Topic Wiki

Trip Reports:
Mikeoracle, Dan, JayR, lunatic, mgoldhammer18, Markus, mtag17, sam28
stooges44 (mini)

General information:
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To get a grasp of where you are, Cancun is located on the edge of Mexico that wraps around the Gulf of Mexico and separates it from the Caribbean Sea. As you can see here, Cancun is fairly close to Cuba and really not that far from Florida.


                    The greater Cancun area includes the Zona Hotelera (translation not needed) in the north, which is a strip of land separated from the mainland by a lagoon and packed with hotel after hotel in a similar fashion to Miami Beach. In this thread, when people refer to Cancun, they are usually referring to this area. A ferry ride away is the island of Isla Mujeres. Below Cancun on the map, you'll see the airport in red. The area south of Cancun is known as Riviera Maya which contains many resort areas including Playa del Carmen, and within Playa is Mayakoba. A ferry ride away is the island of Cozumel.


Cancun hotels and Kosher restaurants map.

Getting there:
From NYC, award tickets have about $30 in taxes/fees on the outbound and $50 on the return. You can fly nonstop with: (cheapest way to book)
AA (10K BA)
UA (17.5K UA/SQ - oneway; 30K NH - roundtrip)
AM (12.5K AF)
B6
InterJet

Airport Lounges
Mera Lounge - Accessible with Priority Pass except between 12:30 and 16:30 (not nice lounge).
Aeromexico Lounge

Airport security / food restrictions covered in the Kosher Food section below. Wifi at Cancun Airport Business Center - Network: businesst3 Password: businesst3.


Getting around:
Some people rent cars, others seem strongly averse to car rental due to many reports of being pulled over for speeding. Those reports often conclude with being able to give the cop ~$20 to avoid the ticket.

If you plan on only staying in Zona Hotelera, you don't need to rent a car. You can stay at the top of the strip (Hyatt Ziva, IC, Aloft) and be within walking distance to Chabad and the restaurants, or you can stay further down the strip and take the convenient bus up and down for MEX12 (currently about $0.65USD); drivers happily make change, at least from small peso bills. Reports that they will also take a $1 bill but won't give change. Taxis outside the strip to Walmart or Costco shouldn't be too expensive either. To get to/from the airport, you can book a private shuttle (see below). If you plan on going outside the Zone to activities with a tour, you can usually pay extra for transportation, but if you plan on going out on your own schedule, you'll want to rent a car.

If you plan on staying in Playa del Carmen, you'll likely want to rent a car, although it's possible to avoid it by taking an airport shuttle (see below) there and staying at the Grand Hyatt which is within walking distance of Chabad and the restaurants or at the Fairmont/Andaz and having Chabad deliver food to you. Same advice for activities above applies here - go with a tour and pay for transportation or go out on your own and just rent a car.

There are several companies that offer private shuttles to/from the airport and your hotel that have positive DDF reviews. Best to book in advance so you can pay with a credit card. The airport arrivals area is known to be packed with pushy taxi drivers dressed very formally to trick you into using them, but stay strong and go past them to find your ride at the pickup spot. (Prices to Zona Hotelera):
Canada Transfers: $55 RT (if you choose to pay in CAD, currently you'll only pay about $50).
USA Transfers: $55 RT for 3 people; $65 RT for 7 people.
Happy Shuttle: $53 RT. No DDF reviews, but Google reviews are positive.

Car rentals can be relatively cheap, and many hotels have free parking, but liability insurance is mandatory (you should be able to use for CC for collision insurance), and they won't allow you to use your car insurance from back home, so that can jack up the price. Make sure to have your reservation quote with you as some reported that the rental agents tried raising the price in person. And remember, keep to the speed limit.


Where to stay:
Cancun
Westin Lagunamar - 20K/25K SPG (low season/high season) for a studio room. Studios can be booked with points online but one-bedroom suites require PUTPAC. Seems you can get 1BR suite for 1.5K more SPG per night. Some have been able to get complimentary upgrade from studio to 1BR without difficulty, but YMMV. There is no recorded history of anyone getting upgrade from 1BR to 2BR villa, as a 2BR is really a 1BR connected to a studio (essentially 2 paying rooms, so hotel won't do that). The 1BR suite is ~1,000 SF, so almost twice the size of the studio, and has expanded kitchen, with  full-size fridge, full-size cook-top, microwave and dishwasher (but no oven). The 1BR suites have W/D (not sure about the studios). shiframeir - Best value, huge resort with lots of heated pools during winter and big slide, lots to do and good kids club.
Hyatt Zilara - 25K Hyatt (all inclusive, adults only). Lots of rave reviews in the thread.
Hyatt Ziva - 25K Hyatt (all inclusive, family friendly, 1 tower is adults only). Beautiful resort hotel+spa, excellent service, great for adults and kids, right next to Red Heifer restaurant and
5 minute walk to Chabad and Dag Dag restaurant, separate water playground by kids club zone, next to ferry to Isla Mujeres, has water sports and dolphins on premises.
Ritz Carlton - Tier 3, can use free night certs.
JW Marriott - 45K Marriott. Great service, beautiful hotel, pool and beach.
Marriott - 35K Marriott.
Intercontinental Presidente - 30K IHG. Derived from shiframeir - Great location for Shabbos, close to Chabad, nice big lobby to chill in the afternoon, lots of first floor rooms (no steps needed), decent pools (one adults only, one family, felt a little cool might not be heated), really great service.
Aloft - 4K SPG. shiframeir - pretty lousy though very cheap and close to Chabad and Dag Dag, pool on roof is small and not heated, rooms are interesting but a bit dingy, bathroom uses glass sliding door without much sound protection :) zow - I'm not as negative about it as shiframeir. It is very cheap, but a great location. Not a luxurious place to hangout, but if you're going to be out and about, it's good value.[/i] Cheapest option for 1 night.
Westin - 7K SPG. Mixed reviews, general opinion is not as nice as Lagunamar, but not a bad option. (Old will rumor to be torn down soon...)

Playa del Carmen
Grand Hyatt - 20K Hyatt.

Mayakoba
Fairmont - Covered in Dan's TR (top of wiki).
Andaz - 20K Hyatt.
Rosewood - Non-points hotel considered to be the most luxurious in the area.

Cozumel
InterContinental Presidente - 40K IHG.


Kosher Food/Restaurants:
WARNING: Lots of food gets confiscated at airport security. Meat, random cheeses (some make it through, some don't) and un-packaged foods are not allowed. Snacks are okay. You will be asked to push a button, if the light turns red, they will go through all your bags for food; if it turns green, you can officially go free, but there are enough reports of being pulled to the side anyway and searched for food - hypothesized due to "looking Jewish", but plenty who look Jewish have reported getting green and going free as well.

Cancun
Chabad Kosher Cancun - fleishig takeout food with a very timely delivery option run by the Rabbi Mendel Druk and family. They also offer Shabbos meals on premises for $25 a meal ($15 kids) or delivered to your hotel. There is supposedly a sit-down restaurant coming soon. Reports are that the food is really good and restaurant quality and comes with very timely delivery. Detailed review here. There is an additional menu for Yeshiva week here.
Falafel stand - located right outside Chabad and under their supervision. 
Kosher Luxus/Red Heifer - fleishig, Israeli-style restaurant under the supervision of Rav Yosef Maleh and the only real eat-in restaurant with delivery also available and a nice outdoor eating area overlooking the lagoon. People seem to either love or hate this place, very mixed reviews. You can eat Shabbos meals here or get delivery to your hotel with a hot plate. Some reviews and pics on GKRF, suggest getting apps/drinks/desserts over steaks and to always call before going to see whats available/what they ran out of. Be sure to confirm that the meat is from Mexico City and not a local supplier. (Source that this is an issue?) As of Aug 2018 they don't take AMEX
Garden Beach - milchig, breakfast section of Red Heifer open 8am-2pm.
Dag Dag - homey, milchig and fish restaurant, covered in Dan's TR, zow - fish and chips were very good, as was the pizza, but also has mixed reviews in taste, long wait times and randomly being closed. The owner is a little eccentric, but nice, and if you order in advance, it's not too bad. Was/Is (?) under supervision of Rabbi Mendel Druk of Chabad of Cancun.

There are several box stores / groceries with Kosher items:
Costco - cheese (large cream cheese box "Raskas Queso Crema" is Cholov Stam, Natural and Kosher is Cholov Yisroe), hummus, salmon spread, lox, PB and J, bread (Star K), milk (both shelf stable "La La" brand, as well as Kirkland brand - not sure which Hechscher) and mantequilla/butter (OU).
Sam's Club - breads ("New York Deli and Bagel") and other essentials.
Walmart - cereal, milk, eggs, avocados, drinks and many other things you need like pans and spatulas.
Chedraui Selecto - near Chabad, has frozen bagels, cereals, tuna, one Kosher meat product and many other products.
Minimart in Westin Lagunamar - bunch of imported Kosher items (La LA milk is under KA Kosher), but sometimes runs out. They have beer at about $1/bottle.
Erupea - has 1 or 2 Kosher wines.
Soriana - many Kosher items.
Random stores - many have OU snacks from America.

Playa
Chabad of Playa del Carmen - fleishig food delivery run by Rabbi Mendel Goldberg, a DDF member, that's really good, restaurant quality. Contact them for an updated menu with more choices than listed on website. They also host Shabbos meals for free, but ask for donations (they say it costs them $40/$20 adult/kid per meal).
Alternate Chabad of Playa - (AKA bootleg, yellow flag version...) is run by Rabbi Chaim Brod and has an in-house restaurant located at Avenida 20, entre Calle 6B y Calle 8. They have a Hebrew website.
Hotel 770 - fleishig restaurant, grocery and hotel under Rabbi Chaim Brod's supervision. Calle 10 Norte Bis.
Menfis - Israeli restaurant, review, under Rabbi Chaim Brod's supervision. Calle 14 Norte, Entre 5a y 10.
Mas Pan - dairy restaurant serving pizza, sandwiches and paninis, under ??? supervision.
Yummy Kosher

Cozumel
Jerusalem - Nice fleshig place with good food and quick service, under Chabad of Cozumel - R. David Caplin and R. Shalom Peleg (yellow flag). Calle 10 North and Av. and General Rafeal, second floor.
Cafe Rimon - milchig restaurant also under Chabad of Cozumel (yellow flag). Calle 4 North and Av. and General Rafeal.
Chocolatte - milchig cafe under ???.
Falafel Sombrero - falafel place under Chabad of Cozumel (yellow flag).

Isla Mujeres
Cafe Maya - [Currently closed for renovations] milchig restaurant, under some Chabad (R Druk of Cancun vouches apparently), cash only, but bring pesos as it's much cheaper here than USD. Food is excellent and prices here are very reasonable, so long as you pay in pesos. Family of 5 can feast on paninis, pasta and pizza, with soft drinks/coffees, easily under $50USD. Pictures of store and food (scroll down). Directions: two blocks straight ahead (5 min walk) when you exit the ferry terminal (Calle Bravo?), then make a left when you hit the end (on Av Guerrero) go another block, and it's a few stores down the next block on the left side. Reviews on yelp, TripAdvisor.
Chabad downstairs - falafel
Chabad downstairs - meat restaurant

Hechsherim: (Beneath each logo is the site that recommends them.)
   
CRC                    CRC & KosherQuest
   
KosherQuest & Chabad of Cancun          KosherQuest

Chabad of Cancun             

KosherQuest & Chabad of Cancun

Via email to @Yehuda, Rabbi Eidlitz from KosherQuest recommended Rabbi Mendel Druk of Chabad of Cancun.

Shabbos and Minyanim:
Chabad - has Minyanim during busy seasons, but check with them to confirm (they are really great, give a nice donation!). They also offer meals, see Kosher section.
Kosher Luxus / Red Heifer - offers meals, see Kosher section, and may have Minyanim, check with them.
Westin Lagunamar - check with the Chabad Rabbi whether there has been a Minyan recently, but enough Jews have timeshares at Lagunamar and come for winter break that they seem to have a Minyan during winter break outside by the BBQs (Fuego) all the way on the south of the hotel (by the last pool to the right coming out of lobby towards fountains).


Activities:
Ferry to Isla Mujeres - small island off the coast near Cancun, rent a golf cart to go around the island - can get carts by walking left or right for a few minutes after you exit the port and get a decent rate; shiframeir got 2 fast carts for afternoon for $70 total going left (right has mixed reviews on speed), get some Kosher food, visit Garaffon Reef Park, Turtle Farm, Playa Norte, Dolphin Discovery.
Xplor - 4 activity course / theme park of swimming and kayaking in a cave, jeeping in the jungle and ziplining into water; highly recommend, night version is cheaper and offers ziplining through ring of fire.
Xel Ha - theme park (for older kids and adults)
Xcaret - theme park, one reviewer spoke to people that went who said it was waste of time & very costly.
Boka del Puma - theme park, cheaper option to Xplor.
Selvatica - ziplining and biking, Alma's LDS tour includes this and Mayan ruins.
Emotions Jungle Night - another theme park.
Jungle Tour - motor boat tour through lagoon to an area where you snorkel, recommended.
Mayan Ruins - Chichen Itza - most famous, Tulum, Coba - only one you can still climb.
Cenotes - natural pools/caves to go swimming in; Ik Kil - near Chichen Itza, Sistema dos Ojos.
BOB - Breathing Observation Bubble, underwater scuba-like contraption, highly recommended.
Ferry to Cozumel - larger island off the coast of Playa del Carmen, with an Intercontinental and Kosher food.
La Isla Mall - has an aquarium, dolphin show and Haagen Dazs.
Mayakoba Lagoon - boat tour and biking, hotels in Mayakoba provide this.
Swim with Whale Sharks - June, July and August, one company with high review is Whale Shark Daddy.
Cancun Underwater Museum
Zoo Crococun
5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen - shopping street.
Wet and Wild
Scuba Diving - one company with a high review is Squalodivers.
Hummer Tours - fun way to see more of Mexico.
Isla Contoy - small island north of Isla Mujeres.
Secret Beach/Pool - found by Suave, location here.


Random:
Electricity - US plugs and voltage

Author Topic: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread  (Read 340088 times)

Offline bebeller

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #780 on: June 15, 2015, 10:37:21 AM »
Dan after reading your forum on Cancun i have a few questions which maybe you can help me out with
for starters:
1)do i need a costco card in mexico
2)the red heifer recently moved - do you know where it is as i the guy i spoke to only speaks hebrew or Spanish and could not help with an address.
3)there is a kosher butcher on bonapak street downtown Cancun - on chabads website there is no address- do you know where i can find contact details and what type of meats they have there?
4) do the local places have a BBQ (walmart, samsclub etc) from what you have seen,
5) it seems that trip adviser charges a fortune for actives - do you know of any websites i should be looking at?
6) ive seen the post regarding airport delays - how much time do i need to allot before leaving to the air port from the strip with a car rental return in place.

last but not least:
7) are the ATM machines chip reader only or actual swipe - very important

Offline ShlockDoc

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #781 on: June 16, 2015, 06:47:35 PM »
Is kosher meat available for purchase anywhere?  Going with the family on Sunday and want to plan in some BBQing.

Online sruly

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #782 on: June 16, 2015, 07:40:41 PM »
Is kosher meat available for purchase anywhere?
hotel770 in Playa has lots of meat.

Offline ShlockDoc

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #783 on: June 17, 2015, 07:47:00 AM »
Tyvm!  Has anyone take a guided tour of chichen itza?  I'm drying to decide if we should go ourselves or take a tour? 

Offline lunatic

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #784 on: June 17, 2015, 10:18:33 AM »
This is my first TR here on DDF, so please let me know if this is too much or too little.

Day 1:
We took Southwest from BWI directly to Cancun, using points. The total cost was 25k plus $150 in taxes, RT for 2 people. We took most of our food with us and a sandwhich maker and George forman grill to cook with. We brought frozen raw chicken with us, to cook on the goerge forman, however, they took that away from us when we went through Mexican customs, even though they are only supposed to take away meat – not chicken. The Mexican customs guy told us there was some kind of bird virus so for a month or two, chicken is not permitted. They also took away sliced cheese, but let us keep the shredded cheese and cream cheese. I had read online about the mobs of people that surround you to offer you a ride, so I booked ahead with usa-transfers, which charged $55 RT for a private car that holds up to three people.

We stayed at the westin lagunamar, for 12k SPG per night. The base room is a queen bed studio suite. I emailed ahead and asked for a king bed, 1 bedroom upgrade, as a SPG gold member, but was given the standard response of “as an SPG villa property, we offer only limited SPG benefits”. I followed up and told them that “king beds are available as a standard request, in almost every hotel in the world, certainly in such a luxurious resort such as this”. I asked her to please forward my request to the manager, who responded that he would try.

Needless to say, when we arrived, we were told that no 1 bedrooms were available, and none would be available that day. I mentioned very politely that I had been told by the manager that he would try to accommodate me, and I asked if I would be able to speak to him. She responded that she did see the notes but that she was unable to give me an upgrade, as none were available. I asked again, if I could possibly speak to the manager, and somehow she found a room with a “maintenance issue that would be ready in a couple of hours”    Did I want to wait?” Clearly, she couldn’t identify me as a DDFer…. Of course we would wait.

Meanwhile, left out bags and took a bus over to Walmart and sams club to try to find some more chicken or meat, especially as it was raining and there was not much else to do. As I had been told by others, busses run up and down the strip every two minutes and charge 10 pesos per person (70 cents). About twenty minutes later, we arrived and I could not find any Kosher meat or chicken. We did pick up some eggs (which they don’t keep in the fridge, Mexican cream cheese with a KMD (which is softer and a bit more watery, but has a nice fresh taste), lox with a KMD, cereal and milk (with a KMD). Milk in Mexico really needs a hechsher, as I found out that they sometimes take out the fat and substitute vegetable oil. If not for google translate, I would have been totally lost trying to figure out what some things were. We also picked up soda and water (since the water in Mexico is not drinkable).

As an aside, we used the sprint free international data plan, and used goggle voice and face time for phone calls (on the hotel wi-fi), which worked well enough for our needs.

A taxi back to the hotel took about ten minutes and $14, which was pretty reasonable, and by the time we got back, our room was ready and thanks to the rain the entire day, the beach was empty, and we took advantage. When done, we walked across the street for Haagen Daaz.

Day 2:
After picking up Starbucks across the street (we didn’t check their milk for a hechsher, just used our own), we met with the concierge to get our SPG gold amenity, a nice beach bag, and she suggested that we take a ferry to Isla Mujeres, which we did. Since it was a bit late, we took a taxi for $20. There are two places to catch the ferry, and we were told to go to the farther one, Puerto Juarez, since it was cheaper. Apparently, the closer one charges tourist prices. We paid 146 pesos (or $12) per person, RT for the 30 minute ride. There is air conditioned lower deck and an open upper deck, and we chose the upper deck which allowed us to feel the cool breeze and see the gorgeous clear blue water.

Most tourists rent a golf cart to drive around the island, which we did as well. They will try to sell you a reservation before you get on the ferry, but don’t do it, there are plenty of places on the island and you will pay less.

Isla Mujeres is a really nice place to spend a day, there are lots of small shops, nice beaches and pretty views. There are also lots of small guest houses/motels and small bars and restaurants. We rented a golf cart for two hours and that was plenty to drive around including a half hour stop. Evidently, there are a lot of Israelis that visit, as we found lots of Hebrew writing. We even found a Chabad that appeared to serve meals on the upper level.

After taking the ferry back, we took a bus back to the hotel, and noticed that the pool was empty and in we went.

Day 3:
We got up early and headed right over to the beach, which was amazingly empty on a beautiful sunny day. After that and some Starbucks, it was time to pack up and go to the airport for our flight to BWI.
When we landed, we got to use our global entry for the first time (aside from multiple TSA precheck uses), which is awesome. We even went in front of the crew members.

I will post some pictures separately.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2015, 11:04:35 AM by lunatic »

Offline lunatic

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #785 on: June 17, 2015, 10:36:10 AM »

View of resort




Chbad I found in Isla Mujeres
« Last Edit: June 17, 2015, 10:40:32 AM by lunatic »

Offline lunatic

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #786 on: June 17, 2015, 10:37:34 AM »

View from our balcony


Random store in Isla Mujeres


Starbucks in Pesos (pretty close to normal price, in dollars)


Clear blue water (taken on ferry)
« Last Edit: June 17, 2015, 11:07:24 AM by lunatic »

Offline VacationLover

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #787 on: June 17, 2015, 10:56:36 AM »
Nice TR, waiting for more pictures...

Offline lunatic

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #788 on: June 17, 2015, 10:59:18 AM »
Nice TR, waiting for more pictures...
Just added one more. Will try to add more

Offline Here to learn

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #789 on: June 17, 2015, 06:25:22 PM »
Nice TR.
What's the managers name that gave you the upgrade?
I'm a spg gold member as well, and will be staying there in 2 weeks. What's the best way to go about an upgrade?
You think you'll initial email helped?
What about milk? Did you avoid taking with you to Cancun for custom reasons?
And does each person have to hit a that button and determines if you get checked or not, or it goes by the family/group?

Offline ShlockDoc

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #790 on: June 17, 2015, 06:28:21 PM »
Great TR, lunatic, thank you!

Offline lunatic

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #791 on: June 17, 2015, 09:47:27 PM »
Nice TR, waiting for more pictures...
Thanks

Nice TR.
What's the managers name that gave you the upgrade?
I'm a spg gold member as well, and will be staying there in 2 weeks. What's the best way to go about an upgrade?
You think you'll initial email helped?
What about milk? Did you avoid taking with you to Cancun for custom reasons?
And does each person have to hit a that button and determines if you get checked or not, or it goes by the family/group?

I will pm you with the name.  Not sure the best way,  but mine worked (with a hassle). Milk needs a Hechsher,  but chalav Stam is readily available,  with a KMD. I don't know if customs lets you bring it,  they are pretty flaky. Each group hits the button and they look at the whole group. I suspect it is NOT random... Since they x-ray the bags first
Great TR, lunatic, thank you!
Your welcome,  hope it helps

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #792 on: June 17, 2015, 10:11:55 PM »
What's the best way to go about an upgrade?
Pay the 1500 points per night, well worth it.

Offline lunatic

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #793 on: June 17, 2015, 10:50:31 PM »
Pay the 1500 points per night, well worth it.
They didn't offer that to me. They wanted 100 per night (instead of the normal 150)

Offline alpicone

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #794 on: June 17, 2015, 11:55:31 PM »

They didn't offer that to me. They wanted 100 per night (instead of the normal 150)

If you are reserving using SPG points it is 1,500 more points per night to book a 1 bedroom. You need to call to book it though.