My Ritz-Carlton Award Booking Dilemma


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I need a break and I need to get away. In the past 4 months haven’t been out of the small suburban town I’ve been living in for more than a handful of days and it’s starting to get a little claustrophobic. I’m fortunate that I’m in Europe right now and not back home in the US because while my home state of California is well into its second “lockdown” (of sorts), Europe is trying to open up and people are being encouraged to travel (albeit cautiously).

I’ve been playing around with a number of potential trip options over the past few weeks and one of the trips Joanna & I are most likely to take involves a 7-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton Tenerife. The resort is large, the communal areas appear well ventilated, and there’s plenty to do on Tenerife that doesn’t involve mingling with other visitors. From a social distancing point of view and from a ‘staying healthy’ point of view, the Ritz-Carlton Tenerife and Tenerife itself seem like as good a place as any to visit right now…but I’m hugely conflicted about how to book the accommodation.

The First Consideration

Ordinarily, I would almost always book a Ritz-Carlton property with Marriott Bonvoy Points because the property’s room rates are usually high and I have an aversion to paying what I consider to be “silly money” for a hotel room. But these aren’t ordinary times. Right now I can make a 7-night award booking at the Ritz-Carlton for 300,000 Bonvoy points…

…or I can book the same room for €249/night = €1,745 (~$2,020) for the stay.

As a cash booking would get me a $100 credit at the property, the total cash cost for the 7-night stay would come to approximately $1,920. So, if I was to use Bonvoy points instead of cash, I’d be getting about 0.64 cents of value out of each point that I use. As I value Bonvoy points at 0.6 cents each this isn’t a horrendous redemption for me, but it’s certainly not a particularly good one either and I could easily get better value out of my points elsewhere.

Having said that, right now I’m in what I like to term “cash preservation mode” as I see no reason to commit to unnecessary spending while the global economy is in chaos. This means that, at the moment, I’m not easily discouraged from using miles & points just because a redemption rate isn’t particularly amazing/great/good (I’ve long been of the option that points can be used to good effect even if the redemption rate appears poor). At 0.64 cents/point of value, I’m tempted to accept the sub-optimal redemption rate if it keeps the best part of $2,000 in my bank account.

Annoyingly, however, the sub-optimal redemption rate isn’t the only thing that’s giving me a dilemma.

The Second Consideration

One of the big issues with the Marriott Bonvoy program is that various brands and properties are allowed to pick and choose what parts of the program they’re prepared to respect and which parts they prefer to ignore. In the case of the Ritz-Carlton brand, my Bonvoy Titanium status isn’t going to get me nearly as many benefits as I’d get at a lot of other brands so, for example, Joanna and I won’t be eligible for complimentary breakfasts and I won’t be able to use my Bonvoy Suite Night upgrades.

Not being able to use suite night upgrades on this reservation isn’t really an issue (I genuinely don’t care) but as I’m pretty sure that the Ritz-Carlton’s breakfasts aren’t going to be particularly well-priced, the absence of complimentary breakfasts isn’t something I’m happy to dismiss quite so easily. As we would prefer not to have to head into the nearest town every morning just to get our day started, I’m resigned to the fact that we’ll be eating breakfast at the resort on most (possibly all) days and that’s a cost that needs to be considered.

Last year, it wouldn’t have mattered whether I booked a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Tenerife with cash or with points as, either way, I wouldn’t be eligible for a complimentary breakfast. However, earlier this year I product-swapped my legacy Marriott Bonvoy credit card for the Ritz-Carlton credit card which, as part of its benefits package, offers me upgrades to “club level” rooms valid on stays of up to 7 nights…but only on paid nights. The upgrades cannot be used on award bookings.

The Ritz-Carlton “Clubs” are much more than just regular hotel lounges and they have a lot more in common with some of the Club InterContinental lounges you’ll find at InterContinental properties around the world (although the offerings at Ritz-Carlton Clubs are often better in my experience). Club access would give Joanna & me complimentary breakfasts and access to the food and drinks the Club serves throughout the day so, although we probably wouldn’t use the lounge too often outside of breakfast (we’d prefer to eat out at local establishments), it would be nice to be able to enjoy a couple of drinks in the Club of an evening and having Club access would certainly save on our overall dining bill.

Conservatively, I’d expect the lounge to save us between $50 and $75 per day under normal conditions, and savings of that order would reduce the net cash cost of the booking to somewhere in the region of $1,550 for the 7-nights. With this in mind (and considering a Club level upgrade would also provide a better room), paying 300,000 points for this stay looks even worse value (~0.5 cents per point). At this redemption rate, it’s starting to look foolish to use points instead of cash and, if that was the end of the considerations, I’d have to admit that paying with cash rather than points would appear to be the obviously better choice (even if I am in cash preservation mode).

This, however, is not where my dilemma ends because my use of the phrase “normal conditions” was very deliberate in the last paragraph.

Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

The Third Consideration

As we’re all only too aware, our current conditions are in no way “normal”, so who knows what the offerings at the Ritz-Carlton Club will be like? They certainly won’t be at the same level as they will have been in the past (Covid-19 has taken care of that) but will they be good enough to warrant a cash booking? I have absolutely no idea what to expect and I don’t think that calling the property is going to clear things up (the staff at the front desk are hardly likely to admit that upgrading to a Club Room is a waste of money).

The math I’ve outlined above (which makes paying with cash look like the way to go) relies on the assumption that Joanna and I will be able to get reasonable value out of the Club Lounge during our stay…but what if we can’t? What if the Club Lounge is, essentially, a huge waste of time? I could find myself in the position of having passed up on a mediocre (but just about acceptable) points booking in favor of a cash booking that didn’t deliver.

Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

Bottom Line

On the one hand, I’d like to remain in cash preservation mode and not spend cash unless I have to (I can afford to pay cash, but I don’t believe in being silly with my money) while, on the other hand, I also don’t want to part with 300,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at a very poor redemption rate (once everything is factored in).

One part of my brain is telling me that the cash option is the best way to go as the Club Lounge “can’t be that bad” and will really enhance the vacation, while another part of my brain is telling me to forget the value I’ll be getting from my points and the temptations of a Club Lounge that may or may not be any good, and to focus on enjoying a beautiful resort stay in a room that cost nothing to book.

As things stand I have absolutely no idea which option I’ll go with and my brain’s inability to come to a decision is starting to get annoying 🙂

Featured image Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

17 COMMENTS

  1. This seems to be a VERY EASY question to resolve…not sure why you, Ziggy, are so “up in the air”?

    For the cost of a phone call, why not simply CALL the Ritz-Carlton on Tenerife and ASK them if the Club offerings are different from “normal,” and if so, how? Easy. Dilemma resolved.

    • As I said in the post: “I don’t think that calling the property is going to clear things up (the staff at the front desk are hardly likely to admit that upgrading to a Club Room is a waste of money)”.

  2. Would you like me to introduce you to the sales director at this property so that you could have a discussion prior to booking? I know the person well, they previously worked at the Four Seasons group and sorted out many room and events bookings for me.

    Feel free to email me directly if you want to take up the offer.

    • That’s a very kind offer but I’m going to have to respectfully decline. As soon as management know who I am and that I write this blog I’m likely to be treated to extras and service levels that others may not see and I’d prefer it if that didn’t happen – I’d like to see the resort as others see it and, that way, be able to review it fairly.

  3. Ziggy, I believe you will be warmly accommodated with breakfast elsewhere in the resort if you express that you are not satisfied with the Club Lounge breakfast upon your first trial with it. So there’s still value in being a Club level guest during the current irregular operations. PLUS – if you’re not a Club guest, how the heck are you gonna eat breakfast without shelling out a fortune? your best alternative to the Club upgrade option is likely a package (maybe via 3rd party portal like Amex FHR? Chase LHR? or maybe direct) that includes breakfast. You can even pay for a 3rd party package with Chase UR or Amex MR. Seems that a Bonvoy points booking that includes zero food is going to leave you hungry and/or broke!

    • You’re almost certainly right about the breakfast and the merits of being a Club guest.

      Having done some further digging (and have noticed something unusual), it looks like my options have broadened (and actually become more interesting)…but I’m saving the details for a follow-up post on Friday.

    • I have the Ritz-Carlon credit card and mention that I can use the passes in the post…but the passes are not as good as they may appear.

  4. Don’t forget about the points you will earn by paying cash as well. Does Marriott/Ritz have any promos right now increasing the amount of points earned for a paid stay? That can also help offset the cost of paying cash. Promos will sometimes convince me to book a paid stay instead of an award stay.

    • No promos for this property or this region (that I can find) but you have a point about the points that cash rates earn – in this case they’d probably be worth ~ $150.

  5. call the front desk and ask to be transferred to the club section.Just make sure the club section is open at this time. The value is much more than 50 dollars per day …it is at least 70 dollars per person per presentation …that is 200 dollars per day…it is definitely worth it..1400 dollars so take your upgrades and pay cash while u can…..make sure the club section is open.

  6. My stay recently at a Ritz Carlton was nowhere near RC Standard. Rooms went uncleaned and beds unchanged, and no one warned us this was going to happen. The only operating restaurants were take-out and room service. I was relieved that masks were the order of the day across the grounds, but there were many families with multiple children ignoring this, and the pool area was wholly unmasked with masses of children yelling, spitting in the water, and generally running amok. No thanks. We stayed out of the water for pure health reasons. Drinks service was discontinued at the pool; we had to line up 6′ apart to visit the usual bar area and get our own; even if we only wanted water we had to wait in line 20 min or so.

    There is no way this constitutes a 5-star resort, and R-C and Marriott should stop pretending and either close that place or make it compliant. It was a babysitting getaway for those disregarding health warnings, and a total disappointment. (Of course mileage will vary for your stay in Tenerife, perhaps it will be more professional). Glad we had only a 2-night stay, as it surely wasn’t worth the money. I had business nearby and we thought it would provide a safe and fun getaway for us for a weekend. Shouldn’t have bothered. It was neither.

  7. Another consideration is how many Marriott points you have and how easy it is to replace them. If you have a couple of million points or are earning a lot regularly, maybe spending the points for an overall cash savings is the way to go.

    • A very valid point. I’ve been burning my Marriott balance since the devaluations started kicking in and this would essentially clear me out.

  8. @SST which RC property was this?

    In my experience RC are most of the time a perfect stay. Regarding your isssue I would probably pay for the stay. you get a credit and MR points. If you get a upgrade to club included (No luck in europe/ no CC with benefits here) I would not hesitate.

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