May212012

JW Marriott Chicago Tour and Wine Ambassador Program

Walking into the room I noticed right away three bottles of Stella Artois in the ice bucket next to the tv. Someone actually read that questionnaire where I listed all six pets’ names. The pets didn’t get any gifts from the hotel, but I appreciated the beer.

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Took me three days to drink it though with all the wine being served at each press media meal. And I had to hit up the Club Lounge attendant for a big cup of ice when I had two beers and a bottle of wine to consume before my flight home to California. The beers were no problem.

Some Chicago local hanging out on a bench reading the newspaper at ORD left the airport with a free bottle of unopened wine courtesy of me and JW Marriott Chicago.

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Might have been pizza if I’d answered the questionnaire differently?

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JW Marriott Chicago Standard Room 1231

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JW Marriott Chicago Standard Room 1231

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JW Marriott Chicago is a 2010 hotel in a 1914 former bank building designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. The building housing the JW Marriott is a 21-story building known as the Continental & Commercial National Bank Building in Chicago’s Downtown Loop District, the historic commercial center of Chicago. The JW Marriott hotel is a $400 million dollar refurbishment of the 12 lower floors of the building that opened in November 2010. There are 610 rooms with 29 suites.

Daniel Burnham died in 1912 two years before the Continental & Commercial National Bank Building was completed. This building was the last building he worked on.

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Lobby staircase JW Marriott Chicago (W City Center hotel is visible directly across West Adams Street).

Human or Tech information interface choices

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JW Marriott Chicago electronic concierge is near the staffed Concierge desk in the lobby.

The original building design had a five story atrium that has been replaced with four floors holding the lobby, restaurants, conference rooms and ballrooms.

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Remnants of the original atrium ceiling are found in 4th floor ceiling at Burnham Ballroom.

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JW Marriott Chicago 4th Floor ceiling.

JW Marriott Chicago Burnham Ballroom ceiling

JW Wine Ambassador Program

The bottle of wine accompanying this food selection: 2007 Rancia, Chiant Classico Riserva, Tuscany.

This Sangiovese has a brilliant rich ruby red color. The nose is spicy with floral notes and berry nuances. Spice continues in the mouth, nicely complemented by a dense, soft fabirc of youthful tannins; excellent structure and superb overall character.

Paired with food:

  • Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta & Asiago Crackers
  • Chef’s Signature Rubbed All-Natural Tenderloin Panini, Arugula, Brussels Sprouts, Chianti Aioli (I downed the slider even before taking the photo above. All that is left is the stick.)
  • Double Chocolate & Frango Mint cupcake

This wine and food tray was the welcome amenity waiting with my beers upon arrival into the room.

No time for wine in the room since a tour of the JW Marriott Chicago specialty suites was scheduled within the hour. Photos of those suites are in my earlier post.

Architectural wall art outside Burnham Ballroom, JW Marriott Chicago.

JW Marriott Chicago’s Spring Media Reception May 15, 2012

Our small media group of about a dozen attendees were treated to a meal and six wines in the 4th floor Hospitality Suite.

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Starter – Fresh Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli, Spring Garlic paired with 2010 Littorai Pinot Noir The Pivot, Sonoma Coast.

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Starter – Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad, Barrel Aged Feta, White Balsamic Reduction paired with 2011 Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand.

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Herb Rubbed Rack of Lamb, local peas, morels, fingerling potatoes paired with 2007 Altamura, Sangiovese, Wooden Valley, California.

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Finale – Floating Island paired with 2010 Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui, Piemonte, Italy

This meal was designed by Chef Michael Reich and Director of Restaurants Olivier Lau.

Olivier Lau mentioned the JW Marriott Chicago runs monthly Facebook and Twitter contests for locals around Chicago to receive invitations to wine tastings at the hotel. Here is a Chicago Eater article on the wine ambassador contest from last month.

This was one of just three meals I had at JW Marriott Chicago. I barely ate for days after the hotel stay. Florentine is the fine dining restaurant at the hotel and we also had lunch at the Lobby Lounge. Dinner at the Florentine Italian Restaurant JW Marriott Chicago was the final event of the press trip and included a wine pairing with five courses. Those meals and photos will have to be in a different post.

Living in a Historical Bank

Here are some exterior shots of the JW Marriott Chicago building.

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La Salle street entrance to JW Marriott Chicago is used by office workers in higher floors and VIP types who can bypass main lobby.

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JW Marriott Chicago is on right with Willis Tower (Sears Tower), the tallest building in U.S. in background.

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Daniel Burnham designed JW Marriott building is a Chicago Landmark.

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JW Marriott Chicago main entrance at 151 West Adams Street.

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Loyalty Traveler Paired with Press Relations

For months now I have wanted to write about press trips and the relationship of PR teams to hotels and hotel loyalty programs. This is an area of the hotel industry I am still trying to figure out. In six years I have only accepted a handful of media trips. I didn’t start Loyalty Traveler to get free trips from hotel companies. I had been doing just fine for more than a decade with hotel loyalty points before I ever took a freebie.

JW Marriott Chicago is my fifth press trip where I have had a complimentary hotel stay while attending a tour or meeting as Loyalty Traveler blogger.

The common complaint by readers is a “freebie” is not indicative of the same experience as the common guest to the hotel.

I have to agree.

Press trips tend to be fast paced agendas stuffed full of food dining and activities, designed to fill the day with experiences for story writing in magazines, newspapers and online sites like my blog. Generally it is pretty damn nice to have a free room, free meals and drinks, waived conference fees and free activities as a press media attendee.

“That’s the way you do it, money for nothing and your chicks trips for free.” my version of Money for Nothing – Dire Straits

While not my typical guest experience, this JW Marriott Chicago trip provided samples of the Wine Ambassador program, several multi-course meals, a two-hour spa treatment, and a field trip to the Frank LLoyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park and the Robie House in Hyde Park.

Most of these experiences are available to paying guests except perhaps the tour of the JW Marriott Chicago specialty suites and you might not necessarily have tour guides from the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.

Seriously, media trips seem to be the standard in the travel industry, unless you have a deep pockets employer to cover all the travel bills.

After a few of these trips I have come to think of them as a kind of professional development opportunity. I get the chance to meet other journalists, most not working primarily in the blogosphere, and I learn more about the hotel industry each trip through meetings with upper level management, tourism board representatives and staff members of major PR firms. Often there are more PR people around than hotel staff.

I’ll continue to accept opportunities for hotel travel and local tourism press trips when I think the experience will provide good content for Loyalty Traveler. My focus, as always, is finding good value for hotel travelers. Spa treatments and multi-course meals with wine is not my typical travel style, but it might be yours. Hopefully these sponsored trips still provide good information to readers.

Thanks JW Marriott Chicago and Caiti Carrow from Wagstaff Worldwide Public Relations for inviting me on this trip.

Still to come in other posts: the 12th floor lounge, and the bathroom photos, Valeo Spa and the fitness center. Florentine Restaurant and the Lobby Lounge will also be covered.

Turns out I didn’t get many lobby photos. Too much security all around the floor in advance of the NATO Summit.

JW Marriott Chicago 

Marriott Rewards Category 7 Hotel = 35,000 points/night.

JW Hotel of the Year

JW Marriott proudly announces that the new luxury, landmark hotel located in the heart of Chicago’s Loop district has been named ‘JW Hotel of the Year’ at the recent 2012 Global General Managers Conference. Recognized as the top JW hotel for service, guest experience and financial success.

JW Marriott Chicago Sample Rates:May 25-27, 2012

  • $224 per night standard King room.
  • $269 standard room with breakfast for two.
  • $399 per night for 930 sq. ft. luxury suite.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

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Comments

  1. I am not a blogger hater, and dont mind you guys generating revenue from CC or trips from companies, but for this post I would like less defending and of why you accepted the trip and more on what your readers are going to benefit from the content of what was discussed in the meetings. Thanks.

  2. @ORD-TGU – This JW Marriott Chicago trip was about experiences. I shared what a JW Wine Ambassador experience is like. I didn’t take notes on the wine and food tastes. This was about meeting people in a social setting while enjoying good food and wine.

    I wanted to share why I am starting to take media trips when that has never been much of what I do on Loyalty Traveler in the five years this blog has been on BoardingArea.com.

    There was far more interaction with the other journalists and PR representatives than actual Marriott staff. No insider secrets to share from this trip.

  3. For the number of articles you are going to write, I expect they have received their money’s worth.

    The only value it has to me as a reader is for curiousity’s sake. Showing the suites, that I never expect to be in, was the closest you came to what I’ve thought of your style of writing. I prefer the articles that include your thoughtful analysis of some aspect of earning or redemptions.

    I hope you enjoy the whirlwind aspect of these trips. It wouldn’t be for me.

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