JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay: really excellent and superb storytelling

The JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay offers a very high standard of service for a resort. But more than that, it takes the customer into a world with such perfect storytelling that it makes you want to believe it.

It’s the end of my stay in Phu Quoc, and after the depressing Sheraton Phu Quoc Long Beach, it’s at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay that my stay in Vietnam comes to an end. I was well advised to try these hotels in this order, as it will prevent me from ending my vacation on a disappointing note, as this JW Marriott pleasantly surprised me. And yet I’m not a fan of resorts in general, but whoever designed this one must have been thinking of people like me.

You’ll find at the bottom of the page a summary of the articles about this vacation in Vietnam.

Booking

A few months before my 3-night stay, I booked an Emerald bay room with a garden view, which is the lowest level of the hotel. I’ll pay for my room with my loyalty program points.

I’ll also be using Suite Night Awards to try and secure an upgrade to a superior room. The inventory proposed for this upgrade request is richer and more qualitative than that of the Sheraton, and I’ll be requesting two rooms: a De Lamarck suite with a garden view and a Turquoise Executive Suite with a sea view, which is the hotel’s most upmarket room before the villas and houses.

All I can do now is cross my fingers that one or the other will be accepted.

Arrival at the hotel and check-in

A few days before my arrival, I received an email confirming my upgrade to the Turquoise Executive Suite, a high-floor sea-view suite with balcony, clearly the most beautiful in the hotel. That’s a good start.

The hotel is in the south-east of the island, opposite the Sheraton, and it will take me an hour’s drive by Grab (the local Uber) to reach it. It will cost me 20 euros.

The driver misses the destination a little and has trouble finding the hotel, which, admittedly, is not particularly well signposted. Eventually we find it: a single sign reads “JW Marriott” and when we get there signs say “Lamarck University” all over the place. Strange.

I enter the reception building, which is truly superb, in the purest colonial style.

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They seat me at a table, serve me a welcome drink and bring me an oshibori while I go through the check-in formalities.

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The loudspeakers play French songs from the 40s and 50s. There’s something very “colonial France” about this atmosphere.

Everything goes smoothly and cordially. They confirm my upgrade to “the hotel’s most beautiful suite”, and inform me that as a Titanium member of the loyalty program I get 10% off in the hotel’s bars and restaurants and 20% off at the spa.

I’m told a little more about the history of the hotel, which is a former university established by the French colonists in 1880 and operating until 1940. It was then abandoned for many years and reopened as a hotel.

The property makes full use of university codes: from staff uniforms to the vocabulary used, you’d think you were at a university in the 1920s. It even seems that the General Manager calls himself the Dean.

The Room Director and Loyalty Manager will introduce themselves to me before I’m taken to my room.

Finally, and in keeping with the theme, I’ll be given a student guide to the hotel and its activities.

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It includes a map of the hotel, which can be very useful given its size.

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Activities, bars and restaurants are presented.

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There’s plenty to do, and even some courses to keep with the university theme. Cocktail, massage, cupcake, candle-making and painting classes….

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You can also download the hotel’s app, which not only provides a map, but also allows you to scan QR codes hidden around the hotel to discover it and win prizes.

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I’m finally ready to go to my room, where I’ll be taken by buggy.

At the end of the reception, souvenirs of the alumni’s sporting achievements.

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Discovering the hotel

But before talking about the room, a word about the hotel.

Once you leave reception, you come out onto the main street, where you’ll find various shops, the gym, the spa…

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Still in a very colonial style.

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More amusing, the walls are decorated with replicas of vintage advertisements with names that will sometimes ring a bell to the oldest among us.

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As for the hotel’s housing blocks, they are named after the university’s various departments.

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These housing blocks are, of course, rehabilitated buildings from the period.

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I’ll be housed in the visual arts building.

The Turquoise Executive Suite at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay

The buggy stops at the foot of the visual arts building, and I’m escorted to my room.

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Two things jump out at me as I’m in the elevator. The first is its decoration, in keeping with the theme of my building.

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The second is interior fragrance, with a chalky smell reminiscent of our old classrooms.

Time to discover my room.

As soon as you enter, there’s a toilet on the side.

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Then the livng room.

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During my presentation of the Sheraton I was very critical of the style of the room with “fake old modern in local style” which looks like nothing in good taste. In this case, it’s quite the opposite: they’ve played the tradition card and gone all the way with their ideas.

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It’s large and in excellent taste.

How about a little stroll on the balcony before heading back to the bedroom?

It is covered and very large.

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Below, one of the hotel’s swimming pools, located directly in the building and the beach.

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Now let’s go to the bedroom.

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Very large and beautiful.

The king-size bed will prove very comfortable.

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The bathroom opens directly onto the bedroom, with a large closet (left), bath and shower area (center) and toilet (right).

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A zoom on the bath/shower area.

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The toilets.

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And, when you turn around, the two washbasins.

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And for once, the minibar won’t be empty!

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I am truly charmed by the room. Very large, with very high ceilings, the feeling of space and brightness is impressive.

What’s more, the hotel has taken the gamble of preserving a period style, but it’s in very good taste, something I had my doubts about.

A quick check reveals that this room was being offered at the time at 1,400 euros a night. For someone who paid 0 euros, having paid for my room in points and having been upgraded, I can already tell you that I find the value for money unbeatable.

Let’s end with the traditional video!

The hotel facilities

The hotel has a beach, swimming pools, gym, spa and even a soccer field and runningway.

The beach

It’s very large and stretches all the way along the hotel.

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You can set up close to bars and restaurants, or further away for greater privacy.

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There’s also a nautical center.

Swimming pools

The hotel has several swimming pools. All are accessible to all customers, although one, in my building, is a little more private since it’s located within the building itself.

There’s something to suit all tastes and shapes, but none is too big, the idea being to avoid the crowded effect and force customers to spread out without all concentrating in one place.

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All in all, very pretty and pleasant, even if the sun wasn’t always out.

The gym

It is located in the physical education department. It’s a decent size, but very well equipped. Here again, the style is very “university”, with pennants from the university teams.

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Very pleasant and warm.

Soccer field and running track

When you say university, you say sport. The hotel has a small synthetic soccer pitch, surrounded by a running track.

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Spa

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Unsurprisingly, the decor is very colonial.

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It has a sauna and hammam, but no Jacuzzi.

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The treatment rooms are located on the upper floor and are spacious.

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I will book a treatment which will prove to be of high quality with very professional staff.

Bars and restaurants

The hotel also boasts a wide range of bars and restaurants.

Chemistry department bar

Where better to put a bar than in the chemistry department?

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The interior design is in keeping with the theme.

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Staff work in lab coats.

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The coasters are in keeping with the theme.

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Peanuts are served in test tubes.

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Toilet walls remind you of the periodic table of elements….

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And the cocktail menu is, of course, the periodic cocktail table.

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What else can we say except that the staff will be adorable and the cocktails top-notch.

Red Rum Restaurant – Dinner service

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This is a South American-inspired restaurant/grill.

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I’m not sure what’s so South American about this menu, but so be it. The waiter will show me photos of the dishes on his iphone to help me choose, which is a great idea. On the other hand, his English is really laborious, and I was sad to see him struggling with so much good will.

I’ll have scallops as a starter. Hokkaido scallops, aguachile sauce, cucumber salad, salmon roe and baby greens.

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It’s beautiful but I’m a little disappointed by the scallops. The salmon roe will spice up the dish a little.

Then Wagyu beef.

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The meat is good, melting and perfectly cooked. With chimichurri sauce it will be perfect. I won’t be so enthusiastic about the tomato sauce.

For dessert, I’d like two scoops of mango sorbet.

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Is this a joke?

All in all, a meal that will be good without being transcendent, but in a resort it’s worth providing varied options for all budgets. The service was very, if not overly attentive, with one waiter a bit of a stickler who was only too happy to talk to a Frenchman.

Tempus Fugit – Dinner service

This is a restaurant with a menu that mixes Japanese, Vietnamese and Western specialties. When I tell you that in a resort you need a varied offer adapted to all budgets….

The menu is so long that I won’t share it here.

I’ll start with seafood spring rolls.

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No surprise, good or bad.

Then I’ll have a local fish dish…whose name I’ve forgotten.

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Pretty good.
I’ll finish with a mango cheesecake that will be a real delight.

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Pink Pearl – Dinner service

I’ve saved the best for last, as Pink Pearl is the hotel’s gourmet French restaurant.

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It only offers a tasting menu.

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The welcome is very professional and friendly. I’m ushered into the room where the background music, not too loud, will be exclusively old French songs: Aznavour, Gainsbourg, Brel, Piaf, Sheila…

We start with some amuse bouche.

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A melon bubble that explodes and releases its flavor. Good. An unexpected but successful combination of potato and caviar. Very good. Foie gras and truffles, really excellent.

I’m brought bread, very warm, with normal butter and truffle butter. It will be a treat.

Red snapper. Anchovy mayonnaise, Transmontanus caviar, escabeche reduction. (Photo omitted)

It’s a Japanese snapper with escabeche sauce, cooked in acidity, the sauce balances the acidity and the caviar boosts the taste.

Really well-balanced, a little spicy, a little iodized…

Pan-fried foie gras. Tamarind and apple chutney, juniper berry brioche.

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The foie gras is perfectly cooked and doesn’t fall apart, the brioche a little too dry and the chutney excellent. An ideal accompaniment to foie gras.

Lobster ravioli. Cauliflower, blue lobster tail, lobster bisque, coriander mousse.

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A lobster tail is on top of the raviole. Very fine and tasty.

Atlantic black cod meunière. Supreme sauce, chicken jus, parsley emulsion, marinated shallots.

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The cooking is perfect, the fish skin crisp, the sauce very tasty without overpowering the taste of the fish.

Strawberry and mint sorbet. Fresh Da Lat berries, Phu Quoc pepper, almond tulip.

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Excellent and fresh. A fine work on taste and the blending of flavors.

Japanese wagyu beef tenderloin. Celeriac purée, crispy baby greens, pistachios, port sauce.

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Really tasty and melting. The celeriac purée is excellent and super light.

Hazelnut and chocolate mousse. Mandarin gel, Valrhona chocolate mousse, hazelnut mousse, orange sponge, mango and lime sorbet. (Photo omitted).

Very thin and light.

We’ll finish with a few mignardises.

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Very good

All in all, an excellent dinner to round off this stay, with, I insist, remarkable service. The waitress who took care of me (Trang I think) was super professional, spoke perfect English and her attitude was impeccable. Truly European service. I congratulated her at length at the end of the dinner.

Service

The service was extremely polite and excellent. Perhaps a little junior in one of the restaurants, but this was quickly forgiven in view of the goodwill shown.

Not a single member of staff passes a guest in the resort without ostentatiously greeting them, rather like at the excellent Ritz Carlton in Langkawi.

I also note the great availability of the hotel management, several of whose members came to introduce themselves and chat with me.

Check-out

I’ll leave the hotel after checking out on the mobile app. As at the Sheraton, a member of staff will come up to me, worried that I’m leaving without paying, but politely this time. And when I told him I’d checked out on my mobile, that was the end of the matter.

But obviously there are regions where mobile check-out isn’t really understood by the locals, as the only “worries” I’ve had on this subject have been in Thailand and Vietnam.

Lamarck University never existed

Now, for those who didn’t realize it, Lamarck University never existed, it’s just a theme that the hotel has consistently exploited to the full to create a context, a highly original experience for a resort. A bit like a theme park.

But I can assure you that everything is so well done and the storytelling so well done that I wondered for a few hours whether there was any truth in the story, even just a little, or whether it was all totally fake.

Because even when I spoke to members of the management team and asked questions about the hotel’s history, no one deviated one iota from the official story.

In fact, when I did a little research, I realized that many customers believed the story right up to the end, and some were a little disappointed that it was continually presented as the official story and not as a simple theme hotel. I think it’s good: when you go to Disney, do you need a disclaimer to say that Mickey is a fictional character?

I’ll go even further: what if we simply wanted to believe in it, to enjoy a vacation experience that’s a little bit different, and to take our minds off things in a different way than in the context of a standard resort like so many others?

And when I said that the architect of this hotel must love traditional resorts as much as I do, the story of this property is perfectly told in every detail on the architect’s website.

I have an aversion to beach resorts – I have designed dozens of beach resorts but to be honest I would never vacation at one. When I was hired to design this JW Marriott in Phu Quoc it just sounded like another big hotel on the beach. Then I got to thinking… Almost all of us enjoyed our college times. Some would say it was the best years of their lives. So why not build a resort based on those happy times?

Also known as Lamarck University, this is the reconstruction of my dream university dedicated to the study of all things natural, from anthropology to zoology. Jean Baptiste Lamarck was the predecessor of Darwin, and laid the groundwork for the idea of evolution: every space can teach you something..”

As for me, I enjoyed acting as if I believed in the story, and fell under the spell of the concept.

If you like the concept, you should also read this article.

Bottom line

The only downside to this stay was the weather, which wasn’t ideal, but I can’t blame the hotel for that.

As for the rest, I really enjoyed the experience, certainly influenced by the property’s atypical personality. The upgrade was superb, the room perfect, the staff attentive, and the hotel storytelling perfectly crafted and staged.

What more could one ask for?

Compared to the bland Sheraton, it was night and day! As much as writing the short review of the Sheraton Phu Quoc was laborious, like a torture, this longer and richer one was a real joy, making me remember this excellent stay.

There are few hotels where I can say to myself “I’ll have to return“, and the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay is undeniably one of them. But I’m not sure I’ll get the same room again at the same conditions in high season.

And you, what do you think of this hotel? Does the concept appeal to you, or does it put you off? Tell us in the comments.

The articles about this vacation in Vietnam

#TypePost
1Travel diaryPreparing for vacations in Vietnam
2FlightParis-Stockholm – SAS – SAS Plus (A320Neo)
3LoungeSAS Gold lounge – Stockholm
4FlightStockholm-Oslo – SAS – SAS Plus (A320Neo)
5HotelRadisson Blu Airport Hotel – Oslo Gardermoen
6LoungeSAS Gold lounge international zone – Oslo
7FlightOslo-Istanbul – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A321Neo)
8LoungeTurkish Airlines Miles&Smile Lounge international zone – Istanbul
9FlightIstanbul-Saigon – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A350)
10HotelRenaissance Riverside Hotel – Saigon
11RestaurantAnan – Saigon
12RestaurantHoa Tuc – Saigon
13Travel diarySaigon city tour
14LoungeVietnam Airlines Lotus lounge (domestic) – Saigon
15LoungeLe Saigonnais lounge (domestic) – Saigon
16FlightSaigon-Hanoi- Vietnam Airlines – Business Class (A350)
17HotelJW Marriott Hotel – Hanoi
18RestaurantGia – Hanoi
19RestaurantTung Dining – Hanoi
20Travel diaryCity tour of Hanoi
21LoungeVietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge (domestic) – Hanoi
22LoungeSong Hong Lounge (domestic) – Hanoi
23FlightHanoi-Phu Quoc – Vietnam Airlines – Business Class (A320Neo)
24HotelSheraton Long Beach Resort – Phu Quoc
25Hotel JW Marriott Emerald Bay – Phu Quoc
26LoungeHoa Sim Business lounge – Phu Quoc
27FlightPhu Quoc-Saigon – Vietnam Airlines – Business Class (A320)
28LoungeLe Saigonnais lounge (international zone) – Saigon
28FlightSaigon-Istanbul – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A350)
30LoungeIGA Lounge (zone internationale) – Istanbul
31LoungeTurkish Airlines business lounge – Istanbul
31FlightIstanbul-Oslo – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A321Neo)
32HotelRadisson Blu Plaza Hotel – Oslo
33RestaurantKatla – Oslo
34Travel diaryCity tour of Oslo
35FlightOslo-Copenhagen – SAS – SAS Plus (A320)
36FlightCopenhagen-Paris – SAS – SAS Plus (A320Neo)
37Travel diaryDebriefing of my vacation in Vietnam

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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