T.J. and I needed a two-night hotel stay for our trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and thanks to T.J.’s job at a travel agency – one of his many pursuits when he’s not jetting around the world or writing for Prince of Travel – he had been keeping an eye on the travel agency rates at Marriott hotels in downtown NOLA for a little while leading up to our trip.
The nature of travel agency rates is that availability can come and go at a moment’s notice, but when there are rates available, they tend to be spectacular. Indeed, when we noticed that the JW Marriott New Orleans was bookable at the travel agency rate of US$118/night, we did not hesitate in making the booking.
Damn, I really need to travel with T.J. more often!
New Orleans has no shortage of brand-name hotels, but since both T.J. and I are avid fans of the JW Marriott brand, we decided we couldn’t go wrong with such an attractive rate, especially when compared to the standard rates of US$200+ and the inflated Category 6 pricing of 50,000 Bonvoy points per night when redeeming points for a free night.
(In case you’re wondering, the travel agency rates are only bookable via a dedicated portal for travel agents on the Marriott website, and proof of eligibility is usually requested upon check-in as a standard procedure.)
In This Post
JW Marriott New Orleans – Location & Arrival
The JW Marriott is located on Canal Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares and just around the corner from Bourbon Street, where the majority of Mardi Gras festivities would take place. We thought the location would be a nice balance in terms of the proximity to the action, but also not too close that we’d be disturbed well into the night.
After landing at New Orleans’s Louis Armstrong International Airport, we took a Lyft to the hotel for about US$30, although a portion of that fare was a waiting fee for when we stopped at a New Orleans Original Daiquiri for a tropical pick-me-up just off the airport road.
The Lyft dropped us off at the back-entrance on Canal Street, which is also where you’ll find the hotel’s Fogo de Chão Brazilian steakhouse.
Meanwhile, the main entrance – which is grander, but less convenient – is located around the corner, on Common Street.
JW Marriott New Orleans – Check-in
T.J. handled the check-in process upon our arrival at the hotel. The front desk confirmed our reservation and advised him that he’d enjoy Platinum Elite benefits like free breakfast and executive lounge access throughout our stay.
Indeed, in T.J.’s experience, Marriott Bonvoy elite benefits, points, and nights have mostly been honoured when he uses the travel agent rate, even though they’re technically not supposed to be granted on these special rates by the terms and conditions.
(Interestingly, there was no verification of T.J.’s eligibility for the travel agency rate in this instance, but it’s my understanding that this is the exception rather than the rule.)
However, despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to secure a suite upgrade for our two-night stay because of how busy the hotel was during the Mardi Gras period. Perhaps we would’ve had better luck if my name, as a Titanium Elite member, had been on the reservation instead. 😉
We were also each issued a wristband with “JW Marriott” emblazoned on it, which we were encourage to wear when entering and exiting the hotel during Mardi Gras. Like most other hotels in the city during the busiest time of year, the JW Marriott employs a rather strict team of “bouncers” at both doors to inspect guests’ wristbands, in order to keep some of the rowdier elements of the Mardi Gras crowd from entering the property.
With that, we were given our keys to head up to Room 1716, a Corner King Room with views of the city on the 17th floor.
JW Marriott New Orleans – Corner King Room
The guest room hallways were elegant and visually pleasing in their JW Marriott brand colours of cream and anthracite. It’s my understanding that this is one of the more recently renovated JW Marriotts as well, which usually never disappoint in terms of the aesthetics.
The Corner King Room wasn’t too exciting, but would suffice for our two-night stay in which we’d only spend minimal time in the hotel room.
Unfortunately, there were no rooms available with two queen beds on the travel agency rate, so T.J. and I were in for two bro-mantic evenings.
The king bed matched the same near-perfect level of comfort that I’ve had at other JW Marriott hotels, giving us some much-needed respite in between long hours of inebriation during our time in town.
The hotel provides guests with complimentary earplugs during the Mardi Gras celebrations, although we didn’t really need them here on the 17th floor of the JW Marriott. I suppose it’d be a different story if we were staying at the Four Points by Sheraton right on Bourbon Street!
Opposite the bed was the television and a marble desk, where I managed to sneak in a brief work session or two over the course of the trip.
The bathroom was quite well-appointed in spite of its smaller size, consisting of a sink, toilet, and shower.
I appreciated the gorgeous marble finish on the shower, as well as the locally-inspired artwork on display, including a designer map showing the distinctive meander of the Mississippi River around the city centre.
The room also provided some decent views over the streets and buildings of Bourbon Street, allowing us to watch the Mardi Gras parades and floats from up high if we wished.
It’s worth noting that the front desk associate had talked up the room as having a “river view”, but in reality, there was only an embarrassingly small slice of the Mississippi River visible between two buildings… see if you can spot it!
JW Marriott New Orleans – Breakfast
In terms of the rest of the hotel, the limited amount of time that T.J. and I did spend on the premises was mostly quite enjoyable.
As Platinum Elite members, we were treated to complimentary breakfast in the mornings, which was hosted in a conference room rather than the restaurant due to the high occupancy at this time of year.
Alas, as is the case with most hotel breakfasts across North America, the spread was rather basic: pastries, hard-boiled eggs, fruits, and cold cuts comprised the cold spread, while the hot items were largely limited to some tepid scrambled eggs and a few strips of meat.
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My favourite breakfast dish was the Southern-style grits. This was actually my first time trying grits, and I quite liked the JW Marriott’s particularly buttery interpretation of it.
Sure, I could feel my arteries clogging with every bite, but this trip was already full of poboys, charbroiled oysters, and fried chicken, so why stop now?
JW Marriott New Orleans – Executive Lounge
Then we also stopped by the ground-floor Executive Lounge a few times, including during the evening hors d’oeuvres.
The spread here was a little more plentiful, including salad dishes, charcuterie, soup, and a rotating selection of locally-inspired hot items like jambalaya or beans and rice.
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Since you could help yourself to unlimited portions, you could conceivably eat an entire dinner here in the lounge, but that’d be a bit of a shame considering the wealth of gastronomic delights that New Orleans offers right outside the hotel. T.J. and I stopped by for some snacks in the afternoon, but only as a prelude to the feasting that would take place later on.
In addition to the food, I was quite impressed with the rest of the Executive Lounge, which I thought was quite large and well-appointed compared to other hotel lounges I’ve been to across North America (generally, I tend to have lower expectations for North American hotels than, say, in Asia or the Middle East).
The downstairs section consisted of the dining area and a small nook with a television for guests to relax, while the upstairs consisted of additional seating and even a pool table!
As is commonly seen across the US and Canada, the lounge operated an honour bar, where you’re supposed to get a lounge attendant’s help in charging the cost of your drink the room.
While the selection looked decent (peep that fancy wine cooler), T.J. and I agreed that daiquiris and beers on Bourbon Street would be a lot more fun than paying US$14 for a drink at the hotel.
JW Marriott New Orleans – Other Facilities
Between all the eating and drinking in New Orleans, I thought it was important to slot in at least one visit to the hotel gym.
The hotel’s fitness centre and pool are located on the sixth floor. The gym was a good size, and even though the variety of fitness equipment didn’t go beyond the basics, it allowed me to work up enough of a sweat to make me feel less guilty about the two-piece combo at Willie’s Chicken Shack across the street that evening.
Meanwhile, the hotel also operates an outdoor saltwater pool, where T.J. had gone for a dip on our first day and said that it made for a refreshing swim. With no poolside service and some not-so-sunny weather this afternoon, though, I myself didn’t really feel like using the pool beyond stopping by to take a picture.
Finally, while we didn’t really spend time there, I did appreciate the ambience of the lobby bar and lounge, with its old-school decor and split-level seating zones.
On another occasion, if there weren’t already a huge party going on in the streets outside, the bar might’ve seemed like a nice quiet place for a drink in the evenings.
The JW Marriott New Orleans was yet another uplifting installment in my series of very satisfying stays at JW Marriott hotels around the world. While it would’ve been nice to receive a suite upgrade, I thought the Corner King Room served our needs well, and the Executive Lounge was also an impressive space compared to its peers around the continent. The hotel wasn’t over-the-top flashy or extravagant in any way, but then again, JW Marriotts rarely are.
The hotel also excels in terms of its location, as it’s a short five-minute walk to the heart of the action on Bourbon Street and surrounded by dozens of restaurants and retail outlets that will offer you all the delicious Southern fare you’re craving.
Nevertheless, I’d stop short of enthusiastically recommending the hotel due to the value proposition: while our travel agency of US$118 per night was unbeatable, I’m not sure if I would’ve been happy paying the significantly higher Mardi Gras rate, and certainly not the points rate of 50,000 Bonvoy points per night. New Orleans has a very wide selection of mid-to-upper-range hotels to choose from, so I’d definitely recommend shopping around, especially since you aren’t likely to spend most of your time in the hotel anyway.
I’ll likely return to the city for TravelCon 2021 next year, and while I wouldn’t mind a repeat stay at the JW Marriott, I’m keeping my options open for that exact reason.