Disclosure: I am a Starwood Gold member, but I booked through American Express Platinum Travel Service because the benefits were a bit better. I traveled Thursday through Monday of Memorial Day Weekend. First off, I wholeheartedly recommend flying into Fort Lauderdale vs. Miami if you are coming to the St. Regis Bal Harbour. Fort Lauderdale is a few more miles away, but depending on traffic, perhaps less time and hassle. Check-in was smooth, I was greeted by name after checking in with valet, I received a room "upgrade" (which was really just the same room on a higher floor), and a "welcome beverage" aka bottled water. Other posters have voiced complaints ad-nauseam in earlier posts, so I will quickly agree or disagree, and add a few comments of my own.
Technology - The hotel is very "tech" intensive, buttonless elevators, property-wide wi-fi, and extensive in-room automation. I did not find anything difficult to use, but there were times I felt a bit like the mouse in the maze. "Which way do I turn?", "Which elevator takes me where?", etc. However, simple touches like plugging your iPad or iPod into the TV and surround sound are very nice. The rooms have a Blu-Ray player and large wall-mount television.
Rooms - We had a Grand Luxe Ocean Front Room. The room and view are very nice, comfortable, and well laid out. The bathrooms are spacious with separate vanities, nice counter space, a large tub, walk-in shower, and separate WC. Noise isolation between the room and the hallway is excellent. Sleep quality was very good. Decor is a modern take on art-deco in the lobby and modern beach with a twist in the rooms. The overall looks is pretty, and certainly not your traditional St. Regis decor, a la NYC.
Fees and Gratuities - The 18% gratuity on EVERY transaction at the hotel is outrageous, be it one drink at the bar, or on top of the 25 dollars they charge per umbrella on the beach. Nickel and diming people who are paying well over 500 dollars per night is a BAD idea. I felt this "cheapened" the experience, and the 38 dollars per day for valet parking didn't help that feeling either. These add-ons adversely affect ANY value perception to the degree where one finds themselves asking, "why are they squeezing me like this?". At one point we joked amongst ourselves, "Do you need my room number before I get in the ocean?".
Staffing and Service - The hotel is grossly understaffed, and we experienced issues throughout our stay. Getting setup on the beach took 15-20 minutes, including the 5 minutes or more before someone even acknowledged our arrival. Ordering water took 20 minutes, a mixed drink 40 minutes. We timed it. At the pool, things were no better. It was 5 to 10 minutes before chairs were set-up, almost 45 minutes to get a newspaper, the 3 different people involved in our food order caused it to be delivered wrong, and by the time it was sent back and corrected, almost an hour had passed since we had ordered. When I needed a second luggage rack for my room, I had to call twice. The only exception was on our last day. Eric was a standout employee at the beach, moving very quickly and efficiently to get us situated, and he checked-in several times.
Valet and Doorman - There was NEVER anyone opening the front door of the hotel. Not once.
Pool - I observed noticeable construction noise on Thursday all day and Friday morning, but quiet over the weekend. The upper level pool is unofficially called the "Tranquility" pool, however, it is not marked, and there is no formal recommendation that kids remain at the lower pool. FYI- there are a lot of children here and they do get loud. Shrieking banshee loud. One day we had an incident at the pool where there was a group of 4-5 adult individuals who felt it would be okay to bring their own music to the pool and accompany that music with very loud conversation and disruptive behavior. The minimal pool staff, and either non-existant, or invisible security initially did nothing. When another guest sitting near the music asked them nicely to turn it down, they openly mocked and intimidated him while maintaining the level of the music. After I went down to the other pool and notified the pool manager, security came quickly and asked them to turn it down. After much protest, and/or multiple warnings, they were either asked to leave, or left of their own volition; I'm not sure which. Unfortunately, the other guest left as well, probably feeling unsafe about the situation.
Room tip - The balconies are lined up on the diagonal. BEWARE. Anyone over your shoulder can see what you're doing, you can see what the people in front of you are doing on their balcony, and they can look over their shoulder and see directly into your room where your bed is right next to the sliding glass door. This is a clear design flaw. How they should address it; I don't know.
Food and Beverage - The average mixed drink is 16 dollars (before tax and 18% gratuity), J&G Grill has average food for what is billed as a Jean-Georges restaurant. Service was good both nights, but I did request the same server the second time. Breakfast in Atlantico was very good, but had it not been included in my rate, I don't know that I would've been inclined to pay the 35 dollars for the buffet or around 70 dollars for two from the al la carte menu (again, plus taxes and 18% gratuity). Food from the pool restaurant, Fresco, is decent. It's pool food.
Recommendations: Dedicated servers, food/drink runners, and people doing set-ups on the beach and at the pools. Numbered umbrellas or chairs for easier ordering and delivery, as well as a flag system or some other way of getting the attention of pool and beach staff. The hotel needs a DOORMAN. J&G Grill is not bad, but for a Jean-Georges establishment, the menu is rather uninspired. Drop the umbrella charge, it's tacky. The 18% gratuity is generally ridiculous, but paying that when you order ONE drink just feels like a rip off. PS- I've payed less than 38 dollars per day for valet in NYC and they are a bit more short on space. Increased security presence at busy times and frequent follow-ups/check-ins with guests in regard to their satisfaction should be a basic tenet at a resort of this caliber.
Overall, the setting was beautiful and the room was comfortable. I WOULD give the resort a second chance. My hope is that they are new, and still figuring some things out, but I would've expected Starwood to bring in some more experienced management to avoid some of these rookie mistakes.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Experience an exclusive enclave in Bal Harbour with luxury oceanfront accommodations, quiet unwavering taste, anticipatory service and seductive amenities. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The St. Regis Bal Harbour Hotel Bal Harbour
- The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort Florida