I always keep an eye on this helpful thread on Milepoint for new Starwood Preferred Guest property announcements.
Over the last few weeks I’ve seen some interesting additions, things that I feel definitely add value. This review will consist mostly of cool places you can redeem your points and not on new hotels for the business traveler. No offense, but I don’t consider the new Aloft Tulsa Downtown a good redemption option for vacation.
Westin Puntacana: Punta Cana is a small town on the Eastern tip of Dominican Republic. I was in Puerto Plata, another tourist destination in the DR a number of years ago. I found the beaches to be sub-standard, not Caribbean. The Puerto Plata beaches technically face the Atlantic Ocean as opposed to the Caribbean Sea, so you won’t see much in the way of clear blue water. The beaches in Punta Cana seem to get better reviews and there are plenty of resorts there, as well as a dozen or so golf courses.
The Westin is likely to be a solid addition to the SPG family because of the sheer number of airlines that serve Punta Cana, which is a fairly short flight from the US. American, Delta, US Airways, JetBlue, Air Canada and others all have direct service there. The only qualm I have is the property will open late this year as a category 5 for redemptions (12,000 to 16,000 points a night). That’s the same category as the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach. While the rooms at the Westin Grand Cayman aren’t spectacular, it’s one of the nicest beaches I’ve visited in the Caribbean with great snorkeling right outside the hotel.
Aloft Cancun: This property is opening in just a few days (June 10th). It’s a real gem for value travelers in the SPG program. It comes into the program as a category 2 (redemptions are 3,000 to 4,000 points a night). There are already two Westins in Cancun (one Cat 3 and one Cat 4). The Aloft doesn’t appear to have direct beach access, though it’s tough to tell by the map. That being said, all the beaches in the Hotel Zone in Cancun are public to my knowledge, so there should be plenty of places close by to walk to for beach time.
Four Points Miraflores (Lima, Peru): SPG already has two properties in Lima, but the images of this make it look much nicer than the standard Four Points. It’s a category 3, which means it will set you back 7,000 points a night.
Sheraton Zurich: This appears to be new construction, scheduled to open in January, 2014 as a category 5 (12,000 to 16,000 points per night). There are already two offerings in Zurich and this one is a bit of a distance away from some of the main tourist parts of the city but still a looks to be a worthwhile addition, especially considering it looks like new construction.
Sheraton Moscow Shermetyevo Airport: This one seems to be a bit pricey from a redemption standpoint. It’s new construction at the airport, which is about 15 miles from downtown and weighs in as a category 5 (12,000 to 16,000 points per night). Still, there are only two other SPG properties in Moscow, one category 5 and a category 6.
So, there you have it. More interesting places to cash in your points. I would consider most of these properties, though Park Hyatt Zurich is my go-to property in Zurich. And, while I don’t have a burning desire to head back to Dominican Republic anytime soon I suspect the new Westin in Punta Cana will fit nicely with cheap airline tickets. Aloft Cancun strikes me as a solid bargain for you travel bargain hunters as well.