The Scenario – MrsMJ and I are cruising from San Juan, Puerto Rico this December. We are arriving in San Juan two days prior to our cruise. I immediately booked a two night stay at the Marriott San Juan using Marriott Rewards points. I’ve stayed at the hotel before. I like it. I like the staff. I like the live music in the evenings. I like the beach. It’s free.

MrsMJ wishes to stay at the Hotel El Convento, a hotel rich in history, and definitely not free.

The Result – We are staying at the Hotel El Convento.

Sometimes it really is about the experience. Obviously, miles and points are made for aspirational experiences, but in this case I will save those points for something else. I’m going to pay for our hotel stay in San Juan out of pocket. This will be our big vacation of 2013, and it’s not every day that I get to stay in a hotel with a history dating to 1646. After considering my options with alternative points currencies like Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, I elected to book the hotel through our Virtuoso affiliated travel agent.

Hotel El Convento is a preferred Virtuoso property, and MrsMJ and I will enjoy some benefits as a result including an upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), complimentary continental breakfast, a $25 credit towards a massage, a $75 dining credit, and early check in/late check out. The benefits aside, the hotel just looks awesome. Cookie-cutter it is not. Here’s an excerpt from their website:

El Convento Hotel History in San Juan, Puerto Rico –

 Celebrate more than 360 years of tradition at our luxury old San Juan hotel in Puerto Rico. As the first Carmelite Convent in the Americas, it housed the nuns for 252 years until closing a few days before Christmas in 1903. Vacant for a decade, the abandoned building served as a retail store, a dance hall, and, for the next 40 years, a flophouse without running water, sanitary facilities, or electricity.

Opened on Jan. 27, 1962 as El Convento Hotel, it offered a tranquil, European-style alternative to the glitzy hotels lining the Condado strip. Since that time, we’ve maintained a high standard of luxury and style – constantly improving our amenities and recreational services. Notable present-day features of our boutique-style Puerto Rico luxury hotel include:

      • Named the premier “Small Luxury Hotel” in Puerto Rico
      • Oldest member of Historic Hotels of America
      • Rated as a AAA Four Diamond property
      • Daily Manager’s reception, serving a variety of wine and hors d’ouevres on La Veranda terrace
      • Plunge pool and Jacuzzi, offering breathtaking views of San Juan Bay
      • Fitness center, with free weights, treadmill, elliptical trainer, and stair climber, offering guests unlimited use
      • Three diverse restaurants, serving cuisine ranging from tapas to traditional Puerto Rican fare
      • Library, with access to our business center
      • El Convento Beach Club, featuring beach and pool privileges at our sister properties, located on two of the best beaches in Puerto Rico

Not to mention, the hotel’s team page includes the resident hotel cat, Trixie.

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Yes, sometimes it is about the experience. I’m looking forward to the Hotel El Convento experience this December.

-MJ, July 20, 2013