I really loved this hotel stay, definitely one of my favorites ever. Musciara Resort is located in Siracusa (Syracuse) in Sicily. I was working in Rome the second week of November and while the temperatures were very nice compared to New York , I saw that the weekend forecast for Siracusa was a rare 80 degrees in Nov! I quickly booked a very cheap flight on blu-express (see  blu-express – Cheap & Very Scary) and started looking into hotels. Besides the Best Western and Mercure, there were no chain hotels to choose from …meaning I wouldn’t be staying at my normal SPG or Hyatt property.

This is part four of an eight part trip report from my travels to Rome and Siracusa, Sicily. This short picture report includes photos from my Air France business class flight on-board an A321 from Rome (FCO) to Paris (CDG):

I started reading reviews on TripAdvisor and settled on the Musciara Resort. The resort has only 11 rooms and 1 suite as well as its own private beach (the only one in all of Siracusa). The reviews were very positive in terms of renovated rooms, a great beach, and a location walkable to the island of Ortiga. Rooms during the high season, June – September, can go as high as 200-400 € per night, however in November rates drop to 100 € per night for the smallest room. I decided to go ahead and book on hotels.com as I was only two nights away from earning my next reward…hey, you always need to be earning something for your stays!

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Upon arriving, I stood in an empty parking lot with a locked gate to the resort. An Italian voice on the intercom told me that someone would be out soon to open the gate for me. An older gentleman then escorted me across the beach to the check-in area (resort office) where I met Laura Pallone, who manages the resort owned by her parents. She told me that I was the only guest for the entire weekend and that the resort would be closing for the winter upon my departure that Sunday! I was given the key to my room, a local map, and asked if I wanted breakfast tomorrow morning (included) and what time I thought I’d be getting up. Laura then invited me to the Ortiga bar that she and her friends would be grabbing drinks at later that night…if I wanted something to do after dinner. I then met Buddy, the resort dog, before heading to my room.

The room itself was small and although I couldn’t see much at night, I could tell by the sound of the waves that I was going to have amazing wake-up views. Granted, the hotel was empty and I was still given the small standard room, but it was quaint and I was happy to have the resort to myself.

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After looking around the room, I headed down to the main shared area. It was really nicely and tastefully decorated with a homey flare…

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The next morning I woke up to the following:

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The entire family was waiting on me for breakfast. They didn’t want to start cooking until I was up so that everything would be fresh. All of the following was complimentary and brought out in multiple courses while I read my Nook and looked out at the amazing views. That’s fresh squeezed OJ:

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A quick hop off the deck to the beach…

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My own beach (besides Laura and her daughter who were outside sunbathing at times as well).

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View from the room

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You can see that one of the buildings near the hotel had some construction going on but I didn’t hear much noise from the beach or my room.

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Lunch time! Laura came over to ask if I would be eating lunch at the hotel. I said I might head into town and then come back after lunch. She insisted that her brother was a great chef and would cook me up a fresh tasty lunch. Within 35 minutes he had made fresh pasta with grilled calamari, it was incredible as was the wine!

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Breakfast feast day two, mostly new choices:

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Many of the reviews noted that they loved the hotel but were concerned about the “shady” location within town. I have to say that I didn’t feel unsafe at any point. The hotel is in both a residential and commercial area that’s about a 15 minute walk to the island of Ortiga, allowing you to work up an appetite on the way there and walk off your food on the way back. I returned after midnight both nights and was not concerned.

The hotel is also walkable to many of the local attractions including the Greek Theater (late 5th century BC), Ear of Dionysius, and Temple of Apollo…all about 20-25 minutes away by foot. I didn’t use a car the whole weekend except for when I headed back to the airport.

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Lunch time, by Laura’s brother and his girlfriend once again…

Fresh fish, salad, fruit, and a rice / meat / cheese ball.  By far the best lunch I’ve ever had served on a lounge chair beachside.

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The resort serves dinner as well, but I always went to explore in-town during the evenings.  If you are planning a trip to Siracusa, I would most definitely recommend checking out the Musciara Resort.  I got to meet the extremely friendly owners (who helped with some of the meals) and their children (Laura and her brother)…and of course Buddy the dog. The entire experience was quite a nice change from my normal Starwood / Hyatt stays.

Need help planning a trip with your miles? Consider Juicy Miles assistance for the best possible award pricing and routes!

Posted by adam | 3 Comments

If you’re contemplating sex with a rodeo clown in Massachusetts, watch out: The long arm of the law may be coming for you. Mustachioed men, it’s probably best if you just avoid Indiana altogether. And ladies, you don’t have to put up with your lover’s bad breath anymore—in Minnesota, you are legally protected from the smell of garlic and onions. Thanks to Jeanne from Yahoo! and ST for sharing and the republish rights.

  • As a Massachusetts native, I think I speak on behalf of the entire Bay State when I say we’re totally OK with you having sex with a rodeo clown. As far as we’re concerned, what happens at the rodeo stays at the rodeo. We’re pretty liberal like that—a solid blue state through and through. Wait, what’s that you say? There are horses present? Won’t somebody think of the horses?!If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: No having sex with rodeo clowns in the presence of horses! And we mean it! (Really, we do: It’s illegal in Massachusetts.)
  • Sleeping Beauty is so 1950s. This is the 21st century, people: Women don’t just lie around waiting for their princes to arrive! In fact, it’s literally illegal to do so in Colorado, where kissing a sleeping woman is prohibited by law. So guys, you’ll just have to find some other way to wake her from the evil witch’s spell.
  • In Alabama, it’s against the law for a man to seduce “a chaste woman by means of temptation, deception, arts, flattery, or a promise of marriage.” (That doesn’t leave you a lot of options.) But that’s nothing compared to the rules in Ottumwa, Iowa, where you can’t even wink at a pretty lady with whom you are “unacquainted.”
  • In Arkansas, adultery is punishable by a fine of $20 to $100, which is steep but hardly prohibitive. That might explain Bill Clinton’s time in Little Rock. Good thing he wasn’t governor of California, though: An illicit affair in the Golden State could set you back $1,000.
  • Maybe this is why they never filmed an episode of Magnum, P.I. in the Hoosier State. Mustaches are illegal in Indiana if the owner of said facial hair “has a tendency to habitually kiss other humans.” Soul patches and goatees, though? Totally legal.
  • Is the American Dental Association behind this one? Men of Alexandria, Minnesota, be warned: It’s against the law to have sex with your wife if your breath smells of garlic, onions, or sardines. Ladies, know your rights: The law mandates that your man must brush his teeth if you request it!
  • File this one under “weirdly specific” laws: In Wisconsin, a man may not fire a gun while his partner is having an orgasm. Welcome to the wussification of America!
  • Talk about a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: In Washington, it’s illegal to have sex with a virgin, even on the wedding night. Surprisingly, “Washington: Once a Virgin, Always a Virgin” is not the state’s official motto.
  • In Hawaii, it’s illegal to appear in public wearing only swimming trunks—which, correct me if I’m wrong, basically puts the entire cast of Hawaii Five-0 on the list of America’s Most Wanted. (It may also explain all the leis.) This is still better than the law of the land in Kentucky, however. In the Bluegrass State, a lady may not wear a bathing suit on a highway unless she’s escorted by at least two police officers … and armed with a club.
  • In Ames, Iowa, it’s illegal for husbands to take more than three gulps of beer while lying in bed with their wives. In a related story, the inventor of the wide-mouthed beer can may have been a husband from Ames, Iowa.

Other recent lists-

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Customers on Virgin Australia Flight 970 last Monday got some unexpected in-flight entertainment on their Brisbane (BNE) to Sydney (SYD) flight… a full live performance of the “Circle of Life” by the cast of the Lion King Australia.

YouTube Preview Image  

Posted by adam | One Comment

Delta announced yesterday that they are looking to buy up to 50 wide-body jets and currently studying replacements for both their Boeing 747-400 and 767-300ER planes, each with an average of about 20+ years.  However, CEO Richard Anderson said no deal would come any time soon and that Delta will continue its “watch and wait” strategy  to reduce potential technical risks and allow the jets to prove themselves before looking at any new or altered models including the 787 and a potential A330neo. Delta currently operates 16 747-400s and 74 767-300s as per Flightglobal.

Reuters reports that:

The prospect for an order for dozens of wide-body jets from Delta, widely seen as one of the most conservative buyers of new capacity, would trigger fierce competition between Boeing and European rival Airbus. Delta is seen as a prime customer for a potential revamp of the Airbus A330, which the European manufacturer is considering updating with new engines to help airlines reduce fuel bills. Delta bought 10 current-generation A330s last year. Airbus has not said whether it plans to go ahead with the “A330neo” but is expected to take a decision later this year and interest from Delta could be decisive, industry sources say. However, Delta could expand its fleet of existing models of the Boeing 777. Delta has 18 next-generation Boeing 787s on order and has not ruled out expanding the airline’s order for Boeing 787s, inherited from its 2008 takeover of Northwest Airlines, but called on Boeing to reduce prices to compete against the A330, which Delta had helped to launch in the United States.

Posted by adam | 3 Comments

Is the future really this bright for the new American? Currently, of 16 analysts covering the company, 13 rate American a “buy” and three call it a “hold,” according to Bloomberg data. All this despite the fact that American shares have already gained 48 percent this year.

One analyst from Wolfe Research is so bullish on American’s future profit that he wrote the following this week in a note to clients:

Our best idea in airlines, American, is so compelling to us that we challenged ourselves to see if we could come up with 100 distinct reasons to be bullish on the stock. We did… We believe American is a very cheap stock with tremendous opportunities to improve margins and earnings over the next couple years while outperforming peers on a relative basis. American trades at the cheapest forward P/E in our coverage and our estimates are not even completely factoring in synergy guidance. Synergy guidance of $1B+ could also be too low (small percent of revenue relative to prior airline mergers) and management has already identified $400M of incremental “non-synergy” opportunities from inefficiencies on the legacy AMR side – these mostly include re-banking some of AMR’s hubs, implementing a variable schedule to AMR’s schedule, and increasing cabin density on AMR’s aircraft. Our $54 target price is based on 10x our untaxed 2015E. Not surprisingly, American Airlines is Outperform rated.

It took him about two hours, but he says he created a list soon to be published with 100 reasons to buy American. Here are some of the “preview points”:

No. 19: ”American generated 15 percent less revenue per employee vs. Delta last year. This should improve with headcount reductions.”
No. 36: “ JetBlue’s premium transcontinental product (Mint) likely to fail, in our opinion.”
No. 49: “American labor costs 5 percent-10 percent below Delta, United for the next few years.”
No. 55: “CEO has identified ‘probably 100 items’ that are new revenue opportunities.”
No. 59: “US Airways, the former red-headed stepchild at Star Alliance, now a valued partner in oneworld.”
No. 60: “If any airline moves first on an international checked bag fee, it’s probably American.”
No. 83: “Texas is the best state in which to do business in the U.S., in our opinion.”
No. 89: “Management has shown no interest in competing against Spirit —a rational decision given Spirit’s cost structure.”
No. 93: “Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has a history of doing business with American as the former mayor of Charlotte, a US Airways hub.”
No. 99: “Cultural overhaul at HQ should improve feedback from mid-level employees.”

Posted by adam | 3 Comments

Delta today introduced new sleep kits and several updated amenities for passengers seated in the Economy cabin on long-haul international flights. From the press release:

Sleep kits will be offered to each customer by flight attendants and will include individual eyeshades plus earplugs to help customers get better rest when travelling between continents

In addition, on all trans-Atlantic flights of 3,850 miles or less from the U.S. to Europe, customers in the Economy cabin will receive a full-size bottle of water following meal service and updated snack offerings for morning and afternoon/evening arrivals. A mid-flight ice cream service will also be offered on these flights returning from Europe to the U.S.  These service improvements will expand to longer-haul international flights in early summer.

This summer, customers flying in domestic First Class as well as the Economy cabin on domestic and international flights will be offered newly upgraded earbuds that will be theirs to keep for use with Delta’s seatback entertainment systems.

Sleep Kits Economy Delta

Posted by adam | 4 Comments

What a difference from my 1K United status in 2013 where I was 0 for 14 on domestic upgrades from EWR and LGA (granted, Newark is a major UA hub and the NY market has tons of United 1K elites). I’ve had lifetime AA Gold status for years, but just increased my AA flying in 2014. American has plenty of its own elite fliers in New York, yet I’m batting 100% this year on upgrades….and not to small non business markets either. Of course, unlike United, AA requires the appropriate number of 500-mile upgrade certificates for any upgrade. The latest, which came this morning (I love getting those emails), is for tomorrow’s flight to San Juan which was $108 one-way. My other successful 2014 upgrades have admittedly been to hubs with decent capacity, JFK/LGA/EWR to Chicago (2x), LAX, Dallas, Miami, and Barbados. I even had success upgrading from business to first on a Dallas (DFW) to Tokyo (NRT) flight…though that might not have been worth it ;-) No TV and Poor Service on AA 777 Dallas (DFW) – Tokyo (NRT) in First (full trip report coming soon).

Anyone else noting similar success this year?

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Sorry guys, I went to include some photos of recent upgrades and the post was mistakenly deleted.  Here are your responses again:

9 Responses to “100% Upgrade Success in 2013 on AA w/ Only Gold Status!”

  1. Tech says:

    I’m a million miler on CO/UA and when I stopped getting upgraded, I moved my 150K miles/year to AA and I have a 90%+ upgrade rate domestically and 100% on SWUs to Asia.

  2. Marshall Jackson says:

    I’ve always had good success with AA upgrades. Most recently, Atlanta to Miami on the Friday morning of President’s Day weekend…..following a big (for Atlanta) snow event. MrsMJ and I were #1 and #2 on the list….and we were the only 2 to clear. I was amazed. I honestly hope AAdvantage does not switch to the “comp” upgrade plan for all elites.

  3. Adam says:

    So far I’m also at 100%, AA Platinum here who came over from DL as Gold in January.

  4. Nick says:

    Yeah the upgrade process on UA really sucks these days, something is quite broken when you realize almost everyone in first has flown less than you this year and spent less as well.

  5. joetraveler says:

    I’m new on the path to AA gold. How do you accumulate multiple 500 mile upgrades in your ‘bank’? thank you

  6. UnitedEF says:

    I dropped to Gold this year from EXP fearing the worst but I hvae been 100% as well which is quite remarkable. I hope USeless airways doesn’t ruin the current AA upgrade program.

  7. James says:

    Same here. Most recent was LAX-HNL and HNL-LAX last week and yesterday, respectively.

  8. David says:

    I dont know what you’re doing right and I’m doing wrong, but I’m Lifetime Platinum and and 1 for 12 this year…..
    maybe I should switch to United (no way)

  9. DavidB says:

    I’m pretty much 100% since moving to AA from UA as a ExecPlat vs 20% the year before I switched on UA as a 1K. One of the features of AA is that upgrading is a positive request process, i.e. elites must indicate they want to upgrade (even ExecPlats) when completing the booking process, and of course use 500s. (I suspect many ExecPlats don’t even do this selection and are happy to sit in the back and get free booze and food.) When UA announced its UDU program it was going to do away with domestic upgrade certs but at a MagoDo gathering we insisted these were still a valuable perk to advance confirm upgrades. The other thing we suggested was that UDUs be made something one requested and not automatic…thus reducing the demand and thus better likelihood of success. UA kept the RPUs but didn’t take our advice on making UDUs a positive option instead of universal.

Posted by adam | 2 Comments

Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled today against a Minnesota flier who was stripped of his elite status and miles by Northwest after they said he complained too much. The flier said Northwest did not act in good faith and was trying to cut costs because of its merger with Delta. Delta confirmed the NWA argument that he was cut off because of his constant complaints.

From Yahoo! News / AP (thanks Mark for sharing with PMTTP readers):

The court said in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that the federal deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 prohibits most lawsuits like the one filed by Ginsberg. The frequent flier program is clearly connected to the airline’s prices, routes or services, which are covered under the Airline Deregulation Act, Alito said.

The flier and his wife flew almost exclusively on Northwest, logging roughly 75 flights a year to travel across the U.S. and abroad to give lectures and take part in conferences on education and administration. He said he flew on Northwest even when other airlines offered comparable or better flights and in 2005, reached the highest level of the WorldPerks program. Northwest cut him off in 2008, shortly after Northwest and Delta agreed to merge. Ginsberg said Northwest was looking to get rid of the high-mileage customers.

Northwest says he complained 24 times in a seven-month period, including nine instances of luggage that turned up late on airport baggage carousels. Northwest said that before it took action, it awarded Ginsberg $1,925 in travel credit vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles, a voucher for his son and $491 in cash reimbursements. The airline pointed to a provision of the mileage program’s terms that gives Northwest the right to cancel members’ accounts for abuse.

Posted by adam | No Comments

Some interesting excerpts from Asiana in their report filed with the NTSB yesterday as to what factors caused last July’s B777 SFO crash:

  • The Boeing 777 had inadequate warning systems to alert its crew about problems with air speed.
  • The cockpit crew believed the auto throttle would keep the plane going fast enough to reach the runway, though the auto throttle was effectively disengaged after the pilot idled it to avoid an unexplained climb earlier in the descent.
  • The plane should have been designed so the auto throttle would maintain the proper speed after the pilot put it in hold mode.
  • The plane gave no indication that the plane’s auto throttle had stopped maintaining the set air speed, and a low air speed alerting system came on too late for the pilots to avoid the crash. ”The flight crew believed that the autothrottle system would maintain the commanded airspeed through the final approach.”
  • Air traffic controllers at the airport failed to respond to the flight crew’s initial request to land and responded late to a second request. That increased the pilots’ workload during the approach.
  • However, the crew failed to monitor and maintain a safe airspeed and failed to abort the landing in time.

“Boeing believes that the evidence supports the following conclusion: This accident occurred due to the flight crew’s failure to monitor and control airspeed, thrust level and glide path on short final approach,” the airplane manufacturer said.

Related -

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This is part six of an eight part trip report from my travels to Rome and Siracusa, Sicily. This short picture report includes photos from my Air France business class flight on-board an A321 from Rome (FCO) to Paris (CDG):

Moist towelettes prior to boarding…

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Like several European airlines, Air France blocks off the middle seat for business class passengers. This actually made for the most exciting and funniest part of the flight. There was an older man (in his early 70s) who was sitting in my seat when I boarded. He didn’t speak English but he motioned for me to sit in the other open seat in our row. OK, no problem.  That is until the passenger the seat actually belonged to boarded. Well, it seems that this man really wanted to be in the front row as he undid the divider they placed in the blocked off seat and sat right down. A very surprised flight attendant took a look at his ticket and then escorted him back to Economy haha!

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A pretty nice snack and dessert for our two hour flight…

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On to the annoyance of connecting at CDG…

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Posted by adam | One Comment

Well, another week, another list of “airline secrets” hah. This one comes from the Huffington Post and seems to borrow a few of the secrets from the 30 Pilots and Flight Attendants Confess their “Best Kept Flying Secrets” list that made the internet rounds the last two weeks.

Those blankets have NOT been washed. Also, there’s a solid chance your tray table has poo on it. 
“I worked for Southwest as a flight attendant. Those blankets and pillows? Yeah, those just get refolded and stuffed back in the bins between flights. Only fresh ones I ever saw were on an originating first flight in the morning in a provisioning city. Also, if you have ever spread your peanuts on your tray and eaten, or really just touched your tray at all, you have more than likely ingested baby poo. I saw more dirty diapers laid out on those trays than food. And those trays, yeah, never saw them cleaned or sanitized once.” –@melhow44

People steal the lifejackets. 
“People take those life jackets, located under or between your seat, as souvenirs. It’s a vile and punishable offense, and while airlines do check each seat at the start of every day, a plane could make several trips in a day, during any one of which a passenger could steal a life vest. So, I learned, it’s a good idea to check if the life jacket is indeed there.” –George Hobica, airline expert

There are hold-on handles in case flight attendants get shoved off the plane.
“Next time you get on a plane, take note of the handles by the door, just inside the plane. What on earth are those for? Correct, they’re grab handles, but why? Well, in a panicked emergency evacuation, when the flight attendants are manning the exit door, passengers, in their mad rush to get off, have a tendency to push them out of the way, sometimes all the way down the slide. The handles are there to make sure that the flight attendants stay on the plane if that’s what they need to do.” –George Hobica, airline expert

You can ask for the whole can of Coke.
“If you’ve got a thirst that’s going to take more than a few tablespoons of soda to quench, consider politely asking your flight attendant for the whole can. Most of the time, they’re happy to oblige.” –Beth Blair, former flight attendant

Check out the full list here.

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