Starwood makes checking in a social affair

Starwood Preferred Guest, the rewards program for such brands as Sheraton and Westin, just took “checking in” from the front desk to the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android. The hotel company is launching a new program with social media company foursquare to increase member benefits.

According to foursquare’s blog, this partnership is “the first truly global loyalty integration of its kind,” an appropriate statement for a corporate blog, of course. Here’s the upside for you: when you check in (on foursquare) while checking in (at a Starwood), you can pick up more points, get free nights and win contests.

In the past, foursquare has worked with Heineken, American Express and others, but this appears to be its first foray into travel, a natural fit for a company that has built its business around location.

Sheraton Hotels introduces Shine, the hotels’ new signature spa concept

Combining pampering with practicality seems to be Sheraton’s new approach. Shine for Sheraton will debut across the globe in new and existing Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. The new spa concept is part of the hotel’s $6 billion brand revitalization efforts.

The new spa brand will offer guests an “upscale, approachable spa experience” in partnership with Germaine de Capuccini, a global spa and skincare brand.

Sheraton guests in select hotels in China, Vietnam, the Maldives and Slovakia can already experience the new spa concept, and the hotel group plans to open 17 more Shine spas in hotels by next year.

The spa offers five signature treatments: massage, facial, body treatment, manicure/pedicure and a treatment for two.

We’ve yet to experience this new spa offering but we’re certainly intrigued… what do you think? Can Sheraton hotels compete with other high-end hotels with spa offerings?

Free night at Sheraton up for grabs

It’s not often that you have such a good chance at winning a free stay at a hotel. Sheraton will be giving away 2,100 one-night stays at 86 locations during its Check-In On Us Giveaway.

You must be able to stay at the Sheraton hotel that you choose on Friday, October 23rd. You’ll be limited to that day for your overnight.

First register online, and then you can enter the giveaway once a day between October 6-9. There’s a chance that you might not win a room at the specific hotel you choose, but you’ll know instantly.

If you don’t win, you can try back the next day, through October 9. The rooms are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you win, congratulations–it’s all paid for! The hotel will cover the fees, taxes, and surcharges for the one night, but any additional nights and services will be your responsibility.

The promotion isn’t valid at all of the locations, but it is at 40% of them in the U.S. and Canada–meaning 86 locations. You must be specific and choose one hotel each time that you enter to win.

If the rooms are already booked by the time that you enter, you’ll still be offered a coupon for a room discount.

The promotion highlights Sheraton’s recent renovations. They’ve added or renovated 70,000 hotel rooms worldwide since 2007, and all of the hotels featured in the promotion are either new or newly renovated.

Dining while blindfolded: A new way to enjoy eating out?

For chefs who pride themselves on the artful presentation of their culinary artistry, and people who enjoy looking at their food, probably blindfolded dining is not for them. For anyone who is into a culinary adventure that taps into all other senses but sight, head to the Grill Room restaurant at the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since October, diners have been able to experience this more unusual way to enjoy their food.

According to executive chef Malcom Webster, dining while blindfolded gives diners the chance to fully experience the various textures, flavors and aromas of the five-course meal. With each course, a new wine is served to further heighten the experience. During the entire time, diners don’t know what they are eating. I do wonder if someone stands by to coach a person who is having a hard time directing his or her fork.

“No, a little to the left sir. There you go. Nope, smaller bite. That’s it. No, your mouth is a little more to the right.”

Recognizing that there are hazards to such an experience, coffee is not part of the meal. I’d add that I’d avoid wearing white. Think of red wine. Even with my sight, I once knocked over a glass of red wine in an upscale restaurant in Albuquerque, sloshing it onto the plate glass window.

This dining experience costs £60 per person. If having someone blindfold you gives you the willies, you can try dining in the dark at Dans Le Noir in London. There the whole dining room is dark. How do the waiters see to bring the food, I wonder? “Ooops, sorry Ma’m.”

As you can see from the picture taken by curran.kelleher, you can turn any dining experience into a blindfolded one. This one was at some event in Rüdesheim, Germany. []