It was rather unexpected to have to pay extra for Internet access at a hotel, especially The Westin, being all expensive and whatnot. In the end I payed out, well the company who was paying for me payed out ($15 for 24 hrs?!?!), but had I set up a few things before getting there, there would have been no need to pay.
I stayed at The Westin Bellevue, and would assume that many other Starwood Hotels and Resorts locations must employ similar captive portal filtering. At this particular Westin location there were three wireless networks: WestinLobby, WestinMeetingRooms, WestingGuestRooms. They all employed the same captive portal filtering based on hostnames.
Attempting to ICMP ECHO (ping) vraidsys.com would fail, but pinging starwoodhotels.com.vraidsys.com worked. Similarly an HTTP GET request to mail.zerbe.biz would fail, but starwoodhotels.com.zerbe.biz worked. If only I had an SSH host for tunneling with a “valid” hostname, then there would have been no need to pay for this extortion.