We tend to spend a lot of time dreaming about the overwater villas of the Maldives, as they’ve long represented one of the pinnacle award redemptions for which we can redeem our hotel loyalty points.
Whether it’s an engagement trip, a honeymoon, an anniversary trip, or just because, it doesn’t get much better than staying on a remote atoll with the open ocean surrounding you.
It’s even more satisfying when you’ve booked the resort stay for “free” using your hotel points, although as I’ve touched upon before, there are always lots of other cash costs involved on a trip like this too.
In the past, the sky-high redemption costs of the Maldives’ overwater villas have proven to be a major challenge, and this type of trip tends to be a fairly long-term goal for most points collectors.
But the Le Méridien Maldives will be changing the game when it opens this fall – it’s only priced as a Category 5 hotel upon launch, meaning that a couple of credit card bonuses could earn you a five-night stay!
Le Méridien Maldives, A Category 5 Hotel
Up until now, Marriott’s portfolio in the Maldives has consisted of the following properties:
- St. Regis Maldives (Category 8)
- JW Marriott Maldives (Category 8)
- W Maldives (Category 8)
- The Ritz-Carlton, Maldives (Category 8, opening in June 2021)
- Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort (Category 7)
- Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa (Category 6)
As you can see, every hotel except the Sheraton is either a Category 7 or Category 8, which makes it a fairly involved task to rack up enough points to redeem for a meaningful stay. These are no doubt amazing luxury resorts, as I had experienced when I stayed at the JW Marriott Maldives, but it may take several years of cobbling together credit card bonuses (or a large points purchase) to build up your balance.
The Sheraton is more accessible as a Category 6, but it’s also located very close to the main island of Malé, so it doesn’t quite have the same exclusivity factor as the other resorts.
By contrast, the Le Méridien Maldives will be opening in August 2021 as a Category 5 property, even though it’s located on Thilamaafushi, a 35-minute seaplane ride north of Malé. That means it’s more of a “true” overwater villa resort, which makes it all the more exciting that it’s bookable for such low rates:
- An off-peak award night would cost 30,000 Bonvoy points
- A standard award night would cost 35,000 Bonvoy points
- A peak award night would cost 40,000 Bonvoy points
(That’s in addition to a mandatory seaplane fee of US$420 per person, which is an unavoidable part of staying at most Maldives overwater villa resorts.)
Best of all, the Sunrise Overwater Villa is considered one of the base rooms at this property, meaning you can book it directly on points rather than paying for the upgrade in cash or hoping to score an upgrade based on your elite status.
With the “Stay 5, Pay for 4” benefit, you could in theory book five nights at the Le Méridien Maldives for only 120,000 Bonvoy points, which works out to an average of 24,000 Bonvoy points per night. It’s mind-boggling that you could get a night in the Maldives’ overwater villas for less than the Courtyard on top of a Wendy’s at Yonge & College in Toronto.
In practice, you may not always find a block of five nights in the same room that are all priced at the off-peak rate, so the total cost might work out to something like 130,000 or 140,000 Bonvoy points, which is still an incredible deal.
Indeed, if you signed up for both the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Business Card, you’d emerge with at least 140,000 Bonvoy points upon completing the minimum spending requirements. You wouldn’t even need to get Player 2 involved to treat them to a surprise overwater villa getaway!
Alternatively, you and your partner could work together to rack up the points required – by using a refer-a-friend link from one partner to another, you’d capture an additional 10,000 Bonvoy points along the way.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|80,000 Bonvoy points||$555||Apply Now|
|55,000 Bonvoy points||$399||Apply Now|
The Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit cards will also offer another method to book the Le Méridien Maldives: their anniversary Free Night Awards worth 35,000 Bonvoy points.
You could combine a Free Night Award(s) stay with your fifth-night-free stay to book a total of six or seven nights in your overwater villa. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like staying for five nights, you could book a four-night sequence using entirely Free Night Awards between yours and your partner’s Bonvoy accounts.
(There’s no way to combine the fifth-night-free benefit with the Free Night Award; if you’re staying five nights, your fifth night is already free, so save the Free Night Award for another use.)
Cash rates at this resort start at US$490 ($600), meaning that you’ll be getting a respectable value of 1.71 cents per point (cpp) based on the standard rate of 35,000 points per night (or even higher if you book off-peak or fifth-night-free).
That’s much better than our target valuation of 0.9cpp, even if it’s not quite as high as some of the more opulent alternatives in the Maldives.
Should You Redeem Points for the Le Méridien Maldives?
At a Category 5 designation, the newly-opened Le Méridien Maldives certainly makes the Indian Ocean overwater villa experience a lot more accessible than it was previously. If it’s always been on your bucket list, then only a couple of credit card bonuses will earn you enough points to check it off.
At the same time, there’s something to be said for splurging for the best-of-the-best accommodations when you’re making a trip to the Maldives, given the travel time and costs involved and the uniqueness of the destination.
If you’re spending a week in an endless ocean dreamscape as part of a special occasion with your spouse, for example, you’d definitely want to make it the best experience you possibly can. Some travellers will find exactly that in the Le Méridien, whereas others may be left to wonder what it would’ve been like had they splurged on the St. Regis or the JW Maldives instead.
Looking at the renderings of the Sunrise Overwater Villa, for example, I’d say that it’s in line with the positioning of the Le Méridien brand among all of Marriott’s brands (including the other Maldives properties), with the villas looking a bit smaller and simpler than their more illustrious counterparts.
But then again, when I think back to what made my stay at the JW Marriott Maldives so special, my enduring memory is of the horizon disappearing into the distance and the sheer magic of the direct ladder access down to the ocean – with the room, villa, and resort themselves coming second.
It looks like the Le Méridien’s overwater villas will certainly deliver exactly that – and plus, there’s even a cool little hammock built into the deck here, which I didn’t get at the JW Marriott!
(In terms of elite upgrades, if you’re visiting this resort as a Platinum or Titanium member, you might be able to score an upgrade to the Sunrise Overwater Pool Villa, which comes with its own “splashing water directly into the ocean” infinity pool on your private deck.)
In my opinion, those who have already stayed at a higher-end resort in the Maldives before might be less likely to find the Category 5 Le Méridien Maldives to be an attractive award redemption, even though the value is quite strong on paper.
I know I’d fall into this camp myself – after such a stellar experience at the JW Marriott Maldives, I’d want to do everything I can to make my next Maldives trip exceed that, rather than fall short of it.
On the other hand, if you haven’t been to the Maldives before and you’ve harboured an interest in going, but the Category 8 price points of the other resorts have been prohibitive for you, then the Category 5 Le Méridien might absolutely be the best choice.
If you’re interested in booking, I’d definitely recommend taking action as swiftly as possible. Not only are the Maldives open to tourists these days, but you never know when Marriott might decide to bump up the category on this property (which I think we can all agree is fairly undervalued), or the hotel might decide to no longer designate the Sunrise Overwater Villa as a base room bookable on points.
Overwater villagoers now have a brand-new Marriott Bonvoy points redemption option: the Le Méridien Maldives, a mere Category 5 hotel within the program that can be booked for as little as 24,000 Bonvoy points per night.
If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to the Maldives, you’ll want to carefully weigh up the decision as to whether to book the Le Méridien at a more affordable rate or to splurge for the more luxurious Category 8 resorts like the St. Regis or the JW Marriott.
I’ll certainly be very curious to hear about the first guests’ experiences at the Le Méridien and find out whether it’s truly priced as a steal, or if it’s more of a situation where “you get what you pay for”.
Either way, there’s no harm in locking in a booking for later in 2021 right now if you’re interested – even if it’s somewhat speculative!