Whether trying to earn the most United miles per dollar or redeeming for a Southwest Companion pass and a 7-night hotel certificate, the value of a Marriott flight & hotel package cannot be ignored. I recently redeemed such a package, which led me to search for an interesting Category 5 Marriott property at which to redeem my certificate. I absolutely found one that fit the bill in the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa in Vietnam — a resort modeled after a mythical school called Lamarck University.
The property is so new that it wasn’t yet open when I made my reservation about 6 weeks ago. I had never heard of Phu Quoc, but Google told me it was in Vietnam and Marriott told me it was Category 5. But what really sold me was the look of the standard room photos on the website:
With the hotel being so new, I was a bit skeptical. Whether these were conceptual mock-ups or photos of the wrong room type, I didn’t go in expecting the standard room to look exactly like the photos. I’m not the least bit disappointed to say that the room exactly matched what the photos advertised.
First, you enter through a massive door to a long hallway.
Our room was in the “Department of Agriculture”. Each building had a theme, and you’ll see it in some of the artwork and even in the elevators:
Back in the room, the hallway has a half bath. Continuing down the hallway, you come to a sizable armoire complete with bathrobes, hangers, a safe, umbrellas — even a couple of traditional hats in the top.
And the room hit the nail on the head as far as matching the online photos. It had a very grand, yet homey feel:
And the bathroom might have been larger than my first apartment:
There were Aromatherapy Associates toiletries along with a deep soaking tub, vanities on both sides of the bathroom, and what could be the highest rainfall shower that doesn’t fall from a cloud:
The bedroom looked out to the very private balcony:
Which, in turn, looked out at the resort grounds and the water:
While I loved the room, it turned out to be the least intriguing part of this property. The JW Marriott Phu Quoc was designed as a mythical university, circa 1890. The entrance signs welcome you to Lamarck University. Next, you enter the library, where you complete the check-in process.
You’re then escorted around “campus”. The place is filled with legitimate antiques that were sourced from around the world and a lot of creativity.
I have never in my life seen a property that stuck to a theme so well. The bar, which currently hosts a free cocktail reception nightly for Gold and Platinum members from 5-6pm, is the “Department of Chemistry”. And they hit that theme very well.
The Physical Education department stayed on point:
Being a university, there were daily activities:
We took them up on pastry making in the French & Co. bakery and coffee shop.
Breakfast, which was free for Gold & Platinum members, was excellent. There was a lot of variety and the food was fresh and plentiful. Eggs could be ordered any way — my wife says the eggs benedict were the best she’s ever had. There were both Western and Eastern options and lots of them.
The resort is just gorgeous in general. Here is a beach bar and the main pool and the main “street” through the resort at night:
And there were oddities everywhere…..like this bathroom that I’ll leave you to find on your own:
Service was fantastic — not just at breakfast, but in the entire hotel, really. Everyone remembered our names — from Naomi and Thomas at check-in to Thuy in the coffee shop and Trang in the Tempus Fugit restaurant at both breakfast and dinner. Service wasn’t forced or faked, it was just extremely good. I was particularly impressed on checkout day. I was leaving earlier than planned as I wasn’t taking advantage of the full 7-night certificate. At the main desk, I explained that I was leaving early and would need a taxi and some help with my luggage. When I returned to my room, I realized that I had forgotten to tell Thomas, the manager with whom I spoke, my name or room number. Sure enough, the porters showed up to the right place for our bags and Thomas had a car waiting to take us back to the airport.
Cash rates at this hotel have been running around $420 per night with tax (admittedly very high for Vietnam). At 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night (about 8,333 Starpoints) or 100,000 points for a 5-night stay, this resort is a very good value. I had redeemed Marriott points for a Southwest Companion Pass and 7-night certificate. My main motivation was the companion pass, so I only planned about 3.5 nights at this hotel. I very much regret not spending a week here. As the resort is so new, there were very few guests — which certainly amplified the level of customer service.
As for negatives, there were only three worth mentioning: First, the beaches in Phu Quoc are not the cleanest. The JW Marriott has staff in the water each morning removing any debris, but the crystal clear water makes it hard to hide the occasional piece of trash floating by. Secondly, my wife visited the spa for a facial and massage while we were there and found the spa atmosphere to have a disconnect with the overall quality of the property. The treatment itself was fine, but spa facilities were lacking in terms of the quality of massage tables and noise and lighting levels (apparently quite bright with a bit too much natural light). The treatment room facilities were sparse — the lack of any sort of tables meant that the therapist was constantly walking in and out to get things and then place them on the floor around the table. These things wouldn’t be a problem in a small spa with local pricing — but seemed to fall short of the level of quality represented in the rest of the resort. Finally, the resort is still under construction. It is open for business, but there are a number of facilities still being built around the resort. This results in some daytime noise and the cosmetics of construction. I don’t really find this to be a problem — there were temporary walls hiding much of the work and the newness of the property means that you could conceivably be the first person to have ever slept in your room.
All that said, the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort was excellent. It is a great value whether for a few nights or with a 7-night certificate. We would certainly go back and look forward to doing so when construction is fully complete.
[…] I started working at Frequent Miler in 2017, I stayed at the just-opened JW Marriott Phu Quoc and wrote about it here. Several readers have reached out since to say that they stayed there. Modeled after a mythical […]
Oh, JW Marriott Emerald Bay is one of the most luxurious resort in our country. In my opinion, this resort is the masterpiece and we can’t criticize anything. Everything from the minor one to the great things is catered very carefully. The thing I like most here is the French Bakery Store. Anyways, thanks for your great post!
WOW! I just read your review of the resort and Vietnam has now gotten pretty high on my list (along with a number of other southeast Asian countries). It looks *fantastic*. And thanks to whatever commenter mentioned the designer – I looked him up, and his properties look fantastic! I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before this property becomes a higher Cat, because that’s just the way of the world. I’m guessing they made it a Cat 5 to entice anyone with a certificate to check it out and create buzz, but will move it up in category sooner rather than later.
Don’t think Asia is in the cards in 2018, but it’s something I might start hoarding miles for. Thanks also for the really great advice on flights.
Glad you found it helpful!
[…] 5 sweet spot): The JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa. I reviewed my stay (see: Marriott Cat 5 Sweet Spot: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa). Unfortunately, in the time since, award availability has been nearly nil (as noted by Greg in his […]
[…] own Nick Reyes stayed here early this year and has great things to say about this new resort (see: Marriott Cat 5 Sweet Spot: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa). Unfortunately award availability is scarce at the […]
I stayed for 7 nights with 2 friends on points in early April. It was far and away the most amazing place I have stayed. Quirky, beautiful, lavish but not stuffy. Breakfast/brunch is so enourmous we didn’t eat again until the 5pm happy hour, free for gold/plat, outside of small snacks provided to us while at beach. Happy hour also included free creative sample bite appetizers, like dumplings. For dinner, we always left the resort, but depending on your sense of adventure and need for cleanliness this might not be your thing – this is a developing country afterall. Walking distance from resort to the left was a very inexpensive delicious place that the staff know about. You will probably need to point at dishes you think look good to order – no English. The free shuttle to night market essentially also brings you to main town and back. The main town has some quite good, even trendy, restaurants (use yelp or tripadvisor). The main town beach has some pleasant beach bars overlooking sunset. The night market is an Asian night market with some interesting selections/sights definitely worth browsing but not the best food/slightly overpriced (by Vietnam standards!). JW staff will also know of a smaller fishing village with a long pier of floating “restaurants” (floating platforms with a cooking shed and plastic furniture) attached to it. The restaurants float live fish in nets in harbor. You point to a couple of nets and cook your fish with herbs in hot pots at your table. Just choose the place with most locals- was a highlight of trip. Tip – there is very little English outside resort but google translate works well on menus, storefronts, road signs etc. Just get a data plan.
[…] If you have a use for the 7-night certificate, it’s a great value. Seven nights in a Category 5 Marriott would normally cost 150K points, so for 120K more Marriott Rewards points you’re getting 162K Avios. I used my 7-night certificate this past February at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. […]
Thanks for the tip, Nick!
Booked for 2 weeks in March 2018!
[…] like the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshius & Spa, the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, and the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. A few weeks ago, I wrote about booking the first few legs of the trip to get to South Africa. I […]
meant uber is not being active in phu quoc as of yet.
checking out JW Emerald Bay today however got stuck with a very early flight via Vietnam Airlines. From what I hear this must be the right place for a romantic staycation where club marriott and marriott rewards members benefit from their entitlements. It should be worth it. Hopefully transportation within the island is not troublesome with uber being active there.
[…] like the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa, the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, and the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. Several readers asked about how I had gone about booking that trip. Much of the trip was easy to […]
[…] around the world that would yield a great value from this sign up bonus. I recently reviewed the JW Marriott Phu Quoc — a property where 100,000 points would get you 5 […]
[…] Unfortunately, it is rare to find desirable Marriott properties in that category 1-5 range (but it’s certainly not impossible!). If this benefit stays, there is a chance that those certificates will become more valuable […]
Excellent review with great photos. I’m giving a 5 night stay to my son & daughter in law for their honeymoon. They’re world travelers & this was one of the unique resorts they suggested. Thanks also for all the travel tips.
We’re really thinking about going! Are there any restaurants or beach shacks nearby or is one a resort captive at this location? Any stores nearby to buy beers/snacks and avoid the high markup?
Did you do bike ride to the prison and fish sauce factory?
Also, some of the activities have an 8-10 person limit. Do you know if we can book any of these prior to arrival?
I don’t want to miss out on the pastry class and prison bike ride 🙂
I did not do the bike ride. I’m not sure if you can book prior to arrival. I’m sure if you email, they will get back to you. I traded several emails with the hotel. The first one I sent was on a Friday night around 11pm and I had a response in 17 minutes — couldn’t believe it. Customer service was terrific before we even got there and didn’t get worse once we arrived.
If you are going soon, I wouldn’t be overly concerned. On check in, we were told that there is a free shuttle to a night market every night at 6 (something I forgot to mention in the write-up!) — but that we should book it if we wanted to go as they do not schedule it when nobody books. It was that quiet — some activities had nobody signed up. I don’t think any activity filled while we were there.
I also neglected to mention that there is free use of paddle boards and kayaks and they have free paddle board lessons each day, though the timing overlapped with the free cocktails and food for Gold and Platinum members.
Nice write up Nick. Were you at FTU Las Vegas last year with your wife by any chance?
I sure was!
You seemed familiar but that picture of you in the hat connected everything! I think we were in a breakout group together 🙂
What is the route/airport to get to Phu Quoc? It looks tucked in down there just off the coast of Cambodia.
I searched some flights and it appears you have to route through SGN on Vietnam (for my flight).
Fly into SGN, then SGN-PQC
Anyone know why December is blocked off for reservations? I thought Marriott was 330 days in advance?
Plenty of availability otherwise.
To answer my own question, Marriott CSR said they just haven’t loaded inventory yet.
Good to know! We’re also eyeing the property to go over the holidays.
Maybe we’ll see you there! 🙂
Did you venture off property at all? Curious as to what to see/do if you were there for an entire week.
Viet Nam has never been on my must do list; but with a Marriott 7 night award certificate sitting in my account; well, maybe.
Long plane ride though… would need to do this in Biz for sure.
We go to Thailand every so often to escape winter and just got back from the JW Marriott Phuket Resort on our Marriott certificate; flew biz on ANA and had really good flights. Hint: Chiang Mai is the best spot in Thailand…avoid the southern beaches unless you really want to roast. You can fly RT from the US one-stop to Chiang Mai and do a RT from there to Phu Quoc for about $230. Then you will have the best of Thailand and Vietnam in one trip! Inter-asia flights are dirt cheap on AirAsia and other carriers so get creative!
Phuket Marriott Resort is a cat 8 right? Did you do that on a 7-night cert? If so how many points was that?
Actually we used the cert at the Marriott Rayong, then went through Bangkok for a couple days at the W Bangkok, then used points for the JWM in Phuket for another four days. I booked the inbound through Kuala Lumpur and spent four days there at the Hilton KL (why just change planes when you can see another city for a couple days?)
Once you get to Asia, the fares there are dirt cheap (except to/from Vietnam, for some reason). AirAsia and others are very credible low-fare carriers, and they put pricing pressure on Thai and other majors. You can go all over the sub-continent for like $75 one-way. It’s crazy to fly all that distance for a 5-night stay and then come right back home. And when you can’t get a good flight connection, just hire a driver if it’s a reasonable distance, or take one of those comfy long-distance buses. Use Google Flights.
Man, Nick, you beat me to it! I’ve been eyeing this place for a while. Very good value
Wow, that looks incredible.
If in Vietnam, the Marriott in Hanoi is another nice sweet spot. 15,000 points/night when paid rooms are around @240/night. Not in the center of town, but taxis and ubers are cheap.
I was there 2 weeks ago and it was just jaw dropping. Big competition to the Intercontinental in Danang, and newer. Our experience at the spa, with a 2 hour full massage was just amazing. Service was impeccable all around, birthday cake included. Everything was great.
This hotel is excellent. Normally I’d be bored with the resorts quickly but this hotel made me not wanting to leave after 4 days of stay. Excellent value; the service is impeccable. It is a short flight from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
@Lukas, they overnighted the certificates. However, I didn’t have to show the certificates to the hotel.
Breakfast, free for Gold & Platinum members??? WOOOO-HOOOO!!!!!
Is this the shape of things to come? We just spent a week at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa and that’s the ONE THING that gripes us about Marriott Resorts…no free breakfast. Maybe the new VP will really fix that one issue…but do you have to cook your own eggs?
I know – I was surprised about free breakfast at a resort. Actually, I saw that they had free breakfast and the cocktail hour on Flyertalk before we arrived. It seems that for the time being, they are offering these benefits for all Golds and Platinums. They say that they may not do it forever, but it’ll be this way for the foreseeable future. Highly doubt that this is a sign of the way things are to be at other resorts. I think this is a very property-specific thing in this case. I think they’re aiming to wow people to create an impression. They succeeded with us. Breakfast was a two-hour ordeal every day.
Wow, I’m going to Vietnam in 3 days and don’t have a hotel room booked yet. How long does it take to get the certificate? I’m staying exactly 7 nights too 😀
The certificate is immediate. I redeemed for my certificate and booked my stay in the same phone call.
I booked mine last month for a week in November.
I didn’t have to get any kind of certificate in the mail. I booked it online and called to have the 7 night certificate applied to my booking. It was all very, very easy. The staff at the hotel were incredibly helpful as well. I’m sure you’d have no problem. Additionally, award nights seem very easy to come by because the place is almost empty right now. I doubt you’d regret your decision to stay at this place if you’re looking for a comfortable and interesting place to stay. Note that on property prices are more expensive than on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, but still very reasonable for a resort like this. For example, one Pho for dinner (plenty of food for the two of us) cost about $10 with tax and tip I believe. On the other end of the spectrum, some entrees were $40 or $50. I thought prices were surprisingly reasonable considering the fact that the resort is very cut off from the surrounding area. It wouldn’t be easy to just walk somewhere. Of course, you can get a taxi from the hotel into the nearby towns.
Do you mind sharing how you got to Vietnam? I assume this was a small part of a larger trip, so perhaps you didn’t fly directly to Vietnam?
I booked Cathay with Alaska miles to Saigon.
You’re right that it was part of a larger trip. Altogether, this is what my itinerary looked like:
EWR-MUC: Lufthansa Business Class
MUC-JNB-CPT: South African Business Class
JNB-MPM: South African Economy Class
MPM-JNB: South African Business Class
JNB-DXB-SIN-MEL: Emirates First Class
SYD-SIN: Singapore Suites
SIN-SGN-PQC-SGN-SIN: Vietnam Airlines Business Class
SIN-HKG-SFO: Singapore First Class
SJC-SEA-MSP: Alaska Airlines first class
And now I’m driving home from MSP — which is about a 19 hour drive :-).
For the Vietnam segment, I used Amex pay with points via the Amex Business Platinum. Economy class tickets were pretty cheap on that section (~$250) and flights are short, so most people would probably buy a ticket from Singapore. However, after the 50% points rebate, the cost is about 53,000 Membership Rewards points for 2 people round trip. I was happy with 26.5K each on that round trip to get a little extra comfort.
From the US, I would say you would probably fly into Ho Chih Minh on an award ticket and then buy a cheap ticket to Phu Quoc from there. It was about $40-$60 each way from Ho Chih Minh City to Phu Quoc. That might be easier than using miles on that last sector (especially because only a couple of carriers fly into Phu Quoc). It would also open up some other possibilities as almost everyone flies to Ho Chih Minh — you could do Korean, Singapore, Etihad (this would be 2 separate awards if using American Airlines miles), Emirates, etc. Lots of possibilities!
I was actually thinking that if someone isn’t interested in a companion pass, a good redemption of the hotel and flight packages would be for 7 nights and 120,000 Alaska miles. That would get you more than enough for round trip business class on Cathay, round trip business class on Korean, almost enough for round trip business class on Japan Airlines, or round trip business class on Hainan Airlines. Essentially, it gives you a lot of options.
Someone else may have an even better redemption in mind, but those are some ideas.
Thanks for the information! I was thinking JAL business SAN-NRT-SGN with Alaska miles, local carrier to Phu Quoc; then CX business SGN-ORD using AA miles, then home. Would just need positioning flights to make it work.
That property looks awesome! Like nothing I’ve ever see before for a hotel. Excellent photos and write-up, thank you!
The same architect designed the IC DaNang. Check it out. I would recommend staying there too. A great use of Chase free night certs and Ambassador free weekend night.
It is even better than it looks. We said repeatedly that we’d never seen anything like it…a destination in itself. It’s fun to just wander the grounds for hours. Glad you enjoyed the write up – thank you!
I went to Phu Quoc 2 years ago during a visit to Vietnam. You won’t regret it.