This week we recorded Frequent Miler on the Air in the air on the way home from the Passing the GUC adventure. As we flew away from the Maldives, whether or not we would return and how was at the top of mind, so this week’s show tackles that topic. Read on for recaps of this week’s trip, details about how we booked the parts and pieces, and what we may do differently in the future.
Frequent Miler on the Air
This week’s Frequent Miler on the Air is once again a bit different in the sense that we were in the air – this week’s show was recorded from KLM business class on our final leg of the Passing the GUC trip. Back to normal recordings next week!
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This week at Frequent Miler
Latest News from Passing the GUC: From the dog house to the delft house – Nick WINS Passing the GUC!
The two posts above — Carrie’s final “latest news” roundup post and Greg’s complete review of the Passing the GUC trip that took us from Washington DC to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the Maldives — close out many of the key details of our recent trip. My original plan was to use the Global Upgrade Certificates to fly to the Maldives since Air France flies there during normal times. However, with service to the Maldives temporarily cut, I settled on the United Arab Emirates as a place to get us “close enough” to still experience Le Meridien Maldives while having a lot of options to leverage things like outsized hotel point value (with the Prince Suite at the Grand Hyatt), activities booked with points (with the hot air balloon ride, F1 race track experience, and food tour), and a little extra adventure. I’d say things worked out for the best. We had a great time and it seemed like those following on Instagram did, too. Here’s to the next adventure!
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression and Le Meridien Maldives sure knows how to nail that first impression. Greg wrote this post well before we had a chance to sit down to breakfast with the general manager the day before departure, but things all made a lot more sense when we learned that the manager had built his career at Ritz-Carlton properties. He certainly seemed committed to bringing that level of service to the guest experience at Le Meridien and it shows in the staff. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the property is gorgeous and the snorkeling is excellent. After a few more days, I’ll say that I would like to see some more activities added, but I think they are working on that. A full-length review is coming soon with more details, but Greg’s first impression post accurately captures how we felt within a day of arrival (and that mostly lasted throughout our stay).
Greg definitely got the incognito upgrade at Le Meridien by not getting upgraded. While the layout of my sunset villa was identical (well, actually the mirror image but functionally identical), I would have gladly traded for the sunrise side of the west jetty. Greg noted that the surf on my side was rough; it was so rough that the one time I climbed down my ladder to get in the water and take video of a stingray nearby, I had to brace myself against the ladder and wrap my arm around it and the water still felt like it was pounding me into the ladder (in fact, the stingray seemed to get “stuck” in the current also). There was a public ladder to the water near Greg’s room on the sunrise side, so it was no problem to walk over and get in the water on that side, but I’d definitely go with sunrise side on the west jetty if I returned. I know that some say that the allure of an overwater villa fades once you’ve done it, but that’s not my experience – I can’t wait to do it again.
If you’ve watched this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, you know that Greg and I determined that we would only recommend the Maldives if the journey is part of the luxury. That is to say that if you will be excited to board the plane, it is worth the 20 or 30 or 40 hours it will take to get there. From the US it will likely be a minimum of 3 flights (at least one connection on the way to the Maldives plus the sea plane flight) or it may require even more. Add in layovers and it gets really long (from boarding the sea plane at Le Meridien to my home airport was about 48 hours on the way back). However, if that is time spent in the lap of luxury, you may consider the flights to be an integral part of your vacation. This post covers the most luxurious ways to get there using your miles.
I stacked some solid deals with shopping portal cash back and Viator, but after learning that Viator will let a tour operator cancel a booking and re-price the tour (higher) just days before an activity (they allow for it in their terms and conditions), I would be hesitant to count on them again. They simply don’t offer the expected buffer to protect against something like the last-minute cancellation I experienced, so there is no sense in paying the premium to book through them without the value-add of some type of protection for your booking.
We’ve had a lot to say about Le Meridien Maldives over the past week, but it’s not the only show in town. There are a number of other Marriott properties with overwater villas that can be booked with points. This post includes the full list and details for each. Personally, I’d love to try out the JW Marriott or the W — but Greg made a great point in conversations we had in asking whether they could possibly add double or triple the enjoyment over Le Meridien? That is to say that while I’m sure other properties add some luxury in finishings or furniture, do they add enough to justify the price difference? When Le Meridien inevitably jumps up in category, I think the other options will once again be worth considering (particularly in cases where the villas may offer a bit more privacy), but as long as it is sometimes possible to book 5 nights at Le Meridien for the cost of 1.5 nights at the other overwater options, I’d easily choose Le Meridien again.
That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Check back soon for this week’s last chance deals.