Back in May, I had written about my experience asking Marriott hotels to give me suite upgrades as a Titanium elite member. Different hotels around the world have different levels of generosity when it comes to upgrading their elite members – some proactively dole out upgrades to thank members for their loyalty, while others tend to be more stingy, choosing to withhold suite upgrades even when they’re available.
Therefore, as a Platinum Elite member or above within Marriott Bonvoy, what’s the only way to maximize your chances of getting the upgrades you’re entitled to? Well, you have to explicitly ask for them.
With my efforts in May paying off spectacularly in the form of some truly memorable suite upgrades, I continued to sweet talk my hotels through the Marriott app’s live chat on my July trip to Asia. Here are the results…
1. Westin Copley Place Boston: Studio Suite
First stop, Boston, where I was speaking at TravelCon 2019. With the Westin Copley Place Boston approaching full capacity thanks to the event, I wasn’t necessarily expecting an upgrade at all from my standard King Room, but I still took my chances by sending an inquiry over live chat a few days in advance.
The chat associate informed me that my request had been noted, and that they could “look into [their] availability to honour this request upon the day of arrival”.
Note that the terms and conditions of the Marriott Bonvoy program entitle you to suite upgrades upon check-in, so the fact that the hotel was willing to confirm a suite for me upon the day of arrival (so, potentially before I actually arrived at the hotel) was actually quite generous on their part.
Indeed, on the morning of my departure to Boston, I checked the app again and saw that my room type had been updated to a Studio Suite on the corner of the building.
Alas, the suite itself ended up being a little disappointing in terms of square footage, and even to call it a “junior suite” might be doing it a great kindness, since it’s pretty much just a standard room with a little more space. Nevertheless, I appreciated the hotel’s willingness to proactively upgrade a Titanium member even as it was near full capacity.
Result: Moderate success. I inquired about suite upgrades during a period of high occupancy, and my wish was granted, even though the suite itself wasn’t so impressive. I later got to visit the Executive Suites that some of my fellow TravelCon speakers were housed; looking back, I should’ve specifically asked for one of those higher-tier suites instead of vaguely asking about “higher category rooms or suites”.
2. St. Regis New York: Madison Suite
I had been looking forward to staying at the St. Regis New York for a long time, so I definitely wasn’t messing around when I asked opened up a dialogue with the hotel over live chat. I started out by asking whether the Fifth Avenue Suite and St. Regis Suite, which are the hotel’s second- and third-highest suite types with 1,100 and 1,050 square feet, respectively, were available for a complimentary Titanium upgrade.
(Remember, every hotel has their own hierarchy of suite types, and generally only hands out complimentary elite upgrades to a subset of those suite types. It’s therefore in your best interest to seek out which suites you’d like to be upgraded to, before asking about it over live chat.)
The answer came back in the negative: the St. Regis doesn’t give elite upgrades to neither the Fifth Avenue Suite nor the St. Regis Suite, instead offering me the option to pay for such an upgrade. Knowing that the upgrade price would probably contain more zeroes than I’d like to see, I instead asked about the Madison Suite, which was the hotel’s fourth-highest suite type…
…and was told that the Madison Suite can be granted if it’s available upon check-in. Excellent news!
Or so I thought, until I reached back out on the morning of my arrival to see how the availability of the Madison Suite was looking.
It turns out that my stay coincided with World Pride weekend in New York, so the hotel was at high occupancy and all the Madison Suites had been booked out. Darn.
With my hopes for the Madison Suite seemingly dashed, I decided to ask about the Astor Suite, which was yet another tier below. I’m sure the Astor would’ve been quite nice, but the promise of the Madison Suite had gotten me all excited, and now I was feeling just the slightest tinge of disappointment.
The story doesn’t end there, though – upon arriving at the St. Regis New York around 1pm, I was told that our room wasn’t ready yet, so we headed out to grab some lunch while we waited. At this point, I wasn’t even sure whether we had received the Astor Suite or not, because the front desk associate seemed to turn his nose up at our rather dishevelled appearance (you know how Greyhound rides can be…) and didn’t tell me much beyond “your room isn’t available yet”.
So Jessica and I went to grab some lunch at a nearby Sweetgreen. That’s when I checked the list of available rooms for the night one more time, and saw that the Madison Suite, which had previously disappeared off the list, had now reappeared!
I hit up live chat again, insisting that they double-check whether the Madison Suite was in fact available or not. After all, they had previously confirmed that the Madison Suite can be granted for Titanium members if it’s available, so I wasn’t about to let this one slip from my grasp.
Well, it looks like another guest had checked out of their Madison Suite early, thus making it ready for my arrival tonight! How satisfying it was when the mobile check-in page finally showed the Madison Suite as confirmed…
I would still have to wait several hours before the other guest completed their late checkout and the room was cleaned, but that wait was totally worthwhile when we opened the doors to our home for the night, a 975-square-feet residence with a separate living room, bedroom, and two bathrooms overlooking Madison Avenue that ordinarily retails for over US$2,500/night. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…
Result: Great success! After many rounds of persistent back-and-forth with the hotel, I was finally able to confirm an upgrade to the Madison Suite, which is the highest tier of suites that the St. Regis New York is willing to provide a complimentary upgrade for elite members.
3. The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto: Deluxe Kyoto Room
Before checking in to The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto for my three-night stay, I took a look at the list of available rooms, and saw that the Kita Suite and the Minami Suite were both available. Since the Minami Suite was the higher-category one, I decided to take my chances on that one.
The hotel replied with a pretty standard answer that my upgrade request had been noted, and that it would depend on availability upon check-in.
A similar response met my follow-up on the day of arrival, with the hotel saying they would inform me upon-check in, and giving no indication one way or another about how likely I would receive the suite.
Ritz-Carltons are known to be more stingy with elite benefits than other Marriott brands, so I had a feeling that I wouldn’t necessarily be granted my wish this time around. Indeed, when we arrived at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, the check-in associate informed me that “the Minami Suite wasn’t available, but I have been upgraded from my originally booked room category to a Deluxe Kyoto Room”.
Here’s the thing: I had looked at the app immediately before arriving at the hotel, and had seen that there was still at least one Minami Suite being sold for my three-night stay. So it was clear that the hotel simply didn’t want to give the upgrade, rather than all the suites actually being occupied.
At this point, I could’ve said something to the associate along the lines of “can you please double check if the Minami Suite is available, as I can see it on the app?”
But hey, maybe it was the late hour, maybe it was my immense fatigue from the jet lag, or maybe it was the fact that sticking to your guns feels a lot easier when you’re typing over live chat compared to when you’re basically looking someone in the eye and accusing them of lying to your face… but I thought better of it, and agreed to head to our Deluxe Kyoto Room for the in-room check-in procedure.
Thankfully, this Ritz-Carlton is a spectacular property that ranks among one of the best city hotels I’ve ever tried, so we were still very happy with our room and thoroughly enjoyed spending time in it despite not receiving a suite upgrade.
Result: Failure – the hotel simply didn’t want to upgrade me, and that’ll happen sometimes. In general, if I arrive at a hotel and they tell me I’ve been assigned a regular guest room without saying anything about suite upgrades, I’m comfortable asking them to check if any suites are available.
But if they acknowledge my request and insist that no suites are available, despite the Marriott app showing they are, then I tend to feel iffy about whether it’s worth pulling out my phone to “prove” that I ought to be upgraded. Yes, I’d only be asking for what I’m entitled to, but it’s never a fun conversation to have, and in this case I decided not to have it, and to be happy with what I had been given instead.
4. St. Regis Shenzhen: Allure Suite
The next hotel on our trip was the St. Regis Shenzhen, which is housed in the 75th to 100th floors of the towering KK100 building that dominates the city skyline. I was really looking forward to this hotel stay because I planned to have some family members over and show them the killer views of their city, and so I decided to apply a Suite Night Award to my stay.
After learning to ask for suite upgrades over chat, I now find that limited uses for Marriott Bonvoy’s Suite Night Awards (SNA), which you can choose, in batches of five SNAs each, as an Annual Choice Benefit upon achieving Platinum Elite status or Titanium Elite status every membership year.
To me, applying an SNA is basically the same as asking for a suite over live chat, with the main benefit being that the upgrade can be confirmed in advance up to five days before your arrival. Since I wanted to be extra-certain of getting a nice suite on this stay, I decided to burn one of my SNAs on an upgrade to the Allure Suite, which is the highest category of suites that can be selected using an SNA.
As I had expected, the upgrade cleared five days in advance, and I could see the Allure Suite confirmed on the mobile check-in page when it opened up.
I sent a few more messages to the hotel asking whether any higher-tier upgrades could be granted on top of the existing upgrade, but was told that the Allure Suite is the highest that they go for complimentary elite upgrades.
That was no problem, though, because the Allure Suite is one of the St. Regis Shenzhen’s distinctive multi-level duplex suites, with a staircase connecting the living room on the 76th floor to the living room on the 77th. Needless to say, my baby cousins had an awesome time exploring every corner of the suite!
Result: Success. By using a Suite Night Award, I was able to confirm an upgrade to the Allure Suite five days in advance, which treated myself and my family members to a memorable get-together in Shenzhen. If I had simply asked over live chat, I probably would’ve gotten the Allure Suite anyway, but the benefit of the SNA is the peace of mind in knowing you’ll get a nice suite when you really need one.
5. Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh: Executive Room
We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in Phnom Penh, which was the only Marriott hotel in town. Ordinarily, I feel pretty indifferent about Courtyards, so even though I sent a message asking about the Courtyard Suite (the only suite available at the hotel), I didn’t feel too strongly one way or another.
The hotel initially said that the Courtyard Suite is occupied, although I shot back a reply that I could in fact see that the suite was available for my dates using the Marriott app. At this point, I was informed that the guest who was occupying the Courtyard Suite would be checking out later that day, and the room may not be ready for my arrival at around 3pm.
At this point, I could’ve said something along the lines of “I’m happy to wait for the suite to be available later in the day” – indeed, this line has worked well for me on previous occasions, most recently at the St. Regis New York.
But to be honest, I didn’t really care about whether or not I got a suite here at the Courtyard, especially since its size of 575 square feet wasn’t much greater than the 450-square-foot Executive Room I had already been assigned.
So when I arrived at the hotel and was handed the keys to the Executive Room, I happily took them and checked-in to my room immediately – there was no need to wait around in the bar for a slightly larger suite when I could be spending that time exploring Phnom Penh instead.
Result: Failure… I guess? On paper, the hotel denied my request for a suite, but would’ve most likely granted it had I pushed for it further, which I didn’t out of sheer indifference. In the end, the Executive Room was more than fit for our needs – indeed, I was very impressed by the Courtyard Phnom Penh overall, which was modern, well-appointed, and far above the standard set by my previous Courtyard stays.
Bonus: Park Hyatt Siem Reap
When I had originally written about this trip, I hadn’t yet decided where to stay in Cambodia, so here’s a brief update.
Whereas I settled on the Marriott-branded property in Phnom Penh, in Siem Reap I decided to take a chance on a different brand for once. I booked the Park Hyatt Siem Reap via an excellent Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts rate on of US$140 per night.
Since I don’t have any status with Hyatt, ordinarily I’d receive the base-level Park King room. However, as a perk of booking through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, I’m entitled to a room upgrade upon check-in subject to availability, so I was curious to see what type of room I’d receive.
Upon arriving at the Park Hyatt, I was told that “as thanks for being a Hyatt member and for booking through American Express”, I’d be upgraded to a Park View Room, which is basically the same room but with nicer views of the central courtyard, rather than the busy Siem Reap streets. Since the program doesn’t necessarily entitle me to suite upgrades but rather any type of room upgrade, I was more than happy to take this one.
How was the Park Hyatt, by the way? Very, very good.
In addition to the room upgrade, daily breakfast for two, and 4pm late checkout, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts also entitled us to a US$100 food and beverage credit, as well as a complimentary three-course Khmer-inspired lunch or dinner at the hotel, which is a fantastic set of benefits for a US$140 nightly rate.
While I’m not about to start giving Hyatt hotels all of my business, I’m certain this won’t be the last time I book a Park Hyatt stay through American Express.
There are quite a few subtleties in the art of obtaining nice suite upgrades at hotels, many of which you can only pick up when you start doing it yourself. Although the suite upgrades on my July trip perhaps weren’t doled out as generously as they were back in May, I still increased my odds of receiving one simply by proactively asking over live chat. As you can see, between using the chat, asking upon check-in, and deploying Suite Night Awards, there are quite a few ways you can achieve a memorable suite upgrade for your next stay with a Marriott hotel.