We went to the Laguna Cliffs Marriott for the 4th of July and reserved full oceanview with romance package and breakfast for three nights. We arrived mid-day on the 4th, and the area was already quite busy. The hotel valets indeed had their hands full with many simultaneous arrivals. When I asked the valet whether we should take our luggage or leave it in the car (because check in isnt' technically supposed to occur until 4pm), he was flustered and said he didn't know. When we went into the lobby, there was a bit of a wait, many people checking in, but that's to be expected. Our room wasn't ready, so we went to have lunch at the OverVue. When we went into the restaurant, we asked for a table outside, and we were led to a nice table and left with *one* menu, for two people. That was very odd. I then had to search for a second menu. When our entrees arrived, we didn't have utensils or napkins. The restaurant was *not* busy, and the service was sub-par. Also, we asked about the availability of gluten free products, namely, gluten free bread, and we were told that the hotel didn't have any. We then received room 243 at the end of the north-most wing. We immediately noticed that the ocean view was blocked by a tall privacy wall on our terrace. To see the ocean, you had to walk out on the terrace. This odd arrangement was something that we wanted to correct, but the front desk was unable to offer us any other type of room (we looked at another room, but it was smaller). Back at 243, we noted that the room stank from a bathroom sink odor. A strong sewer smell was coming up from the sink drain and it was very strong. We definitely needed to correct this. We couldn't get an alternate room, and the maintenance folks came up and tried to fix the sink, but it still stank at night, and we had to call a second time the next day before it was finally corrected. Near dinner-time on night one, we spoke to the manager, and he explained that we unfortunately couldn't get a room with an open "picket style" fence (there were some, for sure), so that we could see the ocean, and he apologized for the stinky sink. We also asked what happened to the welcome champagne, and he said that it wasn't brought to us because there was initially some confusion about what room we were going to be in--but by now it was late afternoon... I told him that he could buy our $65 lunch, but instead, he offered a $50 credit, which we took (actually, he should have done both, in retrospect). As mentioned, when you book "ocean view" in this hotel, you should be aware of the "privacy wall" that blocks the view from the room (completely!) and this is in rooms on the second floor at the end of this north wing (and other wings). All you can see from this room is the sky. To "view ocean," you must get up and stand at the privacy wall. I would not call this "ocean view." I do concede that the nighttime view for fireworks from this room was excellent, but I would never book this room again. For $500+ a night, I would expect better. If you don't want a privacy wall, then book the third floor rooms above 243. We asked if during our three day stay whether we could move upstairs, but this was not possible. Also, the first day we had the room, we had Fiji waters, the second day, none were provided, the third day, we had Fiji waters. Yes, it was a busy weekend, and yes, "these things happen," but I would say better planning, having more staff available, and being more on top of room maintenance would be key goals. Overall, I would have to say that the staff at the hotel was top notch: almost every person seemed happy that we were there, very interested in our business, and most of them had a great attitude all around. The French lady at concierge (I regret that I can't remember her name), and Linda Duffy at the front desk/concierge, are the sort of people who make one inclined to return to a hotel. We had lovely assistance from these ladies all the way around. The breakfast buffet was good, especially the fruit selection and the omelette station. However, the cooks (and servers) know absolutely **nothing** about gluten free cooking (the cooks use the same utensils to handle waffles as they do to turn an omelette that is being made for a gluten free diner). It is disappointing that the food and beverage team at this hotel was not in tune with common food allergies and special dietary issues like gluten free dining. Then, to end the whole dining experience on a very dour note, on the very last day, we were informed that the hotel does in fact offer gluten free bread. This was a great disappointment to the one of the two of us who could not eat products that contain or touch wheat-based foods or foods that contain wheat flour. In any hotel of this caliber, when customers ask servers about gluten free options, a customer should get an intelligent response, not a blank look (as was the case many times at this hotel). For comparison's sake, at the St. Regis, a Starwood property nearby, the chef and his crew were all well versed in gluten free dining, and they knew about the gluten free offerings that were available at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The St. Regis even offered limited gluten free baked goods. In the end, I would have to tip my head slightly in favor of the St. Regis over the Laguna Cliffs Marriott, just for this reason alone. Nonetheless, I wouldn't rule out a return to the Laguna Cliffs Marriott in my future.
As mentioned, when reserving oceanview, insist on a picket fence railing, not a privacy wall, if you...
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