Tuesday, December 17, 2013

W Vieques Retreat & Spa - Part I

Hotel Stay Details
Hotel: W Vieques Retreat & Spa
Dates: December 13-17, 2013
Rate Paid: $333/night (incl. taxes and fees)
Regular Room Rate: $707/night
Suite Upgrade: Using 4 Suite Night Awards
Suite Rate: $991/night
Total $ Benefit: $2,632

After spending some time getting settled in the W Airport Lounge, we were shuttled 5 minutes to the W Vieques. The W Vieques is an expansive resort property on the north shore of Vieques Island. It's one of the 5 W Retreat & Spa properties in the W Hotel collection (with the 4 others being Goa, Bali, Maldives and Ko Samui). Retreats are more resorts as opposed to the traditional city center hotels that have the famous W nightlife bar scenes.

Regular Rates
As you might have suspected, most of the time, room rates at W Vieques are quite expensive, especially during mid/late December (up to $700 for the basic room, including all taxes and resort fees). While normally my father would use his beloved Starwood SPG points to book a free night award, those award rates were also quite expensive at 20,000 SPG points/night. While that would be a pretty healthy 3.5 cents/SPG point redemption, it would still be whopping 80,000 SPG points for our 4 night stay. Of course, shelling out $2,800 just for a room (and excluding all food & beverage expenses) is a ton of cash as well.

AAA Rate
Luckily for my family, we booked in late October for our December 13-17 stay. It was key that stayed BEFORE the Christmas Vacation madness (Dec 20- Jan 1). I think it also helped that we booked in October before people really started thinking about year end holidays.

At that time, we used our AAA rate to book a basic 620 sq ft Garden View room for $388/night (which was actually the $287 base rate + 5.4% Resort Tax + 9.0% Tax + $60 Resort Fee). The AAA rate was slightly lower than the regular prepaid rate and also allowed for cancellations up until November 22nd (about 3 weeks before our stay).

The $60 resort fee is a daily fee that isn't waived for SPG Gold or Platinum members, even if booking award stays on points. For this daily fee, guests receive towel/chair service at the pool and beach, in room and lobby wifi access, free use of kayaks, snorkel equipment and tennis equipment. Some people get fussed about having a resort fee added on, but I just mentally include it as part of the base rate, though some of the benefits covered by the resort fee would have been free for SPG Platinums anyway (WiFi). But I digress.

SPG Hot Escapes
But then on November 16, the weekly SPG Hot Escapes (flash sale) had the W Vieques on its list of discounted properties. For a prepaid non-refundable rate, we could lock in a $239 base rate for a better room (a 720 sq ft Poolside Oasis room with an outdoor patio). With the taxes and $60 resort fee, however, the total price would end up being just $333/night. While still a lot of money, it was significantly less than the $700/night you'd be paying for mid-December 2014.

The one downside was that we preferred a room with double beds (since my grandmother was coming with us), but the only 720 sq ft Poolside Oasis rooms were King bed only. We could have paid a bit more to get a Spectacular Ocean View room with a double bed, but it would be smaller (638 sq ft) and we were hopeful that we'd get upgraded anyway, so why pay more?

Complimentary Platinum Upgrade
Since my father had made SPG Platinum earlier this year, we've have a lot of success in securing room upgrades at check in. This time, my father really wanted to help his upgrade chances, so he emailed the General Manager a week before arrival to inquire about how busy the property would be during our stay and if a complimentary Platinum room upgrade might be possible.

In a few days, they responded with an email stating we'd been upgraded to the 638 sq ft Spectacular Ocean View room. It was unclear to me why this Spectacular room was an upgrade over the larger ground floor room, though it did have the requested bed type (double). So we emailed back declining the "upgrade."

Suite Night Awards
Instead, we opted to use 4 of our Suite Night Awards (SNAs). As a part of achieving Platinum status this year by reaching 50 nights (as opposed to just 25 stays), we received 10 SNAs that we could use to secure an upgrade up to 5 days before you check in.

The main benefit of these SNAs was that they would be processed by Starwood corporate, and not the individual hotel front desk. Remember, hotels are often not owned by the chain and are managed by independent owners with different incentives.

So in theory with the SNAs, if (a) you used an SNA for your stay and (b) there were upgradable suites available for cash booking within 5 days before your arrival, then Starwood would redeem your SNA and automatically upgrade your room to a suite. This process eliminates the awkward "fights" you sometimes have with unfriendly front desk agents who don't want to abide by the Starwood's corporate rules.

One day after we declined the regular Platinum upgrade to the Spectacular Ocean View room, we received another email from Starwood stating our SNAs were able to be redeemed for a 1,000 sq ft Garden View Suite which is going for a whopping $991/night in mid-December 2014! NOTE: While Starwood upgraded us automatically, it was good that my anal thoughtful father printed out the SNA upgrade email and brought it with us. When we checked in, the hotel still had us in the 638 sq ft Spectacular Ocean View room with double beds. Frustrated but not surprised, my father showed the desk agent the confirmation SNA upgrade email from Starwood, and we were placed into the 1,000 sq ft 1 bedroom suite.

While we lost our poolside access, we got a massive living room with a dining table, large wetbar, and couch (which would become our makeshift bed) as well as another half bathroom. If we had friends staying with us, we could have spent a lot of time hanging out there.

The bedroom was pretty large and impressive as well. My parents have a canopy post bed in our apartment, so we felt right at home here. The bedroom also had a large desk, a flat screen tv and sliding door to access the patio as well. We had "free" access to in room WiFi but the signal was constantly weak (probably because our villa was so distant from the main lobby). I say "free" in quotes because it's actually part of the benefits you receive for the $60/day resort fee.


The bathroom is one of those infamous W hotel bathrooms (open to the bedroom). The sink area and the bathtub were out in the open in the bedroom, only separated by a transparent veil. At least they were thoughtful enough to have sliding doors to close off the shower.

The shower looked like it was a closet with its own sliding door. On the plus side, it was a rain shower and had a lot of space. The negative was that the water pressure was rather weak as if you were standing outside in a gentle rain. But that probably made sense since fresh water is probably difficult to come by on an island.

We also had a nice walk in closet that had plenty of space for our stuff. The safe was very cool, because it had an electrical outlet inside to charge your phone/tablets while being stored and it also auto locked with your passcode when the safe door closed. So you only had to set the passcode once the entire stay, and not each time you opened/closed the safe.

No comments:

Post a Comment