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In January, Eric Rosen shared the top 15 new hotels opening in 2015 and one of the most anticipated was the JW Marriott Venice Resort and Spa. TPG Contributor Joel Ward had the opportunity to stay at this luxurious Italian resort and spa only weeks after its grand opening, so read on to find out if the hotel lives up to its advance buzz. (All photos by the author.)
The JW Marriott Venice Resort and Spa is the first of Marriott International’s JW-branded hotels in Italy, and management worked hard to make a big splash (pun intended). Set on a private island called Isola delle Rosse (Rose Island) and located off the coast of one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, it’s built up some pretty high expectations.
Sprawling across a 40-acre island in the lagoon that borders Venice, the resort has five buildings with a wide range of accommodations. The bulk of the 250 rooms are in the main hotel, but to really bask in luxury, the other four provide a variety of suites, villas and secluded units.
The resort also includes the largest spa in Venice, gardens and restored structures, including an early 20th-century church that’s now available for weddings and other events. After a soft opening in late March, the location kicked off with a grand opening at the end of June.
Booking the room was simple on the Marriott site, but the selection of rooms is a bit daunting. The Deluxe Room is the basic offering in the main hotel, and at this Category 8 hotel, these rooms start at $334 or 40,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. If you’re up for a real splurge, a two-bedroom villa can set you back more than $5,000 per night, but as a decidedly average human being, I merely booked a Deluxe Room. Despite being in the midst of high tourist season, availability was no issue.
With its location on a private island, the only way to reach the property is by water. From the airport, there are some pricey transportation packages available, which include ground and water transit. Another option is to take the water taxis, however I chose to use the free JW ferry.
The ferry is very convenient to and from the city, with its dock adjacent to the tourist hub of St. Mark’s Square. Getting to the ferry on arrival was tricky, however, and included taking the public water transportation. Once I made it to St. Mark’s, locating the right dock took a little while; the JW signs are visible, but not particularly prominent, so I had to wander a bit to find it.
The trip to the island was smooth and relatively quick. Over the course of my three-day stay, the duration of the journey ranged from 16 to 23 minutes. My one issue was that the ferry isn’t on a predictable schedule; rather than every 15-30 minutes, it varies throughout the day. At one point, there was a 45-minute gap between departures. The frequency was fine, but it would be great to know when shuttles depart without carrying around a paper schedule every day. The ferry schedules weren’t even on the in-room TV or on the hotel’s Wi-Fi homepage to check from the room.
There were four groups on my initial ferry were checking in, in addition to me. When we all arrived at the hotel’s reception, two of the three check-in stations were already in use.
One of the groups from the ferry took the available station, while the rest of us waited. The resort is a big place, so the desk staff rightfully takes their time to share everything the guests need to know. Allowing the other groups to go first meant that I waited for slightly more than 10 minutes before being greeted and assisted.
With a luxury resort like this, it was odd that there wasn’t a greeter or some other way of addressing the waiting guests. I did see a greeter at other times during my stay, so perhaps it was a temporary issue. However, with guests literally arriving in waves, three check-in stations didn’t seem to be enough for the staff to take their time in providing a full explanation of the resort.
The Deluxe Room is fairly basic, with the standard in-room amenities of mini-bar, room safe and the like. And as if being on a private island in Venice wasn’t enough to make me feel like James Bond, my room number was actually 007.
As a Marriott Gold Member, I’m used to a bit more of a welcome in the room when I stay at JW Marriott hotels — which usually include fruit baskets or personal welcome letters. There was none of that here, but at this location, my Gold Membership probably put me on the lowest elite rung of guests.
The room was comfortable and attractively decorated, but a few things came up short.
There was a great deal of space, with a nice table and chairs as well as a desk to work on. Oddly, though, the bathroom took up approximately a third of the room’s footprint. The large shower area certainly had its uses, however I have no idea why you’d need all the extra space in the separate room for the toilet.
A big miss here was the lack of any kind of drying rack — there were only two simple towel hooks. With two swimming pools at the property, it was unusual that there was no good option to hang up wet swimwear.
The small nightstand next to the bed was overfilled with phone, lamp and stereo iPhone docking station, resulting in the phone hanging slightly over the edge. Answering the phone included banging the receiver into the lamp.
For me, lacking an available outlet for a phone charger is one of the cardinal sins of any new hotel. I’m not sure how that’s not standard practice in every hotel in 2015. As I’m not an iPhone user, I unplugged the stereo to plug in my own phone charger.
Dining and Amenities
Befitting a resort that wants to keep you on property as much as possible, the dining options are plentiful. The poolside restaurant, café and deli all provided food that was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The jewel in the crown, however, is the Dopolavoro Dining Room, a fine dining Italian restaurant with its own boat dock for diners not staying at the resort.
Each evening, I received a sheet of the following day’s activities scheduled to entertain visitors. These included guided tours to the Rialto market, food preparation classes, art walks and wine-and-cheese tastings. The resort does have a kids’ room and family pool on the grounds, but during my visit, I didn’t see activities scheduled specifically for children.
I spent a great deal of time walking the gardens and grounds, which were filled with a fascinating sculpture and artwork exhibit that runs through October 2015. Stumbling upon several unlabeled back-of-house areas made it apparent that there’s still work to be done, however.
The resort is a prime location for special events, and even includes a restored church. Once the landscaping fills in a bit, this will be a spectacular site for someone’s dream wedding.
Goco Spa is the largest spa in Venice and won’t disappoint visitors looking for a pampering-focused getaway. While I didn’t participate, it was clear you could spend an entire vacation just trying out all the various amenities and treatments, which start at $100.
The rooftop pool offers wonderful, distant views of Venice, although you can’t actually see St. Mark’s Square unless someone were to knock down a lot of building.
Despite some of the growing pains and finishing touches needed, the JW Marriott Venice Resort and Spa is a beautiful place to relax. With a bit more time to fill in the landscaping and some operational adjustments, it will live up to the world-class destination it’s aiming to be.
Unless you’re on a long break, you’ll probably spend most of your vacation time exploring Venice and may not get a lot of use out of the resort amenities. However, if you’re looking for a bit of luxury interspersed with the beauty of Venice and an escape from massive crowds, this is a fabulous choice.
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 points! With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 60,000 point sign up bonus worth up to $1,200 in value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
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