Booked: St. Regis Bora Bora for 48K / night

Back in April when Greg and I attended the “new” Marriott launch event in New York, we reported that we were told that all properties would define a standard room under the new award chart, doing away with the notion of the “off-the-chart” properties in Starwood Preferred Guest. Many people doubted that this could possibly be true — and for good reason. Under the Starwood program, these properties often charged the equivalent of 270,000 Marriott points per night or more. Suggesting that they would cost just 60K Marriott points per night — or 48K after a 5th night free — seemed far-fetched. But sure enough, when the new award chart came out it was confirmed that all of those properties had a place on the new chart. When the programs combined, chaos ensued and the off-the-chart properties were mostly unbookable on points at standard rates. Then, some properties slowly became bookable — though, as we expected, availability has been tight. Yesterday morning, I was lamenting the fact that I saved points for an off-the-chart booking, thinking I should have gone with one more travel package. By last night, my feelings on the topic changed when I successfully booked the St. Regis Bora Bora for 48,000 Marriott points per night.

 

Under the new combined system, there is no doubt that things have been wonky. That is especially true for anything involving a legacy SPG property. People have had difficulty (or outright failure) in doing things like reserving rooms, applying suite night awards, using travel package certificates, using free night certificates, getting refunds for cancelled rooms, etc. Quick piece of advice: if you have anything you want to do with an SPG property that doesn’t need to be done right away, just wait. Same goes for the refunds for those who got a raw deal on travel package conversions. Give it another month or two if you can and save yourself hours of headache.

However, if you’re looking to book rooms at the top-tier properties, you’ll need to be positioned to strike while the iron is hot. And it’s neither easy nor without frustration.

For example, yesterday I was on Marriott.com repeatedly searching for availability at the St. Regis Bora Bora for a 5-night stay (in order to pay 240K points total for 5 nights). Most of the time, I saw this when searching:

However, suddenly the skies parted and the stars aligned and I happened upon a set of dates where I instead saw the average cost-per-night of 48K points. When I clicked on the property to view rooms (and presumably book), it brought me to SPG.com, where neither a room on points (nor the low cash rate shown on Marriott.com) showed up. I decided to try my luck calling. Expectations were low as I’d gone through this once before without success. I got through to what may be the most enthusiastic customer service representative I have ever encountered. When she saw no availability on the dates I gave her, she let me know that she was throwing my Platinum status in her computer’s face (her words, not mine) to let it know that I deserve better than this and she was checking some other systems to see what she could find. She eventually came back with a total of more than 900,000 points for 5 nights. Recognizing that I’d be a little short for that, she continued to search and eventually settled on the fact that I could book 2 nights for 270,000 points and she thought I should really consider doing that right away. I politely declined and ended the call.

For the record, I did check those same dates in the Marriott app and the app did not show availability for award rooms. I mention this because those who read the post last week about some of the SPG properties being bookable via the app will remember that the trick to booking the top-end places seems to be using the Marriott app. For some reason, neither the SPG app nor the website shows the same availability you can find in the app. In this case, the app didn’t show any availability, so I didn’t fully expect to be able to book it over the phone.

I was disappointed, but not surprised. Throughout the evening, I kept searching on and off for different sets of dates. At one point, I started searching the same sets of dates again and again. Nada.

Then, late last night I pulled up the app and tried the last set of dates I’d previously searched — I didn’t change anything from the last search I had executed. I sat up quickly when I saw the screen shot above showing 48,000 points per night. I clicked it, not totally expecting it to work. I was pretty excited when I got to the checkout page and saw this:

Of note: based on searches after booking, I think the Marriott app will redirect you to the SPG website instead of moving to checkout if you do not have enough points on the Marriott side to book the reservation.

Those who read my earlier post about booking via the Marriott app might remember that I initially said you may want to consider booking on an Apple device because on the Android version of the app, this is the cancellation policy I was seeing on all properties:

Yet Greg’s iPhone was showing the normal cancellation deadline of about 1 month in advance on many of these top-shelf properties. I updated that earlier post when a reader confirmed that they booked via the Android app but the email confirmation still showed the correct cancellation deadline of about a month in advance.

Based on that reader comment, even though I was on my Android phone and it said that the booking would be nonrefundable, I went ahead and hit “book now” without thinking too hard about it. My joy went to immediate panic when I saw this:

The 240,000 points sounded great — but, wait — plus 304,584.10 XPF?!? That’s about three thousand dollars. Did I miss something?? I had clicked “book now” quickly, but could I have missed a cash co-pay of three grand? My first thought was that my wife was going to kill me if that was true and it was really nonrefundable.

Thankfully, it turned out to just be another wonky “new Marriott” quirk. When I pulled up the reservation later on Marriott.com, it had no such 300,000 XPF charge. The Boat Transfer fee is higher than what was quoted during the booking process, but that’s less of a concern at the moment.

Further, as you can see at the bottom, the booking isn’t nonrefundable — I have until a month in advance to cancel.

For those trying to figure out which room type to search at this property, based on what I’ve seen elsewhere and my experience here, you’re looking for the one-bedroom reefside pool villa, nonsmoking, King bed. It’s not an overwater villa, but it is listed as 2,700 square feet. Based on this screen shot from the Marriott app, I think I can make that work for 5 nights.

Bottom line

If you’re looking to book top-tier properties like the St. Regis Bora Bora, the Marriott app continues to be the way to do so. Availability is not easy to come by. I’ve been searching and searching and I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you, too, are looking for an off-the-chart property, the Marriott app continues to be your best bet in finding one. Be aware that the process still may not be smooth — the app may not show the right cancellation policy and may show inaccurate additional charges. It’s also worth noting that I did not receive an email confirmation — I had to log into my account and manually request the confirmation email. However, I’ll take those inconveniences for the payout of a week in paradise that I never thought I’d book.

My next question is: will suite night upgrades be an option here? I might have to go for 50 nights this year after all . . .

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Kimbra
Guest
Kimbra

Glad u trusted my Android feedback and booked it! Confirmations shows everything correct! Now if I can only find availability for my 5th night there. Now you can work on airfare. Curious which month u snagged 5 nights? Aug with new inventory added?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Suite night awards do not work here and they don’t work at any all suite properties. Try emailing the GM. He’s very helpful with upgrades

MissVacation
Guest
MissVacation

Finally, after 4 straight days of checking and calling, I was shocked when the representative said 120K for two nights and I booked right away. Even the app doesn’t show award availability. Can’t wait to go back to French Polynesia!

Rupa
Guest
Rupa

What are the dates that you book the stay at St. Regis Bora Bora?

Christian
Guest
Christian

Did you do flights first?

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

yes, I am curious about the same. What’s your flight option, Nick? I searched and it costs literally nearly $2000/person for me to fly in Feb (winter break). I don’t know how to redeem points (assume I have that many pts) either. Can’t afford that for a four-people family…

vmompoint
Guest
vmompoint

Not sure where you’re flying from, but search skyteam airlines, specifically Delta, Air France, KLM out of LAX or SFO to PPT. You may repeat the same search if you prefer United. Should be under $1K/pp from the the West coast.

Erika
Guest
Erika

I booked five nights at the St regis at the end of may with pts. I am flying there with KLM for 35K points per person (transferred amex points) in economy and back on air tahiti nui also in economy (booked with AA miles for 40K per person). THere weren’t a ton of flights becuase the calendar appears limited, but I found good availability in economy. American told me I could upgrade to business if availability pops up.

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

Congratulations!
Now prepare to fly thousands of miles to be bored out of your mind after day 2.
It may just be me, but I feel like Thirsten Howell III after 48 hours

Credit
Guest
Credit

I agree. And pay through your nose for food.

Wannabe 1%ers try to emulate the real 1%. They forget 1% has so much illicit money they have to get rid of it even on mindless expenses voila Bora Bora.

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

Credit,
I resemble that remark, sans the illicit money. But, it’s Gary’s fault for getting me started by writing about the Park Hyatt Maldives.

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

Congraz, Nick. I wish I have that many points.

DSK
Guest
DSK

Congratulations Nick! Didn’t think it was possible. Tried, tried, and tried again on the St. Regis but gave up. Instead, I just booked 5 nights at the Conrad Bora Bora for 320,000 Hilton points, plus Le Meridian Tahiti for 2 nights for 70,000 Marriott points, with travel from Newark for 56,000 United miles round trip (put in upgrade space alerts on ExpertFlyer). I will hopefully get some type of an upgrade at the Conrad due to Diamond status through Aspire and will try to use two SNUs at the Le Meridian. Glad you were able to make it work.

MissVacation
Guest
MissVacation

I called every day to check availability and finally got 2 nights at 60K each yesterday! Travel dates are early March 🙂 Then, I reached out to the hotel for a quote to upgrade to an overwater bungalow which was a great deal!

Corridor
Guest
Corridor

What were you quoted for an upgrade to the OWB?

Erika
Guest
Erika

The upgrade prices are insane. I had to upgrade from the reefside villa to a beachfront villa for one night in the middle of my stay due to availability (other four nights are at the reefside villa, which is the base room) and that cost 80,000 points (so 130,000 total for s single night). And that isn’t even the base overwater villa (as far as I can tell, its identical to the reefside. . . )

TMouse
Guest
TMouse

Has anyone had success getting a refund for these places that were booked premerger? My st regis maldives stay is 1 million points that was booked pre merger when now it should only be 340k total. Have called many times, was told Ill get refund at check in. Emailed, really really rude spg guy called me and told me that im not entitled to any kind of refund. I want my 720k points back.

Jimm
Guest
Jimm

Called in to Marriott Rewards since the cost of my stay was now 15,000 points less after the merge and I wanted a refund of the difference. Rep was super helpful and I got all my points for the reservation/stay refunded (120,000 pts), then the rep was going to reapply at the lower rate (105,000 pts). The points could not be re-applied right at that moment because the system was down, so I now have all the points sitting in my account, and my reservation is still intact. I just need to call back and have them apply the points at the current lower rate. Also, I got 8000 in a goodwill adjustment for all my trouble up to this point straightening out other issues with my points. Took me about 3-4 hours total on the phone with them.

Btw, when I called in, they were looking by default at my SPG account. I had to tell them it was under my Marriott account. That makes me think the Marriott Rewards call centers are handling both Marriott and SPG now… At least worth a try – maybe they’ll be more helpful? Might also get a goodwill adjustment for your trouble…

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Cancel the reservation then and re-reserve it at new prices.

Corridor
Guest
Corridor

We just cancelled 2 nights at Al Maha Dubai last night. All the points went directly back into the account. 210k Marriott points for each night.

trackback

[…] able to find a hidden value if you know where to look. Nick from Frequent Miler managed to snag a 5 night stay at the St. Regis in Bora Bora for 48,000 Marriott points a night. Not bad considering  the Swan or Dolphin at Disney would cost 40,000 points per night for a 5 […]

Okijames
Guest
Okijames

FWIW my wife and I did a 10night stay in 2016 when Starwood offered a discount (35% off or some such). We stayed in a reefside villa (the picture is exactly as I remember) and, while initially disappointed it wasn’t an over-water-bungalow, we quickly grew to love added square footage, private pool, and privacy in general. Snorkeling in the reef, accessible via a gate through the property’s backyard (larger than my backyard at home, and looks out over a barrier reef to the open ocean) was more fun than the man-made lagoon/aquarium. Due to a mix of boredom, curiosity, and a gut need to do it; I booked an over-water-bungalow for one night during our stay. It was nice, scratched the experiential itch, but we agreed on preferring the larger villa.

A few recommendations:
-Bring all the wine, booze, and snacks as you might take for a glamping trip. I used 12pk wine shipping box filled with wine, whiskey, vodka, and snacks. We went through it ALL of it faster than expected. The restaurant is wonderful but the wine is too young and overpriced but their corkage charge is within expectations. Post dinner, most nights were spent sipping cocktails at our pool, watching/listening to the waves breaking on the reef.
-Try the outdoor shower, it had much better water pressure than the indoor rainhead. You may have to muscle the sliding door to get outside, I initially thought it was locked when it was simply difficult to move. Our’s was a wood-on-wood slider, so I lubed the wood track with hand lotion, problem solved.
-Tip your butler early and often! We received a treat nearly every day, and frequent bottles of very respectable French Champaign. Maybe everyone receives this treatment, but we definitely felt extra pampered.
-Have a backup plan in case of weather issues. We had a 2-3day stretch of POURING rain and “survived” on butler supplied Champaign, our snack box, and binge-watched something I can’t recall on Netflix. I have a VPN for for Netflix, but IIRC did not need it in Bora Bora. I recommend setting one up just in case.
-Jetski around the island = fun and gives you a feel for how small Bora Bora really is, and more fun than the helicopter tour but do that too. A jeep tour was also fun, and offered an interesting and positive history of Bora Bora and the US military base build during WW2. Spoiler alert, among other infrastructure US Navy Seebees built the airstrip used as the airport to this day.

Erika
Guest
Erika

How expensive are the jetski rentals?

trackback

[…] Another round trip ANA booking is tempting, but regular readers will also know that I recently booked a stay next year at the St. Regis Bora Bora. I also booked a Marriott Travel Package week at the Domes of Elounda next year. Greg is an […]