Aloha to Free — Where the Marriott Platinum Breakfast Perk Is Done Right
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Some travelers couldn’t care less about hotel breakfast, preferring instead to head out and start their day with local coffee and a $2 pastry sold by a street vendor. That’s awesome and I love when that happens, but it also isn’t always practical — especially with little kids involved. So, these days, I find myself caring a great deal about (free) hotel breakfasts.
In the world of travel, free hotel breakfasts vary dramatically in quality, and are not always truly free in the end. Some hotel chains provide free breakfast to all guests as a brand standard (looking at you Embassy Suites), but others provide it only to their elite guests — often just the top-tier elite guests. The Westin Moana Surfrider and Sheraton Kona Resort, both oceanfront resorts in Hawaii, are two hotels that provide free breakfast as a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum option. Although I have had my share of rocky Marriott Bonvoy interactions recently, this month my family enjoyed stays at both of these resorts and found breakfast to be an area where the Marriott program hit the mark.
The full-service breakfast at both locations was not only good, but actually free. Which perhaps shouldn’t be noteworthy, but is.
At the Westin Moana, breakfast is served in the Beachhouse restaurant, located right next to the ocean. At check-in, my Bonvoy Platinum status allowed us to choose among perks: a local amenity, some bonus points or free breakfast for two. We chose the latter. Although there were three of us in our room — myself and both of my daughters, children under 5 eat for free, so breakfast for two was all we needed.
The breakfast card said free continental breakfast, but we were told we could enjoy the full buffet (normally $37 per person) at no charge, as well sip on unlimited juices and coffee.
Food options included an omelet station and multiple hot dishes, such as bacon, eggs, sausages and root vegetables.
There was also a bar devoted to miso soup with all the trimmings.
Next up was the fruit station — papaya being an absolute standout.
If you wanted some cheese, salmon, etc. to start your day, the restaurant had you covered there, too.
I was all about the coffee, but my daughters were especially fond of the island juice selections, which, of course, they mixed their own custom creations.
At the end of the meal, there was no check. I asked to be charged for something so I could add a tip but the server politely declined saying Marriott took care of that, too. I was totally confused. I am used to paying to upgrade breakfast to a full buffet and adding a tip at the end. This was free breakfast done right — and surprisingly, 100% free.
Thinking this was somewhat of a fluke, we eventually continued to our next hotel: the Sheraton Kona on the Big Island. I didn’t have high expectations for this Sheraton, and while the hotel itself wasn’t five-star, the free Marriott breakfast pattern largely repeated itself.
At the Sheraton Kona, we again opted for breakfast as our Platinum check-in perk and received coupons for free breakfast for two at its Rays on the Bay restaurant with each room I booked. This meant grandma and grandpa could eat for free, too, which was even better than at the Westin Moana. Again, the coupons said continental breakfast, but we were offered the full buffet. Once again, children under 5 eat for free.
Instead of paying $29.95 per person, there was a $0.00 bill presented at the end of our meal. This time, we were able to add a tip, but otherwise, we had breakfast with a fantastic view for all five of us each morning thanks to my Marriott status.
The combined retail price of those meals (which we got for free) was easily a couple of hundred dollars, and although I wouldn’t have spent that much on breakfast, I would have spent a considerable amount.
When programs do things that harm customers, it is reasonable to question continuing to remain loyal to that brand with your time and dollars. Sometimes you shouldn’t. However, I already have Marriott Platinum status for this year, and am too far into 2019 re-qualification to pull up at this point (thanks to the 15 elite night credits from my Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card — also available on other Marriott cards.) I’m not putting lipsticks on any pigs here, but the free sausage and bacon were not only delicious, but good reminders of the tangible reasons that I continue to book Marriott stays when it makes sense to do so.
Now if only these stays would post to my Marriott account (it’s been a week and counting for both) …
I’d love to know where your hotel elite status has taken you further than expected in the quest for (a good) free breakfast.
All images by author.
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