Maximizing Miles in the Maldives: Cathay First, Eating in Singapore, and a Park Hyatt Water Villa – Park Hyatt Maldives – Part I

  1. Introduction
  2. Positioning flights to San Francisco, Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, and Some Dim Sum for the Day
  3. Cathay’s New San Francisco Lounge
  4. Cathay Pacific First Class, San Francisco – Hong Kong
  5. The Wing and Cathay Pacific First Class, Hong Kong – Singapore
  6. A Grand Suite at the Grand Hyatt Singapore
  7. Eating in Singapore
  8. Dinner at Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands
  9. Singapore Airlines Business Class: Singapore – Male
  10. Transfer to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives
  11. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part I
  12. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part II
  13. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part III
  14. Maldivian, Kaadehdhoo – Male
  15. Singapore Airlines Business Class, Male – Singapore
  16. Cathay Pacific Business Class, Singapore – Hong Kong
  17. Conrad Hong Kong
  18. Cathay Pacific First Class, Hong Kong – Chicago
  19. American’s Chicago Flagship Lounge and the Final Journey Home

Here’s a view of one of the water villas, like the one we’d be staying in, as seen from the boat as we arrived at the resort:

Now let me start the chapter about the Park Hyatt Maldives with its conclusion: this is one of the absolute best places I have ever stayed, it is the single best use of points for a hotel redemption I have ever had (and that’s saying something after my Conrad Koh Samui trip in November).

The hotel is a category 6 redemption, meaning 22,000 points a night. That’s the same points requirement as the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. And that gets you a villa that goes in the range of ~$1000 a night.

The property has three room types:

  • Park Villa
  • Park Pool Villa
  • Park Water Villa

I just checked a random set of dates and found rates of $870, $1070, and $1220 respectively.

Note the incremental prices of $200 and $350 for the higher category rooms. That seems to be stable. After booking my award I inquired of the hotel about confirming a paid upgrade in advance. All awards book into the Park Villa category, which is itself a suite. There’s no opportunity to use free suite nights from a Hyatt Visa signup or Diamond confirmed suite upgrades on paid rates, since the base room is already a suite. There are some reports of Diamonds booking a Park Villa being given a Park Pool Villa as an upgrade based on availability at check-in, though this is certainly not an entitlement of the Gold Passport program.

Some prefer the greater privacy of a pool villa, but to me the quintessential Maldives experience is the overwater room, and I wasn’t sure I’d come back to this hotel. I wanted the overwater villa, and I certainly didn’t want to fly all the way to the middle of the Indian ocean, managing to make it to the Maldives and then still have to take a domestic flight and a boat to get here, and wind up in the base level room.

Since I had a bunch of Hyatt gift certificates with expiration dates from the 2011 Capital One signup bonuses burning a hole in my pocket I was looking for a paid upgrade. When I asked about confirming this in advance, I got the following reply:

It is possible to upgrade to a next category subject to availability upon arrival. Should you wish to confirm a villa upgrade following are the upselling rates

Park Villa to Park Pool = US$ 200 +++ ( Subject to 10% Service Charge, 3.5%GST and US$ 8 per person as Government bed tax)
Park Villa to Park Water Villa = US$ 350 +++ ( Subject to 10% Service Charge, 3.5%GST and US$ 8 per person as Government bed tax)

Please note that prices are subject to change.

Now, I was still a bit torn especially since I’d likely get the Pool Villa as a free upgrade anyway. And I didn’t like the idea of ‘subject to availability upon arrival’. So I asked whether my impression of upgrades was correct, and also whether I could do the buy up in advance in order to confirm the room I wanted, and got the following reply along with the same pricing:

Refer your email I would like to confirm that Diamond members would be get a villa upgrade to a next category subject to availability at the time of check-in and It is possible to confirm a villa upgrade now by paying up sell rates as below

Pool Villa: USD 200 +++ per night ( Subject to 10% Service Charge, 3.5%GST and US$ 8 per person as Government bed tax)
Park Water Villa: USD 350 +++ per night ( Subject to 10% Service Charge, 3.5%GST and US$ 8 per person as Government bed tax)

I then confirmed that if I did the buyup they would be willing to add it to my folio instead of billing me for it in advance, so that I could pay with Hyatt Gift Checks. They confirmed this, and we locked down the Water Villa.

And in fact I was pleased with the privacy of those villas — they are angled so that folks in one villa cannot see onto the decks of other villas. The only time folks will see you sitting on your deck is if they are walking in towards the resort from a villa further out on the property, or if they are snorkeling around your villa. I specifically asked for the most private villa possible…

After booking but prior to the stay I noticed that the hotel disappeared from the list of eligible properties for using Hyatt Gift Checks. So I emailed the hotel to ask about this, I was worried having committed to the stay and the room buy up using these certificates. The hotel replied that,

[U]nfortunately upgrade fee is not payable through Hyatt Check Certificates hence the charges will be added to your folio and can be settled at check out.

However you may settle your Dinning Charges using Hyatt Certificates during the stay.

I replied that I had specifically set up the upgrade in our correspondence saying that I would be paying with gift checks, and that I still hoped they would permit me to do so. They said they would, but that I couldn’t then use it for other charges — evening “dinning” —

As a very special case we are happy to make an exception and will accept Hyatt certificate for the upgrade to Park Water Villa. However we are unable to accept Hyatt certificate for other incidential charges such as excursion, dinning or transfers.

I had costs on the brain now. The cost of the resort still scared me a little. Not only was I paying about $400 per night on top of the room rate, but all reports of spending on property were that everything was going to be very expensive. I actually didn’t find that to be the case once I got there, I’ll share the details of that shortly, but I was expecting dinner for 2 to be at least $300 per night without alcohol. So I started mulling over a Passport Escapes award — that provides daily breakfast plus 3 complimentary dinners on a 5 night stay (or 5 dinners on a 7 night stay) for additional points.

Everyone at the resort gets breakfast for free though. And Diamonds of course would get breakfast for free anyway. So I asked whether the resort might extend something else in lieu of breakfast, such as lunch, and was told this was not possible. I converted the award to a Passport Escapes stay, it seemed as though it would be a great value given the price of dinners. In the end I wish I hadn’t, food wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be and I didn’t get the value out of those incremental points that I had anticipated

It also turned out, in the end, that the hotel was willing to take Gift Checks for the room upgrade and for other on-property expenses. The hotel returned to the list of properties accepting the gift checks. I flagged this for the property which then clarified,

Please accept my apologies for the confusion over Hyatt Check Certificates.

Our Property accepts Hyatt Check Certificates for eligible charges such as F&B, Room upgrades and excursions. In eligible charges are boutique shop and transfers.

All good in any case, I had a room on points and an upgrade to a water villa I’d be paying with certificates. I was spending additional points for 3 dinners. And the remaining food and beverage I’d be paying with gift checks. No stress about the costs, and the confusion was sorted.

I was contacted a couple of weeks prior to my stay by the General Manager asking whether I had any special requests, and I made several.

  • Soy milk for my wife, noting that I prefer cream or half and half with my coffee and she likes soy. I was happy to be flexible if this wasn’t possible, but my morning coffee is one of my favorite things to savor and linger over at a resort. And this can surprisingly be a source of confusion, so anything that can be done so that folks know these preferences in advance is really helpful.
  • Extra waters in our villa. The standard allotment seemed to be two large bottles of sparkling and two of still each day, we drink a lot of water and this wasn’t likely to be enough.
  • The most private villa possible, as requested earlier.
  • Specific flights for our transfer to and from Male. It’s certainly possible for specific flights to sell out, I didn’t know when they’d be buying our tickets (presumably inside the hotel’s cancellation period). I didn’t want a flight which stopped at another airline first, and I didn’t want a longer than necessary layover. So I had a look at the Maldivian flight schedules and suggested that the most appropriate flights. Glad I did too because our flight <I.to the resort was completely full.

When we finally arrived at the resort we were informed that there was a one-hour change of time from Male, clocks are an hour ahead of Male and also of Kaadedhdhoo, the small island where our domestic flight landed.

We were introduced to our island ‘host’ who would assist with any needs throughout the stay. He met us on the dock and had a golf cart ready to take us to our room. We drove around the resort and onto the walkway that takes you out along the water villas. And we kept driving. All the way to the end. We had been assigned the outermost villa on the property, which was perfect, just perfect, definitely the one regarded as the very best and early in our stay when staff would ask us our villa number there would often be a nod of surprise or a smirk recognizing that this was the best room in the house.

Only 7 of the 14 water villas were occupied during the better part of our stay, there is a bowl with water out front of each occupied villa (perhaps to wash your feet before entering?) and that bowl is turned up on its side in front of unoccupied villas so it was always clear which ones had guests and which did not.

When we arrived in our room our host gave us a tour around. There was a half bottle of champagne and several snacks under a glass bowl waiting for us. The bowl was an absolute necessity, as any uncovered food would quickly attract ants.

I was disappointed to see that there weren’t any extra waters in the room as requested, I didn’t say anything at the time but subsequent housekeeping visits always brought additional waters and we usually had twice the normal allotment and without charge. The hotel uses large glass bottles which they sanitize on property and fill with water that they purify as well, in order to avoid the waste of bottled water.

In a similar vein, there are reusable bottles for shampoo, conditioner, and bath gel in the shower. The top on one of the bottles in our shower was broken. It was one example of lack of detail or need for updating in some of the rooms, the property is only about 3 years old but the villas are definitely showing wear from the elements. They’re beautiful and stylish, but there are holes or gaps in the walls and sliding doors out to the deck which makes bugs entering easier and makes it more difficult to keep the villa cool during the day. With the air conditioning on full blast, the room would get up to around 25 degrees Celsius during the day.

The villas do need some work, they’re lovely but showing substantial wear after only about 3 years. They’re one large bedroom and sitting area, a large bathroom, and a shower that has high walls but is otherwise ‘outside’.

Most days, after breakfast, I just spent on the deck of the villa, looking out over the vast ocean and looking down at the coral. A pair of dolphins came by our villa one day, less than 50 meters away from the room. I’m not much of a photographer but the scenery itself is so beautiful that the pictures come out well.

Do bring sunscreen though. The first day there I thought that, in the shade, I could sit outside without putting any on. I got significantly burned. Sunscreen is especially expensive in the hotel gift shop, I don’t remember the amount but somewhere in the US$20s I think for a small bottle of Banana Boat.

The Maldives is a very nice place. It’s a stunning setting. The hotel offers outstanding snorkeling (and, presumably diving though we did not dive). The fish swimming around the house reef are beautiful.

Part 2 of the hotel piece of this report will be in and around the resort, and part 3 will focus mostly on the food.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] All of the rooms at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives are villas, however to get the over water villas you do have to negotiate with the resort and pay an up-charge to confirm in addition to the 22,000 Hyatt points per night we are paying for the base level park villa.  Truthfully all of the villas look great to me and our experience would be fine even without paying to confirm a “better” villa, but since it is a 40th birthday we will be paying extra to secure the over water option on this trip.  Though the pool villa options look pretty cool, too.  Gary also has a very helpful post on this process. […]

Comments

  1. Been waiting anxiously for this update to your trip report. Would you recommend the Maldives for someone who doesn’t dive, snorkel or swim? Thanks

  2. @john you’re missing some of the key benefits then of course, but it is still remote and beautiful, so if you like laying out and looking at beauty then it’s certainly great for that!

  3. Gary,

    What is the easiest way to get to the Maldives using Points from New York? I’m new to the game and am about to do my first app-o-rama and want to make sure that I’m getting the correct cards. Thanks for all your guidance, I can’t wait to stay at this place.

  4. Thanks for the report, Gary. We’ve been anxiously awaiting it! We arrive at the Park Hyatt Maldives in 5 weeks, and I am relieved to hear that you liked the hotel so much. Can’t wit for the remaining installments.

  5. @Pat for the overwater villa, yes — 22k points is cost of the base villa though diamonds may be upgraded to pool villa

  6. @Nathan depends on how many points and whose, but BA NYC-LHR/LGW-MLE… Austrian once-weekly via Vienna (though award). Lots of points to do AA miles on Etihad. Japan Airlines miles on Emirates via Dubai… or via SIN. I’ve written a decent amount on this, another option and easier is to fly to Colombo and buy a ticket

  7. Hi Gary;

    Great and important report for me, as it’s on my bucket list.

    Were you at the Bora Bora Nui and Moorea Sheraton when they were with Starwood? If so, some comparisons on the rooms and the snorkeling would be great (snorkeling at the Sheraton was some of the best ever).

    Thanks!

  8. @Beachfan I did Bora Bora Nui in 2005. Never did the Sheraton Moorea. Park Hyatt Maldives rooms are a bit larger They don’t have the glass looking straight down into the ocean like Bora Bora Nui has by the tub and next to the couch. Snorkling probably better off the house reef at the park hyatt than bora bora, again i cannot compare to moorea. Certainly the service is better, and I’d say the food is better as well. Again, as compared to my stay in 2005. .

  9. The moment I have been waiting for!!!!!!
    I think this may be your ultimate review of all times with this aspirational property.
    How do you top this?
    If you were to choose bewteen Bora Bora or Maldives based on food and overall accomodations and quality of experience not recreational activities which would it be?

    Comfort of the bed?
    Hard/firm or Heavenly bed/Grand Bed like?
    Can’t wait to see the next chapter.Thanks for this amazing detailed review that nobody in Social Media could have done as well.We all owe you for this one knowing what we would experience should we go.
    Well done and worth the wait 🙂
    Cheers

  10. @Don the bed was ok. I slept well. It wasn’t the greatest, but wasn’t uncomfortable by any means. I’d choose the Maldives over Bora Bora in a heartbeat for better service and food. Both are absolutely beautiful. Bora Bora is generally not as remote, even when your resort is on its own atoll there’s an island to go to with a town (Vaitape) which has some decent dining. Here you really are ‘stuck’ on the resort, though I never minded one bit.

  11. What is up with the walkway visible from your deck? You mentioned the privacy from other villas, but did many people wander out to the end of the walkway?

  12. Hi Gary did you stay at the Park Pool Villa or Park Water Villa. Also whats your opinion of the regular Park Villa rooms

  13. also would you recommend getting the 90 day challenge with hyatt diamond and visit the place, is there an added benefit if i did that

  14. @thalha as a hyatt diamond if you book a basic villa you might get a pool villa, subject to availability on arrival, you get bonus points for your in-hotel spend, and you get a free cocktail an some snacks each evening at sunset. In general there’s not much need to be diamond here,since everyone gets free breakfast and internet. The chance of an upgrade if booking a base room is nice, but if it’s me as you can see I booked the room I wanted — I would hate to show up here, after schlepping to the middle of the Indian Ocean, and NOT get the room I wanted.

  15. @thalha i booked a Park Water Villa (regular park villa on points, paid upgrade to confirm water villa at booking). The regular villas are basically the same room-wise, the difference is whether you get a pool (and your own space around it), location on the resort, whether you have a view of the water. No meaningful difference in the room. You experience the resort just the same either way. But to me it’s worth the extra for the best rooms here, at least that’s a small price relative to the cost in money an time to get here and you won’t go here that frequently, I wanted the ‘full experience’ if I was going to make the trip. YMMV.

  16. Thanks gary for the reply. I really like your posts, i just wish for new bees like me, you would breakdown all the points required for your travel and fees. Definately get a kick out of that, just a suggestion, i believe others feel the same.

  17. I’m so ready to book this trip! Being a basic Hyatt guest, is there any way to fast track diamond status besides hotel stays?

  18. I’m confused at how you got a sunburn in the shade? Were you just under some kind of canvas tent, etc that was allowing sun through or water reflection?

  19. Great review Gary and I am very glad you enjoyed your stay. I have to say when we visited under Alila management I felt it was far and away the most amazing place we had ever stayed. We did luck out with some incredible weather while were there and that always helps but I really love this place, and we are all booked up to return this August. In the end I booked with Etihad despite having to do two awards (Gary I am sure you posted here somewhere that you had success getting agents to book under one award but can’t find that comment – are you still finding that or have they clamped down now?) I had looked into using Qatar via ANA too, which has pretty good availability, but I just have so many more AA points than Amex that EY made sense. I could only get J class but am checking in on a regular basis to get F. I am optimistic next year when they start IAD service that F availability will be plentiful

    My wife and I discussed whether to pay for the over-water-villa but concluded the beach pool villa is for us. And I know the stats and am going to take the chance on a free upgrade (they actually don’t have many of the base Island villas so really good chance you will get put in the pool villa). I do recall the snorkeling is best along the north-east side of the island in front of the beach villas (as is the diving – if you do the house reef dive they tend to take you east from the pier rather than west towards the over water villas) and it is just so nice to go out snorkeling and then come back and take a dip in your pool. I also loved the outdoor showers in the backyard. So for us the pool villa is perfect.

    I find it interesting you see the over-water-villa as the quintessential Maldives experience, and I get where that comes from. But we have been looking at Maldives since the 1990s. I remember back then the popular resorts were the likes of Banyan Tree, Four Seasons, Soneva Fushi etc and none of these had over water villas. A villa on the beach of a tiny island was the norm. I seem to recall it was Sonvea Gilli that kicked off the over-water-villa idea and then all the resorts realized this was the best way to add room when you are a tiny island at 1cm above sea level! So I think the over water villa is a “modern” Maldives concept!

    Of course for me the true quintessential Maldives experience and while I understand you not going if you’ve never done it you did miss a world under the water there that is truly incredible. We are very pumped to be going back to this place diving. August is generally speaking calm seas so should be awesome

    Also we have chosen to go with the passport escape. While it may not be the most efficient points usage, I’m more point rich than cash rich right now and it just means we can eat comfortably without having to worry about racking up the bill (the diving will take care of that!)

    Anyway great review, great trip, and can’t wait to do it myself again soon

  20. How does the free dinners work (that came w the passport escape) ? Is it pretty much order all you can eat like a buffet? Is wine included?

  21. Hey Gary,

    Just wanted to update folks that may still be reading this. I just heard back from the hotel that upgrades on an award stay are now $350++ for the park pool villa, and $550++ for the Overwater villa.

    That’s pretty painful, on top of the points one also has to shell out.

  22. I have to concur – having stayed at this property in both the Over Water and Park Villa, it is a fantastic place… …even better if available on 50% off or points!!

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