Thanks to Amigo for being the official sponsor of Dansdeals.com updates while I’m in Israel! I’m using their USB Modem now to update the site. The card runs on Orange’s HSDPA network and the speeds (about 2 Mbps download and 300 Kbps upload) are great for a wireless card. It has worked flawlessly everywhere in Israel where I have tried to use it and it is invaluably useful!
I almost exclusively use my miles for Business or First class tickets. A coach ticket from the US to Israel on continental is 45K miles each way, but can be purchased for about $600 each way, which means that you’re only getting a value of 1.33 cents per mile. A BusinessFirst ticket though can cost $2,500 each way giving you a value of 4.17 cents per mile.
But what to do when there are no BusinessFirst seats for the dates they you need? Well I got our seats into BusinessFirst just days before departure…
Continental’s Plan B for a BusinessFirst award works surprisingly well once you find an agent who knows about it. Credit goes to FT for the details.
It works like this: If there is a saverpass coach award seat you can call up the international reward desk and ask for a BusinessFirst ticket but be seated in coach and placed on a waitlist for a BusinessFirst seat. For EWR-TLV your account will be debited 57,500 miles for each way.
You will either clear the waitlist into BusinessFirst no later than 24 hours before the flight or the waitlist will expire. If at 24 hours before the flight you still don’t have a BusinessFirst seat then at the airport you have to find an International Concierge or other knowlegdable looking agent and tell them that you are a displaced BusinessFirst customer. If they have no idea what you are talking about tell them to look up “gg onestandby” and review lines 85-89 which spell out the details of this reward. (This is reminiscent of “gg checkpoint line 53” which you have to reference to show agents how to give you a security pass for you and your guests to access post-security Presidents Club’s if you aren’t flying.) If they need to verify that you have a BusinessFirst reward have them call up the reward desk.
Still not able to get a seat in BusinessFirst? Just call up the reward desk after the flight and they’ll give you a refund of the difference between the standard coach award and the standard BusinessFirst award.
At any rate the flight was very nice. When I flew to Israel 2 years ago in BusinessFirst Continental still had the old video system that cycled through a few movies. The new large touch-screen AVOD system allows to choose from hundreds of movies, TV shows, games, and music. You can pause, fast-forward, and rewind as you please.
For dinner the people who ordered kosher meals got:
-An appetizer bowl of nuts, craisins, and sunflower seeds.
-A first course of a roll and a fish salad.
-A choice of your own personal bottle of kosher red wine or Chardonnay (or both!)
-A main course option of fish or chicken with another roll, fruit, and a chocolate fudge cake.
The kosher Breakfast was cheese blintzes, a roll, J&J reduced fat cream cheese, norman fat free fruit yogurt, a fruit bowl, and a cheese plate.
The seats recline at a 170 degree angle which is fine for sleeping. Continental’s new lie-flat BusinessFirst seats are slated to begin being installed in September.
Immigration at TLV was shockingly easy, we weren’t even asked a single question!
I turned down an upgrade at Budget for a Hyundai I3 hatchback in favor of the Mazda 3. I’m not sure how every rental car company is Israel gets away with making Liability insurance mandatory. By having a World Mastercard they let you decline the CDW coverage, but even if your personal car insurance covers liability they still force you to take their own liability coverage at $14/day, which effectively doubled the rate.
Israeli GPS systems are very hard to use on the english settings. There are so many ways to spell a city and street name that it is very hard to find what you need. Zefat, Zfat, Tsfat, Tzfat, Safed…every city and street probably has half a dozen ways to spell it and only one will work in the GPS. Nevertheless once you find the place you want to go they do an amazing job at navigating, probably better then an American GPS.
When I was looking for hotels for a base in the North I was shocked at the pricing. I know it’s high season and all, but the going rate was about $250/night. There are no Hilton or Starwood hotels any more in the North so I found a Holiday Inn in Tiberias which is part of the Priority Club program.
The paid rate was $250/night and it costs 15,000 PC points/night to stay there. Priority Club normally sells its points at 1.15-1.35 cents per point, so buying them directly from Priority Club wouldn’t yield much of savings. AMEX MR points transfer to PC at a 1:1 basis and Diners club points transfer at a 1:1.25 basis but that would still be a lot of points to transfer for a Holiday Inn.
The solution is Priority Club’s new cash and points redemption option. With the option you can redeem 5,000 points + $60 for a hotel room. Unlike with Starwood’s cash and points option though what actually occurs is that the $60 buys you the remaining 10,000 points that you would need for the 15,000 point Holiday Inn award. If you can the room you will therefore get a refund of 15,000 points! In effect you are thus able to purchase PC points at 0.6 cents per point by using the cash and points workaround. 15,000 points at 0.6 cents per point would make the Holiday Inn Tiberias $90/night which I reserved.
When I went back to the Priority Club’s website the next week I saw that the Holiday Inn Tiberias was on a PointBreaks special of just 5,000 points/night. So I canceled my previous reservation and rebooked for 5,000 points, or just $30/night!
The hotel is located about 1 mile south of the downtown midrachov, so it’s in a much quieter area than the former Sheraton Tiberias which was right on the noisy midrachov. Upon check-in I was given the option of staying in the Golan wing or the Kinneret wing. The Golan wing room was tiny with barely enough room the bad and a bathroom. The Kinneret wing room was much nicer and bigger with a nice entry-room, decent sized bathroom, a couch, a desk, and even a balcony! There was a box of delicious (kosher lamehadrin) chocolate chip cookies, 2 small bottles of red wine, and 2 bottles of water waiting in the room for us.
I’m holding a few days after this, but that’s all I have time for now, I’ve still got a lot to talk about like using gizmo5, Amigo’s push to talk service, and a report on the brand new Mamilla Jerusalem hotel. Feel free to post comments with your own thoughts and anything I can do to make these trip reports most helpful!