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Old Mar 14, 05, 6:43 am   #1
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Programs: AA PLT, SPG PLT, HYATT DIA, AC ELITE, CATHAY GOLD, FAIRM PRES
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Florence, Italy - Westin or the Grand? 2005 onward [Master Thread]

Hello, I am in need of some advice. Planning on spending 5-nights in Florence, in June, to celebrate my wife's birthday. I am interested in using SPG points to book a suite level (24k spg points per night) room at either the Grand or the Westin in Florence. Seeing as though both properties are in the same location, they require the same number of points, how do I make the right decision? I am most interested in getting the best value for our spg points and the size of our room/service will be the deciding factors. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you so much!
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Old Mar 14, 05, 10:07 am   #2
 
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I don't really know how to answer the question but will tell you my thoughts. I stayed at the Westin for three nights and we walked to the Grand to check it out. Both of these hotels are in the same piazza...right across the square from each other. Both are elegant to the point where Mrs. Dingo and I felt we didn't belong (but loved it just the same). The Grand felt a little stuffier...I can't elaborate because I'm struggling with how to phrase it. We had a great time and would have been happy in either hotel. I think the lack of response is due to just that: awesome hotel vs. awesome hotel. Potato potato.
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Old Mar 14, 05, 11:26 am   #3
 
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Mivers~

Yes, I think there are several threads discussing these two properties, but I'll toss in my 2 cents. Yes they are both lovely properties, approx 100 yds apart.

Disclaimer, I've not stayed at The Grand. I have, however, used their business center. Excelsior does not have one. Mark up one for the Grand. But if you don't plan on checking email or "doing business" everyday, not a big deal.

We had a wonderful suite overlooking the Arno. The balcony was massive, literally large enough for a cocktail party. My guess would be 10' X 30' long with table/chairs, etc. NICE.

The lobby I liked better than the Grand's also. The lounge downstairs has a warm, well, lounge-y fell to it. There was a pianist/singer in the evenings, and the crowd was very friendly. Not stuffy at all. Of course 6 or 7 lemoncellos will do that to a person!

Anyway, I don't remember if The Grand has balconies, but to me, that alone would be a decision maker. But either way, you're sure to have a lovely stay.

Ciao!
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Old Mar 14, 05, 11:36 am   #4
 
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Thank you so much. Indeed, the balcony sounds like a winner. The description of the junior suites availble for spg bookings (double points) does not mention a balcony. Do you know if this room type comes with a balcony?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jills
Mivers~

Yes, I think there are several threads discussing these two properties, but I'll toss in my 2 cents. Yes they are both lovely properties, approx 100 yds apart.

Disclaimer, I've not stayed at The Grand. I have, however, used their business center. Excelsior does not have one. Mark up one for the Grand. But if you don't plan on checking email or "doing business" everyday, not a big deal.

We had a wonderful suite overlooking the Arno. The balcony was massive, literally large enough for a cocktail party. My guess would be 10' X 30' long with table/chairs, etc. NICE.

The lobby I liked better than the Grand's also. The lounge downstairs has a warm, well, lounge-y fell to it. There was a pianist/singer in the evenings, and the crowd was very friendly. Not stuffy at all. Of course 6 or 7 lemoncellos will do that to a person!

Anyway, I don't remember if The Grand has balconies, but to me, that alone would be a decision maker. But either way, you're sure to have a lovely stay.

Ciao!
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Old Mar 15, 05, 7:16 pm   #5
 
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Prefer Grand to Westin Excelsior

I stayed at both hotels, Westin then Grand, over Christmas last year.

Service levels at both hotels are comparable, as they are run by the same management team.

While I found the public areas of the Westin to be more appealing than those of the Grand (with the exception of the Grand's gorgeous Winter Garden room), if only because they're more spacious (the hallways at the Grand are incredibly narrow) -- I preferred the jr. suite I received at the Grand over the jr. suite I received at the Westin -- and I stayed in the largest jr. suite available at the Westin (so I was told). Granted, my suite at the Westin had two balconies, which was nice for gazing out over the brown waters of the Arno, and its color scheme of muted pink and light green was much more to my taste than the teal-and-gray scheme (teal furnishings and bedspread, gray wall trim) of my Grand room, but the Grand room just felt more elegant.

The Grand's elegance extended to the bed linens, which were in fact linen, while the Westin's bedding was regular cotton. I also found the bed in my Westin room to be too firm for comfort (it's not a Heavenly mattress), even though the Westin Rome uses the same mattress (I checked) and I had no problem sleeping in Rome. I guess the firmness was really just a matter of how well used (or not) the mattress was.

My preference also turned largely on the bathroom and amenities, as the Grand bathroom was more spacious and airy (fully clad in black-and-white marble) and was stocked with a very generous assortment of higher-end toiletries, while the Westin bathroom, decked out in reddish marble, was smaller and compartmentalized and carried the usual lineup of non-U.S. (i.e., not the eucalyptus-based Heavenly Bath) Westin toiletries.

However, the water pressure in the separate shower at the Westin was "stronger" than at the Grand, although both were very anemic. Water pressure in the hand-held showers at both properties was fine.

The Platinum amenity is also better at the Grand. Westin offered the usual list of amenities standardized throughout the European Westin/Sheraton properties, while the Grand came up with a bag of some of the best biscotti I've ever eaten, a box of chocolates (just Godiva, if I recall) and a bottle of wine. However, the Grand's amenity may have been tweaked for me, as I told the Westin desk clerk upon check-out that I didn't care for any more fruit, and he said that he would relay that to the Grand and that he was confident they would provide me with a very nice amenity.

I didn't dine at either hotel's restaurant for lunch or dinner, but a fellow U.S. traveller I met in Rome reported that the lunch she'd had at Il Canto (the Grand's restaurant) was the best meal she'd eaten in Italy.

In conclusion: Both properties are part of the Luxury Collection, but only the Grand acknowledges it. It flies the Luxury Collection flag, it stocks in-room bags and umbrellas with the Luxury Collection logo and carries higher-end toiletries. The Westin flies only the Westin flag, and all of its amenities and accessories are Westin-branded and therefore limited to the usual Westin offerings. Yes, the Westin Florence is a 5-star hotel, but for me on some levels it felt like what it proclaims to be, just a Westin.
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Old Mar 17, 05, 6:33 am   #6
 
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Stayed at the Grand about 4 years ago >

service was outstanding, the jr. suite was great. My wife and I wandered into the Westin out of curiosity and agree with StarpointsSlave that the common areas are nicer. Didn't check out any of the rooms and would have assumed that the rooms were nicers as well, thanks for the insights!

I became ill on this trip - normally a healthy guy, but may have picked something up or just wore myself out from to much vacation My wife called down for suggestions and a doctor was there in less than 45 minutes. I was amazed, maybe a combination of Italian health services or just sheer goodness. A quick check up and some antibiotics and I was back on my feet in a day and in tip top condition a couple of days later.

Kudos to the Grand.

Cheers,
Jeff
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Old Mar 17, 05, 8:47 am   #7
 
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We spent ten nights in Florence in the fall - staying at both the Westin and the Grand Hotel.

My wife preferred the Grand due to the huge bathtubs - better amenities and the fact that there were 14 foot high frescos in the room. It is simply a more elegant hotel.

Other posters are correct about many of the common spaces in the Westin being very nice - but the "tuscan" feeling of the Gran Hotel was difficult to beat.
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Old Mar 17, 05, 1:14 pm   #8
 
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[By the way, did your junior suite at the Grand have a balcony?]

No, my suite was on the second floor and so it did not. It did face the Arno, though. Only the rooms on the top floor have balconies, so request a suite on that floor if you'd like one (otherwise, if you're short, like I am, you might not be able to see all that much out of the windows, as they're fairly high off the floor).
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Old Mar 17, 05, 2:56 pm   #9
 
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My recollection is that the Grand is a former monastery. In the junior suite I had there were frescoes from a long long time ago. Unbelievably atmospheric!
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Old Apr 5, 05, 4:28 pm   #10
 
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Florence: Opinions Please, Westin Excelsior or Grand Hotel?

HI:

We have one night only in Florence, for which I want to use up some SPG points. My choices are between these two hotels, since I skipped the Sheraton.

I'd love some opinions on these properties.

Thanks!
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Old Apr 5, 05, 5:20 pm   #11
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Both are very similar (same location, same type of building and across the square from each other). Grand is generally considered to be slightly better, more Grand and Florentine in decor and style. Westin is more consistent and has the usual Westin amenities. The Grand may have more differentiation between its various rooms (so the best ones are better and the worst ones are worse, compared to the Westin). I'd pick the Grand but wouldn't be disappointed with the Westin.
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Old Apr 5, 05, 5:28 pm   #12
 
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I chose the Westin last September. We had large room with 2 balconies overlooking the plaza. It was quite grand but a bit worn. I expected better since I am Platinum. I sure wish Starwood gave breakfast to Platinum like I get with Hyatt Diamond. I had to send my husband out for breakfast rolls to go with the jam I always carry in Europe.
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Old Apr 5, 05, 6:41 pm   #13
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I agree with the previous posts. The locations are equal. I haven't stayed at the Westin, but we stayed at the Grand last September, using points for five nights. Upon check-in, we were upgraded to a lovely suite overlooking the Arno River. The room had one of the nicest bathrooms we have ever seen in a hotel. I think you would be fine in either property.
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Old Apr 6, 05, 5:17 pm   #14
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We were at the Westin in March. Two nights on points. Upgraded to a small suite with two balconies overlooking the river. The view was incredible, I must have taken 50 pictures from the balconies.

The room was in great condition. It was on an "SPG floor". I know that at some European properties, the Westin Palace Madrid for instance, the difference between SPG and non-SPG floor rooms can be tremendous.

Regarding breakfast. When you leave the hotel, go left on Ognisanti about 1 1/2 blocks. On the right hand side is a small bakery (forno something or another). The best pastries and panini we had in Italy. When we walked by the store, there was a line out the door. So, we figured it had to be good. It was.
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Old Apr 6, 05, 5:45 pm   #15
 
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Whichever one you choose, use the points to get the upgrade to a room with a balcony. Great in the mornings for breakfast.
We stayed at the Excelsior for one night. Was great. Parking is expensive if you have a car.
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