Hotel Review: Standard Room at the JW Marriott Washington, DC
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So far I've enjoyed an incredible year of Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum status: The St. Regis Bangkok and Sheraton Royal Orchid Bangkok left me thoroughly impressed with the service standards set at SPG properties. On a recent trip to DC, though, I decided it was time to finally broaden my horizons and try the Marriott side of things. Specifically, I was curious to see how JW Marriott, one of the more upscale brands in the Marriott portfolio, would measure up.
I took advantage of Marriott's (now expired) Cyber Monday sale and booked my room for $184.47 after taxes. This was a great deal, as prices at this property normally hover in the range of $250 to $300. If I'd been using points, this Category 8 property would have cost 40,000 points per night, worth $360 based on TPG's most recent valuations.
While I know that I should've booked with my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the booking, I'd been thinking more and more about making a run at lifetime status with Marriott. So I decided to pay with my Marriott Rewards Premier Business Card, earning 5x Marriott points. When combined with the 15 points per dollar I earn as a Platinum Elite, I netted a total of 3,680 points, worth $33, according to TPG. While they're a drop in the bucket, those points counted toward the 2 million points I need to earn lifetime Platinum status with Marriott, so I was happy with my decision.
The JW Marriott was in prime DC real estate just a block away from the White House, and two blocks from the Metro Center subway station connecting Reagan National Airport (DCA) to Downtown via the Blue Line. Given how small DC is, the hotel was no more than a 10-minute Uber ride from DCA, assuming you didn't get stuck behind a presidential motorcade. The rest of the neighborhood was full of government offices, fine dining and other luxury hotels (the Willard InterContinental and W DC share the neighboring block). A 15-minute walk to the east was Chinatown and the Newseum, my favorite of DC's seemingly endless collection of museums.
We arrived on a snowy day in DC to find that the hotel's main entrance on 14th Street was surprisingly hard to reach — we had to hop out of our car a few blocks away and make a mad dash through the snow. Then again, as a DC native, I shouldn't have been surprised by traffic irregularities this close to the White House.
Once inside, we found ourselves in a long rectangular lobby with an open view of the restaurants on the lower floors, glass chandeliers and no fewer than a dozen Christmas trees.
There was a Starbucks in the back and four check-in desks on the right side.
There was no line, so we were helped immediately, only to have my incredible upgrade streak unceremoniously snapped. The agent thanked me for my Platinum status and said we'd been given a room with an incredible view. While she was right about the view, the room itself was a standard guest room, the lowest category the hotel offered. She then proceeded to give us the next piece of bad news: The hotel's executive lounge, normally accessible to Gold and Platinum members, was closed on weekends. (It reopens on Sunday nights.) I was given 1,000 points as compensation, but $9 was hardly enough to make up for losing out on free breakfast. But more on that later.
So we weren't off to the most impressive start, but I'd done my research on this property and couldn't wait to see the views from our 10th-floor room. They did not disappoint. Our south-facing room looked out on the White House Visitor Center and the Washington Monument. (Because of DC's building-height restrictions, almost every building offers a view of the city's finest landmarks.)
Our 300-square-foot guest room felt cozy for a one-night stay. I enjoyed the patterned lights on the bathroom mirror that kept the room feeling awake but not too bright. Toiletries were from Aromatherapy Associates and featured a mixture of lavender and rosemary scents.
On the other side of the hall from the bathroom was a coffeemaker and a few bottles of water. Just past that was a good-sized closet with bathrobes, extra pillows and a full-length mirror.
The king bed was firm but comfortable, and the 47-inch LCD TV was perfectly positioned right across from it.
Wi-Fi was free for all Marriott Rewards members, with Gold and Platinum members getting access to "enhanced Wi-Fi." Speeds were solid, and I had no problem getting work done during the day. There was also a room-service menu that didn't look especially appealing, and given that we had dinner plans anyways, we decided to pass on it.
Overall, the room was definitely comfortable, but it was missing little finishes (like Nespresso machines, branded water bottles and modern lighting-and-blinds controls) that I'd come to associate with premium hotels. It was also by far the smallest room I'd stayed in since earning Platinum status. While it was more than OK for one night, I'm not entirely sure why this hotel earned a spot in Category 8, Marriott's second-highest tier.
Food and Beverage
I can't wrap my head around why a hotel would possibly decide to close their lounge on weekends, usually the busiest travel days, and I found out that this it was by no means normal for other JW Marriotts. Regardless, I'd worked hard to earn my status and was determined to get my free breakfast, even if the lounge were closed. It took a call to Marriott corporate and three conversations with the front desk, but I was finally offered a free breakfast buffet at the hotel's Avenue Grill restaurant, in addition to the 1,000 points I'd originally been given.
The buffet had all the essentials of a good continental breakfast, including a never-ending pile of pecan-smoked bacon that tasted every bit as good as it smelled. Between that and the fresh and flavorful made-to-order omelet, this definitely ranked as one of the more solid breakfast buffets out there.
There was also an a la carte menu, but it overlapped heavily with the buffet.
Although our stay was too short to get to use them, the hotel had both a gym and pool on the first floor.
The gym was well-equipped, with enough weights and machines to handle a large crowd. But, the pool was aggressively average: standard size, no interesting decor or views or anything.
To the Point
The JW Marriott was quite comfortable, and I enjoyed getting to spend a night playing tourist in my hometown. That being said, the service was far from inspiring, and I think my next trip to DC will be spent at one of the incredible SPG properties that offer equally exciting views.