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Wizmanison's Kauai TR 2017 If anyone is interested in my TR for Kauai:

Found myself booking a last minute, 5 night, Labor Day weekend trip to Hawaii.

Stayed 5 nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort. This hotel is absolutely stunning right from the entrance with several pools, a lazy river, a man made beach, as well as access to their private beach, tennis courts, spa and gym, as well as several other amenities.
Here are some pics of the above mentioned areas

A drone pic I took of the resort

Because I took advantage of the Hyatt to MLife back to Hyatt match I was able to get the Explorist benefits. They were very nice upgrading us to an ocean room, complementary valet, free kosher breakfast buffet (which was truly terrible), and so on...

As for the rental car, since I took part in that glitch several months ago with the Nordic Hertz Presidents Circle, I got upgraded to a beautiful SS Camaro Fifty edition convertible for the price of an economy car and could not be happier!
 Car Pics and heres a drone shot of us driving

As for flights... I booked through Korean Air with Delta for First class (only flight available since I booked last minute). After reading online about the aircraft Delta would be using I was not so excited as it was just a standard recliner and read that it would be a drop down entertainment system but was shocked to see the first class cabin look somewhat new, with a built in TV, and of course very comfortable. My wife's seat would not recline, her TV was glitchy, and they forgot our meal so I tweeted Delta and they offered 25k miles each or $200 voucher. Ended up getting 90k back in DL points by complaining via twitter and then sending in a complaint form online through their portal for both my wife and I.

Here are pics of the cabin

We spent the Friday & Saturday at the resort the whole time and Sunday through the rest of the trip, is when we explored the the wonderful Island and ended up barely spending any time at the resort! We rented snorkeling gear and stopped at several of the beaches as we drove throughout the Island over the course of the next few days:
 
Poipu Beach- Beautiful beach right by the resort that has a wonderful array of fish and is suitable for beginner snorkels

Waileu Beach- Great place for beginner snorkels as well. Crowded but very fun and a good place to bring kids.

Lawai Beach- Definitely felt as though this beach was for someone who has at least gone snorkeling a couple of times.  The waves were a bit stronger here but this where we sighted several massive sized turtles.

Ka’e Beach- Beautiful beach all the way at one of the ends of the island. Stunning views of the mountain side and ocean. Difficult to get a parking spot.

Polihale beach- was fine to drive with the Camaro... A bit annoying and bumpy but definitely doable. Besides that, it was an amazing sunset view and definitely a place to drive out to.

We of course visited the Queens Bath, Waimea canyon(absolutely stunning), Wailua River Water Falls, and other attractions throughout the island.

As for kosher food we brought from western kosher in LA, purchased a toaster oven from costco, and the typical groceries from the stores in the area.

Points breakdown:
Flights: 45k each Roundtrip with Delta First Class LAX-->LIH
Hotel: 25k (Category 6) each night at Grand Hyatt Kauai for a total of 5 nights
Car Rental: $125 for 3 days with a convertible class car

Minus the 90k I received from Delta and the 25k points from Hyatt for tweeting them a picture of a roach in our room.

P.S. First time writing one of these so sorry about any misformating or any other mistakes :) Also, I am in no way a photographer so keep that in mind (especially when you see the stills I attempted to take from the drone videos)!

October 31, 2017, 11:43:54 AM
5
Free $20-$30 GroundLink Credit for EVERY Visa Signature/Infinite Card You Have Last month, City National Bank updated the benefits of their Crystal Visa card to include a $30 credit to GroundLink. I decided to figure out how this all worked, and in doing so, I stumbled across these links:

GroundLink Visa Signature
GroundLink Visa Infinite

Once you enter your Visa Signature/Infinite card details into the corresponding link above, you then log into your GroundLink account, and the respective credit ($20 or $30 depending on card type) will be added to your balance. What I figured out but did not expect is that you can do this for every Visa Signature/Infinite card you have and load them all into the same account. I was able to do this 25 times before I ran out of credit cards and now have over $500 of GroundLink credit. All of my personal Visa Signature and Infinite cards worked (i.e. not business). All authorized user cards worked as long as they had unique card numbers. It did not matter that their cardholder names did not match the name on my GroundLink account.

GroundLink does have a referral program by which both the referrer and referee receive a $25 credit, so you will want to do this too.

$25 referral link: https://goo.gl/HJ8wP4

The terms for these credits seem to indicate various restrictions such as not being to combine credits, having to use the specific credit card that the credit came from, etc., but as far as I can tell, none of this is actually enforced, and I have a single combined GroundLink credit in my account. I tried a test booking of over $100 on the website, and it allowed me to pay for my entire reservation with my credit balance.

For completeness’ sake, here is the full list of credit cards that I was able to confirm do work, but I’d be fairly surprised if anyone finds a personal Visa Signature/Infinite card that doesn’t:

Alliant Cashback
Bank of America Premium Rewards
Bank of America Travel Rewards
CapitalOne VentureOne Rewards
Chase Hyatt
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Citi Costco Anywhere
City National Crystal
Club Carlson Premier Rewards
Fidelity Rewards
Merrill+
Priceline.com Rewards
U.S. Bank Cash+
I tried three business cards that did not work: Chase Ink Cash, Chase Ink Plus, and Club Carlson Business Rewards.

Originally Posted by http://milesbriefs.com/ and basically C&P for your benefit :)

January 31, 2018, 11:49:47 AM
3
Zelle promo: Earn $10 When You Send 3 payments of $20 each or more w/ in 60 days https://www.chase.com/personal/quickpay/offers/zelle-10-dollar

You’re just steps away from a $10 Bonus!

Enroll in this offer by 4/30/2018.
Send 3 payments of $20 each or more within 60 days of enrollment — that's it!

Terms:

Bonus/Account Information: To receive the bonus 1) Be enrolled in Chase QuickPay® with Zelle®; 2) Enroll in the offer by 4/30/18; AND 3) Send 3 successful completed payments from your enrolled Chase Liquid® or checking account of $20 each or more using Chase QuickPay® with Zelle® within 60 days of offer enrollment. Payments sent using the Zelle® app do not qualify. Payments received through Chase QuickPay with Zelle do not qualify. After you have completed all the above requirements, we’ll deposit the bonus in your account within 10 business days. One bonus per customer per calendar year. Bonus is considered miscellaneous income, and may be reportable to you and the IRS on Form 1099-MISC (or Form 1042-S, if applicable).

Chase QuickPay® with Zelle®: Both parties need a U.S. bank account; only one needs an eligible Chase account. Transfers between eligible Chase accounts and select participating Zelle member banks or Zelle app users are typically available within minutes (go to chase.com/quickpayView participating banks to view participating banks). Transfers between eligible Chase accounts and non Zelle member banks not using the Zelle app could take up to 5 business days. Enroll on the Chase Mobile® app or Chase OnlineSM. Limitations may apply. Message and data rates may apply. 

February 08, 2018, 09:42:08 AM
1
Wizmanison's MAUI TR 2018 Trip Report Maui

For anyone interested in the free downloadable PDF version of Maui Revealed, after extensively searching online I found this! It truly came in handy.


   Since it is not as easy to vacation during the week for us, it is when we have long weekends that we like to take advantage. After visiting Kauai for memorial day weekend in September of 2017 (TR Here) we loved it so much that we planned to visit all the islands, something that is not as hard to do when living in LA.

   Booking our flights about 2 weeks in advance we had a tough time finding availability through KE for their cheap 45k first class flights. When they also didn’t have availability for Y we looked through all our other options before we used MR. Since I have a ton of those and still have 50% back till end of March it made it an easy decision. I booked our way there LAX-OGG on AA for 11,750 each (after the 50% back) and then a hidden city flight, OGG-LAX-SAN, with UA for 9,310 (after the 50% back). So total for the flights were 21,060 a person.

   While booking flights there seemed to be no availability for any of the hotels recommended in the Maui master thread, and it seemed that our only option at the time was the Ritz Carlton. Although, it wouldn’t have been the worst option considering I have several free nights there it seemed that people advised to stay away from that part of the island. Therefore, I set up alerts on hotelroomalerts.com for the Andazz, Marriot, Hilton, Hyatt regency, as well as others. A couple days later I happened to wake up in the middle of the night and for some reason thought it was a good idea to check the Hyatt app for availability. I saw that single days were available for most of our stay at the Hyatt Regency and I booked it! For the days that were missing I adjusted my hotel room alert and a couple days later the rest opened up. The Andaz only had one night available and although I wanted to stay there it wouldn’t have been worth the hassle to have to pack up all the stuff and stay there for such a short time. The Hyatt Regency was 20k UR a night for 4 nights. Totaling to 80k for the hotel stay.

   Now that flights and hotels were booked we looked into renting a car. Having Presidents Circle has been great in terms of upgrades and by sheer luck on our Kauai trip a SS Camaro happened to pull in when we were set to pick up our “corolla”. We didn’t want to take the chance this time so I booked with my friends Hertz Platinum status he earned through the black card and with the help of @davidrotts63 we got a great deal at $22.50 a day for a Corolla. Since we were traveling with my brother in law, Sister, and their newborn baby we decided we would chose the Wrangler over the Camaro for our upgrade. Without using Plat status the Wrangler would have been $1,100 for those 4 days while the Camaro was going for $315.
 
   Timing worked perfectly for this flight as a Grubhub promotion came out a week before our flight which allowed one to get $20 off $20. Although I had seen it when every blogger posted about it, I was so busy that I just set it aside for later and almost forgot about it when @davidrotts63 messaged me asking me about my experience with the promotion. Within 10 or so minutes, I had me, my wife, and my brother in law, get approximately 250 codes to use over the next two weeks before they expire. So for the days leading up to the flight I was ordering SO MUCH food for me, my family, friends (even though I had sent this deal out to them, with a dumbed down explanation explaining how to get unlimited codes, they only get like max 5-10  ::) ), and randoms in need. This deal was truly amazing because I was ably to try all these foods from restaurants around Los Angeles that I typically hesitated to try and would have never actually paid for. While still being able to enjoy massive meals every day, as well as stocking up our house in Snapples, we ordered take out food from restaurants all around LA to freeze the food and pack it in the polar bear cooler to reheat in Maui.

   Of course, something dramatic just HAD to happen. The night before the flight, we packed all our food and, thankfully, it was stored with my brother-in-law. Our bags and everything we needed was also packed and our alarm was set for 5AM, so I can do some work before our 8 AM flight, as well as every 10-20 minutes after that till 6:20, just incase. Apparently, I had put my phone into the wrong charger, which happened to not be plugged in, something that has never happened to me before, and my phone died in the middle of the night. Therefore, rendering my alarms useless and leaving me dead asleep till 6:58 when my wife woke me up shocked at the time. I typically wake up before my alarm but I guess we went to sleep late that night and were exhausted. My sister and brother in law, parents, and in laws all tried calling but my wife’s phone was on vibrate and I guess it was not enough to wake us up. Neither was the constant banging and knock on doors from my sister who came to try to wake us up. I guess, the way our home is positioned, the bedroom is all the way in the back and when our door is closed you would not be able to hear someone knocking. After giving up and thinking maybe we had already gone to the airport they left, luckily they had the food bag and were able to check it in. Within minutes of our 7AM wake up we were dressed and almost out the door when we noticed a knock on our door. My Mother in Law was asked to check on us and although we ordered an Uber we cancelled it and had her rush drive us to the airport. We, somehow, made it with 10-15 minutes to spare and boarded the plane!

   I attempted to take advantage of the several hundred dollars I got from the Groundlink promo but seems as though I could not get through the last part of the booking stage even though my account was active and credits were in the account. When calling in they were not even able to pull up my account… Then, after spending 15 minutes trying to get an Uber from the airport to the hotel, wanting to use some of the thousands of dollars I racked up from the VLO’s, no one accepted our drive request. So, we negotiated with a taxi driver to take us for the hour or so drive to the Hyatt Regency Maui for $80 with a CC. Traffic was pretty bad but we made it.
   
   We decided to reserve the car at the Hertz location at the Regency because it was substantially cheaper, but they did have much less options to choose from. ( I would highly advise one to look into if they will offer complimentary pickup from the airport. We did not know to ask for such a service but I vaguely remember hearing that they do this) We got to the hotel at around 1:30 and the room was not available until 4:00. They took down my number and texted me when it was available and gave me 4 complimentary drink coupons for the inconvenience. They were at 98.2% occupancy, so they couldn’t give me a suite, but they upgraded us to the highest floor with ocean and mountain balcony views.

 While waiting we picked up our car a couple hours early. They automatically upgraded our corolla to a Chrysler 300 but we asked for a Jeep and they gave it to us. They only had a two door jeep available and it did not seem to be a newer version of the car. Overall, it was just not the most ideal car for 4 people and a baby so as we were driving towards Costco to restock on some stuff and purchase a toaster oven (probably best to avoid this more expensive option as it only stays on for like 2 hours before shutting off) we went to the airport Hertz and said the car was having problems and we didn’t feel comfortable driving it, they took the car not asking us to pay for any gas, and although they did not have much available to give (since it was a busy weekend) they traded the Jeep for the Infiniti Q70. This car was much more comfortable, roomy, and was just overall great! With a new car, a new tank of gas, and everyone not feeling cramped, we drove back to the hotel to settle in.

   The hotel itself was really nice. Here are some day drone pics and here are some sunset shots of the hotel and areas surrounding it! And here are the, not so well taken, room pics.It seemed like a condensed and not as nice version of the GH Kaui but I thought the pools and beaches were better. There were talking birds, Penguins, Swans, Flamingos, and some other stunning animals and garden areas. The hotel was nice enough to give us a crib, microwave, and an extra fridge for no charge. We went to sleep relatively early after touring the hotel at night. They had a laundry room, macy's, and other shops.

   The next day we spent some time by the pool and with a couple hours before shabbat we stopped by some of the West side, of the island, sites. Here are the few we visited as well as some sites that we were advised to visit:
 
   Olivine Pools - Was like a 5 minute hike to get to the really nice lookout. As it was a bit cold and windy outside we did not venture down to swim in the pools but, nonetheless, glad we came out to see it. Surrounding the olivine pools, and pretty much most of Maui, there was beautiful views of the mountain sides and ocean. Sent out my drone and got pictures of the lovely heart shaped pool.

         Nakalele Blowhole- We stopped off at a lookout because we needed to do something and happened to be we could see the blowhole from there. For us, at least, we didn’t think it was anything special that we needed to stop and hike down to see it up close.

   Honokohau Bay- Not entirely sure why people advised to stop here as it was a beach with rocks leading up to it. Stayed there for a max of 5 minutes before we decided to leave. So definitely skip-able.

   Honolua Bay/Park- This was a really nice visit and definitely a must see if you are on this side. We parked at what seemed like the main entrance of Honolua Park and walked through a pathway with lots of beautiful trees for about 10 minutes till you get to the beach. While walking on the path,  about halfway to your left, you’ll notice a a vine that has been knotted and looks as if its sole purpose is for you to swing on it like Tarzan. We spent like 10 minutes just having fun on that before getting to the beach. Since it rained, heavily the day and morning before our arrival the water was murky and we truly could not see any fish. But, if coming here when it has not rained during or prior to your stay I would highly recommend a visit as it is known as a good snorkeling spot.

   Kapalua Bay Beach- This was on our list, but shabbat was nearing in so we decided to skip it. From the pictures it just seemed like another beach stretched across several hotels. We decided to skip it this time but it does not look like, from the pictures at least, as if we missed anything special.

   After returning from what must have been close to a 2-3 hours of driving through scenic roads and stopping at these sites we returned to the hotel and handed the car to valet. Valet was actually super convenient and complimentary (although I’ am not sure if thats standard). Without it I would have had to self park (which you also have to pay for, I believe, and is a short, but not so short for the lazy, walk to the hotel.) The rest of the night we relaxed and enjoyed the free GrubHub food. We prepared for shabbat with our toaster oven and loads of free GrubHub food.

   We slept in Saturday morning as we planned to be at the resort all day. We walked along the boardwalk and visited the other hotels. But, returned to the Hyatt Regency. Towards sunset we saw several whales jumping out the water very close by! That night we went out to downtown Lahaina which was a nice thing to do as opposed to sitting in a hotel room. Its simply local shops and restaurants stretched over several blocks.

   Sunday was our Road to Hana day. We woke up at 6:30 and left by 7:30. We stopped at Krispy Kreme and Costco for gas and then entered from Paia. In order are the stops we made:

Hana Sites in order:

Eucalyptus Trees-

If memory serves me right, in the first 15-30 Mins of really getting on the RTH you will see on your left massive rainbow eucalyptus trees. I thought I added it to my itinerary, so perhaps I would stop at another one like this later, but apparently I added the one in Kona so it did not register in my map and I didn’t realize till it was too late.

Here is the Google Maps Location based off my picture from my phone I took while driving past.

Lower Puohokamoa Falls Trail-

I accidentally drove right past this one by accident but after looking online it seems this might have been fenced off to the public anyways.

Twin Falls Maui Waterfall-

This was our first stop. It was like a 5 minute walk to see the waterfalls. It was pretty nice and there were several people jumping from the waterfall and swimming at the bottom but nothing breathtaking so to say...

Ching’s Pond-

We walked right past this site and ventured into some pathway we thought was Ching’s pond. We walked for about 15 minutes before giving up on this trail and walked back. As we walked by to the car we heard someone jumping off a ledge into a pond. Which turned out to be Ching’s pond which was only a minute away from where our car was! Either way it looked to crazy of a jump for us to do so we drove onward. But for those who are interested, its simply the ledge on the turn of the RTH.

Upper Waikani Falls-

Was really nice and was able to take cool drone shots and photos!

West Wailua Iki Falls-

I seemed to have only seen this site by slowly driving by the bridge that it was running under. Seeing the pictures now online I probably should have stopped at this seemingly beautiful waterfall.

Makapipi Falls-

Drove right past this one as well :/.

Nahiku Rd-   

Driving down Nahiku Rd. was really bumpy and besides for myself everyone in my car was urging me to turn around. It only got worse when I apparently made a right turn and not left (as the left was closed off) and I drove into narrower and bumpier roads. Only figured on the way back that I took the wrong turn!

Wainapanapa State Park/ Pa’lloa Bay/ Black Sand Beach-

All names for Black Sand Beach. We started walking down the stairs and entered a cool little cave. Upon exiting it suddenly started pouring heavy rain! We waited for it to slow a little and we took some pictures at the beach and took some sand as a souvenir. Rain got even harder and we ran back to the car all soaking wet!

Kaihlulu Beach (Red Sand Beach)-

This trail was not so long but a bit dangerous. But, I likely only feel that way because I had to do it barefoot since I did not bring proper hiking shoes and my other shoes were all muddy and had me slipping from the rain. So, as you can imagine, my feet were in pain walking on jagged rocks, narrow wet pathways, and such... But, it was worth it to see the beautiful Red Sand Beach. We were there for only a short time but it was very cool to see.

Wailua Falls-

 Was a really pretty and massive waterfall with space to pull over to the side to get a nice view and picture.

Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o-

I believe we passed by this beautiful site and saw it while driving but the rest of the car did not want to make any more stops or walk any more trails as they were drained. This was quite unfortunate for me as these ‘pools’ looked quite stunning!

Falls of Makahiku-

There seemed to be a trail to go see this site, which looks really nice from this google photo! But, I did not have the pleasure of visiting it.

Completing the rest of the RTH-

The rest of the RTH was so beautiful in its own way. With amazing views of mountains, animals, and endless fields as well as ocean views this ending to the RTH truly made it all come together so perfectly. Some pics, a panorama, and drone pics.


Some pics and drone pics taken of the scenic drive through Hana

Since we were driving by the airport and the car was making a bit of noise in one of the tires, so I made the decision to stop by Hertz and see what they can upgrade us to this time. As expected, they gave us the Escalade Extended Edition! The car was super nice, new, and simply massive! It had all the newest technology like the arm rest console was a wireless charger for my iPhone, it had a projector for directions and speedometer, and countless other unnecessary things. What was great is that we got a completely clean car with a new full tank of gas for free ( after our previous Infiniti was dirty from the days trip and depleted of gas) as well as an extended drop off time till Monday at midnight ( our original return was 4:00) and they allowed us to return the car to the airport as opposed to returning it at the hotel, where we picked it up! This saved us a costly drive from the hotel to the airport. We drove back to the hotel, happy as ever, with a smooth and comfortable ride.

That night, everyone was pretty exhausted, so we just hung out and ate in the room before calling it a night.

I wanted to wake up early morning and make the trip to the Haleakala Crater but no one wanted to wake up that early and I didn’t want to make the trip alone :(. So for the rest of Monday we didn’t really plan anything but to enjoy the resort and beach. We did just that and snorkeled at the beach of the Hyatt Regency. Earlier in the day I found a turtle and followed it quite deep until I lost it. But, no one else had the pleasure of seeing the turtle. Therefore, around sunset time when we saw several turtle heads popping out in the shallow waters of the beach there was no hesitation from anyone to jump into the now colder waters! We swam with a couple really big turtles (excuse the crappy pictures!) around us and it was amazing! As for the other fish you see when snorkeling, there was nothing that amazing but that might be because I only had just came back from snorkeling at places like Maldives, Thailand, and Bali… (Trip report coming soon!).

We also spent a good chunk of our last day at the Westin resort (about a 10 minute walk down the boardwalk from the Hyatt Regency). They also have nice pools and a really fun adult slide!

Running out of GrubHub food we made a trip to Walmart before our 12:00am flight. We bought several kosher items (mostly junk food) and sat down at one of the tables and ate there. After that we went to Hertz, waived our platinum status booklet they gave us and instructed us to do upon arrival, and someone drove us, with the Escalade, to the airport to drop us off.

With no PP lounges we hung out for about an hour before the flight at the gate awaiting our return flight to Los Angeles! 

Points breakdown:
Flights: 21,060 MR each Roundtrip LAX-->OGG
Hotel: 20k (Category 5) each night at Hyatt Regency Maui for a total of 4 nights
Car Rental: $115 for 5 days with originally booking a Corolla then switching from Jeep to Infiniti Q70 to Escalade.

March 25, 2018, 03:09:18 PM
1
$5 of Bubly Sparkling Water Use code GETBUBLY to get $5 off Bubly products at amazon.com/bubly. There are 9.99 options as well as $7 options that can easily be seen through this link .
April 04, 2018, 02:48:43 PM
2
Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison Although this trip was not 'technically' a RTW trip or a honeymoon (as we have been on several 'honeymoon' trips before and after this trip) the title seemed fitting. Like most people a trip to the Maldives or Bora Bora was always high on my bucket list. Having recently getting married and with the sale that was going on, I thought what better excuse to make a trip to the Maldives! When beginning to plan I noticed that most of the TR’s I read were lacking some information either intentionally or not. Therefore, I will try to make this TR as transparent and detailed filled as I can! I will try to include prices for everything I remember as well as any information I uncovered from my countless pages of reading. Thank you to all those who contributed, whether I read your TR or not it really does help others a when planning.

I apologize in advance if I make any grammar mistakes, input any unreliable or false information, bad photos or anything else that might offend you. No intentions to do any of the above but if it happens SORRY!

Breakdown of Costs:

Flights:
LAX-JFK = $572 ($286 each paid for with B6 Travel Credit)
JFK-AUH w/ Cai RT = 208k MR (104k ANA each) + $205 YQ               
CAI-MLE = 50,066 UR 
MLE-SR MLE= 64k Arrival + points + $735
MLE-SIN= 37k UR (18.5k SIN each) +$100 YQ
SIN-DPS=15k (7.5k SIN each) +$50 YQ
DPS-USM= 25k (12.5k SIN each) +$40 YQ
USM-URT-DMK= $138 ($69 each)
BKK-HKT=$104 ($52 each)
HKT-CNX= $228 ($114 each)
CNX-BKK= 26k UR (13k each)
BKK-AUH= 36,000 AA (18k each) +$50 YQ
JFK-LAX= $408( $204 each paid in AA travel credit)

Hotels:
Le Meridian Egypt: 3k spg
SR MLE: 234k spg (5 nights @ 46.8k)
Andaz Singapore: Free Night Cert
GH Bali: 36k (3 nights @ 12k) - 20k (for complaining)= 16k
Conrad Koh Samui: 190k (2 nights @ 95k)  (Received Be My Guest Cert for complaint)
Bangkok Thong Ta Resort Suvarnabhumi: $22
Le Meridian Chiang Mai: 24k (3 nights @ 8k)
Hyatt Regency Dubai: 8k
Park Hyatt Dubai: Free Night Cert

Breakdown by Currency:

TOTAL UR: 177,066
TOTAL AA: 36,000
TOTAL MR: 208,000
TOTAL SPG: 261,000
TOTAL HILTON: 190,000
TOTAL Arrival +: 64,000
TOTAL CASH: 1,672 (Most of which were paid with CSR/Ritz travel credits and Arrival + points)
VOUCHERS/CREDITS USED: 2 Hyatt Free nights (50k Hyatt), AA GC ($408), B6 Credit ($572)...

TOTAL POINTS/MILES USED: 936,066

FLIGHT ROUTE:



TRIP PLANNING:

For those that just want a summary of what and how I booked and not the super detailed trip report that will follow, here you go:

   
I happened to book 5 nights at the SR MLE in May of 2017, around the time when all the bloggers were writing about the reduced price for the SR MLE. Since I was able to cancel until December I thought why not just hold the dates just incase. So for 234,000 SPG points I booked the 5 nights in the Maldives. I was busy at the time planning my Summer trip and pushed off the idea of planning the MLE trip.
   
It was only till about late October - Mid November that I started getting realistic about making a trip out of this booking. I seriously thought of just cancelling the 5 nights but after speaking to several people about how amazing their trip was I had to at least try to plan a trip. So I started reading and slowly kept on adding a list of possible stops to this trip to the other side of the globe. My thought process was more or less if I am already flying all the way out there I might as well make the most of it.

We used travel credit from price matching our flights as well as family members flights and other credits we got from complaints to book LAX-JFK for $286 each.
 
After looking at several options it seemed most feasible to make AUH the hub and use ANA to book the roundtrip from JFK-AUH.  I planned to book side by side Etihad Apartment suites for our longest flights and EY was showing availability for 149k MR—> ANA eacH. So I transferred hoping to book. But, when it came too booking ANA was not able too see availability :(. So we booked just Business class. Since these RT flights offer a free stopover, I chose Egypt. Mostly because other places were either to far, not interesting enough, or we had to little time to explore that destination.

We then used 50k Merrill points for two flights from CAI-MLE. But, for reasons you’ll read later we actually ended up using 50k UR.

MLE-SIN (Singapore) costed us 18.5 UR—> SIN plus $50 YQ each (CSR credit).

I then waitlisted a bunch of SIN-DPS (Bali) flights on SIN. A couple weeks before departure they cleared up and I booked it for 7,500 UR—> SIN and like $25 YQ each (CSR credit).
   
It was pretty hard finding a DPS-USM (Koh Samui, Thailand) flight for our dates but we finally found the option to book DPS-USM with a stopover in SIN. How it would work is we would fly DPS-SIN on Singapore airlines and then SIN-USM on silk air. It cost 12.5 UR—> SIN and $20 in taxes each (CSR credit). This flight had us getting into Singapore at like 1:30 AM and the next flight to Koh Samui was only leaving at 8:30 am. I chose this flight because I wanted to get into Koh Samui and enjoy the Conrad the most I could for the short time we were there (2 nights). So we went into one of the PP lounges and slept there.

For the next flights, besides AUH-JFK, I booked them all days before travel as I started to get really busy the weeks before the trip and even during the trip. It was really hard to find flights from USM to anywhere else in Thailand that didn’t leave early morning. And, like I said I wanted to enjoy my time at the Conrad KS. I looked at every option to literally every airport in Thailand and even other routings out of Thailand and back in but could not find anything. And for the flights I did find they either had no availability or only 1 seat available, or were ridiculously expensive. Thinking I struck gold, I booked a flight from USM to BKK on Expedia only to see after paying that it was for dates 3 months out! This was because when I translated google flights to Expedia, it inverted the month and day with the google translation. I immediately called in and with enough HUCA they refunded me. They claimed that these flights were non refundable because flight was within a week and these carriers don’t offer 24 hour refund. I escalated to manager and they gave me a “one time exception” refund. So, with all other options exhausted we ended up taking a ferry from USM-DonSak Pier for $9 each. And then transportation to URT, other known as Surat Thani Airport in Thailand, for $8 each. I then took a flight from URT-DMK for $52 each person (CSR credit) on Air Asia.

We spent like less then 12 hours in Bangkok, pretty much just in the markets as my wife wanted some purses and stuff and we got a massage. Stayed at a $20 hotel found on Orbitz since we were only in the room for like 2 hours and it offered a shuttle to the airport. Our flight was at 6:20 am. We flew from BKK-HKT for $52 each person (CSR credit) on Bangkok Airways.
   
We arrived in Phuket at 7:45am and went to do the Phi Phi Island tour. Came back to airport at around 6:30 for our 7:20 flight to Chiang Mai. We flew AirAsia HKT-CNX, booked a day or two before, for $114 each (CSR/Ritz Credit) and arrived at 9:15pm Thursday night.
   
Stayed in CNX for 3 nights before heading back to BKK for a flight to AUH. We flew Thai Airways CNX-BKK from 3:20pm-4:35pm for 13k UR or $98 each.

With a unforeseen SUPER tight connection it was only by a matter of pure YMMV that I made it to the next flight: BKK-AUH 6:05pm-10:05pm. We flew business for this route as it was a longer flight at around 7 hours and I had been driving my wife crazy with all the intra Thailand flights. It was also a great price! Since I have so many AA points it was easy to spend 40k miles, each, for biz class. With the Citi 10% bonus it ended up being 36k and $25 in taxes each (CSR/Ritz Credit).

After taking forever in customs in AUH for reasons that I never found out (I was like the only one in line and the man left with my passport for like 30 minutes somewhere) and going through a whole ordeal with the rental car we got to Dubai and spent 2 nights there before returning for our flight back to AUH-JFK with Etihad to complete our RT. We left at 10:15 and arrived in JFK at 3:50.

Purposely giving us like a 5 hour layover, our flight from JFK-LAX with AA for $204 each, booked with AA gift cards, courtesy of plat and biz plat travel credit, was from 9:15-1:06am. We did this so we could land, see some friends & family briefly and finally eat  freshly made food!

So all in all we took about 16 flights and a ferry ride over a 3 week 2 day period. We spent approx. 60-66 hours in flights and visited about 3 Continents, 7 Countries, 8 States/Cities, and 11 Islands.

Detailed Trip Report in the works. Have written some of it, but adding pictures on DDF is relatively new to me and seemingly time consuming. Will be posting Egypt TR in the coming days as soon as I finish figuring out the pics.

June 11, 2018, 06:09:35 PM
16
Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
Any recent knowledge if these two are ok to eat in?

https://cancunkoshercenter.com/menu
http://www.redheifergrill.com/Menu

Can I assume that the prices here http://www.redheifergrill.com/Menu are in pesos and not dollars even though they have the $ symbol?

Both were open and were kosher whilst I was there a couple months ago.

Cancun kosher center is Dag Dag. Do not get the nachos as it’s simply cheese sprinkled over chips and put in the microwave. Pizza is actually pretty good but I found both restaurants to be pretty pricey. Like many people here I happened to get the bad end of Red Heifer but many do have a good experience there.

July 09, 2018, 10:07:51 AM
1
South Africa Master Thread
I'm leaving Kruger in about an hour or so on the way back to joberg is there a shorter way to do the panorama drive? I'd like to make it back before the restaurants close (8ish)
Just made this (Panorama Route - Wiz https://goo.gl/maps/fBR7UxWCrus) on google maps for you of places that I was told to visit or had read about for stops on or near the panoramic route.

I just visited most of them when I was there a month or so ago and will hopefully provide more detail in the trip report. IMO 3 Rondavels View Point was by far the best stop.

July 31, 2018, 04:32:33 AM
1
Re: Where Are You Posting From Now?
POIDH

Sorry if the pics suck. First time really using a camera thats not my iPhone...







August 08, 2018, 06:20:36 PM
1
LAX-JFK RT 11k DL for Sept-Oct Seems DL is running a sale where roundtrip tickets are pricing out to be 11k + $11.20 in YQ.




August 13, 2018, 01:29:03 PM
3
What card did you just get approved for? Thought I’d start a thread similar to the “where are you posting from” or “what award itinerary did you just book” threads that is geared more towards CC apps.

I’ll start:
Hilton Aspire
CIP 100k (BRM)

August 20, 2018, 08:54:22 PM
1
Re: Master Thread of Discussion on Marriott / SPG Merger For those who still have Plat match it ASAP at https://mrrewardsplus.com/en_US/ as the site is live.
August 22, 2018, 03:22:04 AM
1
Re: Master Thread of Discussion on Marriott / SPG Merger
Link is not working
The link is working. Try one a different browser or device.

August 23, 2018, 11:55:00 AM
1
Re: From the Parthenon to the Eiffel Tower to the Canals, a week across Europe Amazing TR and pictures!
March 03, 2019, 04:08:07 PM
1
Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison EGYPT:

We landed at 4:30pm and Cairo’s airport was rather interesting. The outside looked rather nice and modern, whereas the inside was not nearly as much. They did not have Wi-Fi, which is just truly inconvenient these days.



Customs/immigration and getting a visa was pretty simple. Just had to pay $25 each for the visa. We hired a guide for $205 for the next 25 hours or so hours we spent in Egypt. We shopped around until we negotiated the best price we found for this guide. This included rides to and from the airport, all the entrance fees, lunch (Which we obviously did not take advantage of), and a camel ride by the pyramids. Our guide Laila was kind, knowledgable, and highly recommended. I will post her contact information because when seeing only a few others post theirs it was really helpful. The company was Egypt Tailor Made and her email was: Lailahassan33@gmail.com She mentioned how tourism has been really bad since the revolution and most people think Cairo is not a safe place, which in turn has a real effect on everything from wages to taxes and so on. She mentioned there were only 12 jews living in Cairo but that they had 25 synagogues and that she did not know of any hatred towards jews although it is pretty clear that there is no separation between state and Islam… I didn't care or want to delve any deeper about the 12 jews or synagogues as we were exhausted and we fell asleep on what must have been at least an hour drive from the airport to the Bazaar. Regardless, we felt safe and had no problems throughout our stay here which will hopefully shape the thoughts of the countless people who warned us how unsafe Egypt was and how we must be crazy to go there…

In regards to Egypt and its infrastructure, driving in Egypt is quite hectic to say the least. Although there are lane lines they are simply a recommendation and not an enforced rule. Just like seat belts, texting and driving, stop lights, and the list goes on. Cars and motorcycles confidently drive inches away from each other and I can say that in the short time I spent in Egypt I heard more car honks then I have in total all my life. They honk for any and every reason. The traffic is likely always terrible and it can take hours to get from the airport to the old city.

Our first stop on our tour was the Khan El-Khalili Bazaar. Here we simply walked through the Bazaar passing by shops, cafes, restaurants, in a souk like format. There were some tourists and lots of locals as this seems to be the place to hang out at night. The Bazaar streets are filled with historic buildings as well as several Mosques. We were not here for long before we left as there was not much to see.

On the drive to the old city from the airport









Popular spot for locals to hang out at night





Driving by the Nile River

Our drive to the Le Meridian Pyramids in Giza took us quite a long time (about an hour) with the traffic. Upon arrival, like almost everywhere else in Cairo (not exaggerating), we had to go through metal detectors and the bag check machine. When checking in I had already confirmed an upgrade prior to arrival to a pyramid view room. The lobby was pretty nice and we were to exhausted to properly check out the property so we went straight to our room. As I emailed every property before our stay how excited we were to stay, blah blah blah, celebrating anniversary, birthday, honeymoon, as well as the holidays as it was Christmas time (which all happened to be true) to heighten my chances of upgrades at every hotel they also brought along gifts like birthday cakes, champagne, rose petals decorations and so on… It’s a shame the cakes and the champagne had to go to waste every time so we just gifted it to the bell man or the cleaners every time. Whether they understood what we were saying or not was beyond me.









View of the pool from our Balcony

Balcony night view from our room with Pyramid View

Besides the Balcony view of the pyramids, the room was nothing special. We lit our 8th day of Chanukah candles on the balcony overlooking the pyramids, ate our food that we had the hotel store and heat up for our short stay, and then called it a night. Since the Wi-Fi was truly terrible and was constantly turning on and off I called the front desk to complain and they sent a technician over to install my very own modem for the room which actually helped a lot.

Being able to light our last night of Chanukah candles with the view of the Pyramids was surreal

Just to show how the meals were labeled

Olive Chicken made by me :)

Schnitzel and cous-cous that we made



The following morning was super stressful. I intended to check into my Emirates flight scheduled for that evening to MLE only to see that my wife’s flight was under a different name! I had booked this ticket using my Merril+ points and this was the first time I ever used them. I booked using the portal and only realized the day of that her ticket was booked in some other name I definitely have no recollection of putting in. I found it truly strange as her birthday and all the other info was correct but whatever... Just another issue to deal with on this trip! I only had a couple minutes to deal with this as our tour guide had just arrived downstairs to start our days journey. Just my luck the power in the room seemed to go out taking out the modem. I had no time to call and get someone to fix it so I came to peace with the situation and decided to not let it ruin my morning activity of visiting one of the 7 wonders; the Giza Pyramids.

April 10, 2019, 01:09:25 AM
1
Re: Narrow-body across a wide-body (of water) Phenomenal TR!
July 05, 2019, 03:57:57 PM
1
Re: Free night Hilton Certificates Selling 2 weekend certs with short expiry. Same account with diamond status. One expiring Dec 20th 2019 and the other the 29th. $150 obo

DP: Thought it was impossible but just got my nights extended for another 3 months. Called to ask if I can use free night on the date of expiration and she insisted on extending both my expiring certs.

December 17, 2019, 05:08:05 PM
1
Re: What Award Itinerary Did You Just Book/Hold?
Is there a way not to get charged for the compulsory X-mas dinner at SR?

Yes. I got it waived by explaining I don’t celebrate Christmas cause I’m an observant Jew. They waived it no problem. 

June 29, 2020, 01:18:41 PM
2
Re: What Do You Do For Kosher Food While Traveling?
I'm by no means a food expert, so don't take my word, but I used to buy toaster ovens and leave them behind, on my last trip I took along a Betty Crocker and it worked out really well
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K05AZ3W/?tag=cl03f-20&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Do you recall if you needed a transformer for this? Looking to use this for the Maldives

October 14, 2020, 09:37:18 PM
1
Re: What Do You Do For Kosher Food While Traveling?
i once brought a brand new toaster oven to a hotel. When I plugged it in, it promptly started burning out the oils and what not and started filling the room with smoke. I quickly covered up the smoke detector and opened the window. When I checked out I remembered I had left the smoke detector covered and ran back in to uncover it lol
Was this international? If so was it the proper voltage?

October 15, 2020, 02:50:40 AM
1
Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi MALDIVES ROUND 2 TRIP REPORT:

Breakdown of costs:
280k AA + $190 YQ
480k HH
Infant fees: $282
Boat transfer fee: $1,450


PLANNING:

I thought I would start this trip report while on the trip or like my other trip reports, I won’t make the time to finish them. So, here I am on my LAX-DOH flight starting the TR!

What inspired this trip was a couple of things. We had a big France-Israel-Italy flight planned for June of 2020 but COVID got in the way of that and with our son turning 2 we wanted to make a trip before we have to start paying for his own seat. After my wife, son, and I all contracted covid early September we decided to just book the Maldives for end of October and see how things pan out.

I first booked the 5 nights with points (5th night free) at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives and checked availability every couple days for Q suites for our outbound trip. There was no availability for QR flights on our initial 5 nights booked but I found flights leaving LAX the following day with a mixed class itinerary on J LAX-DOH (9 hour layover) and then DOH-MLE in Y, while hoping that the second leg would open up by the time we have to fly.

However, there was no longer availability with WA if I wanted to change my 5 nights hotel to start the next day. A quick email to WA MLE reservations got that sorted out and was even able to change my double bed queen to a king reef villa (which was not showing available online for the standard rate). Now finding the return flight took several weeks. QR had nothing available for our return on November 2nd and I always wanted to fly something new, preferably a shower class. So my other alternate was using Aeroplan to fly Etihad back. However, that gave me unfavorable times leaving MLE and I had to pay close to $600 for PCR tests to transit through AUH. Regardless, we booked MLE-AUH-LAX and MLE-AUH-JFK-LAX (Hoping I could convince my wife to take the detour for shower class) just incase since Aeroplan’s cancellation policy was free. A week later Aeroplan changed my itinerary and looking at EY’s website it seems they cancelled all flights for that week from AUH-LAX. JFK was still an option but with the PCR test and the multiple stopovers it just wasn’t ideal. So I cancelled all my Etihad flights and began looking into other options. Here is a pic of my idea board:




Unfortunately, there wasn’t many great options. I considered routing through London and spending a week there but the quarantine rules seemed pretty strict and flying Turkish just didn’t seem exciting with both the actual product and the multiple stops and long layovers. So we ended up finding and booking QR for the way back. I was only able to book one mixed class itinerary for MLE-DOH in Y (9 hour layover) and DOH-LAX in J and one full Y ticket for both segments. Up until the trip I was checking twice a day, if not more, on BA and AA hoping that segments would open up in J to upgrade. Nothing at all ever opened up for MLE-DOH or DOH-MLE in J and I think QR just stopped opening up seats because from October through the end of the year there was 0 availability in Business. But, 12 hours before our flight there happened to be 1 seat in business class open up for both segments and I was able to upgrade the full economy ticket to all business which was amazing.

A week before the trip we cooked, packaged, and froze our own food for the trip and put it in our polar bear cooler. We made a food itinerary for the whole trip and worked from there. We froze milk and yogurt as well for the baby:


Some pics of the food under the foil

We actually had planned to return to the amazing SR MLE at the glitch rate of 240k for 5 nights in an OWB for the summer last year but we had to cancel it for a family wedding. (Coincidentally, I ended up helping book the SR MLE for their honeymoon shortly after). After cancelling SR MLE actually agreed to honor that rate again up until a year after original booking but with covid and our new plans we never took them up on it. Although we truly loved the SR MLE on our last stay (unfinished TR :(), our favorite hotel we have stayed at so far (writing this on the way to the WA MLE…), we wanted to try something new and the WA MLE seemed amazing from @israshot  TR and had a great kids park.


Now what was really difficult about this booking was that since up until 12 hours before the flight, our flights were mostly booked mixed class. And QR and AA refused to ticket an infant award on it. Constantly giving me the runaround saying the other airline has to ticket it. AA told me they don’t even handle Infant awards and when I got a supervisor to finally agree to ticket an infant award after quoting me the price and everything. When she tried to ticket it she said it was impossible on her end since it was mixed class and to call QR. Qatar took a lot of HUCA’s before someone could help me even start the infant booking process. And I was finally able to book the infant on the economy ticket no problem for my wife original return flight in Y (cost $170) and on the mixed class it seems that one of the reps were either uninformed or didn’t care but he pushed through an infant award all in economy for both segments. When asking him if that would be ok he said it shouldn’t be a problem. Something didn’t add up so throughout the week I called and spoke to like 5 people and they all confirmed that both infant tickets were all good.


THE TRIP:

I have never seen LAX look so empty.




Thankfully I came to the airport early, which I rarely ever do, and when I got to the checkin desk there was a massive issue with the infant ticket.  As mentioned above the infant award that was booked by the agent incorrectly had to get upgraded to business for the leg we were in business. The agents at the counter had absolutely no clue what to do and we were waiting there for 2 hours until they finally fixed the issue and ended up charging me $160 to upgrade the infant ticket to business. But for those 2 hours they said they had never encountered this issue before and that they don’t think they can do anything. At one point they said they would not be able to get me on the flight today which is when I said that was not possible as I have a whole itinerary planned and arguing so on and so forth. Then they said they can maybe do it but it would cost me $1,400 which I demanded they pay for. With only 20 minutes to spare before flight leaves they figured it out and said they would have to charge me the $160 upgrade fee. With there being no time to argue I gave them the CC to charge and I guess I will just have to figure it out later. (Open to any suggestions on if I should push any further to get that money back or if I should maybe dispute). We had someone escort us to the gate and we definitely were clearly the last ones on the plane holding it up.

The flight was relatively empty. Face masks and face shield were required to enter the aircraft but once you were in your suite it seems that none of the passengers were wearing either masks or face shields and the flight attendants didn’t care. Economy was pretty much completely empty except for a few seats here and there.


The business class seats were not full but also not empty. We sat in seats 11F and E and it was basically a section of the airplane that was cutoff from economy and cut off from the main business class. It was amazing! There was only one other person in the corner which basically gave us 7 seats to use.



The Q suites were simply stunning and they let us use any suite we wanted for anything. We had a suite for our bags, a suite where I would daven, and another 3 for lounging/sleeping.







We opened the partition in the middle and had an extra seat just for the baby to sleep.

Please excuse my mosaic jetblue socks they are just so comfy and soft!



With Q suites you can have 4 seats. Two of the four don’t have a wall in between



But the other two do have something in between. However, you can lower the partition in between but only heads would really be visible and the middle partition can be moved to the side so everyone has a view of one another.




Bathroom has a window also which was interesting. And here was the sunrise view:

 

Service was amazing and the flight attendants were really nice and relaxed. Seats were comfy, infotainment was great and found it really cool that they have a iPhone like device that is really responsive to control the main display.


Kosher food was catered by Emunah and although I forgot to take a picture it was a chicken and mushroom herb with rice and veggies that didn’t taste too bad but was pretty dry for my liking. The breakfast was omelet with hash browns that were not so bad.



My initial concern was that since I am flying Y on the second leg then I wouldn’t be entitled to the business class lounge access. But according to flyertalk and one world if you have a layover more than 5 hours and you arrived in premium class then you are entitled to lounge access. If not my backup plan was to pay around $250 for the Doha Airport Hotel or just slum it in the priority pass Al Maja lounge.

After landing, I stopped by the transfer desk to see if they would be able to bump up my Y flights to J for the next leg but they weren’t willing. The airport was really nice, clean, and modern. All the shops looked open and it was not at all busy or crowded but a decent amount of people flowing through.






We went straight for the business class lounge, Al Mourjan. They denied us entry stating that since our flight was an “upgraded flight” (which it was not. Rather, it was an award flight which should have no restrictions) the standard rule for allowing mixed class itineraries was not applicable. I asked for the supervisor and he was no help so we left and headed for the priority pass lounge Al Maha. The lounge was pretty small and nothing special. With no private areas for family and just chairs and tables. I left my wife and son there and headed back for the business class lounge to argue my way in as something didn’t sound right about their policy.

On one worlds website it states:

Quote
“https://www.oneworld.com/airport-lounges?location=DOH
* Connecting between oneworld marketed and operated flights:
    * First and Business Class customers connecting on the same day of travel, or before 6am the following day, can access the lounge when travelling between an international long haul (a oneworld international long haul flight is defined as an international flight marketed and operated by any oneworld carrier with a scheduled flight time longer than 5 hours) and an international short haul or domestic flight (and vice-versa).
    * Lounge access will be determined on the international long haul ticketed flight (either First of Business Class) regardless of the ticketed class of travel on the international short haul or domestic flight.
    * You must be prepared to show your boarding pass or itinerary showing travel in First or Business class on the international long haul flight, in order to access the lounge before your international short haul or domestic flight.”

After showing this to the supervisor, he still didn’t budge. So I demanded he showed me whatever policy he was going off of. I told him I just got off the phone with one world (not true) and they told me I should have no issue getting into the lounge. He agreed to look further into it and after 10 minutes he told me that I can go bring my family and they will let me in. He apologized for the confusion and said that because my inbound flight was “American airways” and my second leg was Qatar Airways they were having an issue looking it up. I didn’t care to ask any more questions and came back with my family to enjoy the lounge to get the tour.

The lounge was beautiful and massive:



Behind these curtains you can see the runway with several aircrafts.


Stairs lead to the sit down Restauraunt which I didn’t even bother going upstairs to see.


Restauraunt is on the second floor (seen in this picture)


They took us straight to the family area. On the way there you see several different lounging areas:









As well as other type of rooms like a “Parent’s room” which at first looks just like a play area


But, behind the brown doors you have like a 2 bedroom small Appartment with a mini cold kitchen!






Near there you have a game room which looked pretty boring:



Whereas the game room in the business center part of the lounge looked more exciting (thinking emoji)



There seems to be 3 options if you’re trying to take a nap:

Sleep pods (self explanatory):




The quiet area rooms, which is smaller than the family room and not as nice.





Family area room. Which is the biggest of all and the nicest IMO.







As I am writing this while in the family room. The plan is to just stay here until departure or maybe an hour or so before and we’ll walk around the airport with the baby as there seems to be some kid play areas. Internet in the lounge seems to be the same internet you can get for free outside the lounge. It wasn’t great.


Although we had some hiccups to start with. The 16 hour flight was amazing and hopefully the rest will be smooth sailing!

October 27, 2020, 02:08:41 PM
5
Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison Been a long time since I updated this so Im just going to upload what I can without overthinking it and add more in the following days!

Since our hotel, The Le Meridian, was right by the Pyramids, it was a short drive to get there. I davened on our balcony with the Pyramids in view and shortly after went downstairs to meet our tour guide and driver.





Driving up to the Giza Pyramid Complex, the height of the pyramids as you get closer is really just breathtaking.








Some pictures for scale:







We first went into the main and largest of the 3 pyramids. It belonged to Pharaoh Khufu and it was a really cool experience to go through. I believe it cost around $10 USD a person to enter the Pyramid and since it was an extra I don’t recall the tour guide covering that. We were able to walk (pretty much had to crouch the whole way up because the king wanted those who enter to be bowing in respect throughout or something like that) through the pyramid to be able to see where the sarcophagus was kept/found.











After exiting that pyramid we then walked by the other pyramids





And then took a camel ride by a viewpoint that shows the pyramids from a distance.








Our teenage camel walker guide thought this would make a great picture.






After that we briefly headed to see the sphinx which was really amazing to see.







 It’s at this point my driver happens to divulge that he has a Wi-Fi hotspot device and it is included in the tour package! You can imagine just how happy as well as confused that they didn’t mention this earlier. Regardless, I started making phone calls during our hour drive to the Museum of Antiquities.

First I called the Merril travel number, to which they tell me they can’t do anything and I would have to wait for a supervisor to arrive in 4 hours. I HUCA’d a couple times (sometimes by choice and sometimes because the phone call dropped :/). Then I tried Emirates and they also could not change anything. I didn’t really expect for either of them to change it but I guess I was hoping for a miracle. Which in a way I guess happened when I found out that my fare booked with Merril happened to be fully refundable fare. [Something I noticed with all the flights I booked was that when I booked it through a portal like chase or Merril the fare is usually refundable by default. Not sure if that is well known or not but definitely something to keep in mind!].

Unfortunately I had already checked in earlier that day meaning they could not refund my flight. BUT, a quick phone call to Emirates had them remove my checkin in. But, of course their systems were down as I called in. They asked me to call back again in and hour and so I did. They were finally able to remove my check in status.

While driving it's hard not to notice how poor some of the infrastructure of Cairo was. The buildings were just missing floors and there were stray dirty looking dogs throughout.





Regardless, what the city has to offer in terms of history is unmatched and I would love to return to see different parts of Egypt.



After breezing through the Museum of Antiquities in about 45 minutes (an activity that the guide had planned 2:30 hours for) we decided to end our stay in Cairo early and go to the airport to sort things out. The Museum was amazing and there was so much material that they simply had no room to store anymore artifacts. Therefore, there were some left outside surrounding the building. Since the museum can no longer house any more artifacts they have seized excavations until they finish building their new museum. Which has been years in the making. As I am writing this TR in 2020 I still don't think its finished.

There were truly brilliant things to see here. Some of the notable few are (bear in mind that in some of the areas of the museum one is not allowed to take pictures and therefore there are pictures that might be of worse quality. Also, feel free to skip these pictures if it doesn't interest you as I couldn't narrow down which are notable and am just uploading a bunch ;D):
















































Mummified Humans & Animals:

















On the way to the airport I toyed around with several flight options which had either had me meeting my wife in AUH for our connection or just meeting in MLE as well as countless other flight routes of which I cannot recall. I wish it would have been as simple to just rebook her on the same flight but that EK flight was completely booked and they could/would not open up any seats. I waited to cancel my flight on the slight chance that perhaps someone at the Emirates counter would be able to help me. Since the Airport had no wifi I asked my tour guide to wait outside while I use the hotspot device inside. She kindly waited outside for a little over an hour while I sorted everything out. Of course, Emirates couldn’t help me and so I was left with not many options. I called Merril and cancelled my flight. I wasn’t ever going to actually send my wife alone on these flights so we found a suitable EY flight that leaves 7 hours later then planned.

This ruined my plan to try to get to MLE as early as possible to take advantage of my time at the St. Regis Maldives. It was really a shame because I have yet to fly on EK and was looking forward to it. Our flight didn’t ticket immediately through the chase portal and so I called chase and asked them to expedite the ticketing process. I made friends with the counter agent and got his WhatsApp number so he could contact me when our flight gets ticketed while we walked to the nearby Le Meridian hotel that is connected to the airport.

I can’t even count the amount of times we went through the whole baggage check process with all our luggages throughout our stay in Egypt. Whether it was to go in our out of the airport or in and out of the hotel it was a massive pain in the a** . For the next 7 hours we relaxed on the couches at the LM and my wife slept while I planned the rest of our trip details and made phone calls on their free guest Wi-FI. Although we got some weird glances from the staff, surprisingly, no one kicked us out. We then walked with all our bags uphill back to the airport (PITA) and went through baggage check to enter the check in area for the third time. One of the baggage helpers took our bags forcefully from us and loaded it on to the security belt (something I could have easily done) and then demanded payment for it. I gave him $1. It was also pretty clear throughout the whole trip that you could literally bribe anyone. This was later confirmed by our tour guide who encouraged us to do so if we wanted something to go our way.
The rude airport employee who’s job it was to look at the screen scanning the luggages decided to put our food luggage aside to inspect, despite having gone through this specific scanner several times with no issues that day, he asked us to open the bag. We tried to explain that we are kosher and this was our food for our trip the next 3 weeks but he seemed to not care at all. He then took one of my wrapped meals and opened it and stuck his fingers in there asked us to close it back up and let us go.  ::)

Once passing security, the EY employee we dealt with earlier was no longer there, and as the airport had no Wi-Fi I could not reach out through whatsapp, but to our surprise he informed the employee checking us in to just give us free checked bags (which were substantially over weight) and also assigned us seats with extra legroom. I tried to give him some money for his kindness but he would not accept. We walked quite a bit to our gate and bribed some cafe employee who was closing up for the Wi-Fi code. After about an hour we started boarding the plane and took off to AUH! (This woman was putting great use to her Hijab).














We landed during a beautiful Sunrise and as we were flying in Y we were meant to wait in this crazy long line. But, it was clear no one was checking so we just said we were flying in J and got through in a matter of minutes (we continued to do this for the next two times we came through AUH and got the idea from when we flew in flying Biz no one checked our ticket to verify anything). The employees supposed to be watching the luggage scanner didn’t seem to care and were just chatting with other employees.





After a 4.5 hour flight we were FINALLY in the Maldives!

That concludes our EGYPT part of the trip!


October 27, 2020, 03:11:24 PM
1
Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison MALDIVES:

We landed at around 2:00pm and were shuttled from the plane to this small indoors arrivals area where we got our bags and cleared customs.



It was only a short walk to get outside where you have a strip of shops and seaplane operators. Someone from the St. Regis held out a card with our names and checked in our luggages onto Trans Maldivian Airways. While they did that they let us stay in the SR van (forgot to request the Bentley!), which had A/C and WiFi. But we walked around for a couple minutes.











The airport is surrounded by a beautiful blue ocean and is entirely an island of its own. The actual city of Male is like a 3 minute boat ride away. We were joined by another couple, who also booked on points, and drove like 15-30 mins to the SR lounge.










We had to wait a couple hours for other guests to arrive until we could all take the seaplane. The lounge was really nice and they offered an iPad Menu with a bunch of non kosher stuff. We just ordered some drinks and some kosher yogurt (could have been like Chobani or something, don’t remember) and ate some snacks we packed. As soon as I arrived I asked if we could get the Bentley on our way to the seaplane transfer and when we were to return in 6 days. I was also able to shower in their nice bathroom.

We took the Bentley to the seaplane and since we had a head start, because the others were behind us in the van, we were able to chose our seats on the seaplane. We decided we would sit on the right side on the way there and sit on the left on the way back.








Can’t say the the flight itself was amazing, with a barefoot pilot, heated (no A/C), and a choppy flight. But the views were out of this world amazing. Seeing hundreds of islands, hotels, beautiful reefs, and sandbanks all surrounded by this gorgeous blue water was a great tease for what was to come at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.













Timelapse video of takeoff and some islands from the window


Upon landing we were welcomed by a row of butlers and workers who took our luggage and sat us down with coconuts.



We were then introduced to our butlers. After reading reviews on DDF, FT, and TA as well as speaking to some people on DDF who visited it seemed Nasyb was one of the top choices. Therefore, we emailed a couple weeks beforehand requesting Nasyb as a butler as well as some other options if Nasyb was not available. Nasyb was really nice and was well versed with the whole kosher and shabbat situation among other things! He then drove us around to give us a tour of the island before taking us to our room.

We were staying in Villa 544 (circled below).




Pictures of the room and resort coming next!

October 27, 2020, 04:00:13 PM
5
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi About an 1:30 before departure we headed out to walk around the airport. There were several kid play areas with slides and such that we enjoyed with our son.








After that we headed to our gate where I once again was denied an upgrade to Q suites :(.  Saw lots of Israeli passport holders checking into the flight and it seemed like it was a decently filled flight. Not too crowded since it seemed almost everyone in economy likely had their own row of seats to sleep on but even q suites had only a handful of empty seats. Saw lots of others traveling with their kids and babies as well. My wife and son shared 3 seats by the window while I laid down on 4 seats in the middle on the 777-200LR. I fell right asleep and only woke up when we started descending around 4 hours later. For kosher meal they offered some not so appetizing salmon that we passed on.





Descending into Male Airport was stunning as usual with the window views of all the atolls.









It looked like several parts of the airport was undergoing construction but I believe I recall seeing that last time as well and looks like no improvements have been made IMO.

After landing we busses to the small arrivals area which hasn’t changed since we last came towards the end of 2017. Still no WiFi... we went through immigration and ran our luggage through another scanner.






Felt like it took forever to get our bags and since we boarded so last minute at LAX I was worried the bags may have not been loaded properly. But all worked out and we went outside to meet the guy holding the IPad with a Waldorf Astoria logo. He was very nice and tagged our bags and took us to the yacht.











There were actually 2 identical yachts. In our yacht there was 4 parties. One upstairs, one in the general lounge area, we had a bedroom downstairs and another party had the other bedroom.





The yacht was absolutely stunning and modern. They offered us drinks, champagne, and non kosher food which we kindly declined of course. It was about 40 minutes and we just all chilled in the big bedroom downstairs. The bathroom and shower were also really nice.











As we were arriving at the WA it started raining a bit but by the time we docked it stopped. We learned from our last trip that the weather is really sporadic and unpredictable. And regardless of the rain or shine the stay would be amazing!

All the Butlers were waiting by the dock to greet us and the butler assigned to us was named Ella. Someone also was there from the kids program to give our baby a gift, introduce herself, and give us the weekly program/schedule for the kids program. We then went through the main lobby to have our temperature checked by some cool device scanner I have yet to see and then in our golf cart to give us a quick tour and take us to our room.








Ella informed us we were upgraded to an OWB from the reef villa and assigned room 705. And she also mentioned that occupancy is around 50% for them right now.

Next up are pictures of the OWB!

October 28, 2020, 05:49:58 AM
1
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Stepping into the room was beyond what we imagined and way better than the pictures online. The villa was massive and from the second we stepped in we were blown away. It felt nearly double the size of the SR MLE villa! Hopefully my pictures below do it some justice.































outdoor shower





smart toilet














Since we didn’t want the wine or the champagne they had to offer they gave us a fruit basket and freshly squeezed juice. Ella walked us through the room showing me all the gadgets and such. Like most of these luxury resorts there was an iPad controlling all the main functions of the room. Ella also handed us a basic phone that I can use to call her on speed dial if I need something. As well as giving me the option to WhatsApp her. The villa TV can be connected by chrome cast and speakers can be connected through bluetooth. Was cool that they offered a bike with a baby attachment as well. Like most places we travel to we were celebrating an anniversary and also my sons upcoming birthday which is why there are decorations on the bed. I also requested prior to arrival for a highchair, crib, stroller. They delivered all three and several more baby things that will be useful! Also, something to note is that the resort has its own time zone and places it as 1 hour ahead of Male. Since they delivered all the luggages to our door including our freezer bag with food we took out food for today and the next and called them to pick up the bag to put in their freezer. I was worried after the 9 hour layover and the like 21 hours of travel time that maybe some of the food would defrost but it barely defrosted!





After settling in and unpacking the 220V toaster oven we got from Amazon, to heat our food up and avoid the hefty $50 per a meal fee, we went for a swim in the pool as the sun came out. The pool was nice and pretty warm and as you saw in the pictures above really big. It started raining for about 25 minutes so we went in and returned an hour or so later to the pool when the sun came back out. I guess I forgot how bad it was last time and it slipped my mind to bring mosquito spray or those bracelets because I keep seeing mosquitos and am regretting not bringing along some deterrents.

After a couple hours enjoying the villa I checked back in to see if maybe space opened up for my MLE-DOH flight in J but there was nothing. I then looked at the next day and there were 2 business class seats for the full trip. So I reached out to reservations at the hotel and asked if it was possible to use one of my free night certs to extend my stay a day and then once that was confirmed I called in AA and they reissued the ticket with the new dates. So now were staying 6 nights and they were able to confirm the same upgraded room for the extra night as well.

Here are some other pictures I took while touring around the hotel:

Welcome Pier







Peacock lounge where complimentary drinks are served for gold and diamond members during happy hour.

Probably also important to mention that our butler said masks are not mandatory for the guests. However, I have yet to see an employee who was not wearing a mask. Seems all the guests I've seen though are embracing the no mask policy.

October 28, 2020, 09:50:48 AM
2
Re: Where Are You Posting From Now? WA MLE
October 28, 2020, 10:28:08 AM
2
Re: Bangkok, Koh Samui, Singapore and Maldives TR Reading this amazing TR while at the WA MLE makes it even better!
November 02, 2020, 02:32:22 AM
2
Re: Next Vacation - Ideas
I was planning to go to the boardwalk yesterday with DW and take a long walk, but it was freezing. So instead we stayed home and looked at the picture on @Wizmanison 's trip report to the Maldives. It really gave a great feel to our "staycation."

Thanks @Wizmanison
Appreciate the kind words :) Hope you both enjoyed as much as we did! Stay tuned as I should have the rest of the TR finished by hopefully next week!

November 19, 2020, 12:27:21 PM
1
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi
Any final thoughts on WAI vs STR?
Short answer: WAI over STR any day of the week. Long answer coming in my next update ( hopefully by Friday). Have it all written out just need to make time to link the pictures :)

November 24, 2020, 01:07:29 PM
1
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Day 3

After spending the night trying to get Qatar to ticket an infant ticket unsuccessfully, I called it a night. We woke up early again since there’s not much to do at night here and every minute of the sun out here is amazing. I sent out my drone as the sun was rising and here are the pictures/videos of the resort:

























And here are some of the room and water:

















And here is one of those cool drone videos:

https://imgur.com/JZt7Ens

Or in GIF form (for some reason they upload in really bad quality):



And a video of the Sunrise:



After that it drizzled for like less than 5 minutes and then a rainbow appeared.






The weather was amazing today with pretty much clear skies and really hot. We headed to breakfast and saw this amazing view once again.












The chef today offered us options of kosher cereal to chose from that had an OU hechser which was nice of him. After that we biked around a bit with the baby and then went back to the villa to swim and snorkel. We saw again from the villa the nurse shark swimming by but by the time I would have got ready to jump in it was too late :/





Besides for that didn’t see anything else that interesting. Here are some more GoPro pics and a video that shows how clear the water is, the beautiful sand, and a school of fish:


















Getting prepared for lunch and shabbat I went to the kitchen dining area and asked if I could take some stuff out my freezer bag. They asked me to wait 10 minutes while they have the bag brought here from their big freezer that was located elsewhere. As I was taking out several meals for the next 2 days the chef seemed perplexed as to how I intended on eating these frozen meals. Saying that usually his guests ask him to heat it in his oven. I gave him some vague answer that we would be fine and were used to it and went back to heat up some lunch!

Tried giving QR another try but their US call center was closed. Luckily I brought my Pixel 3XL from that deal around 2 years ago. I resumed my long paused service and made a wifi call to the India call center for .01 cent a minute. After 40 minutes there didn’t seem to be much success. They told me they would have to reach back out to me latest by Sunday to try to get approval to book this infant ticket. Escalating to a supervisor didn’t do much either so I guess I’ll call back again motzei shabbat.

After that sent the drone out again to get some pics of the villa and some family pics and after like 20 minutes I got a call from our butler, Ella, that drones are not permitted at the villa.

We brought in a beautiful Shabbat and heated our food for Friday night and Saturday before Shabbat came in so as to not leave the toaster oven on all of Shabbat for safety concerns.




November 29, 2020, 05:54:49 PM
1
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Day 4 Shabbat:

(No pictures for this update since it was shabbat)

We woke up to another amazing day with great weather. For Saturday lunch we heated it up before Shabbat came in to defrost and then kept it in the fridge till Saturday morning where we left it out in the sun for a couple hours. Surprisingly, when it came time to eat. The food was actually warm!

From our villa in the morning we saw two turtles. And then later in the day a couple that was snorkeling by our villa said they just saw a massive shark right in front of our villa where the reef ends. So while I got stuck staying with the baby :( my wife jumped in and saw a baby shark really close to her and the big fully grown shark in the distance. She got scared and rushed back. By the time I went out to get a look it swam away :(. However, I continued snorkeling but as it happens to be that on the day we don’t have a go pro we see an abundance of colorful and stunning fish! We will be going back tomorrow to get some pics though.

 If I hadn’t mentioned it earlier they actually provide, like most of these hotels, complimentary snorkeling gear rentals and they are some pretty good equipment.

It was only today that I realized that although I initially thought the snorkeling was lacking compared to the SR. Since I remember the corals being less bleached and more fish life near the villa, that for the WA if you just venture out like another minute from your villa to the end of the reef there is a lot of beautiful fish. I also don’t recall ever seeing a shark or turtles from the SR so as of now it seems the WA is superior in that respect as well. Leaving the SR with not much else...

I did also notice that the butler service at the SR VS the “host” service at the WA is not comparable. Maybe I just landed on a mediocre host but I recall my butler at the SR always checking in on us and sending us fruit bowls. Whereas at the WA unless I WhatsApp my butler she doesn’t really offer anything or checkin. I had to ask for the snorkeling gear and we were never really given a proper tour of the place or anything like that. Not saying it’s necessarily bad service but in comparison to the SR I would say it’s lacking. The host here, when I do reach out, is very responsive and kind so no complaints about bad service.

Besides for that we just chilled most of the day. Took the baby to the kids program to play with the toys and enjoyed the villa.
 
I have to say the hotel in general seems really busy and more than just 50% occupied. I’ve noticed that at breakfast, kids club, and at other places the hotel is seems pretty full with rarely any open tables.


After shabbat, I tried again to speak to QR to book infant award and was able to finally book it with ease! I think the key is calling at a good time to get the Doha Call center to pick up rather than the India call center. Or, if Florida call center opens back up that should work as well.

November 29, 2020, 05:56:01 PM
1
Re: Mauritius or Seychelles
With no less than 3 airlines now offering direct flights from TLV to SEZ, I thought it's worth revisiting the topic.

I've been to Mauritius and it's amazing - great hotel redemptions, and a great Chabad Shalia'h, which provided us with all the food / wine we needed, and we always managed to make a minyan when somehow needed to say Kadish (it was in December / high season).

Sadly Mauritius is still closed for the time being (they require 14-day in-room quarantine).

SEZ has no Marriott hotel besides the famous North Island, where certs can't be used. However there are a few Hiltons etc

Anyone been there lately? Any feedback? Thx!
I was there about a year and a half ago and I regretted not going to Mauritius IMO. Haven’t been to Mauritius but it looked more developed and nicer. SEZ although beautiful and while I did visit the other islands and even stayed in La digue for the weekend I found it the accommodations to be pretty lackluster. There were several hotels under construction and I do believe with time it will be a more beautiful and luxurious place to visit! The beaches and the water were stunning! I just think the accommodations, at least compared to Mauritius and other places around the world I stayed, were lacking. Hope that helps! Haven’t gotten around to even starting that TR but I hope to one day finish it! In the mean time feel free to reach out for some info or pics

November 30, 2020, 11:12:06 PM
1
Re: Mauritius or Seychelles
Thanks.
In which hotels did you end up staying?

On main island it was Avani resort and on La digue it was "Le Relax Luxury Lodge" which I highly recommend avoiding. Pictures made it look nice and it was anything but that.

December 01, 2020, 12:06:40 AM
2
Re: Maldives Master Thread
So... for two people for dinner, spend $50 on POM meals then $125 more on "meal prep." $175 a day for dinner.

Doesn't look like WA is in our future.
Always best to bring a roll of foil on these trips. When you want to heat up meals ask them to bring out the cooler. Wrap how ever many meals you want to heat up (usually 2-3) into one big “meal” and have them heat that up for one charge.

December 28, 2020, 04:44:46 PM
1