This is my review of the JW Marriott hotel and resort in Venice. Part 1 runs today and the second part runs tomorrow.
This was the second year that we have ended up in this hotel over the August Bank Holiday. I was planning to review it last year but never got round to it, and the hotel managed to annoy us so I wasn’t filled with enthusiasm. But we still went back ….
The JW Marriott in Venice opened last year. It is on a private island and requires you to take a boat to and from St Marks Square.
It is bit further into the lagoon than the Cipriani and next door to the island hosting the Kempinski, previously the St Regis. The fact that St Regis threw in the towel after just one year tells you how hard it is to make money here – the long crossing from the mainland makes it an unappealing place to stay during winter storms.
From the airport you are looking at €120 each way for a water taxi unless you take the boat to St Marks Square and then get the free hotel boat across. However, my 5-year old boy and I think that Venice water taxis – especially when speeding across the lagoon at full throttle – are the coolest thing in the world and we consider it €120 well spent!
This is a hugely frustrating hotel. Frustrating, because if anyone except Marriott was running it you feel it could be exceptional. As it is, it swerves from great to average – overall it was better this year than last year, but they have probably reached the limits of what can be fixed without major capex.
Let me explain why we returned. With kids, the mainland hotels (when I write ‘mainland’ I mean the main island) are not ideal – rooms are generally small and you won’t find a pool or outside space, let alone a kids club. Hotels on their own islands (Cipriani, Kempinski – ex St Regis – and JW Marriott, plus the Excelsior on the Lido which has just been bought by the Chewton Glen owners) have a lot more to offer.
Venice is also not cheap, especially in August. The weather is also so hot that a private island is more attractive than the city centre. I may not find Marriott Rewards very exciting, but one feature I do respect is the ability to ‘buy up’ to better rooms for a nominal sum.
We paid €110 plus 35,000 Marriott points per night for a Junior Suite which was selling for over €500. The suite took two rollaway beds for the kids and still had plenty of space for a sofa etc.
I’m getting ahead of myself, however.
This time we arrived in Venice by train as we came from the hugely impressive Cavallino Bianco family hotel in the Dolomites. You can get a water taxi outside the station – I think we paid €80 (there is a published price list). You can’t fail to be impressed by your arrival as you pull into the private dock:
The check-in staff, who were appallingly bad last year, are much improved. Don’t expect to be walked to your suite though.
If you have Marriott Rewards status, you should note that Marriott class this as a resort property and so many of your benefits, including free breakfast, do NOT apply.
There are rooms scattered across the island. The rooms in the outbuildings are more expensive and have private gardens or pool. You are never more than two minutes walk from the hotel so don’t worry about being isolated if you book one of those. We stuck to the main building.
Last year we took a Studio Suite. This was bigger and cheaper than a Junior Suite and we realised why when we arrived – the view was a fire escape and the room layout was impractical.
This year we took a smaller, square, Junior Suite and it worked really well. Even if there are only two of you travelling I would recommend taking one of these.
At one end of the suite is the bed. The TV console is in the middle and, behind that, you have a sofa and table. The two rollaway beds for the children – for which we were not charged a supplement, unlike last year – were by the window.
The TV set spins around so you can watch it from the sofa or bed. The channel choice is pretty poor, however.
The bathroom was very large, clean and modern:
The room had a large balcony overlooking the grounds as well.
I can’t knock it. This was a very impressive room.
This is the view of our room from outside:
The JW Marriott Venice now has a permanent kids club although there is no outdoor space, despite having a whole island at their disposal. It is charged at €25 per child per day, unless you pay the voluntary €39 per day ‘resort fee’. With two kids it is cheaper to pay the resort fee, except for the fact that you need to pay the fee for every day of your stay – you can’t pick and choose.
In Part 2 of my JW Marriott Venice review tomorrow, I will give you a tour of the rest of the island including the spa, restaurant and shuttle boat.
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