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This is the third post of my South Africa Series. Follow along to read my reviews on several different aspects of my trip. Other posts in this series include: Come Along With Me To South Africa!; Flight Review: South African Airways Business Class JFK-JNB; Trip Report: Watching African Penguins at Boulders Beach and the Cape of Good Hope; Cape Town Dining; Hotel Review: Hilton Cape Town; 10 Things I Love About South Africa; Hotel Review: 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa Luxury Room; Trekking Up Table Mountain In Cape Town; Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Johannesburg; Trip Report: South Africa Safari at Savanna Lodge in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve; Safari Highlights at Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa.
I decided to spend my first few days in South Africa hanging out in sunny Cape Town and booked a room at the Westin Cape Town.
2012 was a banner year for me with Starwood and I was able to accrue over 100 nights (note 10 of them were from credit cards and many others for paying for other people’s rooms) to earn their top Platinum Ambassador status, so I have big plans for 2013 and aim to stay as much as possible (and maximize my elite benefits) again this year.
The rates were pretty reasonable at $220 per night, though I decided to use Cash & Points for my room. Since this is a Category 4 property, that worked out to 4,000 points and $60, giving me a value of 3.5 cents per Starpoint. However, I was actually upgraded to a Westin Junior Suite, several categories higher, that’s going for closer to $375 a night.
Check In…Or Not
After the 16-hour flight from New York to Johannesburg and a short (two-hour) hop from JNB to Cape Town in business class aboard South African Airways, I was ready to hit the hotel, freshen up and head into the city for lunch and a walk around the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.
The taxi ride to from the airport to the Westin, which is connected to the Cape Town International Convention Center right in the City Bowl, took about 30 minutes and cost around $30.
The building is an attractive glass-sheathed tower, and it’s got a spacious lobby with a water feature running through it that you cross on a little footbridge to get to the reception desks.
When I checked in at the SPG guest counter I was told that one of the rooms I had booked had been canceled because I had booked two rooms under my name and they thought it was a duplicate booking, so they canceled it despite my email correspondence with the hotel’s reservations manager asking him to keep my reservations as they were.
After 15 minutes of poking around, they were able to retrieve my other reservation and put it back under my SPG number so I got credit (note: you can get credit for up to three rooms when you book under your SPG number and pay for the rooms).
Then, even though I noted my 1pm check-in in my reservation (I forgot to do a formal Your24 request) it looked like my suite wouldn’t be ready for a few hours. Luckily a regular guest room was ready for TPG Managing Editor Eric so we could drop our stuff there, clean up and head out for the afternoon.
At check-in I was told I was getting a suite on the SPG floor, but I ended up getting a junior suite on the 6th floor. It was a comfortable 600 square feet with a living area and office desk. It was on a low floor (6), but was at the end of the hall and the living room portion was the corner of the building so two walls were windows with great views of the Central Business District and Cape Town’s most iconic landmark, Table Mountain. Check out this video tour I made:
In the living room there is a small sofa and armchair in this sort of shimmery charcoal faux leather material, a glass coffee table, a light wood and metal desk with an all-in-one printer (which was out of ink), and the room also held the minibar, a coffee maker and a 36-inch flatscreen TV.
The bathroom was located off the living room behind a frosted-glass door and held two vanities, a large bathtub, and separate shower stocked with Westin products and WC. I think it would have been more convenient to have the bathroom located off the bedroom, but the heated floors made up for any inconvenience!
The semi-private bedroom contained a king-size bed with white-on-white linens and a separate TV. It also had floor-to-ceiling windows with city views and both a semi-sheer sunshade and blackout drapes when the midday sun became too bright.
The Club Lounge and Other Facilities
Thanks to my elite status, I had access to the Executive Club on the hotel’s top (19th) floor. The views from here were even more spectacular and I ate breakfast overlooking the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. It also serves canapés and cocktails in the evening. The Executive Club is also a restaurant in and of itself where guests can dine throughout the day.
Down in the lobby, there are a couple of little shops selling souvenirs, a Europcar rental office and several other restaurants including a brasserie called and wine bar called Louis B’s, a small Sushi Bar, and Raleigh’s Cigar Bar. Cape Town’s foodie scene proved to exciting for me to stick around the hotel, but all the venues looked nice.
I had actually wanted to get a massage after cage-diving with great whites (although that proved to be more fun than stressful), but when I called up the hotel’s Arabella Spa (also on the 19th floor), I found they were booked all day, which is too bad because I’ve heard great things and was looking forward to relaxing by the indoor infinity pool with windows overlooking the city. The hotel also has a small Westin WorkOut gym.
The worst part of the stay was my experience with the WiFi, which was horrific. When it worked, it was slow, but I had to login every single time I wanted to check my email and on several occasions, it went out all together. So if you’re depending on being in touch while staying at the hotel, you may want to reconsider your options. One TPG reader Tweeted me that she actually asked for a router last time and the hotel was able to provide it.
Another weird thing that both Eric and I experienced is a cracking noise on the windows throughout the day. It sounded like ice-breaking- a weird intermittent crunching noise all day long. I’m not sure if it was the windows expanding during the heat of the day, but it was bizarre and I even heard it at night. It wasn’t loud enough to wake me up, but if you are a sensitive sleeper, it could be an issue.
Though I never felt unsafe at the hotel, it is in a bit off an off-prime location and if you want an all-out Cape Town experience, staying closer to the Waterfront (like at the One & Only) might be a better bet. However, taxis are cheap in Cape Town, so I didn’t have an issue getting around- though one taxi driver misunderstood the hotel and started to drive out of the city to take us to another hotel!
Though this hotel really felt like it was meant for a corporate convention crowd (and there were busloads of convention attendees filtering through the lobby at points throughout the day), I still appreciated the fact that I was able to get a great value from my Starpoints, especially after my upgrade to a suite, the Executive Club amenities, and its central location to Cape Town’s sightseeing points of interest. Although the hotel facilities were nice and the service was friendly, having a reliable Internet connection is crucial to me when I travel, whether I’m staying at a hotel with one star or five – this is 2013 after all. We did get an apology note from the hotel after we complained via twitter but it was generic- hopefully they actually rectify the issue. Until then, I wouldn’t stay here again or recommend this hotel but if that doesn’t matter to you, this is a good points option to have in a beautiful city.