Friday, August 30, 2013

Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa

Hotel Stay Details
Hotel: Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa
Dates: August 25-30, 2013 
Rate Paid: 7,200 SPG Points/night 
Suite Upgrade: Complimentary
Regular Room Rate: $190/night
Regular Suite Rate: $354/night 
Total $ Benefit: $1,770
Point Redemption Value: 4.9 cents/pt

Well, it's been a great 5 night stay at the Westin Riverfront. It's my first time to Colorado, and I'm most likely going to come back soon. Just about everyone (but not everyone) we met here at the Westin was super friendly and really went out of their way to make you feel comfortable.

Background - The 25% Discount 
Back on March 26, my father made Starwood Gold Status by completing his 25th night of 2013 with Starwood. As a thank you, Starwood sent gifts to Gold members. He had the choice of either (A) double points for an upcoming month or (B) 25% of any award booking. Even though he was going to stay at a lot of Starwood hotels in 2013, he also knew that booking a 5 night award at a Category 5 hotel would save him 12,000 SPG points.

So for (A) to be a better option than (B), he would have to book and spend $4,000 at SPG hotels in a single month to earn an extra 12,000 SPG points.

My father? Spend $4k on hotels? In a single month? NFW. He went with Option B.

Now he had a 25% coupon for any award booking for up to 5 nights at any Category 1-6 hotel or resort by September 30, 2013. Clock starts ticking...

Hyatt vs. Starwood?
My father knew that we were going to be in Denver for the wedding of our friends' Ryan & Jessica in late August. As he's been doing lately, we turned the weekend trip into a longer family vacation after the wedding.

As most miles/point obsessed enthusiasts do, my father started looking at what chain hotels/resorts were in the Colorado area. Having been deeply in the midst of his Hyatt Diamond Status Challenge, he was focused on Hyatt, particularly the Park Hyatt Hotels.

Two hours away from Denver, Beaver Creek had a Category 6 Park Hyatt that would cost 22,000 Hyatt Points or $204 / night. Given it was a relatively low cash rate, he was better off using cash than Hyatt points. Plus having made Diamond status, he had a Suite Upgrade Award he could use for his cash stay that would guarantee a suite as well as free breakfasts for every registered guest in the room. So on April 18th, he booked 5 nights at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek using a refundable AAA rate.

However, it would still be over $1,000 cash out of pocket for 5 days. Then he started reading reviews from other travelers and bloggers. They all raved about the location right on the ski slopes and the high quality service levels, but had less than great things to say about the actual physical property itself.

It wasn't the same sleek, modern, luxury standard at the Park Hyatt Paris, Buenos Aires or Sydney. It was more of a traditional but dated ski lodge that was taken over by Park Hyatt. Traditional ski lodges on the slopes sound great if you're skiing, but we were coming in August. Plus, during the summers, the reviews warned that the free breakfast may only be a lame offering from their cafe and not the full breakfast at their proper restaurant.

So he cancelled his refundable AAA rate at the Park Hyatt, and we went back to my father's beloved Starwood. As it turned out, Beaver Creek was also home to a Category 5 Westin Riverfront which also received some great reviews, with the only major complaints being (A) not ideally located for skiing and (B) less than great treatment for over-entitled Platinum status holders.

At the time, neither (A) or (B) mattered for us because as I told you earlier, my father was just a Starwood Gold.

The Obligatory Math
The Category 5 Westin Riverfront costs 12,000 SPG pts/night. However, with Starwood, booking 5 consecutive nights on points gets you the 5th night free. So instead of needing 60,000 total SPG points, it would cost "only" 48,000 total.

But then stacking on the 25% off coupon, my father would save an additional 12,000 SPG points, bringing the total to JUST 36,000 SPG points for 5 nights (7,200 SPG points/night).

Of course, this rate only gets you the Traditional 400 sq foot room (seen here), but free is free. He had to call Starwood Reservations to use his 25% coupon, but it was quick and easy.

At the time of booking (April 28), my father could have also booked the same Traditional Room for the prepaid cash rate of $190/night (including all taxes). This option made his redemption worth only 2.6 cents/SPG point. Not a horrible redemption, but just barely made the cut off for redeeming points. Recall, my father's been able to get 6-7 cents/SPG point at Le Meridien Chiang Rai (Thailand) and W Santiago (Chile) earlier this year.

Then when he made Platinum Status a few weeks ago, he called the Westin Riverfront to ask about possible complimentary upgrades. He was told that he wouldn't get confirmed until the day of check in if there was even any availability. But if he wanted to guarantee it now, they said he could pay an extra $100/night to get the regular 1 bedroom suite or $150/night to get the 1 bedroom mountain view suite. It was tempting since he wasn't paying any cash for the room, but he declined and took his chances at check in. Given it was a mid-week stay before Labor Day weekend, we were hopeful but had our baby fingers crossed.

The Good...
The morning of our check in date (Sunday August 25th), my father went to the SPG iPad app and looked up his reservation information. Low and behold, it showed up not as a Traditional Room (as it had for several months), but as a 1 Bedroom Residential Suite, River & Mountain View. Suite! (word play intended.)

Those 850+ sq foot suites were going for about $354/night (all-in, including all taxes). Because of his Platinum status, those 7,200 SPG points were now getting him a room which retailed for $354/night (restrictive prepaid rate), which implied 4.9 cents/SPG point. Much better!

That pleasant surprise made the 2 hour drive from Denver on scenic I-70 all that much better. My father couldn't wait to see my grandmother's face when she walked into her first hotel suite.

As we pulled into the circular driveway, we were greeted by very friendly valets. Apparently, the hotel really insisted everyone valet park for $25/day with no mention of any self park options at all. Given we had a lot of luggage to unpack, we just went with the flow so that my father would be free to help us with all the bags. But as it turned out, the valets were super helpful and did most of the work. After loading up the trolley, he gave my father a card and said the bags will be sent up to the room after we've had a chance to look it first.

The Bad...
When we checked in with the front desk, we were greeted by an overly serious young woman named Ann. She noted that they had upgraded us to a 1 bedroom suite and that we were staying for 5 nights.

But then immediately Ann asked if we knew when we'd be checking out the final day. Thinking this was an offer of a late checkout, my father asked if a 2PM check out were possible. She immediately said, "No, the hotel is very busy this coming weekend. We can only offer you the standard check out time."

"Which is?"


11AM? Now, some mornings my mother doesn't even get up til 11:30, especially when we have really good blackout shades.

Ann then told us about the $20/day resort fee which covers internet, gym/pool access, and other hotel amenities. This would bring our hotel bill from $0 to $100 for 5 nights. Not painful but annoying. Now my well-researched father knew about this in advance (and the fact it wasn't waived for anyone), but asked anyway.

"But I believe I get all those amenities anyway because of my SPG status. Do Platinums still have to pay the resort fee?"

"Yes, it's for everyone."

Another amenity for Platinums is complimentary continental breakfast or 500 SPG points.

"Do you want the 500 SPG points?" asked Ann.

"Well, don't I also have a choice of breakfast?"


"Well, is it for every morning or just one time?"

"Every morning."

"Well, is it a full hot breakfast or continental or something else?"

"Um, it's really nothing great, like coffee and a muffin."

"I'll take the 500 SPG points," answered my father knowing full well that we'd be making our own breakfast each morning from our suite's full kitchen.

According to several travelers, there was also a self-parking option available if you didn't want to pay the premium for valet service.

"Can you tell me how much valet parking is?"

"$25 per night."

"Is there a self-parking option?"


"Can you tell me how much it costs?"

"Um, well, it's actually a pay by the hour, so you're better off doing valet."

"Well, how much is it exactly?"

"For the full day/night, it would be $50 each night."

Raised eyebrows aren't an attractive look for a full faced Asian man, but my father made the facial expression anyway and just thanked her and went to chase me as I ran around the lobby. As it turned out, self-parking was actually only $15 per day according to the Westin Riverfront Villas (timeshare) website, but we were staying at the Resort (hotel) and their website only listed Valet for $25-30/day.

So typically, a top tier hotel status member gets a late check out (not this time), free breakfast (eh) and resort fees waived (nope). At least we got our free internet... oh wait. Nope, we had to pay a $20/day resort fee for it. [UPDATE: on the third day of our stay, my father asked another Front Desk woman if he could have late check out and was happily given 1PM. Don't give up. Never give up.]

It may not have been so bad if Ann had been more sympathetic (or at least fake sympathetic) about having to comply with strict hotel policies. But talking to this young woman was like interrogating an entitled hipster Starbucks barista about the difference between a cappuccino and a cafe Americano while they're busy trying to take a selfie of their new neck tattoo on their iPhone.

Did I mention that we were the only ones checking in?

The Amazing!
Despite this rough start to the hotel stay, all our confusion / frustration with the front desk dissipated as soon as we opened the door to corner Room 400A at the very end of the hallway. We were right next to Room 400B (regular bedroom) which had a connecting door to our suite to make a 2 bedroom suite if we wanted to pay up for an extra bedroom.

Our regular 1 bedroom suite opened up into the kitchen, fully stocked with a ton of silverware, cookware, dishes,appliances (toaster oven, can opener, coffee grinder, and blender) and even a set of bar glasses (including a shaker/strainer and a mixed cocktail recipe book).


Turning the corner, you see the large living room complete with a 6 person dining table, two couches, two single seats, floor to ceiling windows, balcony, Bose stereo, and a working fireplace.


Then you go into the bedroom which is pretty standard (Westin Heavenly bed, flat screen tv, desk), with the exception that it also had a walk out balcony.

The bathroom was very nicely appointed, with its double sink and separate bathtub and stand up shower. Personally, I love bathtubs, because they can easily convert into kid swimming pools!


The coup de gras was the washer and dryer in the hallway closet. Now, I'm not sure how many of you are parents, but trust me, I go through a lot of clothes and having an on-site place to wash my clothes mid-vacation can be a life-saver!

Final Totals
If you factor in the 11,000 SPG points we received for attending the 90 minute Villa sales presentation and the 2,000 SPG points we received for skipping housekeeping for 2 days, then we really only used net 23,000 SPG points for 5 nights in this amazing 1 bedroom suite here (a ridiculous 4,600 SPG points/night, implying an incredible 7.7 cents/SPG point redemption).

Even counting the additional $20/day resort fees and $25/day valet parking for five days, spending only $225 in total cash for this view every morning is pretty amazing.

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