For the past two years, I had trouble using the free night certificates that came with my co-branded Marriott credit cards.

My first set of two nights—courtesy of the Marriot Bonvoy American Express Card (no longer available to new applicants) and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card—were set to expire in 2020, but Marriott extended the expiration date on those during the coronavirus pandemic.

Another two free night certificates posted last June, which landed four certificates in my Bonvoy account where they remained unused until recently.

Marriott Cancun Resort

Photo by Anya Kartashova

My husband was coming up on some vacation days at the end of March, so I pulled the trigger and redeemed the certificates at the Marriott Cancun Resort, a Category 5 property located in the Hotel Zone in Cancun, Mexico. We paid cash for one night to extend the trip just a bit longer and booked all five nights on one reservation.

Checking In

My husband and I flew nonstop from Salt Lake City to Cancun on Delta Air Lines and arrived at the property around 4 p.m. local time. It’s about 10 miles from the airport, so the drive is short.

The check-in line seemed long, and the elite desk was closed. You’d think that a hotel would try to separate people into multiple lines so as to not create a crowded space during a pandemic, but that wasn’t the case.

check-in desk at Marriott Cancun Resort

The check-in desk at Marriott Cancun Resort | Photo by Anya Kartashova

We had to fill out a lot of paperwork, and the check-in process took a long time.

The receptionist recognized my Platinum Elite status and offered a choice of a welcome gift: 1,000 Bonvoy points, complimentary breakfast for two for every day of stay or a one-time amenity, such as a bottle of wine or snacks. We chose breakfast as it seemed to offer the best value.

Resort Fee Amenities

The clerk also informed us that the hotel charges a nightly resort fee of $25 and presented a card that lists all amenities included:

  • Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices
  • Two welcome margaritas at the lobby bar
  • Two snacks per stay (we found a pack of peanuts and a Twix bar in our room)
  • Daily culinary and mixology tastings at the lobby bar
  • Kids club access (for up to two kids for up to four hours per day)
  • Press service (up to one garment per day)
  • Daily fitness class for two at the pool deck
  • Use of tennis courts
  • Use of the sauna at the spa
  • One skin consultation at the spa (limited to once per stay)
  • Two Snappy Screen sunscreen applications (which was out of service, so we were offered two drinks at the pool bar instead)

Unfortunately, the Marriott Bonvoy program doesn’t waive resort fees on award stays. It doesn’t waive them for elite members, either, so you’re stuck paying a nightly charge even if you don’t end up using half of the “complimentary” amenities.

Culinary and mixology tastings
Culinary and mixology tastings at the Lobby Bar

Culinary and mixology tastings at the Lobby Bar | Photos by Anya Kartashova

Culinary and mixology tastings at the Lobby Bar | Photos by Anya Kartashova

Of the amenities listed above, my husband and I used the internet, of course, attended two of the snack tastings (which included a small appetizer and a tiny beverage) and redeemed our four drink coupons. That’s it. If it were up to me, the extras would be included in the room rate, but it’s not up to me, and hotels keep utilizing this pricing practice to their advantage.

The Room

Last year, I qualified for Platinum Elite status with just four stays and earned an Annual Choice Benefit. I selected five Suite Night Awards from the options, said, “What the heck!” and redeemed them for this five-night stay.

Suite Night Awards-Marrioot Cancun resort

It’s worth noting that the Marriott Cancun Resort doesn’t offer up any of its actual suites in exchange for the Suite Night Awards. The highest room tier I could request an upgrade for was to an Oceanfront View, Guest Room, One King, Balcony. I selected the room type, and the upgrade request cleared five days before check-in, which is the earliest it could have cleared.

Marriott Cancun Resort-Room
Marriott Cancun Resort-Room

Photos by Anya Kartashova

Photos by Anya Kartashova

The hotel is a six-story building, and our room was on the fifth floor. It faced the gorgeous ocean, and the crash of the surf outside our window made me sleep like never before. Yes, we kept the balcony door open at night so we could hear the sound of the waves.

Marriott Cancun Resort-ocean views
Marriott Cancun Resort-ocean view

Talk about panoramic ocean views at sunrise. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Talk about panoramic ocean views at sunrise. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

The room itself was spacious, had a couch and a coffee table. There was a mini-bar that we didn’t use and a small fridge. In fact, the fridge was so tiny, we had to take out one of the shelves inside to make room for bottled water.

We requested privacy on the door for the whole stay, so I can’t say anything about housekeeping. I prefer to avoid anyone else being in the room during the pandemic.

Marriott Cancun Resort-comfort room
Marriott Cancun Resort-comfort room

Photos by Anya Kartashova

Photos by Anya Kartashova

The bathroom was of decent size as well. The walk-in shower offered a choice of rain shower as well as a traditional showerhead. We had no issues with the water pressure or temperature.

On-Site Dining

Let’s start with breakfast. As mentioned before, we were offered a daily complimentary continental breakfast as a welcome gift. I figured five free breakfasts were better than 1,000 Marriott points, so I went with that option. Otherwise, continental breakfast for two costs about $22.50 (or 456 Mexican pesos, including a 15% service charge).

Marriott Cancun Resort-0nsite Dining

Photo by Anya Kartashova

At check-out, there was a mix-up, and all five breakfast charges ended up on the final bill. I pointed out the error to the receptionist, and he took the charges off promptly.

Sasi Thai restaurant Marriott Cancun Resort

Sasi Thai restaurant doubles as breakfast buffet at Marriott Cancun Resort. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Breakfast is held at the Sasi Thai bungalows, which double as a Thai restaurant at dinnertime. Continental breakfast is buffet-style, but you can’t serve yourself. The food aisles are roped off, and a staff member must serve you the items you select.

Continental breakfast line at Sasi Thai

Continental breakfast line at Sasi Thai | Photo by Anya Kartashova

The options included a bread station, a fruit station, meats and cheeses, yogurt and freshly made guacamole. You can also order tea, coffee or fresh juices. Overall, I enjoyed breakfast selections and how much was offered.

bread station
fruit station
meats and cheeses
yogurt and freshly made guacamole

Bread Station | Photos by Anya Kartashova

Fruit Station | Photos by Anya Kartashova

Meats and Cheeses | Photos by Anya Kartashova

Yogurt and freshly made guacamole | Photos by Anya Kartashova

It’s also possible to upgrade your breakfast to a premium option with waffles, eggs and other goodies, but my husband and I were content with continental breakfast.

One last thing I’d like to mention about breakfast is perhaps the coolest, most badass and most unique feature I’ve ever seen! A staff member walks around a restaurant with a hawk on her arm. Any time you leave your plate unattended and another bird gets close to steal a piece of bread or fruit, the hawk flexes its wings and scares off the would-be thief. After breakfast, the hawk’s shift continues at the pool restaurant.

guard hawk that scares off other birds from stealing your breakfast

A guard hawk that scares off other birds from stealing your breakfast. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anything like it before and thought it was awesome.

On one of the days, the pool area had a barbeque going on, so we ordered some tacos al pastor, and they were incredible.

Poolside order of food at Marriott Cancun Resort

Poolside order of food at Marriott Cancun Resort | Photo by Anya Kartashova

As for other on-site restaurants, there are a bunch of choices, but I don’t have much to say about them.

Complementary margaritas at the pool bar

Complementary margaritas at the pool bar as part of the resort fee amenities | Photo by Anya Kartashova

We had dinner at the Kasai Izakaya & Ramen Noodle Bar once, and although the food tasted fine, the service was awful. My husband works in the service industry, so we’re pretty lenient when it comes to busy servers or slow kitchen times, but this experience was underwhelming.

Egg rolls and pork buns at Kasai Izakaya1
Egg rolls and pork buns at Kasai Izakaya

Egg rolls and pork buns at Kasai Izakaya | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Egg rolls and pork buns at Kasai Izakaya | Photo by Anya Kartashova

We went out to off-site restaurants in the neighborhood on all other nights. Luckily, the Marriott Cancun Resort is located in a busy area with lots of dining options nearby.

The Property

The hotel grounds feature an outdoor pool and a large hot tub, two pool bars (one swim-up bar and one regular bar), a fitness center, a spa, a kids club and meeting rooms. We used concierge services for help with dinner reservations one night and with finding a local bus schedule to Chichen Itza, a Mayan archaeological site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Pool and hot tub at Marriott Cancun Resort
Dip in the pool at Marriott Cancun Resort

Pool and hot tub at Marriott Cancun Resort | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Dip in the pool at Marriott Cancun Resort. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

On the days we weren’t away doing activities, such as scuba diving or visiting Chichen Itza, my husband and I spent most of our time lounging at the soft-sand beach or by the pool. I don’t know if it’s the case during other seasons, but it was quite windy during our stay in March, and the big red flag perched in the sand indicated a strong surf.

beachside lounge chairs at Marriott Cancun Resort

Relax on the beachside lounge chairs at Marriott Cancun Resort. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Although most hotel guests stayed away from the ocean, my husband spent a lot of time in and out of the water, frolicking in the big waves. He’s a good swimmer, so I didn’t worry too much, but I wouldn’t recommend going in the ocean with small children, as doing so could turn dangerous quickly. A lifeguard on duty will tell you to get out of the ocean if necessary.

lifeguard is always on duty at the Marriott Cancun Resort

A lifeguard is always on duty at the Marriott Cancun Resort. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Keep in mind that the beach in front of Marriott Cancun Resort is public property, which means that you’ll have to keep saying, “No, gracias,” to the many vendors strolling up and down the beach looking for their next victim (unless you actually want to buy something).

You’ll also find a volleyball net and a couple of soccer goal posts on the beach, but I didn’t see anyone playing.

Some areas of the hotel were under renovation during our stay, but it wasn’t overly loud or disturbing.

COVID-19 Precautions

All staff members wore masks whether at the pool, reception or the restaurants. The elevator had signs suggesting to limit capacity to either two people or your party.

We went during a busy time during spring break and never had issues with getting a socially distanced table at breakfast or finding an empty lounge chair away from other people.

Hand sanitizing stations were abundant throughout the property, and everything looked spotless.

How to Book Marriott Cancun Resort with Bonvoy Points

If you decide to travel to Cancun and stay at Marriott Cancun Resort, you can do so two ways.

The first option is to redeem your free night certificates that you earn with various co-branded Marriott credit cards. Most of them cover a room costing up to 35,000 Bonvoy points, which is the standard redemption rate for this property. Off-peak nights go for 30,000 points, and peak nights go up to 40,000 points.

I redeemed my certificates six weeks before my arrival date and had no issues finding dates with standard award pricing, even taking into account the hotel capacity limits imposed by the local government.

swim-up bar at the Marriott Cancun Resort

Grab a drink at a swim-up bar at the Marriott Cancun Resort. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

The second option is to redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points. Remember that for every four nights you book with points, you get a fifth night free. Unfortunately, you don’t get an extra free night on stays booked with certificates.

There’s actually a third option, which is paying with cash, but who here wants to do that?

Final Thoughts

panoramic view from our balcony

I’ll leave you with another photo of the panoramic view from our balcony. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

Overall, we both enjoyed our stay at Marriott Cancun Resort. It turned out to be a great use of free night certificates, and the upgrade to an oceanfront room was excellent.

The beach area at your doorstep is groomed every day, and there are plenty of beach chairs for everyone. Staff wears masks and takes all precautions to make you feel safe. It was just the getaway we needed.