The JW Marriott in the colonial city of Cusco was the hotel that I was looking most forward to on our trip. My excitement had to do with the fact that it’s only a couple of years old, the JW of the Marriott brand is synonymous with luxury and the building that it’s located in is a former convent that dates from the 16th century. Unfortunately, our stay got off to somewhat of a bad start.
After arriving in Cusco from our transfer from Ollantaytambo, I was immediately entranced by the hotel’s open air entrance from the street as well as the lobby. D started to check us in but I knew that something was amiss when the front desk attendant seemed to be taking an awfuly long period of time typing away on the computer. Having made the reservations months ago, not to mention I had seen our reservation clearly listed in our Marriott Rewards account page, I didn’t know what could possibly be the problem. But then we were asked for a confirmation number, which I gave to him. And then, for the first time ever in my life, the attendant asked “and how many nights will you be staying with us?” I just had supplied the confirmation number, a number I didn’t fabricate just then, but one that was listed on the Marriott website since June and I’m being asked how long I’ll be staying? I knew that something was horribly wrong which was leaving me with a crappy feeling since as I said above, this was the hotel stay I was looking most forward to. He finally gave us our two keys and was saying about the location of the room and when I heard the words “you will go down” more red flags started going off in my head. I hadn’t ever before stayed at a hotel in which I went “subterranean” so I was too taken aback at that moment to complain, and yes, for the most part I try not to be a pain with customer service staff.
Our room was located not one, but two floors below the lobby. It’s not to say that the room or even the floors themselves looked bad. However, the view upon entering into the room was of a wall, literally, with the only natural light being a crack that was coming in from above (the inner courtyard was situated directly above). I was so peeved that being a Rewards member and having made the reservation months prior, this was the room we were given. I did not want to spend over $200 USD a night to never have any natural light. So even though we were both tired and annoyed, we went back upstairs to politely complain. Thankfully there was someone else to speak with and we asked if there was another room we could move to, just saying we wanted something higher up. I guess she thought we were looking for a “room with a view” (which we weren’t), going on to say that since the hotel was a former convent, none of the rooms really had a view. We explained that we didn’t want a view, just a room above the lobby, but thankfully she said there was one on the fourth floor (the highest floor in the hotel) which we happily moved to.
This was the only issue I had with the hotel-but between our reservation apparently not existing at the local level in Cusco and then the first room they give a Rewards member was one in the basement, I was very much put off. But thankfully, everything improved and was lovely after that.
I’ve stayed in larger hotel rooms, but it was still a very decent size. Although our window to the outside was somewhat small, I could still indeed see the outdoors and the view of the city’s hills was actually nice enough. One of the things I liked most about the room were the art touches (including the lovely painting reproductions that lined the hallways outside). The bathroom was large and very luxurious, having both a shower and a separate tub. I would have taken a bubble bath but there were no bubbles or salts (some hotels offer this). The shower was fantastic, especially after coming from Ollantaytambo where the water often went in and out due to a drought they were experiencing. A minor critique that the shower head was quite large and expelled powerful amounts of water but the shower stall was small so you couldn’t really stand anywhere except directly under the head. And finally, my only real complaint of the room was that the bathroom waste basket was tiny (this was the case at all our hotels). Since you can’t flush the toilet paper in Peru, you are asked to dispose of it in the wastebasket. While housekeeping does empty it of course, larger wastebaskets should be provided.
I have always loved the style of Latin American architecture. While buildings may seem simple from the outside (plain stone buildings), once you pass through their ornate doors, you are immediately surprised. This was definitely the case at the JW Marriott. Upon entering the hotel from the street, there is a small patio area that had relaxing looking outdoor furniture complete with fresh cut flowers. The lobby area was dark but it looked like a leftover trace from its convent days. Everything just screamed sheer luxury and opulence. My favorite, though, was the courtyard-we read here for 30 minutes one day when we returned but found that housekeeping was in the middle of cleaning our room.
Our room rate included complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant, Pirqa. It was a buffet and offered an obscene amount of food-everything ranging from traditional hot breakfast items for the American palate, to a bread cart, to the more European-style breakfast offerings (cheeses, cold meats, yogurts). While we didn’t dine there, Pirqa is also open for lunch and dinner along with Qespi Bar which serves snacks and appetizers along with Peru’s famous Pisco Sours (their iconic cocktail).
One of the things I was most excited about was the fact that the hotel had a pool. Excluding our Hawaii trips and our hotel in Lisbon which had a very small lap pool for guests to use, never before on any of our non-domestic trips had we ever had a pool. It was located next to the spa (we never saw anyone going in for services although I do wish in the hotel room literature they would have listed and described the types of services offered), and was truly lovely. The water temperature was quite warm (this was great since the whole time we were in Cusco it was quite cool) and it was just a treat to truly relax. Also available was a jacuzzi, sauna, and steam room. The best part was that there were no rowdy children (in fact I don’t remember seeing any children while at the hotel, but then again, Cusco isn’t the type of place foreigners would probably bring their children for vacation).
Although I don’t know why anyone would come to Cusco and not stay right near the Plaza de Armas, I’m sure some people have (I wouldn’t). However, the location of the JW Marriott was fantastic, little more than a five minute walk to the Plaza and being on a popular, busy street, I never felt unsafe walking once it was dark. Vendors stood around outside the hotel (obviously knowing that tourists were staying inside) so anytime you left or returned, you were bothered with “want a painting, want a picture, etc.” If you just said “no gracias” and went on your way, they didn’t continually hound you.
Some of the nice extra but complimentary perks included a tea bar in the lobby area (unlike other South American nations, Peru is very much a tea drinking society, which I loved since it’s very rare). Also, two bottles of water were replenished in your room two times a day when housekeeping came around. You’re advised to not drink the water, including not even brushing your teeth with it, and while bottled water is extremely inexpensive, this was still nice. Wi-Fi was not complimentary in the rooms (it was in the public areas) which I thought somewhat “behind the times.” But for 24 hours a day, it was around $8USD which we just paid, since I wanted to be able to privately relax in the room.
Excluding our rocky start, I’m still glad I stayed here. The ambiance and physical look of the hotel were just striking and it was definitely one of the most visually beautiful hotels I have ever stayed at. If you’re looking for a splurge while in Peru, the JW Marriott is one I would recommend in a heartbeat.
JW Marriott Cusco
Calle San Agustin