Convenience to the US and great service make it a solid choice for families
Who Will Enjoy It
Good news! Cancún is not just for drunken college kids on Spring break. Couples and families looking for a higher-end experience will also delight in the JW Marriott Cancún. The expansive pool has a number of shallow areas for little ones to enjoy and plentiful deeper areas for bigger kids to play. Ready access to the amenities at the Marriott next door allow older children a little latitude to explore their pool, basketball, and ping pong facilities as well. The building’s hurricane proof poured-concrete construction limits sound transmission from room to room, so you and your kids can get a restful night’s sleep or an afternoon nap without worry of interruption.
Cancún itself provides a multitude of activities ranging from aquariums, to snorkeling excursions, to guided tours of the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and Tulum. Cancún nightlife is a spectacle of music, lights, and revelry with perennial favorites like Señor Frogs and Coco Bongo. Situated only 20 minutes by car from the Cancún International Airport, the JW Marriott offers a comfortable and accessible experience only a few hours flight from the US eastern seaboard.
When To Go
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is great for family vacations. Readers of this blog may be reluctant to come during Spring Break, but be assured that most of the wildest revelers will be at the all-inclusive resorts and more budget-friendly hotels. A modicum of peace and relaxation can still be had at the JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Fiesta Americana Resorts.
What Makes It Great
The service and effort exerted by the staff of the JW Marriott is a high point for this property. Rarely was there a staff person or server who was out of reach. Everyone we encountered seemed to be genuinely interested in us having a good time and having everything we needed. The property itself was in good working order and great efforts were being made to remodel a significant portion of the rooms during our stay. To their credit, the staff blocked off the construction zones as much as possible so that their work was largely obscured from public view. Additionally, there was always a loss prevention/security person present wherever there was a loose extension cord or other potential hazard present to ensure the guest’s safety.
Room for Improvement
Club 91 is JW Marriott Cancún‘s club level lounge. The standard amenities apply here: complimentary alcohol in a small bar, access to water and soft drinks, buffet-style meals with a limited selection, and a couple of dedicated concierges to assist with reservations.
We found the experience here to be lacking a bit mainly due to staffing and some easily-correctable issues. Club 91 seemed to be perpetually 1-2 staff members short. From our observations, the concierges had to pull quadruple duty: checking new guests in and oriented them to the hotel, mixing cocktails at the bar, assisting guests with reservations, and bussing the tables. This was simply too much for the 2 or 3 concierges on staff. Their inability to keep up was particularly evident at mealtimes. This is unfortunate, as we have become used to relying on the concierge staff in club lounges to help with activity suggestion and facilitation and unfortunately could not lean on the staff in Club 91 for the same type of assistance. Not really their fault per se, simply a staffing issue.
The food provided at the buffet was okay but not great, and they seemed to constantly struggle to keep the food warm despite having built-in warming platters. (The sushi was excellent, however.) Finally, the design of the room itself made it excessively loud. The tiled floors, bare walls, and distinct lack of art and textiles made for a room that was light, airy, and easy to clean, but also loud, echoed, and sterile. We were so put off by this, that we cancelled our club-level membership mid trip and used the money elsewhere.
These issues are not insurmountable. Increasing the staffing even by one person would help significantly. A little more attention to the food-handling and perhaps some guards over the hot-plate controls might help them from inadvertently being switched off. Finally, some strategically placed canvases or soft wall hangings would vastly improve the acoustics of the room leading to a more intimate and pleasant experience for guests.
The large spa is located on the fourth floor of the main building of the hotel. It includes a beautiful indoor lap pool, expansive quiet room (with many teas and infused waters for pre and post treatment). The massage was adequate but not outstanding. The pool is missing the wow factor of a hydrotherapy circuit found at many five star hotels in the area. With US resort spa pricing and a mediocre experience, we would skip this unless its an absolute must on your to-do list while on vacation.
The cabana experience at the JW Marriott is one of the better ones we’ve encountered in our travels. As is the mantra in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location–and the location of the cabana at the JW Marriott are just about perfect. Constructed of heavy teak beams and featuring a large 8’x8′ daybed, the eight cabanas are situated side-by-side facing the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean. Rental of the cabana includes two beach-facing chairs are right in front of the cabana bed to further expand your seating options, along with a bucket of water and fruit plate. Dedicated servers are but a friendly wave away as they pass by frequently to assist you with your food and beverage needs. Note that the majority of the cabanas face away from the pool, so if you need to have eyes on your children at all times, a couple of comfortable chairs by the pool may be better for you. There are two cabanas by the toddler pool so if you require this option, book early!
The Mikado Japanese Teppan Yaki restaurant is also a highlight of the JW Marriott Cancún property. Decorated in a fusion of traditional Japanese and Latin American influences, the restaurant features an excellent selection of sushi as well as skilled chefs who delight their guests as they prepare their meals in theatrical fashion around hibachi grills.
Gelato at 750 Cafe. We recommend a scoop of coconut and a scoop of mandarin orange for a tropical play on the legendary creamsicle…delicious! Their pizza is quite passable too if you need a quick snack or something that is infinitely kid-friendly.
Guillermo Canto is the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager at the JW Marriott Cancún. He took special care of us during our stay by checking in with us at least two times per day and ensuring that our reservations at on-site restaurants were confirmed. He also assisted us with our travel arrangements to Chichén Itzá. He had us seated at the best table at the Teppanyaki restaurant on our last night and we were dazzled by our chef’s performance. Guillermo is kind, genuine, and exemplifies the high level of service and professionalism that the Marriott brand upholds.
What you should know that no one else will tell you…
The JW Marriott Cancún is located right next to the Marriott Resort Cancún and enables you to access many of the Marriott’s amenities. This is particularly useful if you have teens that you trust to utilize the pool, basketball court, volleyball, and ping pong tables next door. Where the JW is a little more refined, its zero-entry pools with meandering paths and available outdoor activities will appeal more to younger kids age 3-10.
Even though the JW Marriott is located in the middle of Cancún’s renown “Hotel Zone,” domestic amenities can still be found a short taxi/Uber ride away. Notably, the Selecto Chedraui is a substantial supermarket offering most of the modern conveniences that US citizens are accustomed to, including a well-stocked wine and liquor section. Pharmacies are available too, often featuring the same medications one gets in the US available without a prescription and at a substantially reduced cost. We were able to get an inhaler for our son at a pharmacy in the hotel zone for about a tenth of what we’d pay for it in the States.
Selecto Chedraui Supermarket on Google Maps
Bon voyage and safe travels!