Youth is not on my side anymore, I know this because I’m lay in bed typing with a pretty decent hangover that was 100% fueled by free alcohol courtesy of American Express and Marriott at The O2 last night watching Swedish House Mafia and guests; which may I add, was a truly magical experience.
I was originally planning on seeing them at The AO Arena in Manchester using Virgin Points. You can read about why that was a cluster F and didn’t materialise here. With not being able to make that happen ticket prices had already skyrocketed, even with the NatWest Premier 25% rebate on tickets it was still going to be £250~ for 2.
Marriott Bonvoy Moments came in clutch. Marriott, the hotel chain has a loyalty program called Bonvoy and they offer experiences to members in exchange for using their points. For the UK it’s pretty good as they have a suite at London’s O2 Arena as well as a suite at Manchester’s Old Trafford.
For 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, I was able to effortlessly book their suite at The O2 Arena for 2 people. I could have covered this by transferring 26,600 AmEx Membership Reward points at a ratio of 2MR points to 3 Bonvoy points. Alternatively, I could have just bought the points from Marriott themselves at a rate of 0.06p per point costing about £240. I already had a stash of close to half a million points so just used them.
About 3 weeks out from the event, I received an email from Marriott, asking for any food or drink allergies and my plus 1’s name so that they would be on the guest list. Along with this request I was also given all the details for the event. Here’s where things weren’t the best, apparently you don’t receive physical tickets anymore. For The O2 you have to download their app and AXS email you the tickets via the app. Call me a boomer but I think it’s quality having a ticket for an event, that way you have more than a memory from it.
The email also clearly stated:
Bag Policies: We have introduced a strict clear bag policy so we can carry out security screening contact-free. Only one see-through bag is allowed per person. We will not allow large bags into the venue but you will be permitted to take small clear bags in with you, to allow for contact-free bag checks. We class small bags as no larger than 35cm x 40cm x 19cm.
This was 100% bullshit. I almost had a full-blown domestic with the Mrs when I told her this was the policy and that she couldn’t take her handbag as I didn’t want us not to get in over something so daft. Certainly not the sword to die on in my eyes. We get there and boy am I in the dog house, not only is there 0 clear bags, some may as well have brought their suitcases…
The American Express Lounge @ The O2
Having only ever been to The O2 once before (and that was with Bieber so I didn’t use the normal entrance) I hadn’t a clue where to go so just ended up following the masses which lead me to the above, the main entrance. This is where the perks start. As you can see, the AmEx lounge is clearly sign-posted on the left with everyone else to queue to the right.
For access, you need to show your AmEx card (Gold, Platinum, Centurion) along with a valid ticket. There is another way though that not many people are aware of, Anyone who has a suite ticket can access it too.
To say AmEx over staff the entrance is an understatement, there were probably 10-15 people checking tickets. This is great though, it means you aren’t standing around queueing whilst tickets are being checked, you’re straight in.
When I first entered the lounge I just walked straight in past the above reception, rookie move…
… when entering the lounge you should 100% go via the reception desk. Whip out your AmEx card and you will receive 2 free drink tokens. As the tokens clearly show, you can redeem them for either; a glass of wine, cider, beer, single spirit and a mixer or soft drink. Given that a pint is £8 that’s a decent £16 worth of value. It gets better though, if the person you’re with has an AmEx, they also get 2 free drinks vouchers.
Yeah, the free drinks and stuff were nice but here’s where the AmEx lounge came in clutch. The artists weren’t happy with how things were sounding so they were altering things which meant the show was massively delayed. Annoying at the time but to be fair, it’s their reputation on the line so I’m all for making sure everything is right. Do you know what’s crap about delays, having to stand around. No such issues in the AmEx lounge, plenty of comfy seating be it armchairs, sofas or bench seats and for the ambience, there was a live DJ so it wasn’t all bad.
I didn’t take too many photos of the lounge as we were running pretty late so if you want to take a look around there’s an interactive walkthrough here.
The Marriott Bonvoy Suite @ The O2
When I was informed by a member of staff that things would be running late I asked him if he would give me the nod when we would be able to access the suite. Sure enough, 25 minutes later I get the nod and we beat what I would describe as a fairly substantial amount of people exiting the lounge all heading for their box suites via the dedicated escalators.
I assume you’re supposed to be guided but there was no one there to guide us. It’s a fairly easy find nonetheless, as soon as you’re off the escalator, it’s immediately on your left.
Walking into the suite is almost like walking into someone’s snug. You have the bar next to the entrance, this is where you sign in so the staff know who’s who. There’s a sofa, coffee table and 2 chairs in the middle of the room and opposite the bar, you have a normal height table which seats 8 then you have a high table (perfect for standing at) with 5 bar stools looking out into the arena.
On the side opposite the sofa, you have a long table which is where all the food is. The dining is self serve buffet and it’s good! When the suite first opens there’ll be nachos with sour creme, salsa and guac. After about 30 minutes that’s when the main food is delivered to the suite. It’s all about the American experience, Burgers, pizza (pepperoni or cheese), chicken wings and wedges.
In regards to drinks, wine’s you’ve got reds, whites, and prosecco, cider, beer, soft drinks. Now i was led to believe that even though there’s no spirits on the menu, you could ask and they would source some for you, this is sort of true. You see, all the food and drink in the suite is free but for spirits and things that aren’t on the menu you have to pay. This isn’t what i was verbally told before arriving but this is what the staff insisted on.
These are you’re alloted seats, there’s 3 rows of 5 with built in drinks holders. I’d love to go into more detail but i honestly havent a clue about them, i never once took my seat electing to be seated on the bar stools behind. It’s SHM, why would you be seated? I mean if you’re there for Cirque du Solei, the boxing or perhaps comedy then i’d imaging the seats are super comfy and there looked to be plenty of leg room. Again though, if you’re listening to music, why would you be seated?
Another great thing about the bar stools is, the service level is ???. The staff looking after you are proper music goers and look like they have an amazing time but they’re switched on and they know theyre there to do a job. All i had to do was raise my empty cup in the air and in less than a minute, they’d bring me another bottle of Magners. Unbelievable service and for a music gig i’m not sure it would be the same if you were seated. Don’t get me wrong, theres a member of staff stood having a good time at the top of the steps so maybe she was keeping an eye out for the seated guests?
In terms of view, it isn’t dead centre like the suite I shot the above image from.
You are off set to the left and in real terms you are a long way away from the stage but the trade off is most certainly worth it.
Overall thoughts? well I’m a guy who likes DC-10. For those not in the know, its pretty much a drug den sweat box of a night club in Ibiza but the Funktion-One sound system is incredible and you’re right among it. The propostrous thought of being in a box super far away from the main floor isn’t me at all and a few people (rightly so) took the piss out of me for getting box seats to a SHM gig. The thing is I was stood up for the entirity of the show dancing away just like i would have been at floor level, the difference being this:
- I didn’t have to leave the dance floor to get some food or drink.
- I didnt have to queue to get some food or drink
- I didnt have to pay for food or drink
- When I went to the bathroom I walked past a celeb’ and there was no queue
- I was informed 3 minutes before the show ended that the show was ending in 3 minutes and that if i wanted to beat the queues for the underground, now would be the time to go. Which may I add was a god send, the best way i can descibe the visual of watching people leave the O2 after a gig is like scenes off Brad Pitt’s World War Z…
£240 is what it would cost to buy the points and then redeem them for the tickets I had for 2 people. All of the food and drink in the suite was free! That’s where you get some heavy value from the tickets. I went through 8 pints of Magners which should have set me back close to £70, the mrs had quite a few wines, there’s £50. For food, I went in, 3 burgers, 3 slices of pizza, wings and wedges heaped, this was after making a decent dent into the nachos. At the food court burgers are supposed to be £9.50 with Pizza being £6.50. There’s another £40 saved, not sure what the Mrs ate.
Thats about £160 that we would have had to pay if we didnt have the tickets we had leaving just £40 each for the music experience, being waited on, having somewhere comfortable to relax whilst the show is delayed, somewhere to hang your jacket without the concern of anything being nicked and probably most importantly, knowing when to leave.
If theres something on at The O2 and Marriott have it available to purchase using points, you should defo pull the trigger. If you don’t have the points, just buy them. Its an incredible experience and something you’ll want to do over and over again. It’s that good that whilst in the suite in one of the intermissions i was looking to see what other shows are coming up at The O2, Metallica are due to perform there, not my cup of tea at all but i knw my uncle is a fan so i’ll try and get tickets for that, just because it’s bound to be a good time despite not being into that kind of music what so ever.
My only 2 criticisms are this, firstly, Spirits not being included in the free drinks is poor from Marriott. A Vodka mixer is a standard drink so to not have it and charge for it is frustraiting. The second criticism is a strange one. The metal sheeting that is on every divider between each box suite, when the bass is HEAVY it resinates. There’s a simple fix (Lift them all up and glue them to the concrete they are covering, a big job no doubt but a must.
If you don’t have tickets for the Bonvoy Suite and just have normal seats, the AmEx lounge is a must, 2 free drinks, somehwere to sit and chill, they even have their own restraunt and entertainment whilst you wait.