JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort offers new way to experience paradise
Amanda Cox, director of sales and marketing at the JW Marriott on Marco Island, talks about a new adult-only experience offered at the resort in November 2018. The new Lanai Tower has 93 adult-only rooms and suites. Laura Layden, Naples Daily News via Wochit
There's a new way to experience paradise in Southwest Florida.
Tucked inside the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, Paradise by Sirene is an upscale, adult-only experience in the new Lanai Tower overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
There's nothing else like it in the JW Marriott chain — or the Marriott family.
"She really is incredible. There's nothing like her," Sharon Lockwood, the resort's general manager, said on opening day.
The new trademarked experience launched Nov. 20, two days before Thanksgiving.
Rooms sold out the first night — and remained 100 percent booked through the long holiday weekend, with guests eager to be the first to try out the new offering years in the making.
Occupancy is now running in the 80 percent range, in keeping with the rest of the resort — and the experience is expected to sell out again for the Christmas holiday.
Guests become ‘Friends of Sirene’
Guests of the experience — called "Friends of Sirene" — have their own comfy lounge for check-in, where they're handed glasses of Champagne to toast their arrival. There's a separate door to the lounge so the main lobby can be avoided altogether.
"There has been a lot of interest from high profile guests and personalities. I think the exclusive nature and the privacy of Marco Island in general are appealing to that clientele," said Amanda Cox, the resort's sales and marketing director.
At check-in guests receive electronic bracelets that not only unlock their luxurious rooms but also give them access to amenities all their own, including a rooftop pool and a slice of a private white sand beach behind the resort with umbrellas and chairs.
Elevators to the rooms aren't accessible without the digital bracelets, ensuring that uninvited guests can't roam the halls.
There are 93 guest rooms spread out on floors six through nine at the new tower.
With a sleek Balinese-inspired design, the rooms and suites offer upgraded amenities, such as Nespresso coffee makers and Tivoli sound systems. Other special features include glass showers with benches, separate water closets and glass balconies that have no railings to obstruct the waterfront views.
Sirene is your hostess
Sirene is described by the resort as the experience's "signature muse," or hostess, who carefully crafts special delights and surprises for her guests, such as off-menu cocktails and other treats, which on the first day included Champagne-soaked frozen grapes on skewers served poolside.
"A guest is not seeing her, but they are experiencing her," Cox said.
Guests are provided with "Sirene's private line" upon arrival, so they can keep in touch with her via text message for any special requests throughout the resort.
The tower's adult-only pool comes with a pool valet and the private slice of beach with a beach butler to wait on guests and surprise them with the unexpected extras. On a hot day the extras might be chilled eucalyptus face towels, while on a cold day they might be espressos.
Kathy Jura, a pool valet, said she loves her new job.
"This is my favorite place to work," she said. "I just love it, even on cloudy days."
The Paradise by Sirene experience also includes a continental breakfast daily in Tesoro, the tower's chic, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with panoramic views of the Gulf. It's the resort's only adult-only restaurant.
Guests also have access to an adult-only fitness center in the tower.
"We curated this experience with celebrations in mind — as a brand new way to experience paradise for a milestone, a birthday, an anniversary or honeymoon," Cox said.
On average, rates at the Lanai Tower run $100 to $250 higher than for rooms with similar views at the rest of the resort, which is entirely family-friendly. At the height of season, the nightly cost for the new rooms is expected to be upward of $900.
Room for two
During a tour of Paradise by Sirene, Cox showed off a suite on the ninth floor with expansive views of the Gulf. Although the suite is 300 square feet larger than a regular room, it's designed only for two guests.
In fact, two is the maximum number of guests who can stay in any room at the Lanai Tower.
Suites include a separate entertainment area that can be closed off from the bedroom for special gatherings.
"As a rule of thumb we've found in our initial customer surveys that only 10 percent of the customers purchasing this experience have an interest in the room at all," Cox said. "They are interested in the experience."
A mother and daughter visiting from Boston and staying on the other side of the resort briefly joined Cox's tour, gushing over the suite and all it offered, including the view of the Gulf. They usually stay at the resort with other family members for Thanksgiving every year.
"I don't want to leave now," said Nancy Moore, the mother, after seeing the view and the upscale amenities. "I wish I could stay."
Asked if the Paradise by Sirene concept might be added at other Marriott resorts, Cox said it was too soon to say.
”Early response would indicate that this is going to be so popular," Cox said. "I think there would definitely be others that would want to emulate it, like with anything new and popular."
The Lanai Tower was part of a three-year, $320 million makeover and brand conversion project of the Marco property from a Marriott to a JW Marriott. It was the third and final phase and opened in stages.
The tower includes more than 100,000 square feet of state-of-the-art event and meeting space on the first three floors, which debuted in March. The space has two large ballrooms with 22- to 24-foot ceilings and five outdoor terraces, as well as breakout rooms for smaller functions.
The meeting space is an economic driver that now accounts for 60 percent of the resort's overnight business — the percentage that used to come from leisure travelers, or vacationers, before the conversion, Cox said.
"The Paradise Coast can now compete with the east coast of Florida for these larger meetings and events," she said.
The adult-only rooms are generating more interest from businesses and business travelers than expected. Some businesses are looking to offer the experience as part of their incentive programs for employees, for example, Cox said.
The Lanai Tower is also home to 10K Alley, a gastropub and state-of-the-art gaming venue offering mini-bowling lanes, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, pool tables, arcade-style games and virtual reality experiences such as zombie dodgeball, bocce ball and croquet.
One of the most popular virtual games is golf, which can be played on more than 80 of the most popular courses recreated on an oversized screen.
Entertainment ‘on steroids’
"I call it a Dave & Buster's on steroids. It's very kid-friendly, but adult-forward," said Nick Wagner, the resort's director of guest experiences.
After 10 p.m. the venue, offering 140 gaming opportunities, is open only to adults, 21 and older. It usually doesn't open until 4 p.m., but sometimes it will open earlier if the weather is bad or the demand is higher.
Originally, the space was going to be used for storage, but a forward-thinking manager proposed turning it into an entertainment spot.
Besides the games, 10K Alley offers gastropub fare, along with milkshakes and beer. The drinks menu includes more than 50 beers on tap, as well as barrel-aged bourbons including spirits such as Old Forester and Kentucky Owl.
The tower's signature restaurant, Tesoro, is open for dinner to all guests — and to anyone in the community. The eatery has a Mediterranean look and feel, offering tapas and handcrafted cocktails in a contemporary setting.
The restaurant serves local and imported seafood, along with Mediterranean foods such as fresh-baked pita, black baba ganoush and carbonara flatbread.
Small plates are designed for sharing.
"I love it because it's the way I like to eat," said Gerald Sombright, the executive chef. "Regardless, it's the way food should be eaten."
One of his favorite menu items? Ahi tuna with cocoa nibs, smoked balsamic and extra virgin olive oil, and stone fruit.
The Marriott resort's renovations began in 2015. It closed for 90 days to kick off the project, which included a new grand front entrance, reimagined lobby, upgrades to all rooms and suites, and bigger pool decks.
As a result of the changes, the resort has added more than 200 employees, bringing its total to more than 1,000.
"Really, this was a redefining of paradise," Cox said. "So everything is brand new."