Hotel Review: JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton wake up downtown L.A.

L.A. LIVE – the sports and entertainment complex that envelops the Nokia Theater and STAPLES Center – is hoping to change the way people view downtown Los Angeles. Thanks to the stadiums, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping and outdoor pavilions that opened in October 2007, downtown Los Angeles was revived with a faint heartbeat. Now, two new hotels are opening their doors in an effort to wake up the district and give people a reason to spend the night in downtown L.A.

The J.W. Marriott Hotel Los Angeles and Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles make up the $2.5 billion building in heart of the L.A. LIVE complex, boasting 1,001 rooms total (878 rooms in the J.W. Marriott and 123 rooms at the Ritz-Carlton and Ritz-Carlton Residences). While the hotels share the space as part of the luxury brand’s global portfolio, the two brands maintain their individuality in design and style.

J.W. Marriott hotel designers took advantage of the lobby’s open frame. The neutral colors on the walls and rugs are contrasted with modern furniture in reds, purples and animal prints, emphasizing the enormous space while still giving travelers a comfortable place to rest upon arrival. A few steps past the check-in counter, however, and you’re transported to a futuristic display of lights, mirrors and lots of action.

The hotel is home to one of L.A.’s newest dining destinations, L.A. Market. The full-service restaurant created by the “Rock-n-Roll” celebrity chef Kerry Simon is sourced from organic, sustainable and local sources, and combines his flare for everyday foods with his bold personality. The sushi pizza is a favorite of hotel employees, and Simon’s signature burgers are worth every bite. The Mixing Room – located across the lobby from the restaurant – takes guests on a mixology escapade of signature cocktails and cosmic creations in an all white-and-gold furnished space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Nokia Plaza.

The J.W. Marriott guest rooms occupy floors 4-12 and are substantial in size and stature. There’s a 4000-square-foot fitness center and a pool for those who want to soak in the California sun. While guests of the J.W. Marriott have access to the Ritz-Carlton’s 8000-square-foot spa, some areas of the hotel remain exclusive to Ritz-Carlton clientele.If the J.W. Marriott is the meeting space of L.A. LIVE’s grand collection, the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE is the area’s exclusive retreat.

In contrast to the J.W. Marriott’s bold lobby design, the Ritz-Carlton entrance is dimly lit from a Swarvoski crystal chandelier set against deep mahogany wood. Recognizable on the outside by its glass facade, one of the most mesmerizing parts of the Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, is its variations in the color of blue glass on every floor. Symbolic of the ocean or the sky (depending on how you like to view hues of blue), the LEED-certified structure almost looks as if its draped in diamonds when viewed from the right angle. Guests of the Ritz-Carlton have exclusive rights to the 3,400-square foot Club Lounge, rooftop pool and private fitness center.

Ritz-Carlton’s 123 guest rooms and private residences are located on the upper floors of the building but the pièce de résistance of this gem is the 24th floor restaurant, which offers views of Los Angeles from every table. During my tour of the hotel, a private dining area and wine cave were under construction, but will open in time for its first guests on April 2.

The outdoor pool on the 26th floor is also exclusive to Ritz-Carlton guests and comes shaded with cabanas and a rooftop bar and restaurant. If you’ve ever wondered what Los Angeles looks like from above, this is the spot to be.

While it’s likely you’ll be visiting the hotels as a guest, it’s worth noting the building’s gargantuan meeting space. With almost 100,000-square-feet at its disposal, the hotel is primed for conferences and events of all sizes.

The J.W. Marriott is currently open to guests, and the Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles will take its first reservations on April 2. Spending time in downtown LA just got a little more exciting.

Marriott International to open first luxury hotel in Jordan

The Marriott International hotel group will open its first luxury hotel in Jordan in 2013.

The 264-room JW Marriott Hotel Aqaba will sit on the northern beach of the Gulf of Aqaba and provide easy access to top tourist spots including Petra and Wadi Rum. Marriott is boosting the “stylish, contemporary JW Marriott Hotel Aqaba will complement its exterior environs with public areas that offer space, light and excitement. It will feature a wide range of food & beverage offerings, including an informal, vibrant lobby lounge; a pool bar with a covered terrace; an all-day casual restaurant; a specialty steak outlet; a restaurant connected to the marina and a Champions sports bar.”

Other amenities include on-site WiFi and Internet access, an executive lounge, a book shop, spa (featuring a Turkish bath), retail outlets and a business center.

Marriott elite members get free Internet – the rest of us can still pay for it

Starting May 7th, all gold and platinum members of the Marriott Rewards frequent guest program will get free Internet access when they stay at a Marriott, JW Marriott or Renaissance hotel.

All other Marriott properties already offer free Internet access for all their guests, so if you are staying at a Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn or TownePlace Suites, you won’t need to worry about being elite enough to get online for free.

This of course raises the question why Marriott can’t offer Internet for free, for everyone? The three hotels brands within the chain that still charge for Internet access are the “upscale” brands – and you’d expect the more expensive rooms to come with free access.

I’ve written about this before – in my opinion, every hotel should offer Internet for free to all its guests. By offering access for free to elite guests, Marriott gets one step closer to this, but this still leaves plenty of guests that will need to fork over some of their cash just to get online. It never ceases to amaze me how hotels tend to ignore this important perk.

Mayan retro spa in Cancun

A great massage needs no embellishment. The simple act of kneading stress from your body is enough. Warm Jacuzzi waters afterward complete the experience, especially when washed down with crisp cucumber water. A twist that enhances the experience, though, can matter, as I learned at the JW Marriott’s spa in Cancun, Mexico.

The on-site spa infuses its treatments with Mayan ritual, adding a sense of purpose to what otherwise would be sheer decadence. The therapists add ancient prayers and local ingredients to facials, exfoliation and massages to bring a regional flavor to a luxurious commodity.

The spa itself occupies three floors. The first is open to all guests of the JW Marriott and adjacent CasaMagna. Visitors can swim in the indoor pool, soak in the coed Jacuzzi or hit the weights in the gym. The second floor – where you’ll find gender-specific relaxation rooms, saunas and hot tubs – requires an additional fee of approximately $15. Treatments are conducted on this floor and the third.

The differences between the first and second floors are not limited to the modest fee. As you walk the wide, slightly winding staircase, the softly burning candles and soothing aromas remind you that you’re entering a unique environment, a place where every care you have will evaporate thanks to the skilled hands of a focused masseuse.

Language will not be a barrier when you explain the pressure you’d like, as the team does speak English well. After that first conversation, of course, it doesn’t matter. Once you’re finished and have been presented with warmed slippers and cool water, conversation will be the last thing on your mind. Shuffle back to the relaxation room, and use the view of the indoor pool to see if you want to ease back into society with a stop down on the first floor before heading back to the world.

These are the brief moments, punctuating a hectic lifestyle, that remind you that … just sometimes … you come first.

View the latest deals at the Marriott CasaMagna here.