Video Hotel Review: The St. Regis New York & SPG Upgrade Shenanigans

by on October 23, 2012 · 19 comments

in Hotel Reviews, Starwood

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Last week while I was in New York City I decided to stay at the St. Regis for a night to see if the historic hotel that launched an entire brand lived up to the hype.

The exterior of the St. Regis New York located on Fifth Avenue.

Known for its elegance and refined atmosphere, the St. Regis originally opened on September 4, 1904. Now there are 31 properties in the St. Regis portfolio, with over a dozen more slated to open in the next few years.

The flagship original property in New York at the corner of 55th Street and 5th Avenue has 164 guest rooms and 65 suites. I had the option of booking a standard room, referred to as a Superior Room, for 30,000 Starpoints or paying an advance rate of about $550. Normally, the lowest standard rate for a Superior Room is $995. Although $550 is pricey for one night, I chose to save my points for a different stay since I would be getting less than 2 cents per point in value and I usually like to leverage my points for much better deals like Cash & Points and lower-tier properties.

As I was on my way to the hotel I took a look at the SPG app to see if there were any better rooms available. The app showed several openings including Deluxe and Grand Luxe rooms and even some suites. I’m an 80 night Platinum member, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem to be upgraded from the standard room – little did I know how much haggling it would take.

Upon checking in, the agent simply noted my status and handed me my keys. When I asked if an upgrade was possible and she immediately  replied that they were fully committed for the night and there was no chance of an upgrade. She also hadn’t asked me for my amenity choice, so something led me to believe she was new or was not well versed in the SPG program. Once I showed her the SPG app that showed multiple room types for sale, she  “checked the system again” and miraculously there was a Deluxe Room available for me immediately.

I asked her about a Grand Luxe room and she once again found availability, but said I’d have to wait to check in because the room was being cleaned. Needing to take a conference call and sick of negotiating, I opted to just take the Deluxe room for the night, but the entire experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It really drives me crazy that hotels like the St. Regis New York choose to participate in the Starwood Preferred Guest program, but don’t want to honor the benefits to members. Loyalty is supposed to go both ways – I spend a lot of nights in Starwood hotels and have both the personal and business credit card and Lifetime Gold Status (trucking towards Platinum). Obviously a Deluxe Room was clean and available at the time I checked in, but they thought I wouldn’t call them out on their bluff. I did Tweet the hotel and SPG and did get a direct message apology from @SPG, where they said that they were happy the situation was resolved. I never actually heard from anyone at the hotel, so there wasn’t much resolution locally and I encouraged SPG to reach out to the hotel to train their front desk agents on the SPG elite program.

In contrast, I stayed at the Andaz Fifth Avenue the next evening and was upgraded to a huge Splash Suite without prompting, and suite upgrades aren’t an official perk of the Hyatt Diamond program (beyond the suite certificates you get each year, but I didn’t apply one on my one night stay). No hotel program is perfect, but as an “uber” Platinum, the St. Regis should have treated me better.

A Deluxe Room at the St. Regis similar to the one I stayed in.

Although I had an annoying check-in experience, I did enjoy the property. It’s traditionally decorated, though I have to say the bed was phenomenally comfortable and the room was spacious, at least by New York standards.  It also came with some of the brand’s signature amenities like 24-hour butler service (who came minutes after I got to the room), free water and fresh fruit, shoe shining, in-room coffee/tea service, and the ability to have two shirts pressed per stay. Note: they generally need at least two hours to press, so if you are a procrastinator like me, give the butler your shirts when they first greet you in the room. The bathroom was spacious, though the shower was a bit cramped and the water pressure mediocre.

Although I had to be out and about in New York, if I stay here again, I plan to take advantage of some of the hotel’s other facilities including a gorgeous Alain Ducasse restaurant Adour, the Remede Spa and the iconic King Cole Bar, which I recognized from a bunch of movies.

The hotel’s iconic King Cole Bar.

To be honest though, with standard rates at $995 and up, I don’t think this hotel is worth the price (unless someone else is footing the bill!). If you do really want to stay here and prices are crazy, try redeeming 1,000 points for an SPG50, which will get you 50% off the rack rate, which could bring room rates into more reasonable territory. Cash and points isn’t a great deal here since the cash outlay is $275 and 15,000 points – you’re essentially paying 1.8 cents per Starpoint to save the 15,000 extra points versus redeeming the full 30,000 points a night through regular award nights. Not nearly the value proposition of lower category properties.

Watch the video below to get a tour of my Deluxe Room, including fancy motorized plasma TV!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Doug

    Interesting story about the upgrade. I tried pulling up upgraded room availability at the Fairfax in DC (an SPG property) and they said that the rooms at the rates they upgrade SPG members to were sold out. Do you know if the policy is that they have to upgrade if a room is available or do they have some wiggle room with rooms at different rates? From your experience, it looks like as long as the room is available for booking, it should be upgraded. Curious because I’ve run into this a lot (SPG Gold here).

  • JR

    Now I know you don’t have kids. No parent in their right mind would pay $550 a night for The St. Regis when they can walk a block away to the American Girl store and spend that money on 2 dolls :)

  • francophile

    Very nice hotel review.

    Unfortunately, the Alain Ducasse restaurant will be ceasing operations in next month.

  • Jamison

    Quite a small room…. I would’ve pushed for a standard suite FIRST so that they can negotiate downwards which is much easier than say if you were to push for a deluxe room, then a grand deluxe, and ultimately a suite upgrade.

  • Jamison

    sorry, but SPG Gold is pretty much worthless Doug…….. you only get an enhanced room which could be a room that is on a higher floor, room away from an elevator or ice machine, better view within the category of room you booked.

  • Stealthradar2009

    The NYC St. Regis has been stingy with upgrades for decades. I stayed at this property frequently in the late 1990s and early 2000s (after the hotel renovation) and despite my loyalty (and dropping big bucks for meetings and accommodations at the hotel), it was a pain to always have to negotiate an upgrade upon check-in. The last straw for me was when my friends who were staying in a suite and paid rack rate were charged $60 for a pitcher of iced tea. They had ordered room service and both wanted iced tea. They asked for a small pitcher of iced tea since they would be sharing it. At checkout, they were surprised by this outrageous charge. Although my friends could afford the tariff, they (and I) considered the charge as a blatant gauging of the customer.

  • Mike

    Adour is closing on Nov. 17.

  • Greg

    Nice to see some bloggers are finally having experiences that match my SPG Platinum status. I have decided to leave SPG Plat (5 stays to date, and a week on points at Christmas) because I find you do better using Priceline and then asking if you can PAY for an upgrade or breakfast or club lounge at check in then being a SPG Plat. Hyatt Diamond is much more consistent and better in my opinion. I agree get their credit cards, use the SPG points, as they are fine but don’t bother chasing the status.

    For the $550 you paid, I could have probably Pricelined a room, gone out for a Steak and lobster dinner with a bottle of fine wine. Ordered breakfast through room service and seen a show for less then your $550 per night. Oh, I would not have earned an elite qualifying night though.

    Anyhow, thanks for your honest hotel review.

  • Patrick

    Thank you for the honest review! I have 124 nights so far this year at SPG, and I rarely get an upgrade or any special benefits. In all honesty, they are typically not very nice to me. I find Diamond Status as Hyatt much more friendly. Even AA Platinum status treats me better.

    SPG has a great network of properties, but the customer service definitely is lacking. Just not sure what other options there are.

  • Jon

    “If you do really want to stay here and prices are crazy, try redeeming 1,000 points for an SPG50, which will get you 50% off the rack rate, which could bring room rates into more reasonable territory.”
    There is a website out there somewhere that makes it easy to find out the rack rate and confirm the discount with the SPG50 (or any other) rate code. Anyone have the URL for it? I can’t seem to find it, as I apparently forgot to bookmark it the last time I found it.

  • Adam

    I feel SPG does especially well at low-end hotels like four points (as compared to other chains), but not always consistent in Mid to High end, like Westin or St Regis.

  • Alex

    “try redeeming 1,000 points for an SPG50″ I wasn’t aware of this ability. Where/how can I do this? Do you need a certain level of status?

  • PSL

    Best St. Regis deal ever- In winter 2004 I spent two free weekend nights here as a result of an SPG promo the previous fall. Oh, for the good old days!

  • Cory
  • Michael T

    I hate the whole process of fighting for upgrades and it has happened to me way too much, although it’s a moot point now since I’m a lowly Gold.

    That said, my best ever Platinum upgrade was at the St Regis NYC. I was originally upgraded to a very impressive one-bedroom suite and while we were being shown it by the staffer (they walked me up to the room) she commented on the odor in the room and wanted to know if we were okay with it. I smelled something, although it wasn’t strong enough to dislodge me from what I thought was a great upgrade so I told her it was fine. 10 minutes later the phone rang and the staffer said we shouldn’t have to put up with the smell and she had a better upgrade for me. It was two-bedroom suite that was larger than our house. (Although for the record I live in a small house.) This was for a two-night stay booked with points. Probably about 2004 or so…

  • Bill Whittington

    As a platinum member for several years now, I’m always disappointing that you must fight for upgrades. However, SPG properties have almost always been in the locations I have needed for work or vacation travel. Some franchises seem to be worse than others, I’ve just accepted the fact that I need to be aware at the front desk of what’s being sold on their website if a suite is that important to me. I don’t just don’t accept the curt “not available” any longer. My favorite upgrade still remains the Presidential Suite in Barcelona. Amazing 360 degree views of the city. My least is a three room suite at the NYC Manhattan when I checked in at 11 pm and was checking out at 630 am.

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  • Jamie Harris

    I love the St. Regis Hotel-Century Plaza in Dana Point, California. I can only imagine what this location looks like, it must be amazing. I know that did a wonderful job on the renovations at the Dana Point location.

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