If you’ve been keeping up my trips around the world this year, you’ll know that I’ve made it a habit to consistently chat with the front desk at Marriott hotels using the Marriott app in advance of my stay in order to maximize my chances at getting a suite upgrade as a Marriott Bonvoy elite member.
Why is this important? Well, even though Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador members are entitled to suite upgrades by the terms of the program, many hotels would rather keep their suites available in case some high roller shows up later in the day and books it with cash, and so they won’t proactively upgrade you to their suites unless you ask them to.
While I always recommend emailing your hotel in advance to strike up a good rapport and put in any special requests, the reason I recommend the chat app for asking for suites is that it’s a less formal and more personable form of communication, meaning that the hotel is less likely to respond with a boilerplate message like “your request has been noted and will be subject to availability upon check-in”.
Meanwhile, you can of course also ask for suites in-person upon arriving at the hotel, but using the chat app gives the hotel ample time to look at their suite inventory and see if they are able to accommodate you; furthermore, with the chat app, I also find it just a little bit easier to put in my rather audacious requests for top-tier suites without coming across as a bit of an entitled brat. 😉
So, after Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Marriott suite upgrade diaries earlier this year, how have my efforts turned out along my most recent round-the-world trip, and what new things have I learned this time?
1. JW Marriott Cancún Resort & Spa: Caribbean Suite
In the past, I’ve usually casually reached out to a hotel in advance of my stay simply to ask for “a suite upgrade”. But this time, I wanted to see just how much generosity I could get the hotels to extend me by asking for not just any suite upgrade, but an upgrade to the largest, most expensive suite possible.
Before reaching out to the JW Marriott Cancún, then, I first did my homework by pulling up the list of rooms that were available at the hotel for the date of my stay, and I was delighted to see that the hotel was still selling all of their suites on that night.
Now, one thing I’ve observed is that many hotels will have a single Presidential Suite or something equivalent to that, which is gigantic beyond anyone’s actual needs (think 3,000+ square feet) and priced at obscene levels to match (think $5,000+/night).
While it would certainly be lots of fun to get upgraded to a Presidential Suite, I’m not sure that a complimentary upgrade to a $5,000+/night suite as a Titanium member is actually a credible request, so in general I tend to focus more on the second- and third-highest suite types, which seem like much more realistic suites to ask for as an elite upgrade.
That’s what I did here at the JW Marriott Cancún, where I first inquired whether the second-highest Grand Ocean View Suite might be available for a Titanium upgrade.
Alas, that was met with a response that the Grand Ocean View Suite is not part of the pool of suites for complimentary elite upgrades. But I then responded to ask about the Caribbean Suite – after all, I had the feeling that the hotel ideally wouldn’t want to say “no” to a valued Titanium member twice in quick succession.
Indeed, the chat agent replied by saying that they’d leave a note on the reservation to upgrade to the Caribbean Suite based on availability at the time of check-in.
There’s one key benefit in reaching out to the hotel as soon as the chat window opens (usually around two days before your stay): if your suite upgrade isn’t granted immediately (which it usually won’t be), you can always reach out again on the morning of your arrival just to check on the status of your request and gently remind the hotel that you would really, really like to be upgraded to your desired suite.
That’s exactly what I did just before getting on my flight to Cancún, with the hotel replying by saying they will do their best to honour my request…
…and by the time I landed in Mexico, I could see that my room type had already been updated!
Interestingly, upon checking in to the JW Marriott, the front desk associate mentioned to me, “As a resort property, we don’t usually provide complimentary upgrades to this suite, but we made an exception for you this time.”
One has to wonder whether simply asking nicely for a suite upgrade might incentivize your hotel to “make an exception”, given that most elite guests probably aren’t being quite so diligent about hitting up the chat?
2. St. Regis Astana: St. Regis Suite
After an all-too-quick beach getaway in Mexico, I flew to freezing-cold Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan (also known by its former name, Astana) for a two-night stay at the St. Regis Astana.
St. Regis hotels consistently deliver a luxurious experience of the highest quality, and their suites tend to be particularly heavy on that old-school luxury factor. I knew I didn’t want to miss out on a nice suite upgrade here, and I also got the sense that the Kazakhstan hotels might not receive many Titanium Elite members on a regular basis, so I was feeling good about my chances as I sent out my initial messages.
You’ll note that I also sneaked in a quick sentence about how this would be my first visit to Kazakhstan.
The intention here was to let the hotel know exactly why I was feeling so excited for my stay, giving the staff an opportunity to deliver a wonderful first impression by honouring my request for the St. Regis Suite, the hotel’s second-largest suite at 1,600 square feet.
(When sending these messages, I always recommend sprinkling as many details about your enthusiasm for staying at the hotel as possible. Make sure to mention if it’s your first visit to a city or country, or if there are any special occasions you might be celebrating, to “encourage” the hotel to give you some special treatment.)
And indeed, the St. Regis Astana came through with flying colours, saying that even though elite members are usually only upgraded one category to the Ambassador Suite, they wanted to make my first visit “exquisite and memorable” and so agreed to upgrade me to the St. Regis Suite.
And oh my, what an incredible suite it was. From the grand entry hallway to the lofted ceiling to the gorgeous marble bathroom, this was one of the most impressive suite upgrades I’ve ever received, falling just short of the Andaman Langkawi’s Executive Pool Suite and the W Dubai The Palm’s Marvelous Suite, if only because Jessy wasn’t there to enjoy it with me.
3. The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty: Club Suite
Next up, a trip across Kazakhstan from the capital, Astana, to the largest city, Almaty. I was booked at the Ritz-Carlton here, and had set my sights upon the second-highest Club Suite.
Again, I used the same tactic in my opening message: this was my first trip to Kazakhstan, so hey, I’d love one of your nicest suites please, to make this trip as memorable as possible.
Now, Ritz-Carlton properties are indeed known to be much more stingy with elite perks and benefits than the other Marriott brands, and by the Bonvoy terms and conditions, you need to be a Titanium Elite member – not even a Platinum member – to even be eligible for a suite upgrade at Ritz-Carltons in the first place.
And at first, true to the brand’s reputation, the hotel flatly turned down my request for a Club Suite and instead offered me a “beautiful Corner Room” instead. Thanks, I guess…
I then replied by asking about the third-highest Executive Suite type, and this time, I was told that the Executive Suite could indeed be provided, “by availability”.
As shown back in Cancún and again here in Almaty, like any other form of negotiation, you always want to “frame” the conversation by starting out with your most audacious request.
If your opposite number (in this case, the chat agent) declines it, then they’re much more likely to consider a slightly less audacious follow-up request, compared to if you had simply started with that latter request in the first place.
I would’ve already been very happy with the Executive Suite, but little did I know, I was in for a very nice surprise. When I reached back out to the hotel on the day of my arrival, I had simply wanted to confirm my Executive Suite…
…but was told (perhaps by a different, friendlier chat agent?) that the Club Suite I had originally wanted would indeed be available!
And clicking over to the Mobile Check-In page, I could see that the Club Suite was already confirmed!
I’m not sure what made the hotel change their mind, but one thing’s for sure: there’s no way I would’ve been proactively upgraded to the Club Suite if I hadn’t explicitly asked for it and made it clear that the hotel had an opportunity to make me extremely happy by giving it to me.
If I had just shown up at the hotel without reaching out beforehand over chat, I most likely would’ve just gotten a regular Corner Room with a panoramic view.
But instead, I got this beauty of a suite for my two nights in Almaty…
4. W Shanghai The Bund: Fantastic Bund View Suite
For my one-night stay at W Shanghai The Bund, I decided to make things easy by redeeming a Suite Night Award (SNA) for the highest suite type that was available for SNA redemptions: the Fantastic Bund View Suite.
I still had several SNAs left in my account, but not really much of an idea in terms of when to use them, since it turns out that I can often get the same suites, if not even better ones, via chat.
So I decided I may as well burn one of them here at the W Shanghai and save myself the effort of using the chat app for once, especially since I know that W Hotels tend to have extremely memorable suites.
As with all my previous uses of SNAs, this one cleared five days before my stay, and the only chatting I needed to do was to confirm whether the suite would be ready for my 10:30am early arrival.
The Fantastic Bund View Suite very much lived up to its name, offering up some killer views of the Oriental Pearl and the buildings of the Bund.
I just wish I had more time in Shanghai the following day, so that I could use my 4pm late checkout to enjoy the suite for a little longer, instead of having to check-out and rush to the airport at the break of dawn.
Oh well, that’s how the 23-hour layover life goes.
5. Westin Perth: Executive Suite
The final Marriott property that I’d visit on this round-the-world trip was the Westin Perth, where I had actually already stayed earlier this year as well. I didn’t hesitate to bring up this fact in my opening message, in the hopes that the hotel would provide some extra-special treatment to a repeat guest.
And since I had already been upgraded to a very impressive Westin Suite last time, I now challenged the hotel to see if they could go one step further and give me their Executive Suite, which, unlike all the other suites I had gotten so far, was indeed the absolute highest suite type that the Westin was selling at the time.
The way the chat played out, however, was quite surprising.
Basically, the agent wasn’t in a chatty mood at all, sending me a terse response of “Your request is already noted in your reservation”, sandwiched between two boilerplate messages that essentially said “hello” and “goodbye”.
I won’t lie – I was pretty taken aback by this, because it was such a departure from the usual warm greetings that I had been receiving over chat (and especially because I had pulled out all the stops in my own messages – even including a smiley face emoji!)
But then I went to look at my Mobile Check-In page, and I just laughed out loud, because it turns out that the agent had immediately gone ahead and assigned me the Executive Suite, just as I had asked!
He or she must have been thinking, “Yeah, yeah, you’re Titanium, whatever – here, have your suite, I don’t have time for this meaningless chit-chat.”
Perhaps I’ve discovered a more unconventional strategy here, which is to come across as extremely annoying over the chat so that the agent simply gives you what you want so that you’ll leave them alone? 😉
Regardless of how it happened, though, I was simply blown away when I arrived at the Westin and stepped into my Executive Suite. I’ll take this opportunity to briefly take you around the 2,000-square-foot residence, since I don’t plan on writing another review of the Westin Perth this time around.
The place was veritably humongous, featuring a stunning living room, a dining room with enough seating for ten people, and an office with one of the most authoritative desks I’ve ever had the pleasure of working from, all surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of Perth.
The bedroom and bathroom weren’t too shabby either, although they were virtually the same as the Westin Suite I had gotten the last time I stayed here.
I spent a good chunk of my morning in Perth just hanging out in my suite, trying to sit down and lounge around in as many of the available seating spots as possible in order to do my best to “use up” this absolute behemoth of a suite.
Despite thinking that I had secured the Westin’s best suite for the night, my Perth-based colleague Immanuel from Flight Hacks later told me that the hotel – which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite city hotels in the world – actually has a “secret” Presidential Suite, which they don’t even make available for public bookings. I guess that’s the goal for my next visit to Western Australia, then?
Bonus: Grand Hyatt Melbourne
In Melbourne, I rather arbitrarily chose to stay at the Grand Hyatt for three nights, having been unimpressed with the Marriott properties that were available. As one of the benefits of booking via the American Express Hotel Collection, I was entitled to a room upgrade (not a suite upgrade) upon availability at check-in.
The good news is that the hotel was able to grant me an upgrade to the King Room with River View. The bad news? Well, it wasn’t too much worth writing home about…
Hyatt is definitely a chain with whom I hope to be staying more often in the future, as I look to wean myself off of my dependence on Marriott Bonvoy. That’s definitely easier said than done, though, when Bonvoy keeps indulging me in my fine taste for the best suites at their hotels!
If you go on forums and communities where Marriott elite members like to hang out, you’ll often hear Platinum and Titanium members complaining that they almost never get any suite upgrades. But for the third trip in a row, it’s been clear that all you need to do is ask in order to dramatically increase your chances of receiving not only any suite upgrade, but some of the largest, most expensive, and most well-appointed suites at the hotel.
Of course, I do believe that I was very fortunate with my “suite-talking” exploits on this trip, scoring a perfect 5/5 in terms of securing higher-end suites. But to some extent, I think I also made my own luck, by spelling out for the hotel exactly what they could do to make me happy and being strategic about the way I negotiated. I hope some of you are able to leverage the same tactics to unlock some amazing hotel experiences for yourselves!