We love to hear stories from our readers about how a passion for collecting miles and points and sharing all sorts of do-it-yourself information on our site has affected their lives. Status via work trips, Honeymoon plans in the works, celebrating an anniversary in the Maldives, a gift to their parents, a vacation to Srinagar or Singapore or just that premium airline seat they secured on redemption. We’ve heard many such stories, and this year we are trying to share more of these stories with you.
Reader Mrinal Thakkar, who frequently contributes to the comments section as well, recently headed to the Ritz Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, using his points. I requested him to write up his story for the Live From A Lounge community. Read on.
I have been a long-time reader of LiveFromALounge.com, and I’ve been collecting and spending points since 2017. I also attended the Mileage Mentor MasterClass in January 2021. (The April 2022 one is open for ticketing right now).
I did not sign up for the Marriott Platinum Challenge in 2020, as I was not sure about travelling in 2021 owing to the pandemic, but when Marriott announced that they would be honouring status achieved in 2021 all the way till February 2023, I decided to do a mattress run in march 2021 across Marriott hotels in Mumbai using the double night promotion along with the 19 nights credited by Marriott owing to the Gold status via American Express Platinum Charge Card earlier on.
I managed to achieve Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status just before the second wave of Covid-19 in India, so I was only able to start reaping the benefits and collecting a significant amount of points via my travels post-July 2021.
I had initially booked the Taj Chia Kutir for my sixth wedding anniversary, using the 50% discount sale announced by Taj for Gold and Platinum-tier Inner Circle members. But as the dates started closing in, Marriott had announced that they will be moving to dynamic points pricing for rewards. I changed tack, to try and see if I could spend all my accumulated points before the devaluation happens. I had about 210,000 points lying in my account, and about 95k lying in my Amex Membership Rewards account. So I started searching for redemption options in the Maldives, as I figured via LiveFromALounge.com that they offered good value for redemptions in the Maldives.
Initially, I had planned to book 3 nights on points, but I eventually went with 5 nights by using the 5th night free on redemptions feature of Marriott Bonvoy. So, I bought 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for USD 1250, transferred 90,000 points from American Express Membership Rewards and then started searching for hotels. (At this moment, Marriott Bonvoy is offering a buy miles promotion, where you get a 50% bonus when you buy miles by March 23, 2022.)
I was very confused between the St Regis Maldives and the newly-opened Ritz Carlton Maldives, but since my wife was sceptical about the seaplane ride and she wanted an overwater villa, it made the Ritz Carlton choice a no brainer.
I started looking for availability around my anniversary date. Initially, I didn’t get them, but around a day before the free cancellation period expired, I was able to see availability for my anniversary date and quickly switched the booking via Marriott’s platinum line over the phone. The initial booking was done via the Marriott Bonvoy app. I was happy I bagged a USD 22,500 booking for a little over USD 1,250, and it would have been even cheaper, in fact, next to zero, had I had adequate points in my Marriott Bonvoy account.
The Transfer Experience
Transport to/from Male airport to resorts is definitely not cheap. I ended up spending USD 1,356 for 2 people for a shared speedboat transfer (while St. Regis charges USD 1,490 for a seaplane) + USD 60 tourist tax. The payment was made via an online link sent by the hotel.
The next day, the At Your Service team got in touch with me via email and noted my arrival and departure details and asked for any special needs we had during our stay. We relayed it to them that we were pure vegetarians.
When we arrived in Male, we were greeted by the Ritz Carlton team just outside of the customs area, and taken to a restaurant called Secret Recipe to wait about 15 minutes till the boat arrived from the resort. We were supposed to share transfers with a Russian group arriving at the same time as our flight, but that flight landed early and the group left ahead of us. The Ritz Carlton does not have a lounge at the airport as most star properties do. Anything you eat or drink at the restaurant is taken care of by the Ritz Carlton. So as I ordered ice cream, the boat arrived and my ice cream was taken away and served to me on the boat.
We ended up having the boat to ourselves (both ways). A nice clean air-conditioned boat with a washroom and refreshments (granola bars, fruits, champagne, soft drinks, tea/coffee on offer). It took us about 45 minutes to get to the resort. The shared boat service is run by the Fari Marina village staff and shared between the Ritz Carlton, Patina and Capealla resorts (under construction).
Once at the resort, we were greeted by the wonderful staff and our Aris Meeha (butler) was waiting for us with a buggy at the jetty. We were given a property tour and taken to our seaside sunrise overwater villa. All 1-bedroom villas are the same at the property. Only the location of the room determines the price.
The resort is spread across 1.2 kilometres end-to-end across 3 islands, where the 2 flanking islands have rooms, with a central small island where the restaurants and the pool are located.
They have a recreation centre with gym, steam, sauna and tennis court, and a recreation room with a PS5, where I lost a couple of football matches against a member of the staff whom I requested to play with. The resort also has a huge kids’ area, but we didn’t go there.
Within the resort, you can either walk or take the bicycles provided with each room or call your butler to be transported by buggy anywhere around the island.
High tea was complimentary for all Marriott Bonvoy members from 4-5 pm resort time and Gold and above members also had cocktail hours from 5-6 pm at the Eau bar. The In-room Minibar is complimentary (non-alcoholic beverages+ snacks) and refilled once a day during turndown service in the evening.
The Ritz Carlton Maldives has 5 dining options:
- La Locanda is an Italian restaurant as well as an all-day cafe where breakfast is also served
- Beach Shack which is only open for lunch and serves multiple cuisines
- Arabesque which is the Lebanese and Indian restaurant which is located on a separate village attached to the Patina property (A 10-minute boat ride, frequency every hour)
- Iwau the Japanese teppanyaki restaurant
- Summer Pavilion the Cantonese inspired restaurant
- Eau bar (poolside bar)
We ate at all the restaurants and they did have a few vegetarian options to order from. We were introduced to an Indian chef at La Locanda who took care of our breakfast and dinner needs. We used to pre-order Indian breakfast (dosas,vadas, parantha etc. the previous night) apart from the widespread buffet options available.
All in all, we spent most of our time between the room and the beach and doing a couple of activities like a dolphin cruise and a photoshoot. Spa according to another Indian family we met was great, but we didn’t take spa treatments.
On our anniversary day, the hotel arranged for us a wonderful cake, along with a bubble bath setup.
We had all our meals as a-la-carte as none are included in points bookings, though the resort did offer half board at USD 265 + taxes per night per person.
The staff and service were really good. The hotel is into nature conservation so my wife wasn’t allowed to feed the fish as she did on our previous trip to the Maldives. Understandable as they don’t want to change their behaviour and make them used to be fed by humans.
All in all, it was a fun-filled trip, that just cost us a bit over 4.15 lakh rupees
- USD 1,250 for 100,000 points bought
- USD 1,356 for transport
- INR 35,000 air tickets (Vistara premium economy was 15% discounted via American Express and return was on Air India, partly paid with HDFC Bank Infinia points and the rest in cash)
- USD 2,100 in food and activities (out of which USD 1,350 was for food)
If converted to Indian rupees at INR 78 (that’s the final exchange rate I paid for $1250 for buying points), the value per American Express point/Marriott Bonvoy points is just north of INR 4. That is a massive redemption value.
(Editors Note: The Ritz Carlton Maldives will head to dynamic pricing effective March 29, 2022. If you want to book this resort before that, you should do so now.At this moment, Marriott Bonvoy is offering a buy miles promotion, where you get a 50% bonus when you buy miles by March 23, 2022. If you want to book a revenue rate, you should book via ClassicTravel, our partners. You will get Complimentary Breakfast for Two, a USD 100 Hotel Credit and Priority for complimentary room upgrade.)
Tell us about your success stories with scoring a great redemption, a fantastic hotel deal and everything in between. Please share it with us on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, and we will pick the best stories and publish them for everyone to be inspired.
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