A first look at the St. Regis Bermuda Resort — and why you should wait to visit
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The last time I traveled to Bermuda, I was in middle school on a marine biology trip. We slept in spartan rooms at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), where there were no oversized soaking tubs, infinity-edge swimming pools or butlers.
There’s no question that the brand-new St. Regis Bermuda Resort, which overlooks St. Catherine’s Beach and the eponymous 17th-century fort, is a considerable upgrade. Not just for me, personally, but for travelers who deal in points and miles.
It’s been decades since there was an attractive points hotel in Bermuda. Funny enough, though, the St. Regis occupies a coveted tract of beachfront where a Holiday Inn once stood in the 1970s.
And as the island’s first-ever luxury Marriott, the grand opening of this St. Regis has been heralded as a turning point for Bermuda tourism.
Needless to say, my expectations were high when I pulled up to the resort earlier this month to check out one of the most anticipated hotels of the year.
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You get there fast — but then take things slow
The St. Regis Bermuda Resort officially opened its doors on May 24, 2021, and I strolled through the light-filled lobby for the first time less than two weeks later to get an early look at the property.
With floor-to-ceiling windows framing ocean views like works of art, grand wooden beams and an eye-catching chandelier that hangs from the ceiling like a geometric jellyfish, the resort makes a good first impression.
Your eye is immediately drawn to the back of the property, which curves around a soft-sand beach famous for its calm waters. There’s also a whirlpool and two stunning pools that, from the right angle, seem to spill over into the ocean.
Bermuda is less than a two-hour flight from New York City, but after spending an hour at the airport (think: paperwork and a COVID-19 test) I was more than eager to check in to my room. But both check-in desks were already occupied, so I was told to grab a seat in the adjacent room until someone was free.
As I waited, another couple was escorted to the check-in area and told they’d be next. The staff apologized when they’d realized I’d been skipped but didn’t do anything to expedite the process for me.
While I sipped a glass of ice water, I overheard a number of complaints from other guests. One family was asking for the manager, and another couple was inquiring about the upgrade they’d been promised. It was a disconcerting welcome that indicated rough waters at the St. Regis Bermuda.
When it was my turn to check in, finally, the process went smoothly. My reservation had been booked with points (more on that later), so all I needed to do was put a card on file for incidentals. I inquired about making a spa reservation but was told there weren’t any open appointments for almost a week.
Unfortunately, my room wasn’t ready yet either (check-in is at 4 p.m., and it was about 3:30 p.m.), so I left my bag at the front desk and went to the namesake bar.
A friendly bartender told me the history of the Bloody Mary — a cocktail reportedly invented at the St. Regis hotel in New York City in the 1930s — while mixing a Bermudian take on the beverage.
At the St. Regis Bermuda Resort, guests can sip a Gates Bay Mary (named for the turquoise waters flanking the resort). With native fennel, a special spice mix, and Outerbridges Sherry Peppers Sauce and Goslings rum — both from Bermuda — it’s a tasty, if not slightly sweet, take on the iconic drink.
As the wait for my room stretched on, I also ordered snapper ceviche with leche de tigre and sweet potato on the terrace overlooking the pool deck.
But by 5 p.m., I was more than anxious to change out of my travel clothes and get settled in before I lost any more daylight.
I went to the front desk, which was still somehow busy (spoiler alert: It was never not busy at the front desk) and asked a staff member if my room was available yet. It wasn’t. She was incredibly apologetic and said I’d receive a credit as compensation for the wait, though I wasn’t sure what the credit would be or when I’d receive it.
So, I freshened up in the hall bathroom and started to explore the property. It would have been nice to slip into a swimsuit and lounge by the pool while I waited, but I’d handed over my luggage to the front desk thinking I’d be in my room shortly.
The St. Regis Bermuda Resort is relatively small — just 120 rooms and suites — and the fitness center, spa and children’s club are all clustered together on the ground level.
The space was extremely underwhelming, with none of the grandeur you’d expect from a St. Regis. In fact, it felt as if I’d stumbled into some ho-hum select-service Marriott.
The children’s club was being used as a COVID-19 testing facility, meaning parents hoping for a break from the little ones were out of luck. (Its closure is listed on the website on a page for COVID-19 updates and what to expect, but I couldn’t find this information anywhere else on the hotel’s website.)
And though the 24-hour fitness center was more than sufficient, with chilled water, weights and stacks of fresh towels, I was a bit disappointed that the equipment faced the parking lot and there wasn’t a Peloton in sight.
A casino — a first for the brand — will open at the resort later this year, adding to the lineup of amenities for guests.
I went back up to the lobby shortly after checking out the facilities and was quickly flagged down by one of the staff members I’d spoken with throughout the day. My room, I was told, was finally ready.
I was escorted to my fourth-floor deluxe guest room and thought, this is what I expect from a St. Regis.
A freestanding Claybrook soaking tub anchored the center of the room like an island evoking the limestone rock formations at nearby Tobacco Bay. Despite being an entry-level room, the space spanned nearly 650 square feet. There were full-size Le Labo amenities on the tub, in the shower and on the double marble vanity.
Throughout the room, the decor featured a playful mix of geometric shapes and beachy hues. It did, in many ways, conjure a contemporary seascape and Bermuda’s rocky coastline.
A wall of glass opened up to a large balcony, and I was impressed with the overall amount of space: twin closets, a cozy seating area, and a separate water closet and rainfall shower.
The room makes an impact. But it’s also, frankly, a little odd.
I’m a sucker for a beautiful hotel bathtub, but I didn’t love the hotel room layout. You more or less enter directly through the bathroom.
And though higher room categories have uninterrupted ocean and pool views, my balcony looked out over the parking lot. Sure, there was a view of the manicured green of the Five Forts Golf Course and beyond that, the ocean. But there was a road and rows of cars to look past first.
There also wasn’t a proper workspace. Most travelers probably don’t drop upwards of $700 per night to elbow up to a hotel desk, but it’s an amenity that, when absent, I personally miss.
While literally crawling around on the floor to take pictures (it’s all about the angles, right?) I noticed something much worse than a peculiar layout: a blackberry smeared into the carpet.
Nothing ruins a hotel stay faster than the realization that your room hasn’t been cleaned properly.
To be clear, service issues at just-opened hotels are not at all uncommon (it’s one of the reasons we rarely give brand-new properties full reviews). And staffing shortages are continuing to plague much of the travel industry. But an unclean hotel room under any circumstance is simply unacceptable.
I’d hoped that, in their haste to get me into a room, someone had simply missed the rogue berry with the vacuum. But at this point, I was on high alert for even the smallest hair out of place. And, unfortunately, there were many hairs out of place.
There was a hair (and somehow, more blackberry) in the shower, which had the distinct, humid smell of being freshly used (not squeaky clean). And there were more hairs in a little puddle I’d overlooked beside the bathtub.
As a rule, I avoid complaining at all costs. But I couldn’t brush this off. So, I got someone from the hotel on the phone to tell them I was concerned the room hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned, and I asked what they could do to make it right. The woman on the phone was extremely apologetic and promised to send the housekeeping manager right away.
A few minutes later, two members of the housekeeping team showed up at my door. They, too, were very apologetic. And they went to work … cleaning my room.
We chatted for a minute, and then I walked out onto my balcony to give them space. The sun was setting on my first day in Bermuda and I was still somehow wearing the same clothes I’d worn on the plane.
As much as I tried, I had a hard time getting past the unclean room. Even after the housekeepers left, I couldn’t help but scrutinize everything not with the eye of a travel editor, but that of a health inspector.
When I finally started to settle in, I began putting away my bags — and realized one had been hiding a giant stain on the busy carpet.
Probably out of frustration more than anything, I called down again. Housekeeping came back and worked on the stain. Coffee, perhaps, or maybe red wine. Either way, it wasn’t coming out of the carpet (only weeks old at the time) before I checked out.
Dining and service
After an unnecessarily long and stressful day, I was eager to change — finally! — and head down for my dinner reservation at the resort’s main restaurant: BLT Steak NY by night and Lina by day. (The sign by the front entrance, which is also on the ground level, is actually changed out to signal the transformation.)
I walked up to the unattended host stand and did what I’d been doing since my plane touched down in Bermuda: waited.
I couldn’t catch the eye of the bartender or any of the hurried waiters. Chairs were being carried outside and carted back in. Everyone on staff seemed stressed and, as a result, so was I.
When the host finally came over to seat me, I was told there was no outdoor seating. So, I was given a table by the window.
I am no stranger to exorbitant prices (I work in New York City, after all), but the menu still gave me sticker shock. I’d forgotten how expensive Bermuda is and how expensive St. Regis hotels are, in general.
Cocktails were generally between $19 and $21, seafood entrees started around $50 and the most inexpensive cut of steak cost $52. A 36-ounce porterhouse for two would set you back $169, and a 22-ounce cowboy-cut bone-in ribeye for one cost $98. And no matter what you order, a 17% service fee is automatically charged to every bill.
Fortunately for my employers, I’m a pescetarian.
The complimentary popover and White Wednesdays cocktail (gin, elderflower liqueur, lime, bitters) were both excellent.
And I really enjoyed my meal (a chopped vegetable salad and crab cake topped with radish salad), though the latter seemed a bit small for the price ($26).
But in general, dinner service was slow. This isn’t exactly unusual in certain destinations or at resorts, but there were times when things took too long.
For example, I was eager to indulge with a double espresso and dessert because I’d had a light dinner and a long day, but after my dinner plates had been cleared, it was as if I’d slipped off the staff’s radar. Exhausted and tired of waiting, I eventually flagged down the nearest waiter and asked for my check.
Back at my room, I asked room service to bring me a fruit plate and espresso. And the following evening, I ordered the grilled branzino with grilled lettuces ($48) and had the opportunity to try a couple of desserts.
Everything I ate during my stay at the St. Regis Bermuda Resort was well-cooked and tasty, and the food and beverage program was probably a highlight of my stay — once the dish or drink finally arrived.
On my first morning, I was eager to actually enjoy my stay at the St. Regis. Despite being told there were no appointments available, an opening had miraculously appeared at the spa and I was looking forward to an afternoon treatment.
This, I suspected, was part of the staff’s efforts to compensate for the dubious cleanliness of my room.
In the morning, I grabbed breakfast at the main restaurant, which had metamorphosed into Lina. There was a new sign, a new menu, but many of the same service issues I’d seen the night before.
Once again, I was able to fill my time waiting with well-intentioned eavesdropping. A woman seated behind me had asked for the manager. She’d ordered hard-boiled eggs, she said, but had received fried eggs instead. When she sent them back, she received a second plate of fried eggs.
My breakfast (an egg-white omelet with vegetables and smoked salmon) and cherry tomatoes and torched avocado on the side was exactly as I ordered, fortunately. But it seemed precarious. My waiter reviewed my order with me multiple times (I had asked for smoked salmon instead of roasted turkey ham, and wanted to skip the mozzarella) and even came back to confirm she’d gotten it right.
I had also ordered a glass of orange juice, which never came. But I wasn’t charged for it, and everything else about the order had been spot on.
I’d deduced during breakfast that there was a buffet option, which hadn’t been on the menu and had never been offered to me. The next day, I had to inquire about it. It’s possible if you’re sitting outside to never see the buffet, so I went inside to check out the offerings.
For $45 (according to the hotel’s website), you get access to smoked salmon, an assortment of fruits and breads, a handful of hot items and a couple of chilled dishes.
On my final morning, I skipped the buffet and opted instead for the $26 Bermuda-style breakfast (a codfish cake topped with avocado and onion-and-tomato salsa) that was almost, nearly perfect. They correctly substituted a hard-boiled egg for a poached egg. But the dish was supposed to come with potatoes, and it did not.
Much of my day was spent poolside, sipping Bloody Marys (called Red Snappers at the St. Regis) and enjoying the unbelievable ocean views. The St. Regis resort has a pristine little crescent of beach with lounge chairs, umbrellas and a handful of cabanas.
Personally, I prefer the pool — and the St. Regis Bermuda Resort has two. One is reserved for adults, while the other is designed for families.
Service by the pool was much more reliable and swift than it was at the main restaurant. Any time I sat down, an attendant quickly made up a chair for me with towels. I ordered a few Bloody Marys (for research purposes, of course) during my stay, as well as delicious crispy fish tacos that were presented bento box-style. If my stay had been longer, I probably would have ended up eating most of my meals at The St. Regis Bar or from the comfort of a pool chair.
One thing an esteemed luxury hotel like the St. Regis is supposed to deliver is reliable excellence. But consistency is one area where the property really struggled during my stay.
Almost every Bloody Mary was different. One would come garnished with celery, lemon and olives, while another would arrive with just a lemon or some other combination of garnishes. One came packed with herbs and seasonings, and one was so weak I questioned whether there was any vodka at all.
And one morning, a pool attendant politely turned away a family who was posting up next to the adults-only pool. Later that same day, however, a different attendant didn’t say anything at all when a mother and her young daughter settled into lounge chairs.
When the landscaping matures and some finishing touches are put on the property, I suspect the St. Regis will feel a bit more complete. And I suspect guests who visit later will receive knockout, fully garnished Bloody Marys every time.
But some of the design choices can’t easily be undone. It’s a shame the gym faces the parking lot, and the spa doesn’t take advantage of the ocean views either.
For my spa treatment, I was escorted to a small but pretty waiting area that felt dark and enclosed when the door shut behind me.
After my treatment, I went to take advantage of the plunge pool open to spa guests only. But I realized, as I was sitting there, that it’s right up against the parking lot — and within clear view of guests who have balconies along the back of the property.
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing relaxing to me about listening to cars or feeling as though someone might be watching me from a balcony. I get enough of that back home in the city.
When I returned to my room after visiting the spa, I discovered that the two members of the housekeeping staff I had met the day prior had drawn a rose petal-filled bath. There was a hand-written note and relaxing music playing in the background.
It was unexpected but a sweet gesture perhaps to make amends for the cleanliness of the room when I checked in.
When you’re lounging poolside at the St. Regis Bermuda Resort, it’s hard to be unhappy. It’s a lovely property right around the corner from Tobacco Bay beach and the colorful, 17th-century town of St. George on the northeast corner of Bermuda. The staff is, almost unanimously, impossibly friendly and eager to please — even though the service fell short of my expectations for the brand.
When I checked out of my room, I saw I’d been given a $100 property credit (presumably due to the late room). But my final folio was still distressing.
My two-night stay at the St. Regis Bermuda Resort was booked with 170,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Though there are many nights at this Category 8 property available from 85,000 points per night right now, cash rates are typically from $735 to nearly $1,400 this summer.
For that price, I’d expect a much higher level of service.
But for people who have been dreaming of using points to pay for a relaxing, luxury stay in Bermuda, the resort has plenty of promise. Book an ocean-view room, make your spa appointments in advance and expect to spend many hours blissed out by the pool or on the beach.
Because hopefully, the issues I encountered will work themselves out in time. It can take months for a new hotel to smooth out operational snags. And the ongoing pandemic could certainly be playing a role in staffing shortages and other problems I encountered during my stay.
In a statement released earlier this month, the resort’s general manager, Jan Vanhaelewyn, announced plans to fill “over 100 vacancies” with opportunities in the housekeeping, food and beverage departments, among others.
Even if I hadn’t encountered a single issue during my stay, I might still urge travelers to hold off on a trip there right now. Traveling to Bermuda currently requires a battery of COVID-19 tests (at least two and likely three or more depending on the duration of your stay). There are applications for entry and extensive quarantine requirements for non-vaccinated travelers. But being vaccinated doesn’t even do much to simplify the experience.
So, travelers who have been contemplating a quick Bermuda getaway to check out the new St. Regis resort may do well to wait for the property to mature, the staff to get up to speed and the island to ease its restrictions on international visitors.
Featured photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy.
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