For 2013, American Express has added several new hotels to their Fine Hotels and Resorts collection. The properties they added are: The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, Amanzo’e, Krandini-Argolida, Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, The St. Regis Mauritius, The St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort, Hainan Island, The St. Regis Shenzhen, Guangdong, and The Ritz-Calrton Okinawa.
Fine Hotels and Resorts is a hotel program specifically for American Express Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders. By booking through this portal, you get a bunch of added perks and benefits thrown in with your stay – sort of like you would with elite status or by booking through a travel agent with great contacts at a hotel. Plus, although you’re ostensibly not entitled to earn points on stays booked through it, most readers who commented on my detailed post about FHR have still gotten their points and elite status credit. So it’s not a sure thing, but it might still be possible.
I just took a quick look at booking through FHR versus directly at the hotel for a few of the properties, and here’s what I found in terms of points versus benefits.
Ritz-Carlton Vienna: This hotel is located in four 19th-century palaces located on the Schubertring portion of the city’s famous Ringstrasse. It has 159 rooms (which start at about 400 square feet) and 43 suites as well as a Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge on the seventh floor, which offers five food presentations daily as well as a bar. The hotel’s main restaurant, DSTRIKT serves casual Austrian, fare, a lobby lounge serves lunch, dinner and café specialties, a hotel bar looking onto the Ringstrasse, and Atmosphere, a rooftop terrace bar with views over the city. The hotel also has a fitness center with an indoor pool with music playing underwater, and a Spa at Ritz-Carlton for unwinding after a day of treading on the city’s cobblestoned streets.
Room rates in February through Fine Hotels and Resorts start at $387 per night for a Deluxe Room. Deluxe rooms feature a king size bed or two separate beds, luxurious marble bathrooms with separate shower and bathtub, a Nespresso coffee machine, and complimentary WiFi. Platinum card members will receive a room upgrade upon arrival (if available), noon early check-in upon availability, daily complimentary breakfast for two, guaranteed late check out and a EUR 85 food and beverage credit. Also when booking a consecutive three night stay at the Ritz-Carlton Vienna through Fine Hotels and Resorts you will receive the third night free with promotion code FHR11250. In order to be valid, the booking must be made between October 1, 2012 and March 28, 2013 and travel must take place between November 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013.
If you were to book through Marriott.com, the standard rate for a Deluxe Room is 295 Euro per night, which is about $394, and you’d earn 3,940 Marriott Rewards points as a standard member. What’s interesting is that in this case, the room rate through FHR is actually lower than booking through the hotel and you still get all those added benefits and a shot at earning the Marriott Rewards points anyway.
Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro: This is a gorgeous new property in one of Europe’s up-and-coming Adriatic destinations, the beautiful country of Montenegro. It lies on an island just off the coast and is sort of like a miniature village that’s been reconstructed and now includes a villa with 8 rooms, and then an additional 50 suites and cottages all decorated in a rustic-luxury style with stone walls, wood-beamed ceilings, clean and crisp white linens, private courtyards, sea and garden views, and a few private pools. Rates in February through FHR were around $1,184 per night for a Garden View Milocer suite. By contrast, the hotel’s site listed the room rate as €902.6, which comes to $1,205 according to my currency converter, so again you’re getting a better deal with FHR and you’re getting a complimentary 50-minute massage, for up to two people per room, once during your stay – about a $150 value each.
St. Regis Mauritius: This luxury hotel on Mauritius (a TPG favorite destination!) opened in May 2012, by a lagoon on the Le Morne Peninsula on the southwest coast of the island near the UNESDCO World Heritage-listed Le Morne Mountain. The resort has 173 rooms and suites spread out in colonial-style buildings across the property. There are six restaurants and bars serving everything from contemporary Asian food to traditional Mauritian cuisine, and Indian, as well as a casual beach grill. Also on the property is an Iridium Spa with 11 treatment rooms and 7 Spa Suites. The resort chauffeurs guests to and from the airport and to a nearby golf course in one of their Bentleys, and arranges activities like beach picnics, dolphin-spotting cruises on its private yacht, and various other water sports, plus kid’s activities at the St. Regis Children’s Club.
When booking through Fine Hotels and Resorts, rates in February start at $863 per night for a Deluxe King Room Ocean View. Boasting views of the Indian Ocean, the Deluxe King Rooms have an outdoor living space, spacious bathrooms, St. Regis Remede amenities, wireless internet and a coffee machine. Perks of booking through American Express FHR with your Platinum card include a room upgrade upon arrival (if available), noon early check-in upon availability, daily complimentary breakfast for two, guaranteed late check out and an 85 EUR ($115) food and beverage credit. Currently there is a special offer using promotion code FHR11263, for stays of 4 consecutive nights. If the booking is made between January 1, 2013 and March 27, 2013 and travel takes place by March 31, 2013 the 4th night of the stay is complimentary – meaning your room rate then averages out to $647.25.
If you book through Starwood, the same room type is 497 EUR, about $665 per night – a significant discount on the per-night rate, but no fourth night free, and if you do stay four nights, you might be better off booking through FHR and getting a slightly lower room rate and that food and beverage credit.
So while room rates booked through FHR are expensive, they’re usually about the same as booking directly through the hotel itself – and you get several added-value perks thrown in such as dining credits, spa credits and more, plus most readers have reported earning points and elite credit on FHR stays anyway. As always, do the math and compare your options before making a booking (and make sure the perks are actually ones you want), but FHR does remain a great option, especially for trying out non-points properties you might be interested in staying at, and I’m glad to see them adding more and more hotels, even if it’s just a few at a time.