I Booked A Suite A Year In Advance, And Then Got Walked By Alila Marea

A year ago I had a lovely stay at Hyatt’s Alila Marea that was also a fantastic value on points. I redeemed 25,000 points per night against a $784++ room rate and then used a confirmed suite upgrade to move into a suite selling for over $2400 per night. I didn’t have to pay the resort fee (sorry, Marriott!) and as a Globalist I received free breakfast in their excellent restaurant Vaga and complimentary valet parking too.

Securing a confirmed suite here is tough because they have only a few on property, so I decided to book my 2022 stay a year in advance as soon as I’d returned home from my last visit. Since each confirmed suite upgrade can be used for up to 7 nights, I booked a week-long stay and then narrowed my dates closer to the trip.

Two weeks prior to arrival I received a voicemail and email from the hotel’s Front Office Manager asking me to call him. We connected, and he began by asking how my day was? I replied,

Since you’re urgently trying to reach me, I assume it’s about to get much worse.

The manager responded that I was “perceptive.” Hmm.

It turns out that the hotel had decided to book itself out for a private party over my dates, so they wouldn’t be honoring room reservations. No word which major company or Silicon Valley billionaire would be trumping me. But I was assured that I would be ‘taken care of’. I explained that I was looking for:

  1. a boutique 5* luxury hotel
  2. on the beach
  3. with spectacular food
  4. in a suite [traveling with our 3 year old I really do prefer this].

He really couldn’t argue when I made the case about how special his property is, which also made it harder to substitute something less.

The one time something similar happen to me before, with another chain years ago, I was moved to a better room in a better hotel and was given daily food and beverage credit and not charged a thing. Hyatt confirms their policy to offer a free comparable stay. According to a spokesperson,

While extremely rare, there have been instances when a hotel has been unable to honor a reservation due to unexpected business circumstances. Hotel teams work to avoid these situations; however when faced with the need to relocate a guest or guests, Hyatt’s policy is to immediately work to demonstrate care by issuing a full-refund, rebooking their stay for a later date or finding alternate accommodations at nearby hotels.

The manager suggested giving me a future free stay if I could change my dates, or a free stay elsewhere for the same dates. But two weeks out over a weekend in Southern California the limited set of options that would be comparable were sold out. He mentioned covering change in airfare as well, but I didn’t want to give up these dates.

  • Park Hyatt Aviara was completely sold out. 1906 Lodge wasn’t available.

  • Only standard rooms were bookable at Lodge at Torrey Pines and L’Auberge del Mar, which were offered.

  • Suites were offered at Hyatt Regency Mission Bay and Grand Hyatt San Diego, but neither appealed

A base suite was available at Hyatt’s Seabird Resort, but I didn’t consider that comparable to a suite at Alila Marea. The market agrees with me, because rates are nowhere comparable. No ‘Estate Suite’ was available at Seabird for my dates. So I pushed to confirm the Grand Estate Suite at Seabird Resort, as the closest thing to comparable with what I’d had. It took a few days, but the Alila confirmed this for me and set up direct billing (I could see the rate they were paying was ~ 60% off what Hyatt.com displayed). Essentially my stay would be billed to the mystery party buying out the Alila for several nights.

That was a good solution, I thought. I really hadn’t wanted to vacation in Oceanside, but that’s because my mental model of Oceanside still anchors to Animal Kingdom.

I’ll shortly share a new hotel review, of a property that I probably wouldn’t have stayed at, and I was more than thrilled with it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary. While Oceanside is not Carlsbad, I do agree with the comments “first world problem.”

  2. @Gary. I guess….sorry that you got bumped? A better way to construct this post would be to keep your obvious emotions out of it. You started off by explaining a bump was happening, but then interjected your reply which is emotion. Followed by a list of random SoCal properties you could pick from that did not fit your desire. It came across as a brag, as if you are better than said properties.

    By you stating that those properties were ‘not up to Gary-level’. You negatively advertised said properties that are in fact, quite good. You’re comparing 2 totally different markets and complaining that your compensation for the event doesn’t really snuff up to par. “I want this… or that”. market rates aren’t comparable? I’ve stayed at $200/night properties that were incredible and $500/night which i wish I hadn’t, so you cannot compare quality to price. That’s a bias created by the marketing and advertisement industries to give you an impression that price is an exact correlation to quality. It is not.

    In the future, productive “journalism’ or, ‘thought leader’ would be to remove your emotion. State facts, provide data-driven stats or remarks. Not your implied nonsense of personal experience.

    Your writing used to be really good. Now, it’s just riddled with holes and inaccuracies for which you aren’t able to connect.

  3. We stayed at Alila Marea in Nov and it’s probably good they changed you. Our stay overlapped with a Toyota event, the hotel was swarming with people, the pool was over full, the pool area was a construction site as they built a stage for the event. We woke Sunday morning to more Toyota noise from the beach parking lot. The restaurant was fine but breakfast items got tiresome by the third day.

    I don’t need to go back to the hotel again, there are so many comparable options in the area

  4. “I’ll shortly share a new hotel review, of a property that I probably wouldn’t have stayed at, and I was more than thrilled with it.”

    This’ll be a fun read!

  5. @steve – didn’t come across as any of that. Getting walked is subjective, to the person being walked. Just because you would have found X property acceptable, doesn’t mean someone else will.

    He didn’t negatively advertise properties. He simply stated he found them not on the same level. (Again subjective) By listing he let people know what hotel was offering to give. This seems exactly like what should be in this article.

    Now for comment on walking. At least this property took care of Gary. I had a stay last fall where I was “walked,” if you call it that. Basically hotel GM got a call on Saturday morning to fully book out hotel for next two months. He of course accepted. However he felt it was ok to just cancel everyone’s reservations, starting that very night. Didn’t rebook anyone. When called on it, he lied (not just to customer, but to Marriott Corporate CS agents), got rude with all involved, and believed this wasn’t his problem.

    I can tell you he’s no longer employed by the franchise.

    I would’ve loved to have been offered a room anywhere.

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