My experiences at the Grand Hyatt Santiago and W Santiago were almost polar opposites. For whatever reason I had low expectations of the Grand Hyatt, though I was blown away — the hotel was awesome! I had heard so many great things about the W Santiago from friends that I was really excited, though I ended up being quite disappointed and decided to stay only one night and switch back to the Grand Hyatt (I was originally going to stay two nights).
I’m not a fan of the W brand as a whole — I find them to be the stingiest with elite benefits, their employees usually have an attitude, they’re designed with style over substance, and their lobbies have obnoxiously loud music. Funny enough Hyatt’s response to W hotels is their Andaz brand, which I love — the hotels offer great value, service is usually good, and I find them to have both style and substance. The ones on Wall Street, 5th Avenue, and in West Hollywood are among my favorite hotels.
I think the more you’re on the road, the more you appreciate the simple things that make a hotel stay pleasant — fast wifi, rooms designed with the frequent traveler in mind (meaning plenty of outlets, easy to use showers, etc.), and courteous staff.
What I find interesting is that Business Travel News released their 2012 hotel rankings (see page 20) just a few days ago, and W Hotels ranked as the top “Upper Upscale” hotel brand. This is surprising to me, especially since the hotels were ranked by corporate buyers and not once a year travelers that might have the perception that W properties are “cool.” But maybe I’m in the minority, you guys tell me.
Anyway, on to the actual hotel stay. I had booked the hotel for $248 using a “best rate guarantee.” The best rate on Starwood’s website was around $300 while I found it on another website for $248, so as part of the “best rate guarantee” they match the better price and offer you 2,000 Starpoints, which I was happy with.
The W is about 10 minutes by taxi from the Grand Hyatt in a much more fun area with lots of restaurants and shopping, so that’s a plus. The hotel is part of a larger complex, so you have to take the elevator up to the lobby. The lobby had the typical W “living room” theme, with plenty of seating.
At check-in I asked about the possibility of a suite upgrade, and without the agent even checking he informed me I had already been upgraded and they had no suites available. The rate I booked was also inclusive of breakfast, though he insisted it wasn’t, so I decided to just select breakfast as the Platinum amenity and take it up with Starwood later.
Anyway, I went up to the “Cool Corner Room,” which felt more cramped than what I’d imagine a standard room is like. The website lists “Cool Corner Rooms” as being 420-527 square feet, and the room in the picture on the website actually looks pretty spacious.
“Cool Corner Room” on website
The actual room was at most ~350 square feet and sure felt compact. In typical W fashion the design was awful too — the bathtub was in the middle of the room, there wasn’t a single trash can in the room (only in the bathroom — interestingly I’ve NEVER seen a trash can in a room at a W hotel), and the shower didn’t have any sort of a door or barrier, making the heat spread around the room when showering. I’m not saying any of these are the end of the world, but in my opinion it’s unacceptable for an “upper upscale” hotel to fail on such basic design things.
Cool Corner Room
Cool Corner Room
I quickly popped online to check suite availability, and it appeared like the hotel was still selling suites, so I decided to go to the front desk and ask them about the possibility of a suite upgrade. As much as I hate doing that, it’s a published benefit, and sometimes W hotels make you fight for it. The situation got pretty messy, and you can read about it in this post.
Anyway, after all that I did get a suite upgrade, though I’m not sure what type of a suite it was. The suite featured a desk and couch with chairs in the living room. While the living room was large it really wasn’t especially comfortable or livable.
There was a half bathroom near the entrance as well.
The bedroom wasn’t completely separated from the living room but rather just had a wall along the center between the living room and bedroom. It featured a king size bed and bathroom which wasn’t separated from the bedroom.
The bathroom featured a bathtub, shower, double sinks, and toilet. While it looked cool, it was incredibly impractical — the bathroom didn’t have a door (meaning the bathroom was relatively cold while showering, while the bedroom was relatively hot). Beyond that, there was no partition between the living room and bedroom and no partition between the bedroom and bathroom, so there’s no way you could have guests and use the bathroom without them watching you. The dumbest part of the design, though, has to be the fact that the shower was elevated above the rest of the tiles without any sort of a barrier, so half of the water from the shower flowed into the bathroom.
The views from the room were nice as well, though not quite as nice as those at the Grand Hyatt.
View from my room
It was winter so I wasn’t able to use it, though the hotel has a rooftop deck and pool. The funny thing is that there are three different sets of elevators at the hotel — one set that takes you from the ground floor to the lobby, one set that takes you from the lobby to the rooms, and one set that takes you from the lobby to the rooftop pool. All in all it’s pretty damn confusing. The rooftop was nice, though obviously when it’s 40 degrees outside, not especially useful.
Breakfast is served daily in NOSO from 6:30AM till 10:30AM. I went at around 10AM and had the choice of waiting for a table or eating out in the lobby bar, and I went with the latter.
The spread itself was good — not amazing like some breakfast buffets in Asia, though very good. It’s worth noting they had alcohol available as part of the buffet, and had as many varieties of vodka as fruit (I’m undecided as to whether that’s a good thing or bad thing).
The service at this hotel was rather indifferent as well. Most employees didn’t seem very excited to be there, and couldn’t be bothered to smile. It took about five minutes for “Whatever/Whenever” to pick up the phone.
Now before some of you start calling me a whiner, hear me out for a minute, please. First of all, I love Starwood. I love Sheratons and Westins and find them to be a great value on the whole. I also love St. Regis properties because they’re on par with Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons, in my opinion, with the added benefit of belonging to a great loyalty program.
I spend about 100 nights per year in hotels, ranging from Holiday Inns to Four Seasons. When I share the details of my stays, I try to do it within the realm of what my expectations should reasonably be. In other words, when staying at a Holiday Inn I won’t complain about the fact that they don’t have Bulgari amenities, and when staying at a Four Seasons I won’t complain about the fact that the wifi isn’t free, since both are exactly what I expected.
Back in the day I used to frequent the Holiday Inn Ontario (in California), and even though it was less than $70 per night at the time, it’s one of my favorite hotels. The employees are top notch and have such a “can do” attitude, the rooms are designed with the frequent traveler in mind, and they do everything they can to make you feel like they appreciate your business. In the hotel industry those are the basic principles of “hospitality,” in my opinion. Luxury (or “Upper Upscale”) hotels can’t forget those basics and expect guests to overlook them.
So there’s no way I’d stay at the W again, especially at the rates they charge. I love the Grand Hyatt and would return in a heartbeat, though.
You guys tell me, though, am I off base?