Saturday, September 9, 2017

Looking for luxury value

NOTE:     This blog has no ads and I'm not beholden to hotels, cruise lines, tour companies or airlines, and that's why I can offer my readers the truth about all of the above + offer the many ways to enjoy comfort traveling for less

In 2017, for some reason it’s easier to find value for cheap travel in the USA, and even more so in the Euro zone, especially in southern Italy.
As for luxury value, the USA is the worst place to find it.
For example, I just priced a suite at a luxury resort in Cooperstown, New York, the dates I wanted September 20 to 29 weren’t available because the hotel was fully booked.  The per night suite rate $760 with breakfast, was only available for 1 night.  When I priced a suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the dates I wanted were available at the nightly rate of $1362 with breakfast.
If you are looking for luxury value, the best value now is available in certain areas of Italy, the country that rings the bell for cheap and luxury travel values in 2017.
For instance, I recently stayed in Naples at a 4 star hotel in the old city where I had a balcony with street and ocean view plus free breakfast at $132 per night.
Now I’ve booked a junior suite in Treiste for the dates I wanted at the city’s best 5 star luxury hotel of the Italian hotel chain, Star.I have 2 rooms plus a small kitchen, balcony with ocean view and full breakfast served at the hotels luxury restaurant.  All at varied rates, the highest at $462 for a 9 night total of E2826.25. 
I paid for it on my Visa credit card and I authorized the charge in Euros, the accounting staff decided to charge me in Dollars, although I authorized payment in Euros.  My credit card issuer doesn't charge a conversion fee if I authorize a charge in Euros, and this is a $120.18 overcharge because the hotel took the payment that I didn't authorize in Dollars. 

Here's a tip:  When paying in full in advance, watch out for sleazy accounting practices by a sloppy local hotel accounting staff, and don't let them get away with it.  Always expect to be charged what you are quoted.  Get proof in an e-mail as to how you expect to be charged before you authorize the booking. Most reputable hotels will have an online confirmation form, but check it before you press the "I accept" button.
I realize that I should have booked directly with the Hotel chain's American reservations.  Although I complained directly to the hotel in Treiste, asking the hotel to give me a credit in Euros on my account for the $120.18 I was over charged, I didn't receive a definitive answer.  Next, I called the American 24 hour reservation service of the Italian hotel chain.  After I told the customer service what happened—my complaint was escalated directly to the executive offices, and to my dismay, the hotel chain sent me an e-mail telling me they will have to sort out their accounting practices and get back to me.
My last step: I replied to hotel chain's e-mail informing them that I have decided to "dispute" the overcharge with my credit card issuer.  

    Another tip:  If you use a major credit card like Master Card or Visa you have the right to "dispute" charges, but you should keep proof of your booking confirmation.  As well, you may not need trip cancellation insurance in case you get sick.  With a doctor's note you can make claim directly with Master Card or Visa at the number you can obtain from you credit card issuer—other credit cards offer similar guarantees.  Call your bank to check into it before you book and pay for your trip.  
    My final tip:  Be wary of hotels abroad in that use online booking services to make an extra 3% commission when Americans book in the destination country's currency and expect that currency transaction to be made via the credit card into Dollars.  Your bank may or may not add their conversion fee.  You should calculate these "conversion" fees in your final cost.  Make certain you are booking the "destination" currency before you approve a "paid in full" advance purchase. 

If you don’t mind a long flight, you can get superior economy with Alitalia for the September dates 20-30 for $1226.26.
When I traveled to Naples recently, I was very surprised that this airline’s wide body airbus planes are very comfortable even in economy, with more seat room than in the Boeing plane.  For the Treiste flights when I  picked my seat and menu choice of food,  I counted 15 on the list of menu choices..