(EDIT from October 2012 – this no longer works, A&K has changed the rules so you now need to have taken 1 A&K trip before claiming your Gold status.)
Gold is the mid-tier status in Marriott Rewards. It usually requires 50 nights per year in Marriott-group properties to earn it, but there are some half-decent benefits if you are spending your own money on a trip – primarily free breakfast (not at Ritz-Carlton hotels) and free internet access, plus a modest upgrade and 25% bonus points.
50 nights is, frankly, a lot, and this is where Marriott Rewards is not competitive with other hotel programmes. Hilton HHonors, for example, has similar Gold benefits (free breakfast, internet, guaranteed upgrade) but requires only 16 stays or 36 nights. You can achieve it in as little as 16 nights if they are all one-night stays.
There is, however, a little known way to get Marriott Rewards Gold status for $300 for 3 years, which works out to $100 / £65 per year.
Abercrombie & Kent, the luxury travel agency, runs the Marco Polo Club. This is a very high-end travel club:
The Marco Polo Club is for people who view travel as an integral element of their lives — people like you who dream of their next journey even as they relive the memories of their last. Marco Polo Club delivers only the finest travel opportunities and experiences — precisely what you demand.For more than 25 years, the Club has taken dedicated travellers far off the beaten path with extraordinary privileges every step of the way. The Marco Polo Club always offers personal service, innovative journeys and unique “insider’s” opportunities not available anywhere else in the travel community.
Membership is $300 for three years, and seems to be open to residents of any country, looking at the application form. The majority of the benefits are priority booking for Abercrombie & Kent tours and a modest discount. However, the key benefit for us is free Gold level membership for three years of Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
Now, what you need to know is that Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Marriott Rewards are, fundamentally, the same programme. MR Gold members get R-C Gold benefts at a Ritz-Carlton, whilst R-C Gold members get MR Gold benefits at a Marriott-group property. That includes brands such as JW Marriott, Edition, Autograph, AC Hotels, Marriott, Courtyard, Renaissance, Fairfield Inn and others.
The only practical difference between Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards is in the promotions you are offered. I explain this in more detail in this post.
So, if you stay more than, say, 4 times a year at a Marriott group property on your own money, then the free breakfast and free internet should easily pay for your Marco Polo Club fee. It would also allow current Marriott Gold members to put fewer nights towards Marriott (no need to hit 50 nights to renew) and thus gain additional status elsewhere.
Note that you cannot have both a Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards account. If you have a MR account, you will presumably need to ring Marriott to switch it to Ritz-Carlton Rewards and then match that account to Gold status via The Marco Polo Club.
(Remember to check out our ‘Hotel Promos‘ page for the latest offers from all of the major hotel chains.)