Whether trying to earn the most United miles per dollar or redeeming for a Southwest Companion pass and a 7-night hotel certificate, the value of a Marriott flight & hotel package cannot be ignored. I recently redeemed such a package, which led me to search for an interesting Category 5 Marriott property at which to redeem my certificate. I absolutely found one that fit the bill in the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa in Vietnam — a resort modeled after a mythical school called Lamarck University.
The property is so new that it wasn’t yet open when I made my reservation about 6 weeks ago. I had never heard of Phu Quoc, but Google told me it was in Vietnam and Marriott told me it was Category 5. But what really sold me was the look of the standard room photos on the website:
With the hotel being so new, I was a bit skeptical. Whether these were conceptual mock-ups or photos of the wrong room type, I didn’t go in expecting the standard room to look exactly like the photos. I’m not the least bit disappointed to say that the room exactly matched what the photos advertised.
First, you enter through a massive door to a long hallway.
Our room was in the “Department of Agriculture”. Each building had a theme, and you’ll see it in some of the artwork and even in the elevators:
Back in the room, the hallway has a half bath. Continuing down the hallway, you come to a sizable armoire complete with bathrobes, hangers, a safe, umbrellas — even a couple of traditional hats in the top.
And the room hit the nail on the head as far as matching the online photos. It had a very grand, yet homey feel:
And the bathroom might have been larger than my first apartment:
There were Aromatherapy Associates toiletries along with a deep soaking tub, vanities on both sides of the bathroom, and what could be the highest rainfall shower that doesn’t fall from a cloud:
The bedroom looked out to the very private balcony:
Which, in turn, looked out at the resort grounds and the water:
While I loved the room, it turned out to be the least intriguing part of this property. The JW Marriott Phu Quoc was designed as a mythical university, circa 1890. The entrance signs welcome you to Lamarck University. Next, you enter the library, where you complete the check-in process.
You’re then escorted around “campus”. The place is filled with legitimate antiques that were sourced from around the world and a lot of creativity.
I have never in my life seen a property that stuck to a theme so well. The bar, which currently hosts a free cocktail reception nightly for Gold and Platinum members from 5-6pm, is the “Department of Chemistry”. And they hit that theme very well.
The Physical Education department stayed on point:
Being a university, there were daily activities:
We took them up on pastry making in the French & Co. bakery and coffee shop.
Breakfast, which was free for Gold & Platinum members, was excellent. There was a lot of variety and the food was fresh and plentiful. Eggs could be ordered any way — my wife says the eggs benedict were the best she’s ever had. There were both Western and Eastern options and lots of them.
The resort is just gorgeous in general. Here is a beach bar and the main pool and the main “street” through the resort at night:
And there were oddities everywhere…..like this bathroom that I’ll leave you to find on your own:
Service was fantastic — not just at breakfast, but in the entire hotel, really. Everyone remembered our names — from Naomi and Thomas at check-in to Thuy in the coffee shop and Trang in the Tempus Fugit restaurant at both breakfast and dinner. Service wasn’t forced or faked, it was just extremely good. I was particularly impressed on checkout day. I was leaving earlier than planned as I wasn’t taking advantage of the full 7-night certificate. At the main desk, I explained that I was leaving early and would need a taxi and some help with my luggage. When I returned to my room, I realized that I had forgotten to tell Thomas, the manager with whom I spoke, my name or room number. Sure enough, the porters showed up to the right place for our bags and Thomas had a car waiting to take us back to the airport.
Cash rates at this hotel have been running around $420 per night with tax (admittedly very high for Vietnam). At 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night (about 8,333 Starpoints) or 100,000 points for a 5-night stay, this resort is a very good value. I had redeemed Marriott points for a Southwest Companion Pass and 7-night certificate. My main motivation was the companion pass, so I only planned about 3.5 nights at this hotel. I very much regret not spending a week here. As the resort is so new, there were very few guests — which certainly amplified the level of customer service.
As for negatives, there were only three worth mentioning: First, the beaches in Phu Quoc are not the cleanest. The JW Marriott has staff in the water each morning removing any debris, but the crystal clear water makes it hard to hide the occasional piece of trash floating by. Secondly, my wife visited the spa for a facial and massage while we were there and found the spa atmosphere to have a disconnect with the overall quality of the property. The treatment itself was fine, but spa facilities were lacking in terms of the quality of massage tables and noise and lighting levels (apparently quite bright with a bit too much natural light). The treatment room facilities were sparse — the lack of any sort of tables meant that the therapist was constantly walking in and out to get things and then place them on the floor around the table. These things wouldn’t be a problem in a small spa with local pricing — but seemed to fall short of the level of quality represented in the rest of the resort. Finally, the resort is still under construction. It is open for business, but there are a number of facilities still being built around the resort. This results in some daytime noise and the cosmetics of construction. I don’t really find this to be a problem — there were temporary walls hiding much of the work and the newness of the property means that you could conceivably be the first person to have ever slept in your room.
All that said, the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort was excellent. It is a great value whether for a few nights or with a 7-night certificate. We would certainly go back and look forward to doing so when construction is fully complete.