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Like most major European cities, Amsterdam is a pricey hotel market, so I was thrilled to find a Marriott property that didn’t break the bank. Pros: Waterfront views and a jungle/greenhouse lobby design. Cons: Not the best location for first-time tourists
Large European cities are a tough market for those looking to redeem points for free hotel stays. Cash rates tend to be sky-high, and I find that award rates are often much higher than most of the properties merit. So when I found a Marriott property for under $200 a night (including taxes) for my trip to Amsterdam, I jumped and didn’t think twice.
The Apollo Hotel lured me in with plenty of greenery and neon lights — exactly the vibe I was hoping for from this vacation. At the end of the day, I would’ve preferred to be a little closer to some of the big tourist attractions, but I can’t complain about a deal this good.
My room rate for two nights came out to 351 euros (about $395) after taxes. This was a steal by any measure, as later in the week the same property was selling for closer to 400 euros ($450) per night. I paid with my Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card to earn 6x points per dollar on top of the 17.5 points I’d earn as a Bonvoy Titanium elite. This brought my total haul up to about 9,200 points, which I desperately needed to replenish my account balance after a busy start to the year.
You could also book this Category 5 property for 35,000 Marriott points per night (worth $280 based on TPG’s latest valuations) or by using a free-night certificate from any of the Bonvoy credit cards.
The Apollo Hotel is just south of the Museum Quarter in Amsterdam, about a 15-to-20-minute cab ride from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). Being a 20-to-30-minute walk from the museums and Vondelpark was nice, but being on the southern edge of the city definitely increased our travel times. My friend and I spent the first two nights of our trip at the Renaissance Amsterdam near Central Station, and we both preferred that location on the canals as firsttime visitors.
We arrived in the early afternoon and had to pass through a parking lot in order to get to the entrance of the hotel.
The lobby, which immediately reminded me of a W Hotel with the zigzag ceiling, was completely empty, so we were helped immediately.
Since Marriott made the switch over to the Bonvoy program, this was the first time that a check-in agent correctly thanked me for being a Titanium elite. While that doesn’t affect the quality of my stay at the end of the day, it was inspiring to see a single hotel that cared enough to get it right.
We were offered a one-category upgrade to a harbor-view room, and since we needed two beds, I didn’t push my luck and inquire about a suite. I was offered my choice of free breakfast or 1,000 points as a welcome amenity (I took the points), and we were off to our room.
Getting from the lobby to the guest rooms required you to pass through a short greenhouse walkway dotted with golden egg chairs. While I assumed this was mostly decorative, as it was noticeably hotter in this area than in the rest of the lobby despite the same sun-facing windows.
Our room was on the second floor, right next to the elevator.
It was behind a painful memory of bygone days.
While the room did have two twin beds, they were pushed so closely together that it sort of defeated the purpose.
There was a small desk in the corner and a TV along the wall.
The views out over the canal were spectacular and a huge upgrade from the parking-lot views that many rooms at this property had.
There was also a handwritten welcome note from the duty manager waiting in the room for me. While the trainee check-in agent was able to correctly identify that I was a Titanium elite, the letter “demoted” me to Platinum.
The bathroom was right inside the door and was fairly simple.
There was only a half wall separating the shower from the rest of the bathroom, so the floor flooded every time one of us showered. While I understand that this design is popular in Europe, I wished they’d faced it the other way so the area under the sink would’ve flooded instead of the toilet.
The toiletries weren’t branded but had cute motivational phrases on them.
This room wasn’t groundbreaking or memorable in any way, but other than the shower, there was nothing wrong with it, and it served as a great base for our city adventures. There was plenty of space for two people to spread out and unpack, though a twin room did not give as much physical separation as we were hoping for.
Food and Beverage
Even though I opted for free points as my welcome amenity, we ended up ordering room service breakfast one morning. There wasn’t a menu anywhere in the room, just one of those cards you can hang on your door overnight to preorder. Even though we hadn’t done that, we were able to call down and order anyway. There were three options: a light breakfast, a healthy breakfast and a heavy breakfast, all of which were slight variations on fruit, coffee, eggs and cheese.
We ended up getting one healthy and one heavy breakfast, and they were accommodating of my friend’s nut allergy. He also doesn’t eat pork, so we asked if we could swap out the side of bacon, and they happily obliged and sent up turkey and cheese instead. Normally room-service charges are the most egregious part of a hotel stay, but breakfast was just 9.99 euros ($11) each and a single 5-euro ($5.50) delivery charge, which was not bad at all.
The hotel had two on-site restaurants: Bodon, a French restaurant, and The Harbor Club. Room service was catered directly from The Harbor Club, with a limited menu available, if you could find it hiding on your TV. We decided to order in the first night, splitting a beef tartare and cheese board and each getting a tuna filet on a bed of stir-fried noodles.
The portions were generous, and everything was delivered in 30 minutes, tops, tasting (and looking) restaurant-quality.
On our last night, we headed down to The Harbor Club for dinner, as neither one of us was in the mood for French. The restaurant was straight back through the lobby, down another W-esque, hypnotic hallway.
The restaurant was packed, and it appeared that most of the customers were locals and not hotel guests.
My friend had the bufala mozzarella to start, while I had a grilled avocado with miso.
I didn’t realize that the avocado was on a bed of salt (it was very granular and looked like ice), so I ended up ruining a few pieces of mozzarella by dropping them on my plate. I ordered two sushi rolls for my main course, which were much larger than expected but incredibly fresh.
My friend had the steak with pepper sauce, which was cooked perfectly.
We decided to share a tiramisu for dessert, which came with a side of ice cream and strawberry coulis.
Service was a little slow throughout the meal, as the restaurant was packed, and there were a few times we had to work to get anyone’s attention. That being said, the food was delicious, perfectly cooked, and reasonably priced. Our entire meal, including a few drinks each, cost about 100 euros ($110).
While there was no explanation of the hotel’s amenities when we checked in, we saw a sign pointing toward the gym and decided to check it out.
It was an odd layout, with two to three machines in each room and then a mirrored wall separating the next section.
The hotel had a lovely garden out front, separating the main entrance from the parking lot.
There was a small bridge over a koi pond, and benches to sit on.
The waterfront location also meant that there were spectacular views no matter which way you turned leaving the property.
It’s rare to find a decent hotel this cheap in any major city, especially in Europe. While the Apollo didn’t blow me away, I felt like I got a great value from this stay, both in terms of the room rate and the on-site dining. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again if the price is right, though I’d be tempted to stay closer to the center of the city.
All photos by the author.
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