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Re: Hilton Master Thread Any solutions for getting discounted on spending for activities/food/upgrades charged through Hilton? Solution for discounted gift cards or something?
May 04, 2017, 04:45:06 AM
Re: Price Mistake! AA US-Haiti $369+ in Business
So if the earthquake in 2010 destroyed it all, the hotels are all less than 7 years old

May 23, 2017, 12:51:31 AM
Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K 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 :)
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
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.

May 25, 2017, 03:34:20 PM
Re: Bora Bora Dreaming at the Conrad Bora Bora - Exploring in 4K ďWarning: this topic has not been posted in for at least 180 days.
Unless you're sure you want to reply, please consider starting a new topic.Ē

kinda left things off in the middle of nowhere. AnywhoÖ

The Airport in Tahiti can be pretty brutal. I donít remember if we had access to a lounge the last time we came through, but being that we were flying in coach without any super cards we had no access this time. The only place to really comfortably sit is a little cafe that has a little enclosed room with seating next to it. Donít be fooled though, even though when you enter the cafe youíre hit with a cool breeze that feels indescribably refreshing, the seating area next to it deceptively is just fan cooling. Still nicer than sitting out in an open terminal.

We finally boarded our plane to BOB. Instead of taking the expensive hotel shuttle, from the airport, we opted to take the free airport transfer boat to the main island. This also gives you an opportunity to get a picture of the classic BOB airport sign

We had arranged beforehand with the hotel to be picked up from Vaitape instead of the airport, as this saved us a decent amount of money.

When we arrived we were greeted in somewhat standard fashion (meaning similar to the Hyatt Maldives :) ) with half the hotel crew and a few mid-level managers welcoming us. Even though its standard its still a nice greeting, and we were ushered onto a buggy that drove us around the property giving us a brief tour.

The brought us to some attached rooms that are close to the main area that they were using for short stays. Donít know if they are using them for paid stays at this point. The room was nice, spacious, and head a decent view of the Ocean, but the rooms were attached in a complex which Iím not a fan of for this style of vacation, and they had a kids club and workout space on the bottom floor which also would make me a little wary. Still it was peaceful, and even though we were only there for a couple hours, they still made sure to have a crib in the room, a baby bath, and even a bottle warmer which was perfect because we are to put our daughter down for a nap for a bit. A few hotels like the Park Hyatt Sydney and here seemed to go out of their way to be baby friendly, and it certainly is something I find is a nice touch (even if we didnít need a baby warmer).

We finally got transferred to our real room for the rest of the stay, which of course was OWB.

***One of the main reasons I booked this hotel was that though some careful sleuthing I knew the Garden Rooms were still all under construction, and according to FT everyone was getting complimentary upgrades to the OWB as those were the only rooms available. When we got placed in the Ďhotelí rooms at first I was a little worried, but alas, OWB is where we would be. I could finally relax.

Looking at pictures of other places online, and it makes sense these at the time of writing being the most recent construction, these rooms blow every other hotel out of the water. They are modern, new, beautiful, and have most of the amenities you would expect of a hotel this caliber.

We went to breakfast the next morning which was included in our stay (donít remember if I had status match at the time, or if it was just standard), but this was a huge bonus. We love going early to breakfast, just looking out at the water, and enjoying our fruit/cereal/coffee/tea/or whatever. Everyone has to do what theyíre comfortable with for their level of kashrut, but there were a lot of very decent options available. More so that at places like the Maldives, were everything seemed like it was imported from Muslim countries and more difficult to discern kashrus, etc.

When we got back to the room, I fired off the drone. This I believe was the Mavic 2 Pro at the time, which all around is pretty darn solid. Iíll say a couple things about flying in places like this. 1) The winds can be pretty intense, especially when you get away from the shielding of the island itself, so make sure youíre very comfortable with flying the drone in general, you donít want to be experimenting for the first time over open water. 2) Try to be respectful of the other guests. The last thing you would want is a drone flying off your neighbors back deck and hovering over to where youíre trying to relax. Whenever I launched from our OWB, I would try to shoot out straight a few hundred feet to get out of peoples way, respect their privacy, and to get the noise from the drone out of their area. When I started to get more concerned I would take the bike out to somewhere a little more isolated and launch from land away from the rooms.

We spent a fair amount of time at the pool still, which was really nice. We kept our child in a folding sun-tent which was perfect for them. It was an enclosed area to play in, and made sure despite the shifting sun that we had somewhere safe for them. Of course, be mindful of hydration/heat.

We called up room service and asked them to deliver number item 43, which was two individual servings of ice cream :). Much more reasonable at ~1 each from Fresh compared to the ~12 or so per serving the hotel charged.

A word about activities:
We didnít feel comfortable at this stage (unfortunately) leaving our infant at home, but that didnít mean we wanted to be stuck at the hotel the entire time. They told us they had some babysitting system in place, but turns out they really didnít. They did tell us the person who babysat was an employee, who was well trusted. We arranged with the hotel to pay her though Hilton so it just came out on our bill (didnít really have/want to deal with cash), which worked out perfectly. Iíll admit it was a bit of a risk, but she turned out to be fantastic, and we ended up using her a couple of times to get away from the hotel for a few hours, which allowed us to do some water activities which were amazing.

The activities available are were I think BOB blows MLE out of the water. Almost anywhere you go in the Maldives you are on a small island and there is usually nothing around you for miles. The hotel can charge whatever they want for activities, and you can either take it or leave it, but theyíre usually darn expensive. In BOB, the hotels list activities on their menus, but they almost all subcontract through local providers, that you can usually find with a little browsing through trip advisor. I contacted a few companies and settled on two. The freedom to chose companies though that arenít at your hotel means that there is competition so the prices are MUCH more reasonable, and you can tailor things to what you want to do with a lot more specificity.

The first thing we did was a Jetski tour. The operator came out to our hotel, which is a little bit of a schlepp from the main area, but picked us up at the main hotel dock. You can each get your own Jetski but we just chose to share and took turns driving. Jetskiing around the lagoon was insane, and if you go to BOB I highly recommend it. Especially staying at the Conrad where you donít get the same lagoon views/feeling, this really made us feel part of the real BOB experience. We went although towards the North atolls, and parked on a private beach owned by the Jetski company They offered us cold drinks, prepared some fresh cut fruit, and demonstrated their traditional opening/preparation of a coconut for us.

When we got back we were pretty exhausted, but it was so much fun. We had them deliver number 19, some homemade pizza, and enjoyed on our patio.

More to come soon...

February 25, 2020, 06:07:38 PM
Re: Where can I buy a box of 20 3M N95 1860 Masks at reasonable price? Unfortunately, even though regular masks don't cut it, just buying a generic n95 mask probably won't help much either. In order to be effective, it needs to create an airtight seal around your face, which is surprisingly not that easy.

Healthcare workers undergo n95 fit testing, with a special tasting aerosol to see if they can taste it through the mask, meaning it's not effective. Even for people with normal body habitus, a standard fit doesn't really exist (thus the reason for the testing). In addition any facial hair will also likely render the mask ineffective.

Additionally, for people with respiratory conditions, n95 can worsen their function, which could, in theory, land them in the hospital, which would put that at increased risk.

Basically, unless you've actually undergone fit testing, there's a good chance the mask isn't doing anything...

March 04, 2020, 07:35:33 PM
Re: Prepping for COVID-19
2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you - it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth - it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.

I'm sorry but this is not only wrong, it's dangerous and irresponsible. People like to quote ideas they think will make sense, but unfortunately, that's not what the science suggests.

After the SARS outbreak, there was renewed clinical interest to see if the wearing of facemasks was actually effective in reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses. There were numerous clustered prospective and randomized controlled trials that sought to evaluate if facemasks were beneficial in places with confirmed transmission risks (such as household members of a patient with confirmed influenza). There were also studies that evaluated facemask use in crowded gatherings, such as during Hajj pilgramiage. If you read these studies, you will see that the data does not support that facemasks actually statistically decrease your chances of contracting an illness in the community (while good hand hygiene on the other hand, was effective). The main likely reason in the discussions is poor compliance, meaning that even if you buy a mask, and try to use it, you're unlikely to wear it all the time you're at risk for exposure, thus making it not useful. This is contrary to when medical healthcare workers use masks, which is during shorter time periods of exposure when they are likely to be compliant.

So, as the CDC suggests, when regular people start buying and using these masks they:
1) likely confer no benefit to the person using them or others around them (the exception is if someone is sick, then they should use a mask when in public to prevent the spread of the disease)
2) decrease available masks to healthcare workers who it will actually protect. The less likely they are to get sick, the less likely they are to catch the disease and spread it to others. And if you think hospitals have an appropriate supply and will be fine you're wrong. Every major hospital in the country started stockpiling masks / conserving masks, there is currently no additional supply, and many have <2 week supply on hand.

At the end of the day, skip the mask, unless you're sick and outside, and practice good hand hygiene. The CDC isn't out to get you, they actually are giving advice at the best interest of the country as a whole, people taking it upon themselves to advise otherwise are sadly doing more harm than good.

March 04, 2020, 08:16:07 PM
Re: Where can I buy a box of 20 3M N95 1860 Masks at reasonable price?
Please explain why my statement is wrong.

"thereís no denying that wearing a mask is an effective method of not touching your face."

Because you say this as if it's accepted and proven, when in fact, it isn't. Again, it may be intuitive, but the scientific literature doesn't support this. Mask wearing in the community has not been shown to be effective in preventing the spread of respiratory viral illnesses. Now you can claim that touching your face = catching the virus, and mask-wearing (in theory) prevents this, so, therefore, mask-wearing should prevent transmission, but it isn't true. For patient populations outside the hospital, this has not proven to be the case. There have been studies that show that virus particles stay on your mask, are you wearing gloves when you take your mask on and off?

Lots of great ideas start with 'If A then B, and If B then C, so A then C', but in medicine, this, unfortunately, isn't always the case. That is why there are randomized controlled trials.

On the other hand, people buying masks lures them into a false sense of security, squanders supplies that could be used for healthcare workers where masks are more needed, and spreads a sense of disinformation that when given to the general public, I think overall is probably detrimental.

March 04, 2020, 10:38:38 PM