Old Apr 30, 18, 11:40 am
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Southern California, USA
Programs: Marriott Ambassador and LTT, UA Plat/LT Gold, AA Gold
Posts: 8,754
Post Merger Ambassador Program

I am a current SPG Platinum 100 Ambassador guest and thought it might be helpful for Marriott Platinums and others curious about this experience to learn more. There are numerous threads on this topic in the Starwood Forum, and I imagine those eventually will be folded into this thread when the Marriott, Starwood, and presumably Ritz-Carlton Forums are merged here on FlyerTalk.

For the record, I absolutely love the Ambassador program. I love my Ambassador. I have had tremendously positive experiences with my Ambassador and with many other members of the Ambassador team when my Ambassador is not available. I also have had a few less impressive experiences with an Ambassador, but those few do not tarnish in any way my esteem and delight with the program overall. For 2018, I currently have 106 nights with SPG, have 58 nights with Marriott (including 3 nights with Ritz-Carlton), and I would estimate my spending at SPG/Marriott/RC this year so far to be $100,000 based on the total charges I have spent on my SPG Amex Business card at SPG/Marriott/RC hotels. I not only stay at SPG/Marriott/RC hotels for my personal stays (usually at StR, RC, LuxColl, W) but for my own business group stays (most often Sheraton, Renaissance, Westin, Le Meridien, Four Points, and Courtyard). I don't just stay often at SPG hotels, but I also love to order room service and dine in the very nice restaurants when they have them. My spending reflects that.

There are many SPG Plat100s who believe the Ambassador experience is overrated and/or largely worthless. The Starwood Forum is replete with those examples. I could not disagree more with their assessment.

For years, I have indicated my belief that my better Ambassador treatment was due to (1) my very high spending at SPG hotels and (2) the fact that I stay more often for leisure stays at luxury level SPG hotels. In the SPG Forum, those beliefs most often were attacked and considered baseless. I believe the new $20,000 spend minimum to attain Ambassador status is evidence that I most likely was accurate in those assessments.

In my experience, Ambassador service is best executed at better hotels. Ambassador SERVICE is an individualized SERVICE. The hotels that execute personal and individualized service better are the ones that also tend to execute Ambassador service the best. An Ambassador might indicate to a hotel that I like chocolates and strawberries as a welcome amenity and that I require my room to be preset to 67 F, but the hotels must execute those requests. Not surprisingly, luxury hotels offering better service most often execute those requests better than upscale hotels, and upscale hotels most often execute those requests better than midscale hotels. If you stay most often at Marriott and Sheraton and Four Points level hotels, not only will one likely have a tougher time reaching the $20K minimum, those hotels also don't execute special requests as well as hotels with better records for individualized service. I expect more from a St Regis than I do a W, and I expect more from a W than I do a Sheraton. I have concomitant expectations for the Ambassador service execution at those hotels, too.

In my experience, Ambassador service with suite upgrades is almost always better at luxury level hotels because they just have more suites! There are exceptions, as with everything. But just about any time I stay at a St Regis, Luxury Collection, or W hotel, I am upgraded to a suite (almost always without any SNAs). In some cases, I am even pre-upgraded to a suite a week or two or even earlier before my arrival. I just returned from a weekend stay at the St Regis Atlanta, where I was pre-upgraded almost 3 weeks before arrival to a St Regis Suite. In mid April, I was at the W Boston where I had been pre-upgraded a month in advance to a Wow Suite. Both bookings were for paid entry level rooms.

My Ambassador can't always get me pre-upgraded, but she or my status get me upgraded to a suite an awful lot. My most recent luxury hotel stays have included suite upgrades at the StR Atlanta (paid entry room), W Boston (paid entry room), StR New York (paid entry room), StR Punta Mita (discounted paid upgrade to villa!)...and those are all in 2018. In 2017, I enjoyed suite upgrades at the StR San Francisco three times (paid and award entry rooms) in Nov and Dec, The Gwen Chicago (paid entry room) in Dec, W Westwood three times (paid entry rooms) in Nov and Dec, Prince de Galles Paris (award entry room) in Oct, Hotel Imperial Vienna (award entry room) in Oct, the Nines Portland (paid suite) in Aug, SLS Beverly Hills (award entry room) in June, Westin Richmond (paid group room) in Apr, Westin Charlotte (paid group room) in Apr, Sheraton Phila Univ City five times (paid group rooms) in Mar and Apr, Le Meridien Arlington five times (paid group rooms) in Mar and Apr, Le Meridien Cambridge (paid group rooms) and Mar and Apr, the StR Washington (paid entry room) in Apr, the StR Bahia Beach Puerto Rico (paid entry room) in Feb, etc. Some of those suite upgrades were to specialty suites that aren't normally provided in upgrade pools.

In my experience, Ambassadors can do a lot to help. But they aren't miracle workers--even when sometimes they can be! I had a prepaid stay at the St Regis Bora Bora in May 2016 for 7 nights, but our Air Tahiti Nui flight was canceled, causing us to arrive a day late and miss 1 of our 7 nights. My first call to the St Regis and the Ambassador team didn't get me any help...but my Ambassador persisted and managed to get me the missed 1 night's stay credited to my account as a food/beverage credit. THAT alone saved me $2,000. I didn't expect it, but her persistence and dedication went above and beyond for me and saved me a lot.

On the other hand, this past weekend at the StR Atlanta, I had to wait 90 min after arriving at 4:30 pm to get my pre-upgraded suite, despite a 3 pm check in time--and the Ambassador team rep (not my Ambassador, who was out for the weekend) was not particularly helpful at all.

I also know that I am treated often as a VIP when I stay at SPG hotels--especially at the luxury level hotels like StR, LuxColl, and W, but also at Le Meridien, Westin, and even sometimes at Sheraton and even Four Points! People tend to know me by name more often than I might otherwise expect, even at a StR or W. Even this past weekend at the StR Atlanta, my first stay there ever, by the second day people knew who I was throughout the hotel. That's impressive service by any measure, and that's directly related to my Ambassador service IMO.

In the Starwood Forum, I firmly believe that many people who complain about their Ambassador are staying at hotels that simply don't execute Ambassador requests--or any special requests, for that matter--particularly well. So they blame the Ambassador--rather than considering that the hotel may have been the culprit. I also believe that people too often complain about not getting upgraded when they stay at hotels that most often are at high occupancy, have few suites, or have so many elites and high paying guests that there just aren't many suites available. When people don't share the hotels where the issues arise, it's a good hint that it's not a great hotel!

I also know that not all Ambassadors are as good as others. There are many examples of Ambassadors who don't respond to requests or who seem to drop the ball too often. When this happens, you can contact the Ambassador team and request a new Ambassador. Please do! The only way the program can recognize bad Ambassadors is by members having the ability to share that information and the details.

I am hoping we all can share our Ambassador experiences here, both good and bad, so we can have a more balanced view on what the program can do for everyone. I think the details are important, so I encourage everyone to share the identity of the hotels in question so that we all have proper perspective.

Until our fellow Marriott members have the chance to enjoy an Ambassador starting on August 1, I and other Ambassador guests are happy to answer questions about the program.
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