Turkey, Croatia, and a little bit in between – Planning a 36 day international trip for under $1.5k

Introduction

Planning

Exploring Pamukkale and the Turquoise Coast

Holiday Inn Sisli – Istanbul

Radisson Blu Bosphorus Istanbul

Radisson Blu Sun Gardens Dubrovnik

Exploring Kotor

Hiking Durmitor National Park

Radisson Blu Resort Split

On our European Radisson Blu tour (joke! but we booked stays at three different properties during our trip) the Radisson Blu Dubrovnik Sun Gardens was our second stop. Located just outside of Dubrovnik, the hotel is a bit of a journey to travel to/from if you plan to explore the city everyday. Since we stayed in Old Town the night before, we decided to just settle in at the resort for a couple days although the hotel does provide both shuttle bus and boat transfers to Dubrovnik for around 5 Euros per way. To get to the hotel we took the public bus (number 35) for around 5 Euros per person and it took about 30 minutes.

The Radisson Blu Dubrovnik is a true 5 star resort

My new favorite hotel: The Radisson Blu Dubrovnik

We booked our two-night stay for 44,000 points using the free bonus nights using the Club Carlson Visa. Earlier this year Club Carlson announced some changes with hotel categories (mostly devaluations), and the Radisson Blu Dubrovnik was one of them. I wanted to book before the points increase, so I locked in reservation at 44k points, and soon after booking, the standard award nights increased to 50k per night. Later, I actually tried to change our reservation dates by a night and decided not to because it would cost me 6,000 more points to change.

As a Club Carlson Gold Elite Member I had the added benefits of:

  • Complimentary room upgrade upon availability – my room was upgraded to a One Bedroom Sea View Residence.
  • Complimentary WiFi
  • Complimentary late check-out until 2 p.m. upon availability

We arrived at the hotel a bit early and upon our 11:00am check-in we were told that our room would not be ready until 4 p.m.  The receptionist informed us that we were being upgraded to a one-bedroom residence with a sea view and that the check-in time is later than the normal 2 p.m. check-in for the residence. This seemed like a fairly late check-in, but we were free to use the hotel’s facilities so we headed off to one of the four pools to kick back in the meantime.

The hotel has four pools and a private beach

The hotel has four pools and a private beach

Normally in September the one bedroom residence runs for $300+ a night, so we were getting an amazing value at 22,000 points per night. With this redemption our Club Carlson points were worth 1.36 cents per points. 

The room was ready around 3 p.m., which worked out great because the sun started to hide behind the clouds as we were lounging by the pool waiting for our room.

Living area of my One Bedroom Residence

Living area of my One Bedroom Residence

As a welcome gift for having Club Carlson’s gold status we received a bottle of champagne and some delicious baked sweets.

Gold welcome gift that probably said something spectacular before it reached out room

Gold welcome gift, who knows what the glitter said

Our room was on the top level and had a great view of the Adriatic Sea. The one bedroom residences aren’t enormous, but they are still pretty sizable and plenty spacious with 530 square feet.

We even had swans on our bed when we arrived!

We even had swans on our bed when we arrived!

Between the bedroom and the living area there is a connection balcony that holds great views of the sea. All of the windows in the room faced the magnificent Adriatic Sea and several islands, so we propped them all open as soon as we arrived. The room was very light and airy, which made it very nice to enjoy watching the sunset from.

The balcony connected the living are and the bedroom

The balcony connected the living are and the bedroom

The bathroom could be accessed from both the bedroom and  kitchen area which is nice if you had company over. Overall the bathroom was very nice yet basic with granite counter tops, a tub, and rain shower.

The bathroom was very clean and spacious

The bathroom was very clean and spacious 

The kitchen in the residences are fully stocked with everything you would need if you wanted to take a break from dining at the resort’s five restaurants and wanted to whip up your own dish. We cooked a couple of meals and enjoyed eating them on the balcony with a view of the sun setting.

The kitchen was fully stocked just incase you want whip up a mean

The kitchen was fully stocked just in case you wanted to whip up a mean dish

One of the best features of the room was that every window looked out to the sea and it is most likely guaranteed that it is something that you could never get sick of looking at.

Great views from the balcony

Great views from the balcony

The living area was very spacious and had plenty of room to kick back and relax in. There was also a desk along the wall in case you needed to get some business done. Our room was very well-kept and the furnishings were all in pristine condition.

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The resort as a whole is quite spectacular and very well maintained. As a landscape architecture buff I really enjoyed the view from the lounge of the green roof of the spa complex.

The view from the lounge

The view from the lounge

After checking in we wandered around the grounds of the resort. The whole resort is impeccably well-kept and looks amazing. In total there are four pools, a private pebble beach, a fitness center, five restaurants, a shopping strip, a grocery store, and a spa. The fitness center includes an indoor rock-climbing wall, badminton court, racquetball court, table tennis, indoor soccer field and…an arcade.

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Breakfast was wonderful and had a great selection

For breakfast at the hotel there are three options. We decided to dine on the roof top terrace with views overlooking the Adriatic Sea the first morning and then tried the main buffet breakfast on the lower deck the second morning. Both were superb. The rooftop restaurant offers a menu and waiter service, whereas the self-service buffet allows you to choose from a much wider selection of breakfast items.

The Lounge on the 6th floor had an amazing view of the Adriatic Sea

The Lounge on the 6th floor had an amazing view of the Adriatic Sea

By having Club Carlson Gold Status we had access to the Club Lounge—basically a large corner lounge on the 6th floor overlooking the sea. I was surprised to find that there is a self-service open bar, a mini fridge full of an assortment of drinks, wine, as well as an Espresso machine and a selection of teas. Everyday at 5p.m. the lounge offers canapés and tea, which was a nice way to enjoy a snack after the beach.

The lounge had a self serve bar and canapés every afternoon

The lounge had a self serve bar and canapés every afternoon

By far, the Radisson Blu Dubrovnik Sun Gardens ranks high in my books as one of the best places to stay away from home. The staff provided excellent service, access to beautiful beaches and pools is convenient and the assortments of restaurant is refreshing. However, the resort’s location outside of town makes it inconvenient to freely explore Old Town Dubrovnik especially in terms of the night life which Dubrovnik is becoming more and more popular for in the summer months. Overall, we were greatly pleased with our stay and would come back the next time we find ourselves in Dubrovnik!

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About the author

Rand Shoaf

Introduced to traveling at a young age, Rand has since traveled to over 45 countries. Learning how to maximize credit card sign-up bonuses in college has allowed him to earn millions of travel miles and points. Using the same tips and tricks he writes about here has ultimately allowed him to explore the word for pennies on the dollar.

3 Comments

    • Yes, breakfast was included in the reservation made with points and we could choose to eat at either of the three restaurants. Breakfast on the rooftop terrace was by far the best and the view was amazing!