Use Points For An Overwater Bungalow At The InterContinental Thalasso In Bora Bora.

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On Monday, Jenny wrote in asking how to book an overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Thalasso in Bora Bora.

ArizonaGuy & Gary Leff explained that one of the biggest drawbacks of the Priority Club reward program is that it does not allow members to redeem points for a higher room category.  In addition, Priority Club hotels are not obliged to honor elite status on award stays (when you likely want it the most), though some properties do honor elite status on award stays.

For example, Hilton, Starwood Prefered Guest, and Hyatt not only allow members to redeem points for a regular room, but members can also redeem extra points for a higher room category such as club rooms or suites.

Steve Schwartz suggested calling the hotel and asking the hotel what they could do.

I like this approach, but suggest doing it the way Gary explained in the comments.

And I also have another suggestion if that doesn’t get Jenny the overwater bungalow!

BTW, Gary wrote a great post on overwater bungalows which you should check out for more ideas on how to use your miles and points!

Step 1 – Make an award booking

First reserve a few nights at the InterContinental Thalasso using points.  This is one of the best uses of 40,000 Priority Club points, since 1 night at the InterContinental usually costs $1,144 in the entry-level Family Suite Coral (I randomly checked the price for September 2, 2011).

You can buy 40,000 Priority Club points for $240 using the Cash & Points trick!  If you do decide to buy points, check to make sure that there is award availability before you buy the points!

You can even get a 10% rebate on the points used for this stay if you have the Chase Priority Club credit card, so you can reduce the cost to 36,000 Priority Club points a night or $216 per night.

Yes, you could pay only $216 for a room in Bora Bora!

Gary explains that since most award bookings can be cancelled without penalty there is no real cost to making an award reservation.  Having a reservation puts you on a more solid footing with the hotel when it is time for the next step.

Step 2 – Contact the hotel

Reach out to the hotel and ask them if they will let you pay cash to upgrade your room from the basic Family Suite Coral to the overwater bungalows.  Gary mentions that this is very common in French Polynesia, though it is usually offered only at check-in.

If you do reach out to the hotel, I suggest emailing the hotel instead of calling them, because that way you have a written confirmation of the agreement in case something goes wrong.  If you do call, be sure to get an email confirmation!

The cheapest overwater bungalow, the Sapphire Overwater Villa costs $1,284, and the entry level 2 Bedroom Family Suite Coral costs $1,144 (I checked both rates for 1 night on September 2, 2011)

The hotel may reply to your email with an offer to upgrade to an overwater bungalow.

The price for the upgrade may be $140, the difference between the entry level bungalow and the cheapest overwater bungalow or it may be more.  I suspect that it might be more than $140.

If not, and you don’t want to risk flying to Bora Bora and having to spend your time by the beach (there are worse fates, you know!), instead of over the water, you can always cancel your award booking.

Or consider the options in step 3 and step 4.

Step 3 – Buy InterContinental Ambassador Membership

David wrote in to say that he has actually stayed at the InterContinental Thalasso for his honeymoon and suggested buying InterContinental Ambassador membership.  Ambassador membership costs $200 or 32,000 Priority Club points.

Ambassador membership guarantees you a 1-level upgrade at InterContinental hotels, in addition to late check-out at 4:00 pm, plus a token gesture of “free fruit and water” & a free pay-per-view movie once during your stay.  The 1-level upgrade is usually valid only on paid stays, since Priority Club hotels don’t have to provide elite benefits on award stays.

But Ambassador membership also comes with a complimentary weekend night certificate valid for 12 months which gives you a free 2nd night for a stay booked on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

For example, you will have to pay for only 1 night if you book a paid 2-night stay on Friday and Saturday and used your complimentary weekend night certificate.

The complimentary night certificate has to be booked via the Ambassador service center or at the Ambassador website.

Now Jenny could book the cheapest coral suite and get upgraded to an over water suite as an Intercontinental Ambassador.  However, to increase her odds of getting an overwater bungalow on her award stay, she may want to spend the extra $140 and book a room into the lowest overwater villa costing $1,284.

So by spending $1,284 for 1 nights stay ,  Jenny will get a 2nd night free in Bora Bora in an overwater bungalow, when she uses the complimentary weekend night certificate!

Each night therefore costs $642 ($1,284 /2) or about three times what it would otherwise have cost Jenny if she had just bought points using the cash and points trick.  This is still 50% off the regular rate!

But this way Jenny is guaranteed at least 2 nights in an overwater bungalow.  And she increases her chances of getting to stay in an overwater bungalow on her award stay nights since she will start her stay at the hotel in an overwater bungalow.

Step 4 – Make an award booking for additional nights

Jenny should consider making a separate award booking in her name (or in the name of the person making the paid booking) for the additional nights which she wants to stay in Bora Bora.

For example, if Jenny uses the Ambassador complimentary weekend night certificate for a Friday and Saturday stay, she should then make a separate award booking for, say, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Now the hotel could ask Jenny to change rooms for her award stay from Sunday to Wednesday, but I suspect that the hotel will be reluctant to do that provided the hotel is not sold out.

Yes, this is a little risky, and I wouldn’t recommend this if you absolutely must have an overwater bungalow

Jenny could also reach out to the hotel beforehand and explain that she has a PAID reservation for 2 nights in an overwater bungalow, and was curious if they would let her keep her overwater bunglalow for the other 4 nights (which are on points).

Once again, the hotel may reply with a paid offer to upgrade her stay for 4 nights to an overwater bungalow.

If the hotel does not reply to her, Jenny could contact the hotel again and suggest that she is open to a paying a reasonable price to upgrade her remaining 4 nights to an overwater bungalow.

Bottom Line:

There is no surefire way to book an overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Thalasso, but Jenny can increase her chances of having Big Travel with Small Money by:

1) Reaching out to the hotel and asking them about how much it would cost to upgrade a points booking to an overwater booking.

or

2) Consider purchasing InterContinental Ambassador membership and booking a 2 night stay in an overwater bungalow using the complimentary weekend night certificate.

She could then add on a separate booking for additional nights after her paid stay and hope (or negotiate) with the hotel so that she doesn’t have to change rooms.

Thanks to everyone who commented to help Jenny!

Have you been to Bora Bora?  Tell us about it in the comments!

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20 responses to “Use Points For An Overwater Bungalow At The InterContinental Thalasso In Bora Bora.

  1. Great post. I stayed in an overwater bungalow during my honeymoon but I paid cash rates :( back then. This was before I realized there was a points/miles universe out there, and I wish I had read something like this before then.

    There are a number of other islands in French Polynesia. My suggestion is to be flexible and not be dead set on Bora Bora. There are overwater bungalows at Moorea, and the other islands are beautiful, too. Bora Bora just happens to get the lion’s share of publicity.

    A bit of warning: even if you do find a cheap hotel rate using points, I found the meal prices there to be extremely expensive. At most of these resorts, it was pretty inconvenient to go off the resort to eat, and the resorts know that so they charged exorbitant prices. I felt a bit gouged and it hurt the overall experience. Maybe someone out there has a trick for paying for meals using points, too.!

  2. @bluto- Cash rate? *Ouch!* How was your stay in Bora Bora?

    You’re right that there are other islands as well, and that one could have a fantastic stay in other islands as well! Thanks for the warning on the high price of meal prices. It costs a fortune for the meals, but I suppose hotels figure they can get away with this because you are trapped and likely on a special occasion where you won’t put up too much of a fuss! But this does spoil the experience, being the thrifty folks which we are!

  3. Thanks Daraius and everyone for your advice!! This post is supremely helpful. Since you said meals are extremely expensive, what’s an estimate of how much they cost?

  4. @Jenny - You’re welcome! I don’t know for sure how much the meals would cost, but estimate them to be about $40 per person for breakfast, and say about $ 50 to 60 per person for dinner based on information scattered in this thread.

    For those of you who have stayed here, what were the cost of the meals?

  5. alohastephen

    Brilliant! Now what is the best way to reserve an award ticket to get there?

  6. @alohastephen – Awards from the US to Bora Bora are among the hardest to get! You can only get there with AA miles via Air Tahiti Nui or with Delta miles via Air France to Papeete. T

  7. The range that Daraius outlined sounds about right. I went about 5 years ago so I’m sure prices are higher now, perhaps significantly if the French vacationers and their strong euro are driving prices there. I recall a very simple breakfast that ended up being $30+ per person. I don’t think you can avoid it by switching hotels. We stayed at a variety of Sheratons and Intercontinentals on the different islands, and they all are somewhat secluded so that it is most convenient to eat on site, and so they are priced exorbitantly. Even when we ventured off the resort, the nearby quality local restaurants were not exactly moderately priced either. They know they had a pretty high price umbrella to exist under, and they know the typical rich tourist can afford it and needs to eat.

    French Polynesia is a beautiful place, and you can save a lot of money versus the cash rate by using points and miles, but you’ll help yourself if you mentally brace for some exorbitant tourist pricing along the way.

  8. @bluto - Thanks for the update. It sounds like Paradise is not cheap!

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  10. Recently booked with Hilton at Moorea and Bora Bora with points. Then emailed and asked for upgrade pricing to the various OWB they had. Upgrade pricing varied depending on if you just wanted a OWB or had to have their Deluxe room. Did have to pay in advance. I have seem upgrades to be had for 100-285 night depending on OWB location.
    Had Delta points and used Expert Flyer to find Business award availability on both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui from LAX. 150.000 points per person from Atlanta. We ended up booking one way on Air France and One way on Air Tahit Nui. Plan a year out and there was availability in both coach 75000 each or business 150,000. You have to act fast as there are only a few seats per day.
    Food – expensive estimates. We have breakfast included – but expect to budget 150 daily in addition.
    Buy any liquor duty free in LAX or bring from home. We plan to bring a small blender to cut cost and pack afternoon snacks as well.
    Another approach to cost savings is to split the vacation into 1/2 land based and 1/2 OWB .

  11. @Deb – Thanks for sharing! Nice to know the cost of an upgrade, though I was surprised at the advance payment required. Paradise sure isn’t cheap!

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  15. Hi Daraius – I stayed here recently and was upgrade (on an award stay) to an OWB for free. I do not think the coral suites are in use. I would suggest getting ambassador status and then waiting until arrival to pay for any upgrade. But it is always a risk.

    Here is my hotel review in case of value: http://boardingarea.com/blogs/pointsmilesandmartinis/2011/11/intercontinental-thalasso-bora-bora-french-polynesia-trip-report/

  16. Hi,

    Hotel:
    ======
    I booked the Intercontinental Thalasso for 14 nights (July 2012) and would like to share my experience. I booked my stay using reward nights, but was unable to book the OWB directly. I have ambassador status, but they told me that upgrades to OWBs are only confirmed at check-in. They told me that if the OWB was available, they would give it to me for free (even though I booked with points), but this is a risk since July is peak season. They allowed me to pay for a guaranteed upgrade to the OWB, and this was about $180/night. I didn’t need to pay in advance, but simply needed to fill out a credit card authorization form. I might have paid for nothing, because I’m not sure they will refund my money in the event that the hotel is not sold out, but I’m not sure the experience is the same in the Garden suite.

    Flight
    =====
    I was able to book my flight from Canada to Tahiti (PPT) using Skymiles. I am flying Delta to LAX, and Air Tahiti Nui from LAX to PPT. Air France was also another option from LAX to PPT, but they did not have the dates that I needed. The cost using Skymiles was 150K points per person for business class, and the taxes were only about $125 per person. We had to pay for the flight from PPT to Bora Bora ($450/person), and booked it with Air Tahiti.

  17. @The Weekly Flyer – Thanks for the link!

    @Frankie – Thanks for that recap. I agree that it is risky to go to Bora Bora and not have an overwater bungalow! The flights from PPT to Bora Bora are expensive!

  18. @Frankie – any update on your trip? Did you happen to get upgraded to an OWB for free having the ambassador status.

  19. Mavie Betancourt

    Hi Daraius,

    I emailed the Intercontinentals in Bora Bora regarding upgrading from an awards booking to an OWB and below are the responses. Just thought you might want to know what the update is:

    Ia Orana from Tahiti!
    Thanks for your message and interest in our Hotels in Bora Bora.
    All reservations done with the Rewards points,no Ambassador advantages will be applied such as an upgrade to next level and late check out till 04.00pm.
    The upgrade will be possible by paying the supplement.
    Here are the amount for categories available for each Our Hotels in Bora Bora:
    *Intercontinental Resort Le Moana and Spa:
    From Beach Bungalow to:
    *Over Water Lagoon Bungalow :-11 578cfp exclusive Tax per night,all tax included 13 199cfp per night
    *Over Water Horizon Bungalow:-18 553cfp exclusive Tax per night,all tax included 21 150cfp per night

    *Intercontinental Resort and Thalasso Spa:
    From the Motu Coral Suite to:
    *Emerald Villa :-15 000cfp exclusive tax per night,all tax included 17 100cfp per night
    *Sapphire Villa :-25 000cfp exclusive tax per night,all tax included 28 500cfp per night
    *Diamond Villa :-35 000cfp exclusive tax per night,all tax included 39 900cfp per night
    Looking forwad to read.
    Best regards,

    Rose
    Central Reservations Agent

    INTERCONTINENTAL FRENCH POLYNESIA
    TAHITI – MOOREA – BORA BORA

  20. @Mavie Betancourt – Thanks for the update. The rate was very similar to the rate which we were quoted.

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