Hotel Review: St. Regis Bal Harbour

by on May 21, 2012 · 10 comments

in Starwood

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The massive new St. Regis Bal Harbour complex contains a hotel and two residential towers.

Though I travel the world to check out new places, airlines and hotels, I always like to keep an eye on what’s happening in my own town, Miami. Especially when there’s a huge new hotel opening like the hotly anticipated St. Regis Bal Harbour, which soft opened back in January to much fanfare after 6 years of planning and construction.

Fun fact: The first St. Regis opened in 1904, and this is only the 28th St. Regis in the world. Bal Harbour is a high-end neighborhood north of Miami Beach known for the ladies who lunch and shop at some of the country’s most expensive stores. It’s only a 20 minute drive from South Beach, so while I had some renovations happening to my condo I stayed there for a night.

The whole complex of a 243-room hotel and two residential towers built where the Sheraton Bal Harbour used to stand reportedly cost $1 billion, and it shows in all the opulent design touches like rare marble flooring, antique mirrors and enormous crystal chandeliers creating a very sophisticated, but modern vibe in the lobby, and other elements like coral fixtures and beautiful art throughout the property.

The opulent lobby of the St. Regis Bal Harbour.

The Rate
When it first opened, the hotel’s special welcome rate was a whopping $675 and now most rates are $550+. I decided to use 30,000 points, which isn’t the best use of SPG points from a strict cent per point perspective , but I have a boatload so I decided to splurge. However, it may also make sense to to use the SPG50 certificates for half-off Rack Rate from the Starwood Amex or the 1,000 point redemption option of 50% off regular rate, which is rarely a good deal with other hotels. Sadly there is no Cash & Points since this is a category 7 property.

I was "upgraded" one room category to a Grand Luxe Oceanfront room like this one.

I booked the hotel’s standard Deluxe View Room, which actually starts at about 650 square feet and comes with a king-size bed, sectional lounge sofa, work desk, a small kitchenette, an enormous all-marble bathroom, a huge balcony with a table, chairs and lounges, and dedicated butler service.

Upon check-in I was “upgraded” to a Grand Luxe Oceanfront Rooms, which is the same exact size, but I assume higher floors and better views. The check-in rep sounded super excited about it, but I knew better and asked for the suite upgrade that was entitled to me as a Platinum member. I think he was surprised that I asked (he better get used to it), but was able to make a phone call and confirm me into a suite.

I loved the spacious bathrooms.

However, I didn’t actually get a suite and it was indeed the same Grand Luxe Oceanfront room as discussed with the check-in agent, which I didn’t even realize until after I had left, because the room was spacious and the views fantastic. Frankly, for a one-night stay I was more than happy with the room, though I’d love to hear others experiences about suite upgrades and whether they are actually happening. I’m totally okay with not getting an upgrade when they aren’t available, but I don’t like being misled or made to feel like I’m asking for too much when space available select standard suite upgrades are a part of the SPG Platinum benefits.

The hotel's signature restaurant is the J&G Grill "inspired" by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Drinking and Dining
Though it’s an enormous complex, the hotel has just two main restaurants and bars. J&G Grille “inspired” by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Atlantico, which serves gourmet seafood and local cuisine. I had other dinner plans that evening, but J&G’s menu and setting looked fantastic and it’s on my to-do list (I’m already planning on ordering the slow-cooked salmon with sauteed potatoes, black olives and passion fruit). The resort also has the Fresco Beach Bar & Grill for daytime dining by the pool, and serves a menu of specialty cocktails at the St. Regis Bar and Wine Vault (where I hear that on special occasions, they whip out a St. Regis trademark practice and saber open bottles of champagne).

A couple's treatment room at Remede Spa.

Spa and Other Amenities
Again, since it was unfortunately just a one-night stay, I didn’t have a chance to indulge in any over-the-top treatments at the on-property Remede Spa, but I took a look at the menu, and signature treatments like the “24 Karat Designer Facial” that utilizes gold oil, and a reflexology massage that uses sugarcane scrub sound fun.

The St. Regis also has a big, shiny new fitness center that hosts a full schedule of classes, and a Kids Club for children ages 4-12 with a variety of indoor and outdoor activities planned daily, so parents can get some R&R by the two infinity pools or on the private white-sand beach.

An aerial view of the St. Regis's beach club and one of its infinity pools.

My Platinum Experience
Besides the fumble at check-in over a suite upgrade, I also experienced push-back when I asked for 4pm late checkout and I was told 1pm was the absolute latest they could accommodate. While this is annoying, it’s allowed per the SPG program rules since this is a “resort” property, they don’t have to honor the 4pm late checkout. However, many resorts, like the W South Beach, will routinely deny late checkouts and with enough negotiation, they’ll usually let you extend for an hour or two. While it wasn’t against the rules, I didn’t get the feeling that they were going above and beyond for me as a Platinum guest.

Platinum members can now choose complimentary continental breakfast as an amenity choice, so I decided that breakfast at this property would probably be more valuable than 500 Starpoints (which I value at roughly $10). And indeed I was right – the breakfast option included the entire buffet at Atlantico restaurant, which was pretty expansive with a bunch of hot options and even champagne. It wasn’t the most impressive spread I’ve seen, but certainly above and beyond the expectation of continental breakfast (cold pastries and cereal).

Worth It?
The property is gorgeous, but the location in Bal Harbour isn’t exactly ideal if you are looking to really experience Miami. It’s a solid 20 minute drive to South Beach and the airport and the Bal Harbour area is mostly residential, with the Shops at Bal Harbour as the key attraction. That being said, it’s on a great beach and the resort was filled with families who seemed to be enjoying themselves greatly and even the standard rooms are spacious and well appointed.

If you are looking for a luxury experience close enough to the action, but not in the middle of it, the St. Regis Bal Harbour is a great choice if you value points. However, the standard room rates are eye-popping and the lack of Cash & Points makes this one hard to justify if you are looking for a bargain. 

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  • The World of Deej

    Have been following the opening of this property…Was excited to check it out until I saw the rates! Still, always nice to see great new hotels coming to our home state!

  • Brad

    Question – when you say you asked for the suite upgrade you were entitled to as a platinum member, are you referring to the 10 suite upgrades you get after 50+ nights? Or are you talking about the Platinum benefit of being upgraded to the “best available room upon checkin”?

    Just wondering so that I can make sure to take full advantage of my Platinum benefits!

  • thepointsguy

    I hadn’t hit 50 nights yet when I stayed, so I was just asking for the Platinum suite upgrade at check-in. Seems like this property is a little rusty with respect to upgrades, so you may have to push them a little

  • David

    Have you thought about writing to SPG customer service to get some complementary points for the not so suite bait-and-switch experience at check-in?

  • thepointsguy

    On one hand, it wasn’t a big deal on a one night stay and my room was nice. On the other hand, they should be trained better on Platinum benefits. I forwarded my experience along to the SPG folks, so that should suffice- I’m not looking for compensation.

  • Fluff’s Mom

    Stayed there in April, it was nice but it left me feeling like something was missing. I too got pushback when checking in, I used points too so who knows. Liked the room, view, pools, tuna ceviche but J&G grill didn’t really do much for me. Overall good stay, but I don’t think I’ll drop 30k points again.

  • Brad

    Ah got it – I’ll definitely be more vigilant in asking from now on, especially on rewards stays. The worst thing they can say is no!

  • Don

    Great review Points dude ;)
    As more and more programs promise suites and SPG has hit a saturation point swelling with elites
    Hotels try and take corner rooms or slightly larger rooms and rename them such as Studio or Exec suite to leave more inventory to sell as opposed to upgrade.

    The strategy is to call or email the hotel in advance and find out what a Platinum member can expect
    In other words before arrival know what your best expectation will be.
    Is it it a two room suite or just a larger guest room ?
    There are select SPG hotels that will not or rarely upgrade despite all the promises of a program.
    Starwood has stated from the highest levels of Consumer Affairs at corporate they can not force a hotel to upgrade a member even if the suite is available.They can only request the hotel do the right thing

    At the end of the day it comes down to the business culture of the hotel and how much they value relationships by honoring their written terms and conditions
    An insider at W South Beach has shared how bad they think of SPG Platinum members seeking upgrades
    and they avoid upgrading to suites
    I always head down to the Westin Diplomat where they get since inception how to treat a Platinum member
    brilliantly each and every time with big ocean front suites and an amazing Executive Club with nice offerings

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