Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) Priority Club Points And Money Awards

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Priority Club has had these Points and Money awards for already some time. If the hotel has award availability, you can always choose to pay partially by cash. This is, in essence, buying points from Priority Club.

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I took advantage of it for the very first time last week for a stay at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & SPA. I would have had enough points just to do a basic redemption, but decided to buy 10K Priority Club points for $60. I could have bought 5000 Priority Club points for $40.

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What happens here is that Priority Club sells you the points first, as you can see from the attached account statement, and then withdraws the number of points required for the award night. If you later cancel the award night, you will get the full amount of points credited back to your account. Priority Club will not reverse the point sale transaction.

Kingfisher Airlines Kings Club Offering Transfer Bonus + Upgrade Vouchers + Free Tickets for Mileage Transfers In

Kingfisher Airlines has had a tumultuous month. Its entry to Oneworld was put on hold and it was temporarily suspended from IATA clearinghouse membership. Also, there has been reduction in scheduled number of flights, and discussion also of unpaid wages for its employees.

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Now, Kingfishers King Club is offering bonuses for mileage transfers into its program. Whether this makes any sense it is really a gamble. If the airline somehow manages to stay afloat, this offer appears to be quite lucrative.

  • Convert your loyalty points equivalent to 1,000 to 4,999 King Miles in one shot & earn 20% bonus King Miles
  • Convert points equivalent to 5,000 to 9,999 King Miles in one shot and earn 25% bonus King Miles and 1 upgrade voucher
  • Convert points equivalent to 10,000 King Miles in one shot (and then onwards in multiples of 10K) and earn 30% bonus King Miles + 2 upgrade vouchers + 1 One-way Kingfisher Class/Red domestic ticket (base fare) free

There are number of partners that you can use to transfer miles in. The ones that caught my eye are Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Marriott Rewards.

Starwood offers a bonus of 5000 miles for every 20000 Starpoints transferred. Transferring 40K Starwood points would yield 50000 King Club miles. And with the 30% King Club transfer bonus this would become total of 65000 King Club miles. You would also get 5 one-way Kingfisher domestic tickets + 10 upgrade vouchers.

There are terms and conditions attached to both of these “free” tickets and upgrade vouchers making them not entirely free. This offer is valid for transfers that are posted to the members Kings Club account by March 31st, 2012.

Terms and conditions of the transfer offer:

Air France-KLM Promo Awards (50% Discount) Are Out For March – April 2012

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It is always good time to burn miles when airlines temporarily lower the number of required miles. Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue program does this every couple of months. They just released the list for destination that they have at 50% for March and April 2012. The booking window starts on February 28th, 2012

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Thing to note is that you can book these also as one way.  These are not only for originating from Europe as all the destinations are for both directions. The discounted awards within Europe, however, are only from the listed cities. Other awards allow the origin/destination in Europe to be in zones 1, 2, and 3 basically meaning that these awards are valid from/to anywhere in Europe.

Thing to remember is that Flying Blue charges rather hefty taxes and fees for award tickets. The fees are mainly fuel surcharges (YQ) that they collect. As a result, it rarely makes sense to redeem for an economy class ticket. Also, there are no changes or cancellations of any kind allowed on promo tickets. You either use it or lose it.

You can sign up for the Flying Blue account and have a look at the availability. I would suggest first trying to find availability for the long haul flights and work the connecting fights, if needed, separately

Europe

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Africa & Middle East

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Asia Pacific

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Caribbean

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North America

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South America

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Sheraton Fiji Resort, Denarau Island, Nadi, Fiji – Review of My Stay

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Sheraton Fiji resort is located on the Denarau Island that is a basically a huge resort area. There are two other Starwood properties in the same complex; Sheraton Denarau Villas and a Westin hotel. Right next to Sheraton is also a Radisson Blu hotel, where I stayed the previous night before moving to Sheraton. Close by is also a Wyndham timeshare property, Sofitel hotel, and a Hilton resort where I spent one night also.

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Getting to/from hotel

Easiest way from the airport is to take one of the taxis that are waiting outside. Although they are bit more expensive than the regular ones, the fare shouldn’t be more than 20 to 25 FJD. The ride takes about 20 minutes.

There really isn’t much in the Denarau island besides these hotels and a “harbor”. There are quite a few restaurants in the harbor including a Hard Rock Café.  You can catch a boat to one of the island excursions from there as well. There is a hotel hoppa style bus that can transport you from any of the hotels to this entertainment venue for a daily flat free.

Check in

Was a borderline disaster. Only one person working who was checking someone out that was taking forever. Didn’t see a Platinum check in area anywhere. Finally a front desk manager was able to sort out the check in and escorted me to the Ocean Studio.

Room 1370

This was on a second floor of the beach front building. From the patio was an ocean/garden view. The studio was fairly good sized with a work area.

sheraton-fiji-ocean-studio-1370-view-of-the-room

Pool/Beach

The beach in all of the hotels in the Denarau area is unremarkable. The key is just to spend time by the pool. There are number of them in the entire resort area.

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Fitness Center

This hotel doesn’t have one. You can use the one at the Westin apparently.

Platinum Benefits

Beyond the studio upgrade? None. No welcome letter, no fruit or any other kind of amenity.

Check out

Was equally as disastrous as check in. Took about half an hour.

Conclusion

This was very average/below average Sheraton hotel. Most of the clientele is from package tourists from Australia and New Zealand. This hotel is fine if you are only looking for a getaway that is not too far from where you live. This is NOT a place to experience anything Fiji related, however.

Virgin Atlantic 50% off Reward Sale & Why It Is NOT a Good Deal 99% Off the Time

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Earlier in the week I received an email from Virgin Atlantic offering a 50% off reward sale on selected routes. This offer is valid for tickets issued between February 20th and March 5th for flights taken until May 31st (Cancun & Vancouver have longer redemption period). This offer is only valid for economy awards.

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Here’s the reason why this offer is in fact terrible. Virgin Atlantic charges huge fuel surcharges that they lump with taxes/fees. In lower economy fares the fuel surcharge portion is in fact much higher than the fare itself. It only makes sense to redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for Premium Economy and preferably Upper Class business class tickets only.

Here’s a simple New York to London economy redemption that Virgin Atlantic on their email advertises for 29500 Virgin Flying Club miles.

You can see that the price is 29500 miles and $615.60 in taxes, fees and surcharges

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When you click the Fare Breakdown you get the following screen. Virgin must be ashamed of their actual breakdown that they still don’t present it.

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Only after you click the taxes, fees, charges and surcharges link you will get the actual breakdown.

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On this “award” ticket the fuel surcharge is $438. That is nothing but pure revenue that is masqueraded as some sort of tax component.

Let’s look at some Virgin’s revenue fares for the same period and the same route. It is easy to find a revenue fare of $729.90. As you can see Virgin publishes fares as low as $45.50 for this route one-way. So, in essence your 29500 miles can be worth as low as $91. Not even considering that you would actually earn miles on that $91 fare.

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Here are the terms and conditions of this offer:

StarAlliance Offering Status Transfer for Spanair’s Silver & Gold Members and Oneworld for Malev’s Duna Club Silver, Gold & Platinum Members

This was a bad month for both Star Alliance and Oneworld alliances. First Spanair, Barcelona based Star Alliance carrier, went under and few days later Malev, Hungary’s flag carrier and Oneworld member, ceased its operations.

In both cases the frequent flyer members lost all their banked miles. Some airlines continue to accept tickets that are issued by Malev and Spanair, although it is very unlikely that the operating carriers will get reimbursed.

Spanair Status Transfer

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Now, Star Alliance has initiated an official status match campaign for Spanair’s Silver and Gold level elite flyers. The following airlines are matching Spanair’s status in their respective programs:

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You need to follow the link on StarAlliance.com that takes you to a Surveymonkey site. You need to complete the status transfer request by March 16th, 2012.

Malev Duna Club Status Transfer

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Finnair, Airberlin, Japan Airlines are offering a status match for Malev’s Duna Club members. Unlike the StarAlliance match, Oneworld carriers require in Japan Airlines’ and Finnair’s case at least one flight to be taken before the status takes effect. Airberlin matches the status for four months and will extend the status further depending on the number of points or flights taken.

  • Malév Duna Club Platinum cardholders are being offered Platinum membership of Finnair Plus, Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank (JMB) Diamond or the equivalent tier in airberlin’s topbonus scheme, enabling them to retain their top level Emerald status in oneworld.
  • Malév Duna Club Gold members can transfer to Finnair Plus Gold, Japan Airlines JMB Sapphire or the equivalent airberlin topbonus tier, enabling them to continue to enjoy oneworld Sapphire services and benefits.
  • Malév Duna Club Silver members can transfer to Finnair Plus Silver, Japan Airlines JMB Crystal or the equivalent airberlin topbonus tier, enabling them to continue to enjoy oneworld Ruby services and benefits.

Hyatt Gold Passport Discontinues Partnerships with Air Canada (Aeroplan), Alaska Airlines, Frontier & US Airways

Hyatt announced today that they are discontinuing partnership with Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, and US Airways on March 15th, 2012. You cannot earn miles based on your stay or exchange Hyatt Gold Passport with these partners after that date.

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It is always sad to see partners go because sometimes transferring miles from a hotel program is the best way to hit a promotional offer that airline partner is running i.e. US Airways. Discontinuance the partnership with Aeroplan is somewhat surprising considering that they were recently running a promotion.

Here’s the list of partner’s as of today:

Airline Partner You Earn
Aeromexico® 1,000 Kilometers
Aeroplan (Air Canada) 500 Miles
Air China 800 Kilometers
Air France / KLM 500 Miles
Alaska Airlines 500 Miles
All Nippon Airways 500 Miles
American Airlines 500 Miles
Amtrak 500 Miles
Asia Miles Airways 500 Miles
Asiana Airlines 500 Miles
British Airways 500 Points
China Airlines 500 Miles
China Eastern Airlines 800 Points
Continental Airlines® 500 Miles
Delta Air Lines® 500 Miles
Emirates 500 Miles
Etihad Airways 500 Miles
Frontier Airlines 500 Miles
Hawaiian Airlines 500 Miles
Japan Airlines 500 Miles
Jet Airways 500 Miles
Korean Air 500 Miles
LAN Airlines S.A. 1000 Kilometers
Lufthansa 500 Miles
Qantas Airways (600 or 1,000 Points)2
Qatar Airways 500 Miles
Royal Brunei Airlines 500 Miles
Singapore Airlines 500 Miles
South African Airways 500 Miles
Southwest Airlines® 600 Points
Thai Airways International 500 Miles
Turkish Airlines3 500 Miles
United Airlines® 500 Miles
US Airways® 500 Miles
Virgin Atlantic Airways 750 Miles

Mercure Nadi Hotel, Nadi, Fiji – Review of My Stay

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I had spent the three previous nights at the Hilton, Radisson Blu, and Sheraton hotels in the Denarau Island. I wanted to have a look at the city and the bars on the Queens road are, and had arranged a car rental the following morning from the airport. As I had planned to only crash at the hotel for the night, I decided that Mercure should be ok.

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To be honest, I am not very familiar with the Accor’s brands. I know that they have lots of hotels, but most of them are somewhat lower quality ones than Hyatt’s and Starwood’s. I thought that Mercure would be comparable to a lower quality Holiday Inn or maybe to a Holiday Inn Express hotel.

Location

This hotel is conveniently located to the airport in Nadi. It is on the Queens road very close to the night spots in the city. It is within a rather long walk from the Nadi town, but there is nothing really in the city worth seeing.

Hotel

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Not sure what is the official star rating of this hotel, but comparing to international standards it shouldn’t be more than two stars. It had a very motel like feeling. They do offer some sort of airport shuttle in certain times of the day. It probably makes sense to check how early these shuttles leave. In some hotels they were 3 hours before scheduled departure time that is way too early. From Mercure it takes 10 to 15 minutes to the airport. There is no need to check in earlier than 70 minutes before your scheduled international departure time.

Check in

I had just made a reservation for same day arrival. It didn’t take too long for them to pull it and gave me a key. Although I am an Accor Platinum member (due to a recent promotion), don’t think that there are any benefits when staying at Mercure properties. I had a bell boy helping take my bag to the room.

Room 120

This was a ground floor room that had a direct access to the courtyard/pool. The room was ok. Nothing good but nothing bad either. The TV was rather small. There was an empty refrigerator. Not sure why there was two beds – one bigger and one rather small one.

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At one point there was a cockroach on the floor. Took the picture before killing it.

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Pool

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The pool area looked rather nice compared to the room I had. They had two small pools and few hammocks in the garden.

Conclusion

This hotel is fine for a quick overnight. I would not, however, spend more than a night at this property.

Priority Club One Day Reward Sale

Priority Club seems to be experimenting with various kinds of rewards sales. They have the points breaks, last-minute awards and now they have a reward sale.

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The number of properties participating to this promotion is rather limited – only eight participating properties. The dates when these awards are available does vary by property.

You can access this sale at http://www.priorityclub.com/onedaysale.

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Why Selecting Seats On a Multi-carrier Itinerary Cannot Be As Easy As On Air New Zealand?

When I did the multi-carrier redemption couple of weeks ago using Continental miles on Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, ANA, Thai Airways, and Air New Zealand, I had the pleasure of trying to get all the seats selected for the itinerary.

For this purpose, I requested from Continental all the carrier specific PNR’s. The Lufthansa’s website allowed be to request seat from all the carriers on this Continental ticketed itinerary, but those seat selections didn’t stick.

Virgin Atlantic, ANA, and Thai required me to call their reservations number to have the seats selected. I used ExpertFlyer first to find out what seats were available on the flights that I was booked on. Especially calling Virgin took forever because there was some snow around in the Heathrow area that had led to numerous cancellations. ANA and Thai were both easier.

But the best of all and the easiest was the Air New Zealand. You only needed the record locator and could do everything online without needing to call the reservations. It makes you wonder, why all the airlines don’t have this. For sure it would decrease the number of phone calls to the reservations that are purely for selecting a seat.

Here are the seat selection screens that I just did for two Air New Zealand flights later today.

Apia to Auckland:

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Auckland to Shanghai:

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Trying to Get a Good Deal for a Hotel? Ask for a Local Rate.

For the past two weeks I have been in the Fiji and Samoa. The former is well covered with chain hotels, for the good and the bad, and I am accustomed of getting a fairly good price at them using various methods like discount codes, doing a cash + points redemptions, pure point redemptions etc.

There were some hotels that appeared to be acceptable in Apia like Millenia hotel, that turned out to be a dud. The only problem was that the price wasn’t really inline with the accommodation and amenities they were providing. So, I decided to check out after two nights. I had driven past the Aggie Grey’s couple of times that appeared to be the hotel to stay when in Apia. The only problem was that the price was on the high side.

Luckily, I met a nice Aussie who has been living on the island for a long time and was running couple of business. He said that he will call the hotel to see if they could extend the local rate for me as well. And for sure the hotel did just that. I paid what I think was a fair price for a nice hotel. (The review will come in the next couple of weeks)

So my advice would be to contact your friends/family and ask them to call the hotels to find out the local rates. This probably works best in places where the income inequality is the greatest between the visitors and locals. If you really need to have a local ID, they can come and add themselves to the room as a guest as well.

Starwood Offering 1000 Bonus Starpoints for Sheraton Club Floor Bookings

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Starwood started their Sheraton club initiative about a year ago that required all the Sheraton’s to have a club lounge that is open 7 days a week. They (Starwood) have had a mixed success getting hotels to sign up/comply with the brand requirements, however.

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Now, Starwood is offering extra 1000 Starpoints per stay booked using American Express for Sheraton Club accommodations for stays until May 31st, 2012. You need to make the booking using the following link or book either using DAILYFS or SICLUB rate codes.

Expect to pay the full Club rate in order to get the 1000 extra Starwood Starpoints. If you are a Platinum member, there is really no need to pay and book a Club rate in order to have the “club” access. Domestic clubs in the United States are rarely if ever worth the price premium they command. Internationally club access can make sense depending of the price and how much of the club you are planning to take advantage off. For the most part, I call rate promotions like this “screw your employer” one.

Here’s one example from Sheraton Garden Grove. Their lowest public rate is $111.

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The AAA club rate is $143.

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And the Club rate that is eligible for this promotion $152.

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Here are the Terms and conditions of this offer that you can also find at here:

Hyatt February Edition of the 48 Hour Sale – C12FEB or C48FEB

Hyatt is having their monthly 48 hour sale where you can save 15% to 30% off of best available rates (BAR). Sometimes you can save quite a bit of money and sometimes you cannot. These rates are valid at US, Canada, and Caribbean hotels.

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Sometimes it is actually better to book an AAA rate that might include some extras like a complimentary breakfast. AAA rates are also normally not prepaid and cancelable. Here’s the link for the Hyatt’s web page for this promotions: http://www.hyatt.com/hyatt/specials/corpofferslist.jsp?offerId=39730828.

Fiji Beach Resort & Spa Managed by Hilton, Denarau Island, Nadi, Fiji – Review of My Stay

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This was going to be my first accommodation in Fiji. The day before arrival I was looking at various rates for this hotel and found a points + money rate that was good deal. I had originally planned to use a free night certificate from a promotion.

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This is some sort of timeshare or partially owner owned property. They have owners lounge, although not a Hilton club lounge. The unit that I had was quite residential as it had a washer & dryer, refrigerator, dish washer, hot plates, and a grill on the outside patio.

Location

The hotel is on the Denarau Island where most of the other international hotels are located. I also stayed at the Radisson Blu and Sheraton hotels during my stay. Hilton was most definitely best of these three options. There is also a Sofitel that many consider to be the best of all, however.

There is a Denarau harbor where many of the restaurants, some shops, and a Hard Rock Café is located. You can also catch a ferry or boat and do an island excursion. There is a shuttle bus for a daily flat fee that takes you from any of the resorts to the harbor.

Getting to the hotel from the airport

There are quite a few airport taxis at the arrivals area. Local taxis would be probably cheaper but getting one would be a challenge. I tried but gave up after ten minutes. The airport taxis are not that expensive. It took around 20 minutes in pouring rain to get to the Hilton. The fare was 20 FJD.

Check in

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The check in area is immediately to the left when you arrive to the hotel. They had all the paperwork ready. Some of the units are quite a faraway from the check in desk. I had a buggy taking me to the 2801 with my bags.

Accommodations

I was assigned a ground floor “suite”. It was basically just a large open space that had been divided by couple of doors.

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The bathroom was very well stocked. You could do your own laundry using the washing machine and the dryer. The bath tub looked nice, although I didn’t use it.

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They had the new Peter Thomas Roth line of amenities, but for some reason had the old La Source pump bottles in the shower.

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The resort doesn’t have wireless access and the Ethernet cable that they had was very short. I requested them to bring me a wireless router so that I could use both my PC and MacBook Air laptops. For some reason the wireless router they brought didn’t work, but the longer Ethernet cable was enough for my need.

Pool, Beach & Fitness center

There are two pools that are divided by a restaurant. These are fairly large sized and had sun chairs all around them. The weather was terrible for the day I was in the resort. It was mainly raining non-stop, but when there was a bit of sun there were immediately few people on the pool area.

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The beach itself is unremarkable, but this is the case with all the hotels in the Denarau area. You cannot really spend any time in the beach itself, but that’s why there are pools.

The fitness center was in the opposite corner of the resort from my suite. It was quite small but had the equipment that I needed for a quick workout.

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Breakfast

My tip would be to eat inside. I took a table outside and when I went to pick up something there was immediately number of birds picking up on my plate. I quickly decided to re-seat myself inside. The breakfast selection was quite nice and what you would expect from a resort. The service was slow but that is not unexpected in Fiji.

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Conclusion

This was a fine resort, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my brief stay. It could have been due to being in Denarau that is an isolated tourist area where there is nothing else around. You can always take a taxi to the Queens road where there are bars and restaurants which the locals go.

My tip would be to get a room/suite that is closer located to the central area of the resort. If you are “housed” in the very west or very east in the resort, it will be quite a hike to anywhere. I did saw quite a few people using the buggies to get around. You can probably get one by calling the operator.

Not sure if this resort offers any kind of Diamond amenity. At least there was nothing in my suite that would have indicated that I had received one. I always find it helpful when hotels have a welcome letter that is customized to your status. Not sure exactly what are the Diamond benefits at this resort beyond the upgrade and the complimentary breakfast.

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