Intercontinental Moorea: Family Friendly Fun

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m pretty excited to talk about this today, simply because the Intercontinental was such an awesome stay.

I’ve told you guys previously that I have Platinum status (the second highest) with the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) simply because I hold their co-branded credit card. It’s got a $49 annual fee and gives you some pretty decent benefits. The sign up bonus from this card is also how I booked these nights, as detailed here.

Anyway, the benefits of being Platinum include early check-in, late check-out, a room upgrade, and a welcome amenity. That’s pretty cool, but there’s another oddball program out there specific to the Intercontinental Hotel called the Ambassador program.

Unlike every other program, this one you can purchase for $200, and it provides a host of benefits specifically at Intercontinental hotels. I’d been wavering on whether or not to purchase this, but on the day I was due to check-in, I went ahead and did it. (I’ll detail all the other benefits of the Ambassador program in a later post)

I’m so glad I did. You see, since I was booking my stay using points, I only qualified for the cheapest room available. That room, which goes for $300/night, is a hotel room in the main building.

With my status as a Platinum member, the hotel went ahead and upgraded me to a premium hotel room. This was about a $30/night difference. Not a huge deal, but pretty cool.

However, when I arrived, I wrote down my newly purchased Ambassador number on the check-in form, telling the reception clerk that I was indeed a Platinum Ambassador.

I kid you not, he gasped, starting typing furiously on his computer, and then swiftly disappeared to the back room.

When he came back, he handed me the key to my room, informing me that as a Platinum Ambassador, he’d gone ahead and upgraded me to their best available room, which was an entire bungalow with another private pool.

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These rooms go for about $600/night. That’s a difference of $1200 over the course of my three day stay, and an excellent return on the $250 investment in my status ($49 for the card and $200 for the Ambassador program).

I was floored. I thanked him profusely, loaded myself and my luggage (my backpack) into a golf cart, and I was off.

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The Intercontinental, while on the same island as the Hilton, is a totally different world. It’s on the opposite side, for one thing, and this hotel is much more…tropical.

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Where the Hilton was polished and pruned into perfection, the Intercontinental is a part of the environment, a fact you can see as wild animals climb the many lush trees. This hotel also houses a sea turtle recovery clinic and a dolphin program, both of which are free to check out as a hotel guest.

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How cool is that?

I really enjoyed my stay here. I dug the different vibe from the Hilton, and I’d have a hard time choosing between the two in the future. However, while the Hilton gave off a very romance-y honeymoon feeling, the Intercontinental seemed much more geared to families, and I saw a lot more kids here. The hotel is also a lot bigger, and takes a while to walk from place to place.

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I signed up for the themed buffet here too, since I was interested to see how the shows differed, and what kind of foods they would serve. The food was great- a traditional Polynesian barbecue, but you guys. It was the same show as the Hilton. Like, I don’t mean the same style. I mean the same exact performers came over two days later and did the exact same show at the Intercontinental. I was a little peeved, I’m not going to lie. At nearly $100 for dinner I felt a little gypped, and sat sulkily on my phone for a fair bit of it.

That is, until the lead dancer took advantage of my inattentiveness and pulled me on stage to dance. Luckily there was no one there to film it, so my poorly performed Polynesian dance is forever lost to history.

Next up- the benefits of the Ambassador program!

-Carissa “Platinum Ambassador” Rawson

 

The Hilton Moorea: Honeymooners and Romance

Hello Dear Readers!

As you know, I’ve just spent the last few days on the island of Moorea, in some of the best hotels I’ve ever seen. My trip overall was very relaxing- I got up every day, hung out at the pool, swam in the ocean, and generally enjoyed so much needed downtime.

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It’s absolutely stunning

Today’s post is going to focus on the Hilton Moorea, my first hotel on the island. I broke down before how I booked it, but to summarize, I used Chase’s travel portal to book the hotel. This is because the price was $772 for two nights, as opposed to $1500 on Hilton’s own website. (Chase acts as a third party booking site, much like Priceline.) I also used my Chase Ultimate Rewards to pay for it, which can be redeemed at a value of 1.5 cents per point (if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve), meaning I spent just over 50,000 points for the two nights.

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Now, since I booked on Chase I wasn’t able to receive any of my Diamond benefits, but I figured the $700 price difference was worth missing out on late check-out and a room upgrade. They even gave me an upgrade anyway, simply because they didn’t have the room I had originally paid for.

 

Let me tell you, this place was fantastic. They have hotel rooms, but I booked a bungalow with my own private pool, which is luxury at its finest.

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My first thought upon reaching the Hilton was “pristine.” This hotel, costing $700/night, can afford to care for every detail. It’s also a very small resort, with only about 100 rooms. It’s got a number of overwater villas (which I didn’t pay for) and lends out free snorkeling/kayaking/paddle boarding equipment to enjoy at the water.

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My biggest gripe with these hotels is the price they charge for everything. Like, I get it, they expect someone who’s staying here to be down with paying $17 for a cocktail, but I most certainly am not. Luckily, my breakfast was included with my room rate, and I’ve always got bunches of food squirreled away in my bag in case of situations like this.

I did treat myself once to the traditional Polynesian dance show and buffet, which the concierge informed me was available for a “nominal” fee of $87. (Gag).

The show was really cool:

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My second biggest gripe was that I was the sole lone traveler, a fact which apparently boggled the mind of everyone there. This is definitely a honeymoon destination, so be prepared to face lots of questions if you show up without someone on your arm.

Overall I really enjoyed my stay at the Hilton, and absolutely plan to come back here.

I mean seriously, who wouldn’t?

-Carissa “No, That’s a Table For One” Rawson

Pure Paradise: French Polynesia

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from my new favorite country, French Polynesia, where the water is blue and the beaches are pristine. Like I’ve mentioned before, my stay here is taking place across two different hotels: the Hilton Moorea, and the Intercontinental Moorea, both of which are utterly gorgeous and deserving of heaps of praise. To that end, I’ll be writing about them separately, both their positive and negative aspects, and which I’d rather visit again (it’s a tough call!).

My flight here from Los Angeles was as painless as can be. I’ve now stripped my travel gear down to a single backpack and tote bag, so I had nothing to check. Thus, I checked in online, waltzed through security, and hung out in a lounge until the very last minute when I boarded my flight. This was only my second flight with Air France, and I’m always tickled pink by the teeny baguettes that they pass out during the meals.

Less awesome was the fact that my flight in Tahiti landed at 4am. Now, I’m going to go ahead and admit to you all that I had no excuse for being unprepared, but I did almost no research to figure out how to get to Moorea.

No joke, my knowledge was like: “Uhhh, isn’t Moorea a different island? Do I need a ferry?”

The answer to that is yes. You do need to take a ferry. But first, you need to get to the ferry. When I asked the woman at information, she told me to take the bus “that way” (pointing to the left) “to the market, then get off and walk.”

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But first, bask in my photography skills. Ooh. 

Seriously, those were my instructions. So, I headed up in the pitch-black (it was about 4:30am) to the bus stop, waited for fifteen minutes on the wrong side, then another fifteen minutes on the correct side after I realized the bus I wanted had just driven by.

I finally made it on the bus, which looks like many of the buses we have in the US. That is: decrepit, worn down, and utterly devoid of information. Obviously, I was already supposed to know where I was going, and nobody spoke any English to help me.

At this point, my plan was to look out the window and, like, hope that I’d see something resembling a market so I’d know when to get off.

It didn’t exactly work like that. After about twenty minutes, I noticed we seemed to be heading into some sort of downtown, and at one particular stop a ton of people got off. I took that as my cue and disembarked, where I found, to my immense surprise, that I was right!

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So, so right.

I even managed to find my way to the ferry, where I purchased a ticket to Moorea, and spent the next two hours drinking an extremely French cappuccino and paying 4 euro for access to internet. Boo.

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My first glimpse of Moorea

Next post is the Hilton Moorea- see you guys soon!

-Carissa “Seriously Why Aren’t I Tan” Rawson

A Tahitian Paradise

Hello Dear Readers!

So, I’ve come to admit that I…*may*…have a bit of a traveling addiction. One of my first posts on this website detailed my schedule for the upcoming year, and back in January I thought my schedule was jam-packed.

Well…I’ve since added a few new trips, the most recent of which is a five night stay in Tahiti. You may wonder why/where I get my ideas for travel, and honestly it’s an amalgamation of flight sales that I find, good opportunities for reward points redemptions, and sometimes even just places I want to go.

So how did I come to the idea of Tahiti? Well, I’ve mentioned before that American Express has offers that it passes out, some of which come in the form of a statement credit, some in the form of bonus points, etc. A couple months ago, they came out with an offer that gave you 20,000 membership reward points if you spent $1,000 on Air France. I’ve gotten a similar offer to this before (Spend $1,000 on Japan Airlines for 20k bonus points), and I’d been sitting on this offer for a while. I actually received it on a few different cards, but I obviously don’t have multiple thousands of dollars to be throwing around.

Anyway, it was the final day for the offer, and I’d been chewing on some different ways I could use it. Scrolling through Air France’s website, however, I saw that they had a monthly special on direct flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti for a cool $1000 round-trip. So, redeeming this offer, I bought the ticket and received 25,000 total membership rewards points (including the bonus categories rewards for purchasing airfare), which equals- at the minimum- $500 worth of airfare on American Express. I can also transfer it to other partners in order to get better value for my points, but I usually prefer to keep things simple.

Having booked my flights, I needed to find a place to stay. In case you didn’t know this, Tahiti happens to be…fairly expensive. However, there are quite a few different hotels out there, so I had plenty of options.

Hotels

Hilton Moorea

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You all know that I’m very partial to Hilton hotels, (It’s the status, really) so the first place I looked was at the Hilton website. Well…it’s not cheap. The Hilton Moorea is currently going for $1500 for a two night stay:

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However, there are often times when the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal will offer you lower rates on the hotel than the hotel website itself. Such was the case of the Hilton Moorea, where after much searching I found the same 1000sq ft bungalow pictured above on Hilton’s website for a mere $677 for two nights. ($772 after taxes) That’s a savings of 54% off the original price. (This works much the same way as Priceline, in that you get a discounted room rate by booking through a third party.) Even better, however, is that Chase allows you to redeem Ultimate Reward points at a value of 1.5 cents each if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, meaning that the two nights only ended up being 52,000 points total.

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For reference, the total amount of points required to redeem on Hilton’s website is 396,000.

Since the Hilton was such a splurge, I didn’t want to stay more than the two nights. Thus, I needed three more somewhere else, but where?

Intercontinental Moorea

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The next hotel I looked at was the Intercontinental Moorea. Again, there are tons of hotels in the area, but this one had the benefit of being amazing and also near to the Hilton, so my transportation between the two wouldn’t be a problem. Paid rates for a room here for three nights equal out to about $1000:

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However, back in January, I got the IHG credit card by Chase. Its sign-up bonus is 60k points after 1k spend in the first 90 days, and after my spend was done, I had a total of 70k points sitting in my account. The Intercontinental Moorea is redeemable for a total of 40,000 points a night, or you can use a combination of points + cash in order to redeem a stay. IHG works differently than other hotel chains with its cash + points offers, in that it has you “buy” points at a reduced rate and then make a full award redemption, as you can see below:

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The combination I chose was points + cash, in which I spent 80,000 points and $200 in cash for all three nights. Since I was 10,000 points shy of the 80,000 I needed, I transferred over points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to cover the difference. And then I booked my room! So, all told, I’ll be staying a total of five nights in Tahiti, at some really awesome hotels. My costs are as follows:

Costs
Flight: $1,038
Hotels: $200
-Total Cost: $1,238

In return, I am earning 25,000 American Express rewards points, which equal out to at least $500 worth of airfare. In addition, I’ll be earning thousands of Flying Blue miles on Air France, which I’ll put to use when I move to Scotland later this year.

Were I to pay completely out of pocket, my total would be this:

Costs
Flight: $1,038
Hotels: $2499 ($1511 for the Hilton, and $988 for the Intercontinental)
-Total Cost: $3,537

That’s 65% off! I’m pretty excited, as I’ve heard amazing things about both of these hotels.

Also, have you guys looked at the map of Tahiti?

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Looks remote enough for me!

-Carissa “Basically living on a beach” Ragland