Gary Leff of View from the Wing reported on some insider information from SPG. Supposedly SPG's staff is being told that the program will remain a standalone program at least until the end of 2017. This is largely expected, as the integration is estimated to take 18 months and the sale won't close till around May of this year.
Further, SPG's Ambassadors have been told they'll be retained until the end of 2017, while there's a rumor that the SPG Ambassador program may even find a permanent home as part of the new Marriott Rewards program. Like everything else we've seen with this merger thus far, this is only speculation and should be taken with a grain of salt.
If we could get the guaranteed early and late check out, that would be nice. For an upcoming trip, I will be staying at a Starwood and a Marriott. I called Marriott to request an early check-in and was told that it is only a request and not guaranteed. If I want a guarantee, I need to reserve the room for the night before. This doesn't help much since many times, they room is not ready when I need it. I called Starwood and am guaranteed a 10am check-in and a 4pm check-out the following day. I am only gold with Starwood and platinum with Marriott.
That would definitely be nice californian! I think part of it is a corporate culture issue too though. Marriott seems to be much less willing to offer early check-in/late check-out than, say, Hyatt in my experience.