As some of you know, I’m a huge Disney fan, and when the opportunity came to finally travel again, I booked our first trip back to Anaheim to visit Disneyland after a long two-year hiatus.
When looking to book accommodations, I settled on what looked to be an amazing new hotel near Disneyland: the JW Marriott Anaheim.
I’m a big fan of JWs because of their consistent record of excellence, great service, and above average lounges, so I was really looking forward to experiencing one of the newest hotels in the JW family.
JW Marriott Anaheim – Booking
The JW Marriott Anaheim is considered a Category 7 hotel because of its name brand, but also because of its proximity to Disneyland.
Consider that the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance is a Category 7, and the Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center is a Category 6, and you start to understand that no matter the hotel’s brand in Anaheim, location largely dictates the category and pricing of the hotel.
As with most of my hotel stays, this was a five-night points redemption; with Marriott’s generous Fifth Night Free benefit, the grand total for our five-night stay was 260,000 Bonvoy points.
If we had chosen to pay with cash, the cost of the hotel would have been $1,285.55 including taxes, meaning that we redeemed at approximately 0.5 cents per point (cpp) – not a spectacular redemption by any means, but passable in my books.
As someone that’s sitting on a large volume of Bonvoy points through some high-volume grocery purchases in the past, I felt and still feel that I would rather spend the points that I have accumulated rather than use a large outlay of cash.
There’s a certain freedom that comes with having a large tranche of points, and while I agree that redemptions like this one are borderline, they still feel better to me than using cash.
JW Marriott Anaheim – Location
When Disneyland is your destination, the most important decision you’re likely to make is your accommodations (specifically the location of your accommodations) – after all, Disneyland costs a pretty penny. With a one-day visit setting you back up to US$154 per person, you want to be sure that you are able to easily access the park without much delay.
With the location of the JW Marriott being a fairly quick 12–15 minute walk from the hotel, it is ideally suited to be your home base for a trip to Disneyland.
Another great benefit of the hotel’s location is that it is essentially across the street from the Toy Story Lot, which serves as the parking facility for Disneyland. This means that you can take a 3-minute stroll to the lot and catch a free bus that takes you directly to the Disneyland gates.
Another added bonus of using the Disneyland buses in the morning is that you go through the Disney security gauntlet at the parking lot and are dropped off in a secure part of the park, so you don’t have to wait in the security line at the park – a real time saver.
The JW is also connected to the Anaheim Garden Walk, which is an outdoor mall that boasts some mid-range eats such as the Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s, as well as some artisan shops that can help pass the time.
In general, the location is excellent and actually affords some views of Disneyland’s California Adventure from certain rooms, including ours.
JW Marriott Anaheim – Check-in
The JW Marriott Anaheim’s check-in desk is located on the second floor of the hotel. I must admit that the main floor is beautiful, with the decor made up of wood, marble, and stunning glass chandeliers.
We arrived at the JW Marriott at about 12:30pm in hopes that we might be able to check in early. In my previous experiences, most Marriott hotels have been able to accommodate an early check-in, especially if you show up after noon – in fact, I’ve had the JW Marriott Essex House in Manhattan give us a suite at 7am before.
Unfortunately, the JW Marriott Anaheim did not have our room ready, so we were asked to leave our phone number so they could call us when it was.
One peculiar thing that was mentioned during check-in was that turndown service would not be provided unless we made a specific request each day as we left the hotel. I didn’t think too much of it, but it was an early red flag that I should have picked up.
After about an hour, we received a phone call to inform us that our room was ready, and as we got back to the front desk, we were informed that we were in Room 740 – a standard room with two queen beds.
JW Marriott Anaheim – Two Queen Room
I apologize in advance, as I didn’t take many photos of the room because I didn’t think I would be doing a review, having just joined the Prince of Travel team recently. What I can share are some brand photos of the (very) standard room.
When we arrived into the room, the first thing that we noticed was that the TV was not working. Once you turned it on, an error message appeared, so we called down to the front desk to have it addressed.
Within 10 minutes, someone from the maintenance team was up to the room and reset the television. He explained that sometimes the TVs download new firmware and don’t go through the proper restart sequence – understandable. After a few button presses and some fiddling with something behind the TV, we were up and running again.
To be very honest, the room was nothing special and certainly nothing to write home about. It was neither great nor bad – it just was.
JW Marriott Anaheim – Breakfast
The JW Executive Lounge was closed when we were there, so we were offered breakfast at Tocca Ferro, the restaurant on the lobby floor.
The breakfast was again very average with your standard eggs, bacon, sausage, french bread, and yogurt and fresh fruit station.
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We saw a family of two grandparents and two grandchildren sit down at the restaurant to inquire about the cost of breakfast. They were told it was US$33 per adult and US$25 for children – US$116 for breakfast for a family of four is exorbitant at the best of times, but for a breakfast of this calibre? Outrageous.
If you needed more proof, this is what my wife and I would have paid, had I not had status.
JW Marriott Anaheim – Service
Here’s where the JW fell down, and fell down hard.
Before I begin, I want to say that I understand that tourism is just coming back on stream in a lot of places, and there have been well documented struggles for hotels and other hospitality based services to get staffed up, so I really do understand the circumstances.
Taking all that into consideration, there were so many times that the staff at the JW simply failed. Here were some of the bigger issues:
- My wife had made an online purchase from Athleta that was due to arrive at the hotel. Due to inventory, the order had to be split into two orders, the first of which arrived prior to our check-in.
When we checked in, I was told by the front desk staff that they would have someone bring up the package. After waiting for about an hour with no package or update, I called down to the front desk. They apologized and said that they were still trying to locate the package.
We went out to Downtown Disney for about four hours, and when we returned, there was no package and no update. They had seemingly lost our package but said they would continue searching.
- I had forgotten to tell the front desk that we wanted turndown service after our first day, so when we got back from the park in the afternoon, our room was not cleaned. That was on me for not asking for turndown service. (By the way, this is the first time I have ever been asked to specifically ask for turndown service in my life.)
To rectify that, I called down to the front desk and asked them to note that we wanted turndown service for the remainder of the stay, but asked for towels to be brought up immediately. The said they would have someone bring up the towels within five minutes.
After 1.5 hours, there were still no towels. I took a shower and dried off with a face cloth – that was fun and made me feel like a giant (keeping it positive). At this time, I wanted to be doubly sure that we had officially requested turndown service, so I sent a message to the front desk using the Marriott app, and the person answering indicated that the request was noted on our file.
- On Day 3, we went to the park and when we came back in the afternoon, the room was still not turned down. At this point, I called down and asked to speak to a manager. I explained that the JW had lost our package, had not brought up towels, and we had not had our room turned down in three days.
The manager apologized profusely and said that that he would personally ensure that housekeeping made up the room for the remainder of our stay. He also took it upon himself to go and find the missing package, which he did. He delivered the package to the room himself, and gave us a US$100 credit for our troubles. I hoped that was the end of our troubles but alas, it was not.
At this point, after making three requests (one to the front desk, one via chat in the Marriott app, and one to a manager), I thought that there was no way they could possibly drop any more balls.
On Day 4, the second package arrived to the hotel, and despite my wife asking the front desk to keep an eye out for it and a message to the team via the Marriott app to have it brought to our room, the package was nowhere to be found when we returned from the park in the afternoon. When we asked the front desk for it, they apologized and said it would be sent up right away.
In addition to the missing package, our room had still not been cleaned. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 0/3 on turndown service so far.
We decided to go to the pool to cool down after a hot day at the park, and I stopped off at the ice machine to grab a cup of ice.
I assume that many guests were having issues with their rooms being cleaned, because when I went into the ice machine room, I noticed garbage left beside the machine. There was a mix of garbage and food waste in the bag, and to add to the fun, the bag had a smell about it.
This put me over the edge, and as my wife and daughter went to the pool, I Karen’d it up and demanded to speak to a manager.
I explained the situation to the Assistant Guest Services Manager, Danu, and she was appalled by experience we had. To make up for it, she offered 50,000 Bonvoy points in compensation and a complimentary night.
(As this was a points redemption, I wanted to be sure that the complimentary night didn’t just replace the Fifth Night Free that Marriott Bonvoy provides on points redemptions, and advised her that the complimentary night should result in a return of 65,000 points.)
Danu also promised that housekeeping would turn down our room tomorrow and that she would track down the package and hand-deliver it to us while we were at the pool. She managed to find the package, and I received the 50,000 points the next day in my account. I am still awaiting the 65,000-point refund 2.5 weeks after we checked out.
On the fourth day, when we returned from the park, the room was still not turned down, but after a few minutes, we heard a knock on the door – it was housekeeping. We asked for five minutes to get changed and headed down to the pool. We spent about 1.5 hours at the pool, and when we returned, the room was NOT cleaned – but someone had brought up towels, as if to say, “Sorry we didn’t clean your room but look, towels!”.
I looked around the room for camera crews in the event that I was on the ABC show, What Would You Do?
I honestly thought I was being punked. Could service really be this bad?
At this point, it was just starting to get funny – and when I went to get more ice, I actually laughed out loud.
With us checking out the next day, the JW was batting 100% on no turndown service. That’s something I have never experienced before.
I know that was a lot to read, so I’ll leave a “tl;dr”:
- Turndown Service: 0/5
- New Towels: 1/5
- Garbage in Ice Room: 2/5
JW Marriott Anaheim – Other Facilities
We spent a good amount of time at the pool at the JW Marriott Anaheim, and I have to admit that it was pretty nice, though like the rest of the hotel, the service was very sub-par.
In the four days that we were at the pool, we were asked a grand total of two times if we would like any food or drinks. While we were at the pool, I did notice a father and son order food that took about an hour to get out to them, so I guess I’m glad I didn’t order anything, as it would have likely added to my already high frustration levels.
I should also note that for a new JW Marriott, the cushions on the loungers were incredibly dirty and well-soiled, not something that you would expect at a hotel under this brand. I found myself always laying out towels anywhere I sat or lay down due to the numerous stains of unknown origin.
I’ve grown to love and trust the JW Marriott brand, almost to a fault. If I’m being honest, I probably do a little less research than I should and almost automatically book when presented with the JW brand.
The JW Marriott Anaheim has made me realize the error of my ways, because quite clearly, there are some JWs that just don’t live up to the brand. I wanted very much to love this hotel – it combined my two loves, Disney and JWs – but the stay was a straight-up disaster.
The only saving grace is that I recouped US$100 and 50,000 Bonvoy points thus far, and expect to receive a further 65,000 Bonvoy points in compensation.
If you are headed to Disneyland in California, I would suggest looking elsewhere unless they have somehow managed to overcome their serious service issues.