Author Topic: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K  (Read 2730 times)

Offline IsraelGuy

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What can I say, Iím a sucker for photographs. Pictures of the W Koh Samui are what first got me interested in the miles game, and are what led to my first trip on miles to Thailand.



Pictures of the Park Hyatt Maldives brought us out to MLE...



Photos of Andaz Maui brought us on our first trip to Hawaii...



Pictures of Norway brought me out to the Lofoten Islands on a crazy one-man photoshoot (TR yet to be finished)...



Photos of Etihad A380 first class apartments had be chasing AUH to SYD...



...and of course pictures of BOB had me continuing that trip from Australia and New Zealand to French Polynesia (TR yet to come!)...




But last year when we went to French Polynesia none of the hotel options for BOB worked out, and neither did the flights, in part due to strikes from Air Tahiti. It was one of the first times the last minute game didnít play out for me, and we couldnít get all the way to BOB. We had read many places that Moorea was considered by some to be just as good (and by even a select few to be better), and was more ďfamily friendlyĒ, so we settled and decided to stay at this IHG Moorea instead of BOB. Moorea was fine, but it wasnít aspirational like BOB, and the service definitely wasnít great. I hoped that I would be able to make it back to try for the true FP/BOB experience I felt I missed out on, but didnít have any idea when that would be.
 
As many people who have been following hotel news for the last few years know the formed Hilton in BOB was undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation and rebranding as the Conrad Bora Bora Nui.



The appeal of traveling from the West Coast to BOB was also there, with just an 8hr LAX-PPT flight and a short 50m skip on Air Tahiti to Bora Bora, I felt like it was a prime time to take advantage. Having recently joined the real world with only a limited amount of time off a year, my vacation time in May, just a month after the official opening of the new Conrad, seemed to perfect a deal to pass up on. With a little bit of coaxing (read 6 months of begging) I was finally able to get my wife to agree to the trip a little over three weeks beforehand. It was the most in advance I had ever booked a vacation :)
 
Booking
Hotel
Since the Conrad was having a soft opening the first couple of months before their official opening in April, I noticed back in January they were offering a 45% off introductory rate. I booked a full 7 night stay not thinking I would actually be able to go and roughly guessing on the dates. The reservation was cancellable, but for some reason the offer was slightly cheaper through expedia than Hilton (by about $50-75/ night. Total the cost was ~350/night plus taxes -> ~450/night.  I decided to just book it on Expedia and save the extra cash rather than trying to book with Hilton directly and deal with the hassle of trying to get price matched, which they always seem to have some excuse for denying and usually donít end up working out for me. Big Mistake. I forgot the fact that when you book through a third party website you arenít guaranteed any status recognition or points for your stay. When I considered that my wife was Hilton Diamond at the time we booked and I was Hilton Gold, as the date approached I realized that extra cash was most likely forfeiting free breakfast, but more importantly it meant they didnít have to necessarily upgrade us which I was definitely worried about. This was problem one.
 
Second was the fact that I really wanted to use points for my stay and not pay cash. The hotel is Hilton Category Whatever which means its 80,000 points/night for base rooms and 400k some odd points for other rooms. Points availability was pretty sparse, and while I could have invested a lot of time and effort into accruing Hilton Points in the hopes that nights opened up I didnít really have the time or effort to do so. I booked one nights by points that I had (now easily pooled between my wifeís account and mine with the new feature of Hilton Honors allowing points pooling (which is amazing BTW), and topped off enough for a second night when it became available with the Hilton 100% purchased points promotion that was running at the time. The two award nights werenít consecutive, but we were able by calling the Conrad in BOB directly, to drop two of the nights in the middle of the stay when award nights became available. This effectively split our reservation into 5 separate stays:
Night 1 - Expedia rate
Night 2 - Award night
Night 3,4 - Expedia rate
Night 5 - Award night
Night 6,7 - Expedia Rate
Not that this mattered to the reservation desk, but this will play a part in things to comeÖ
 
Flight
Award flights to BOB have been covered extensively by about every travel blogger, but as a brief reminder the main options are AF using AF/Delta/Alaska miles, or Air Tahiti Nui using AA miles. This will get you to Papeete, the main airport in Tahiti, but then youíll need to take an Air Tahiti (not Nui) domestic flight from PPT-BOB, which typically runs ~$400/person.
 
The problem with flights to PPT is there are very limited flights from LAX-PPT, on the order of one/airline a day. And the times are always the same.
Air Tahiti Nui (TN) flies either in the afternoon getting in at 9:45 PM, or TN and Air France (AF) fly overnight at close to midnight getting in at ~5:30 AM. If you take the flight that gets in at 9:45 PM you have to overnight in PPT as there are no late flights PPT-BOB. So you lose a night there, and have to pay for a hotel. This makes the late night flight getting into PPT at 5:30 AM with a quick hop over to BOB ready to start the day a clear winner in my mind.
 
Coming back, TN flies at close to midnight, getting back into  LAX at ~11AM, and AF leaves at 7:30 AM getting into LAX at 6:30 PM. There are no flights early enough to get from BOB-PPT in time for the AF flight, which means you have to overnight in PPT the night before, again wasted time and cost of a hotel stay. This makes the TN flight on the return a clear winner.
 
We had flown Air Tahiti Nui the last time we went to French Polynesia, and except for a subtle misunderstanding of FAA child restraint systems (which I was quick to correct with my handy-dandy travel-sized AC 120-87C, found here), they were fine. But I had depleted all my AA miles, and seeing that I only had three weeks to fly, it didnít seem like there was enough time for a round of CC apps to try and cover the miles.
 
This basically pigeon-holed me into flying AF both ways, which was unfortunate given the forced overnight in PTT, but this actually ended up being a blessing in disguise in the end (read on!).
 
I could transfer points to AF and book economy (we made the decision that weíd rather save the extra miles for additional trips than go for business this time around) for a reasonable 30K points + ~100 Euros / person, but the return flights were pricing out at 60-90K points with saver space no longer available. I was a little bummed out, and had to do some digging.
 
Economy paid tickets were super reasonable on AF, at only around ~1200/pp. I realized that with a newly applied for Amex Biz Platinum for my wife she could use her MR points at 2c/pp to effectively secure a rate of ~60k RT pp with no taxes on ĎDeltaí code-sharing AF, her preferred airline. That was a pretty sweet deal, and we couldnít pass it up. We booked with MR (still awaiting the 50% points refund though), and finally had tickets to head to Bora Bora (at least mostly). I was super excited.
 
I booked flights on Air Tahiti - International rate is about 20,000 XPF (~$185) per person each way, which books you into a Y class ticket which includes 23kg/50lbs of luggage. You can also book a Z class ticket for about $40 more which gives you 46kg/100lbs. Little known fact is that if you book the tickets in French Polynesia you can get the resident rate which can be marginally cheaper. M class tickets run around 15,000 XPF (~$140) per person each way, so booking with this rate saves you about $180 on two people. Itís not huge, but itís something. It was suggested to me to just book the flights on arrival in Tahiti in order get resident rates, but I didnít want to risk not getting the flights I wanted because of last minute availability (thatís one of the reasons I didnít make it to BOB last time!). Anywhere there is a way to book resident rates even while in the US which I figured out, which book into M class tickets. They only come with 10kg of luggage per person though, and while there is some mention that if you connect from an international flight you may be allocated the full 50lbs, that isnít the rule so itís a YMMV type of situation. I figured I would still probably come out ahead with luggage fees and decided to gamble on the M class tickets.
 
There was still a ton of planning and prep to be done, but it looked like I was finally going to go on the BOB trip I had been dreaming of.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2017, 04:12:37 PM by IsraelGuy »

Offline Dan

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2017, 03:42:45 PM »
Nice start!
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline Emkay

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2017, 04:00:05 PM »


my handy-dandy travel-sized AC 120-87C, found here),

"Page not found"

Offline BarryLincoln

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2017, 04:00:36 PM »
Wow... incredible... really looking forward to the rest of this...

Offline IsraelGuy

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2017, 04:14:10 PM »

"Page not found"

Fixed. A pesky ) found its way into the url somehow

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2017, 04:23:36 PM »
Great start, looking forward to the rest.

Lovely pictures (except for the Lofoten one, you know I hate you for that).
Check out all my Trip Reports here!

Offline IsraelGuy

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2017, 04:59:09 PM »
Lovely pictures (except for the Lofoten one, you know I hate you for that).

Haha....even I didn't get weather that good...someone else's picture of course (as were most of the ones above-mine are yet to come :) )

Offline sam28

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2017, 10:30:20 AM »
wow great start love u pictures .

Offline etech0

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2017, 12:17:56 PM »
wow great start love u pictures .
+1
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Offline Yaalili

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2017, 03:20:41 PM »
Nice start!

+1, looking forward to the rest!

Offline LoLo

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2017, 05:53:32 PM »
Nice introduction.. looking forward to the rest.
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Offline Denverite

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2017, 06:25:41 PM »
Can't wait to hear the rest, I'm actually hoping to go on this exact trip next year (AF Y and Conrad on points).  What did they book you into for 80k at the Conrad?  Whenever I have looked they are only showing premium rooms and people on FT suggested its because they haven't finished their beach villas (which are their standard rooms) and only OWV's are showing.  I'd love to hear your direct comparison to Morea as we are considering that too (for the reasons you said about having to overnight in BOB and almost $1000 in extra plane fare).

Thanks for taking the time to write this up!

Offline IsraelGuy

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2017, 01:20:10 AM »
Can't wait to hear the rest, I'm actually hoping to go on this exact trip next year (AF Y and Conrad on points).  What did they book you into for 80k at the Conrad?  Whenever I have looked they are only showing premium rooms and people on FT suggested its because they haven't finished their beach villas (which are their standard rooms) and only OWV's are showing.  I'd love to hear your direct comparison to Morea as we are considering that too (for the reasons you said about having to overnight in BOB and almost $1000 in extra plane fare).

Thanks for taking the time to write this up!

Was booked into the Lagoon view rooms (of which there are three, they use mostly as daytime/ transition rooms). They're nice rooms but obviously it's great to get upgraded. Its not an automatic upgrade though, and it certainly looks like some 'unfortunate' souls ended up in those rooms (which they actually booked into). Talk on FT is true except as I just mentioned- all the horizon view and garden views are currently under construction, looks like it'll still be a few months until they're done at least. That being said some people had confirmed upgraded due to status prior to arrival, but as our status wasn't officially recognized we got no such confirmed upgrade, so technically we expected the Lagoon view, and they would have been well within their appropriate rules to keep us there. There are only 2 actual beach villas, and those actually are also a possibility as well. They were occupied while we were there, but honestly if you got upgraded to those I would have been fine with it. OWB is *slightly* overrated in my opinion, but there's essentially a 5/~50 chance you end up there. And expect those without any status to be there first.

My recs if OWB is a must
1) Get gold/ diamond status and make sure you book through Hilton
2) Pay to upgrade to OWB for the first night if you're only slightly willing to risk it. Very unlikely they would move you after the first night, but hey they still could.

As far as Moorea, people normally stay there for a couple nights because BOB is too expensive so they do 3 nights Moorea 3 nights BOB, something like that. Huge mistake. Do one place and do it right-go to BOB. I'm not one to sneeze at 1K, I understand some people can't really afford that, and that's fine, but if that's the case I would either get Barclay arrival points to pay for it, sell points for the cost, or delay the trip until you can do it right. I really wouldn't say travel to Moorea is worth it say over OGG or the like. Other option would be MLE with Sheraton - although I haven't personally stayed there so I can't vouch for it. Moorea is nice but none of the hotels would compare with the Conrad BOB-that's an experience you're only going to get in BOB/MLE/KSM and maybe a handful of other places.

At least that's my humble opinion. 

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Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2017, 04:14:04 AM »
Would a vpn get you the resident rates?