What did you book? – Waldorf Astoria in Europe, St Regis Maldives and Al Maha

Al Maha, St Regis Maldives, Qsuites, Waldorf Astoria Berlin and Edinburgh

by Sash & Mohammad
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a collage of different images of a hotel

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In this April’s instalment of What Did You Book, Sash and Mohammad talk about what they have been up to in March, detailing their most noteworthy bookings, including any handy tips and tricks along the way.  Sash just returned from his two-week vacation in Japan, but he was busy during his travels, locking in some March 2025 bookings. He talks about the booking strategies behind his return to the  St Regis Maldives and Al Maha Resort in the UAE, plus how he booked his family of three in Qatar Qsuites.  Mohammad, meanwhile, was able to put together a few more pieces of his months-long vacation in Europe and is planning on crossing out two more of his beloved Waldorf Astoria’s on his bingo card, starting with the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh and then onwards to Berlin during the Euro 2024.

What did Sash Book? – St Regis Maldives and Al Maha

Folks who know me know that I like to begin planning my trips a year out, and that is precisely what I had to do for our March 2025 family trip. We will return to the St Regis Maldives and Al Maha Resort, two of my favourite properties in the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio.

a pool with a resort in the middle of the ocean

Top: Al Maha Resort, Bottom: St. Regis Maldvies, source: marriott.com

Our last visit was in 2022, when award space was abundant, especially flight awards for 2+ people. For 2025, I had to be on the ball to ensure I grabbed award space the moment it was released; it’s a different game now than 2-3 years ago. I’ll be breaking down my strategy behind securing the flight and hotel bookings. Without further ado, let’s dive right in:

Flight Bookings – Qatar Qsuites & FlyDubai

Patterns, patterns, patterns. I have repeatedly stressed the importance of understanding award release patterns to secure those aspirational awards. While I won’t be spoon-feeding you the exact pattern details (I want my readers to think for themselves), the following few paragraphs will provide clues; see if you can pick them up.

a man sitting at a desk looking at a computer screen

AI image of Sash figuring out fight award release patterns

Qatar Qsuites is my favourite long-haul business-class transportation of choice! It is the best and only business-class product that comes close to first-class.

a bed with a monitor and a bed with a screen on it

Qatar Qsuites, source: businesstravelerusa.com

This is the product I wanted to book for our outbound and return journey, but the release pattern had changed compared to January, so I had to figure out the new pattern, hit some snags, improvise, and ended up with the following:

Montreal (YUL) – Doha (DOH) – Maldives (MLE)

After the research I had done on release patterns a few weeks before the dates I wanted, just like clockwork, I could see the Business Class Saver award availability at the end of the calendar for multiple North American hubs to/from Doha and beyond. With Montreal being my departure of choice, I managed to grab two saver seats for Montreal-Doha-Male right at the exact time, yes time, the awards were released. Now, what about the 3rd person I had to book? Well, once the two saver awards seats were gone, I was able to book the 3rd person at the “Flexi” price, which is twice the cost in points.

So, the net cost on the outbound ticket:

Passenger 1 & 2: 170,000 (YUL-DOH-MLE [Business Saver] ) + CAD $235.80
Passenger 3: 170,000  (YUL-DOH-MLE [Business Flexi] ) + CAD $471.60
Total: 340,000 + CAD $707.40

Dubai (DXB) – Doha (DOH) – Montreal (YUL)

Booking the return journey, Dubai-Doha-Montreal, was a bit more complex. The complexity resulted from the Dubai-Doha leg, which was only available in economy or first class. If you are unaware, Qatar Airways sells business class tickets as first class for flights within the Middle East.  The release structure of these first-class awards differs from that of business class. Plus, married segment logic is applied when mixing business and first class. It can become messy and needs to be untangled.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Qatar Airways Middle East Flight with no business class

This all meant that after booking Dubai-Doha-Montreal tickets in Business Class Saver, booking a third flexi ticket was impossible as I had done on the outbound. The Doha-Montreal segment was available in business class flexi, and Dubai-Doha was available on an economy saver or first flexi (ignore the dates in the example):

a screenshot of a phone

a screenshot of a phone

However, booking the two fare structures together was impossible; they would not marry together. If I attempted to do so, business class space would show unavailable rather than being available at the Flexi price:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

My only option was to book the two flights (DXB-DOH and DOH-YUL) separately or together under one booking under the multi-city booking option.  I also had to decide between spending 42,000 Avios for the Dubai-Doha one-hour flight in First versus 7000 Avios in Economy. The latter made more sense, costing a total of 147,000 points.  So, the final price ended up being as follows:

Passenger 1 & 2: 140,000 (DXB-DOH [First Saver] + DOH-YUL[Business Saver] ) + 1350 AED
Passenger 3: 147,000 (DXB-DOH [Economy Saver] + DOH-YUL (Business Flexi) + AED 675
Total: 287,000 + AED 2025 (~CAD $750)

Male (MLE) – Dubai (DXB)

The remaining flight was from Male, Maldives to Dubai, UAE.  I have still yet to book this sector, but all of the reward options are not enticing, as follows:

1) FlyDubai: 62.1k Aeroplan + $204 (Business Class)
2) Emirates: 73.5k Skywards + $480 (Business) OR 32.5k + $155 (Economy)

There is quite a tax surcharge for Maldives departures in premium cabins. While the Emirates economy is reasonably priced, a FlyDubai revenue flight is likely the best option. It costs just $379 in economy for a fare with baggage allowance, meals, and only an AED 200 ($73) cancellation penalty, which is very reasonable.

a screenshot of a computer

FlyDubai has received good reviews on their Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft,and I have no hesitation trying it, despite the media instilling fear of the aircraft

a row of seats with monitors

a plane flying in the sky

Hotel Bookings – St. Regis Maldives & Al Maha Resort

Booking the St Regis Maldives and Al Maha Resort wasn’t as competitive and challenging when the calendar dates opened; I wasn’t focused on booking the hour it was released. Also, because I was booking for five nights, I needed all five nights to become available to ensure I got my 5th night free. Here is the pricing of my hotel bookings (5 nights at St Regis Maldives and three nights at Al Maha).

St. Regis Maldives

a group of houses on water

a screenshot of a building

The St. Regis Maldives is a truly magical paradise and has been one of, if not the most memorable hotel stay ever. From the fantastic luxurious villas to the impeccable butler service, the property delivers above and beyond one’s expectations. When choosing what Maldives property to return to, St Regis was too irresistible to pass. However, what was shocking was the price increase compared to 2022; St Regis Maldives is now 150,000/night. The tougher pill to swallow is the cash supplement on top of the points:

a screenshot of a phone

Let’s break down these charges:

  • I’m upgrading the base overwater villa to a larger overwater St. Regis “Suite”. I had this same villa type in 2022, and the $375 upgrade is well worth it for a family.
  • Transportation charges for the seaplane transfers have increased in price and now cost USD $870 each.

In addition to the nearly USD $5000 expense, I expect an additional $3000 in costs for meals (excluding breakfast that is included for Bonvoy Platinum and higher status) and activities for the five nights. You can save money by bringing your own instant noodles, as many influencers on social media have shown, but this is just pathetic, in my opinion.

a person eating noodles by a pool

An influencer basking in the Maldives sun, eating instant noodles, source: AI generated

I have no intention of spending nearly CAD $10,000 out of pocket for five nights at a hotel, so my strategy to offset most, if not all, the cost is the following:

  • Pay using Marriott Bonvoy Gift cards purchased at 20% off or greater (I paid with 18 gift cards in 2022!)
  • Redeem my Scotia Scene points.

a black background with red dots

a gift card with text and a red line

a long dock leading to a body of water

Al Maha Resort

a pool with a wooden deck and a wooden deck with a wooden deck and a wooden deck with a wooden deck and a large sand dune and a desert landscape

a screenshot of a room

Al Maha is a special place for me, and this will be my 4th trip to the property. It is known to be one of the top Bonvoy redemptions, not just for its private villas with a pool but also for the superior soft product from the warm and hospitable staff I have known over the years. The resort is also very cost-effective given that it is an all-inclusive property: three meals and two daily activities. This easily justifies the nightly rate, and you come out of there just paying a minuscule amount of taxes. This is what my final bill is expected to be: just an AED $60 ($22) cash supplement for three nights.

a screenshot of a web page

Here are some pictures from my previous visits:

a collage of different rooms a collage of a man and woman in a desert

Mohammad has previously reviewed Al Maha (2022) on PMB, which can be found here.

What did Mohammad Book? – Waldorf Astoria in Europe

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it for a while now – I absolutely love the Waldorf Astoria brand. Hilton’s premium brand has almost always delivered memorable stays and I’m really looking forward to trying at least two new properties outside of North America – one of which in particular I’ve been vying for a long long time.

I have an exciting few months ahead as I begin paternity leave during which we will be travelling the entire time primarily around Europe. So far the trip is a mix of planned travel along with large blocks of unplanned time to allow us to drift as we see fit, but two stays that I managed to lock in this past month were at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian and the Waldorf Astoria Berlin.

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

a building with flags on the front

Of the two properties, the historic WA Edinburgh has been on my bucket list for a long time. The property usually does not release a lot of award space, and when it occasionally does, it’s usually close-in to stay dates. This too tends to happen most often outside of late spring and summer – the non-peak travel months.

Edinburgh was high on the list of potential destinations and knowing that the clock was ticking on staying at the WA Edinburgh, I had used Awayz to set up some alerts on a handful dates several months ago – knowing that if bulk availability were to be loaded up – that this would be best chance at securing a booking. Despite having seen large award inventory drops occasionally in the past, I had almost never seen award space open during the peak summer months.

As luck would have it though, a generous amount of award space became available earlier this month in a couple of waves. Initially award space in May was loaded, followed a couple of days later in June though with 2-night minimum stay requirements which I had not appreciated that this property enforced. Looking at the dates I had in mind for end-June – by all accounts a great time to be in Edinburgh – I was able to secure a 3-night stay.

a room with a bed and chairsa room with a table and chairs and a desk

The stay itself will have an element of bittersweetness to it. To take a step back first, “The Caley” as its nicknamed, first opened in 1903 and was originally owned by the Caledonian Railway Company. Hilton purchased the property in 2000 and operated it as the “Caledonian Hilton Edinburgh” until 2011 when a major refurbishment lead to rebranding it as the UK’s first Waldorf Astoria property.

While Hilton will still continue to manage the property, it was sold in 2018 and again in 2023 at which point it was decided the after a new round of refurbishments, the hotel will be rebranded as part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. Where the Curio brand falls within Hilton’s portfolio – I haven’t a clue as lately they seem to be on a mission to have a more ludicrous number of brands in their portfolio than Bonvoy – however it does seem certain to lose its WA branding as of 2026. While refurbs are usually good news, the news of the rebranding means it will almost certainly lose its flagship Peacock Alley as that is a WA feature. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if it will retain the high touch element that WA’s are so usually good at delivering.

As far as booking options go, The Caley starts at 95,000 Hilton Honors points if standard rooms are available. Cash rates as expected, vary drastically between the cooler off-peak Edinburgh months when rates range between USD $280-$500 vs the summer months where prices touch upwards of USD $900 – $1,000. For the nights I booked, the equivalent cash rate was USD $902/nt. If booking with 95,000 points, the resulting cents per point (cpp) was 0.09 cpp which is impressive for Hilton Honors points.

For my 3-night booking however, I used some more Hilton Free Night certificates, including 2 that were expiring in July. I was tempted to extend the stay in Edinburgh for a full 5 nights to spend more time in the city – and I may yet do that – in which case if space had been available, then using Hilton’s 5th night free award on a points booking could have been another consideration, which would effectively drop the effective price to 76,000 Hilton Honors point if booking this way.

The good news since that time, is that after coming and going a few times there is more additional award space in May/June and some other random smatterings across the summer months and the 2 night minimum stay has been dropped – so a great time to potentially check out Edinburgh whilst using your points towards to do so as well.

Waldorf Astoria Berlin

a tall building with a crane in the background

Waldorf Astoria Berlin, Image source: Peter Von Stamm travel blog

Germany’s first and only Waldorf Astoria, the WA Berlin is a wonderfully situated hotel that has regularly received rave reviews from patrons. Unlike The Caley, booking the WA Berlin was less of an adventure given ample award availability, though still required some thought as to the optimal booking channel.

The WA Berlin can be booked for 80,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room, though cash rates at the hotel seem to be quite reasonable throughout the year, often ranging between USD $300-$400  throughout the year. Surprising to me was that even with Berlin a host city for  Euro 2024, rates had not really skyrocketed aside from the handful of dates leading up to the Final which will be played there.

a screenshot of a calendar

Awayz cash & points availability calendar for June 2024

For my dates, the hotel was reasonably priced at ~USD 350/nt across my 3 night stay, which otherwise would have required 80,000 Hilton Honors points a night resulting in a meagre 0.44 cpp redemption. I usually peg my baseline for Hilton points at 0.6 cpp, thus booking a cash rate made more sense. Even staying 5 nights on points to take advantage of the fifth night free promotion would have yielded a cpp of 0.55 cpp – again lower than what I usually life to redeem my hilton points for.

In the end, the cash avenue was the obvious choice. I had considered a Virtuoso booking which would have entitled me for some extra perks, however the delta between the cheapest cash rate and flexible rate was considerable which over 3 days would have more than offset the $100 property credit.

Being a Hilton Diamond already, the enhanced breakfast benefit was more or less similar to what I was already entitled to. Instead, a couple of cost savings avenues I’ll be looking for will be to firstly use the semi annual $200 Hilton Aspire credits. We have a couple of Aspire cards between my wife and I and can easily apply them at checkout. Additionally, US Amex cards often have Hilton Amex Offers for credits at  Waldorf Astoria. Like the below pictured offer, spends of $1000+ can result in $200 back as statement credit. The current offer excludes Europe, though I’m hopeful something similar comes around by the time our stay begins.

a screenshot of a website

Always read the T&C’s and the applicable resort list to ensure the eligibilty of specific properties

Final Word

Our April instalment of “What Did You Book?” spotlighted bookings at the St Regis Maldives and Al Maha made by Sash, along with Mohammad’s double dose of Waldorf Astoria’s in Berlin and Edinburgh. Sash also detailed his strategy behind securing those coveted Qatar Qsuites rewards, while Mohammad gave us a sneak peak into what he’s been planning for his big spring trip.

As always, please feel free to leave your questions, comments and/or feedback below! Thanks for reading along and see you next month in another edition of What Did You Book.


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