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A couple of weeks ago, when I headed to France’s Côte d’Azur to attend the fabulous Cannes Film Festival, I chose a hotel that would be close to the star-studded action and allow me to use my loyalty points for an entire week: the JW Marriott Cannes, a 261-room, five-star modern luxury hotel perched on the seaside city’s famous Boulevard de la Croisette.
Hospitality & Check-in
Smack in the middle of the most glamorous stretch of Cannes, the JW Cannes doesn’t feel like a typical Marriott, but with its hexagonal balconies and neon accents and it does manage to feel like a throwback to the 1980s that’s undergone a shiny renovation. (It’s actually been a few different properties over the past few decades, including the Noga Hilton.) The entrance has a modern Art Deco feel, with columns and planters decked out in burnished gold, and the vibe is retro, glitzy and new money, like Cannes itself.
The hotel’s lobby features a soaring ceiling, white marble and a glamorous, cascading chandelier. Smack in the center, right beneath the chandelier, is a Champagne bar with tall, modern and round-edged wing chairs.
The property features five varieties of suites, but I stayed in one of the hotel’s Standard rooms, which average roughly 200 square feet and offer city, garden or sea views, a flat-screen LCD TV, and a separate work station, lounge area and dressing room. The mostly dark, wood-grain and mocha decor features a few pops of white – including orchids in ceramic pots – but otherwise feels cool and low-lit, not unlike a private screening room. Black-and-white photos of movie stars (in my case, a paparazzi-ready scene with Uma Thurman) remind you that you’re surrounded by the film festival; the other eleven months of the year, I imagine these just serve as a reminder of the city’s biggest attraction.
Like many European hotels, a Queen bed here is more of a double, with two twin beds pushed together. My own pair were certainly comfortable, if a bit too short for my lanky stems.
Many Standard rooms, like mine on the fifth floor (Room 530), have balconies overlooking La Croisette or the Bay of Cannes. I loved standing out on mine to relax by counting yachts and even mega-yachts off in the distance – like Cannes’ own special version of counting sheep.
The bathroom was relatively small for me, but I was really taken with its masculine styling, featuring micro-tile in pale shades of brown and a wood-paneled sink cabinet.
One of the key attractions of the JW Cannes is Le Panorama, the rooftop bar adjacent to the swimming pool – which is actually the only rooftop pool bar on the Croisette. However, there were so many swanky parties there each night of my stay that I couldn’t even get near it. In addition to having a chance to rub elbows with movie stars, go for a swim, or even just a soak in one of the two whirlpools, I’d have loved to see the views from up there, which reportedly include the Mediterranean’s Bay of Cannes, the nearby Lerins Islands and the Esterel Mountains.
The hotel also has an on-site casino (which I didn’t visit, either) and a small fitness center, as well as three dining options: Le Panorama serves lunch and cocktails, the lobby lounge serves bar snacks and Champagne, and the JW Grill serves three daily meals, with an accent on steak and seafood. The Grill’s sprawling buffet breakfast normally costs $35 US, but my Marriott Gold status made it complimentary for me each day of my stay.
How To Use Your Points
When I was initially researching the JW Cannes, a Category 8 property on the Marriott redemption chart, I saw that they had availability for a standard room at the (absolutely crazy) nightly rate of $1,300 US (929 EUR), but yet only 40,000 Marriott Rewards points a night. I generally value Marriott Rewards points at .7 cents apiece, so to get a rate of over 3 cents per point is a really good deal. However, while Marriott gives the fifth night free on award stays (in this case, a cost of 160,000 points), I wanted to stay for seven nights, which (including that fifth night free) would have required a total of 240,000 points.
I remembered that Marriott has Flight and Hotel packages, which allow you to book seven nights at a hotel and get a certain number of airline miles for one fixed price. Marriott allows you to choose from numerous airline mileage currencies, including Southwest Rapid Rewards. To see how I maximized one of these packages to book a room at the JW Marriott Cannes, transfer points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and score a Southwest Companion Pass, see my post: Using Marriott Flight + Hotel Awards for the Southwest Companion Pass.
Had I paid for the room instead of using points, it would have cost me 929 EUR for each of the first 6 nights and 239 EUR for the last night, totaling 5,822.10 EUR or $8,079.12 USD. If charged to any of Marriott’s credit cards, a spend like this would have resulted in an easy windfall: 70,000 points with the Marriott Rewards Premier card, 50,000 with the business version, and 30,000 with the basic Marriott Rewards card, all for a spend of $1,000 within the first 3 months. Plus, each of these cards gives you 5 Marriott Rewards points for each $1 spent at Marriott properties, netting an additional 40,395 points.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Foreign Transaction Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95