This is the second part of my review of the JW Marriott hotel in Venice.
Up on the roof
The JW Marriott Venice roof terrace in the main building is the most successful part of the hotel. But, yet again, they score an own goal.
On the roof is a very shallow plunge pool with great views towards Venice:
In peak season, children are banned from this pool. Yes, kids are banned from a pool that is about two feet deep and are forced into the ‘family’ pool in the grounds which is about five feet deep.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the wasp problem which used to plague this hotel now seems to be under control and we saw just a couple during our stay. This has allowed the restaurant to return to the outdoor roof terrace – last time we were here they were only serving inside.
The food here is good (and we even, unexpectedly, got free cocktails with our first meal as we were Bonvoy elite members) but:
- there is an €8 cover charge which is a joke – that’s €32 on the bill as soon as we sat down
- they have a DJ in the early evening on some nights who plays very loudly during the time that families are most likely to be eating – and then packs up around 8pm when the childless couples start appearing for dinner
- whilst it’s great that they can now serve outside again due to controlling the wasps, it is a mistake to ONLY serve outside. It is simply too hot, especially for children, even at 7pm.
Everything else …..
There is a lot to see on the island – much of it very impressive – and this review won’t cover it all. Here is a taster.
The lobby bar:
Here is the lobby bar. Again, I was very impressed by the design:
Light snacks are available here if you want another eating option. There is a lot of sofa-style seating in this area too which is not pictured.
Dispensa is the hotel cafe, open from early until 4.30pm.
If you are here on a points redemption and don’t have Platinum status then you won’t get free breakfast – a (free in the mornings) coffee and a paid-for pastry will represent a big saving. I like Dispensa, wish more hotels had something like this and always feel its a shame that I don’t use it more.
Breakfast in the restaurant Cucina is good although not outstanding, lacking a few touches that you’d expect from a genuinely high end property. There’s no photograph as it was always bustling, but I should mention that – arriving around 9am – we never had any trouble being seated immediately.
(The hotel was hosting large groups of Regent Seven Seas and Viking cruise guests during our stay. As these people tended to leave very early to get to their boat and had their own agenda in the evening, it arguably left other parts of the hotel quieter than they would be if filled entirely with independent travellers.)
Note that, once you have sat down, a member of staff comes along and places a card and pen on your table. The card says “Room number: [filled in for you]” and underneath “Tip: [left blank for you to fill in]”. The only thing that will be served to you during breakfast is a pot of coffee.
Cucina now operates as a pizza restaurant for five nights per week, giving you a more child friendly eating option. You can only eat on the outdoor terrace, not inside.
I popped into the JW Marriott Venice spa briefly. It is classy but expensive and apparently the largest in Venice. It has a small indoor and outdoor plunge pool which looks good. Pool and sauna use is €50 for one hour and €75 for three hours unless you book a spa treatment.
Whilst you may blanche at a €50-€75 fee, I am OK with it. This is a lovely spot and virtually unused. €50 to sit here on a lounger for an hour (inside or out), almost certainly alone with Venice in front of you across the lagoon, would be a pretty special experience for someone who has come away to relax. No children under 18 are allowed except for nail treatments.
There is a fine dining restaurant in the grounds. It got a new chef in April (a two Michelin-starred chef whose main restaurant is in Modena) and is aiming to pick up a star or two here in time, as it had under its previous chef.
You have a choice of a fish-based or vegetarian six course tasting menu at €190 per person, although once you’ve factored in the included deserts and appetisers it is more like 10 courses. An €80 wine pairing is optional. They are quite swift – which we considered a good thing – and we were done in just over two hours despite all the food.
Due to the presence of a large family group – including some very young children – the atmosphere was a lot more casual than you’d get in a similar restaurant in London, although there is nothing casual about the exceptionally slick service. As with the spa, it definitely adds a halo to the hotel.
The cookery school:
Behind the Dispensa cafe is a cookery school. We did a pasta making course here and it was good fun, lasting over two hours (€110 per head, 50% for children under 12, cost partially offset by the fact we didn’t need to eat that evening!).
The kids got fully involved and we made three different pasta dishes, each served with prosecco at a dining table in the kitchen. The space used for the cookery school is lovely which adds to the experience. I recommend this.
The garden suites:
This is the garden of one of the suites in the cottages in the grounds:
We have never stayed in one of these, but they are very close to the main building – no risk of feeling isolated – and come in a variety of shapes and sizes The hotel website can show you the options.
The JW Marriott Venice hotel shuttle boat runs every 30 minutes without a break from early morning until after midnight. It has a capacity of around 25 people.
I had a look at the timetables for the Kempinski and the Excelsior hotels and they are worse – the Kempinski is every 40 minutes, whilst the Excelsor is every 30 minutes but only has capacity for 12 people per trip. Reservations are not taken but we never failed to get on.
Venice is a great place to come in August. You don’t need to spend much time in the centre with the cruise ship crowds. You can happily pass your days at the JW Marriott or take a water taxi across to the Lido where the beach is impressive, and then pop into the city for a couple of hours in the early evening when it quietens down.
There are a lot of things about the JW Marriott Venice I like – after all, this was our fifth visit. The design and furnishings are very well done and the Junior Suites are the perfect size and shape – these are probably the things that swing it for me. Junior Suites work well for both a couple and a family with two young children who need rollaways.
The grounds are large and well tendered. The rooftop bar and restaurant is cool. The spa looks great and there is a fine dining option.
The shuttle service to St Marks is punctual, frequent and never full. Breakfast isn’t bad. The wasps have not gone entirely but are hugely reduced.
The staff were fantastic, with not a single issue worth noting over the five days.
It’s not perfect though. The family pool is still a mess (and has got worse since they reduced the number of loungers), the constant demands for tips (most guests are American) grate, the €8 restaurant cover charge is just annoying and I’d like the option to eat at the indoor rooftop tables to avoid the sun – and the DJ.
For what we paid – just under 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points plus €170 co-pay per night for a €850+ junior suite – the JW Marriott in Venice was a very good deal. This was based on getting five reward nights for the points of four, admittedly. Note that the co-pay element is not adjusted as part of the ‘5-4-4’ deal.
If I had to pay full price and was with the children I may well try the Cipriani or Kempinski instead, but this would purely be for a change of scene. I suspect we will end up here again at some point though, unless it stops offering co-pay upgrades to the larger rooms.
Booking for cash? Get extra benefits via our partner
Our luxury hotel booking partner Emyr Thomas is a ‘preferred partner’ for Marriott and can access special benefits at their luxury hotels.
For JW Marriott Venice these are:
- upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- complimentary breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay (although all cash rates currently include breakfast)
- $100 equivalent food & beverage credit
- early check-in / late check-out, subject to availability
You pay the same as the Best Available Rate shown online, and you pay on check-out as usual. You get full Bonvoy points and elite credit. If you booking at Best Available Rate it is a no-brainer to use a booking partner such as Emyr. If you were booking a non-refundable rate, do the maths on whether the $100 F&B credit and potential upgrade are worth it.
PS. Last year I reviewed Marriott’s new The St Regis Venice. It didn’t go well, as you can read if you click through. Frankly it was a stark reminder of why the JW Marriott Venice is such a good deal.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (September 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.
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.
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)
The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.
(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.)