My next stop was at the majestic JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa.
Designed by Bill Bensley, this five-star resort is one of the most luxurious in southeast Asia and has been mentioned all across the blogosphere since its opening in 2016.
It’s laid out like a fictional university, with each space designed to portray a different academic building, with the bar being the Department of Chemistry and breakfast being served at the Department of Architecture.
In addition to this place being absolutely amazing, it’s bookable with Marriott points and was undoubtably one of the best deals around at only 25,000 points per night until its award category went up on March 6, 2018.
With that deadline approaching, I booked a our 7-night stay back in February 2018 and ended up redeeming 270,000 Marriott Rewards for a Hotel + Air package, which got me 132,000 MileagePlus miles in addition to a 7-night stay at a category 1-5 hotel.
Lobby and Check-in
We arrived via cab and as soon as we stepped out, the staff immediately tended to our luggage and showed us to our seats while the front desk got us checked in.
While we waited, one of the staff came by with two glasses of hibiscus tea.
It was hard to sit still and take this place all in, but after a few short moments, the front desk agent came by with the clipboard for me to sign and we were on our way for a tour of the university and a ride to our room.
We were escorted around the grounds via golf cart and eventually were taken to our room in the Department of Anthropology building.
Emerald Bay View Room
Our room was immaculate and featured two double beds and a massive bathroom.
As a standard room at the resort, this one went for approximately $400 a night after all taxes and fees, so for a 25,000 point redemption, each point was worth around 1.6 cents.
Along with a large soaking tub, there was a rainfall shower in the middle of the bathroom with drain channels integrated into the floor surrounding it.
Also, as we figured out later, the window behind the curtain opened up to an atrium, which allowed fresh air to flow in while still allowing for privacy.
No lie, it was the best shower I’ve ever taken.
Out the back door, we were just steps from the water.
For breakfast each morning, we ate at Tempus Fugit, part of the Department of Architecture. The buffet goes for 675,000 VND (~$29) per person, but since I am a Platinum Elite member, I could select breakfast for two as my welcome amenity.
This restaurant had everything you could imagine: pastries, sushi, tropical fruits, assorted meats, made-to-order eggs, bacon, sausage, crepes, waffles, pancakes, smoothies, sorbet, and an assortment of Korean and Vietnamese dishes.
One would usually expect that eating at a buffet would grow boring towards the end of a week’s vacation, but not here. Each day, they rotated out many of the foods, so you never had to have the same meal twice.
In addition to breakfast, you can eat dinner here too and order off the menu, which we did one night. The pho was delicious!
Hotel, Grounds, and Activities
This place was truly massive, but only had 234 rooms spread across the property, so the place never felt crowded.
The resort was so big and offered so many things to do, they gave you a student handbook to cover everything.
The resort featured four pools, not counting the several private pools in the villa gardens and the presidential suite.
Most of the pools were infinity pools, including the adults-only Shell Pool, pictured below.
A few steps from our room was the Sun Pool, with its jetted sitting areas.
Although this resort had to have been at least 50% booked, we were the only ones in the pool on multiple occasions.
Even the showers were done in true Bill Bensley style
To get around the grounds, you could summon a golf cart to take you wherever you would like to go. Most of them were of the standard golf course variety, but they also had two ultra fancy carts in the fleet.
Down on the beach, you could sign out kayaks and stand-up paddleboards along with water shoes to protect your feet from the occasional sea urchin.
If you wanted to relax, you could check out the spa, located in the Department of Mycology.
The ceiling of the lobby was covered in hundreds of mushroom photos. Inside, you can indulge in a massage or check out the saunas and steam rooms, which we did.
Every day there is an assortment of activities you can partake in. Many are complimentary and others carry a small fee.
On one of our non-dive days, we decided to sign up for the bike tour of the Coconut Prison and the fish sauce factory.
The prison tour was quite intense, so do keep that in mind if you decide to go.
We even took a bartending class, led by knowledgeable bartender, Denny.
The hotel also offered a shuttle to the night market in town, but on Fridays, the night market comes to you!
The resort brings in outside food and souvenir vendors and you can try authentic local fare without even leaving the resort.
The best thing, by far, was the rolled ice cream.
The resort even had an auditorium for hosting meetings and weddings
Redrum and the Department of Chemistry Bar
Along with Tempus Fugit, there were two other casual restaurants at the resort: Redrum and the Department of Chemistry.
Both restaurants had a unique menu and delicious drinks, such as these two signature drinks made with house spiced rum.
My favorite place to eat and drink was definitely the Department of Chemistry, where you could enjoy a drink from the comfort of a massive couch or a swinging bed.
Oddly enough, the Department of Chemistry boasted the largest menu of all the resort’s restaurants. It was appropriately delivered on a large clipboard and had enough items that it would probably take you two weeks to sample everything.
As a Platinum Elite member, we were invited to a special VIP reception on Thursday evening where we could meet and mingle with the resort’s management and indulge in some complimentary food and drink.
We met with the heads of all the departments who were all eager to hear about our stay so far. The staff truly made us feel as if we were guests in their very own home.
To top it all off, the Director of Rooms mentioned my upgrade request that I had made when I checked in. After asking us how we liked our room so far, he mentioned that he was going to see about an upgrade for us the next day.
The afternoon following the reception, I received an email, informing me to call the front desk when we were ready to move to our new room.
This was what they gave us. A one-bedroom villa with a private pool. The pictures online looked awesome, but it was far more awesome in person.
This room was incredible. I just about lost my mind when I walked inside. The bathroom alone was bigger than many hotel rooms I have stayed in.
After doing some research, I learned that the room went for an astounding 44,000,000 VND, which with tax was over $2000 a night.
Later that evening, Linh, the butler supervisor, who we had ran into on multiple occasions, sent over a platter of fruit and chocolate for my friend and I to share.
Like I said, the staff truly went above and beyond.
The Pink Pearl
Finally, for our final night at the resort, we got dressed up and visited the resort’s French restaurant, the Pink Pearl, for dinner.
The meal began with an amuse-bouche of watermelon and some canapés.
This was followed by a palate cleanser
Next up, was sea urchin, stuffed with lobster and topped with caviar.
Followed by the main course of Chilean sea bass with green pea, cauliflower clam sour cream emulsion, smoked orange, and simmes pepper
Then it was on to the dessert course, which consisted of a cherry tart with pistachio, cherry liqueur, and a basil sorbet.
Then some pecan bark and macaroons to follow.
After our meal, maître d’, Marc offered to give us a tour of the restaurant.
We were first led down a spiral staircase and into the underground dining room.
Next, we were led upstairs to visit the multiple smaller, more intimate dining areas.
Once our tour was over and it was time to leave, Marc presented us with this: a watercolor painting of us that was painted by an artist in the corner while we dined.
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Moving forward, this place will be the hotel against which all other hotels are compared. The staff were wonderful, food was delicious, room was exquisite and the resort grounds were beautiful.
Even if I had to book a room with cash, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again. With everything you get, $330 a night with tax, the cheapest rate in 2019, as of this writing, is honestly worth it. Not to mention, with only 234 rooms in total, you don’t feel like you’re surrounded by a sea of people at a Caribbean mega resort. Instead, you’re treated as if you’re a guest in someone’s home.
I’ve never been more sad to check out of a hotel, but after seven nights here, it was time to head out on the next part of our adventure. The front desk summoned us a cab and we were off to the airport to catch our flight to Ho Chi Minh City.
For my next post, I’ll go into more detail about what else there was to see and do on Phu Quoc island.