Maldives Trip Report: Ann & Franklin’s visit at You & Me Cocoon Resort, flying FREE with Qatar Airways QSuites (worth $13K)

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I am so excited to share this latest post with you. It’s a trip report, well it was not exactly my own experience, but one of the group members over on my Daddy Travels Now Facebook Travel Page Group came back from the Maldives. She and her husband went to the same resort where over 50 of my friends and family have purchased Travelzoo deal vouchers. Yes! This was the same resort where we will all be visiting in 2022 – You & Me Cocoon Maldives.

Here is Ann’s interview, a detailed recap of her experience along with her husband, Franklin. Ann will take you through all their preparation, to the flights, all the way to the Maldives experience, and her experience flying back to the US.

Meet Ann and Franklin

My husband and I love to travel and we love to eat authentic local cuisines. We usually travel outside the US twice a year on a one to two week time frame. We have no children, so it is very easy for us to be spontaneous and travel during shoulder season.  We can react and book a trip at the drop of a hat and this has often provided the best results. Our passion for travel is the fact that we both enjoy it and we can share it together.  We really strive to make sure both of our wants and desires are met on every trip we take. A few our cherished vacations were our trips to Easter Island where the horses run wild without any fences around the island. We also love Iceland – no matter where we went, the nature was stunning. Another  Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy. We were fascinated by the fact that there were only 10 full time residents that lived in this small hill town. You can only access this town by foot by walking from the base. There were no cars in this town. Most of tourists come for the day and leave. but, at night you have the whole place to yourself. 

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Why did you choose the Maldives?

Our cruise to Tahiti got cancelled and we moved our trip to August 2022. Then we saw this Travelzoo deal at You & Me overwater villa at such a good price. So, I booked this trip to surprise my husband.  I think it was a perfect trip to just relax after he worked so hard last year.

Image courtesy of You and Me Maldives

How did you book?

I knew about the Travelzoo deal, and I also met Jason over at the Facebook page for You & Me Cocoon. The Travelzoo deal sold out before I got a chance to buy it. I debated on which room to buy and couldn’t make decision. I decided to email the resort and they offered me something similar at $2240. The deal was for Manta Villa 07 Nights. The price was valid for 2 adults and included:

    • 7 nights’ accommodation
    • Half board; daily breakfast at The Sand and dinner at any of the resort’s restaurants except H20
    • A lunch at H20 underwater restaurant for two
    • All Government Taxes and Service fees

What did you do to prepare for this trip?

We went to have our COVID test three weeks before the travel date just to see how the process was done. I wanted to see how long it will take to get results back. I also wanted to make sure that the test results said “PCR”.  I also did a research about what kind of document was required to enter the Maldives, and what were Qatar Airways requirements. Prior to our flight, we took our COVID test again just 3 days before we flew.  Our flight left on Sunday. We had a test on Thursday. I made sure we had enough time to get the results back.

To learn more about the resort, I also checked Tripadvisor and joined a Facebook group called You & Me Cocoon Maldives Hotel travelers discussion page. I also reached out to the resort directly, and I asked them about upgrade options to full board or all-Inclusive costs. I also made a reservation at H2O restaurant.

H2O Underwater Restaurant. Image courtesy of Travelzoo

Ann and Franklin’s Flights to the Maldives

To fly to the Maldives, we used American Airline Miles to book business class seats on Qatar Airways Qsuites. We used 140K AA miles per person. The route was LAX-DOH-MLE. with 7 hours layover in Doha. But on the return flight it was MLE-CMB-DOH-LAX. I didn’t book when there was only 1 layover in Doha available on my return flight. I kept checking but the date I wanted never opened up again. All flights were on Qsuites except MLE to CMB was on economy but it was not bad because the flight was only one hour.

Ann and Franklin aboard Qatar Airways

I booked directly from the American Airlines website. I didn’t have to transfer any miles. I already have AA miles. I didn’t have to deal with Qatar Airways at all. But we also got miles from Citi AAdvantage Business card and got bonus miles.

We also received 30,000 miles each for putting $5,000 deposit with Citibank. The offer come in the mail and we had to take the offer to Citibank to open the account.
These are the credit cards that could get you AA Miles (miles with American Airlines):
  • Citi Advantage Executive World Elite Mastercard– Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard – Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard – Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
  • AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business MastercardEarn up to 75,000 AAdvantage bonus miles. Earn 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. Earn 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard – Earn 60,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.

For an example how to easily use points earned with Chase Ultimate Rewards, here’s an example how to book roundtrip tickets using the Chase Portal.

For a list of different credit cards that’s perfect for earning travel rewards, click here.

***if you know other cards that earn AA miles, let me know

Enjoying the QSuites

Stopover/Layover and airport lounges

We had 7 hours stop over on the outbound in Doha. The lounge in Doha was the biggest business class lounge in the world. It was top notch and we really enjoyed it. They had good food and good wine. We also took a shower at the lounge before we caught the next flight. We did not really feel like we were there for 7 hours. We had such a good time. On the return flight we had 3 hours stop over in Sri Lanka and 1.5 hours stop in Doha. We used Priority Pass for the lounge in Sri Lanka. It was old and did not have much to offer. We had a quick stop at Doha Lounge again for a glass of wine.

All in all  from Los Angeles to Male, Maldives, it was a total 28 hours of flights including layover. We enjoyed our meals on board, watched movies. We slept a lot for 8 hours because the bed was so comfortable. The flight was not full. Instead of just getting queen beds we got the whole quad section for ourselves. According to Ann, “It was the best flight we ever experienced. We flew on business class several times but this was the best as far as food, service and seats.”

Arriving in Male, Maldives

Arriving in Male was a pleasant experience. First impressions? It was well organized. We kept a copy of the COVID test results with us in case we needed it. We only showed our results to Qatar Airways when we checked in. We also had to upload our test results online to the Maldives government website. You have to have that done before they can check you in. Here is the link https://imuga.immigration.gov.mv/ethd

Since we already uploaded our COVID test results to the Maldives government website before our departure, they already had all our information. We only needed to provide them our passport when we went through Maldives immigration. There was a sign that said to have COVID test ready but we never had to show anything to them. There were no additional costs to pay at the airport. Overall, the arrival process was quick – 15 minutes.

Meeting the resort staff at the airport

After we got our bags, we saw the staff member with You and Me, he had a sign waiting for us when we came out. He took us to the seaplane check-in area. He helped us get our tickets, and took us to the bus which took us to the seaplane terminal. We had to wait for two hours for our seaplane flight.

The Seaplane Experience

The ride was beautiful. It took 45 minutes with one stop at another resort. The cost was $420 per person. We were allowed  one luggage and one carry-on per person. The total weight for two bags is 25 kilograms. You can pull and share weight within your party.

View from the seaplane

Finally, You & Me Cocoon Maldives – adults only resort

We had originally booked the Manta Villa, but at check-in we were upgraded to the Dolphin Room Villa for 6 nights, and on the last night we got upgraded to Aqua Suite with pool.

We went in the month of February, and the weather was perfect. We did not get any rain and it was not humid at all. It was about 85 degrees. We stayed in an Overwater Villa that was close to the beach. The minibar items are NOT free. We were provided with two water bottles everyday. I suggest bringing your own drink container so you can add water and ice and have water all day.

I would suggest to get the room closest to the beach. Our room was the 2nd villa closest to the beach. It was very convenient to get to the restaurants and beach. In addition, you don’t have to walk in the hot sun after you finish your meal to get back to your room. We were able to walk to the end of the bridge just to check It out.  It was a long walk. It could be difficult especially if you have to do it in a hot weather or in the rain.  For those with mobility issues, there were golf carts, you can call to have them pick you up if your room is far away. I didn’t see any wheelchairs.

Impressions of You & Me Cocoon

My front desk and resort staff impression? They were excellent and very attentive. If they do not have the answer they will get it for you. The resort itself was on a nice beach, very beautiful water. You can sea a lot of sea life when you walk to the restaurants. They also do a turn down service twice a day.

About COVID-19 protocols, the staff wore masks the entire time. The guests were given the option to remove their masks. There were also hand sanitizers around.

Image courtesy of Travelzoo

Dining at You & Me Cocoon

For breakfast and dinner, we went to The Sand Restaurant. You can go whenever you want. For The Rising Sun and La Pasta Restaurants, you have to make reservations in advance. We did not get full board all inclusive. We only got half board and we were never hungry. We were okay until the dinner time. We never purchased lunch but you can get pizza at La Pasta and share, it was only $15.

For us the meal at La Pasta and Rising Sun were much better than The Sand. We ate at La Pasta a lot and only got a chance to eat at Rising Sun one time but it was a good experience. We did not have to give tips at each meal. They gave us a receipt, so you had sign your name and your room number. The receipt will show you ordered but the price was $0 unless you ordered some drinks. I believe the service charge and tax (24%) were already included on the price of voucher.

The service gets better after they got to know you.  At The Sand Restaurant, the service can be slow but you are on vacation, right? So, it never bothered us if we had to wait for our food or if they forgot our order.  We just kindly asked them again.

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Excursions and other activities

We went on a half day excursion to see the abandoned island after the tsunami. We also watched the dolphins, and went snorkeling. It was $85 per person. We highly recommend this excursion. The fish and wildlife you see while snorkeling were much better than what you see at the resort. The boat ride was nice and you get to see others at the nearby island up close. The island that they stop for snorkeling had a lot of beautiful fish. We really enjoyed the Tsunami Island a lot. It was a great experience that we didn’t get anywhere else. At the end they also serve Prosecco, soda, and fruit at no additional cost.

For our visit, we simply enjoyed snorkeling near our room. There was a kayak available for you to borrow at no extra cost. It was a great to just relax and unwind.

Credit cards, WiFi, cell phones, streaming services

For our trip, we used Chase Sapphire Reserve. To stay connected, we used the Internet at the resort. There was no cell service. The Wi-Fii in the room was good enough. We were able to watch Netflix. Sometimes, we did not get Wi-Fi at The Sand Restaurant.  But overall, we had good connectivity.

COVID testing for the flight back to the US

The COVID test was provided at the resort. We got the results back the next day. The cost was $130 per person. There were hand sanitizers in front of the dining rooms. There was also a doctor at the resort. He was the one who performed the COVID test. It was a PCR test. He swabbed your nose and sent it out to the lab. You get the results back the next day. We had to provide the test results when we checked in at the airport. We did not have to show the COVID test results at LAX.

Any security concerns?

We felt safe during our trip to the Maldives. I felt very secured at the airport and at the resort. Before our flight back to the US, when we arrived at seaplane terminal, the You and Me staff  took us to the airport. The staff will ask you about your departure flight information. Our flight was not until 10.30pm. I told them I wanted to go to the lounge. There was one guy who took us to the lounge, pushed our luggage and told us what time he would pick us up. He checked on us when the counter opened for check in and came to get us, took us to the check-in counter. All this time I thought he was a staff member from You and Me Cocoon Resort. But when I asked him he said he did not work for You and Me Resort. He was an independent guide.

There was a problem at the check-in counter because the computer was not working. He stayed with us until the end. He was good to us, and took care of us and we tipped him in the end. He was an independent guide. Business was slow since there was not a lot of tourists. I just want people to be aware of this. Check for their ID. Since he was an independent guide, he had an ID. If they give you good service, please tip them.

Overall cost

I asked Ann to add up all of her costs for this trip.

  • Resort voucher – $2,240
  • Seaplane – $420 x 2 = $840
  • COVID test – $130 x 2 =  $260
  • Excursion – $160
  • Drinks – $149
  • Qatar Airfare taxes and fees – $136
  • Qatar Airfare – $0 (value $13,000)

She spent a total of $3,785 for the entire thing. Yes, folks. That was flying two roundtrip business class QSuites with Qatar Airways.

Ann’s Takeaways

  • If you see the deal you like on Travelzoo and it is fully refundable, book it. You can cancel it later.
  • Make sure to bring your medications. I had rash from the sun and I wish I had allergy pills to take.
  • I wish I knew about the Maldives immigration form online in advance. This way we didn’t have to do it over-the-counter when we checked in.
  • If you redeem your miles and see the flight you want,  go ahead and book it. I probably would’ve gotten better flights if I acted faster (1 connection flight instead of 2). The award seat on the flight I wanted never opened up again.
  • Try to arrive Maldives in the morning. You have to wait for seaplane, then 45 minutes to resort. If you get there early, you will get to enjoy almost full day at the resort. If you arrive late you will lose most of the day.
  • If you think about doing any excursions, make sure to plan them in advance. We waited until the last two days before we decided to do it and it did not give us enough time to do them all.
  • Don’t over pack. If you can’t swim bring some beach floating toys, so you can still enjoy the ocean.
  • Choose return flight that leaves sooner than later but not too early. I think around 4-7 pm flight is perfect. It will give you enough time in the morning, so you do not feel rushed or worry about seaplane to catch your flight. Our flight left at 10.30pm and there was not much to do at the airport. It was too late and we felt pretty tired.
  • I wish we did the Turtle and Manta snorkeling excursion.
Image courtesy of Travelzoo

My takeaways

To Ann and Franklin, wow! Thank you so much for entrusting me in capturing the essence of your amazing trip to the Maldives. I am fully invested in this experience because I, and over 50 of my friends and family, had booked this similar deal with Travelzoo. It’s always the fear of the unknown when you don’t know who to trust, if you’re just supposed to rely on reviews you see on the Internet. But I feel quite confident that we are in for a great, relaxing, fun-filled experience when we go to the Maldives in 2022.

Booking a Maldives package with Travelzoo was a worry-free experience for me. To see someone actually share their firsthand experience increases my level of comfort about our upcoming stay. For me, when we booked this deal with Travelzoo, we took a leap of faith and trusted the experts over at Travelzoo. We didn’t really know much about You & Me Resort. I just began to inquire about it more and more, followed them on Facebook just to become more familiar. Yes, there is no doubt. It is not the Park Hyatt. It is not the Conrad Maldives, nor the St. Regis.

My thoughts on the matter? We are all different travelers. We all have different expectations. We all have different budgets. Not everyone could easily book the swanky Four Seasons or the St. Regis. Consider me as someone who simply appreciates the opportunity to travel. Hence, I am so looking forward to our trip after learning of Ann and Franklin’s wonderful experience.

Again, to Ann and Franklin, many, many thanks! And cheers to you both!

Image courtesy of Travelzoo
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Author: Jason

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