Hotel Review: Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa

I primarily chose the Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa because we just barely had enough points to book it!  It would have otherwise been way out of our league financially!  Mauritius is overall an expensive place to visit.  Here is an example of what it costs on the example night – May 9, 2015.

MRU HiltonThe cash & points rate wasn’t available on our date last Nov so we had to pay 40,000 points each, booking one night from both my account and my husband’s.  The location is excellent, right on the beach just outside of Flic en Flac and was the closest free-on-points hotel to our main target of the Black River Gorges National Park.

This hotel was closed for several months last year while it was being renovated.  I can’t speak to how it was before but it certainly is very impressive now!

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Lobby area

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Our room had a mini bar right as you come in.

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Very nice artwork and the beds were very comfortable.

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The bathroom was crisp and modern looking with really nice toiletries.

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We didn’t have much time to inspect the room as there was a Sega Show that night.  The dancers were ok.  I was expecting a longer show with costume changes but it was still good fun.

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The next morning we had a chance for quick birding around the hotel.  We had a view of the restaurant.  We could have had an ocean view but the room offered was so far away it was exhausting to walk back and forth so I asked to be closer to the main hotel facilities. I knew we wouldn’t be around much to sit and look at the ocean anyway.

IMG_4604 IMG_4605 IMG_4607 IMG_4608 IMG_4609 IMG_4611 IMG_4614After a full day out visiting Chamarel & Black River Gorges, we had time for a quick swim and to watch the sunset, which was spectacular!

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There is a list of activities near the pool.IMG_4830 IMG_4831 IMG_4832 IMG_4834I thought the hotel was stunning!  The one problem is that everything associated with it, restaurants & room service was really expensive.  There wasn’t even a happy hour so I was NOT happy!  I guess it’s just one of the hazards of “traveling above my means”.  This is a really posh hotel and we felt like we were out of our league.  The typical clientele here wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the F&B prices.  We ended up going into town for dinner the first night and bring food and drink from the supermarket home the 2nd night which we supplemented by ordering one dish from room service to share.

If you are otherwise affluent, even if you are into miles & points, you will probably love this hotel.

Using Points To Stay In Mauritius

Any way you look at it, Mauritius is not a cheap place to stay, even on points!  Only 4 hotel chains are represented here so you don’t have a lot of options.  If you have gotten hotel points via credit cards, these could be a great use of the points as cash rates are very high.  For the examples below, I did a quote for 1 night Saturday 9 May.

ACCOR LE CLUB

With Accor, every 2,000 points acquired results in €40 off your bill. If you have enough points your stay could be free, or simply pay the remaining balance using your credit card.  For the first hotel you would need 24,000 Le Club points and 12,000 points for the 2nd one.  You have to add taxes to the rates below.   MRU Sofitel

HILTON HONORS

There is only one Hilton property in Mauritius and if you can snag a capacity controlled cash&points award this can be a really good deal! MRU HiltonIHG REWARDS

The Intercontinental would be an excellent use of a Chase free night certificate!  They also have a new hotel near the airport which could be a good idea if you have an early flight out.  The traffic can be horrendous!

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Cash & Points looks like a pretty good deal!

MRU SPGBOOK NON-CHAIN HOTEL & EARN MILES

If you don’t have enough hotel points or prefer to pay cash, there are lots of options on both Pointshound & Rocket Miles that allow you to earn in a wide choice of airline programs.  If you use the links I posted, you and I both get a bonus after you complete your first booking.  This is currently 1000 miles!

 

A Major Weedout Of Hotel Programs

If you saw yesterday’s post about the Radisson Blu in Port Elizabeth, you got a general idea of how having the right credit card can save you lots of money on accomodation.  Mainstream travelers who mostly visit cities have a huge advantage over eco-tourists because they tend to stay in one city for a couple days at least.  Maximizing the Club Carlson Visa assumes you want to stay in one hotel for at least 2 days.  There are a few places around the world where there are good birding sites within a short drive of a Club Carlson property so you can take advantage of the freebies and not waste your time in a city when you would rather be in a rainforest lodge.  The example of Port Elizabeth with the day trip to Birds of Eden is one such example, Panama City is another and I really saved a bundle in Tahiti when we had to wait 2 days for the next flight to Rimatara to see the beautiful Rimatara Lorikeets.  We also made good use of the “get one night free” during our travels in Israel & Europe before we went to Tenerife for the World Parrot Conference at Loro Parque.

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WHY DID I HAVE ALL THESE HOTEL POINTS ANYWAY?

Although I am by nature a “free agent” and prefer to choose hotels by location and convenience, not because of loyalty to one chain; between 2009-2011 I found myself a member of just about every hotel program in the book.  Why?  Because I wanted “hits” in the US Airways Grand Slam promo.  This was the cheapest way to get a large number of miles with very little extra cost over what I would normally pay for something.  I did direct a lot of our discretionary stays to these programs to get these “hits”.

Fast forward to 2012.  Everyone in the miles & points community was expecting Grand Slam to happen again in the usual time of Sept-Nov.  We painstakingly did surveys, played Facebook games and did Foursquare “check-ins” to get free hotel points.   Well guess what?  2012 came and went and no Grand Slam.  2013 came and went, still no Grand Slam.  And now US and AA are merging so there won’t ever be a Grand Slam again.  I had all these hotel points and had to do something with them.

Since we usually stay in small eco-lodges in remote locations, we have very little use for hotel points other than what has been mentioned above.  Mostly we use them at airports before or after a flight.  After several devaluations were announced, I knew I had to spend these points asap before they were totally worthless.

2014 was my year for massive burning of hotel points.  100,000’s of Club Carlson were used as above.  100,000’s of IHG Rewards were burned in French Polynesia, Israel & Africa (actually this includes the annual Chase free night certificate).  I used E-Rewards to top up Hilton just enough to get us 2 free nights in Mauritius and used Choice for one night pre-cruise at the Comfort Inn Diana in Venice, then sent the remaining points to United Airlines.  Now here I am at the end of 2014 and the only hotel points I have left are about 25k in Club Carlson, 30k in IHG and about 12k in La Quinta from the Facebook game last year.

MAKING THE DECISION – WHO STAYS AND WHO GOES

Looking to 2015 and beyond, I now need to assess which hotel programs (if any) I will keep.  I also need to know which hotel credit cards to get rid of.  To do this, I used two maps made by Drew at Travel is Free.  One for Club Carlson and one for IHG.

1. IHG is a keeper for the long run.  The $49 for the card which gets a free night certificate is easily worth it.  In any given year, we would need at least one stay at an airport hotel and IHG serves this market well.  They have properties at most of the gateway cities we would be transiting to get to eco-lodges.

2.  La Quinta is easy, there is one near my Mom’s house so I know what to do with them.

3.  Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice, Best Western & Wyndham are either zeroed out or have a few orphaned points (less than 1000) and we won’t be needing any of these chains for the foreseeable future.

4.  SPG is more valuable for airline transfers into otherwise difficult programs such as Flying Blue.  I have the credit card because of the bonus but never use it because they have no category bonuses and they charge forex fees.  Plus I can use my Aussie Amex to transfer into SPG so this card can go, but I will keep my SPG account active.

5.  My Club Carlson Visa also comes up for renewal next month – $50 since I only have the basic card (silver status) not the more expensive one that gets gold status.  Using Drew’s maps, I can easily see that the only places I want to go to that have Club Carlson properties are Puerto Rico and Trinidad.  I can see spending 2 nights at the Puerto Rico one as it is within easy driving distance of El Yunque National Forest and the value of 2 nights is easily more than the $50 fee.  This trip is planned for mid 2016 so will be bookable in Oct this year.  In Trinidad, a trip planned for 2018, I would much prefer to stay at the Asa Wright Centre’s Lodge for the superb birding, even though it costs more than paying the card fee for 2 more years would cost.  So the verdict is keep this card one more year, then cancel it.

SO WHERE WILL I BE BOOKING HOTELS?

By the end of next year, I will be down to only one program – IHG for the annual Chase certificate.  SPG doesn’t count as it will be used for airline miles, not hotels.  The best thing for me to do moving forward is use the hotel booking engines that GIVE airline miles, not COST hotel points.  No more being stuck at inconvenient locations just to get a free night!  On the plus side, many eco-lodges also can be booked with these engines.

POINTSHOUND – I use it for AA or Flying Blue miles.  Has a wider variety of hotels than Rocketmiles and cheaper options.  Using my referral link gets us both 250-1000 miles depending on what promo they are running.

ROCKETMILES – larger miles payouts but limited selection and sometimes hotels cost more so check carefully.  Good for United or Flying Blue miles.  Using my referral link gets us both a 1000 miles bonus.

HOTELS.COM – used if I would rather get 10 nights for one free night (value is average expenditure for the 10 paid nights).  For example if we have 5 nights at a $150 hotel, 3 nights at a $50 hotel and 2 nights at a $100 hotel the total we spent for the 10 nights is $1100.  The average for the 10 nights is $110 so that is the maximum value of my free night.  It’s best to get as close as possible to that maximum value as you don’t get any left over value.  If you choose a $125 hotel you pay the difference of $15.  If you choose a $95 hotel, you forfeit the balance of the free night value of $15.  You can always maximize by booking a larger/better room or a bed & breakfast rate.  Sometimes they have good 5x bonuses in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall or Shop with Chase as they call it now.  I haven’t seen a referral program for this company.

BOTTOM LINE

Having a good idea of where you want to travel in the next few years or even having a bucket list of ALL the places you want to go if you either get the miles or win the lottery helps you make wise choices in which hotel programs (if any) to participate in.

 

 

Just Returned From Africa – Exhausted But Exhilirated

This trip has been in the works for over a year and was originally planned for late 2015 and referred to as “The Mother of all African Adventures“.   I decided to bring it forward to Nov 2014 because it relied heavily on United Mileage Plus and I had concerns that a devaluation could either make the trip impossible or knock us back to economy and since these flights were really long I wanted business class.  I was also afraid that a change to United’s generous routing rules (better explained by Drew at Travel is Free) would kill my planned stopovers.  This routing required both an open jaw and a stop-over and cost 320,000 miles in J class for both tickets.

United redemption on BR, CA, SA, ET & TG

I used British Airways Avios for some local routes on their South African partner, Comair.

Avios redemptions

The only paid ticket was Air Austral from MRU to TNR.  The only way to get this route with miles is Flying Blue on Air Mauritius but the taxes make it poor value since it is not easy to get Flying Blue miles.  Also, they didn’t fly on a Monday and I had no flexibility as I had specific places to go birding in Madagascar.  I could have flown Air Madagascar but they have had so many problems with flight cancellations and long delays, I chose not to take the risk and went with Air Austral via Reunion.

Air Austral route

I did make great use of Flying Blue miles on Kenya Airways to get from Madagascar to Ghana, 35,000 for both of us!

Flying Blue redemption on KQ

HOTELS

Although most of the accommodation was in birding or safari lodges, I did burn through a bunch of hotel points in cities to keep costs down.

Port Elizabeth – Radisson Blu 38,000 points for 2 nights

JNB Airport – Intercontinental used Chase annual free night

Mauritius – Used Hilton Honors 40,000 points from each of our accounts for 2 nights at this newly renovated property.

Accra – Used IHG Rewards 20,000 per night for 1 night upon arrival and 2 nights post birding in Kakum for a birding day trip to Shai Hills.

Of course I will be blogging in detail about the travel and the fabulous birds we saw over the next couple months!