The Scenario – MrsMJ and I are cruising from San Juan, Puerto Rico this December. We are arriving in San Juan two days prior to our cruise. I immediately booked a two night stay at the Marriott San Juan using Marriott Rewards points. I’ve stayed at the hotel before. I like it. I like the staff. I like the live music in the evenings. I like the beach. It’s free.

MrsMJ wishes to stay at the Hotel El Convento, a hotel rich in history, and definitely not free.

The Result – We are staying at the Hotel El Convento.

Sometimes it really is about the experience. Obviously, miles and points are made for aspirational experiences, but in this case I will save those points for something else. I’m going to pay for our hotel stay in San Juan out of pocket. This will be our big vacation of 2013, and it’s not every day that I get to stay in a hotel with a history dating to 1646. After considering my options with alternative points currencies like Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, I elected to book the hotel through our Virtuoso affiliated travel agent.

Hotel El Convento is a preferred Virtuoso property, and MrsMJ and I will enjoy some benefits as a result including an upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), complimentary continental breakfast, a $25 credit towards a massage, a $75 dining credit, and early check in/late check out. The benefits aside, the hotel just looks awesome. Cookie-cutter it is not. Here’s an excerpt from their website:

El Convento Hotel History in San Juan, Puerto Rico -

 Celebrate more than 360 years of tradition at our luxury old San Juan hotel in Puerto Rico. As the first Carmelite Convent in the Americas, it housed the nuns for 252 years until closing a few days before Christmas in 1903. Vacant for a decade, the abandoned building served as a retail store, a dance hall, and, for the next 40 years, a flophouse without running water, sanitary facilities, or electricity.

Opened on Jan. 27, 1962 as El Convento Hotel, it offered a tranquil, European-style alternative to the glitzy hotels lining the Condado strip. Since that time, we’ve maintained a high standard of luxury and style – constantly improving our amenities and recreational services. Notable present-day features of our boutique-style Puerto Rico luxury hotel include:

      • Named the premier “Small Luxury Hotel” in Puerto Rico
      • Oldest member of Historic Hotels of America
      • Rated as a AAA Four Diamond property
      • Daily Manager’s reception, serving a variety of wine and hors d’ouevres on La Veranda terrace
      • Plunge pool and Jacuzzi, offering breathtaking views of San Juan Bay
      • Fitness center, with free weights, treadmill, elliptical trainer, and stair climber, offering guests unlimited use
      • Three diverse restaurants, serving cuisine ranging from tapas to traditional Puerto Rican fare
      • Library, with access to our business center
      • El Convento Beach Club, featuring beach and pool privileges at our sister properties, located on two of the best beaches in Puerto Rico

Not to mention, the hotel’s team page includes the resident hotel cat, Trixie.

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Yes, sometimes it is about the experience. I’m looking forward to the Hotel El Convento experience this December.

-MJ, July 20, 2013

9 Responses

  1. Award stays aren’t really free.

    That said, I agree that staying in a local property with color and flavor is much, much better than staying in a chain hotel.

  2. @Seth,

    I should always say “free” when talking about awards. :)

  3. Sounds like a great place! Plus you’re following the #1 rule of married life – “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”!

  4. […] Experiences Matter – Paying for a Hotel When I Have Plenty of Points […]

  5. It’s ALWAYS about the experiences. Period. You and your wife are going to have a blast. Don’t worry about what “value” you get out of using, or not using, points.

    I’m going to Vegas for a convention in a few months. I’m going out a few days early to hang out. One of my best friends is going to fly out and meet me, and we’re going to hang. I was the best man at his wedding and I haven’t seen him in a while. I’m going to burn up my Hilton points at the Embassy Suites.

    We’re going to have a blast, and no way can anyone convince me that that is a bad use of points. No way.

  6. I have always wanted to stay at El Convento. Enjoy!

  7. Dear Mr Jackson

    As Director of Marketing of the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, I deeply regret that you and your wife will not be staying with us this December, however you have made a wonderful choice in staying at the El Convento and choosing to come to San Juan, Puerto Rico. We are only a $15.00 taxi ride away so please visit us for a drink and to enjoy the music if you have the time. Enjoy your time in Puerto Rico prior to your cruise.

    Sincerely

    Julian

  8. @Julian,

    Thanks for your nice note. You have a great hotel there! Thanks for the invite.

    MJ

  9. […] convent that dates back to the 1600s. After almost booking one of those big box hotels, MrsMJ insisted on trying the El Convento. I’m glad she did. We booked the hotel through our Virtuoso […]

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