I posted about my honeymoon a while ago, and I had people guess which islands we were planning to visit. None of the guesses were actually that close. The initial honeymoon plan was to go to Mauritius, Seychelles, and the Maldives. Those plans have changed a bit since the initial “imagination phase.”
A large portion of the honeymoon is now booked, and I thought I’d use this post to report some lessons learned and observations in hopes that they help someone else out there plan their dream honeymoon as well.
The plan was always to fly into Mauritius with Star Alliance (South African Airways flies from JNB to MRU), and then we would pay to fly on the Air Seychelles flight from Mauritius to Seychelles. From the Seychelles, I was going to use United Miles to book one-way tickets to the Maldives on Qatar Airlines via SEZ-DOH-MLE. Then once in the Maldives, we would come back home via Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Well, a lot of those plans have changed. We are now booked into Mauritius for four nights. After those four nights, we’re off to Cairo (omg! the freaking pyramids! WOOT!) for four nights, and then from Cairo, we’re going to the Maldives for six nights. Then we’re coming home. There will be many honeymoon posts in the future, but here are some of the early lessons I’ve learned.
First lesson learned: When planning to island hop between remote islands, don’t assume that those flights operate anything close to daily. The Air Seychelles flight from Mauritius to Seychelles only operates twice a week, and the days it flies don’t work out at all for us. If we were to stick with our original plan, we would either have to stay in Mauritius longer than we would like or we would have to skip the island completely. We knew there was no way to get to Seychelles on Star Alliance, but we hoped to pay for the one-way tickets to SEZ and then use United miles to book SEZ-DOH-MLE with Qatar Airlines. That brings me to lesson two.
Second lesson learned: United has some pretty limited rules about how you can redeem your miles with Qatar Airways. Most of these rules are not listed on the website. One-way awards aren’t allowed so that ruled out a quick SEZ-DOH-MLE trip. Open-jaw awards ARE allowed. That got me hopeful about a SEZ-DOH-MLE trip with a few days in Doha, but those hopes were quickly crushed when the agent told me that open-jaw awards were only permitted if the trip started and terminated in the same region. Unfortunately, Mauritius and Seychelles are classified as Africa, and the Maldives fall under Central Asia.
So going back to the first lesson, not only were the flights from Mauritius to the Seychelles at times that didn’t work for us, they also were expensive. Over $500 one-way in economy. And even if those times worked and we paid for the ticket, then we’d have to pay to get out of the Seychelles, as Qatar Airways was now out of the question.
We’re happy to spend money on the honeymoon, but the wedding is expensive enough already. Furthermore, my fiancé and I have been perpetually hoarding points with the honeymoon in mind – we were determined to use them… Since we couldn’t go to the Seychelles reasonably, it was back to the drawing board. Well, it wasn’t a complete drawing board that we were back to. My fiancé has wanted to go to the Maldives for her entire life so knew we would finish the trip there. And there’s a brand new St. Regis opening in Mauritius (more on lodging later), and we have both heard great things about that island, so we knew we wanted to go there in the beginning. It’s also fairly accessible with Star Alliance.
So… I stared at a map… where to go… we needed a fun place to go in between Mauritius and the Maldives. And then it hit me: EGYPT! How awesome would it be to relax on the beach for 5 or 6 days, then go to one of the world’s ultimate historic site seeing locations, and then go back to the beach in the Maldives?! Pretty freaking awesome. So using Continental’s site, I started looking for award availability from Mauritius to Cairo. The only way out of Mauritius via Star Alliance is Johannesburg so my search was effectively looking for JNB-CAI, but I had to make sure the flight left late enough to connect with the JNB-MRU flight. I found one! There was availability on Virgin Atlantic from Johannesburg to London, and then from London to Cairo on BMI. While I do like needlessly flying around the globe, I would have preferred to get on the non-stop Egyptair flight from JNB to CAI, but I couldn’t find any availabilty. No matter what date I checked, there was nothing. I called to book the ticket, and while he was booking the ticket, I asked him, “Hey out of curiosity, is there ever any award availability on that JNB-CAI Egyptair flight?” He says, “Yeah – there’s availability on the night you’re traveling. I was wondering why you didn’t just want that flight instead.” That brings me to the next lesson learned.
Third lesson learned: Use the websites as a guide, but don’t put your full faith in them. While Continental.com is a great place to start your award search (for Star Alliance), don’t let that be the only place you look. There’s really no substitute for calling. When on the phone, I asked the agent why the Egyptair flight wasn’t showing up on their website. He didn’t really know, but he said it wasn’t that uncommon for some partner flights to not show up online. So if you’re looking for availability, there is no substitute for calling. As of now, we’re booked in Economy from MRU-JNB and on JNB-CAI, I’m in coach, but my fiancé is in business class. I’ll call Continental every few days, and hopefully something opens up in business class
I have so much more to say about this whole process, and I’ll save it for a later post. I still need to discuss lodging, and I need to discuss the flights we ended up booking and why we chose those. One thing is for sure, though. Our honeymoon destinations are confirmed: Mauritius, Cairo, and the Maldives.