Awards wide open: JW Marriott Phu Quoc, Cat 5 Marriott

 

About a year ago, I enjoyed a stay at one of the most unique properties I’ve seen in a chain (and an absolute gem of a Category 5 sweet spot): The JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa. I reviewed my stay (see: Marriott Cat 5 Sweet Spot: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa). Unfortunately, in the time since, award availability has been nearly nil (as noted by Greg in his post about the Top 5 Cat 5 Marriotts in the world). However, that has changed: as reported by Ramzi in our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook group, availability at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc is wide open for 2018.

Lobby — a.k.a the Library — at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

The Deal

  • Wide open availability at Marriott Cat 5 sweet spot JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa throughout 2018
  • Category 5 Marriott requires 25,000 points per night, 5 nights for 100K (5th night free on award stays), or is a great use of a Cat 1-5 Marriott Travel Package
  • Direct link to hotel website

Key Terms

  • Note the cancellation policy — it was 30 Days (!!!!!!!) in advance on the dates I checked

Quick Thoughts on resort

You can see our previous post on this resort for more info. This place isn’t for everyone, but I found it one of the few hotels where I could spend a bunch of time just exploring the grounds. It’s definitely artificial — the intrigue for me was in how well this place stuck to a theme. That theme is a mythical university. Each building is a university department. For example, we stayed in the Department of Agriculture, so our room had drawings and pictures of crops (the Department of Zoology was probably cooler). The bar is the Department of Chemistry, complete with bartenders in lab coats, drinks served in beakers, and a periodic chart on the ceiling.

 

Breakfast was among the best I’ve seen and there was a free cocktail hour with appetizers for Marriott Gold and Platinum members — unfortunately, a report from Flyertalk says that this ended in December. Breakfast was also free as a Marriott Gold member — I believe they still offer this. See that previous post linked at the top for more info and pictures of the property. Also do your research. Opinions on the island and resort vary some — the island itself is fairly small and not as clean as some other tropical islands in Southeast Asia. The JW Marriott had staff cleaning debris from the ocean in the mornings and I certainly thought it fine to swim (cleaner than, for example, Maya Bay in Thailand when I went in 2015…. but I did see a plastic bag now and again in the ocean). I noticed a few recent reports in the Flyertalk thread of spiky sea urchins on the beach. That certainly wasn’t the case last January when I was there, but I suspect that could be a seasonal thing. The resort is definitely located away from any town, but taxis are cheap. Some readers who have stayed have reported fun activities added to the schedule — if you go, I would anticipate this being a vacation spent mostly at the resort. For that purpose, I liked it quite a bit.

Availability is stellar throughout the year, regardless of length of stay. For instance, here is May 2018 for 7-night stays:

And here is the availability for a single-night stay:

Availability looks to be the same every month through November 24th with the exception of a week here or there at peak periods. Cash rates are mostly $300 per night and up, making this a great use of points even if you’re only staying a couple of days. At 25K points per night (or 8,334 Starpoints converted to Marriott at 1:3), that’s well above our Reasonable Redemption Value for Marriott points. If you’re able to book a 5-night stay for 100K Marriott points (33,334 SPG), all the better. However, the real win here is if you have the points to book a Marriott Travel Package. These packages include both a 7-night stay certificate and airline miles in the program of your choice. There are several charts for these packages depending on the airline you’d like to include for the miles portion of the package, but as an example, see chart #1:

As you can see, 270K Marriott points would get you a 7-night stay at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc plus 120,000 airline miles in many different programs. See this page on the Marriott site for more packages.

Getting there

The Park Hyatt Saigon, where I stayed on my way to Phu Quoc

One example that sticks out at me if you’re looking for a travel package is Alaska Airlines since they have a very reasonable award chart to Asia. Though 120K won’t quite get you round trip in a premium cabin, it gets you close. Your easiest option in terms of finding availability is probably to look for award flights to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) as there just aren’t many carriers servicing Phu Quoc.

There just aren’t many flight options into Phu Quoc

Luckily, cash tickets to Phu Quoc are pretty darn reasonable from Ho Chi Minh City, with rates from $21 one-way in March (and $46 much of the rest of the year) according to Google Flights (you might find even cheaper elsewhere).

Using the Alaska Airlines search tool to SGN airport, I see the following flights to get you from New York to Ho Chi Minh City for example:

I think Japan Airlines for 65K in business class or 75K one-way in first class is a really solid deal. While the Emirates flights (at 105K in business or 180K in first) seem off-the-charts in comparison, remember that Alaska Airlines allows one free stopover each way. You could stop in Dubai (or in Tokyo with Japan Airlines) as long as you want on the way to Ho Chi Minh. You might be able to work the stopover to your advantage in other ways as well. For example, let’s say you’re from Los Angeles, but you’ve got a trip to New York planned this spring. You could book an award that starts in New York with your return flight to LA this spring and then “continue” on to Phu Quoc in the fall. Assuming you fly Alaska between New York and LA, you could pair that with the partner of your choice to get to Vietnam from there.

Alaska also has partners with availability aren’t shown online. Cathay Pacific is an even better deal at just 50K one-way in business or 70K one-way in first class. Award rates on Korean are similarly excellent, though you have to book round trip. For that matter, you may do better transferring from Ultimate Rewards to Korean since they are known to have more award availability for members.

Another option for 120K miles from a Marriott package would be a transfer to Virgin Atlantic — enough for round trip ANA First Class to Japan, which at least puts you in striking distance of Phu Quoc.

Star Alliance space is plentiful as well, with the United tool or Air Canada tool a good place to hunt for space:

Star Alliance availability in May via the United tool

If you’d like to fly with SkyTeam, Delta will be happy to make up a price. I didn’t hunt too hard, but saw 95K one-way in business class on China Eastern/Southern.

Bottom line

This is an interesting property that makes for a particularly good Marriott Category 5 redemption. Whether you’re thinking about spending a night or two during your trip to Vietnam or you’re looking at a 7-night travel package stay, I think it’s a great value. While award availability had been nonexistent in 2018 a few weeks ago, it’s great to now see it wide open.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Is the SPG set to disappear? Is the $49 IHG card a bad deal? Will these awards devalue soon? Those answers and more. - Frequent MilerAlexWhy are Marriott Travel Packages a good deal? - Frequent MilerKalbozPeter Recent comment authors
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Avidmiler
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Avidmiler

According to latest news and reports on FT, beach in phu quoc is dirty and in horrible condition now and not fit for water activites.

Dan
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Dan

“Delta will be happy to make up a price” – Love it!

Bryan
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Bryan

I just returned from a week long trip from here (December 20th-27th). We flew SAN-NRT, NRT-SGN on Japan Airlines in Business. Then took Vietjet Air from SGN-PQC. On the return, PQC-SGN on Vietjet, and SGN-HKG, HKG-ORD on Cathay Business.

I am usually not a “stay at the resort” type of traveler, but I took my mom on her first Asia trip to the JW Marriott Phu Quoc resort. I redeemed a Marriott Travel Package 7-day cert for the trip. This place was great! Far and away the best treatment and service I have ever received at a hotel/resort. The staff and ground crew were exceptionally attentive and very, very nice, in a genuine way.

I’ll start by saying that the resort is massive, and it isn’t even quite finished yet. It took us a full day to gain our bearings and keep from retracing our steps to get around. There are several Departments that are still not in operation, or not yet in full operation. As a Platinum, the breakfast spread was one of a kind–great international selections, and a long breakfast period (6-11 a.m.) for those days we wanted to sleep in. The only detraction from the “wow” factor of the resort is that Sun Group (owner of the resort) is building a rather bland set of condos literally steps away from the entrance of the resort, and the construction noises could be heard pretty much all day.

There are daily activities and local tours (Bee Farm; Pagoda; Fish Sauce Factory, etc.) that we participated in on the days we wanted to leave the resort. On-property, there are Mixology courses, Culinary courses, and a language learning course that we found especially worthwhile, among many, many other options daily. There is also a free shuttle to the Duong Dong Night Market (about 30 minutes away) that is reminiscent of any Asian street market…very cheap (but fantastic) food and drink.

The restaurant prices (only 2 are currently open–3 if you count the cafe) [Tempus Fugit; Red Rum; French and Co.] are not outrageous by any means, and the only prices we found high whatsoever were the special Christmas Eve/Christmas day “set-menu” choices, which we avoided by visiting the cafe for dinner.

I will say, I heard reports of several people stepping on sharp objects in the water, and I stepped on two in the same day (in about a 5 hour water-going period). I’m not convinced they are sea urchins, as there were no reports of adverse reactions or the like, but uncomfortable for a few minutes, nonetheless.

What really struck me was the attention to detail that Bill Bensley is known for. Every time I walked into a room, or a portion of the resort I had been before, I noticed something new. There’s a novelty and a whimsical feeling to that which didn’t seem to fade over the course of the week.

I’d certainly consider returning. It’s worth a trip!

If anyone has any questions, I’d be happy to answer here. Thanks!

trimal
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trimal

Pretty sure those are Jellyfishes. Talked to someone work there and confirmed.

Jules
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Jules

@Nick & Bryan: I’m booked for 8 nights in early April; 7 nights via a Marriott Hotel and Air package and 1 night via a Cat 1-5 certificate I earned from the recent Marriott promo (2 stays). Thanks for the great reviews and recommendation!
If anyone else is at the resort at that time, let me know!

Alex
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Alex

March 22 – April 2 here

Tricia
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Tricia

Stayed here in early November. It was awesome and a terrific bargain with points!

Peter
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Peter

Just returned from a 1 week stay Dec 24-31. I did go snorkeling and scooped up several of the sea urchins. They are buried in the sand. They have soft quills so they don’t sting as bad as others do.
IMO it is a good Cat 5 redemption but the hotel is a bit disney-esque and kitschy. At some point the decor starts to remind of all the junk they put up on walls at an Applebees.

The food was horrendously overpriced, $75 for Christmas buffet and that did not even include a glass of wine. A bottle of wine $50, so a 5 x markup (looked up the prices of the wine list while waiting). The cheapest lager beer $4.40 that can be had in town restaurants for $1. I can understand a 100 or 150% markup but that is just treating the customer like a milking cow. The breakfast was free for Gold members, and quite good, but still a lot of items on the buffet were cold/luke warm. Great pastries/croissants by swiss pastry chef!. During the holidays the hotel was at full capacity and the staff were scrambling to keep up. We once waited almost an hour for a drink order at the beach (but, to their credit, manager refunded it).

The breakfast/dinner “Tempus Fugit”restaurant should be more aptly named “college cafeteria.” Noisy and cavernous.

The island itself is becoming overrun by chain hotels and budget package tourists from China, Russia and Europe. Food at most establishments in the main town bland and mediocre. Taxi into town is $12 (and about 20 minutes away), so once you add in the cost of taxi + crappy food (the few restaurants that get high ratings on TA are always packed), you may as well eat at restaurants at the resort. Not much to do on island, the few attractions are rather pedestrian. Nice scuba diving on S and N side.

The hotel is inside of a gated compound, so to walk to the main road is almost a mile where one can find shacks and stores to buy beers and snacks at 1/10th the price. I would not eat there though, nor at the night market in the main town. Happened to walk there during the daytime and saw rats all over.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a great way to use up a Cat 5 1 week stay at a nice beach resort, but I would never pay the $300-400 cash rate for this place, and it is a bit out of the way to get to. But much nicer small boutique resorts on the island for much less.

Kalboz
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Kalboz

AK is good if you can find Business Class award seats all the way through. Usually, you will get business intra-Asia seats and economy transpacific but they still charge you business class award seats rate!!!

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