Rental Refund in Iceland

 No, this didn't happen to us. We did spend the better part of a year going back and forth with Icelandair, the Icelandic Travel Authority, and the US FAA before finally obtaining flight credit for the JFK-BRU flight we canceled in March 2020 immediately after then-President Trump announced an embargo on flights from Europe. That's another story.

Christopher Elliott is a well known travel writer and consumer advocate. He holds some strong and controversial opinions that are disputed by other travel bloggers, e.g. Gary Leff. For example, Elliott apparently considers frequent flyer programs to be largely worthless.

His opinions aside, he and his team certainly do some good work in going to bat for consumers who are experiencing problems with companies in the travel industry. Here is just one recent example...

Iceland Car Rental charged my card, and my refund is missing

Sunday, January 16, 2022

AS449 CUN-SEA: Breakfast at 32,000 Feet

Not bad…

Flight Aware…

CUN: Remote Gate on a Rainy Day

The rain isn’t quite as bad as it looks, and eventually we’re up the long switchback ramp and seated.

Next stop Seattle.

Homeward Bound

We enjoyed our third and final visit to Asiana, where we made sure the friendly and helpful Victor Herrera was our server again.

It’s definitely our favorite restaurant at the Hilton Playa del Carmen.

The food was as tasty as before. That included edamame with a Mexican twist.

Victor brought us another fine selection of sushi.

The young chef, Carlos Alcaraz, dropped by our table and we thanked him for his good work.

This morning arrived brutally early. We didn’t sleep at all well but checked out in good time. Our CARM shuttle driver arrived early and the drive to the airport was quiet and smooth.

We learned a couple of things at the airport.

First, while Alaska provided an online boarding pass, it doesn’t pass muster at the checkpoint. We had to retreat to the checkin counter and wait in line about 20 minutes.

Second, the CDC attestation form we completed online doesn’t count either. We had to sign another form while we waited in line.

Third, the Mexican government’s vuelo seguro (fly safe) form is no longer in use as of January 1. 

Still, we’d rather have forms we don’t need than not have forms we do need.

After making it past the checkpoint on our second try and through security, we’re relaxing with some coffee in a Priority Pass lounge before boarding our 9AM flight.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Hilton Playa Del Mar: Good Eats

Another excellent dinner at Asiana last night as we head toward the last night of our stay.

We ate lunch at Pelicanos yesterday and today. We’ve sampled tasty salads, a delicious chicken soup today, and a flank steak main.


A Marlin tostada…

Flank steak…

A delicious chicken soup and accoutrements today…

This will be a great memory as we now contemplate our 400am wake-up and 5:00am drive to the airport Sunday morning.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Another Day in Paradise

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Hilton Playa del Carmen.

Our room location - a ground floor suite that allows us to step across our patio  to a strip of lawn adjacent to the pool - is just about perfect, the room is terrific, and the grounds are magnificent.

With rare exception, the dining options have ranged from very good to excellent.

We ate at Asiana again tonight, and plan to dine there again tomorrow night, readying ourselves for a 5am airport transfer pickup Sunday morning.

The Three Mexican Tenors

A very entertaining trio entertained us in the Hilton’s cavernous lobby bar last night.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Chef’s Plate at Hilton Playa del Carmen

The extra charge to dine here is significant, although Hilton Diamonds supposedly get a 50% discount. 

We let ourselves be upsold to a bottle of Mexican Cabernet that proved to very good.

Tonight’s menu:


AMUSE-BOUCHE: Watermelon, Feta
cheese, goat cheese, mint and citrus

ENTRÉE: Gravlax-style salmon salad in a
dill-fennel vinaigrette and goat cheese

SOUP: Cauliflower cream soup flavored
with truffle

SORBET: Lemon sorbet

MAIN COURSE: Beef steak with porcini
mushroom sauce, cambray onions au red
wine and pumpkin purée

DESSERT: "Fresier" Cheese mousse with
citrus and strawberries; served with vanilla
ice cream

The chef and the servers were very attentive and thanked us profusely. The beef was terrific, and a large enough portion to keep us from leaving hungry.

An enjoyable evening…

Finally a Disappointing Meal at the Hilton Playa del Carmen

After a good dinner last night at Maria Petrona, the upscale Mexican restaurant (photos above), we decided to try the Spice Buffet for lunch. Big mistake.

It was disorganized, almost as if the crew of employees had just been transferred in from another restaurant and were just starting to learn their way around. The service was disorganized and the food was poor. Kathy’s hot dog was cold in the middle and Brian’s hamburger wasn’t much better. We didn’t finish either. The employees are universally friendly, but sometimes that’s not quite enough.

Tonight, after listening to three operatic tenors on the lobby stage (at least if the entire show up), we’re dining at the pay-extra Chef’s Plate.

Let’s hope lunch proves to be the low point of our culinary experience here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hilton Playa Del Mar: Lunch at Rincon

This is a Mexican specialty restaurant where we enjoyed another excellent lunch.

Brian chose the tacos.

Kathy chose one of the Alambre dishes. Those are a sort of taco variant and quite delicious.

All of this dining out represents quite a break from cooking for Kathy, and relief for Brian from setting the table and emptying the dishwasher as he carries out his share of meal preparation at home.

A Little Beach Time

There’s a small area of beach at the Hilton Playa del Carmen reserved for elite members, with no charge for cabanas.

We decided to try it out this morning - very pleasant…

We also spot police or soldiers with sidearms keeping a watchful eye.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Hilton Playa del Carmen: Kalamata

This was a perfectly pleasant place to eat dinner. It features a combination of buffet and a la carte choices.

We started with an assortment of appetizers from the buffet.

From there we were served a zesty gazpacho soup. For our mains we shared sea bass, the catch of the day, and a pasta with Bolognese sauce.  

We finished up with tastes of Crème Brûlée and Profiteroles.

A young waiter, Wilbert, offered us attentive and friendly service. 

Our first full day here comes to a close.

Hilton Playa del Carmen

Friendly employees and a lovely environment- what’s not to like? The temperature is mild, disappointing for some but perfect for us.

On our patio…

Metallic Mariachis…

Monday, January 10, 2022

Our Pool-View Room at the Hilton Playa del Carmen

No upgrades to swim-up rooms available until February ? Hmm.., Still,!we have a nice pool-view room with a hot tub in the corner.

The lobby…

Our room…