The story begins in early February of 2020. We were at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives and noticed that the Chinese restaurant was closed for the duration of our stay.
“It must be related to that flu outbreak in China”, I said to Kamara as our buggy sped past on the way to our water villa.
I figured the restaurant had closed as an over-reaction to “SARS 2.0” and that it would soon re-open, life would go on as normal and this flu outbreak would be consigned to history.
Fast forward four months and I had reached a point where I had barely left the house. I was disinfecting my groceries upon delivery, on the rare occasions that I could even secure a delivery slot. I hadn’t eaten out since I’d been in the Maldives and I had not set foot on a plane for the longest stretch in my adult life.
When the UK government announced that they were relaxing the rules on European travel destinations, as of July 7th, I didn’t give it a second thought. I got straight on the BA website and searched for flights.
I’d heard from a few people that Italy really had gotten a really great handle on the crisis. Not only would I feel safe there, I’d also have a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit some of the world’s most famous historical monuments, almost entirely devoid of tourists.
Cash fares were understandably very elevated, given the reduced number of flights and the new surge in travel demand. However for 15,000 £100 and an Amex 241 voucher I was able to secure Club Europe flights from London to Rome, returning from Naples two weeks later.
I only booked one hotel before boarding the flight, leaving the others wide open and figuring I’d wait for price fluctuations to work in my favour.
The one hotel I booked in advance was The Waldorf Astoria Cavalieri.
It is a resort hotel located on the outskirts of Rome, with a prime view, extensive grounds and the best pool and fitness facilities of any hotel in the Eternal City. It is also home to Rome’s only *** Michelin restaurant.
The prospect of having my first restaurant meal in 4 months at the highest rated restaurant in Rome was pretty damned appealing, as was going from bodyweight workouts in my living room to a state of the art Techno-Gym facility!
I would also be able to use my US Amex Hilton Aspire credit card $250 resort credit at the hotel, earn 14x points for every dollar I spent and make use of all my usual Hilton Diamond benefits.
I went into the trip with an open mind and honestly a fair amount of apprehension.
If we have now entered a new normal I figured it was high time that I figured out how to navigate this brave new world…