Hotel Review: St. Regis Bal Harbour
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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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.