Marriott’s Super Secret, Invitation Only Cobalt Status

Filed Under: Marriott

Many loyalty programs have invitation-only elite tiers, like American Concierge Key, United Global Services, and Hyatt Courtesy Card.

At least on the airline front, those are typically pretty widely known. What many people don’t realize is that Marriott also has an invitation only elite tier. It’s just in the process of being formally rolled out throughout the Marriott system, so let’s look at what we know about it.

Marriott Bonvoy’s five published elite tiers

Marriott’s Bonvoy program is the world’s largest hotel loyalty program, and they have five official elite tiers:

  • Silver Elite status, which requires 10 elite nights per year
  • Gold Elite status, which requires 25 elite nights per year
  • Platinum Elite status, which requires 50 elite nights per year
  • Titanium Elite status, which requires 75 elite nights per year
  • Ambassador Elite status, which requires 100 elite nights and $20,000 of qualifying spending per year

I’m treated well as an Ambassador Elite member

Who gets Marriott Cobalt status?

Marriott Cobalt Elite status is available exclusively through Marriott’s CEO. Marriott employees can allegedly nominate members, though they have to be approved by the CEO.

I imagine nominations will be very exclusive, so this isn’t just a function of being friends with someone at a front desk, or even frequenting one hotel. Similarly, this won’t even be given to hotel owners.

The Cobalt Elite program existed as part of the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program back in the day, and was also very exclusive. It’s only in the past few days that Marriott hotels have been formally briefed about Cobalt Elite status, as Marriott has tried to come up with some benefits under the new program.

What benefits do Marriott Cobalt members receive?

Given how exclusive Cobalt Elite status is, the benefits are kind of not that amazing, actually. Cobalt Elite members receive Ambassador Elite status, but on top of that get benefits that vary by brand:

At select and extended stay brands, Cobalt members receive:

  • Upgrades to the best available rooms, including suites
  • Personalized note from the general manager
  • Being met by the general manager

Cobalt Elite members get suite upgrades at limited service properties

At premium brands, Cobalt members receive:

  • Personalized amenity

At luxury brands, Cobalt members receive:

  • Distinctive experience on-property for member and a guest

The “distinctive experience” being offered at luxury properties varies by brand, and includes:

  • At Ritz-Carltons, complimentary club lounge access and greeting by management there, as well as personal invitation from general manager to “scenography defining moment of the day”
  • At JW Marriott, personal invitation to meet with general manager at a food & beverage outlet
  • At EDITION, VIP table assignment in restaurant or bar
  • At St. Regis, personal invitation to a ritual moment

Ritz-Carlton lounge access is a Cobalt Elite benefit

Bottom line

It’s interesting that Marriott is now fully rolling out their new Cobalt Elite status as part of the Marriott Bonvoy program. Given how exclusive this status allegedly is, I’m kind of surprised there aren’t more benefits.

For example, at Marriott’s top brands (where you’d assume most of these premium guests are staying), you basically get Ambassador Elite status, plus an experience, and that’s it. Ritz-Carlton lounge access is nice (as it’s not offered as part of status otherwise), but other than that, I can’t say the benefits are that exciting.

Now, I would say that there’s probably better “soft” treatment all around. For example, I imagine Cobalt Elite members will be looked after more carefully, employees will be briefed on them, etc.

So, does anyone have Cobalt Elite status, or know someone who does?

(Tip of the hat to Richard Kerr)

Comments
  1. That’s a lot of meetings with management when you generally want to go to a hotel and work/relax/be with a SO.

  2. The benefits for the Cobalt status look very very underwhelming.
    I can’t believe the CEO needs to approve who gets these useless benefits.

  3. I would gladly pay not to be greeted by the general manager everywhere I go.
    What the heck is scenography defining moment!?!?

  4. I could care less about meeting with the GM of any hotel. Who cares? The benefits are very underwhelming.

  5. My initial thought is why “Cobalt”?

    Cobalt is quite an interesting metal, but it’s not particularly valuable – about 25$ per kilo at the moment. It’s also a metal with some very dodgy ethical baggage – most of the world production comes from DR Congo with plenty of evidence of child/slave labour and similar practices.

    If you wanted an metal more valuable than platinum then rhodium would be a better choice – about $120,000 per kg

    But of course in the last few years gold has become more valuable than platinum – so the whole analogy sort of falls apart.

  6. Would be nice if they would introduce a universal breakfast benefit for Cobalt at the very least…

  7. This reminds me of Hermes handbags that make it virtually impossible to purchase a ‘Birken’ or so they’d have you believe.

    Exclusivity makes many want their product that much more.

    This is a bit amusing, getting to meet the GM and a letter from said person.

    I’ll pass.

    Happy Week to you Lucky and all readers!

  8. I don’t have Cobalt status (I am a Platinum member) but got Cobalt like treatment at my stay at the Hotel Arts (Ritz Carlton) in Barcelona couple weeks ago during family vacation. Just to summarize, I booked two regular rooms with points for 5 nights (5th night free) and couple weeks before my arrival I emailed the manager asking for connecting rooms or if an upgrade to all four of us in one room would be possible. Arrived at the hotel and when I handed my passport the person greeted me and said they we waiting for my arrival. She picked up the phone and called 2 different people and said I had arrived. Suddenly we were surrounded by 8 to 10 members of the staff which were simply amazing. They each introduced themselves and were there to help in anything we needed during our stay. Then the general manager said she would escort my family to our “special” room which she thought would be nice for us to be together as a family. Long story short, we were upgraded to the penthouse. We needed to take the elevator to a special floor where there was a concierge just to serve a few of their special rooms. From there we took another elevator to the penthouse. OMG!!!!! It was simply stunning. A two floor apartment with view to everywhere in Barcelona (ocean and city), two full suites, dining table for 10 people, full kitchen, etc… During our stay we received free cookies, chocolates, sparkling wine and the most amazing one was a special celebration for my two boys. When we arrived at the hotel one of the staff members approached them and asked if they liked sports and what were their favorite players. One night we got to our room and the room was decorated with balloons with my kid’s names, bottles of chocolate milk and a huge patisserie made cake decorated with edible pictures of the players they liked. How amazing is that?????? Seriously, I am not a Cobalt member and may not even make to Platinum again this year but I never had such an amazing stay at a hotel like the one we had at the Arts.

  9. At least cobalt (the metal) is more valuable than titanium, halting the decrease in value from gold to platinum to titanium 😉

  10. “Upgrades to the best available rooms, including suites”

    This is already a feature of Ambassador status (and P/T as well) – unless it also loops in Edition, RC, etc. and the other brands that Marriott was too incompetent to align benefit-wise.

  11. Thanks Ben for giving us another reason to avoid Marriott properties. Having a published benefit to meet the GM is very ego-centric on part of their brand. Like others have already said ‘who cares?’. Worthless Status tier, IMO.

  12. I had been an SPG Platinum for life member for many years. In many of those years, I qualified for what I think was called the “24-hour special option”. Checkout was 24 hours after check-in, no matter what time you checked in. This was a terrific benefit when flying to Asia (especially India) for a one-day meeting. Planes arrived in Mumbai about 01:30 am and I could get to the ITC Sheraton or Le Meridien (across from the airport) by about 2:15 am. Planes departed Mumbai about 4:30 am; meaning I could leave the hotel at about 02:00 am. So I could reserve a one night stay and did not need to book for two nights. A terrific benefit. Sadly Marriott does not seem to be interested in maintaining this benefit.

  13. There seems to be a lot of unnecessary bitterness about Cobalt!

    I’ve been Ambassador for many years now and actually have been impressed at how Marriott has improved upon the SPG Plat 100 night with Ambassador experience.

    Cobalt largely mimics Ambassador status, with a few added perks that may or may have value to everyone. Clearly, for those staying at Ritz-Carlton, it seems most will be delighted to get access to the famous Ritz-Carlton Club lounges–which isn’t offered via any other elite status. Meeting hotel GMs will matter more to some than others; personally, I think it would be lovely when schedules permit, especially for hotels where I stay often. (But I don’t think I’d need to meet for every stay!) The “experiences” are also something that will matter more to some than others; it could be interesting to see what new experiences, if any, hotels might come up with for repeat Cobalt guests.

    But for the most part, Cobalt status isn’t taking anything away from anyone else. So why all the uproar? It seems to me that too many are merely bitter about something that they usually won’t need or use but that they just want to have as a shiny new object anyway.

    Cobalt will allow Marriott to invite certain people who otherwise might not qualify for Ambassador and yet might be more inclined to stay with Marriott given the status. Makes sense to me, and good sense for Marriott.

  14. As an Ambassador, I typically get asked to wait for the GM and it is always awkward. That is literally the LAST thing I want to do after being in transit for 10 hours or more! I’m not sure how that is a benefit!

  15. Why the uproar? because Marriott can’t or won’t extend published Platinum benefits to Platinum’s. Its called “destroying your brand equity.” But when you buy all the hotels and customers have fewer choices then you don’t have to worry about brand equity any more because customers have no choice.

  16. I think a lot of people are underestimating the ego-stroking value of meeting the hotel manager.
    While most of us dont care for this, there are plenty of people that this gives a sense of importance to.

  17. @ Santastico

    Wow that is enviable. I checked their website. The penthouses look amazing. They do have quite a bunch of penthouses though.

  18. What’s interesting is the tangible benefits of this unpublished status are basically only available at the brands Marriott manages. The bast majority of Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Renaissance, Marriott and other branded properties are managed by franchisees or third-party companies. With some exceptions, Marriott only really manages St Regis, Ritz-Carlton and, to a lesser extent, JW Marriott and W. Even then, it is only really internationally with the exception of Ritz-Carlton. The vast majority of North America properties are NOT managed by Marriott.

  19. Sitting right now in my room in an independent German hotel I won’t name. Damn good team, good staff and service that would be akin to a large chain high end status. Have to laugh at the constant chase your tail on elite for an inconsistent experience from property to property. I just don’t bother anymore.

  20. @Zich: Yes, they do have 4 floors which have their penthouses. I think there are 3 or 4 per floor. They were stunning. That was by far the best customer service treatment I ever had in any Marriott property.

  21. Many years ago we stayed at The Bale in Nusa Dua and the GM met us each night for a drink during happy hour. At first it seemed a bit awkward but he was very personable and gave us a lot of “ex-pat” insight on the local culture in Bali. In the end were enjoyed our evening cocktails with him and made the overall stay better.

  22. @ FNT Delta Diamond: I’m not sure in what world you’re living, but it makes little difference whether Marriott employees themselves or franchise employees are managing a property in the Bonboy portfolio in terms of extended benefits and elite status. Almost all if not all of the Luxury Collection, Autograph Collection, and Tribute Portfolio hotel properties are managed independently anyway, and all provide elite benefits like the other Bonvoy brands.

    I think you don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m afraid.

    I’ve stayed at Four Points, Element, Courtyard, Marriott, Renaissance, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Westin, W, JW, Ritz-Carlton, and St Regis all in the USA and all of those same premium and luxury brands outside the USA; I’ve been treated very well, often pre-upgraded as an Ambassador elite, at all of those.

    Of course, I don’t throw a tantrum if a FDA doesn’t specifically identify me as an Ambassador guest. It seems you might.

  23. “Why the uproar? because Marriott can’t or won’t extend published Platinum benefits to Platinum’s.”

    @rjb: Marriott does extend published benefits to Platinums. Some properties aren’t as good as consistent delivery as others, but the overwhelming majority clearly are doing so as evidenced repeatedly on so many forums, including FlyerTalk, Facebook groups, and even TripAdvisor.

    When things go awry, it’s human nature–and a perfect example of human prejudice–to assume that what happens to you at 1 or 5 or even 10 properties is somehow representative of the more than 7000 Marriott Bonvoy properties for the other 133 million Bonvoy members.

  24. What a terrible name for a tier with mostly useless benefits. Cobalt isn’t particularly expensive or fancy, as evidenced by the econo-car Chevvy Cobalt. What is going on with the branding folks at Marriott? Literally anyone could do a better job.

  25. Once Marriott decides to actually deliver Titanium benefits, or for that matter, Platinum and Gold, I’ll stand up and take notice…..maybe a common sense breakfast policy? a fair upgrade policy, some transparency? Rather than strive for Cobalt (maybe if my last name was Kardashian, I’d be Cobalt with 1 stay per year). I’ll just be happy with Hilton Diamond and hope for the best with Titanium. The hotels that know me take great care. The rest are hit or miss at best.

  26. If I remember correctly, did not SPG have a secret VIP level that, among others, property owners would get. I think they would also be able to get upgraded to named suites.

  27. To many flaws to begin with, my Ambassador never reached out when I achieved the status. Choosing SNA as annual choice are useless, they seem to never be available, and expire after a year if not used. Free night cert can not be upgraded or transferred.

  28. I am an Ambassador and have learned that even BEST WESTERN Diamond Select members enjoy more status than Marriott.
    I just spent a weekend at a Courtyard and was insulted by the treatment. I paid for parking, water cost 5 dollars per bottle, breakfast is the typical scrambled eggs from a microwaveable bag, sausage and bacon. The type of breakfast offered free of charge at every other hotel chain…Courtyard wanted 15 dollars for this and 10 dollars for cold cereal and fruit. There was no coffee available in the lobby but you could buy an overpriced Starbucks. As far as upgrades, they are a joke. You have to request one 5 days in advance and then it is automated with no input from the property. Who among us that travel extensively know where we will be in 5 days?
    At least BW will give me an upgrade 95% of the time just by requesting one when I book.
    And BW will allow a cancellation one day in advance and some still even a low same day cancellations.
    Marriott requires 2 days.
    I did not realize just how poor the rewards program was/is as I accumulated more than 1,000 nights and 2 million points.

  29. One more reason this devoted SPG’r and Lifetime Platinum has left for other brands. I used to be a top tier at SPG and now I am a mid-tier Marriott drone, who is regularly denied things like upgrades, 4PM late checkouts, etc. Just another way of being Bonvoyed.

  30. I used to be part of something equivalent at Starwood and it will be interesting to see if Marriott’s execution is on par.

    To answer the question about meeting the GM, many of the people in the Starwood version of the program were connected to the private equity, REIT or the institutional investment world where they were executives responsible for a portfolio of hotel properties that might represent greater than $1 Billion+ USD per year in revenue.

    So although that seems like a worthless benefit for some, lots of people in the industry live / eat / breathe it, even when on vacation, and can’t help but be curious about the hotel’s background, performance and other small tidbits a GM might be able to share about their property.

  31. I love everything about this new tier.

    1. That Cobalt is a very common metal and isn’t ‘special’ at all
    2. That the perks are not even worth making a phone call/email to try and get, even if you’re a long time 150+night/$30k year Ambassador
    3. That the top-tier members who aren’t stuck with Marriott (due to location requirements) would actively do anything to increase stays at this chain.

    This is just another black-eye for Bonvoy. Can’t wait until the travel industry cools off a bit and hotel chains are tripping over themselves for top-tier members. Absolutely no one will be running to Marriott and hopefully another chain will copy SPG’s loyalty program…

  32. Nothing good came out of the merger (not surprising) and their properties are more overpriced and overrated than ever now. Yesterday I used my last 105,000 Marriott points on a reservation for October and I recently canceled my credit card and I feel so relieved to be done with them.

  33. A “distinctive experience”? Maybe like the one you were offered at a Marriott property in China?

  34. Just in response to all the comments about the word/material “cobalt “. It’s vestigial from the color of blue from the original Ritz Carlton color from its logo. It’s blue.

  35. For those who complain about meeting the GM.

    Let me tell you this,

    THE GM DOESN’T WANT TO MEET YOU EITHER.

    Hahahahahaha.

  36. Ambassador Elite and I could do with avoiding being walked for starters. Perhaps I could actually even get an upgrade one day. Never mind the inedible breakfasts. How does Marriott even get that same nasty breakfast food distributed to so many hotels? They must truck it a long way. In NYC there are not bagels that nasty for sale in city limits

  37. Meanwhile, many of us look for a compelling reason, indeed ANY reason, to stay at Marriott above the 75 night threshold, if we are unlikely to fall short of the $20K barrier. They don’t even offer additional SNAs ( for what they’re worth) at 100, 125 and so on. Give us a reason…or those ‘extra’ nights are going elsewhere.

  38. Here, here! We’ve been Bonvoyed. Airlines don’t even require $20k spend for their published top tier status. I’m not sure Marriott members benefited, but any SPG member has lost a lot. My business is moving elsewhere.

  39. That’s wonderful to hear, @Santastico. I’m sure your boys will remember that trip for years to come. Moments like that in my childhood heavily contributed to my lifelong love of travel. The joy of visiting a new place/culture/people and being treated like an “almost adult” always made me feel on top of the world. I am glad you all enjoyed your time together.

  40. Dear Ben,
    dear readers,

    thanks again for the great website and illuminating many facets of luxury travel. My personal five star rating for your coverage.

    Just my opinion about the idea of offering the highlight of meeting the GM: Like others I don’t understand what value this should deliver to the customer!

    Assume you are on business travel or on visiting a destination just for leisure purposes. In the first case you have to squeeze in a meeting where you really don’t have an agenda and don’t know what to talk about. So the risk is high that this is another “small talk event” or the GM tries to make a sales pitch in order to make a good impression.

    On the other hand there *could* be some properties where a bit more of personal attention wouldn’t harm:

    + Think about a food addict wanting to see the chef of the star restaurant personally and learn some tricks.

    + Or a sports enthusiast wanting additional mornign or night opening hours at the pool or the gym. So if the fitness center doesn’t have a 24 hours opening hours such services would be much appreciated.

    + Or a photo enthusiast wanting to take pictures of skylines, the sights or something else. And *not* being overbilled by the hotzel limousine but more moderately priced liek a taxi tour with a local guide.

    All that things are more “concierge-type” events or some imngredients upgrading the stay.

    So IMHO it would be much more efficient to think about an extension of the concierge services, bookable events and services. Much more impressive than meeting the GM!

    Best regards

    Gerd

  41. I am a titanium member and stay 75 nights a year, its no badge of honor to be away from family.
    The upgrades are minimal, the concierge lounges are ok and convenient. I don’t want to meet the GM or anyone else apart from the nice front desk folks or my favorite barman, that’s it, thanks but no thanks.

  42. I’m guessing they still pay “Resort Fees”.
    What a bunch of shit….$389 a night plus a $30 Resort Fee? I’m happy to pay more for a full service hotel when I’m traveling but a separate resort fee is crossing the line.
    Can’t wait until the little soaps and shampoos are $12.00.

  43. I’m a Lifetime Titanium Elite (FWIW) .

    This is a ridiculous concept. I’m hoping it is just a hoax.

  44. From website MarriottBonvoyInsiders.org.com: “Welcome to an oasis of luxury. Your Personal Ritual Moment varies by location. It can include a chicken sacrifice in Jamaica to singing bowls in Tibet to cannibalism in the Andes or Sub-Saharan Africa. Experience the raw power of a sacrifice with none of the blood on your hands. Leave that to us.”

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