Introduction: Staying In A Cloud (Forest)

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Introduction: Staying In A Cloud (Forest)
Review: American 737 MAX Business Class Miami To Quito
Review: JW Marriott Quito
Review: Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
Review: Dining & Activities At Mashpi Lodge
Review: Quito Airport Lounge
Review: American 737 MAX Business Class Quito To Miami


Welcome to my next trip report, which will cover a quick trip to Ecuador on American Airlines’ notorious Boeing 737 MAX 8, with a stay at an incredible lodge.

Planning the trip

Ford and I try to plan some sort of fun “bucket list” trips around our birthdays, and Ford’s birthday was in mid-October. One hotel that has been on my radar for a while is Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador, located just outside of Quito.

In May I saw some fantastic paid business class fares from the West Coast of the US to Quito, which would earn us a ton of elite qualifying miles with American, which Ford would need to requalify for Executive Platinum (I would requalify either way).

So this seemed like a great opportunity to visit this hotel and earn a bunch of miles.

Unfortunately in the end we had to rebook our trip. We had something come up a couple of weeks before we were supposed to travel. While our plan was originally to spend a couple of nights in Quito, we ended up having to cancel the flights we booked, and instead just booked a shorter trip out of Miami to Quito, using miles.

We figured it still made sense to take the trip, though, given that our Mashpi Lodge stay was non-refundable.

Booking the flights

As mentioned above, while we initially had a fun routing from the West Coast to Quito, we ended up having to rebook.

Flights to Quito aren’t eligible for complimentary upgrades as an elite member (even though the flights are under four hours and are operated by 737s), but fortunately there was plenty of saver level business class award availability.

So we decided to book the following flights:

10/10 AA939 Miami to Quito departing 7:20PM arriving 10:28PM
10/15 AA946 Quito to Miami departing 11:55PM arriving 5:13AM (+1 day)

If we had redeemed American miles for these flights, it would have cost 60,000 AAdvantage miles per person roundtrip. However, thanks to British Airways’ distance based award chart, the flights were bookable for just 40,000 Avios roundtrip (since they’re under 2,000 miles in distance in each direction).

Even better, there’s a 40% transfer bonus from Amex Membership Rewards to British Airways Executive Club at the moment, so I booked these flights for just 29,000 Membership Rewards points per person. That’s quite a deal.

Earn Amex Membership Rewards points with the following cards:

Taxes and fees were $95.90 per ticket.

Booking hotels

We had a total of five nights in Ecuador for our trip, with one night in Quito at the beginning of the trip, and then four nights at Mashpi Lodge.

I would have loved to spend more time in Quito, but due to our schedule conflict this was the most time we could spend there. Unfortunately in the end we only had a very short night in Quito — we got to the hotel at 3AM (due to a roughly four hour delay), and were being picked up to go to Mashpi Lodge at 8AM.

For our one night we booked the JW Marriott Quito.

We had two options — we could pay cash, which would have cost $222 (a $180 base rate plus taxes and fees), or we could redeem 22,500 points. In this case we did the latter.

Then for our four nights at Mashpi Lodge we had no choice but to pay cash, as this hotel isn’t associated with any loyalty program. My goal was to book a fourth night free stay here using the Citi Prestige Card, but unfortunately I was told that this property isn’t eligible for the benefit:

Mashpi Lodge is considered an experience hotel and therefore is ineligible for the Complimentary 4th Night Benefit. An experience hotel is a hotel with rates that are cost-inclusive of accommodations, food, and beverages in addition to experiences such as tours and excursions as opposed to an all-inclusive hotel, which would cover accommodations, food and beverages only.

With that in mind, they have fixed pricing, so there’s not really that much opportunity to get creative (you can find the rates here). As you can see, it’s not cheap at all, though I was impressed by how much it included — it included transfers from Quito, the room, all food and non-alcoholic drinks, and a vast majority of activities. When you consider how much those things might otherwise cost, it’s not too bad.

We ended up booking through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, which came with the following additional benefits:

  • A room upgrade, subject to availability
  • A $125 property credit
  • 4PM guaranteed check-out

So that was at least some additional value.

Bottom line

Mashpi Lodge was simply spectacular, and in general I found the people and food in Ecuador to be great. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to see Quito, which I regret, but we’ll definitely be returning.

Stay tuned — I’m going to try to publish this trip report pretty quickly, and then will publish the Minsk and Whitehorse trip report next.

Thanks for reading!

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Comments

  1. @Lucky: You might want to check your earlier post of: “PrivatAir Will Resume Operating Lufthansa’s Pune Flight”, because there is no box there to put any comments :-)))

  2. Lucky – you are ‘lucky’ that your flight into Quito wasn’t delayed. I flew in 15+ years ago, and the airport closes at midnight. Sharp. I was delayed out of Miami and we were on approach, landing gear down, and the clock struck 12:00pm. We were diverted to Guayaquil, a beautiful resort city on the coast. One of those crazy Ecuador moments!

  3. I spent six months backpacking with my girlfriend through the natural wonders of Ecuador. I hope you enjoyed your trip and that you return to see more of the country. We flew in business through Bogota from ORD on avianca, which allowed us to enjoy a few days in one of our favorite cities on both legs.

  4. @Jeff I stayed at the JW in September for 3 nighs in September. Fantastic service and very comfortable rooms. I hope you have access to the Executive Club, as it was well worth it in terms of free meals and wine/beer (I had booked a one bedroom suite and it came complimentary). I just hope you don’t have to fly on the junk American Airlines 737-MAX like I did…

  5. I really enjoyed my trip to Ecuador this past April. Also took that same AA plane leaving Quito. Nothing particularly special about the flight. Since it was really late, people slept on the way back to MIA.

    On another note, I didn’t visit the cloud forest since I enjoy volcanoes more. El Cajas National Park near Cuenca was also extraordinary. There’s so much geographic diversity in this small country. I think people visit for a long weekend not knowing there’s much more to do.

  6. I’m really looking forward to this report! I’m visiting in April and would love to know more about how it is!

  7. Hey Lucky – love such reviews. On a different note, it would be great to see reviews of some ultra luxury properties like the Taj or Oberoi properties. My best and most memorable stays: Taj Lake Palace, Oberoi Vanyavilas, and the Mashpi Lodge in that order.

  8. .. Oh and forgot to add that I also booked the above experiences and typically all hotel stays through AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts program.

  9. One of the loveliest places that I have visited (went there as part of the Tsunami relief effort team) is Sri Lanka. Made many good friends who continue to welcome me back to the island. For those who might prefer 5-Star corporate luxury accommodation and have never been so lucky as to be welcomed and to receive hospitality in traditional Sri Lankan homes then Lighthouse or the Aman in Galle should be the one.

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