White sand and adventure: Why I'm planning my dream trip to Mauritius for when we can travel again
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I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. Typically, I avoid thinking about them and just go on with my day-to-day life. But when 2020 came around, I found myself drawn to declare it the year of the bucket list — however cliché it may sound. 2020 was going to be the year I actually traveled to the places that I'd long been dreaming about and saying that I would one day visit.
I've long been drawn to Mauritius. Aside from the dreamy white sandy beaches, crystal clear blue water and lush, relaxing vibes, the small island nation in the Indian Ocean off the East Coast of Africa has plenty else going for it. So, as part of my self-proclaimed year of the bucket list, I made it my first priority to plan a true once-of-a-lifetime trip to Mauritius. And I did it. My flights were ticketed and my hotel stay was confirmed.
And then the coronavirus happened.
My dream trip was canceled, and now I find myself back at square one. So, with plenty of time on my hands and still determined to salvage the year of the bucket list as much as government restrictions will allow me, it's time to start planning, once again, my dream trip to Mauritius.
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But first, why Mauritius? While I could write 4,000 words on why I want to visit, I'll try to keep it brief. First, there's a varied landscape, which is a highlight for a traveler like me who likes a mixture of relaxation and adventure on a perfect holiday. What makes Mauritius special is its mix — rainforests, waterfalls and hiking trails by way of the Black River Gorges National Park. Then, on the northern part of the island is the bustling capital city of Port Louis. And then, scattered around the island are five-star — and some budget — resorts to be able to come home to after a long day. That, compared to the likes of the Maldives wherein once you're at a resort, that's the only thing around. A hike through rainforests and seeing wildlife in the afternoon followed by a beachside cocktail watching the sunset sounds like a perfect day to me.
Along with the array of activities — from those on the water to those on land — the country is also known to be a slightly more affordable option than the comparable bucket-list destinations like the Maldives and Seychelles. That's not to say it'll be a vastly cheaper option across the board, but bargains are easier to come by. In other words, you likely won't be subjected to a $110 lobster curry and a $32 standard salad for dinner. Of course, you'll find varied options at most high-end resorts. But in my research, it seems as though there are more affordable options scattered around the island if you want the choice. Plus, given you're not trapped on a small island, you can venture around a bit to find dining options that meet your budget.
Finally, as getting there is half — well, maybe more than half — of the fun, getting to this tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean is easier than you may think. I'm based in London, so getting to Mauritius can be done via a nonstop flight using points. And when you get there, you can use your points at one of the many resorts on the island.
I had originally booked return flights using Flying Blue miles. While Air France and KLM are both members of the SkyTeam alliance, which Delta also belongs to, Air Mauritius isn't a member of the alliance. That said, the Mauritian flag carrier is a partner of Flying Blue, meaning you can earn and redeem miles when flying with Air Mauritius.
Since Flying Blue did away with its award charts, it's been difficult to pinpoint flights and how much they'll cost. However, according to the Flying Blue Miles Price Estimator tool, a one-way flight from Paris (CDG) to Mauritius (MRU) with Air Mauritius starts at the following prices:
- Economy: 32,500 miles
- Premium economy: 54,000 miles
- Business: 82,500 miles
Air Mauritius flies nonstop to Paris using its new Airbus A350 aircraft, which it first took delivery of in 2017 and looks to be a lovely option for transporting passengers between Europe and the largely leisure destination Mauritius. Air Mauritius also operates nonstop service to London, where I live, however, it uses its dated Airbus A340 aircraft. British holiday carrier TUI and British Airways also both operate nonstop between London and Mauritius.
In the name of maximizing my journey and testing out the airline's newest product, I booked a return flight from Paris to Mauritius, knowing that I could easily position to Paris via the Eurostar, a low-cost carrier or a cheap short-haul British Airways Reward Flight Saver.
I booked one-way in economy and one-way in business class at the following amounts:
- Paris to Mauritius in economy: 34,500 Flying Blue miles + $118
- Mauritius to Paris in business class: 86,500 Flying Blue miles + $247
However, amid the coronavirus crisis, Air Mauritius has entered administration. That said, the airline still has nonstop flights on its schedule. If you want to book a flight with Air Mauritius, be sure to do so knowing that the airline's financial situation could change at any moment.
Related: What you can do when your airline goes belly up
From the U.S., you can again use Flying Blue miles to fly to Mauritius — with a stop along the way. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to fly nonstop. But, because of that stop, you have near endless options. For example, flying from New York, you could fly one-stop with Air France, Condor, Emirates, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings, Corsair, Edelweiss Air, KLM, Air Mauritius, Turkish Airlines, Alitalia, TUI, Saudia and more on a seasonal basis to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU).
If you were to use Flying Blue miles to fly one-stop from New York to Mauritius, pricing starts at the following amounts one-way:
- Economy: 46,000 miles
- Premium economy: 68,000 miles
- Business: 85,000 miles
You could transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou points. Additionally, you could opt to transfer points from Marriott Bonvoy to Flying Blue — so you have plenty of options.
Alternatively, you could take the Star Alliance route and book via United's award chart for a one-stop itinerary, which would cost you the following amounts for one-way travel:
- Economy: 40,000 miles
- Business: 80,000 miles
For example, on a sample date in September, there's solid availability for a one-way itinerary from New York to Mauritius with Turkish Airlines for 80,000 United miles and just $11 in taxes in business class.
Ultimately, while Mauritius may seem far away, it's actually closer than you may think. Especially considering if you're starting your journey in Europe, you can fly to Mauritius nonstop from a number of cities — including London and Paris.
Plus, when you land at MRU, there is no costly sea plane transfer that you'll have to spend additional money on in order to get to your resort. While you will likely have to pay for a car transfer to your resort, according to my research, it won't set you back nearly as much as an extra flight.
As one might expect with a picturesque destination like Mauritius, there are a number of properties available for a whole range of budgets. On my original itinerary, I'd made up my mind that I was going to splurge — a bucket-list trip is a bucket-list trip. And thankfully, five-star luxury on Mauritius doesn't come with the same hefty price tag as some other idyllic destinations.
On starting my research, I first headed to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program from American Express, which comes as a benefit of The Platinum Card® from American Express. On planning a vacation, the FHR portal is usually one of my first stops. It's an easy way for me to visually gauge the higher-end properties available in a destination and what the price point will be.
In my case, I saw a lovely looking property for a nightly rate that wouldn't break the bank. The Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa immediately caught my eye on the FHR platform. The pictures looked enticing and the nightly rate wasn't all too bad — especially considering that it was running a stay four nights, get the fifth night free promotion.
In total, I booked six nights at the property for a total of $1,768 pre-tax for a slightly better-than-baseline room that offered beach access, rather than the slightly cheaper option with a beach view. That broke down to a nightly rate of $295 — or $339 after tax. Not bad for a trip-of-a-lifetime stay at a five-star resort. That, plus, the booking entitled me to the benefits that come with the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, such as early check-in, complimentary breakfast every day for two people, a room upgrade upon arrival, guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout and an amenity unique to the hotel: a complimentary 50-minute massage for two people.
However, in late March, I received the dreaded cancellation email from the resort and American Express Travel, noting that due to restrictions in place by the Mauritian government, I wouldn't be able to take my trip. But what I appreciated most about booking through Amex FHR was, unexpectedly, the assistance when the trip was canceled.
Because the hotel had canceled my reservation given government restrictions, I only received a cancellation email. Confused, I contacted Amex Travel via the issuer's chat function so I didn't have to call in. I was immediately connected with a helpful agent who promised to handle the query for me. I was eventually looped in on an email thread between the Amex Travel agent and a director at the hotel, who told me the reason for the reservation being canceled.
Best of all, the hotel agreed to honor my fifth night free booking, even if the promotion was no longer available on the public-facing FHR site. Not only was it a seamless process to figure out the reason for the cancellation, but the hotel honoring the promotional price was a huge win. Now, all I have to do is find dates that work for me — but who knows how far from now that may be.
Aside from the Shangri-La, there are other properties scattered around the island — including points hotels. In the Hilton portfolio, there's the Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa, which runs from 53,000 Hilton Honors points or about $250 per night in September.
In the Hyatt portfolio, there's the Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort, which is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, which Hyatt acquired in 2018. The resort is a Category 6 property in the World of Hyatt program, requiring 25,000 points or about $250 per night.
Finally, in the Marriott portfolio, there are three properties in Mauritius:
- The St. Regis Mauritius Resort — Category 7 (50,000-70,000 points per night)
- The Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa, Mauritius — Category 5 (30,000-40,000 points per night)
- Le Méridien Ile Maurice — Category 4 (20,000-30,000 points per night)
Marriott offers a fifth night free if you redeem points for four consecutive nights, which could be a great value if you're planning on an extended stay in Mauritius.
Keep in mind also that by booking direct with the respective hotel, you'll be able to take advantage of elite benefits if you have status. For example, one that could prove to save cash on an extended stay is complimentary breakfast, which comes as a benefit for Marriott Bonvoy elite level Platinum and above, Hilton Honors elite level Gold and above and Hyatt elite level Globalist and above.
While the year of the bucket list hasn't turned out quite as I had expected, I'm still hoping to make this dream trip of mine work out. As frustrating as it is to see a trip fall through, it's made me even more excited to visit Mauritius and to actually make this happen.
For now, I'll have to get back to planning and finding dates that work best for me. Soon enough, you'll find me on the beach soaking up the sun.
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