As you already know, our accommodations on our trip around the world consisted 95% of couch surfing hosts’ dwellings: sometimes a nice bed in a private guest room, sometimes a futon in the living room, sometimes a couch, air mattress or sleeping bag in the *only* room. Rarely did we stay in hotels or even hostels, and rarely did we have much privacy.
When we pay to stay in hotels, they are usually below the standards of what most of our friends and family come to expect. But when we use points, once in a while we hit some real jackpots! The Sheraton Mirage was one of them. And we are so unused to this type of luxury that we took photos of EVERYthing!
Our room was enormous with two beds, a table and chairs, and a groovy central control panel on the nightstand that controlled all the lights, the fan, the air conditioning, and even the electronic “do not disturb” sign outside our door. Our room also had a huge bathroom with one of the biggest bathtubs we’ve ever had. It was big enough for two if not three people! We had two floor-to-ceiling windows which took up almost an entire wall and gave us a view of the gorgeous landscaping and pool behind our building. And the grounds of this were second only to those of the Grand Hyatt we stayed in, in Poipu, Hawaii last year on the island of Kauai.
The Mirage has five lagoon-style pools; some freshwater, most saltwater. I spent many, many hours frolicking and swimming in them. There are volleyball nets, beach balls, and foam noodles with which to play. There’s a game room with video games and ping pong. And it’s all protected by a gorgeous, natural palm tree jungle “wall”, which hides beautiful Four Mile Beach on the other side.
Four Mile Beach is a long, flat beautiful beach and the palm trees skirting the edge make it look like a deserted tropical dream. We walked up and down the beach countless times, by day and by night. (The stargazing was amazing!) We climbed the little mountain at one end, and shell combed at the other end. We rented bikes and rode up and down the entire beach on them. We swam in the water and relaxed in the shallow surf.
The Mirage also has many restaurants, which are all priced way out of our range. We could have ordered a burger from the pool bar for $26 (plus $3 for us cheese and/or bacon lovers), but we opted instead to hit the grocery store each night and grill on one of the free electric grills at the local beach parks. Inexpensive, easy, tasty and fun!
So to answer the burning question on all of your minds – how did we manage to stay for seven nights in a hotel that charges $29 for a cheeseburger? Easy!! Enter Starwood Preferred Guest, otherwise known as SPG, a hotel points program with American Express. A few months ago I opened an American Express SPG personal credit card, and an American Express SPG business credit card (any Ebay business will do – I sometimes resell office supplies). The annual fees on these cards are waived for the first year. I put the required amount of spending on each card, and received 30,000 Starpoints on each card, for a total of 60,000 points.* What was the cost of a week in the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas? 10,000 points per night; but for every four nights in an SPG hotel, you get a fifth night free. So my 60,000 points covered the entire stay. Overall, an amazing hotel stay at a great price!
*Please note the usual sign-up/spend bonus on the SPG credit cards is 25,000 points. I applied during a special promotion which gave me 30,000 points.