Introduction: A Journey To The Most Expensive Place I’ve Ever Been

Introduction
Review: St. Regis San Francisco
Review: British Airways Lounge San Francisco Airport
Review: British Airways Club World 777 San Francisco To London
Review: St. Regis Rome
Review: Hotel Cala Di Volpe Porto Cervo
Review: Dining At Hotel Cala Di Volpe
Review: Hotel Romazzino Porto Cervo
Review: Dining At Hotel Romazzino
Review: Hilton Rome Airport
Review: British Airways Lounge Rome Airport
Review: British Airways Club World A380 London To San Francisco


Planning for this trip started in June, when British Airways published some incredible discounted business class fares. They published ~$1,600 roundtrip business class tickets from San Francisco to Rome, and then after you apply the $400 AARP discount and 10% discount through the British Airways Visa Card, the fare came down to ~$1,150 per person.

While I don’t love British Airways business class, at this price it’s really tough to go wrong, as economy tickets were priced in the same range. Ford is also going for Executive Platinum status with American, so I asked him if he was interested in going to Italy. His eyes lit up, as it’s one of his favorite countries to travel to.

British-Airways-777-Club-World - 1

So we booked the following ticket for ~$1,150 per person:

Cheap-BA-J-Fare

After we booked the ticket we started talking about where in Italy we wanted to go. Ford mentioned that his favorite hotel in the world is Cala di Volpe in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. As it turns out, that’s a Starwood Luxury Collection property. While I’ve been to Sicily and have done a good amount of “mainland” Italy, I’ve never been to Sardinia. So that sounded like fun, especially since it was a Starwood property.

We decided to plan a two day stopover in Rome, and then ended up booking cheap tickets on Meridiana to Olbia, which is the closest airport to Porto Cervo. Sardinia is just a 30 minute flight from Rome, and the only airline operating the route nonstop is Meridiana on MD-80s. So in the end our routing looked as follows:

09/09 BA284 San Francisco to London departing 4:30PM arriving 11:05AM (+1 day)
09/10 BA560 London to Rome departing 12:55PM arriving 4:25PM

09/12 IG1112 Rome to Olbia departing 8:55AM arriving 9:50AM
09/17 IG1115 Olbia to Rome departing 4:55PM arriving 5:50PM

09/18 BA551 Rome to London departing 8:05AM arriving 9:55AM
09/18 BA287 London to San Francisco departing 2:05PM arriving 4:59PM

Here it is, on a map:

SFO-OLB

As far as hotels go…

We had one night together in San Francisco on the way out, and I found a fairly reasonable rate for the St. Regis San Francisco, which I love.

St-Regis-San-Francisco - 13

We then had two nights in Rome, so I also redeemed Starpoints for the St. Regis Rome.

St-Regis-Rome - 50

We then had a total of four nights in Sardinia, so we booked four nights at Hotel Cala Di Volpe, given how much Ford loved it.

Cala-Di-Volpe-Sardinia - 4

However, Starwood has four hotels in Porto Cervo, so for the last night we decided to book Hotel Romazzino, which was the other Starwood property that looked best.

Hotel-Romazzino-Porto-Cervo - 10

We had a quick overnight in Rome on the way back, after our flight from Olbia, and before our flight back to the US. So we decided to book the Hilton Rome Airport, given that it’s (sort of) connected to the terminal.

Hilton-Rome-Airport - 5

I’ll have the details of the pricing for all hotels in the individual installments, though suffice to say that Porto Cervo is the most expensive place I’ve ever been. And I’ve been to some expensive places, like Monte Carlo, the Maldives, etc… but Porto Cervo is next level. 35EUR for a cocktail or 200EUR per person for a lunch buffet? Yep, that’s the norm.

However, there are ways to maximize value in Porto Cervo and not pay that much, so I’ll be discussing that in greater detail in the upcoming installments. The trip ended up being expensive, but not as bad as I was expecting given the “retail price” of things.

What I won’t be including in this trip report is our experience on British Airways’ intra-Europe flights, Meridiana’s flights between Rome and Olbia (since they were 30 minutes and there’s not much to say), or the British Airways Lounge in London, since I’ve reviewed it before.

Meridiana

Bottom line

This was one of the most relaxing trips I’ve ever taken. Part of it is that Porto Cervo is incredibly relaxing, though perhaps it’s also partly that I love being in Europe in terms of the timezone, since it allows me to stay caught up on work without having to be up all night, as is sometimes the case in Asia.

Porto Cervo was fascinating, and I’m still trying to fully decide how I feel about it. Even if you don’t ever plan on visiting Porto Cervo yourself, hopefully some of you will be interested in reading about the fascinating collection of Starwood hotels there.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Sooo how much it was for a double room!? Did you try Mandarin Oriental London or Dorchester or Claridges, would be so fun to read your reviews of those places, especially value to money part!

  2. Porto Cervo (and, especially, the nearby Costa Smeralda) is the place where the rich and famous vacation in Europe, possibly even more than St Tropez. Monte Carlo is the place where they live, so it’s just normal that they spend more when on vacation 🙂

    Also, the area has attracted a lot of Russian oligarchs (Putin and Berlusconi used to meet there in Silvio’s villa), so that also help explaining it.

  3. Googling Porto Cervo resulted in Google showing $132 per night rooms for a 3-star hotel and $230 per night rooms for a 5-star hotel. Hardly the mark of an unusually expensive place as you claimed Porto Cervo is. I think you’ve been had at the hotel you stayed. Perhaps one of the most pricy hotels you’ve stayed at, but that doesn’t apply to the town.

  4. Shame we won’t hear about your BA Club Europe experiences! I travel quite a lot in BA Club Europe and find the service to vary from FANTASTIC to awful and am always interested in hearing how other people get on with BA Club Europe.

  5. @Sang Kancil Guru – during the high season – July and August – EVERYTHING is expensive in Porto Cervo. Late September is low season, so prices are more relaxed. That said, if you do some research, you’ll find that Porto Cervo as a town was created expressly for millionaires and billionaires in the 1950s and 1960s. Sort of a “Disney Land” for the ultra rich. It’s not an organically developed Sardinian town that has been there for millennia. It was created for the rich and when they go there it’s expensive. It basically shuts down from October – June.

  6. I saw this and your earlier post about the price of cocktails… I have to say Inhave experienced worse — drinking alcohol in Indonesia is one of the most expensive endeavors one can undertake… St Regis Bali once charged me $57 for a shot of patron! But yikes this place looks expensive as well!

  7. I would like some photos of the locals and tourists there.

    Lovely Italian women instead of uninteresting, if blinged up room shots

  8. I was actually looking at these very same properties in Sardinia for August, but I was getting EUR2000 per night for a basic room, so I noped.

    I even tried to redeem my SPG points, but it was coming up to a ridiculous amount as they had no standard rooms available for point redemption.

    I had no idea that the food was so expensive, I’m glad I didn’t end up going.

    I do have a relative who is 9 figures wealthy who goes there every August for her birthday. People who go to Sardinia seem to really love it and visit again and again.

  9. For anyone considering going to Sardinia, Porto Cervo should be only a small consideration of where you should stay on Sardinia! I enjoyed the other parts worlds more! Reasonable prices and cities that actually have character and charm. Yes, Porto Cervo is glitzy and you’ll see some big boats and expensive menus, but it has no old world charm compared to other places you can go.

  10. Lucky, did you buy or redeemed BA Avios for your Meridiana flights? Was availability wide open if it was a redemption? If it was a paid fare, how much was the fare?
    (Is there lounge access while waiting for flights in FCO or Olbia?)

    Also, the following questions I have asked in “Ask Lucky” and unanswered:

    “Lucky, I am thinking of doing a side trip to Sardinia when I visit Rome in Nov, but how do we get around Sardinia? Is there taxi or we must rent a car?

    Is taxi there much more expensive than Rome? (Or is all airport transfer to the Sardinia hotels requiring hotels to provide transportation?)

    In Nov, will Sardinia hotels be even opened?

    Thanks!”

  11. @flyingfish
    Sardinia is a HUGE island. you’ll probably need a car. Some hotels will be open. But the ones he mentioned in Porto Cervo probably wont be. Again, Porto Cervo is a small town on the island that is pretty much just open in the summer. That’s it. The rest of the island is a real living place where there will be people year round.

  12. @Lucky – I appreciate your blog and have been a frequent reader for the past several years. That being said, I’m growing tired of reading about your personal life (and to be clear, it has absolutely nothing to do with you being gay — I find blogs like mommypoints also include equally annoying extraneous information). It would really improve the quality of your blog if you focused on what made you great to begin with: providing quality, objective insight and tips to creating the best possible travel experience.

  13. @Lucky – thanks for taking the feedback constructively, not personally. This post, for example, mentions Ford 3 times:

    “Ford is also going for Executive Platinum status with American, so I asked him if he was interested in going to Italy. His eyes lit up, as it’s one of his favorite countries to travel to.”

    “Ford mentioned that his favorite hotel in the world is Cala di Volpe in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.”

    “We then had a total of four nights in Sardinia, so we booked four nights at Hotel Cala Di Volpe, given how much Ford loved it.”

    None of these comments add value to the reader. And this has been a growing trend. While I’m happy for the relationship that the two of you have, it’s simply not relevant to the blog.

  14. I disagree. The notion of a blog is that it is a web diary and the personality of the writer is supposed to shine through. The personal details humanize things.

  15. I also disagree! Lucky, I love how your personality shines on your blog! It’s what has kept me coming back for years now. Of course objective information is critical and useful, but your commentary is this blog’s special sauce. OMAAT makes me laugh, imagine, and think, and that’s thanks to your perspective.

    Your intro pages in particular give great insight into WHY you take a particular trip/routing, so I’m totally down for some personal background info. The reviews themselves are where the objectivity comes in. Balance and moderation are essential, and for the most part you do a great job. Keep up the great work!

  16. @Josh – A lot of the older trip reports alluded to having someone else present but always ‘hiding in the closet’. At least now it is a (monogamous?) relationship rather than a string of ‘rent boys’ paid for with miles.

  17. I asked Lucky questions on Sardinia that could be useful for the readers but that was unanswered. But Lucky is responding to anything remotely linked to his bf.

    I think Josh has a point. U may want to tone it down or leave out some details regarding your bf, as u seem to spend a fair bit of time in defense, and that became a pattern and it invites further snarks from a small population of readers (who delights in dissing you), who has sensed that its a sore point of yours.

    I too find the constant spar over your bf a distraction. If it helps in productivity (and our focus on your posts), perhaps Josh’s points could be taken into consideration. Sometimes i just give up on comments (and potential useful info) when it is filled which unnecessary exchanges over him.

    It is meant to be constructive feedback. I understand that writing about your bf who is traveling with u is pretty natural, but watch the unconscious indulgence, which may have unintended consequences. (or u have finally reached a point that u are immune to snarks on Ford as well, like it is on yourself. if u respond, the cycle continues).

    And i hope someone could help me out regarding flights and airport transfers to and from Olbia. i dun wish to find out the transfers are as pricey as Maldives’ resorts.

  18. @ flyingfish:
    I find your complaints about Lucky not answering your questions a bit weird…
    It is stated in the blog post that he “ended up booking cheap tickets on Meridiana to Olbia”, so I suppose that those were paid tickets. I’m not quite sure how any Information about the specific amount Lucky paid for his flight would be more helpful to you than just looking up a fare yourself through any online booking site.
    As far as Taxis and Transportation in Sardinia go, Lucky obviously spent time only in Porto Cervo, so it might be a bit of a stretch to assume he would be able to provide you with reliable information about Sardinia as a whole, especially as we are not talking about a small Island like Mykonos or Malta. Btw you should easily be able to get this kind of Information from other sources on the Internet (or even a traditional guidebook) instead of complaining how Lucky (whose blog definitely focuses on other Topics than general travel guidance) would not provide you with this kind of information.

  19. @ flyingfish — I booked a paid ticket since it was fairly cheap (~$150). I’d definitely rent a car if visiting. Can’t speak to pricing of taxis in other areas, but in Olbia and Porto Cervo they were outrageously priced. A five minute taxi ride cost 35EUR. Some hotels will be open in November, but many won’t be, as the season is really over summer.

  20. @Lucky,

    Thanks for the info. I was wondering if taxis are ridiculously priced, and it seems definitely so then.

  21. Ignore the haters. It’s your blog, write about what and WHO you want. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it.

  22. @Frank

    Lucky has replied, and his 3 lines are very helpful, and it helps to put in perspective his total cost to get to Sardinia. (And surely Lucky is better than most in analyzing the cost to get to Sardinia, in paid tickets vs Avios award.)

    Based on your argument, Lucky and team should not discuss paid fares vs miles strategies, since we could all do it ourselves and find everything on the internet. I think this is where Lucky and Team adds value.

    And I am aiming at the same resorts as Lucky, given I am SPG Plat. So his experiences in transportation transfers to the Starwood properties there are very helpful.

    I think you are perhaps a tad too defensive for Lucky here.

    As someone who is seriously looking at Olbia, Lucky’s reply sets me in the right direction on what to research next, i.e. car rental cost vis-a-vis taxi transfers, and most probably paid tickets over redemption from FCO.

  23. @ flyingfish
    Excuse me if I misunderstood your intentions. I had the (obviously wrong) impression you wanted to do some kind of circular trip (or at least a trip covering much larger parts of Sardinia compared to Lucky’s trip).
    And I definitely agree with you on “this is where Lucky and Team adds value.” I just assumed that in this particular case a short check on any random online booking site (I used Elumbus and came up with a fare of around 180€) would give you a pretty good idea about the cost for flights between Rome and Olbia given that there is just one Airline operating nonstop flights.

  24. @Flyingfish you come across as incredibly ungrateful; you virtually demand answers to your questions and then criticise Lucky for his “house-style” – through which he provides a free service – unbelievable.

    @Ben – maybe a compromise would be setting the tone in the Introduction as you do here and then a more factual/neutral style in the individual articles. Personally I don’t mind what you do or how you do it – it’s your blog. I’m just preparing for more BA bashing (yawn). You might want to keep Ford’s thoughts out of those particular articles though – remember what happened last time!

  25. Gawd not really sure I understand why there are readers (e.g. Flyingfish) who turned this blog into TripAdvisor or Fordor with the kind of questions they ask. There are a host of resources or platforms one can go to research on topics such as transportation at a destination or specifics about a city. Lucky is providing his personal travel experience. He’s not your travel agent.

  26. @Josh-why its called Luckys blog if you dont like it dont read it. This always amazes me when people complain about things like this. I like others enjoy Ford’s viewpoint & no Im not gay dont care a whit whether Ben is I just enjoy his blog because I trust him to provide relevant honest feed back.Im not a FF but I get to live vicariously via this blog. Keep up the good work & dont cut Ford,your family and friends out of the herd 🙂

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