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El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort {PRI} (no longer Honors)

El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort {PRI} (no longer Honors)

Old Mar 14, 09, 2:30 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Madison, NJ
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El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort {PRI} (no longer Honors)

We recently stayed at the El Conquistador several days after joining the Hilton family as a W=A Collection Resort.

Prior to our arrival, it was rather easy to add our HHonors number after the switch from LXR to Hilton. The reservation showed up on our HHonors reservation portfolio and the requests / information carried over flawlessly. We booked a Garden View room, but were happy to learn before arriving it had been upgraded first to a La Vista Ocean View and then to a Las Brisas Ocean View.

We arrived at the hotel at approximately 1:30AM on Thursday nigh / Friday morning. We were greeted at the front desk by a young woman with a strong southern accent. She seemed kind of aloof. Nonetheless, after a rather long check-in given the time of night, we were off to our room.

The Las Brisas Ocean View King room was very clean and looked exactly like the pictures on the El Conquistador website. Small couch, balcone, desk, large mirror, lcd television and a large bathroom that included a walk-in closet. The only problem with the room upon check-in was that the safe was locked shut and we had some things we wanted to get into it, but dealt with it in the morning.

A couple hours after going to sleep, we were awoken at 5:00AM by an alarm. At first it was not clear what the alarm was for, but it sounded like a fire alarm. We tried calling the front desk but there was no answer. We went out the front door to only see other guests standing in the open air hallways looking as confused as we were. As we were about to follow the exit signs after the alarm had been going off for 5 minutes or so and no answer from the front desk, the alarm stopped. A final call to the front desk finally got someone and they were aware of the alarm but did not have any idea what caused it and it took them time to find the manual override to shut it off. It definitely seemed like the hotel staff did not know how to deal with this situation and thankfully it was not a real hazard.

During our stay we found the property to be very well kept and enjoyable to go around. The pools are very nice, clean, easy access to lounge chairs and several bars with food options throughout the main pool area. Towels are provided at main location that also displays activity options for the day (none of which occurred even though they were listed).

Casino

The Casino is small and recently renovated. It no longer has Craps tables. There are two blackjack tables (usually only one operates), a roulette table and a 3 card poker table. Minimum bets during out stay at the blackjack was as high as $10 and usually $5. The roulette table has a minimum bet of $2. There are a lot of slot machines with a mix of bonus slots and traditional slots all varying in ranged from 1 cent to $1. Casino is open from Noon to 3:00AM daily.

Food

Food was probably the most disappointing part of the hotel. By far the best food was at the outside bar Bella Vista just off the lobby. It is italian, but the food was very good. It was while we dined here that we met three people from Hilton who were surveying the hotel.

The fine dining options were disappointing. We ate at the Stingray Cafe at the marina twice which was good, but not great. Presentation of certain dishes was subpar and the restaurant that advertises itself as Med / Caribbean flavor could not hit either with greatness. We are there twice, but only because it was the better of the fine dining options.

Blossoms, an Asian restaurant was no better than the Asian restaurants within blocks of my apartment. Food was just not flavorful and when the restaurant messed up our order, they did not offer to fix it but just asked that we eat around the problem - completely unacceptable for a nice restaurant at a resort. In addition, the appetizer pan fried pot stickers / dumplings might have been the worse I have ever eaten. Just disgusting. We were really excited about this restaurant and it was incredibly disappointing.

Breakfast options are alright, with Las Brisas being the only main buffet option (the casitas area has a continental breakfast) was pretty good. Made to order omelettes, french toast, pastries, meats, cereals and fruits. $25 per person and not bad. Other options include a small cafe past the Casino which was alright (order the ala carte eggs and a side toast to save money). Starbucks was probably the most busy breakfast place and the little bodega-like places all had breakfast but rarely got in new product each morning - so the same muffin would be out for three days.

We tried dining at the Spa Cafe three times, but it was closed every day we were there for no reason.

Food on the small beach island, Palimon Island, was okay but expensive like all other options for lunch. It did the trick though for our visit to the beach. Other lunch options around the pools have similar fried / burger-like food and salads and are also very expensive. I almost wished they had a better fast food option on property for a lunch option. It was tough forking out $50 for lunch everyday.

Drinks were expensive, served in small plastic cups, insufficient alchohol and hardly worth the $10 to $14 prices that are charged at the various bars. A big disappointment as the tropical environment makes you crave some great tropical and freshly made drinks. Instead, boxed mixes dominate all the drinks and just make for a plain and boring drink experience at the various bars around the property. Probably the only great drink on the property is down at the marina bar, the Ballyhoo - a mix of rums and juices which is the signature drink of the marina-area.

Palomino Island

Great little island that is easy to get via the furnicular (little elevator) to the marina and short (7 to 10 minute) boat ride to the island. There is a small outside restaurant with normal lunch options and same drinks as the main pools. There is also a small bar out by the beach and two small stores with various things, including snacks and suntan lotion. There are activity options and I was really excited about doing some snorkeling. However, I would not recommend wasting your money renting snorkel gear on the island. The first 100 yards or so out from the beach is filled with rocks, dead coral, and grass in water about no deeper than 2 feet. It makes it rather impossible to get out to the area where you could snorkel in about 10 to 12 feet of water. You really would need water shoes to get out to this area as it is very tough to wade out in flippers and bare feet is not possible. Swimming in this shallow area is impossible as well. Just not worth the effort.

Otherwise, the little island is great and enjoyable with plenty of lounge chairs and easy access to one set of bathrooms.

Stores

There are number of different small stores on the property selling clothes, small food options, drinks and even a sunglass hut. They were open most of the day and were not too bad. Different stores though had different prices for the same things, so that was kind of odd.

One thing is that $4 water gets old quickly, especially when they do not offer complimentary water at the pool area during the hot days.

Business / Internet

A small business center is available with computers that allow for airline check-in for free but all other internet is for a cost - unless you know how to make the free check-in computer work for you to get other internet access (which I took advantage of).

They advertise in room internet via WiFi, but it did not work in the Las Brisas wing and the hotel admitted that outside of the lobby, WiFi is sketchy. We used our computer in the lobby area and although they charge for WiFi, we were able to access it for free our entire stay.

Golden Door Spa

We were very excited about using the Spa at this hotel for our long weekend and were very disappointed by it. Although they advertise a number of yoga classes and other activities at the spa, during our stay every time we went to attend one it was cancelled. I am guessing it was a result of the low occupancy numbers. However, there was bad communication between the Spa and the concierge in terms of timing for classes and availability. Every time we went to the spa, either a class was cancelled, its time had been changed or a service was not available that day. We never got to use the Spa once and the staff was completely indifferent about it at the Spa. This was a huge disappointment, especially since our winter getaway provided comp Spa access and 50% off second treatments. As mentioned above, not even the Spa Cafe was open any of the days we were there. We walked over there each morning in hopes of something being available, but never got to use it once.

Check-Out

When we checked-in, we were told we could receive a complimentary late check-out of 1:30PM. Normal check-out is between 11:00 and Noon according to the hotel staff. When we called Monday morning to confirm our late check-out, the staff told us it would be $65 an hour beyond Noon. With 17% occupancy and after spending almost $900 at the hotel, this was quite obnoxious. After some arguing, the hotel caved and allowed us to take a 1:30PM check-out at no extra cost.

Otherwise, the check-out was a little tough as many of the places we ate / shopped at the property had different names when on the bill. This was quite confusing, especially since the hotel did not tell us at first as we struggled with the bill.

Also, because most places on the property do not take cash, there are lots and lots of room charges, especially if you did not leave the property.

In addition, although the hotel advertises free local / 800 calls, we were charged for them on our bill. After a lot of struggling to get them removed (the hotel gave us no problem removing them), they were removed from the bill.

We are still waiting for our points to post, 4 days after departure.

Conclusion

Overall we really liked the property and it was perfect for a long weekend get away in the winter. Views are fantastic from the property and the property is clean and very well maintained. As mentioned above, the hotel should consider revamping the food options on the property.

The hotel needs better management and is not worthy of the W=A designation yet. There is a lot of confusion on the property about Hilton and I imagine it will take time for the staff to get used to the system and general Hilton policies. I give it a year before they get this place in great working order and fix the lousy food options. I think there needs to be a lot of streamlining as a lot of people seemed to be doing nothing in some areas, while other areas of the hotel went unattended.

Nonetheless, based on the property, the facilities and views, we would definitely return for a long weekend. We may be more inclined to rent a car next time, but that may be offset by $16 per day parking.

Last edited by GoCanes; Mar 14, 09 at 4:56 pm
GoCanes is offline  
Old Mar 14, 09, 7:28 pm
  #2  
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Very fair review. I stayed here a few years ago when I won a door prize at the Freddies of 4 nights. The stay was booked for my by Wyndham's VP of the ByRequest program, so they gave me a suite down on the marina. It was lovely, the views at this hotel are spectacular. The food wasn't. And the spa was a disappointment as well. I'd be willing to be both of those things don't get sorted out, they've been as they are for quite some time. But I still did enjoy and do recommend the property for where/what it is. ^^
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Old Mar 15, 09, 10:00 pm
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Thanks. I am hoping when we return to the property these few things will be resolved.
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Old Jun 4, 09, 9:31 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
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El Conquistador San Juan - Diamond rewards

I'm trying to decide between El Conquistador, Caribe Hilton and the Conrad Hilton for my family of 4 - an 18 yr old and 21 yr old and my husband.
Food is expensive at all but El Conq. is more remote. I'm a diamond member, has anyone stayed at these hotels who could tell me what the lounges/perks are?
thanks.
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Old Jun 15, 09, 12:15 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
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I am trying to make the same decision...I found out that at El Conquistador you don't get free breakfast or free internet...You only get an upgrade and free drinks upon check-in..

What have you found out so far?
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Old Jun 17, 09, 10:03 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Okemos,Michigan
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Free use of the golden door spa at El Conquistador

Also, some very reasonably priced and good local restaurants not to far away from the hotel.

If you really wanted to save money on food, about two miles away is Pizza Hut, Sizzler, and Burger King
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Old Jun 18, 09, 9:25 am
  #7  
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Its a WA so be prepared to get dinged for everything. If you want to do cheapo forget the WA collection. PR has many "carbonara" ie bbq restaurants along the main highway. I love'm and have consumed mucho delicious protein at many of them. Most use split 50 gal drums previously used for chemicals but I assumed any nasty stuff was burned away years ago. Plenty of fresh fruit stands, supermarkets not too far away and great fresh fish restaurants at Fajard and SJ. Resorts like to keep you on site there and pluck you. Solution get a car.

MisterNice
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Old Jun 18, 09, 10:05 am
  #8  
 
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Originally Posted by MisterNice View Post
PR has many "carbonara" ie bbq restaurants along the main highway. I love'm and have consumed mucho delicious protein at many of them.

Mmmm fish tacos. ^
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Old Jul 24, 09, 11:35 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Would not go back EVER!

Originally Posted by GoCanes View Post
We recently stayed at the El Conquistador several days after joining the Hilton family as a W=A Collection Resort.


Overall we really liked the property and it was perfect for a long weekend get away in the winter. Views are fantastic from the property and the property is clean and very well maintained. As mentioned above, the hotel should consider revamping the food options on the property.

The hotel needs better management and is not worthy of the W=A designation yet. There is a lot of confusion on the property about Hilton and I imagine it will take time for the staff to get used to the system and general Hilton policies. I give it a year before they get this place in great working order and fix the lousy food options. I think there needs to be a lot of streamlining as a lot of people seemed to be doing nothing in some areas, while other areas of the hotel went unattended.

Nonetheless, based on the property, the facilities and views, we would definitely return for a long weekend. We may be more inclined to rent a car next time, but that may be offset by $16 per day parking.
I wish I had read your post before wasting my HH points on this hotel. I disgree with you on the cleanliness of this hotel, I found the hotel to be filthy! At the end of the day I went to the pool bar and was standing in a puddle of water with cigarette butts, drinking cups and straws floating it it. The fountains had beer cans floating in them. The beach was not any better. It took moving three time to find a spot that was not covered in garbage. This is a Waldorf Astoria property?

The inconsistencies aboud at the hotel. My friend was in the room next to mine and I received turn down service, she did not. She had a makeup mirror, I did not. I received shampoo, etc., my friend did not. Outrageous!
Also, the walls in the room are paper thin. I heard my neighbors two rooms away fighting and the people in the room next to me arguing with their son for 30 minutes on whether or not he needed a bath. I awoke every night to the late night partyers returning to their rooms.

At the end of my four day stay my bill was over $600 and my room charge was not included since I used points. I will never go back to this hotel again.

As a Hilton Gold member, I am waiting on the survey I usually get asking about my experiences at this hotel. I can honestly say, I have had a better experience at a Hilton Garen Inn on 1-95 in Virginia (complete with truck noise), than this hotel.
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Old Jul 24, 09, 5:38 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
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Thanks for the review. I stayed there 3 years ago when it was a Wyndham and a lot of my observations still hold true: spectacularly beautiful setting, irregular service, exorbitant charges for everything. I was there for a meeting of my professional society and there were massive cost overruns on the catering; apparently the quantities of food included in the sticker price were insufficient and we paid through the nose for extras. At one lunch, coffee cups were part of the place settings but coffee was never served. Wonder if we got billed for it anyway. My TripAdvisor review, which was factual and detailed but not very nice, got a suspicious number of "not useful" ratings. If you're curious, here is the review.

Our group won't be back and neither will I be back on my own dime.
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Old Sep 12, 09, 1:24 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Would stay there again

Sorry to disagree with the negative posts on this hotel, but my recent stay in August was great. I booked the El COnqi water park package. This included rountrip pickups from the airport, full breakfast, and admissions to the water park each day. I would strongly recommend getting this package.

I was expecting poor service (based on the reviews). As a diamond, our rooms were upgraded. The daily breakfast buffet was quite extensive and filling. We ate on the property for lunch and dinner. It is quite pricy, but you should expect that going in.

The private island was fun and we spent most of a day there snorkeling and playing mini-golf.

The spa staff was great and they went out of their way to provide all of the diamond benefits to my family.

If I had to find a negative thing to say about this place is that there was an error in posting the points for my stay. I beleive this is getting corrected - so no big deal.

I would stay there again. Great property.

Goz
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Old Jan 15, 10, 7:49 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Has anyone stayed at this property recently? I've got three rooms held on an award reservation for November, but I've also got a 3 room suite held at the Westin St. John and I can't decide which one to go to. We've been to St. John several times, as well as multiple trips to Puerto Rico but never to the Conquistador. We will have 6 adults and 6 small kids with us if that matters in the decision. Any recent info would be great.
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Old Jan 15, 10, 9:08 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
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We haven't been there for a few years. The first time we went it was managed by Wyndham, and the second time by LXR. Both times the service and accommodations were spot on, keeping in mind the property sees a lot of traffic over the course of a year, and it's in a tropical environment, both of which can take a toll on the infrastructure.

If I were to ask the oldest son if he wanted to go back, he'd be doing headstands and backflips right now. It's a great resort for families, between the pool area and Palomino Island. On the island, you can rent non-motorized and motorized watercraft, which adds to the fun. We rented a pedal bike and rode from Palomino to this little spit of sand maybe 1/2 mile away. He still talks about it to this day.

The restaurant prices are what you would expect in a resort far away from San Juan. I also agree the food can sometimes be hit or miss. However, we had many more good meals than bad.
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Old Jan 15, 10, 9:12 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Thanks so much for your reply. As far as food goes, I expect it to be a bit pricey. However, I was wondering how easy it was to get into Fajardo or if there where any close dining options near the resort. We will probably rent a car for just one day and rent it in Fajardo, but other than that I don't plan on having a car.
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Old Jan 16, 10, 1:35 pm
  #15  
 
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My sister and I stayed four nights in December 09 and found it to be quite relaxing. We both said we'd go back.

Overall, the staff was very nice, in fact, we found everyone to be nice, happy, and friendly all the way around. Resort is beautiful, room was a good size, balcony average size. Hallways tend to be echo-y loud. Casino seems small, not all the tables are manned, and finding a drink server was a bit tough. The section of the hotel on the middle level (30 rooms maybe, private pool) is closed. The economy has hit them hard. Walked through the water park and it really did look fun. In mid-December, the hotel was not crowded at all so it was very easy to find a place to sit poolside or on Palomino Island. Oh, they only had one ferry running, and one funicular running.

We did the night kayak tour which was fabulous (first time in a kayak for me). It's within walking distance from the hotel (facing the water from the marina, hang a left and keep walking through the gate and down the long drive. I'd sign up there rather than signing up for the tour at the hotel as the hotel charges much, much more for the same exact thing. Wear long sleeves as bug protection.

Absolutely rent a car, the hotel is basically in the middle of nowhere (about an hour from San Juan) and taxis get very expensive. You can rent one right at the hotel if you just want a day here and there.

As someone else mentioned, pay attention to the bill upon checkout. My bill had erroneous charges on it as well, but they did correct it.

If you choose this hotel, do have fun!
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