Update 2019-02-26: Please note that the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express Card Canada is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Get the details here!
As part of my Bachelor of Education, I was invited to spend 3-weeks studying at Southwest University in Chongqing, China. Initially Tyler wanted to book me at one of the Marriott hotels in the city for the entire stay, but the school was located about 45-minutes from the city centre, which was really impractical. I opted instead to stay on campus in the visiting staff dorm, at a very reasonable $17/night.
While I won’t be publishing a full review of the campus dorm, I can say that the bed was hard. Like hard. My back was starting to feel quite sore after a few restless nights, and by the end of the week I was over it. As luck would have it, Tyler messaged me out of the blue on Friday and told me he had booked a one-night stay on Saturday at the Marriott in the city (I may have dropped a couple of hints).
I left the campus early in the day as Tyler and I both have Marriott Gold status through our American Express Platinum card and I knew checking in early wouldn’t be a problem (at the very least they would store my bags and likely let me use the lounge or fitness centre while waiting). I decided to take the subway, as I had been pleasantly surprised with how efficient and easy it was to use (take notes Vancouver), and arrived at the hotel shortly after 1pm. I was surprised at just how tall the buildings were in Chongqing, with the Marriott standing tall.
The subway station was located a little too far to walk, so I took a bus to the hotel. Similar to The Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong, the main lobby is located on a higher floor, with a very basic lobby on the ground level. The exterior of the hotel and ground floor lobby were spotlessly clean, and very nice for a Marriott (my only other experience is with North American properties). I was greeted by a friendly English speaking staff member on the ground floor who directed me to the elevators where I would ascend to the 28th floor for check-in.
The elevators were just around the corner on the main floor, with the main reception area located on the 28th level.
A quick ride up and I was on the 28th floor being greeted by another friendly staff member. I was directed to the check-in counter where there was nobody waiting.
The lobby was… stunning. Maybe because I’m not used to Asian hotels, but this was much nicer than expected. The marble was extensive, with high quality furniture and soaring ceilings. I could get used to this!
Check-in was quick, and the staff couldn’t have been nicer. Unfortunately, my room wasn’t quite ready (upgrade to a River View Executive Room with lounge access). I was invited to wait in the club lounge, which I accepted, and was brought to my room less than an hour later.
When Tyler told me he used only 10,000 Marriott Reward points (3,334 SPG points), I was kind of expecting a tired old 4-star hotel. While maybe not as nice as The Fairmont Pacific Rim or The Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, this room was just fine! The hallway entrance opened up into a large open space with a King bed opposite the television. There was a large circular desk in the corner near the huge lounge seat which overlooked the Chongqing skyline and Yangtze river.
The bed was still firm by North American standards but felt like a cloud compared to my sleeping arrangements on campus. The linens were crisp and the pillows were soft, and it took all of my will not to jump right into bed (Tyler asked me very nicely to take pictures first thing).
The bed was flanked by night tables, each with their own electronic room controls and well-placed electrical outlets.
The bed was opposite a large built-in television. The cable selection was good, with a few English movie channels and news stations. The majority of the content was in Chinese, however.
The office area was located in the corner near the window, with a comfortable chair and lounge style seating near the window.
There was another seating area opposite the desk near the window, which offered spectacular views of the Chongqing skyline and Yangtze river. China really has some unique architecture! The gold hybrid of the Petronas Twin Towers and The Chrysler Building is actually a Sheraton hotel!
Between the bed and the bathroom was a small minibar with an empty fridge and tea station with a kettle (there was no coffee maker in the room).
The closet was located between the bed and the bathroom entrance and featured plenty of storage. There was also an iron, in-room safe, plush robes, and gas mask. I love how regal the model looks on the gas mask packaging. I hope I look that confident if I ever need to wear one…
The bathroom was very large and featured a separate soaking tub, walk-in shower, separate water closet and single vanity sink area. While the space was good, I felt the marble colour a bit drab. Everything felt clean though, which is always nice!
The shower was big and featured good water pressure. Toiletries are by Thann, which I found to be fine, but not spectacular.
Beside the shower was a separate water closet with a toilet.
The Bath was against the wall opposite the vanity and featured more of the same grey marble. I’m not a bath fanatic like Tyler, so I didn’t get to experience it for myself.
Executive Club Lounge:
Having only North American club lounges and the fantastic Fairmont lounge in Singapore, I really didn’t know what to expect at a Chinese Marriott hotel. Tyler had shared his experience at The Marriott SkyCity Hong Kong Airport Hotel and Marriott Nanshan Hotel in Shenzhen, so I knew it would be a bit better than what I’m used to in Canada, but likely without the free flow Champagne that the Fairmont offered in Singapore.
I actually didn’t spend too much time in the lounge, except when I was waiting for my room and during breakfast. I did check the evening snack offerings but wasn’t feeling inspired (I was really getting tired of the local cuisine and decided to get some KFC instead, which is much better in China). The lounge itself was very spacious with a good amount of seating. It did get quite busy during meal times but never felt overcrowded like some lounges can feel. The food at breakfast was delicious, with a good variety of western and Asian options. The evening snacks looked only ok, but there was a nice selection of complimentary wine, beer and spirits available.
While the space, seating, food, and beverages were all good, the service is what really stood out! All of the staff in the lounge were so well-intentioned and were always available when needed. Everyone spoke English well and were happy to provide assistance (as in, where is the nearest KFC please?) whenever I asked.
I checked out the pool and fitness centre before I left, and was surprised to find neither being used by any hotel guests. The gym was large and well equipped, with lots of modern equipment.
The pool was indoor and had lots of natural light with the huge windows overlooking the city skyline. There were pool attendants available and plenty of plush towels and cold water. There was limited poolside seating, though there was nobody else at the pool when I went for a dip.
I loved this hotel stay! Not sure if it was because my dorm was so lame, or because I’m used to North American hotel standards (or a combination of the two), but this hotel felt truly luxurious! What’s more, a free night stay was only 10,000 Marriott points or 3,334 SPG points.
To put that into perspective, the current welcome bonus on the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest credit card would be enough for a 10-night stay, completely free. Update 2019-02-26: Please note that the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express Card Canada is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Get the details here!. If you have Gold Status or above with Marriott or Starwood (complimentary with The American Express Platinum Card or American Express Business Platinum Card), you can also expect a guaranteed room upgrade to the club floor with lounge access, including daily breakfast, evening snacks, and happy hour with complimentary cocktails.
While Chongqing may not be on the top of anyone’s vacation bucket list, I think this property is fairly representative of other Marriott hotels in Asia. For further reading, and to see just how far your reward points can stretch, check out Tyler’s review of the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel, The Marriott Hotel Nanshan in Shenzhen, or The JW Marriott Marriott Hotel in New Delhi.