Review: Why the JW Marriott resort in Venice continues to frustrate, and why we return
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This is my review of the JW Marriott hotel and resort in Venice.
I have reviewed the JW Marriott in Venice before, two years ago to be exact. We were there again over the August Bank Holiday for what was our fourth consecutive annual three day visit, so I though it was worth covering again.
All of the photographs below are from my 2016 review, but the text is fully updated. It seemed relatively pointless photographing exactly the same things again which is why my daughter looks younger than usual.
Since this was our fourth trip, you would assume that we love the hotel. That is not true.
Every year it turns out to be a frustrating experience. If Four Seasons took it over it would be outstanding, but JW Marriott lets too many things slip through.
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 etc on the Lido) have a lot more to offer. The weather is also so hot in Summer that a private island is more attractive than the city centre.
Marriott Rewards has one feature which I rate highly – the ability to ‘buy up’ a reward night to a better room for a nominal sum at the time of booking. Not all hotels offer this, but JW Marriott Venice does.
We paid €200 on top of the usual 40,000 Marriott points per night for a Junior Suite which was selling for well over €500. The suite took two rollaway beds for the kids and still had plenty of space for a sofa etc. My Marriott Rewards Platinum Premier status got us two adult breakfasts for free so we only paid half-price for the kids breakfast.
I’m getting ahead of myself, however.
The JW Marriott in Venice opened five years ago. 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. For the last two years we have arrived by train and taken a water taxi from the station, which costs a fixed €90.
My kids 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 €90 well spent. My wife hides inside.
We arrived in Venice by train as we came from the hugely impressive Cavallino Bianco family hotel in the Dolomites. If you’ve got kids and want a very classy mountain retreat in a picture perfect mountain town, take a look at Cavallino.
You can’t fail to be impressed by your arrival at the JW Marriott as you pull into the private dock:
The check-in staff continue to be poor. Every year they do something to annoy me. This time it was the announcement that they were “delighted to give me a junior suite” – which, of course, was exactly the room we booked. I don’t think that this hotel has ever given an upgrade to a Marriott Rewards elite member, although at least this year they didn’t waste my time trying to sell me one.
There are rooms scattered across the island. The rooms in the outbuildings are more expensive and have private gardens or a plunge 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 stick to the main building.
Your best choice with children is, in my view, one of the square Junior Suites at the back. Even if there are only two of you travelling I would recommend taking one of these because they are well shaped compared to some of the other slightly confusing room layouts.
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 – which are free if your kids are under 12 or a shocking €120 each per night if they are not – 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 with Aromatherapy Associates toiletries:
The room had a large balcony overlooking the grounds as well.
I can’t knock it. This was a very impressive room. There is also a coffee machine, not pictured.
There is a big problem, however. Wasps. Lots and lots of them. Plus flies, ants and pretty much every other insect you can imagine.
This was a very hot Summer across Europe and insect infestation has been a problem in a lot of places. It is a particular problem here, and the staff admit that they cannot find the nests on the island. My wife left the patio door open at one point and a large number of insects got in. During the night we were all badly bitten – my kids looked like they had chicken pox.
Amusingly, the restaurant tills are pre-programmed with a code for a 20% wasp discount. If you get attacked whilst eating outside, you get a discount as we found out one day.
The JW Marriott Venice 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.
The ‘resort fee’ – which is voluntary – is a complete waste of time if you don’t need the kids club as virtually nothing else of interest is included.
What is shockingly poor, though, is that the ONLY way to get the staff to unlock a bike so you can ride around the island is to pay the resort supplement. As we there for three days, we were basically asked to pay (€39 x 3) €118 to rent four bikes for 15 minutes. We might have (begrudgingly) paid €10 but not €118 ….
The pool has picked up substantially in the four years we have been coming here.
Originally, this was probably the worst kids pool ever built in the context of what could have been done. I could never understand what Marriott and the architects were thinking. You have a WHOLE ISLAND to play with and you build a pool which is ludicrously narrow.
It is also far too deep. No child under 13 can stand in it. There is no shallow end.
The hotel has addressed this, in part, by building a good-sized paddling pool next to the main pool. This is still not ideal because if your kids are beyond paddling age but under, say, 13 – which I reckon is the age they can stand in the pool – they are still stuck.
The hotel has also added a lot of additional sun loungers over the years, as well as a parkour climbing course and some other outdoor toys (not pictured).
There is a bar and restaurant by the pool. The wasps made it very unpleasant to eat here, and at €11 for a can of coke it wasn’t a cheap place to get a drink either.
That’s the end of Part 1. To read the 2nd part of my JW Marriott Venice review, click here.
The hotel website is here if you want to find out more.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (March 2023)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.
You can apply here.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express
20,000 bonus points and 15 elite night credits Read our full review
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:
- American Express Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Rewards Credit Card (10,000 bonus Amex points)
and for small business owners:
- American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Business Platinum (40,000 bonus Amex points)
Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.
The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)