I'm so excited and I just can't hide it…
I can barely contain myself. There's less than 2 weeks left before we depart for Hong Kong and I'm only just starting to pack.
Things are going to get a little busy after I head out of here so I thought I'd write a bit about the preparation leading up to this trip that should be helpful for anyone else planning a trip to the Conrad Maldives in the future.
This trip will be a little different from other trips i've done. What that mainly means is that I've barely done any planning for this at all. I booked this back in April 2013 so almost exactly a year ago. Since then the only work I've done has been reading almost the entire Flyertalk thread on the Conrad Maldives which took quite a bit since the thread is 499 pages long right now. It's probably the only site you need to go through if you're planning on heading to the Conrad Maldives or any other resort out there.
Through Flyertalk I found a bunch of other super useful blogs and reviews:
- pineapple_09's first TA review: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserRe…d.html#REVIEWS
- pineapple_09's second TA review: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserRe…d.html#REVIEWS
- Milesquest's Blog Posts: https://boardingarea.com/milesquest/2…lights-part-1/
- mckrackle's TA review: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserRe…ml#UR135890185
- timmy83's trip report on FT: Honeymoon in paradise: Maldives and Singapore (WN Y, CZ J, MH J, DL F)
- stupidzbu's trip report on FT: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilto…l#post21876910
- tht's trip report on FT: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilto…l#post21891535
- sfoactuary's trip report on FT: Honeymooning in Australia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Dubai (UA/EK/BA F, SQ J)
The room we had booked with points was for a King Beach Villa which is essentially their lowest-priced room and as the name suggests, on the beach. Now of course, being in Maldives, we couldn't forego the opportunity to spend at least a few nights on an over water hut. With Hilton there are opportunities to upgrade beforehand. In the original booking confirmation you can actually do what's called “eStandby” where you can agree to pay a fixed amount for an upgrade but is not guaranteed. When I first checked, an upgrade to a Water Villa was > $400 so I thought I'd wait a little longer. I just checked again today and it looks like this:
So the other strategy that most people try for is paying for guaranteed upgrades by contacting the reservation managers at the Conrad Maldives directly. Via Flyertalk I was able to get a hold of a few e-mails. The funny thing paying for upgrades is that the prices are constantly fluctuating depending on how far/close you do the booking, who you talk to and how good your negotiation skills are. The optimal time for upgrade bookings is supposedly 6 months or less prior to arrival but there's no way of confirming that.
To give you an idea if the fluctuations, here's what I observed with my Mar 22-31 booking. I'll focus purely on upgrades to the Water Villa that we were interested in. I'll also break it down by rep:
- June 6, 2013 – $476
- December 11, 2013 – $448
- December 17, 2013 (after negotiation) – $390
- December 11, 2013 (separate reservation manager) – $400
- December 12, 2013 (another reservation manager) – $390
- December 13, 2013 (counter offer) – $360
- December 16, 2013 (final offer) – $350
As a result I ended up taking the final offer of $350 which is a little better than what you're expected to pay during high season. During low season I've read that it could go down as low as $200.
Negotiation wise, I didn't try any specific tactics except being firm on my price. I started at $250 and countered with $300 and on the Conrad end they were able to lower their price with every counteroffer.
Reservation manager contacts
Jaw dropping beauty
Some official shots from Conrad to ogle at.
Since its been over a year since I did any scuba and this upcoming trip the first time doing real scuba for Chantelle we thought it would make sense to do a refresher course locally just to get us into the groove of things again. I'm really glad we did it because it was great to be able to assemble all the gear again and have an instructor walk us through all the essential things we'd need to know and practice. We did the refresher at Scuba2000 in Richmond Hill (north of Toronto) and the session cost $60+tax for an instructor led refresher for 1.5 hours. If you're feeling more confident, a refresher without an instructor only costs $20 which is awesome. They provide all the gear.
Now we're all set to go! Can't wait to see the manta rays and whale sharks.
State of packing
Here's almost everything I've packed so far.
Going clockwise from the top left corner:
- My Think Tank Retrospective 7 camera bag with my M43 gear. The only lens I'm not bringing is my fisheye.
- 20L stuff sack (mainly dirty clothes bag)
- Toiletries bag from Muji with the usuals + meds
- Braun shaver
- Hey's mid-sized hard case suitcase. Debated about bringing my backpack but since we're staying put for the majority of the trip, I figured there was no need to be nomadic
- Sun stuff (aloe, 60SPF min sunscreen), bug spray
- Scuba mask + sea drops + o-ring silicone + dive log + flash light
- Rollei carbon fiber tripod
- Buff (reviewed here)
- Money Belt
- Outdoor Research Radar Pocket Cap. Cool foldable hat I found on clearance at MEC (Canada)
- Black stuff sack – All my pants. 2 capris shorts, 1 khaki convertible pant, cotton shorts
- Orange stuff sack – All my swim trunks x 4
- Green REI stuff sack – Socks x 6 (assortment of ankle socks and 2 black dress socks). Dress socks are needed because I will need to wear more formal clothes for the standby flights and potentially any fancier restaurants/clubbing
- Eagle Creek Travel Gear Luggage Pack-It Specter Packing Cube. I did a review of this way back when here. I have in there a bunch of t-shirts, dry-fit shirts and rash guard shirts rolled in there. 9 shirts in total jammed in there
- Blue stuff sack – All my underwear x 6 including 4 ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs which I reviewed here
- Conrad slippers. I love these slippers. They're getting a bit worn out so hope to replace these at the Conrad Maldives :D
- 3 buttoned short sleeve shirts
- 2 extra t-shirts and 1 polo that I couldn't cram into the packing cube. Might need to cut down on a few shirts
- Medium sized compression bag which I reviewed here. Just in case I do a little bit of shopping.
- KEEN Men's Newport H2 Sandal which will be uber versatile out on the beach and walking the city streets of Hong Kong. I also reviewed these Keen sandals after my Asia trip.
- Rainbow Sandals Mens Double Layer Premier Leather in stuff sack. You know by now that I simply love these flip flops right? Pretty much a MUST in any summer environment. Check out my review of the Rainbow flip flops.
- Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack. Can't quite remember if this was 1L or 2L but I just have a bunch of misc electronics in there like chargers and my HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA portable memory card backup dohickey.
Too much or too little folks?
Things not depicted:
- Swiss Army Knife
- Nail Clippers
- Headlamp. You know…just in case
- Travel Wallet
- Passport Travel Organizer with photocopies of passport and important cards
- Backpack Bag (my flag bag) which I'll use as an extra check-in duffle bag if I end up buying a lot of extra stuff
- Dress shoes. Would rather not bring this but you have be dressed appropriately to fly standby since you're representing the company
- Oceanic OCS Dive computer which i'll use as my daily watch
- UE900 earbuds
- MacBook Air which fits perfectly in the Retrospective 7
- Patagonia waterproof shell jacket
Notable things I'm not bringing:
- Not bringing my 5DMK2 since I figured I won't be doing any real hardcore shooting out there and with what I have, I should be able to take some amazing photos with my M43 set
- Gregory Z55 Backpack. I love using my backpack but like I mentioned, we're going to be stationary for large portions of the trip and so it didn't make sense to travel that light
The countdown begins!