2. Korean Air First Class SFO-ICN, British Airways lounge at SFO
3. Eating our way through Seoul + Park Hyatt Seoul
4. Korean Air First Class ICN-CMB-MLE, Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN
5. Back to the Islands: Cocoa Island by COMO
6. Cathay Pacific Business Class MLE-HKG-SFO, CX lounges at HKG
I’ve always been a creature of habit – when I find something I like I generally stick to it. I can eat at the same place for lunch for an entire week, even ordering the same thing each day. If you open up my closet, you’ll find the same exact shirt but in multiple colors…you get the idea.
So after our honeymoon last November, Maldives was the only thing on my mind. It’s the only place I wanted to travel to and I wanted to go back, like as soon as possible. Just as those thoughts were crossing my mind, Cathay Pacific happened to unleash a killer business class deal ex-MLE, and I jumped at the chance to go again this May.
While we had enjoyed our stay at the Conrad, it was helpful to discern what we liked and didn’t like and use that information to help decide where to stay for our upcoming trip. A few of the key reasons why we ended up choosing Cocoa Island:
– Due to time constraints, we would only be able to likely stay for 4 nights and wanted a resort that was close enough for a boat transfer. While we’d be sacrificing the ability to go to a more remote location, we wouldn’t have to deal with the logistics of seaplane transfers which would eat into the limited amount of time we had to begin with.
– The Conrad is a huge resort and is great in that there is a huge variety in the activities around the island, types of villas to stay in, and restaurants to eat at. But since the resort is so big, a lot of time is spent just getting around the island. Since we’d only be staying for a short time, we really didn’t need that much variety, and Cocoa Island fit the bill with just 33 villas as compared to the Conrad’s 130+, 1 restaurant vs. 6 restaurants, etc.
– Cocoa Island presented itself as a health and wellness-oriented resort which was appealing to us, with everything from a special healthy menu to daily yoga classes.
– And last but certainly not least, we were able to get a good deal by jumping in at the very beginning of low season rates for our trip in early May. Most of the resorts in the Maldives start their low season sometime in May, some early in the month and some closer to end. Cocoa Island starts theirs on May 1st, so we were able to snag low season rates for the 1st week of May which were 40-50% lower than the rates just a week earlier. By going earlier in the month we could minimize the chance of weather impacting our stay, and everything worked out great with just a handful of rainy bursts during the trip.
With that decision made, the only remaining piece of the puzzle was how we were going to get there. *A availability through Singapore and CX availability through HKG weren’t open, so that left old reliable Korean Air which had wide open availability basically all of May. As an added bonus, Korean Air allows free stopovers at ICN even on one-ways which would be great for breaking up the long journey.
Let me just say for the record that Korean Air is the best kept “secret” of the Chase UR program. It’s ridiculously easy to transfer miles in, they don’t expire for 10 years, the award chart is competitive, and best of all their premium cabin availability is fantastic. I say that it’s a “secret” because it’s really not, as people have been talking/writing about it quite a bit.
So what’s stopping it from becoming more mainstream? My guess is the booking process, which if you believe some of the bloggers has been likened to going to the dentist for a root canal. By my estimation, the sum total of the time spent making the reservation (which included calling in since I wanted a stopover), filling out the redemption forms which included creation of a family account for myself/spouse, and lastly paying for the ticket via the phone system was approximately 30 minutes total.
Sure, that’s more than it would take to book a simple itinerary via United’s website, but it’s also about 10 hours less than the time required to book a complicated trip that requires calling in to United. And every Korean Air agent I spoke to was both knowledgeable and most importantly very friendly.
So as much as I’d like to keep all the Korean Air seats for myself, just wanted to plug the fact that the process was not bad at all and shouldn’t stop anyone from making this the destination for their Chase UR points.