The Art Of Vacationing

Timeshare Talk

Are Marriott’s Cruise Deals Worthwhile?

Pam Keystone - Sunday, February 05, 2017

Royal Caribbean Ship

At the start of the year, we all received a promotion from Marriott Vacation Club offering owner cruises on Royal Caribbean using Vacation Club Points. At first, the package seemed like a great deal: a Boardwalk Balcony with welcome and farewell cocktail parties, prepaid gratuities, an owner’s meeting and two shore excursions for 5,500 Vacation Club Points plus $885.27. But when we took a closer look, we realized it wasn’t so great after all.

The real value

We priced out the actual cost of a Boardwalk Balcony stateroom for both cruises. They start at $2,207 for 2 people. Marriott is charging the equivalent of almost $4,000 when you combine the value of the Club Points plus the additional cash. Are the extras worth $1,800? Gratuities run $189 and the shore excursions (one is typically a visit to a Marriott property) cost about $300 for 2 excursions per couple. So, basically, you’re paying $1,800 for $500 of extras. In addition, you don’t have an ocean-facing balcony and you have to attend an owner’s meeting, which is another way of saying “sales pitch.”

The better choice

In our experience, owners don’t get great value exchanging Vacation Club Points (VCPs) for cruises. To book a package similar to the one described above, The Art of Vacationing would instead sell your 5,500 VCPs for $3,025, and book you the cruise for $2,207. You would have money left over to spend any way you want! Contact our office today to learn how we can help maximize your Marriott ownership, and turn your Marriott points into the best cruise they can buy.

 

 

 

Pay for your cruise/tour with Marriott Destination Points

Pam Keystone - Monday, August 29, 2016
Ready to go on an exciting cruise in Australia? Or join a group tour to Italy? Marriott Vacation Club will tell you to convert your Destination Points into a cruise or Collette vacation of your dreams. But is it a good deal? No!

MVCI values your Destination Points at about 28 cents a point when applying them to a cruise or land tour. This valuation often doesn't even cover your maintenance fees. But what if you want to take this type of vacation and would love to offset the costs with your ownership. What is your option?

We recommend purchasing the cruise or tour and turn your Destination Points into cash to pay for it. There are lots of owners looking for more points on as-needed basis to satisfy their vacation requests. We know this is true as we receive frequent inquiries. For our clients, who book a cruise or tour through us, we rent your points out at 52-55 cents per point--nearly double what Marriott would give you towards a vacation booked through them. You pay the same price as you would booking direct with the cruise company or land tour supplier but we help you pay for it by selling your points. What a great way to turn your ownership into CASH!

Contact us today to learn more about how we can save you money on your next vacation!

New Tiers for MVCI Destinations Program

Pam Keystone - Sunday, March 15, 2015

Marriott Vacation Club has announced changes to the tier benefits for members of the Destinations exchange program. These changes are effective April 30, 2015.

The original Destinations Program had 3 tiers and now they will have 4 tiers. Currently, each tier level primarily determines when you can book a resort using your points, ie: 12 or 13 months in advance. In order to incent owners to purchase more points, Marriott has developed some new benefits for each tier.

Click here to download the document released by Marriott Vacation Club on the new Destination Exchange Program tiers and benefits. Your new status is based upon the total number of Destinations Points your deeded weeks can convert to plus any Trust points you may have purchased as of April 29, 2015. 

I do not see any major advantages to purchasing points just to move up the ladder. Below are, what I consider, the important additional benefits that you will have starting April 30, 2015.


Less than 4000 Vacation Club Points – Enrolled Owner moves to Owner status
  • Ritz Carlton stays for less than 7 nights can be booked 6 months
    prior to check-in
From 4000-6499 Vacation Club Points - Owner Status moves to Select Status
  • Able to book 7-night stays 13 months prior to check in instead of 12 months
  • Ritz Carlton stays for less than 7 nights can be booked 6 months
    prior to check-in
From 6500-9,999 Vacation Club points – Premier Status moves to Executive Status
  • Able to book stays less than 7 nights at 13 months prior to check in instead of 10 months
  • Owner discount rate increases to 30% on timeshare rentals
  • Banking deadline moves from June 30 to August 31
  • Ritz Carlton stays can be booked for less than 7 nights 13 months
    prior to check-in
  • New Customer Service telephone number (855-682-7736)

From 10,000-12,999 Vacation Club points – Premier Status moves to Presidential Status
  • Able to book stays less than 7 nights at 13 months prior to check in instead of 10 months
  • Owner discount rate increases to 35% on timeshare rentals
  • Banking deadline moves from June 30 to August 31
  • Banked points can be used the following 1.5 years instead of 1 year
  • Date to elect Destination points moves from Sept 30 to Oct 31
  • Ritz Carlton stays can be booked for less than 7 nights 13 months
    prior to check-in
  • Borrowed points for a reservation will go back to original use year if reservation cancelled
  • New Customer Service telephone number (855-682-7736) 

From 13,000+ Vacation Club points – Premier Plus Status moves to Chairman’s Club
  • Owner discount rate increases to 35% on timeshare rentals
  • Banking deadline moves from June 30 to August 31
  • Banked points can be used the following 2 years instead of 1 year
  • Date to elect Destination points moves from Sept 30 to Oct 31
  • Ritz Carlton stays can be booked for less than 7 nights 13 months
    prior to check-in
  • Borrowed points for a reservation will go back to original use year if reservation cancelled
  • New Customer Service telephone number (855-682-7736)

What is the value of Marriott's Destinations Points?

Pam Keystone - Sunday, November 09, 2014

Marriott Destinations Points were introduced to facilitate the trading to Marriott Vacation Club properties. In the past, the only option to trade out of your home property or season was to go through Interval International.  Marriott was one of the few timeshare companies that did not offer an internal trade system so they developed the Destinations Club. 

The advantages of trading your Destinations points to go to a Marriott Vacation Club are:

  •   Easier access to high-demand inventory
  •   Ability to book less than 7 nights at a time
  •   Ability to book the view you desire at oceanfront properties
  •   Ability to book the size unit you desire regardless of the size unit you own

The Destinations Points give owners more control over booking their vacations. I believe that the best value for your points is to use them to book other Marriott Vacation Club properties.     

Below are three other ways to use your Destination Points for your vacations:

Option 1 - The Explorer Collection

The Explorer Collection is comprised of offerings from cruise companies, a tour operator, Collette Tours and select Marriott hotels. The intent is to provide you with more options to spend your Destinations Points thus creating the need for you to purchase more points to take advantage of all of these great travel opportunities. But are they good value? Typically, no.

To calculate the value of Explorer Collection offerings, I have determined that the average ownership week converts into 3,000 Destination Points with maintenance fees of approximately $1,300.  Below, I have compared the cost of a trip in Destinations Points, the cost of these points when you take into account the maintenance fees you paid to obtain them and the dollar cost if you were just to go out and purchase the trip.

I encourage you to calculate the value using your own scenario.

New York Marriott Marquis Hotel

            1,600 Destinations Points per night  (cost of points = $689)

OR       $499 per night from Marriott website

OR       45,000 Marriott Rewards points

 

Sonoma Wine Country – The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort and Spa

            1,250 Destinations Points per night (cost of points = $541)

OR       $299 per night from Marriott website

OR       40,000 Marriott Rewards points

 

Collette Vacations – Treasures of Italy in May - 12 day bus tour with 48 people

To purchase this trip from Collette directly = $4,149 per person or $8,298 for 2

OR 19,000 Destinations Points = 6.3 ownership weeks X $1,300 per week in Maintenance fees = $8,190.

Basically a wash price wise but you have given up 6 weeks of timeshare vacation time for a 12-day bus tour. Is this worth it to you?

Cruises

Read about the “value” of using Destination points for a cruise at my recent blog post. Click here.

 

Option 2 - Purchase Airline Tickets

You can purchase airline tickets using Destinations Points. There is no set conversion rate but we have found, from experience, that every 500 Destinations Points reduces the cost of an airline ticket by approximately $130.

As an example, if an airline ticket cost $400 and you have 500 points to use, you would pay $270 (=$400-$130) plus your 500 points for this airline ticket. (Value: cost of the 500 points in relation to your maintenance fees paid = $217. Cost to you for this $400 ticket = $270 + $217 = $487)

Marriott’s  so-called “air department” is actually ICE (International Cruise & Excursions , Inc), located in Phoenix. To book an airline ticket you need to know your dates of travel and it is best to know the exact flights you desire. Even with all that information, you will still be on the phone for about 1 hour to get this ticket booked. It can be time-consuming and frustrating.

Is it a good value for your points? No, but if you are going to lose the points anyways it is an option to consider.

 

Option 3 - Purchase Marriott Travel Insurance

I do recommend Travelex Insurance offered by Marriott. This insurance covers your vacations to a Marriott property including maintenance fees. No other insurance company will cover this for you. It does not cover other types of vacations, like cruises, etc.

It will cover your maintenance fees should you need to cancel a trip due to a covered reason – the most common one being an unexpected medical emergency.

The insurance is sold by “usage year”. For each “usage year” the cost is $169 or 700 Destinations Points.

For example, if you are planning on traveling in 2016 and you booked your vacation using Destinations Points from 2015 and 2016, then you would need to purchase insurance for the 2015 usage year AND 2016 usage year. Total cost $338 or 1400 Destinations Points.

Is it a good value for your points? No, but if you are going to lose the points anyway it is an option to consider.

Marriott's Kauai Lagoons - Kalanipu'u

Pam Keystone - Monday, October 13, 2014

Marriott Vacation Club has 3 properties on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Many of you may be familiar with the Kauai Beach Club and the Waiohai Beach Club. In 2010, MVCI opened up a 3rd property called Kauai Lagoons - Kalanipu'u. This was originally built as a whole ownership Marriott Residence Club. Due to the real estate crisis in 2007, Marriott was forced to turn the property into a Vacation Club.

The good news for guests is that the 2 and 3 bedroom units are fabulous – the largest and most luxurious of all Vacation Club properties. They have Residence Club finishes throughout: large kitchens with sub-zero refrigerators, huge balconies with a table for 4 and 2 lounge chairs, large living spaces and bedrooms.

 

 

 

 

There are 3 view categories in the 4-story buildings: Island View, Ocean View and Oceanfront. Island View is the bottom 2 floors of the buildings. All face into the resort as opposed to a parking lot. Ocean views are the 3rd and 4th floor except for the section closest to the ocean. Those are considered Oceanfront.

The buildings are in a horseshoe shape. You can request one of 3 buildings: A, B or C. A is closest to the ocean but unless you are Oceanfront, you are looking directly at the partially-built Ritz Carlton Club in the near distance. This is quite an eyesore. Building B also looks towards the Ritz but has more of the lush landscaping in front. Building C has the best views of the pool and property overall with the Ritz off to the side. C units hear quite a bit of noise from the pool.

 

 

With only 76 units, this is a small, intimate property. The pool is a nice size with a small slide for kids and one hot tub. There is no bar or restaurant on-property so if you envisage yourself lying by the pool and sipping a mai tai, this is not the resort for you. There is also no beach access which I think is the biggest drawback to the property. You can go down to the beach at the Kauai Marriott Hotel but you can’t use any of their lounge chairs so you have to be comfortable with lying out on a beach towel. The fitness center is quite large and well-equipped.


Shuttle service is offered until 5:45pm to the hotel and the golf course. Unfortunately, if you want to go to dinner at one of the restaurants by the hotel you either have to drive or be prepared for a good walk. Valet service is complimentary at the hotel after 5:45pm.

If you want to experience fabulous villas and don’t care about a beach or food/drink service at the pool, you will really enjoy this resort.

 

Maximizing your Marriot Exchange

Pam Keystone - Sunday, August 17, 2014
September 30th is the deadline to elect your ownership weeks for Vacation Club points. Even if you are enrolled in the Destinations  program, this is not your only option for exchanging. Do not forget about trading within Interval International (II).

When you enrolled in the Destinations program, you were given a FREE Interval account.  You do not have to pay membership dues to II nor do you have to pay exchange fees.

You may be confused as to which exchange program is best to trade through: Interval or Marriott Vacation Club. MVCI will tell you to trade with your Vacation  Points. Interval International will tell you it is best to deposit your week and trade through  their system. I am here to tell you that the best option all depends on where you want to go and when you want to go.

Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • How many Destination Points is your ownership week(s) worth?
  • How many points will it require to vacation at your desired property?
  • Is the time of year you want to travel peak season (holidays or school break times)? Or is it mid-season (spring or fall) or even low season?
  • Do I need to be confirmed into my desired resort quickly or can I wait it out for awhile?
Your answer to each one of these questions will help you decide which exchange program will maximize your trading options. 

To trade internally through MVCI, you need to compare the number of Vacation Club points needed to go to your desired destination vs. what your ownership week is worth in points. For example, if your Canyon Villas ownership week converts to 2,975 Vacation Club points but the resort you want to visit for 7 nights requires 4,175 points then it may be best to trade through Interval. But if your desired destination only requires 2,500 points then MVCI would be best.

If you wish to travel to a popular Marriott resort during high season, you may find the inventory is limited in Interval but plentiful in MVCI. Some properties are worth a large amount of Vacation Club points so owners are reluctant to give their weeks up to Interval since they have the potential to trade for more than 7 days at a time with Marriott. (Interval trades are still a week for a week). This could mean that the Interval inventory will be low and it could be difficult for you to be confirmed on a trade. On the other hand, there are fewer Marriott owners on the wait list for these properties thus reducing the competition for these coveted weeks. Resorts during mid and low season are often available with Interval.

If you need to be confirmed "now" into your desired destination in order to book airline tickets or plan with friends and family, then trading with your Vacation Club points will be your fastest method as quite often your trade can be confirmed on a single phone call. If you can wait to be confirmed, you may be surprised at how well trading can work with Interval. I am having excellent success trading into these popular resorts with Interval, even during peak season:

  • Canyon Villas - Phoenix - February and March
  • Waiohai Beach Club - Kauai - all year
  • KoOlina Beach Club - Oahu - all year

On the other hand, Maui Ocean Club in the Lahaina/Napili Villas and Aruba properties in the winter months rarely become available through Interval.

There is no crystal ball to predict the best program to use for a trade but you do want to consider all of your options. We help over 250 Marriott owners trade every day and from our experience, we know the method that works best for each owner's unique needs. Our clients are vacationing regularly with their MVCI ownership to their desired properties without frustration and hassle.


Booking Airline tickets with Credit Card Rewards Points

Pam Keystone - Tuesday, April 08, 2014
The best way to maximize the value of your AMEX or Chase Sapphire points is to transfer your points to an airline partner and book virtually-free airline tickets.

The value of using your points can be over $10,000 if, for example, you were to transfer enough miles to get 2 Business Class airline tickets to Europe. You would need approximately 240,000-270,000 Rewards points but this converts to huge value!

The key to using Rewards Points is that the miles you transfer must be used for booking AWARD SEATS. As many of you may know, finding award seat availability for the dates you want and decent routing can be an enormous challenge, often resulting in failure. And with multiple airline partners, how would you possibly know which partner to choose?

AMEX and Chase staff are unable to assist you with this process. All they will do is transfer the miles you request to the airline you tell them. But you never want to transfer miles unless you know the award seats are available for you to book. And then the availability you see today could be gone by the time you transfer the miles, since most airlines will not hold the seats for you.

With airline mergers resulting in fewer award seats being made available, this process has become more time consuming and trickier than ever. But the financial upside is so great that it is worth trying. The good news is that we are specialists in booking award seats with all points programs and have a nearly 100% success rate so don't despair, just contact us and start maximizing those points.

Timeshare Insurance from MVCI

Pam Keystone - Monday, March 10, 2014
MVCI introduced a new insurance program to cover the cost of your maintenance fees should you need to cancel your vacation due to an unexpected illness.

Whether you have booked your trip via Destination Points, ownership week or Interval exchange, you will be reimbursed a pro-rata amount of your fees.

The cost is $119 per USE YEAR, not travel year. For example, if you are using a mix of your 2013 banked weeks and 2014 usage weeks for travel this year, you will need to purchase 2 years of insurance: 2013 and 2014 usage so your cost is $238.

MVCI has made this very confusing and it can get expensive, but I still recommend purchasing this insurance. The unexpected can happen! For details, download this flyer.

Marriott Rewards Points for Airline Tickets

Pam Keystone - Monday, March 10, 2014
Marriott Rewards Points for Airline TicketsThe best way to maximize the value of your Marriott Rewards points is to transfer your points to a Marriott airline partner and book virtually-free airline tickets.

Marriott offers MVCI owners the option of booking 5-night Travel Packages. This allows you to transfer your points to any one of 36 airlines in increments ranging from 50,000-132,000 miles. And you receive a 5-night hotel stay at the hotel category of your choice to use on the same trip or anytime over the next 2 years (when extended).

The value of using your points can be over $10,000 if, for example, you were to transfer enough miles to get 2 Business Class airline tickets to Europe, and a 5 night hotel stay. You would need approximately 500,000 Marriott Rewards points but this converts to huge value!

The key to using a Travel Package is that the miles you transfer must be used for booking AWARD SEATS. As many of you may know, finding award seat availability for the dates you want and decent routing can be an enormous challenge, often resulting in failure. And with 36 airline partners, how would you possibly know which partner to choose?

Marriott Rewards staff are unable to assist you with this process. All they will do is transfer the miles you request to the airline you tell them. But you never want to transfer miles unless you know the award seats are available for you to book. And then the availability you see today could be gone by the time you transfer the miles, since most airlines will not hold the seats for you.

With airline mergers resulting in fewer award seats being made available, this process has become more time consuming and trickier than ever. But the financial upside is so great that it is worth trying. The good news is that we are specialists in booking award seats with all points programs and have a nearly 100% success rate so don't despair, just contact us and start maximizing those points.

Marriott Trust Points Purchase

Pam Keystone - Saturday, July 27, 2013

Now that most owners have enrolled in the Destinations Club program, Marriott is turning up the pressure for you to purchase "Trust points". If all you have is access to points converted from your deeded weeks, they will tell you that you need to spend more money and purchase "Trust Points" in order to enjoy all of the benefits of the program. You may also be told that you need more points in order to rise to a Premier or Premier Plus level. Does this sound familiar to you?

From our experience in managing hundreds of owners weeks and points, I have been unable to substantiate most of the benefits the Sales Reps are extolling. Below are just a few examples:

"You will be able to use your club points to book 13 months in advance for stays of 7 or more days at an MVCI resort."

Yes, BUT, at 13 months there is rarely any inventory. We have contacted MVCI hundreds of times to book 13 months out for our clients and we are told to call back at 12 months. If it is still not available at 12 months prior, then we have the option of going on a wait list with all owners, regardless of status. I wouldn't pay extra for this benefit.

"You will be able to use your points to book in to Ritz Carlton Club properties."


Yes, BUT, when are the Ritz's available? We have tried many times to book our clients into a Ritz property, even during off-season times, and there is rarely any availability. I would say that this is not much of a benefit.

For a list of other Marriott points to be aware of, please click on this link.



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Dreaming about upcoming vacations is always fun. Then the frustrating tedium of transferring points, black out dates, rules and regulations, innumerable contacts... the fun is gone. Thanks so much, Pam, for listening to our dreams, and then doing the hard part, so we could anticipate the fun

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