After getting off our United Airlines flight from Vancouver, we headed off to the United Club at the E Concourse at George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas, United States.


This post is one chapter on our trip to Costa Rica. This trip was booked and credited to Air Canada Aeroplan and Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy). For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: United Club, Concourse E, George Bush International Airport, Houston, Texas, United States

“The United Club operated by United Airlines in Concourse E at George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas is arguably the nicest United Club in Houston. This spacious lounge offers seating on multiple levels, with great apron views”

There are several lounges and United Clubs in George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas, United States. This review relates to the United Club Concourse E. For other lounges available at George Bush International Airport, please see our reviews of the United Club Concourse C and the American Express Centurion Lounge in Concourse D.

We stopped over at the UA Club Concourse E as we had a 4 hr layover in Houston. The lounge is located near Gate E12, near many of the United Airlines International departures. It also has one of the most strange entrances – what’s with the 80’s televisions surrounding the outside atrium?

United Concourse at Houston
Retro Televisions above the UA Lounge in Concourse E, Houston

Accessing the United Club Lounge:

Access to the United Club Lounge was granted to us courtesy of Star Alliance Gold Status earned through the Air Canada Aeroplan program with Elite Status. As both Mrs WT73 and I held status, we were able to access the lounge in conjunction with a departing ticket on any Star Alliance carrier regardless of cabin. WT73Jr was guested in courtesy of being able to invite one guest.

Access to the lounge is also available by purchasing at day pass for $50 USD at the time of our visit, or by holding an annual United Club Lounge Membership, or certain American credit cards.

Inside the United Club Concourse E, Houston:

I have to say I was pretty impressed with this place. Some of the regulars here might laugh at being impressed by a United Club, but I should clarify – I was impressed with the facility. Instead of the wonderful silos of mediocre snacks that the United Clubs are known for, instead of the usual worn and beat up furniture, this place was sparkling bright clean.

Comfortable Seating

What made this club so impressive?? – a great spacious layout on 2 seating levels, escalators up from the entry (no waiting or sharing the usual dark elevator rides with anyone else), heaps of natural light, a great view of aircraft operations, large comfy chairs all around, a family room with two TV’s for the kids to freak out in, and a large seating area and bar area. A quiet area (by design, not official designation) was also found upstairs. 

Magazines available for reading – a hallmark of United Clubs
Ample Seating Upstairs

It always seems like the EX-Continental Lounges are in much better shape than the UA ones. I’d even go so far as to say it is one of the nicer UA clubs I have been to in the North American System.

The lounge also offered great tarmac and apron views from large windows that let in a lot of ambient light.

Views from the United Lounge

We spent a good two hours here during our connection while my wife watched Sex in the City DVD’s and my son was fixated on the movie “Home Alone 2” on the laptops.

WT73 Jr gets movies, Mrs WT73 gets wine, WT73 gets room to spread out = everyone happy

My thoughts on the United Club Concourse E, Houston:

The United Club Concourse E has been the nicest and largest United Club that I’ve had the opportunity to visit in Houston, Texas. Unlike some of the other lounges at Houston, the lounge had lots of spaces and was large enough to accommodate family visitors like ours without much difficulty. While the various Concourses are quite a ways apart at the George Bush Houston International Airport, it is likely worth your time making the trek over here if you have a longer layover.


The first leg of our journey was on the first flight of the day between Vancouver International Airport and the United hub, George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas, United States of America.


This post is one chapter on our trip to Costa Rica. This trip was booked and credited to Air Canada Aeroplan and Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy). For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: United Airlines B737-8, Vancouver – Houston

Leaving the lounge, we headed down to gate E73. Boarding was done without issue and before we knew it, we were underway.

YVR Gate E73
Flight Information Display YVR- Gate E73
About to Board
United Airlines
Economy Class
YVR-IAH (Vancouver International Airport – Houston George Bush Intercontinental)
UA 1267 – Economy Class (V)
06:57 AM – 1:31 PM
August 25, 2013
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

The flight down was a typical UA experience in the back. We were unlucky enough not to get a courtesy upgrade to unused Economy Plus seating this time around, making us much further back than I was used too… 

United Economy B737-8 with in seat back monitors

WT73Jr was entertained with a little DirecTV which was to his liking (surprisingly so).

Before we knew it, we were on the ground in IAH taxiing to gate. There was some plane spotting of the old United Airframes with the United Tulip still on them.

United Tulip Airframes near the United Hangar at IAH

We were off in Houston before we knew it, parking next to the modernized United jets with the blended Continental logo.

At the Gate at Houston

In closing:

The United Airlines flight was a no nonsense affair. It got us from Point “A” to Point “B” with a minimum of fuss on one of their regular routes through their hub model. It got us to our connecting flight without much fanfare or surprise.


With a comfortable night upstairs at the Fairmont Vancouver International Airport, we rolled downstairs for an easy early morning check in.


This post is one chapter on our trip to Costa Rica. This trip was booked and credited to Air Canada Aeroplan and Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy). For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Vancouver Transborder, Vancouver International Airport, Canada

“The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge is the best lounge available in the Vancouver Airport US Transborder Departures Area. It offers ample ambient light, plenty of seating, and great tarmac views”

This review relates to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Vancouver Transborder. For a review of the only other lounge available in the US Transborder area at Vancouver International Airport, please see our review of the Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver Transborder at Vancouver International Airport.

Checking into United Airlines

It’s usually busy at the Vancouver International Airport Transborder in the early morning as the first bank of flights are set to depart to cities across the United States. The UA’s Premier Access was check in a mess when we approached at T-90. The business check in was chaos although UA staff were proactively issuing baggage tagging for those that had checked in via kiosk but hadn’t made it to the front of the two agent line.

Early Morning at the YVR US Transborder Check in
Busy United Check in Counters
United Check in Counters

We dropped bags and headed to USA pre-clearance. All the checked bags at YVR for USA bound flights are dropped and scanned on at the same area for all carriers together with a built in scale into the conveyor belt. We had no weight problems here and we were cleared through US Customs quickly with Nexus / Global Entry (both machines are available). There is a dedicated lane for Nexus holders, but unlike TSA Pre-Check, the security process is still the same (laptops / liquids out, shoes off and belts off). 

Accessing the Maple Leaf Lounge:

We made a quick stop at the Vancouver Trans-border Maple Leaf Lounge. The lounge was accessed today courtesy of Air Canada Aeroplan Elite Status thanks to MrsWT73 and I. Since we both had Aeroplan Elite Status, access for WT73 Junior was through the ability to bring in a guest. Access is also granted for customers travelling in Star Alliance Business Class or Star Alliance Gold card holders from a reciprocal frequent flier program.

Inside the Maple Leaf Lounge:

The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Transborder is my favourite lounge in Vancouver. It’s never fully occupied, appropriately sized, and there is always room to find a lounge chair. We had a quick 30-minute stop for us of which I was involved in getting my son fed and watered.

Floor to Ceiling Windows provide lots of light
Comfortable Loungers

Plenty of seating and an abundance of lounge chairs make this place a favourite for me.

Several portions offer several seating spaces

Food and Beverage:

There were the the usual offerings here for breakfast. Toast, oatmeal and a few muffins along with a selection of juices.

Cereal Silos and Fruits
Fruit Juices and Fruits
Ample Table and Dining Seating is available

At about this time after WT73 was fed and watered, my son became strangely pre-occupied with tornadoes that were going to “wipe us out “on approach to Houston. It was entertaining to see the trip from the eyes of a 9 year old and the worries that they may have compared to the usual adult worries.

AC has taken down the Maple Leaf Lounge business hours from the website so here are some current ones…

Air Canada Maple Leaf Transborder Hours

My only complaint about this particular lounge is that it does not open early enough to accommodate the earliest 6 AM flights that depart YVR to the United States. IN this case, you’re stuck with having to access the Priority Pass alternate at the Plaza Premium Lounge.

My thoughts on the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge – Transborder:

There is no question that the Air Canada Maple Leaf Transborder lounge is the lounge to access for transborder flights. With ample light, comfortable loungers and great views, this IS the lounge to visit for your flights to the United States. It’s complimented by great food and a convenient location to most flights departing the Vancouver International Airport US Pre-Clearance Trans-border zone.


For convenience, we decided to stay at the Fairmont Vancouver International Airport hotel. The hotel is located immediately above the Vancouver International Airport US Trans-Border departures gates. The hotel is super convenient for early morning departures, which are all too frequent from the Pacific Northwest to other parts of the United States.


This post is one chapter on our trip to Costa Rica. This trip was booked and credited to Air Canada Aeroplan and Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy). For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


Review: Fairmont Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

“The most convenient airport hotel at the Vancouver International Airport.

The property is situated immediately above US departures, “

We had a 6:57 AM departure and faced a US Customs Pre-Clearance Screening before the flight, AND we were traveling with a nine year old, so we opted for a night at the posh Fairmont Vancouver International Airport.

Booking and Getting There:

We booked direct on the Fairmont Website. The booking website was a little clunky but worked without any problems with the booking.

This hotel is directly attached to the airport and is immediately and conveniently above the US Departures area of Vancouver International Airport. 

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport situated above the airport

Arriving to the Property:

On arrival to the property, avoiding hotel parking rates, I parked the car in the regular long term parking and we took the parking shuttle to the airport.

Arriving to the Fairmont Vancouver Airport

We crossed the overhead walkway from the airport and had a polite check in process in the somewhat dark lobby.

Entryway, Fairmont Vancouver Airport
Intimate Lobby of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport
Lobby of Fairmont

The Room: Deluxe, Two Queens, Non Smoking

We were upgraded to a North facing room. These are better than the south facing rooms as the North Rooms offer a view of the North Shore mountains, and of the US and a partial view of the International aircraft operations area. If you end up on the South Side, you get a view of a rather boring parking lot, elevated subway line and a very long view to the South runway at YVR (usually used for take off’s).

Room with a View: YVR Northside Trans-border Operations

The hotel was built in mid nineties and having stayed here a few times, has been refurbished over the years. I liked it more than MrsWT73. I found it to be very comfortable. MrsWT73 wasn’t too impressed with it and found the Grand Hyatt at DFW to be much nicer for an “in airport” hotel. 

Each room was equipped with the standard Fairmont amenities, including a tripod telescope which made for some entertaining sightseeing and entertainment. 

Deluxe: Two Queens
Comfortable Pillows on each bed

The bathroom was well equipped and linked to the main portion of the room with shutters.

Single Vanity Bathroom
Shutter connection to main room
Bathtub with peek a boo views to the runway

The telescope was a hit with junior, who found it interesting to inspect the runway and the aircraft operations ongoing underneath us.

Included Telescopes!
WT73 Junior taking up a new hobby
Views from the Room

Overall:

Overall, the stay at the Fairmont made for a very pleasant transition to the flight downstairs the next morning. Vancouver has several other airport hotels, but none are directly attached to the terminal. Unfortunately, Fairmont only awards loyalty points on their top rates. Most discounted rates do not earn any miles, compared to the other hotels in the area (Westin, Sheraton, Delta, Hampton and Holiday Inn). If only Fairmont was a bit more competitive on the reward loyalty program, this would be my number one choice for an airport hotel in YVR.



Trip Introduction: A Family Trip to Costa Rica via United Airlines


Trip Planning:

Greetings again. Myself and the newly minted Mrs WT73 had taken some time off between personal (but not work) travels since we’ve recently moved houses in Vancouver and needed to get settled before another adventure. This time, it was a family trip to the “all inclusive” Westin Playa Conchal in Liberia, Costa Rica. 

We ended up here because she has been after me for several years now do to an all inclusive resort “where we don’t have to pack up every 4 days to get to the next place”. The Westin fit the bill and as their first “all inclusive” resort, I was keen to give it a try. I should also mention that my nine year old son was traveling with us as well and we wanted a good solid and somewhat normal home base to call our own. 

Our holidays were schedule restricted due to work commitments and we ended up going during the rainy season in the last week of August 2013. The unlimited sparking wine offered by the resort certainly assisted with helping to convince my wife this would be wonderful experience, despite the gloomy weather. The resort did not end up disappointing.

The trip ended up looking like this:

YVR-IAH-LIR (paid)
LIR-EWR-YVR (paid)
A routing from Canada to Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a great location to visit as a family. I hope you’ll join us on this adventure.


With the year in 2020 coming to an anticipated close, as it some times happens, I was short a few night credits for renewing next year’s Marriott Bonvoy status. Even though Marriott was offering roll over elite status for the year 2021, I was only a few nights short of qualifying for Titanium status again. Not knowing how Marriott was going to calculate status for 2022 as a result of the worldwide pandemic, I figured it would be worthwhile earning status the actual way through stays, instead of relying on Marriott Bonvoy extending another year of status on good will, based on your earned 2020 earned status. As a result, for a recent stay-action, it came time to re-discover one of the most popular hotels in the Vancouver’s Marriott hotel chain crown, the Sheraton Wall Center Vancouver.


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Review: Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, Vancouver, Canada

“The popular Sheraton Wall Center has been the primary Starwood property in Vancouver since it opened. Now part of the Marriott portfolio, it offers a convenient location, easy road access from the airport, and a great base to situate yourself when visiting Vancouver, Canada “


The Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center is a mixed hotel, luxury apartment complex occupying an entire city block in a prime location in downtown Vancouver. The property was designed by Peter Wall of the Wall Corporation and consists of three separate towers, two of which are occupied and operated by the Sheraton Wall Center. Most notably, the North Tower of the two Sheraton properties is Vancouver’s third tallest tower as a 48-storey skyscraper, of which the Sheraton occupies the first 27 floors. The other floors are residential and part time share by Embarc (the people who brought us Intrawest resort developments and their timeshares). Meanwhile, the South Tower is a shorter thirty six storey tower that is also occupied by the Sheraton.

The 48 floor North Tower of the Sheraton Wall Centre

Planning and Getting There:

As a property in Marriott’s premium segment, the rates here are generally variable based on the season. The weekends in the summer cruise ship months command sky high rates, thanks to Vancouvers port of embarkation on the Alaskan Cruise ship industry. Weekday rates generally attract the business crowd, where as weekend rates in the off season see rates drop to as low as $100 on a discounted rate. This is a mega property with 733 hotel rooms. Despite this, the fully property sells out on a regular basis.

I booked direct via the Marriott Website. The best I could find was a AAA rate with free parking (normally at $53.50) for $107 AAA per night for a Traditional Guest Room – 1 King, City View, North Tower.

On the points side, the property is currently a Marriott Bonvoy Category 6 property, meaning that rooms are available for 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points per night. Given that Marriott Points are worth approximately 0.005 cents per night ($200 USD), and the time and effort it takes to earn 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, I felt that paying cash was the better route. Despite this, you’d actually be slightly ahead redeeming points at this property if the rate was greater than $200 USD; provided you were at peace with parting with that number of Marriott Bonvoy points that could be used at many of the world’s greatest properties. Like with the JW Marriott Parq, you might get outsized value from this if you were staying in Vancouver over a summer weekend when the rates are sky high thanks to the in and out natures of guests travelling on Alaskan cruises.  

About 2 days before our arrival to the property, I got a push notice from the Marriott app inviting a mobile check in. I checked the reservation through the app and did not notice an upgrade. However, at about 24 hours prior to our stay, I happened to notice that we had been upgraded to a corner room. I rate this as among the better upgrades at this property. The North Tower doesn’t have many suites in its configuration and typically, the South Tower Suites are usually all spoken for. The room had a value of $203 CAD, which was a reasonable upgrade from our regular room rate of about $107 CAD ($157 USD) during our stay.

We self drove over to the property. As described earlier, the property is located immediately in downtown Vancouver and very centrally located to the cruise ship terminal (but not easily walkable with bags), the shopping district and many offices and other complexes. I find this place to be among the best positioned Marriott hotels in Vancouver, since it’s actually close to almost everything, and easily walkable to everything that you could want to do.

While there is a drop off and loading zone for both properties in the south centre of the complex, the parking garage is actually off the adjacent street.

The Sheraton Wall Center – North Tower
The front door and Lobby of the South Tower
The Entry of the South Tower
Looking Towards the North Tower

It’s a very short walk to the North Tower from the Drop Off, which may or may not be convenient if you’re travelling with lots of luggage or lots of children.

Walkway between the two Towers
Entry to the North Tower Lobby

If you are not arriving by personal car, the property is located approximately 8 blocks from the Vancouver Cruise Ship Terminal (5 minute drive or a 17 minute walk), or a nine minute walk from the Vancouver Center Skytrain station that connects a direct Skytrain Subway Line to the Vancouver International Airport.

Checking In:

If its your first time visiting, the first test that needs to be passed is to present yourself to the correct tower for check in. The Sheraton Wall Center operates two check in areas; one in the North Tower, one in the South Tower. If you happen to turn up at the wrong one, you’ll politely be re-directed over to the other tower.

We self parked in an underground and led ourselves up to the North Tower Lobby. The lobby itself featured the usual high ceilings but was a little forgettable in decor. The lobby also housed the Cafe One lobby all day dining restaurant and evening lounge.

There was no wait at the reception this evening. I was greeted and thanked for my Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status.

Lobby of the North Tower
North Tower Lobby – Pandemic Edition
Center of the Lobby Looking Towards Cafe One & Bar One

During check in, I accepted the Marriott Bonvoy Titanium welcome amenity of 1,000 points. I was also offered a late check out of 4 PM without any haggling. This was always much appreciated; just the way it should be as an advertised Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Benefit. I was also asked to register my car’s make and model at the front desk for self parking ($53.50 CAD). I didn’t need a parking pass to display on the dash which was also appreciated. I was also provided a gate card to allow for in and out access privileges for the parking garage.

There was welcome envelope that was also provided that explained the substitute arrangements for the Sheraton Executive Club Lounge being closed.

Marriott Platinum and higher guests are typically offered access to the Executive Lounge level. Thanks to low occupancy and the health pandemic, the Executive Lounge was temporarily closed. As a goodwill gesture, the Sheraton Wall Center was offering in room breakfast or service in the hotel restaurant Cafe One off of a select menu. There were also 2 drink vouchers provided per person per night. These could be used for coffee or alcoholic beverages (up to $15 CAD). They also provided a courtesy 500 Marriott Bonvoy Points. I thought that this was pretty reasonable on the hotel’s part to offer this alternative, and I especially like the ability to use the drink coupons at your convenience.

Temporary Elite Benefits as a result of temporary global pandemics
Drink Tickets & Breakfast Vouchers

This small goodwill touch made the stay just that little bit more special.

The Room: Corner, Larger Guest room, 1 King, City view, North Tower, Corner room

We led ourselves up to our upgraded room at #1862. The corner rooms in the North Tower are about as good as you can get for a room upgrade at a property that just doesn’t have that many suites. At 460 sq feet / 41 sqm, it’s a larger guest room with windows that front the city views.

Arriving to the eighteenth floor, the colour schemes are brown and blue. There are only 14 rooms per floor in the North Tower set into an oval configuration.

North Tower Hallways

The Living Area:

After we entered the room, we entered a small corridor hall which led directly into the living space.

The room was based on an open concept with floor to ceiling windows covering one side of the curved wall. The floor to ceiling windows allowed for lots of natural light.

A King Size Bed – Corner Room
The Entry Corridor and the King Size Bed
A Corner Room Living Space
Looking Towards the Bedroom
The Working Half of the Room

The room also featured a desk facing the wall. The desk itself was pretty standard and was equipped with the usual power ports. The desk was well lit thanks to it’s proximity to those large windows.

Working Desk

There were two lounge chairs separated by a table, that were comfortable for sitting on. They could be repositioned so that they were facing the television.

Room Sitting Chairs

In summary, I enjoyed the room and the living space. The Corner Room provided for just that extra additional space that a regular room didn’t provide.

Room Amenities:

The room was well featured and reasonably appointed. There was a counter containing two bottled waters and a small fridge, which was empty at the time of our visit. The coffee maker had also been removed, thanks to pandemic policies. We were encouraged to call for coffee using the phone.

Room Counter with Working Fridge

The Bed (A King Size bed): 

The room featured the standard Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed. The bed was comfortable as most Sheraton beds can be.

A Sheraton Sleeper Bed
A King Size with Comfortable Pillows

There was also a flat screen television in the bedroom for those to enjoy television in bed.

In terms of sleep quality, the bed was very comfortable. MrsWT73 gave it high marks for it’s pillows and comfort. Being up on the eighteenth floor, it was a pretty quiet experience as well being well up from the usual road traffic noise. It’s perhaps worth noting that St Paul’s Hospital is immediately across the street from the South Tower, which means the occasional ambulance siren to and from its Emergency Ward. Being a downtown location, its worth saying that any inner city property would have this experience. The windows were insulated as good as can be expected and we didn’t have any noise from neighbouring guests as the hotel was pretty empty.

The Bathroom:

The Bathroom is probably the room’s weakest point. Although it’s fully featured with a stand up shower and single vanity, it is exceptionally small in terms of space and foot print size. Thanks to the configuration of the room, the left over space is allocated to the washroom. It is small enough that it is only practicable that one person can occupy the space at any one time comfortably.

A Compact Bathroom
Stand Up Shower for One

The shower stall featured the usual light Sheraton rain shower and was sized for one. The toiletries were the usual Sheraton Bain.

Le Grand Bain Toiletries

A Room with a View:

Thanks to being situated on the eighteenth floor, there were great views out towards the city. Our view happened to be on the bright south west facing side of the building.

Views of the South Tower (right side) from the eighteenth floor
Looking Towards the “Water View”
Vancouver Mountain Morning Light

While it is possible to have water views from the room, it’s worth noting that many of the water views are through several blocks of mid to mid high rise tower buildings.

Hotel Floor Layout:

For those that are interested, the hotel floor layout is pictured. As indicated earlier, there are no suites in the North Tower (aside from the residential apartments). The floor plan is decidedly oval in nature.

Sheraton North Tower Layout

Overall, I enjoyed the room thanks to it’s spacious layout. There is room for two to exist in this space, save the bathroom.

Around the Hotel:

Throughout the stay, I explored a little of the hotel. The hotel is spread across two towers.

The Executive Lounge:

There is an executive lounge on this property that’s located in the South Tower on the twenty fifth floor.

The lounge is accessible by reserving a room with Executive Lounge Level access or by holding Marriott Bonvoy Platinum or higher level in their loyalty program.

I had visited the lounge on a past stay. It’s a compact space that offers a double level seating, in addition to some unique outdoor patio seating (weather permitting) on the twenty fifth floor.

The executive lounge offers the usual snacks and breakfast items. Similar to other North American lounges, the lounges’ alcohol offerings are pay per use and beers / wines are not complimentary.

The lounge was closed on my most recent visit as a result of the health pandemic. Not only was the lounge closed, but the entire South Tower appeared to have been closed as a result of the lower travel demand.

As a guaranteed lounge benefit available through the Marriott Bonvoy program, the hotel offered complimentary in room service breakfast or service in the North Tower Cafe One off a select menu for Marriott Bonvoy Elites.

Unfortunately, with the tower being closed, there was no floor access to the lounge on my visit as the floor was locked off. As a result, I don’t have a photograph for this review.

Recreation Deck:

The hotel offers a pool and recreation level on the third floor of the property. Unfortunately, this too was also closed during my visit.

The Health Club was Temporarily Closed

The pool is quite dated and being indoors, aside from an atrium feature, does not have a lot of light for it.

The hotel was operating its gym. At the time of our visit, this was by appointment only. It was a pretty compact place which was good for a workout in the event the Vancouver weather was too foul to be outside.

Sheraton Wall Centre Gym

Food and Beverage:

With the hotel being situated near a great number of independent restaurants, you wouldn’t expect the property to offer many restaurants on site. During our visit, we did visit the all day dining, lounge featured restaurant, Cafe One; which is situated in the lobby of the North Tower.

Cafe One:

The hotel’s casual all day dining and lounge dining option was Cafe One. This was situated just ajacent to the North Tower lobby in arguably the hotel’s highest traffic location. Cafe One also flowed into the lounge; Bar One.

The Cafe One / Bar One Sheraton Wall Centre Lobby Lounge Reception

We ended up enjoying the included Elite Breakfast in the Cafe One Restaurant in a class atrium room that was nicely positioned for morning light.

Cafe One – Breakfast Hour

The Menu was presented for Elites as follows:

Temporary Elite Breakfast Menu

For the Elite Breakfast on the first day, I enjoyed the “Canadian Breakfast” consisting of two free range eggs any style with bacon and sausage, breakfast potatoes and toast. Whereas MrsWT73 enjoyed the “Toast and Ham with Cheese and Fresh Fruit” Bagel, Cheese and Fruit Plate.

All Canadian Breakfast at Cafe One
Bagel, Cheese and Fruit Plate

The next day, I went with the Avocado Toast. It was surprisingly green and tasty. I don’t normally think of avocado toast with old school cottage cheese but it actually worked when it was mixed all together.

Avocado Toast on Multigrain with Cottage Cheese and Mixed Greens

The restaurant is also available for reservations on http://www.opentable.com for additional point earning opportunities for those looking to maximize earning opportunities.

Nearby the Hotel:

The hotel is reasonably situated for walking to alternate food and beverage outlets. With almost 50 restaurants within a ten minute walking radius of the hotel, there is almost anything that your heart desires.

Shopping is also located nearby to the hotel on either the commercial Robson Street, or for mall hunters within the CF Pacific Center Mall Complex that is anchored by a Nordstroms and a Holt Renfrew luxury retailer.

Comparing this property to other Vancouver Marriott Hotel Properties.

There are quite a handful of Marriott Properties in downtown Vancouver. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at a few of them, including the JW Marriott Parq, the Westin Bayshore, and the Westin Grand.

The advantages to the Sheraton Wall Center are its convenient location that is walkable to almost everything in downtown Vancouver. The hotel is also close to many restaurants and the shopping district. While I also tend to enjoy the Westin Grand (all rooms are suites), I find the rates at the Sheraton are often softer than the Westin Grand. Being such a large property, the Sheraton also has its share of tour operators and air crews that stay here. The lobby has a busy personality to it as a result, which sometimes impacts his charms.

The North and South Tower of the Sheraton Wall Centre

My Thoughts on the Sheraton Wall Centre:

The Sheraton Wall Centre has been a permanent staple of the Vancouver hotel scene and was near the top of the chain in the Marriott portfolio. As a Sheraton, while the property isn’t the most aspirational property out there, it is a solid full featured offering for a downtown hotel property. The property is well situated to any attraction within Downtown Vancouver which is one of the hotel’s best features. As a result, I’m inclined to easily recommend this property for anyone looking for a centrally location and comfortable property when staying in downtown Vancouver.


While I don’t usually combine flight posts, it seems to make sense in this case since these flights blended into each other. Economy flights aren’t that exciting to write about, but they do form an important part of any trip.


This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Review: United Airlines, Washington Dulles – Los Angeles – Vancouver

After the longest concourse walk from one end of Dulles Terminal C to Terminal D with some noticeably absent moving sidewalks, we boarded onto a full plane. 

United Airlines
Economy Class
IAD-LAX (Washington Dulles – Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 7)
UA 431 – Economy Class ( W )
9:38 AM – 12:00 PM
Oct 22, 2012
Booked: Boeing 757-200
Flown: Boeing 757-200

Aside from an entertaining incident with some older senior citizens not finding any overhead bin space for their bags (because they were in boarding group six) this was another pretty uneventful flight. We pretty much slept this whole flight back to the West Coast.

By this time, my tail was getting seriously sore from being seated amid all the economy travel. It had been probably about 21 out of the last 36 hours that I had been crammed into an economy seat- after taking into account all the ground delays in DOH and all the ramp time. 


Stopping by the United Club – Los Angeles:

On arrival at LAX Terminal 7, we wandered over to the familiar United Club. It wasn’t super busy during our visit. We stocked up on some of the usual Copper Ridge wine and I grabbed some Angeleno magazines to read for the plane ride home. 


United Airlines
Economy Class
LAX-YVR (Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 7 – Vancouver International Airport)
UA 976 – Economy Class (L)
2:31 PM – 5:14 PM
Oct 22, 2012
Booked: Canadair CRJ – 700
Flown: Canadair CRJ – 700

Heading over to Terminal 8, we headed for the usual gate 80 where the Vancouver flights usually depart from. We mananged to volunteer for a seat substitution when they needed to move a family from the emergency exit row. 

United Airlines Terminal 8 Boarding at LAX

At only two and a half hours, the flight went pretty quickly. Before we knew it, we were arriving back at our home airport, some 25,869 miles after we started. 

Our First Trip to Qatar, United Arab Emirates and the Maldives summarized:

Overall, the trip was a wonderful experience in exploring a region of the world which I hadn’t made it to yet. The experiences at the Park Hyatt Maldives and the Qsar al Sarab desert resort were fabulous stay experiences that we won’t forget for a very long time. 

Concluding this report, the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates were complete jewels of areas that really resembled buried treasure. The discovery of resorts in the middle of nowhere, gradually sinking atolls on prisine islands, and the wonders of the underwater world in the Maldives, found our fair share of truly awesome experiences. Although it wasn’t the full Sex in the City movie Experience, it was pretty close. I can’t wait until it’s out next time to visit the Maldives. It’s a fantastic place and well worth the time it takes to get there.


For our journey home, we settled into United Airlines service from Dubai to Washington Dulles. This would be my longest United Airlines flight at 7,059 miles, and as luck would have it, my last long haul flight in economy class in over 8 years. Despite the long haul distance, the flight made for interesting people watching.


This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Review: United Airlines B777-2, Dubai – Washington Dulles

This flight was the continuation of our flight earlier this evening from Doha – Dubai on United Airlines. After a ninety minute stopover in Dubai at the Marhaba Lounge, we continued on our journey back home.

United Airlines
Economy Class
DOH-DXB-IAD (Doha International – Dubai Internationl Airport Terminal 3 – Washington Dulles)
UA 977 – Economy Class ( W )
8:20 PM – 6:27 AM + 1
Oct 21, 2012
Booked: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Boeing 777-200

After our time at the Marhaba Lounge, Dubai, we headed back to our gate and suffered through the additional US security screening. We had a full hand search of all baggage. The women got through this quickly since, as in Middle East custom, there was strict separation of sexes. As you can see, there aren’t many solo women taking this route. 

Additional Security Screening for US Bound Flights

Unfortunately, we had an equipment change from the aircraft we had come out to the Middle East on two weeks ago. Tonight, as with our earlier flight, we were on a Boeing 777 with a 2-5-2 layout and no AVOD. Instead, we had the awful looping video the older UA aircraft was known for. Instead of sitting directly next to my wife, we were across the aisle. I had next to me a very bitter Afganistan military contractor who was on his way back to the states. Most of the flight appeared to be military and several obvious USMC corps people returning home. There were very few women on board. 

On board the “old” United Airlines B777-200’s

The Meal: A Dinner Service

As with the flight out, there were two services of food. Unfortunately, it was nothing really to write home about. Chicken with rice.

Chicken with Rice

The Second Service: A Full Breakfast

The second service consisted of breakfast featuring eggs with turkey sausage. I thought it was a strange choice of United to cater sausages as a side food considering how it’s traditionally a pork item and Muslim’s don’t eat pork. There were a few concerned questions by some of the Muslim passengers on the flight to the flight attendants about this. The flight attendant’s answers of “It’s turkey sausage” were met with some suspicion.

Breakfast with Turkey Sausage

Arrival at Washington Dulles was pretty uneventful. We used Global Entry kiosks being Canadian Nexus Members. I’m still astounded at how few people seem to be signed up for this program. Of a full Boeing 777 aircraft, we were the only two passengers that were using the GE lines.

United Airlines Overall:

This flight marked the last and longest United Airlines flight that I’ve ever taken. At seven thousand and sixty nine miles, it was one of the few ultra long haul routes that United Airlines used to serve the Middle East market, partially in support of the United States’ military efforts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. It would also happen to be my last long haul flight in economy class for the foreseeable future as we got better in redeeming rewards for business class and first class flights. While the service was pretty straight forward, the people watching on the flight made the flight most interesting.


On our United Airlines flights from Doha – Dubai – Washington Dulles, we had a brief stopover back in Dubai. We made the most of this by enjoying the contracted Marhaba Lounge in Dubai Terminal 1.


This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Review: Marhaba Lounge, Dubai Terminal 1, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On arrival in Dubai Terminal One, we tried to make the most of our stopover, we headed through security and right to the other end of the terminal to the Lufthansa Senator / Star Gold Lounge. Facing disappointment, we were again denied entry by the dragon: “It’s full”. I’m guessing that this was likely due to the delay of the United flight, in addition to several LH flights leaving at the same time. We were directed across the hall to the Marhaba Pay per use lounge to oversized castle doors that finally opened to us. Thanks to the Star Alliance being full, they were able to welcome us to this contract lounge.

Marhaba Lounge, Dubai Terminal 3

After a few phone calls to confirm we were in the right spot by the veiled Marhaba dragons, we were admitted. The lounge was also a member of the Priority Pass Program, so you may be able to get entry through a credit card.

Inside the Marhaba Lounge:

We were admitted to a lounge that was a strange cross between an Indian and Italian décor. Given the late hour, it had stacks of people sleeping in all sorts of positions.

Italian Arab Decor
A place like home

Food and Beverage:

There were small amounts of food on offer (curry and sandwiches) and a small wine / alcohol serving station. You’d probably guess I was an alcoholic with all the mention of the liquor throughout this report, but aside from the airline lounges, the resorts, and the Champs Bar in Male, we didn’t see a drop of liquor available for purchase on the whole trip. This situation was evident everywhere as you saw the Westerners getting one last drink as they got on their flights around the world, even here in the airport. 

Food and Beverage Station including Spirits

Overall:

The Marhaba Lounge was the sort of place that you’d visit if you had nowhere else to be. The decor was a little strange – a cross between Italian and Arab influenced styles. As a result of many oddly timed flights, having access to a lounge in Dubai will certainly make your departure more comfortable. Thanks to being accessible through Priority Pass, it remains an option among many at Dubai Terminal 3.


As our trip drew to a close, it was time for our round – a – bout trip home. We started with this bizarre fifth freedom flight between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on United Airlines.


This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Review: United Airlines B777-2, Doha – Dubai

Our time in the Middle East drew to an end. Heading to the airport, the check in was a mess. There were long lines and only 4 check in agents working hard to fill an entire Boeing 777. Sharp eyed readers will note that this was the Etihad check in desks for our outbound AUH flight.

United Airlines
Economy Class
DOH-DXB (Doha International – Dubai International Airport Terminal 3)
UA 977 – Economy Class (W)
8:20 PM – 6:27 AM + 1
Oct 21, 2012
Booked: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Boeing 777-200

That’s the err short “Premier Access” line on the left.

Long Check in Lines at DOH, even with United Premier Access
Checking In under “the two firsts”

We were traveling as Aeroplan Star Golds in UA Economy. I asked our check in agent for a lounge invitation voucher and she turned us down. “I’m sorry there is no Star Gold Lounge here… but there is one in Dubai.” It wasn’t a disaster since we had experienced the Oryx lounge earlier compliments of Ethiad.

Secondary screening for the USA bound flights in their own separate areas, where our bags were torn apart with a polite thank you.

US Gates Area – Doha
Boarding from Gate 14

We boarded and took the ride out to the plane on another bus, the last non gate position of our trip. Once on board, we experienced a 40 minute delay in Qatar due to some radio issues the pilot was having. However, the flight that was scheduled to leave Dubai was scheduled to be late since the crew or pilots scheduled to work DXB-IAD went over shift and needed an additional amount of minimum rest hours. Our new departure time was pushed back to 2:01 A.M.

Boarding UA 977 DOH – DXB
Aisle Seat for the ride home

We got Arabic Lay’s potato chips and a Kit Kat just like the last run out between DXB-DOH.

Arabic Lays and a Kit Kat

It was a pretty short flight and we arrived into Dubai for our stop over without much incident.

Overall:

This United Airlines flight between Doha and Dubai was a pretty odd ball flight to be on. The flight has minimal service. Although you get a large wide body jet, the flight times are also a bit strange. I can’t think of many from this area that would choose United over Qatar, Emirates or Etihad that would usually service this route. Having said that, the United flight like many other that United flies, serviced our needs and was more than “adequate” for our transportation needs.


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