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Westin St. Francis, San Francisco [Master Thread]

Westin St. Francis, San Francisco [Master Thread]

Old May 2, 04, 8:45 am
  #1  
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Westin St. Francis, San Francisco [Master Thread]

I should clarify right at the beginning that this is by no means a bad hotel. It has most of the standard Westin things, spacious and good location (if shopping is your thing). Most of the comments below is simply lack of things that differentiate a functional, convenient hotel from a great one. Basically there is no attention to detail.

It did not meet my (albeit high) expectations for Cat 4 hotel in the overall ambience, service, room type, amenities, maintenance, etc., not even in the same class as some of the better Starwood properties as the Hotel Kamp in Helsiniki, Principe Di Savoia in Milan, which is no longer with Starwood, or even any of the Bangkok properties. It appears to be a victim of the location-induced success to aspire to do better.

Some of the things I experienced that make it just another upscale hotel rather than an outstanding one:

Coming in: We took the BART from SFO to Powell Street afraid of the traffic getting into the city in a Cab and so walked into the entrance. Small stairs up on the side of the building we found ourselves and no ramp. The bell hop made no efforts whatsoever to help while we lugged our luggage up.

Check-in: No rooms available for check-in at 11AM. But that is OK since presumably I was getting upgraded as Plat to a smaller subset of available rooms and I am not entitled to check-in early. But no help provided at all in when I would be able to check-in other than stating "sometime in the afternoon" (and that 3PM is the regular check-in time). At the same time, I was told that the room had been vacated but the cleaning had not been done. Said that I can be called on my mobile when ready which is good but was a mistake since we depended on it and stayed out until about 2PM while the room had been ready much earlier. We never got a call. There is something about good service hotels that things like this over and above the standard service any hotel provide is taken care of properly (and I don't mean necessarily give a room early although most bend over backwards to do so).

Had the luggage kept with the bell hop. When we got the rooms, not even an offer of bringing up the luggage to the room.

Room: King room on 28th floor (SPG floor) as Plat. Nothing special. View on the other side of Union Square, so other than not being claustrophobic surrounded by buildings, not much of an interesting view and the towers as many have mentioned before is totally devoid of any charm. A good hotel gets credit from me for an exceptional room for a Plat upgrade.

Amenities: A single bathrobe in the room even there were two people checking in. No attempt made on the hotel to address this. Perhaps I am spoiled by the service in Asia but they seem to treat each check-in as an event that gets personal attention. Here you get the key and you are on your own. Again a hotel to be better than just good has this.

The bathroom amenities are bare minimum for a "luxury" hotel. The usual Molton Brown soap and Shampoo/Conditioner, shower cap. Nothing else. My evaluation goes down a few notches for "luxury hotels" that don't have a lighted shaving mirror. No fan in the bathroom so it looks like a sauna after a shower. The toilet would not flush completely and would back up a bit.

The Italian bottled water was a surprsing touch but the coffee/tea supply was downright pathetic. I have seen better in a interstate motel. One of the Tea bags looked like it had been trampled and dragged over the amenities cart before being placed there. Of course, very few people provide real milk/cream these days. But better than good hotels should.

Room furnishing was minimal with a chaise for one but other than uncomfortable desk chair, two people cannot be comfortable except to get on the bed. Better than good hotels, at least provide for two people to be comfortable without hopping on the bed.

There are plenty of things to do in SF so not much need to stay in the hotel but in summary:

Good functional hotel for a business stay where the hotel is just a place to sleep-in and traveling as a single.

If you are looking for charming weekend/weekday stay as a couple in a great service hotel with the hotel experience part of it, I recommend looking elsewhere.
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Old May 2, 04, 11:23 am
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Good thorough report Venk.

I'll be there in July with my teen daughter and will not have my expectations too high. Do you think a rollaway bed will fit into the room? Obviously, I will need two beds.
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Old May 2, 04, 11:58 am
  #3  
 
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Helpful report. While I think some of your comments are valid, I do think that you may have your standards set too high. Category 4 hotels in the states are generally good hotels. Luxury on the scale you describe can be found in SOME cat 5 hotels and definitely in cat 6 hotels (the St. R in NY comes to mind). Remember, categories are set by average daily price (Which is lower for a given level of quality in most of Asia), not by quality itself.

Definitely take your point on the bell hop issues, that is unfortunate. Most cat 4 rooms I've had in the states (pretty much every cat 4 in chicago and NY, and the St. Francis) have one chair and a desk chair (even cat 5's such as the W Union Square and W Tuscany had only one chair and a desk chair). Also, most are big and don't have the staff to accomodate the individualized service that you alllude to (e.g., the mobile phone call when your room is ready). Now they could have made a one-time exception and called you had they realized that you really expected it (and if they agreed to call you, then they should have followed through). Most people who would have asked for that, I would imagine, ask with the expectation that the front desk will say no. So rather than the hotel making exceptions, I can appreciate that if they can't do it for everyone that might expect such service, then they won't do it for anyone.

Hope you're enjoying San Francisco. You've stumbled upon fantastic weather this weekend.
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Old May 2, 04, 2:14 pm
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Alternative to small entrance with luggage

With construction taking place at the Westin St. Francis, the main entrance is currently closed and a small side door is being used, however, there is no ramp, as noted in the first post, for luggage. Rather than using the small door with no ramp, enter via the valet park entrance, which is just a few steps to the left of the current alternate main entrance.

Not only can you enter with luggage with ease, the Starwood Preferred Member desk is located immediately to the right when you enter.
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Old May 2, 04, 2:24 pm
  #5  
 
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I tend to agree with Boolean. The St. Francis is a perfectly fine very large hotel. Not superb, but they definitely meet the Westin standards. I tend to ask for rooms in the old part of the hotel because they are larger and more charming. They do, however, have smaller bathrooms than the tower. The improved gym was a bit disappointing (though it does have a steam room), but still much better than the old one. Besides, what hotel in SF is going to be better for $150/night?

If you're looking for bigger rooms and (somewhat) more personalized service in SF, try the W. I seem to always get large rooms with great views. While the W staff can sometimes have a bit of attitude, I've found that they almost always come through on requests.
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Old May 2, 04, 3:16 pm
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Originally Posted by boolean64
Also, most are big and don't have the staff to accomodate the individualized service that you alllude to (e.g., the mobile phone call when your room is ready). Now they could have made a one-time exception and called you had they realized that you really expected it (and if they agreed to call you, then they should have followed through).
This was actually volunteered by the check-in agent which surprised me. But no follow through after offering it which is worse than not offering it.

You are correct, of course, about the Category which is misleading for what you can expect.
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Old May 2, 04, 11:23 pm
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Originally Posted by venk
It appears to be a victim of the location-induced success to aspire to do better.
Completely off-topic, but I've been looking for a succinct way to describe the service at the Essex House in NYC. This is it! I've only had limited experience with the St. Francis (I luckily live in the greatest city on Earth), so this may be true of the St. Francis as well...it does have a phenomenal location. But I do think a part of it is being used to Asian service and the category definition issue.
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Old May 3, 04, 7:14 am
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Just to note that I left out one of the best Westins of all in my original post- Westin Dublin. So it doesn't need to be an Asian Hotel to be phenomenal. Just the right attitude and motivation and good management.
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Old May 3, 04, 7:26 am
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Does this Westin have a Club or Lounge? I forget. We have been staying at the Grand Hyatt Union Square because it does have a Club. FYI Thanks
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Old May 4, 04, 9:15 pm
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Originally Posted by RTWSTARALLIANCE
Does this Westin have a Club or Lounge? I forget. We have been staying at the Grand Hyatt Union Square because it does have a Club. FYI Thanks
If there is one, then it is a very well kept secret.

Didn't find or hear of one in our stay.
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Old May 5, 04, 2:05 am
  #11  
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You might want to try the new-ish Omni next time - very large rooms, Ritz Carlton-quality furnishings and good value on-line rates.
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Old May 5, 04, 11:01 am
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Venk's experience is quite typical for my most North America hotel stay. Once in a while I encounter exceptional services, but it can be at Four Points or St Regis. The category does not measure up the level of service I receive.
I find the service at resort locations, especially in Hawaii, are better than city hotels. Asian hotels treat their guest better than American counterparts. Smaller city hotels greet their guest more warmly than big city hotels.
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Old May 5, 04, 6:50 pm
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Thanks for the info Venk. I will be there at the end of June and will lower my expectations accordingly.
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Old Aug 3, 04, 1:22 pm
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Venk,
Your report is spot-on. I just completed a 2night stay on points, and if I had burned 20K points (10K points x 2night), I would have been really disappointed {at myself]...not that the experience was BAD and in fact is was a solid Westin experience with the fabulous shower and bed....it just wasn't worth 10K points using my "relative value" nose. So the discussion re: value of starpoints being really related to AVG NIGHT PRICE, not necessarily to SERVICE (and/or to that I'll add AMENITIES), was helpful to me.

Good news I was lucky enough to book this the very night the 25% starpoint REDUCED POINTS PROMO ended just before midnight, so I got the room at 7500pts per night, which is about what its worth IMO.

We stayed in the new tower, quite high floor, and the room was spacious and clean and updated. No complaints here at all.

*WAS* disappointed to be nailed for the hi-speed internet access at $12.95 (I think was the price), and then to see there is NO PLAT/ELITE LOUNGE at this property. None.

boolean, I agree w/ your response and appreciate your insight.

RTWSTARALLIANCE, yes, it is odd that a business-class hotel of this stature apparently "OPTS OUT" of a lounge for elites, even on weekdays. They must have some insight and know the risks of losing incremental business of this strategy that I can't see. Lacking an elite lounge is a deal killer for me to ever return.

Bottom line - now I can say "been there, done this", but it would not be on my top list to return to. Starwood just can't figure out that FREE high-speed internet is these days a differentiator when picking a hotel chain and/or property within a given chain, not something to keep trying to add on as incremental profit-center. The strategy of charging, especially at a pricepoint north of $10/nt, was acceptable until every other hotel, down to the cheapies, started offering it for free. For this property specifically, same goes for not providing an elite lounge. I did a double-take over the phone (while booking) when I was informed that a 10K per night Westin anywhere in the US, by choice, did not offer a club-level lounge.

The $40 parking fee for one night also nailed a friend of mine who stayed here while we did...again, IMO a userious rate. $20, maybe even $30 /nt is fair...$40 is taking one's wallet out of one's pocket and helping oneself to 2x $20s.

Last edited by ILUVCITIBANK; Aug 3, 04 at 1:34 pm
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Old Aug 3, 04, 7:36 pm
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I had a one night layover in San Fran recently, and wanted to be downtown for the night. Decided to burn points and stay at the St. Francis. I had stayed there last year and was quite happy with the place. Never stayed at either the Palace or W, and wanted to reserve those for my next stay, when I'll be there for a longer period of time.
Room was on the 25th floor, tower, and a lot smaller than my previous stay. In fact, it seemed half the size. The front desk clerk stated "we have you in one of our upgraded rooms...the room is on a high floor and quite large" High maybe, large is was not. I guess what was 'upgraded' was the view. As posted previously, overall grand hotel with good location, not service (but to be expected). You can get a lot better value for 10000 points.
Although the Sh. Fsh. Wharf is, at the Wharf, my last stay in a Presidential suite upgrade justified the 7000 points. In fact, IMO, all suites on the 4th floor are great if you can manage an upgrade. Hopefully, 10000 can get me a lot more at the Palace or W next time.
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