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Booked: The Trip of a Lifetime

For the next two weeks or so, Jessy and I will be embarking on the round-the-world honeymoon of our dreams to Kenya, Tanzania, and the Seychelles.

Written by Ricky Zhang

On 2023-08-21

Read time 14 mins

I know, I know… I’ve been guilty of describing travel experiences as “once-in-a-lifetime” in the past – only to sheepishly undertake them again after some time has passed. 

On this occasion, though, I’m thrilled to share with you all the details of what will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime trip: a round-the-world honeymoon to Kenya, Tanzania, and the Seychelles.

The Trip

As you may know, Jessy and I got married in July on the sandy beaches of Tofino on Vancouver Island. We were surrounded by our loving family, close friends, and stunning natural beauty in what was a most perfect experience.

But having gotten engaged in the Maldives three years ago and indulged in a “pre-honeymoon” in Bora Bora earlier this year, I had my work cut out for me in planning a honeymoon that could top it all off. 

What would be a special travel experience that neither of us had done before? As I pondered this question, my mind began gravitating towards the idea of embarking on an African safari. Jessy and I have always dreamed of wandering amongst the animals out on the savannah, and this trip seemed to be the perfect occasion to make it happen.

And then, since we’d be all the way out in Africa anyway, I couldn’t help but hop on over to the Seychelles to tack on a few tropical island experiences that we’ve come to love over the years. 

The overall trip takes us across some of the most exciting aspirational flights, properties, and destinations in the world accessible on both points and cash, which all came together through a mix of good fortune, an almighty splurge, and a cheeky 24-hour layover city break for good measure.

The Safaris

We’ll be embarking on our honeymoon after attending another wedding in the Bay Area. We’ll be kicking things off on a rather modest note with a Spirit Airlines flight from San Jose to Dallas, from where we’ll catch Turkish Airlines 787 business class to Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines 787 business class

Prior to our flight, we’ll enjoy some time in the Capital One Lounge, which is the partner lounge that Turkish Airlines uses in Dallas. I’ve been meaning to check out this lounge ever since it opened, since it seems to have set a new standard among card-branded lounges in North America. 

After a pitstop in the flagship Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Istanbul, we’ll head onwards to Nairobi in Turkish Airlines 737 MAX business class. Turkish Airlines alternates the MAX and the A330 on this route, and we’re a bit unfortunate to be in a recliner-seat product for a seven-hour flight.

On the other hand, it’s a product that neither of us have flown before, so I’m looking forward to reviewing the experience. We’ll just have to make sure to indulge in Turkish Airlines’s renowned Do&Co onboard catering to make up for the lack of a lie-flat seat.

The Dallas–Istanbul–Nairobi flight segments were booked for 110,000 Aeroplan points per person, and I have to say I got fairly lucky in snagging Turkish Airlines business class space — which can be unpredictable at the best of times — about one month before departure. 

We’ll start our time in Kenya with a two-night stay at the Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Hurlingham. In practice, we’ll really only have the better part of a day to explore Nairobi, since we arrive in the late evening and depart at 7:30am on the following day. I’m excited to visit the national park, see some giraffes up close, and get a taste of Kenya’s capital on my first visit to the country. 

From there, we’ll head straight into the lap of luxury to begin our honeymoon in earnest with four nights at the newly opened JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

JW Marriot Masai Mara Lodge

Earlier this year, there was a brief window during which this resort was bookable for around 25,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. However, this favourable pricing only lasted for a few hours when the resort had first launched the ability to book with Marriott Bonvoy points — and in fact, I hadn’t even managed to book it for myself. 

As it turns out, Prince of Travel team member Amy had locked in a few speculative bookings, one of which she couldn’t make use of in the end and very kindly offered to gift to Jessy and me. Thank you Amy — we owe you one!

Nowadays, this resort can still be booked with points for around 120,000 Bonvoy points per night, which is great value when compared to the cash rates of over $2,000 (USD). In fact, it’s the first major safari experience that’s bookable with hotel loyalty points of any kind, complete with all-inclusive meals and game drives for every day of your stay. 

I’m certainly looking forward to the experience and sharing a review, as by all measures, it appears to be an outstanding property that could well rival the likes of Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai or the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli as one of the most aspirational Marriott Bonvoy redemptions out there.  

From Masai Mara, we’ll cross the southern border and stay two nights at the Four Seasons Serengeti in Tanzania, which I booked on an industry rate. I’m excited to compare the safari experiences between Masai Mara and the Serengeti, which are two of the world’s leading safari regions.

Four Seasons Serengeti

If you’re considering a similar trip, it’s worth noting that the regional flights to access safari destinations tend to be quite expensive, and the costs can add up quickly.

For this trip, I paid $160 (USD) per person to get from Nairobi to Masai Mara on AirKenya Express, as well as $335 (USD) per person to fly from the Seronera Airstrip in the Serengeti to Kilimanjaro on Tanzania’s Coastal Aviation.

These domestic flights were in addition to the roughly $600 (USD) per person we paid for the overall “border crossing package” sold by Kenya’s Safarilink, which includes two flights on SafariLink and Coastal Aviation along with an overland border crossing between the towns of Migori, Kenya, and Tarime, Tanzania.

The Seychelles

After what’s sure to be an exhilarating pair of safari experiences, it’ll be high time to unwind on the island paradise of the Seychelles for the second half of our honeymoon.

Generally speaking, there aren’t too many options when it comes to booking intra-Africa flights, as the continent’s aviation infrastructure remains in the developing phase. We ended up booking flights with Ethiopian Airlines from Kilimanjaro to the Seychelles via Addis Ababa for 12,500 Aeroplan points per person in economy class, along with an overnight stay in Addis Ababa’s in-terminal hotel. 

For our first three nights in the Seychelles, I had my eye on an almighty splurge of Bonvoy points: North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort, Seychelles.

North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort, Seychelles

North Island’s entry into Luxury Collection a few years ago certainly raised eyebrows in the world of luxury travel, as the property is simply in a completely different league compared to the vast majority of Luxury Collection properties. 

As an unspoiled private island accessible only via helicopter and playing host to only 11 villas of 4,000+ square feet each, North Island is widely regarded as one of the best resorts anywhere in the world — which is why it’s by far the most expensive “off the charts” property in the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio.

North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort, Seychelles

This property retails for €7,000+ per night, but nevertheless can also be booked for 390,000 Bonvoy points per night. That’s a crazy number no matter how you look at it — both in terms of how it’s equivalent to three nights at the St. Regis Maldives, and in terms of how it still makes for a very respectable redemption value of around 1.8 cents per point compared to North Island’s prevailing cash rate. 

In a life of seeking out the best travel experiences accessible on points, I wouldn’t be doing my honeymoon justice if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. 

As you can imagine, I had to buy a fair share of points to top-up my Marriott Bonvoy account in order to complete the reservation — and this wasn’t even the final expense that came with this aspirational stay.

I’ll still need to shell out for the round-trip helicopter transfers, which well and truly exceeds the pricing of even the Maldives resorts’ seaplanes and yachts, at a staggering €1,110 per direction. 

If you’ve racked up a big Marriott Bonvoy points balance and are wondering if North Island is worth the splurge, I look forward to reporting back on the experience. I’ll also be curious to compare it to our previous private island experiences, such as at Calala Island in Nicaragua and The Brando in French Polynesia.

For the last two nights of our trip, we’ll retreat to the more modest surroundings of Mango House Seychelles, a Hilton LXR property. I redeemed two Hilton Free Night Rewards here for a completely free stay, which will certainly come as a relief after the extravagance of North Island.

Mango House Seychelles, LXR Hotels & Resorts

Amy had a great stay here at Mango House a few years ago, and it seems like a great spot to wind down our honeymoon, all while having access to the rest of Mahé Island to get to know some of the local culture. 

The Starlux

From an aviation geek’s perspective, the fun is only getting started at the very tail end of the trip. 

To return to North America, I booked a Starlux Airlines business class flight from Taipei to Los Angeles for 60,000 Alaska miles per person back when these rates were widely available during a brief window in late July.

Starlux Airlines joins EVA Air and China Airlines as a third full-service airline based in Taipei, and looks to offer a very attractive transpacific business class product on the Airbus A350. 

Starlux Airlines A350 business class

I’m looking forward to sampling the cutting-edge seats and interiors, experiencing what’s been reported to be top-of-the-line service by the crew, and trying out the airline’s special locally-inspired beverages like bubble tea (and seeing how it compares to EVA Air’s matcha milk tea!)

After having booked the Starlux flight, this meant that I needed to get us from the Seychelles to Taipei.

As it turns out, I managed to find a rare set of “Saver” Qatar Airways business class award seats through Qatar Airways Privilege Club from the Seychelles to Hanoi amidst a sea of Flexi awards, which will take us on Qatar Airways’s old 777 and new 787-9 business class products.

Then, I combined that with a cheap ticket on Vietnam Airlines to set up a neat 24-hour layover in Taipei — a city neither of us have visited in the past — for some sightseeing, street food, and “suite-talking” at the W Taipei.

Having enjoyed many city-hopping adventures in East Asia over the years, it only felt right for Jessy and I to wrap up our honeymoon on that same note, before embarking on the world’s newest business class experience to bring us home in style. 


For the next two weeks or so, Jessy and I will be embarking on the round-the-world honeymoon of our dreams. We’ll be traversing through sand, sea, and sky, visiting three new countries across two continents in celebration of becoming one with each other. 

2023 has been a monumental year for me both personally and professionally, and as I sip on Turkish Airlines’s signature lemon-mint welcome drink in anticipation of the adventures that lie ahead, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed for how everything came together — from my luck in piecing together favourable business class awards despite only planning this honeymoon a few months in advance, to the generosity of wonderful friends like Amy in offering us her reservation at the JW Marriott Masai Mara, all the way to the support of everyone who’s been part of the Prince of Travel community over the years that allows me to embark on these special trips in the first place. 

It’s been a crazy past few months, having juggled a birthday trip in May, a surprise bachelor party trip in June, and our wedding in July. I’m excited to finally take some time in August to relax and unwind in the company of lions, elephants, and 100-year-old tortoises — and I look forward to coming back recharged and raring to go! 

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