No doubt some of you are looking for family-friendly getaways close to home this summer given the current travel advisories and restrictions. But even then, there are probably still a lot of safety concerns that are crossing your mind.
This past weekend, I had the chance to go to the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, and so I thought I’d share my experience there to give you an idea of what hotels are doing in the COVID-19 era of travel.
In This Post
- Location & Booking
- One-Bedroom Suite
- COVID-19 Practices
- Swimming & Activities
- Breakfast & Dining
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka – Location & Booking
The resort is located in Muskoka, on the shores of Lake Rosseau, about a 2.5-hour drive from Toronto. It’s probably one of the most luxurious resorts in Ontario.
The resort was closed for a period after COVID-19 hit, but it reopened on June 1, 2020. Initially, I had no plans to go – it was a two-hour drive for me to get there, and given that it had just reopened, I wasn’t sure what, if any, amenities would be available. My parents, however, were eager and booked a room for the end of June.
A week prior to their travels, I caved. Having had a few travel plans cancelled due to COVID-19, my whole family had been itching to get out of the house and go somewhere. For the kids, I knew the biggest attraction for them would be the pool and beach, so I called to make sure these were open, and sure enough, they were.
I had checked the rates maybe a month earlier, and they were sitting at just under $350. When I checked now, their lowest priced room with occupancy for four guests – a Studio King with sofa bed – was going for $681.24 for one night! This was after taxes and fees and their mandatory $49 resort fee (or $39 if you travel November to April).
Thankfully, as a member of the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program, I had another option. I could redeem 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the night, and only pay the $49 resort fee. If you refer to Prince of Travel’s points valuations, you will see that this represents a decent redemption, as I was getting higher than 0.9 cents per point (cpp) in value.
Now, keep in mind that we are a family of five, but the room I booked technically only accommodated up to four guests. I could have booked a one-bedroom suite to accommodate all of us, but I was hoping to score an upgrade to a suite with my Marriott Bonvoy elite status. This being my fourth time going to the resort, I can say that we have been pretty lucky with upgrades; only once was an upgrade not available, and even then, the staff did not gave us any trouble in having a fifth person in a studio room.
Your mileage my vary here, as my kids are still relatively young (the eldest is nine years old); trying to squeeze three grownup children into a studio with you and your partner might raise more eyebrows.
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka – Arrival
When we arrived, we noticed right away that the hotel staff were all wearing face masks. At check-in, we were advised that we had been upgraded to a lake view room.
We kindly asked if there was a suite available, and he advised us that yes, he could accommodate us in one. He tried to convince us that a lake view would be nicer, but we declined. (Yes, lake view is nice, but I can enjoy that from outside on the resort’s patio or the beach!)
Family tip: Whenever there is an option for upgrades, we opt for suites. For one, they are typically larger than standard rooms and the extra space is great for the kids to spread out. When you also have strollers and luggage in tow, you’re not left wondering where to fit it all either.
The other benefit of suites is that they typically have a separate bedroom area and sitting area, which can be converted into what’s basically a second bedroom if there is a sofa bed. If your kids are older, this allows you to keep the kids in one room, while the adults take the bedroom and have a quieter retreat to themselves in the evenings. Or if you have a baby who probably needs naps and has an earlier bedtime than the rest, it allows them to sleep in one room undisturbed, while the rest of the family can play a game or eat or watch a movie together in the other.
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka – One-Bedroom Suite
Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived at noon, so we went for a swim and then headed up to the room in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, I forgot to grab pictures of the room itself for the review (new writer mistake!), so here are a few pictures of the One-Bedroom Suite from the hotel’s website.
The one bedroom suite was plenty of room for the five of us. My husband and I took the bedroom and the kids took the sofa bed. My kids are younger, so all three of them could fit. For families with older kids, you can request an extra rollaway bed for a $30 fee. We enjoyed this setup as it allowed us to watch some Netflix while the kids slept peacefully in the living room.
Every room at the JW Marriott Muskoka has a kitchenette with a mini fridge, microwave, and stovetop. What was different this time, however, was the stickers stuck on cabinets and drawers showing that all cutlery and dinnerware had been cleaned prior to arrival.
The room comes with a small dining set, which was perfect for in-room dining, and allowed us to save on the cost of breakfast as we could cook breakfast ourselves and comfortably eat it there (see below for a discussion of the JW Marriott Muskoka’s treatment of the elite breakfast benefit during COVID-19).
However, we did notice that the hotel stocked fewer items in the kitchen than in the past. There was your basic dinnerware, cutlery and pots and pans, but no additional bowls and dishes. No tea and coffee were left in the room, but you could request it through housekeeping.
Staff members were not allowed to come into our room, so that meant no housekeeping service. If in need of a change of towels, you could call housekeeping to deliver new ones and take the old ones. We did call on housekeeping once, and the staff member came with his mask and gloves on, and with what we requested in a clear plastic bag.
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka – COVID-19 Practices
When I asked about the hotel’s occupancy, I was advised that they were surprisingly close to 50% capacity, and as per current local restrictions, they are only permitted to book slightly over 50%. It looks like we were not the only ones eager to travel locally!
But walking into the lobby of the resort, we wouldn’t have known it was that busy, as there was not a single person in sight! It felt strangely quiet and empty.
On one side of the foyer was the concierge desk, and on the other side, the old check-in desk. There was one staff member at each desk, and plexiglass was erected at both counters. Hand sanitizer was available on either side.
There were arrows on the ground directing traffic and by the elevators encouraging social distancing, while the furniture was spread out and some areas were roped off.
If you have any additional questions about Marriott’s hygiene practices as a brand, you can read about their Commitment to Clean protocols. In general, I’d say that the resort appeared to be abiding by them. The only thing we didn’t have were wipes in the room.
One more thing I will note is that although the staff were in masks, I did not see a single guest wearing one! Perhaps this will change, given that Toronto has just made masks mandatory indoors as of last week. Luckily, because we were mainly outdoors and the hotel wasn’t at full occupancy, this wasn’t too much of an issue as all guests were able to practice social distancing.
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka – Swimming & Activities
Pre-pandemic, the resort offered plenty of water play options for a family. There were three separate pools (an indoor/outdoor pool, a spa pool, and the Paignton House outdoor pool), a whirlpool, a splash pad for younger kids, and a sand beach. Currently, however, only the beach and indoor/outdoor pool are open, although I was told the other options are set to open soon.
We opted for the indoor/outdoor pool. At the entrance to the pool, there was a staff member who was handing out towels and assigning lounge chairs on a first come, first serve basis. She had a whiteboard with a numbered layout of all the lounge chairs and marked them off as they were assigned. Once all chairs were taken, no other guests would be permitted.
To give you an idea, there were about 40 lounge chairs, all spread out in pairs around the pool to respect social distancing. Interestingly, this doesn’t necessarily mean only 40 people are permitted, as they assigned our family of five only two lounge chairs.
By the docks, there’s a small sand beach with tents and lounge chairs spread out along it. The tents are assigned in a similar manner as those by the pool. Perhaps half the tents were full when we were there, and this was on a beautiful, sunny day. It was great for us and the kids – plenty of space to play.
Although the pool was open, the gym was not, and there is currently no set date for its reopening. The spa is scheduled to be reopening soon.
In terms of other activities, the JW Marriott Muskoka has a daily schedule of family-friendly activities, like scavenger hunts, painting your own paddle, etc. Some activities require a fee.
Complimentary activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, and hiking trails were also available, whereas other water activities had a fee.
We went on a boat tour, which cost $335 for a group of 10. The tour lasted one hour and took us around Lake Rosseau, pointing out some noteworthy lakeside properties. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was refreshing and the kids enjoyed it.
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka – Breakfast & Dining
Normally, free breakfast is a welcome amenity offered to Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, and Ambassador Elite members at all JW Marriotts within Canada. However, this was not an option during our stay, given that all Marriott elite benefit guarantees are suspended until September 15.
The free option had been a buffet breakfast previously, and restrictions didn’t allow them to continue this. And while the hotel was still serving breakfast via room service and à la carte on their patio, elite members are unfortunately not entitled to this as their amenity option. Instead, elites are offered 1,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as their choice benefit.
Aside from takeout and room service, you could dine at one of two venues: Cottages on their main patio, and The Deck, which served more casual fare by the dock.
We dined at the Cottages for dinner. The restaurant did not take reservations, but surprisingly, there was no wait. In fact, when we got there around 6pm, there were only two other tables seated out of the 14 tables on the patio, and by the time we finished, only a few more tables were seated.
All servers had masks and gloves on, and the menus for dinner were printed on individual sheets of paper and disposed after use. The menu was limited, but had adequate variety, including a kids menu.
The hotel has another two restaurants on site, which were closed at the moment: Teca, an Italian restaurant, and the Muskoka Chophouse. Meanwhile, their small market cafe that serves sandwiches and quick bites was open, but only on weekends.
If none of these options suit you, there are restaurants nearby offering takeout. You can also bring groceries and cook yourself, given that each suite has a kitchenette as I mentioned above.
If you are looking for a luxurious, laid back, low-key family getaway in Ontario, this is it. Even though not all the amenities are available at the moment, there is plenty to do to keep a family entertained for two or three nights.
The restriction to a maximum occupancy rate of just over 50% makes complying with social distancing measures a lot easier, and it also means that the hotel is a lot quieter and more peaceful than it normally would be at this time of year, although this could of course change if the local restrictions are lifted.
If you look at the availability calendar, demand appears to be high, as many weekend dates are only showing the more expensive room categories available. Even a regular Studio King Room will cost over $500 a night right now, making a reward redemption a much better option. While some of you still might not be ready to travel even locally at this point, the JW Marriott Muskoka is a great option for those who are ready and itching for a short getaway.