We booked Agua Caliente for the MLK weekend and were very pleased with our stay here. From our arrival, where we received free valet parking, to our departure three days later, we couldn't have been happier with the service provided by Agua Caliente's staff. Bell service was so fast that by the time we checked in and took money from the ATM, we almost missed the bellman, who was putting a "sorry we missed you" card on the door of our room as we walked up!
This property is considerably more expensive than what I'm usually willing to pay, but serious relaxation was needed, so I sprang for something a little out of the ordinary. The AAA rate for the holiday weekend was $179/night before taxes plus a $16 resort fee, but, for that price, we got a beautiful double-queen room on the seventh floor with a large balcony overlooking the luxurious pool area. The room was spotless and wonderfully-appointed with super-comfortable beds with five pillows, padded headboards and allergen-free bedding, a computer desk and chair, faux-suede sitting chair and ottoman and ample closet and drawer space with all the furniture done in a tasteful dark wood and frosted glass. WiFi worked flawlessly, although cell service in the room was a bit spotty. The highlight was the bathroom, with a huge soaking tub, separate glass-enclosed shower, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, and even an LCD TV so I could watch part of the presidential inauguration while soaking! The room itself was non-smoking, but you are permitted to smoke out on the balcony, which is a fine compromise IMHO. I would have very much liked to have had a microwave and coffeemaker; the lack of those amenities is my only complaint about the room.
The pool area was absolutely delightful. The pool is heated as advertised, although, in light of that, it was still a wee bit colder than I expected. It is a HUGE pool, albeit not very deep--I think the max was about 4 feet--but in terms of overall square feet, so I imagine the heating unit is just enough to take the biting chill off. And it WAS January, though we were having perfect 75 degree weather in SoCal. There were a variety of seating areas interspersed around the pool grounds with padded rattan chairs and a couple of roaring firepits at night. The jacuzzi is ALMOST warm enough, could've done with another five or ten degrees, but has a nice, rolling boil (not one of the lame "wave" jacuzzis) and is built in an unusual zig zag shape large enough to accommodate 23 people. There is an outdoor shower pole for a quick rinse-off before heading back to your room.
Gambling here is OK, although I have to admit it fell a little short of my expectations. It seems they only have $5 tables during weekdays and I wish I had known that as it may have influenced my decision about when to stay. The best blackjack dealers are Liz and Denise, both of whom were cheerful and personable and you had a good time at their table even when losing money! Especially Liz--she was just a treasure and we went back to her table whenever she was available. Jimmy is a good dealer but will wipe you out in a matter of minutes. I wish I could remember the name of the one dealer that made me angry. She was a very petite Asian woman with long black hair, probably early-to-mid 30s, and she was so exceedingly rude that I only played four hands at her table. She kept criticizing my choices and had a very smug and condescending attitude. Seeing as I walked away from her table with double what I sat down with in only four hands, maybe she should keep her comments to herself. There was something wrong with the video blackjack--it would only allow you to hit or stand, no split or double down!--so I would not recommend playing that unless you want to lose. I don't really do slots so cannot comment on that aspect of the gaming.
Brought a lot of our own food, but here's a quick rundown on what we did eat at the restaurants on-site. In-room dining--pricey but wonderful food, wide variety of choices, delivered so fast it made my head spin. Poker Deli - best deal in the house. Good selection of sandwiches for around $6 including a side of coleslaw, macaroni salad etc. Grand Palms Buffet: awful--one of the worst buffets I have ever had and nowhere near worth the $23 price tag (and that is WITH a player's club discount!). Platters of cheese that was hard and curly at the ends. You get the general idea.
We had an unexpected medical emergency during our stay. The hotel does not have a doctor on staff (which I found surprising), but I have to give kudos to the security staff, who responded instantaneously and effectively to my 5am call for help and summoned assistance from the nearby Eisenhower Medical Center. The valet staff produced my car so quickly that it was waiting for me downstairs by the time I got down there. The incident derailed our plans for almost an entire day, so I called on Monday morning and asked for a late checkout. AC normally charges an additional fee of $79 to extend your stay until 3pm and, although I did have to speak to three different employees before it was approved, the hotel ultimately was generous enough to waive the fee for late checkout once I explained the extreme circumstances. I very much appreciated this gesture, since the issue that arose was in no way their fault and the few extra hours greatly enhanced my ability to enjoy the property.
All in all, I would recommend this hotel with the few caveats above. If I were to stay again, I would try to go when the rates are a bit lower in order to get more bang for my buck. What it came down to, really, was the staff and I am very grateful for the level of service provided by the employees at Agua Caliente. Their helpfulness, effectiveness and flexibility will not soon be forgotten.