I recently completed a most unpleasant web search followed by an even more unpleasant phone call (escalated to the supervisor, who proved to be of no help). Here is what I found - all of this was simply to see how the new system worked - I actually had no planned vacation at this time, but do intend to use a 7 night stay at Marriott Wailea some day. So, I thought I would just see how it works. I tried April 4-11, 2009. I can use the certficate! Great! But, wait, there is a catch - they are only available for use in ocean view rooms and have a 'modest' co-pay of $300 PER NIGHT upgrade fee. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I need to pay 210,000 points (6 x 35K) and an additional $2100 (plus taxes, parking fees, ...) to stay free????? The catch (regarding no blackout dates) is 'no standard room available'. Unfortunately, this was interesting vocabulary used by the agent, but not used by the web site, so it was all extremely frustrating. So, just for the heck of it, I jumped forward to January (far enough in advance that there HAD to be rooms available) and sure enough I can get a room described as 'Guest room, resort view' no upgrade surcharge. Why the web uses this vocabulary and the agent uses 'standard room' vocabulary is a mystery to me. Very hard to understand the rules of the game when different vocabulary is used. Anyway, even in January, 'upgrades' are also available using the following vocabulary: Ocean View $75/night; Oceanfront $175/night; Ocean facing view $300/night.
I just created this post in an attempt to create more knowledge out there about the new program and 'no blackouts.' In case Marriott is listening, $300 night upgrade fee is not what someone is looking for when they book a room using points. FYI, the rack rate differential is $150 ($385 vs. $535) but Marriott sees fit to charge $300. Amazing.