Service makes or breaks an establishment, be it a restaurant, hotel, or grocery store. I don't care how good the food is or how soft the beds are -- if the service is subpar, I won't be back. On the other hand, I will forgive flaws if they are addressed quickly and with a smile, and if everything else goes well.
The service at the Tradewinds is fantastic. When I initially called, I had a lot of questions. I have been visiting Carmel on day trips for well over 20 years, but had not spent the night in the area since I was a child. There us no Ritz Carleton, Four Seasons, or really any fine hotel with a recognizable name in Carmel, so picking the right hotel can be a challenge under ordinary circumstances, and my circumstances were not ordinary. Not only was this to be a gift, but were would be travelling with dogs. With respect to the latter, I wanted a hotel that accepted dogs, but that did not look (or smell) like it accepted dogs. I also wanted a suite with an ocean view and great service. After doing a fair amount of internet research, it came down to a choice between Tradewinds and Cypress Inn. I decided against Cypress based on too many really negative reviews. I will address those reviews separately because, after spending quite a bit of time at Cypress during our four-day weekend, I have learned that, at Cypress, it is all about picking the right room. There are some bad ones and there are some great ones.
But this review is about Tradewinds. I loved the beautiful promo pictures of Tradewinds, which has been remodeled to reflect a Far-East flavor. When I called, I spent a lot of time on the phone with the front-desk receptionist, who was extremely gracious. She told me that there was one suite (called the Serenity suite) that met my criteria, but they did not allow dogs in that room. However, she offered to make an exception. I was told the suite had a full-ocean view, but that the property was 8-blocks from the ocean so it necessarily looked over the town, to the ocean. The suite cost $475.00/night, including a continental breakfast.
I booked that suite several weeks in advance of our stay. Over the next few weeks, I started to second guess my choice, so I asked several questions to make sure I knew what I would be getting. (I hate surprises). I also had to change the date once. I was able to communicate with the hotel via e-mail, and each question was answered promptly, with a friendly tone. At one point, I noticed the pet fee was higher than I had been quoted; that little issue was taken care of immediately, with grace. So far, so good.
When we got into town, we could not find the property, so we called the front desk. The person who answered the phone was very friendly and helped us find our way with ease. (There are no street addresses in Carmel, so navigation systems do not work.) When we arrived, we were greeted by two very nice people, one of whom helped us with our bags and showed us around the room, pointing out various features.
Before I get to the room, I need to mention the grounds. The Tradewinds is an old motel that has recently undergone a major renovation. When I say "motel" I don't mean Motel 6. I mean one of those old-time, hip, luxury motels that were more common in the 1950s. The kind of place were you could imagine seeing someone like Bing Crosby hanging out by the pool. (Bing Crosby actually used to frequent the Tradewinds back in the day). This property was never a dive and it is not a dive now. Yes, the property looks like a motel (because it is a motel); but the grounds really are lovely and peaceful. The promo. shots come in a bit close and are designed to make the property look higher-end than it is (which is a shame because it sets expectations to high in my opinion), however, the Asian-inspired garden ultimately won't disappoint. I also appreciated the bamboo balconies, which appear to have been left over from the good-old days. I have a feeling Bing would have been pleased.
I also like that the Tradewinds is not in the heart of town. Some reviewers have complained about the walk from the property to the center of town, but that's a silly complaint. The walk to town is short and beautiful and it exposed us to restaurants and stores that we would not have seen if we had stayed closer to Ocean Avenue. Also, the room rate includes a dedicated parking spot, which is a big plus. We did not move our car for four days. All in all, I was very happy with the location.
Our room, the Serenity suite is a very spacious, two-room suite with high ceilings, two, small, private balconies, a large master bath with a separate, jetted tub and separate dressing area, and a half bath. There is a fireplace in the bedroom, and a small sink and cooler in the living room.
The decor is soothing, but it is quite different than the Asian-inspired rooms depicted in the promotional pictures. I was told that a different designer had designed the Serenity Suite. That's a shame. All on all, however, it is a very lovely room, with high ceilings to give it a nice, spacious feel. The bed is quite comfortable, the linens are expensive and crisp. The towels are fluffy. The bath products are by Aveda. The robes are very comfortable (from Bali, not your traditional Terry) and were much appreciated given the chilly weather. The size was perfect for two dogs. The balconies are cute. I loved having the half bath and I really loved the gas fireplace in the bedroom (although I wish it stayed on for more than an hour). Again, this is a very nice room. But . . .
The view is not a full ocean view. This is a heavily filtered view. It is a nice view, and if I was expecting a filtered view I would have been thrilled, but I was expecting full ocean (albeit from 8-blocks away), so I was disappointed in light of my expectations. I was also extremely upset to see a very large stain (not animal-related, or I would have been out of there in a heart beat) on the carpet in the living room. It was noticeable and should have been removed. I was also disappointed to see that the televisions and the phones are old. No plasma TVs or cordless phones to be had -- both of which are standard in rooms that cost $475.00/night. There are also places in which the paint is noticeably chipped, which could have been taken care by a handyman of in a few minutes, with a little touch-up paint. These things were enough to bring me down. I wanted luxury, and the Serenity suite just didn't hit that note for me because I was expecting more. Again, it is a very nice room; but it was not what I expected. I had brought my laptop, so I e-mailed the front desk to express my frustration. I also said that I did not want to discuss the matter because I wanted to remain calm for the rest of my stay. The hotel respected my wishes in that regard.
As I said, the service at Tradewinds is great. By that I mean everything I needed was taken care of. This is not the kind of place where hotel staff don fancy uniforms and try to call you by your name (often massacring it in the process) when you dial the front desk. It is low-key, unobtrusive service, where things get done in a friendly manner, without pretense. I like that. There is no turn down service, but I personally don't appreciate turn down unless it is accompanied by something unexpected like fresh-baked cookies or the like, which it seldom is. Mostly, turndown services consist of someone taking the bedspread off the bed (which I do myself the minute I enter any hotel room), turning down the sheets and putting a piece of chocolate on the pillow. Nine times out of 10 it is a bother.
I also really appreciated the fact that room service was not banging on the door at 8:30, which happens even at the nicest hotels. Nothing pisses me off more than hearing "BANG BANG BANG . . . HOUSE KEEPING." when I am trying to sleep. That did not happen at the Tradewinds. I called with specific instructions about housekeeping, which they followed. On a related note, Tradewinds is a very QUIET, peaceful property. The only sound I heard was the outdoor fountain, which is pleasant.
For breakfast, we had the option of having it brought to the room because we have dogs and they are not allowed in the breakfast room. We opted to just have breakfast separately, rather than have it brought up. Breakfast itself was nice. It is continental, so don't expect anything fancy. If memory serves, there are two cereals, a selection of diced, fresh-fruit for the cereal, apples and bananas, Yopliat yogurt, toast and bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter, and preserves for the toast and bagels, pastries, orange juice, and surprisingly good coffee. The food was fresh and there was more than enough for us to choose from. For those who like larger breakfasts, right around the corner is a breakfast place called Katy's (at least I think that is the name) that is always PACKED, with a line out the door. I picked up a menu and the food sounds amazing, but it is one of the few places in Carmel that does not allow dogs, so we could not try it. We would not have known about Katy's if we had stayed "downtown."
On our last day, we met a couple who had celebrated their honeymoon at the Tradewinds and had returned this year to celebrate their 50th anniversary! They provided a lot of interesting information on the property's history and its evolution over the years. They also let us see their room (which was either No. 7 or 6) and it was awesome! It was not a suite, but it was sizeable, had the fireplace, was decorated in a beautiful Asian motif, and had a nice balcony with a great ocean view -- better than ours! I would have been pleased with that room, although it was much smaller than the Serenity suite.
Seeing that room inspired me to take a look at other rooms on the property, and boy is there a difference in the rooms. If you decide to visit Tradewinds, make sure to tell them you do not want a room on the bottom floor. Most of the top floor rooms have high ceilings, while the bottom floor rooms do not. Also, the wing of rooms across from rooms No. 6/7 do not seem to have balconies and are dark. I would avoid that entire wing. If I had gotten one of those rooms, I would have left immediately. Having seen the different rooms, I now understand why some people leave Tradewinds thinking it is wonderful, while others leave very unhappy. It is all about the rooms!
Again, the Serenity suite is a really nice room; my complaint is that, for the price, it should have been a really great room.
When I checked out, the woman at the front desk said she had gotten my e-mail. She was very gracious and listened to my comments without being defensive. Then she told me that she had taken money off the room because I had been unhappy. This was a total surprise. I had not asked for this accommodation. With that unexpected last bit of great service, she turned my attitude around completely. Like I said at the start of this review, service will make or break an establishment; here, it makes it. I will be back and I will enjoy my stay. I commend Tradewinds to anyone. Just go in knowing what you are getting and enjoy the experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Contemporary, Mediterranean - 3 blocks from Ocean Ave. on a quiet residential street. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Tradewinds Carmel Hotel Carmel
- The Tradewinds Hotel Carmel
- The Tradewinds Carmel