When you pull in, you have to stop at the guard shack. There the guard already had my name with the valet vehicle tag, which you leave in your windshield area. The valet and bellhop were great. As they were loading up our bags, they had us go to the front desk to check in. The front desk area is now to the right of the lobby, as the spa is now to the left. There's not really a "front desk" as there are three smaller desks for you to sit at with the front desk staff. Check-in was efficient.
As stated before, I booked a 5 night award reservation (5th night free) specialty room (oceanview) since the regular rooms were not available (don't know why because the hotel was not full at all). As a Plat, I was upgraded to an Oceanview Junior Suite. We were in the main building, on the top (11th) floor (same floor as the Royal and Presidential Suites). The lobby is on the 9th floor. The room was quite spacious and I found the decor to be much improved (see pics above). The center desk has a cutout space for a tv to pop up like the junior suites used to have, but I don't think this is functional (yet?) The bellhop did not mention it, and believe me, I tried, but I couldn't get it to pop up. Weird thing is they had a tv remote on the bedstand, but you can't see the tv from bed, which makes me believe that perhaps in the future they will be adding tvs to the center desks. They have a hook on the wall to hang your leis.
The bathroom was great, though one of the privacy windows was broken. I read on TA that the bathrooms were not renovated, but I couldn't tell one way or the other.
The views from the room were phenomenal. The ocean, the beach, and the mountains were quite refreshing to look at and you don't really notice that there is no balcony. The windows slide open all the way and there are cushions for you to sit on in the windows sill/nook.
Received a fruit platter and two waters along with that personalized note from the GM as the platinum amenity. The carpet was new, nice and soft and the furniture and rug were also new. My wife, who is a germophobe usually immediately gets a wet towel and wipes down all the drawers. She was surprised and quite pleased to find all the drawers were lined with tissue paper.
She also dared to walk around in her socks and bare feet without slippers, since she sensed everything was still so new. But then she found the slippers provided in the room and she reverted to using them.
Nice big lcd tv with a dvd player and sound system you can plug your ipod into. The "honor bar" (not sure what the difference is b/t that and a minibar) is like a wine fridge and fully stocked. There was one rack free, which could fit 2 cans of soda (maybe 4 if you stacked them bottom to top) and 2 bottles of water. We were also able to fit one small bottle of baby formula in there. The fridge gets metal cans cold, but plastic bottles don't get very cold in there. They do have the option of emptying the fridge for you for a mere $50
Oh yeah, no coffee in the room
(one of the reasons I hate Ws)
There is no resort charge, but internet is $15 a day - no thanks. There is a business center on the 9th floor directly in front of the elevators, so it was convenient to just use the computers there. There are two rooms with a mac, a phone, and a printer in each. When you get on, you have an option of running MacOs X or Vista. Do NOT select Vista unless you want to wait forever for Parallels to load it up. Then it's absolutely sluggish. Just bite the bullet and use Safari and be done with it. You can also bring your own laptop down there and plug directly into the ethernet (don't know if I was supposed to, but it did say in the hotel book that there were places in the business center for you to plug into). I did not find any free ethernet cables, so I just unplugged it from the mac. For reference, the mac on the left is slower b/c I think it's wireless (I did not find an ethernet cable plugged into it - I had to get the ethernet cable from the phone
), whereas the mac on the right is hardwired in. Internet speed was blazing in the business center - speakeasy speedtest from the SF server registered 20-30 Mbit/sec. I was getting throughput of 4 MB/sec. There were signs stating that the printers were not working, but I plugged the USB cable from the printer into my laptop, downloaded the driver and was up and printing. They probably didn't have mac drivers loaded up or something.
As we headed out to dinner, there were 2-3 couples ahead of us waiting on the valet, so it took quite a while to get out car. The head valet (not sure what his title is, but he was wearing a white shirt, whereas the guys retrieving the cars were wearing blue shirts) was very nice and chatted with us as we waited for our car. He remembered us and our daughter's name everytime we saw him throughout the week. I sought clarification from the front desk about self-parking. You get charged $26/night whether you valet it or self-park it.
We found our room was turned down with an additional 2 waters on the nightstands and ice in the bucket. This was the only night we got turndown service. Not sure why. Wifey went exploring the floor earlier, looking for ice (for the baby formula), but could not find the machine (she was opening all the doors marked private too
). Turns out that you have to call them each time you want ice.
We went down to Makana Terrace for the breakfast buffet the next day, which was your standard hotel breakfast buffet. No omelette station though. There were pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage links, scrambled eggs, eggs benedict with hollandaise sauce, hash browns, assorted fruit, cereal, pastries, bagels, muffins, orange juice, guava (or papaya-don't remember) juice, and shots of cantelope juice. Interestingly, they did not have any banana bread - just banana nut muffins. There were also quite a few fruit flies flying around, which was not pleasant. View from Makana Terrace was great, but similar to our room. Buffet was $25 a pop, which is similar to other hotel buffets.
Upon returning to our room at 8:30 am, was surprised to find that housekeeping was already there and was finishing up the room. Wasn't sure if the restaurant alerts housekeeping (are hotel systems that sophisticated?) or if they usually come that early. Not sure, but we usually hit the housekeeping button when we headed down to the beach/pool in the afternoons and they were usually done by the time we came back.
The hallway leading to the pool/beach has been renovated. When I visited here pre-renovation in 2008, the carpets were rundown, there was a strong musty smell, mold on the walls, etc. It's all clean and fresh now. The pool area was great and the bathrooms there were also renovated (in 2008, I used the bathroom by the pool and it was quite rundown). I asked for some towels and they walked them over to our chair by the pool. It's nice as they bring you ice water, cold face towels along with the food/beverage service around the pool and beach. They had a nice one and a half foot keiki (kiddie) pool along with 2 whirlpools and the main pool. They also have a variety of water toys and floaters in a chest off to the side. The pool and beach areas were not crowded. Half of the beach area is reserved for the Westin Villas, but I don't think this was strictly adhered to (they have green and white striped towels whereas the St. Regis guests have white towels).
The water was surprisingly calm directly in front of the hotel the whole week we were there, though there were quite a few surfers further out closer to Hanalei Bay. Made for some great snorkeling as the entire beach area is full of coral reefs. This beach is not good for swimming though (due to all the coral). The beach itself is kind of weak - it's small and the sand is kind of rough (lots of twigs and rocks), but the view is great.
The next day we decided on the Napali Cafe in the hotel for breakfast. $3 for the same small muffins that the buffet has - no thanks. $3 for the Breakfast Bread (banana bread), which was much larger, yes please. Quite moist and delicious. Too bad the buffet didn't stock these. $5 for a large (12 oz) coffee. They also have bagels, don't remember how much these were.
We ordered room service (which is from Makana Terrace) for dinner. Someone on TA was raving about the seafood hotpot from Makana, so we wanted to try it. It wasn't on the room service menu, but they agreed to serve it to us. We also tried the curry opah. Both were ok, not great, wouldn't order it again - much like the rest of the food on the island. He left the cart in the room and said he would be back to collect it along with the plates, etc. When we were finished, the seafood hotpot was a bit too fishy smelling, so we stacked all the plates on the cart, covered it with napkins, and put it out in the hallway - sorry neighbors!
Had the buffet again for breakfast the next day - it was exactly the same. Not one single item was different. Tried again on Saturday, thinking maybe the weekend would have a better or at least different menu - no such luck, exactly the same. So we opted for the cafe on Saturday.
For dinner, I was excited to try out Jean Georges new restaurant in the hotel, Kauai Grill. After being disappointed with all the dining on the island, I was ready for some good food. Hit the button on the phone for Kauai Grill, got a error tone. Tried again, error tone. Called the front desk, told them I couldn't get through to Kauai Grill - that's because they don't open until November 22! I was really disappointed. It was the biggest letdown I had regarding the hotel. NOWHERE on the website, hotel book, list of resturants and hours, or anywhere else did it state that Kauai Grill was not open yet. In fact, they use it to advertise for the hotel. It's not listed as a special condition or anything. Would I have chosen not to stay here due to the restuarant not being open? Of course not, but it would have been nice to temper expectations beforehand.
Had a 60 minute sports massage in the new spa. The Spa facilities are nice, but not as nice as the Hyatt's. The massage was good, not great, $170. The showers are nice as they have a regular shower faucet, a rainforest faucet above your head, three jets on either side of you, and three jets behind you. I was almost knocked over when I turned them all on. There are three showers and 3 other rooms - I think they were steam rooms and saunas.
All in all, it was a great hotel, great Plat recognition, wonderful, friendly staff, fantastic views and a nice pool and decent beach.