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TO THE POINT: The newly renovated W Ft. Lauderdale is an upscale and hip oasis situated beachfront on the corner of Bayshore Drive. The sprawling two building complex houses 430 modern rooms, residential units, and two opposite facing infinity pools. With live DJ’s on site, lounge style interiors, and nightly events, it’s not hard to imagine you’re staying at an upscale club instead of a luxury hotel. The Pros: beautifully designed pool decks, chic rooms and plenty of amenities to keep guests entertained. The Cons: The absolutely massive size makes the property difficult to navigate.
A newly renovated beachfront property situated on the corner of Bayshore Drive, the W Ft. Lauderdale promises the benefits the seashore and a hip, cosmopolitan club in one. But does this luxury hotel meet our standards? I visited recently to find out.
A Category 5 hotel, the W Ft. Lauderdale required between 12,000 and 16,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points per night when I booked it. The average nightly rate hovered around $250, though at peak times travelers could expect to pay double. I decided to visit the W on a weekday, making it easier to redeem for only 12,000 Starpoints.
Having stayed at this property twice in the past six months, I opted to stay only one night before taking an early flight out of Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). In order to top off my SPG account with sufficient points for the stay, I transferred 36,000 Marriott Rewards points at a ratio of three Membership Rewards points for each Starpoint. After the recent Marriott and SPG merger, transferring points was a breeze. Since my accounts were already linked, the entire process could be done instantaneously online.
Earlier in March, I’d stayed at the W on a much busier weekend. Although that stay required 14,500 points rather than 12,000, the nightly rate was nearly doubled. Even though I was booking the room with points, I chose to use my SPG American Express to pay for the stay in order to earn 5x Starpoints or 15x Marriott Membership Rewards points.
I noticed that even when paying in points, guests were still required to pay the $25 resort fee.
While most resort fees are annoying, I didn’t mind paying it this time. In addition to the standard beach chair, umbrella and Wi-Fi, the fee included two complimentary bicycle rentals of four hours each, and access to one of the daily fitness courses. I opted for the CrossFit boot camp on the beach.
As soon as I pulled past the glimmering W logo, it was easy to get a feel for just how enormous this property was. The driveway was beneath the oceanfront tower and had valet service. After I handed my keys over, a porter whisked my bags away, and I made my way toward check-in, which was on the fourth floor.
As I entered the lobby, I was greeted by a DJ spinning an upbeat jam while staff offered refreshments to guests. (I assumed it was meant primarily for attendees of a conference, but they served me too.)
The elevator ride up to the front desk was quick. (A small but telling touch was how the floor mats there were changed thrice a day from “Good Morning” to “Good Afternoon” and finally “Good Evening.”) I bypassed the standard check-in line for the SPG gold and platinum line, where service was so fast that there was hardly ever anyone in the queue.
Because I had the Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite Card, I received complimentary Ritz-Carlton gold status. Now that SPG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton were all under one company, my gold status followed me through each of these establishments. At the W, I chose two complimentary drinks as my welcome amenity.
Once I received my room keys, I asked about the pool hours, but was disappointed to hear the main pool deck would be closed, though the secondary pool, with its excellent sunset views, was still open. (The property was so huge that I’d never learned of the secondary pool deck during previous visits.)
Spectacular Ocean View Room
There are three basic room types at the W Ft. Lauderdale: the Wonderful Room (facing the bay), the Spectacular Ocean View Room (with views of both the bay and the ocean), and the Fabulous Oceanfront Room (facing the ocean).
The first thing I noticed were the wide, floor-to-ceiling windows, which opened from the center to let in refreshing sea breezes. (A major plus in a 490-square-foot room.) With the doors open, the balcony made the space feel much larger.
The comfortable king bed featured a wood-finished headboard. I almost wished that the bed had been positioned on the opposite side of the room, though, so that I could casually enjoy the ocean rather than the bay. (Although the balcony had two chairs, they weren’t particularly comfortable.)
Opposite the bed was a small lounge chair and a desk completely filled with amenities — tons of options including two bottles of water, in the mini bar and a Nespresso machine. Unfortunately, the desk’s small size made it difficult to get any real work done without having to shift items to the floor.
Having a well-stocked mini bar inside the room was definitely a convenience, but the prices were steep, especially considering cocktails at any of the nearby bars were noticeably cheaper.
The room had a 50-inch TV, plenty of standard outlets and USB ports, and a modern bedside speaker with essential inputs like iPhone 5, auxiliary and Bluetooth.
I have always loved the functional yet modern way that W bathrooms are designed. In the middle of the bathroom was a well-lit vanity, with a concealed toilet to the left and exposed glass shower to the right.
The wall adjacent to the bathroom was covered by a full-length mirror, giving the illusion of a larger suite.
The shower had plenty of space to move around and was large enough for even the tallest of guests. I really appreciated the swinging glass door, as the water never sprayed onto the floor.
Immediately after checking in, I ordered a margherita flatbread through room service, but it was disappointing.
It would have been difficult to be bored at the W Ft. Lauderdale. Even if you completely ignored the glistening Atlantic, you’d have a hard time finding enough time to sample all the amenities on-property.
Seven nights a week, the lobby (aka the Living Room) hosts a different event; I missed Monday’s complimentary mini massages, but a friendly couple who didn’t described them as “short, but very relaxing.”
For a Floridian, the 72-degree spring day was a bit chilly for a day at the beach. That said, finding an open spot on the sand during peak summer months could still be a bit of a challenge.
My favorite part of this hotel was the WET East, the massive oceanfront pool deck directly above the lobby. The stairwell was an architectural feat, rising through the center of the swimming pool and framed by a transparent acrylic cupola. The floor of the pool contained glass panes that allowed light to pass into the lobby from above.
The deck of WET East had recently been converted from a small seating area with pay-to-use cabanas to completely open seating, with virtually every type of outdoor lounge furniture imaginable, free of charge.
I was able to use my two drink coupons at the pool’s fully stocked bar.
During the day, a DJ played an upbeat mix loud enough to enjoy but quiet enough to allow easy conversation. I was a little bummed to hear that the ocean-facing hot tub was under repair, but the friendly staff was quick to volunteer that the hot tub at WET West was running just fine.
If you wanted to take a break from the more energetic atmosphere of the main pool deck, guests could find a quiet respite at WET West. This smaller pool seemed geared toward the residential guests in the second tower. Despite ample signage, I still got lost trying to find the pool.
The gym at the W packed enough equipment to keep even the most hardcore fitness enthusiasts satisfied.
Adjacent to the gym entrance were towels, fruit, disposable headsets and a schedule of workout classes.
In addition to the standard cardio equipment and strength machines, the gym featured boxing equipment, free weights, a full rack of medicine balls and yoga essentials.
A 10-minute walk (or three-minute bike ride) landed me on Ft. Lauderdale Beach, with an outdoor mall featuring a wide range of boutique shops, restaurants and entertainment.
With its stunning aesthetic, laid-back vibe and ideal beachfront location, the W Ft. Lauderdale was one of my favorite SPG redemptions. If you can snag a night for 12,000 Startpoints, I would highly recommend doing so before this property is the victim of a category change.
As much as I love this hotel, however, it may not be a good fit for travelers looking for a more peaceful and refined retreat. The crowd at the W was on the younger (and sometimes louder side), and the lounge-type atmosphere wouldn’t have been suitable for families. The large property size could be a bit of a hassle, and even simple mistakes like forgetting a phone charger could easily turn going back to fetch it into a 20-minute affair.
What is your favorite SPG redemption? Are you fan of the W Ft. Lauderdale? Let us know in the comments below.
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