This still giddy longtime Marriott customer has ... so ... much ... to say about this Marriott Bonvoy Moments Experience, so ... be forewarned ... this is a long post.
Special bonus: there's a Marriott Let's Talk Points Podcast about this experience - check it out at: https://traveler.marriott.com/podcasts/#podcast1
To the extent that I'm not sure where to start, maybe a brief summary is in order:
- Burning a large chunk of points on (through an auction) for this Marriott Bonvoy Moment Experience - to attend the final game of the Copa America tournament at Macarana stadium - was a great decision;
- The Marriott Bonvoy team knows how to throw a party - during this experience, they literally rewrote the book on hospitality; and
- The Sheraton Rio Hotel & Spa in Rio de Janeiro is a splendid property! Here's a phone pic to put the location in context:
And ... we added a day trip in to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf ... oh, my ... so stick with me....
OK, now that I got that out of the way... let's digress into some details:
- Context: here's the package I bid on (and won, in addition to four other lucky winner/bidders): Access the Marriott Bonvoy Elite Hospitality Suite for the soccer final of the Copa America tournament in Rio de Janeiro (including transportation to-from the game) + a two-night stay at the Sheraton Grand; plus and ESPN experience (backstage tour, meet and great and desk photo opportunity).... and that was before they threw in "the brunch" (more on that below) and everything else...
- Background and full disclosure: whenever I start "shopping" with points for anything other than hotel stays, I'm reminded of pingreeman's dispassionate, economics-based analysis of points and the (general) truism that points are a commodity and should be treated (and optimized) as such. Nonetheless, I admit that I periodically do "mental math" and treat things I buy with hotel points and airline miles as "free." I know this is wrong (from an economic perspective), but I do find that - sometimes - it empowers me to obtain "things" or experiences I simply wouldn't pay for out of my pocket. More on that issue here: https://insiders.marriott.com/thread/12441. Bottom line: this was a splurge, but it was worth it!
- A word on the Marriott team: from the "Moment" I was notified that I'd won the bidding, Marriott's communication was excellent, responsive, helpful, and ... frankly ... energizing. Some special shout-outs to super-host, Luz Fleming (Brand Activation Manager, who went out of her way to ensure everything was just right), Sintia Gomes (Manager of the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort - her enthusiasm was contagious!), and Livia Loureiro (Chefe Concierge at the Sheraton); and also special mention to Ricardo Calo (Marriott Area Vice President, Southern South America) and Gil Zanchi (Area General Manager), who joined us for brunch and the game, and couldn't have been more welcoming and engaged.
- Arriving at the hotel, from the warm greeting in reception, it was pretty clear that Marriott wanted us to feel welcome!
The light-up (Carnival?) rings were a special treat, but we're not quite sure where to wear them, yet. But the Marriott Bonvoy team wasn't done, not by a long shot. Before we'd settled in, our artfully presented welcome fruit plate arrived:
And then ... and then ... the icing on the cake ... re-writing the script on lounge wear..... For more on this oh-so-important topic, see here: https://insiders.marriott.com/polls/1645 ... And, of course, we also ended up with a couple of stylish black Marriott Bonvoy baseball hats... Oh, and before I forget, they also gave a us a nice bound journal/diary, which was a nice touch...
- A brief detour on the brunch (which wasn't even mentioned as part of the package): The morning of the game, Marriott Bonvoy invited us to a brunch that was just a bit over the top. Here's a peak at the dessert table....
and the breads were cute too:
The brunch was OUTRAGEOUS and gorgeous and generous and diverse and ... memorable and special. For me, even though I didn't even consider 3/4 of the offerings, I was overwhelmed by the choices of grilled and fresh fishes and seafood ... from salmon to prawns to octopus to bream (Dorado?), and that was the tip of the iceberg... There was an entire table with chafing dishes containing hot food that I didn't even approach (but my son raved about the meat)...
- Oh, and did I mention our room? our corner suite on the 23rd floor, with commanding views over .... everything.... with three (yup, 3) sets of floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and balconies on both sides? With two comfortable easy chairs with roll under/out ottomans (which I found to a nice treat). Here's the view in one direction, looking down to Ipanema Beach (about a 10-minute walk).
- But, wait, on Saturday night, we met the Marriott Bonvoy team for our ESPN experience, touring the TV and radio broadcast studios (inside and outside) from where ESPN throughout the tournament. The outdoor TV studio (see below) overlooked the water - and the team had drones flying as well for made-for-TV views.
And, speaking of the ESPN drone, here it is, doing its thing, 23 floors over the water (not far from one of our balconies):
As part of our tour, we met the ESPN team and took pictures inside the outdoor TV studio.
In particular, ESPN's (ESPN Deportes)Jorge Ramos was not only a personable host, but a willing, engaged, and spirited conversationalist. Now out of Miami, and formerly with Univision, Ramos has seen (and described) it all - he's a familiar voice for soccer (football) fans, and sometimes called “el relator de America” (the commentator of the Americas).
And here's the radio studio, which was quite impressive as well:
Overall, the ESPN team ... staff, on-screen personalities, play-by-play commentators, everyone ... couldn't have been nicer or more engaged. Indeed, late Sunday night, we watched most of the US-Mexico Gold Cup finals match in the parking lot with the ESPN crew (to the extent that the game wasn't broadcast in Brazil, and we couldn't get it through online streaming either).
- And did I mention we came for a (HUGE) soccer (football) game in one of the planet's most celebrated stadiums? With the crowd at a fever pitch because host Brazil was in the finals?
As an aside, here's the stadium as seen from under the shadow of Christ the Redeemer (more on that epic spot, below), that one's for the folks like iahflyr who don't check luggage (and, thus, wouldn't have a big, heavy lens with them)....
But, once we navigated the traffic (in the comfortable Marriott bus and hospitality vans), there would be no lines for us:
Once in the suite, the beer (and soda and water) flowed freely for hours ... as did the snacks (finger foods), and having a private rest room was also a nice treat. Oh, and we all received commemorative Copa America pin sets (5 pins in a presentation box) as we arrived.
- And the game itself? Splendid, exciting, electric ... what a great crowd and atmosphere... And it was worth it for the opening ceremony itself:
The music, the colors, ... what a scene... And the game didn't disappoint either.
And, now, it's back at the hotel ... and we've extended our stay for some more time at the pool (and the tennis courts and the restaurants) and a little tourism ... And to enjoy more of the views... Which reminds me of the picture below, taken in the nicely staffed 26th floor lounge - although this only a phone picture - but look closely in the top right, and you'll see (the tiny silhouette of) Christ the Redeemer atop the rock ...
And, now, the opposite perspective, from under the shadow of Christ the Redeemer, itself, here we are looking back at the Sheraton (through a big lens) - yup, that's the Sheraton, basically smack dab in the middle of the picture, surrounded by the thick foliage at the base of the big rock...
- And, because it's all part of the whole ... I need to rave about the lounge and the breakfast ... because the rooms are comfortable and attractive and the views are OUTSTANDING and the food is plentiful (full breakfast buffet plus eggs to order) and attractive and the staff is terrific (they already know my name ... and my son's name ... and what coffee I like, from the Nespresso machine, etc.). And, for the TIPPLE-inclined crew, the evening happy hour included a full bar, with the lounge staff serving the local specialty, caiparinhas (Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça (also known as caninha, Brazil's most common distilled alcoholic beverage), sugar, and lime ... which were refreshing and quite tasty). [And we enjoyed the restaurants too ... indeed, we didn't eat a single meal off property (other than snacks at the stadium during the Copa Final, that is)....]
And, well, as is obvious at this point, because we could, we extended our stay so we could cram in a little tourism, including an epic day trip to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf mountain.... I was initially skeptical about the Christ the Redeemer, but ... oh, my ... there's a reason why it's so popular... It's STUNNING!!! We completely underestimated how ... large and grand and impressive ... it is! Wow!
OK, we were impressed!
Which brings me to the cable car to Sugarloaf.... OK, that was a treat too:
Back at the resort, it wasn't until the last day that we actually got off our butts, walked down the stairs, and walked on the property's beach ... who, us? lazy? ... nah, we'd just been far too happy and comfortable and well-cared-for hanging out at the pool (and the various outdoor restaurants and bars).... But the beach was, in a word, stunning:
One final shot from our balcony:
- All of which brings me back to where I started.... Yes, I spent a ridiculous sum of points (but not as many as I was willing to spend) ... and I threw in even MORE airline miles (OK, we came down ... on the overnight flight ... in Business Class on United ... which my son really enjoyed).... But, in terms of a memorable trip with my son, that we'll be talking about ... for a long time .. all I can say is that we'll remember this ... and be talking about ... for many years to come. And, well, that kind of experience is just plain priceless.
So, THANKS Marriott Bonvoy ... for a wonderful "Moments" Experience!