One of the most touted benefits of Caesars Diamond status is that you can get a free stay at the Atlantis Bahamas. This is a destination I wouldn’t ever have normally considered, but there was a really good sale fare from Vancouver to Nassau so I grabbed tickets a couple of months ago. This is usually a rational strategy: if there is a good deal on flight tickets, just grab the flights immediately and figure out the rest later.
I had no idea what I was setting myself up for.
I called in December and was informed that the calendar wasn’t open yet for February. “Call back after the first of the year, and there should be good availability” said the friendly agent. OK, fine. I called in on January 2nd, and was informed that the calendar would be opening for February in mid-January, without any certainty as to exactly when. “I know this sounds crazy because it’s really soon, but call back after the 15th and we should be able to take care of you.”
OK, fine. I called back today, less than two weeks before my planned stay (starting on the 2nd of February). “Have you ever booked with us before?” Apparently there’s a process where the Atlantis has to confirm my benefit with Caesars, and that takes a couple of days, and they can’t make a reservation before then. But it doesn’t matter anyway, because the first 10 days of February are sold out. “Reservations have been open since Sunday,” the agent cooly stated. That’s funny, because the Web site says that reservations don’t open until February 1st.
Now, rooms aren’t actually sold out. You can buy all of the rooms you want. You just can’t use your Caesars benefit on those days. Atlantis manages its inventory like saver level frequent flier awards. They black out popular dates, and you’re more likely to be able to use the benefit for a midweek versus a weekend stay, and during hurricane season versus a nice time of the year to visit. While we all prefer different experiences when we travel, it’s personally difficult for me to justify using scarce vacation days on a destination like The Bahamas in order to stay in a casino resort.
So, I ended up spending 11,000 Choice points per night (transferred 1:2 from Citi) to stay in the Comfort Suites next door. They charge a $45 per night resort fee on top of it, so I spent the equivalent of $510 in points and cash for a 4 night stay. That stings, although it’s only 1/3 the cash rate for an equivalent room (Choice had availability for a garden view suite). There’s still a remote possibility that someone will cancel and I’ll be able to stay during my planned dates, but the possibility is remote.
Should you go for a Caesars Diamond status? Possibly, if it makes sense (I got my status matched from Wyndham, and I get my Wyndham status from a $95 annual fee credit card, which is less than I’d spend on parking each year at a conference I attend in Las Vegas). However, I wouldn’t gamble extra, or buy a Founder’s Card membership, with the intention of using this benefit. My experience actually trying to book and use the Atlantis Bahamas stay has shown that unless you’re willing to travel midweek in off peak months, this isn’t an easy benefit to use. Honestly, though, what should I have expected from a property named after a lost city? Maybe it doesn’t even exist.