Of late, it’s been a little bit bleak in the world of Marriott Bonvoy. The devaluations following the abolition of the vaunted award chart – while not as world-ending has had been previously suspected – have certainly not been too attractive.
That’s why it’s nice to hear that another family of Marriott properties will be joining the Bonvoy portfolio effective immediately.
And it isn’t just any run-of-the-mill hotel collection joining Bonvoy, either. It’s the uber-luxe Ritz Carlton Reserve family, a group of only five resorts known for their romantic locations, plush décor, and lavish price tags.
Ritz-Carlton Reserve: Exclusivity Amongst the Exclusive
So, what exactly are Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties? This special category of Marriott hotels was previously inaccessible to anybody not willing to book full price in cash.
Consisting of only five locales, every single one of these purpose-built resorts was designed to be the height of luxury and privacy. The properties in the portfolio are as follows:
- The smallest is the Higashiyama Nisek0, a 50-room resort in stunning Niseko, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido
- The 54 rooms of the Phulay Bay, in Krabi, Thailand
- Mandapa, a 60-room getaway in famous Bali, Indonesia
- The 115-room Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico
- Zadun, located in Los Cabos, Mexico, also with 115 rooms
Judging by the pictures, it’s pretty clear to me that these resorts are a cut above the other venues in the Ritz-Carlton lineup. Even the brand-new Ritz-Carlton Maldives, for example, shares its island with another hotel.
Everything here is designed to be kept as uniquely exclusive, something which is meant to be valuable for once-in-a-lifetime trips such as honeymoons or diamond anniversaries.
Personally, my pick of the litter would be the Niseko location because of its small number of rooms, and as an Albertan I’m compelled to be drawn to the cold.
Implications of Ritz-Carlton Reserve Joining Marriott Bonvoy
I’ll answer the question everyone wants to know: of course you’ll now be able to book Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotels with Marriott Bonvoy points.
According to the company’s official press release, the price will fluctuate between 80,000–240,000 points per night, which is quite a spicy meatball, and definitely reaching far above any previous chart-value property.
To take the edge off the bite, the Fifth Night Free benefit will still apply: booking five nights on points will still require only four nights’ worth of points.
This also means that there will be the opportunity to earn Bonvoy points on any cash booking. Just like every Marriott full-service hotel, this rate will be set at 10 points per US$1. Elite members get to earn tier bonuses – but more on that in a bit.
To my eye as an enthusiast, it would look like Marriott is trying to further build up the brand cache of their Ritz-Carlton label while also making this ultra-premium brand more accessible to Miles & Points enthusiasts and business travellers loyal to Marriott alike.
This makes even more sense in the context of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which joined the program last year ahead of its launch and with a rough valuation on cruises of 0.55 cents (USD) per Bonvoy point.
The Value of Redeeming Points at Ritz-Carlton Reserves
While Marriott has indicated redemption requirements of up to 240,000 Bonvoy points per night, I’ve been able to find five-night points stays that come out to much lower than this amount.
For example, let’s look at the Mandapa in scenic Bali for this September.
392,000 Bonvoy points for five nights won’t be leaving anyone’s Bonvoy balance particularly full after being booked, but it’s not as bad as the almost 1 million it could have cost at the theoretical upper limits of Ritz-Carlton Reserve redemption values!
But how does this work out in comparison to cash?
At the above rate, the entire reservation of 52,800,000 Indonesian rupiah would convert to about $4,625 (CAD).
That means that the final value you’d get out of your Bonvoy points would be a hair under 1.2 cents per point, which is above our current valuations for Bonvoy points by almost 33%. Not too shabby for such a luxury property.
So long as you’re flexible with your dates or preferred property, you can get great value from your points at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve portfolio. Just be ready to absorb the costs of food and beverages.
Marriott Bonvoy Elite Benefits at Ritz-Carlton Reserves
As part of the press release announcing the Ritz-Carlton Reserve’s accession to the Marriott Bonvoy program, a chart has been published of additional benefits for elite members.
I’ll be honest here: given the extreme price tag both at these locations in both cash and points, I find these benefits to be slightly underwhelming.
There’s no free breakfast, nor are there any kinds of guaranteed room upgrades (though to be fair, given the size of the resorts, it’s probably harder to provide these anyways).
Then again, maybe I shouldn’t complain too hard, as these properties were beyond the grasp of most Miles & Points enthusiasts prior to the present moment.
Still, when we analyze the chart, we can see that for once, the biggest winners are the Ambassador Elites, who most notably get a US$150 SD resort credit per stay. Judging by how expensive these properties can be, that isn’t a discount to be discredited.
On top of that, it’s nice to see Ambassador Elites truly get taken care of by Marriott, as one of the points of contention for Ambassador members as of late has been the perception they’re not treated to the advantages their rare status should afford.
While I personally would not pay cash for these properties, I know of many folks who would. Let’s see just how valuable points earned with elite bonuses it could be for a Platinum member.
A five-night honeymoon booked at the Higashiyama Niseko booked for around 491,000 Japanese Yen would convert to US$3,910.
At 10 Bonvoy points earned per USD, plus a 50% bonus for Platinum Elite status, the lucky couple would be looking at a cool base earn rate of 39,100 points, plus a further 19,550 points, for a total of 58,650 Bonvoy points.
Using a co-branded and no-FX USD-denominated credit card such as the American Express Bonvoy Brilliant Card would boost the earning rate by a further 6 points per USD, for a total of 81,150 Bonvoy points. That’s enough for another free night’s stay at many luxury properties across the globe.
Marriott is moving into make its upper echelon of Ritz-Carlton Reserve luxury properties accessible to devotees of the Marriott Bonvoy program.
While I will miss the outsized value members of the program used to gain through its previous flexibility, I will not reject the new trend toward making aspirational venues actually bookable via points.
While these locations aren’t the first locations I’d choose for my upcoming travels, I’m sure I won’t be able to resist reserving at least one or two of them in the future as they’re just too beautiful to disregard fully. I hope that many of you reading this article will beat me to it.
Until next time, fly safe.