Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

A great Marriott family redemption – Domes of Elounda, Crete

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Back in January, I wrote about the Al Wadi desert resort in Ral Al-Khaimah, a short drive from Dubai.  This is now a luxury The Ritz-Carlton resort, having been taken over from Banyan Tree.

The resort consists of 101 individual pool villas.  Yes, every villa has its own private pool.  The smallest villas are a modest 1,700 square feet.  Despite this you can currently book it for just 40,000 Marriott Rewards points per night, the equivalent of 13,333 Starwood Preferred Guest points if you transfer from there.

Cash rates are above £600 per night at peak season.  To save you doing the maths, that is 1.5p per Marriott Rewards point of value which is triple my normal 0.5p valuation.

I am there for three nights in October – using my own points, not on a freebie – and will report on how it goes.

That is not the point of this article though.  What I wanted to cover was another excellent value Marriott Rewards redemption if you have a family.

I thought I had written about this before but I haven’t.  All of the discussion was actually in the HFP comments section, which proves how this site has a life of its own beyond what Anika and I write.

Domes of Elounda 1

Domes of Elounda is a luxury ‘all suite’ hotel in Crete.  It is unbranded but is part of Marriott’s Autograph collection.  Autograph is a group of independent hotels who use Marriott’s sales and marketing system, including their website, and in return agree to give and redeem Marriott Rewards points and respect elite benefits.

The standard redemption is a suite which sleeps four people (1 king bed, 2 x sofa beds) which is why this is great if you have kids.

As a Marriott Rewards redemption, Domes is as expensive as a non- The Ritz-Carlton can get – Category 9 or 45,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.

(Marriott offers five nights for the points of four on reward nights, so five nights would only be 180,000 points.)

It is also hugely expensive for cash, however.  For 28th to 31st August, a one bedroom suite to sleep four is €676 (£617) per night.   Alternatively, you can use 45,000 Marriott Rewards points.

That works out at 1.37p per Marriott point, compared to my usual 0.5p value.  If you stay five nights and only pay for four, the value is even higher.

Domes of Elounda 2

Domes of Elounda is even better value when you book a Marriott Travel Package.  I outlined how Marriott Travel Packages work in this article.  You can find details on the Marriott website here.

Marriott Travel Packages are a way of getting extra value from a large pot of Marriott points.  Historically it was hard to earn a lot of Marriott points in the UK without staying in their hotels.  Since Marriott bought Starwood ….. and Starwood points became convertible to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio …. and whilst Starwood remains an Amex Membership Rewards partner at 2:1 and also has its own SPG Amex card ….. it is possible to run up a decent amount.

Domes of Elounda is a Category 9 Marriott property.  As far as a travel package goes, it would cost:

320,000 points = 7 nights plus 50,000 Avios or other airline miles, or

340,000 points = 7 nights plus 70,000 Avios or other airline miles, or

370,000 points = 7 nights plus 100,000 Avios or other airline miles, or

390,000 points = 7 nights plus 120,000 Avios or other airline miles

Assuming you value an Avios point at 1p, the 390,000 point package would get you £1,200 of Avios points plus (£617 per night x 7 nights) £4,300 of Domes of Elounda stay at peak season.  That works out at £5,500 of value for 390,000 Marriott Rewards points, or 1.41p per Marriott point.

The value is even higher if you value an Avios at more than 1p, or if you take a different airline currency which you value at more than 1p, or if you redeem when BA is running one its regular ‘35% bonus for transferring hotel points to Avios’ offers.

Domes of Elounda 3

But is the hotel any good?

Three HFP readers have contacted me in recent weeks to say that they booked Domes of Elounda after reading about it on the site.  Remember, this was in the comments and not in any article!

Reader 1 wrote:

Domes of Elounda was simply amazing. Obviously, very upmarket and the clientele generally reflects that but on top of that the service and location are also major plus points.

The accommodation and food was great with lots of kids options. On points the best room you can get officially is the 1 bed sea facing suite which is what we got. Breakfast was included as we are Marriott Gold and they had a 70 m long family pool. This was if you like the social hub but it never felt crowded and kids mixed and made friends easily. There is also a decent private beach which is not the most amazing beach in the world but they have made it into a good space with atmosphere.

All in all we had a great time and it was probably the best redemption we have done as it was a Marriott Travel Package booked during the ‘35% bonus Avios for transferring from a hotel scheme’ period.  My advice would be to go. You won’t regret it!

Reader 2 wrote:

Just wanted to mention that I recently stayed at Domes of Elounda using a Marriott Travel Package.  Was wonderful, and certainly the best family holiday I’ve ever had.  I booked a “family suite with sea view” using my points (which itself is a few rungs up) and was lucky enough to be upgraded (as Marriott Gold) to a 2-bed luxury residence.  Beautifully appointed 2 bed/2 bath suite with its own swimming pool (which was large enough to do laps in!).  

Given the cash price of around €800 per night, the travel package was a true bargain – I can’t imagine there would be a better use for the package (for a family at least) in Europe, and breakfast is included to boot. Highly recommended and have already booked up for another week next year.

Reader 3 wrote:

What a spot Domes and Elounda itself was, treated very well as a Gold with some pre-arrival email back and forth. Upgrade to a villa with Haute Lounge access, which they are starting to limit now as they don’t have to give it being a resort.

These are all long-term HFP readers who I know.  For clarity, I haven’t been to Domes of Elounda myself but if you have a family it does seem to be working well as an excellent use of Marriott Rewards points.

The hotel website is here if you want to find out more.

Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards (January 2021)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year. You can apply here.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (69)

  • Genghis says:

    Nice article. Marriott also offer 5 for 4 on reward night stays. You could therefore use (4 x 45k) 180k to get 5 nights valued at (£617 x 5) £3,085, which is 1.71p / Marriott point.

  • Bill says:

    I see the emphasis is on ‘family package’. Any good if going as a couple? Might be time to get that plat Amex card for Gold status.

    • Jas Gill says:

      To be honest, there are probably more suitable resorts for couples in Crete.

      I’m at the Domes of Elounda, at present, with wife and three children in tow and I would definitely agree that it is a upmarket family resort. Plenty of luxury on offer but I would estimate that 70-80% of guests are families.


    • Jonny says:

      the majority of guests are with young kids, and the size of the villas makes it perfect for families. That said, it’s more than suitable for couples- kids aren’t “in your face” everywhere (perhaps except early on at the evening buffet), and there is a large adults-only pool, and different restaurants, which have rotating adults-only nights.

      Plus, if you have a pool villa, you can stay in our own world.

      • Genghis says:

        Thanks for feedback. I considered going with Mrs G pre-family but will wait until we have a few nippers if it’s that family friendly.

    • James Ward says:

      The Domes Noruz at the other end of the island is adult only:

      It only opened last Autumn and has had some great write-ups.

      I’m going there for a week in October with my partner. Booked as a Marriott Travel Package, with the 120,000 miles contributing to a biz class redemption on Vietnam Airlines next year (160,000 Delta Skymiles pp – availability was wide open when I booked it a few weeks ago).

      • CJ says:

        I’ve just been looking at Domes Noruz as a possible redemption in October as well. Have you managed to get breakfast included as the hotel are suggesting that reward stays are room only even as Marriott gold?

  • the real harry1 says:

    70 metre pool? that’s impressive 🙂

    Olympic pools being 50m…

  • Boi says:

    Miss-calculated. I thought it was 270K and was going to get there on my next churn…..I have just transferred my 56K MR coz I thought I didn’t need them. Now I am stuck!

    Also, would they allow 2 adults and 3 kids in there with their travel package? Kids are young…

    • Genghis says:

      You can book now pay later

    • JKST says:

      If you search for 1 room but 5 guests they have some that will allow 4 “adults” and one under 12 child so there are some 5 people combos.

    • Jas Gill says:

      Max. occupancy in the “standard” suites is four as we had to book two as a family of 2 adults and 3 children. However, received an upgrade to a 2 bed villa as Marriott Gold which accommodates five comfortably.
      No harm in emailing them to ask.

    • Jonny says:

      2 adults + 2 kids + 1 baby (in a cot) should be fine if you add that baby after booking.

      Or find out directly from the hotel additional costs on top of a redemption booking if upgrading to a larger suite.

  • Drav says:

    it may sound better to look up a last minute date in summer so then you can claim there is loads of value to gained per point, but really, this hotel can usually be booked for around 200 euro per night.

    • Yuff says:

      Even during school holidays?
      Most hotels triple their prices during July & august from my experience!

      • the real harry1 says:

        you’re right – try looking at the rate card for 1-12 August 2018 – triple might be over-egging it but £617/ night isn’t an exaggeration

        • David says:

          350 Euro/night for first full week of Scottish school summer holidays next year (30 June – 7 July).

    • Rob says:

      But not during school holidays, which is what we’re talking about here as this is a rare property where a standard redemption room sleeps 4.

      The place we were at in Croatia was £450 a night last week, I doubt it is £100 a night in November.

    • Tom says:

      Please find that rate during the summer holidays next year. I couldn’t. Remember this story was titled ‘family’ redemption. Sure E200 will be available during November.

    • Leo says:

      I was looking at the Elounda area earlier this year – even mid to late September/early October I was surprised how high the cash rates remained.

    • Drav says:

      as already mebtioned above, rates of 350 euro/night are available in the school holidays. significantly cheaper than 617 i.e. a rate for next week….

      • Rob says:

        February half term? :-)

        All hotels have peak dates and non-peak dates. The key for any hotel redemption is to use points only when redeeming on dates that maximise value.

        If you want to go to Cyprus in November and New York in September, NY would be a better use of points. Swap those dates around and Cyprus would be better.

        • Drav says:

          i would argue that the key to any hotel redemption is to get a hotel that fits your individual criteria at the time that you want to go away.

          not the place that gives you the maximum “pence per point” of value.

          but then again it seems we all deem value differently. my travel is dictated by the destinations i want to visit, rather than the destinations my points let me visit.

          • Genghis says:

            I think Rob meant that assuming we have a finite amount of points, those points are best used when hotels are expensive when we want to travel.

            So assuming you have 50k points and you want to go to New York in Sep and Cyprus in Nov. Now those points can get you a room in New York costing £300 or in Cyprus costing £100, you’d choose the New York option as it saves you the most money.

            I completely agree though about choosing destinations first and then finding how to get there etc rather than the other way around.

  • Tom says:

    I thought breakfast wasn’t included for Golds at Marriott resorts? Is it included here as this isn’t Marriott branded?

    • mark2 says:

      Marriott do include breakfast for Gold status, but SPG do not.

    • Rob says:

      Seems everyone gets free breakfast here.

    • Jonny says:

      Yep breakfast included (for now at least) with all rooms, which adds to the value of the redemption

    • Ian says:

      Breakfast isn’t guaranteed as gold member as resorts but is often given. I recently stayed at the Marriott Resort in Sopot (Polish coast). I called the hotel ahead of booking to ask if they give breakfast to gold members and they said yes. So I booked a cheaper room only rate!

  • Matthew says:

    Domes of Elounda has been on my radar for a little while now and I actually booked it at the weekend for next summer. It’s worth noting that the cancellation policy at this resort is 30 days, so don’t let it catch you out!

    FYI – I started with a cat 1-5 travel package (with 132,000 United Miles) and then paid the extra 120,000 Marriott points to ‘upgrade’ the certificate to a cat 9 hotel voucher. This also resets your expiry date on the hotel voucher part.

  • Alex W says:

    I’m all for getting “even better value” – I am going for a travel package myself. But the numbers are not so clear cut here.
    Straight 7 night Marriott redemption (inc 5 for 4) = 270,000 pts @ £616/night = 1.597 p/pt.
    So based on that, the Travel package is worse value at 1.41 p/pt, as Rob worked out above. With a 35% Avios bonus it would still only be 1.52 p/pt. If you value the miles at above 1p then maybe it is better value (my redemptions have got on average 1.25p p per Avio).

    So I have 2 questions:
    1. What is the price of other luxury resorts in Crete, i.e. is Domes of Elounda over priced?
    2. I do not get a large number of SPG/Marriott points – mostly only from credit cards. Given that the top travel package at 390,000 pts is nearly 75% of the way towards 2 x travel packages of 270,000 pts, is the Domes really worth such a premium over lower category hotels?

    • Rob says:

      1. You need to assume market forces are at work here

      2. You are unlikely to find other redemption options where you can comfortably get a family of 4 into a standard redemption room

      That said, Marriott is quite good at co-pay redemptions. Venice lets you pay extra to upgrade to a ‘sleeps 4’ junior suite for example, although it was bad value last week (€300 supplement on top of 45,000 points vs €454 cash with breakfast).

      • Alex W says:

        Thanks Rob. As I haven’t got a family of 4 yet I probably wouldn’t realise the full value here.
        Would the rooms suit 2 couples + 1 small baby?

        • czechoslovakia says:

          I mentioned the Domes first on here back in January this year after one of Robs SPG/Marriott merger posts. Marriott call centre did let me book for 3 adults, 2 kids, but I got an email from the hotel the next day saying no dice. Absolute max 4 persons. It was annoying because 2 Marriott reps said it was no problem.
          The hotel did let me upgrade to a 2 bed suite though for a very small cash amount, payable directly at the hotel.
          Not stayed there yet, but we paid 160,000 marriott points for 5 nights first week of October, getting around 1.6p/point.

          • Melvin says:

            @czechoslovakia I want to redeem at this hotel for a family of five next year so I am very interested your comments. They clearly have suites which do accommodate 5 people, just not for redemption’s. Do you recommend I just book a redemption for four people and then contact the hotel? Did you ask if it was possible to upgrade using additional points instead of cash?

          • Rob says:

            They won’t take extra points because there is no mechanism for Marriott to repay the hotel. Will need to be cash.

          • czechoslovakia says:

            As Rob said, Cash only.
            I booked a 1 bedroom suite, and requetsed an extra rollaway bed via the marriott call centre. Hotel got in touch with me about it. They helped me out as obviously Marriott messed up. I suppose it depends on demand when you`re looking to stay. Suggest emailing the sales & reservations dept at the hotel directly first with your plans.

          • Aziz says:

            @czechoslovakia – we’re very tempted to book Dones for next summer but are a little concerned by the size of the beach as the kids love playing by the beach? Could you let me know how you found it for your kids please? Also are there any other nice sandy beaches nearby at all? Thanks

    • Matthew says:

      There are very few cat 1-5 hotels that you’d want to stay in for a week!

      As Rob says, the key point of value here is that you can get 4 people in one room. For my week, it’s over £600 per night too plus BA flights are > £600 each rtn in school hols so the travel package is a good use of Marriott points along with the avios or whatever miles you use.

      As mentioned before, the travel package is an excellent way to get United miles. I’m looking forward to trying out Thai First (HKG-BKK-SYD) for just 40,000 miles plus minimal tax next month 🙂