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TPG Points and Miles Editor Peter Rothbart visited Las Vegas last month and stayed two nights at The Westin. Here’s his take on this Sin City Starwood property.
When I visit Las Vegas, if I’m fortunate enough to be in a window seat on the approach into McCarran airport, I’m always struck by two things. First, I can’t help but fawn over the sight of the Vegas Strip, with its glossy mega-hotels set against one another, straining upward in glimmering opulence like flowers reaching for the sun. Even from the confines of the plane, stowing my carry-on as the landing gear deploys, I can feel the frenzied excitement radiating off of South Las Vegas Boulevard.
The second thing I’m struck by, immediately after, is how quickly the Strip seems to dissipate into a Tatooine-like wasteland of aged neon and urban sprawl. Not even two full blocks from the iconic Bellagio fountains you’ll find vacant dirt tracts that might as well have tumbleweeds blowing across them. The disparity is striking.
It’s at the edge of this limbo between riches and roadrunners where I spent two nights at The Westin Las Vegas, counting my pet peeves and contemplating whether calling something mediocre is necessarily a pejorative. Read on to see how the plot unfolded.
The Westin is an 826 room hotel and event center on Flamingo Road, a shade under half a mile east of the booming intersection with Las Vegas Boulevard. This puts the property within striking distance of many major resort casinos like Bellagio, Aria and Caesars Palace, but far enough away to be isolated from most of the rowdiness on the Strip. While you might rue that extra half mile on a summer afternoon, the walk is generally an easy few minutes.
The hotel seems to attract a lot of business travelers, and caters particularly to airline employees, as evidenced by the dedicated lounge found on the second floor. Much of the clientele during my visit was smartly dressed or seemed to be in work mode, though there were plenty of vacationers as well.
As a category 5 Starwood property, The Westin Las Vegas normally costs 12,000 Starpoints per night, or 16,000 during peak seasons (which, in Vegas, are really more like peak weekends). The cash and points option is 6,000 Starpoints plus $110, which may plausibly sound useful until you consider that the paid rate tends to start around $109 per night (or $179 per night during peak periods). Given TPG’s valuation of Starpoints around 2.3 cents apiece, redeeming Starpoints at this property seems like a losing proposition, so I opted to pay cash instead.
I booked a room with two double beds to share with a friend who met me in town for a few days of playing poker and losing track of time. We stayed for two nights (Tuesday-Thursday) for $109/night plus an $11.50/night resort fee. The Westin was Act III of my most recent Vegas excursion. (For Act I, see my review of the Amex Centurion Lounge at McCarran Airport, and for Act II, check out my review of Vegas’ new boutique hotel The Cromwell).
Check-in, Hospitality and Accommodations
The Westin is about a 15 minute cab ride from McCarran, assuming traffic is moving and you don’t get long-hauled. Since I was changing venues from another hotel down the street (where I had spent my first two days in town), I called ahead to see if any rooms were available for early check-in. As it turned out, there were rooms available, but the agent I spoke with over the phone was adamant that he couldn’t hold anything for me, even if I was only a 5 minute walk from his desk. This meant having to walk over from The Cromwell to check in and make sure I got the room, then walk back to retrieve my bags. Sure, I could have just used the hotel’s bell service if, in a stroke of bad timing, the room had been snatched up between my calling and arriving, but the agent’s dogmatic adherence to procedure seemed pointless (pet peeve #1), and wasn’t a good start to my visit.
Upon arrival you’ll step into the hotel’s polished but fairly vanilla lobby (a common theme, as you’ll see). There was blissfully no line, but I’m hesitant to credit the hotel for that (partly since I checked in so early, and partly because of my later experiences). The following day I visited the front desk with a question, and waited several minutes for the solitary receptionist to finish with another customer, while a few other idle employees looked on unaccommodatingly. Fortunately, there’s a separate SPG desk for elite members, and they seem willing to take care of you regardless of your status level so long as there are no VIPs waiting.
At any rate, check-in took just a few minutes, and my friend and I were promptly en route to our room on the 10th floor.
The room was clean, comfortable, and well lit. It felt more spacious than the one we had just left at The Cromwell, but not as large as a 2 Queen room at Bally’s across the street. Apart from the two beds, there was a reading chair by the window, a wide desk, and a dresser with 6 large drawers, topped by a large flat screen HDTV that swiveled a full 90 degrees. There weren’t as many unoccupied power outlets as I would have liked (pet peeve #2), but there were enough to get by.
The bathroom was unillustrious. Other than a lack of ventilation (so the room fogged up quickly when the shower was in use), it was fine. There were sizable towels and bathrobes, and the toiletries were passable. There was nothing to complain about, but nothing praiseworthy.
Our room faced north, and had a nice view of the Palazzo, Venetian, Wynn, and Encore in the distance, with the new supersized Ferris wheel known as The High Roller dominating the foreground. There was a lot of natural light, but the shades closed fully to transform the room into a hibernation den for the tired and/or hungover.
To depart from the overall averageness of the room for a moment, there were actually a few notable problems. First and foremost, the internet was shoddy (pet peeve #3). Reception was poor to begin with, and my network credentials kept resetting, so I got fully booted every 20 minutes or so. The connection did seem moderately more stable in other parts of the hotel, but the login issue persisted. I value quality internet pretty highly, and for a property that ostensibly appeals to business travelers, offering poor Wifi service is unacceptable.
Second, cell reception in the room was poor. This can’t fairly be blamed on the hotel, but it’s worth noting for business travelers or those who require a goodnight phone call to someone special before bed. I didn’t test other areas of the hotel for service, so it’s plausible that our room was a telecommunications dead zone.
Third, the thermostat in our room was persnickety, and couldn’t seem to settle on the conditions we wanted. When set to a reasonable 67 degrees, the fan near the window relentlessly blasted 40-degree air towards the far wall, which made sitting at the desk feel like running the Iditarod wearing only a Snuggie. When set any higher, the thermostat just closed up shop, allowing the room to gradually reach baking temperatures.
Getting back to the theme of this post, while the room was functionally satisfactory (apart from the problems mentioned above), it was completely unexceptional. Like the set of a 1980s era sitcom, nothing stood out. The color scheme could have inspired E.L. James. There were pictures of cactuses on the walls. Seriously, you have to really try to create something so utterly flavorless. This isn’t a criticism per se; some people prefer accommodations that aren’t too stylized, but for a hotel that’s just a throw of the dice away from the Vegas Strip, the whole property was notably bland. It’s for you to decide whether that’s appealing.
The Westin features one full-service restaurant, Suede, which is located in the rear section of the main floor, adjacent to the gaming area. Suede is open 24/7, and offers separate breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night menus (with a lot of overlap between them). I visited on a Tuesday evening around 8 pm (pretty standard dinner time in Vegas), and the restaurant was as barren as a Mongolian steppe. This seemed to be the case every time I walked by except during peak breakfast hours. Nonetheless, in case it does seem busy (and for the points maximizers among you), you can make reservations at Suede using OpenTable.
Despite its sleek name, the restaurant (like the rest of the property) is understated, which can actually be pretty refreshing after hanging out in the overwrought trappings of the Vegas Strip. Suede is clean, comfortable, and elegant enough to be classy without feeling exclusive. There’s some noise from the casino, but not enough to be annoying (and it probably wouldn’t be noticeable if there were more people in the restaurant). We staked our claim to a booth near one end of the space, which felt private until two more groups came in and the hostess inexplicably sat them immediately next to us on either side, despite the continental expanse of other options (pet peeve #4).
Unsurprisingly, the server was upon us right away, bearing excellent flat bread and freshly baked rolls. The dinner menu offers an array of mildly overpriced, mostly Italian and American dishes – salads and sandwiches for around $15, pastas around $20-25, and meatier entrees for $25-35. We ordered rigatoni with crab and chicken piccata with mashed potatoes and asparagus. I’m not a food critic (and I’m pretty easy to please), but I thought both dishes were well-cooked and appropriately seasoned. I won’t have cravings for either of them, but I was content.
Apart from Suede, the hotel has a lounge on the casino floor – aptly named the Casino Lounge – that serves pretty standard bar food. There’s also a Starbucks on site (by the gift shop), so you can buy a hot, caffeinated beverage to combat the excessive air conditioning and immediately regret it when you exit the lobby into the blistering desert sun.
Pool and Spa
Speaking of understated, there’s not much to say about the hotel pool other than that it exists. That’s not meant to be a disparagement; there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just … a pool.
The pool deck is on the second floor more or less above Starbucks, and has views of Bally’s, The Flamingo, and the aforementioned High Roller. The pool itself is pretty small – fine when you’re the only one in it, but crowded with more than a dozen people. It’s surrounded on two sides by a few dozen deck chairs and chaise lounges. There’s a row of uninspiring cabanas that have to be rented (absurdly, for more than your room rate), and a separate hot tub area (vaguely discernible in the middle-left section of the image above). There’s also a small bar window with a few tables and patio umbrellas where you can order drinks.
The one unequivocal compliment I can give the pool is that it’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whereas many Vegas pools close around sunset, and are shut down completely during the winter. Apart from that, there was nothing worthy of complaint, but if you came to Vegas with visions of a few days spent extravagantly loitering poolside, The Westin would be a disappointment.
The hotel is home to the Hibiscus Spa, a 10,000 square foot temple of pampering and beautification. The treatment menu includes a wide range of massages (costing around $115-135 for 50 minutes), skin and body care, makeovers, and more. It also has one of the few remaining Vichy showers on the Las Vegas Strip. I’m not a spa enthusiast myself, and didn’t avail myself of the services, but the space was relaxing and the staff were exceedingly pleasant and helpful.
The hotel sports a windowless, claustrophobic Westin Workout gym (also on the second floor towards the back of the property). There you’ll find a half dozen treadmills, a few ellipticals, bikes and other machines, plus some benches and free weights. While the room has all the boxy charm of a Soviet Bloc tenement, the equipment is modern and in good repair, and the personal TVs on each exercise machine actually work (pet peeve averted)!
In a city where even the convenience store down the street has a casino, The Westin just couldn’t look itself in the mirror if didn’t offer gambling. The gaming floor is small, but doesn’t feel second-rate. There are 8 table games – blackjack, roulette, craps and more, including a $3 blackjack and 25¢ roulette happy hour! – scores of slot machines, and a tiny sportsbook. Here the property really makes hay with its no smoking policy, since a half hour in just about any other Vegas casino will leave you smelling like an Ayn Rand protagonist. The Westin casino has its own rewards program called MaxRewards, which is unaffiliated with Starwood Preferred Guest, so no earning Starpoints as you play.
There’s no poker, so aside from a short stint at blackjack I didn’t spend much time here, but it’s a pretty nice, chilled out spot to play if you need a breather from the commotion of the Strip.
One amenity that struck me was the Enterprise rental office located inside the hotel. I’ve seen similar setups before, but only in much fancier properties. The ability to drive a rental off the hotel lot is convenient for those who want to explore other parts of the city or beyond. A few quick searches showed that rates at this location were substantially lower than those at McCarran airport (both for Enterprise and other companies).
My guess is that describing this hotel as adequate, ordinary, and fair won’t galvanize readers who are considering their options in Vegas. However, I think this property serves a purpose, and the decision to stay or not stay is really a matter of taste. If you’re hitting Sin City for an unflagging spree of boozing, clubbing, and throwing money around, you’ll probably feel more at home in Planet Hollywood or The Cromwell. However, if you want a more tepid, relaxing experience, The Westin Las Vegas can suit your needs.
Have you stayed here? Do you want to stay here? Have questions? Please share them in the comments below!