Those new hotel jitters: A review of The St. Regis Venice
When I learned that I'd be traveling to Venice, Italy, for the second time, I was excited. I planned to attend a screening for a PeaceJam film about the Dalai Lama, and I wanted to check out the Venice Bienniale, an art festival that comes to the city every two years.
As I started my hotel search, my mind immediately went to the Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection hotel that I stayed at during my first trip that exudes classic Venetian grandeur. But when I checked room rates at the Gritti Palace for my dates, they were well over $1,000 per night. Then I noticed that Marriott was listing a St. Regis Venice as available for booking. I had no idea Venice was even supposed to be getting a St. Regis, so I was immediately intrigued.
After a little more digging, I saw that the hotel would be opening just days before I was set to arrive, so I knew that I'd have to contend with some new-hotel kinks but decided to go for it anyway.
I decided on The St. Regis Venice so I could be right in the middle of all the action, but the friends I was traveling with chose to use 50,000 Bonvoy points per night to stay at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, which is on its own private island. Although their hotel was a little removed from the historic center, they had an amazing stay, and it’s a nice alternative if you’d prefer to spend fewer points.
For my stay, I used 85,000 Bonvoy points per night (my stay was right before the peak/off-peak pricing change) to pay for a deluxe room at The St. Regis, which would have been at least 735 euros (just over $800) per night at the Category 8 property had I paid in cash. I also used three suite-upgrade certificates (one for each night of my stay) I got from my Bonvoy Ambassador elite status and was upgraded to a Grand Terrace suite.
If you can find availability on off-peak dates, you can expect to pay 70,000 points per night, but a peak night will run you 100,000 points. Italy charges a tourist tax in many cities, and I had to pay a 5-euro ($5.50) tourist tax per night directly to the hotel.
Location and history
The St. Regis Venice was formerly The Westin Europa & Regina, Venice. That property underwent a yearlong (as opposed to an exhaustive top-to-bottom, multiyear) renovation and was reborn as The St. Regis. Considering that construction schedules often move slower in Europe, one year is more of a light refresh in the scheme of hotel renovations. The new St. Regis features 129 guestrooms, 40 suites (some with a terrace), a garden terrace overlooking the canal and a fitness center.
One of the best things about The St. Regis is its location right on the Grand Canal. It was a six-minute walk to St. Mark's Square, although I did get lost on my first time walking from the famous plaza to the hotel (nothing in Venice is as it seems). The downside to staying in a brand-new hotel is that no one (not even the locals) knew where it was, so even when I asked for directions at a nearby hotel, they couldn’t help me find The St. Regis. Looking back, maybe I should have asked for directions to The Westin instead.
I booked a door-to-door private water taxi with the hotel as an airport transport, which cost an exorbitant 255 euros ($280), but you could also take a shared water taxi, regular taxi or bus for much less to and from Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). Next time, I’ll just book the water taxi myself, which should be about half the price of the one I booked through the hotel, even though the experience was easy and fun. Taking a water taxi is definitely a novelty I wouldn't mind experiencing again, but it could have been done more cheaply.
Although the hotel was packed for the film festival, I was immediately whisked off to the reception desks for check-in. I could sense the excitement of the new opening right away.
The lobby of The St. Regis is ... interesting. It's hard to classify the style. It's sort of art deco-inspired, but the hotel deems it “modern Venetian.” There are lots of patterns and colors involved. Perhaps it’s better to just look at the photo above and decide if it’s your vibe. Personally, I prefer a much more regal design scheme at a St. Regis, especially in a classic city like Venice.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was upgraded to a Grand Terrace Suite after applying my suite-upgrade certificates.
I also received a gift of 60,000 Bonvoy points for being an Ambassador elite at check-in. Has anyone else out there gotten a similar gift at this property? If so, share in the comments section below.
I’m fairly certain that my suite was in a wing of the hotel that no one had stayed in before. The staff even told me that I was the very first guest in the suite I was assigned. I didn’t see a single person in the wing during my stay, even in the elevator (which was extremely tiny, so I was relieved on that front).
The suite (No. 4401) had all the comforts I needed: a huge bed, a Nespresso machine, a large TV that could stream TV shows and movies, a minibar hidden inside a sleek wooden cabinet and even fresh flowers.
But the contemporary décor of the room, though beautiful, was really not my style.
The views of the Santa Maria della Salute Basilica were absolutely gorgeous, especially from my private terrace (which I was definitely the first to use -- I pulled plastic off the patio furniture that the staff must have forgotten to remove post renovation).
Having a morning coffee or a glass of prosecco in the evening while overlooking the canal was wonderful. I never got tired of that view.
Some of the things I didn’t like about my stay were due to the hotel figuring out its kinks, but at the same time, some weren’t. I love an old-school wood floor (like the ones at the Gritti Palace), but it seemed like this floor was actually a laminate of some sort -- it was really slippery. And the tribal-tattoo light fixture inlay in the bathroom mirrors was a really strange design feature.
But since the dual shower was amazing and passed the TPG shower test with flying colors and the bathroom's marble interior was stunning, I wasn’t too upset about it. The Laboratoire Remède bath amenities were only lightly scented.
One issue that is hopefully fixed by now was the phone system. It wasn’t yet working properly, so I had to call down to the front desk using my cell whenever I needed something. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out that the phones were dead. I kept calling and it wasn’t working, which was frustrating. I wish the staff would have been more proactive with that. The Wi-Fi was also spotty, and I needed to sign in multiple times. In 2019, guests shouldn’t have trouble accessing Wi-Fi at hotels.
But it was nice having the butler, who unpacked for me and was very friendly during the stay. On the other hand, housekeeping wasn’t great. There was a stained and dirty towel left by the bed one day. It's also worth noting that while the showers were large enough for my 6-foot, 7-inch tall frame, the hallways weren't.
Amenities and dining
Although there were small kinks with room service (the staff forgot salt, pepper and olive oil when we ordered dinner), I did enjoy the plating (the green-and-white china was gorgeous) and the pasta, risotto and macarons were tasty.
The breakfast was not up to par, though. I ordered avocado toast and had access to the buffet, all for free thanks to my Ambassador elite status (it would have been 53 euros, or a little less than $60, per person).
Although I didn’t pay that price, I didn’t feel breakfast was worthy of that price tag. The spread was underwhelming: some deli meats, croissants and dry donuts.
If you do eat breakfast at the hotel, make sure to get there early, especially if you want a prime seat on the patio with canal views. At 8:15 a.m., the patio was completely full, so I sat indoors. It also took 10 minutes for someone to come over to my table.
The staff was really all over the place. Though it took them forever to serve me at breakfast, my visit to The St. Regis bar was a different story. The bar staff was excellent and prepared a delicious martini for me right away in a friendly, professional manner. I didn't get a chance to test the other bar, the Arts Bar, though. There was also an Italian restaurant on the premises called Gio's I also wasn't able to visit.
The hotel didn’t yet have any indoor signage, so I had no idea where the gym was. They told me it was on the second floor. I walked around the second floor for about 20 minutes and couldn’t find it. It turned out the small gym was behind an unmarked door.
One thing I found inexcusable was that there was no soap in the lobby bathroom. I get that the hotel had just opened, but in a five-star property, you expect to be able to wash your hands. I checked again the day I left, and there was still no soap there.
When I told management (they can't improve if no one tells them what's wrong), they were mortified. The room-service charge was taken off my bill in the end thanks to all the service issues I encountered –- the phone, housekeeping, etc. The staff was trying hard to remedy things, and I believe many of these issues will be resolved, so future guests hopefully won’t have the same problems I did.
I associate The St. Regis with old-school luxury and glamour, especially in a city like Venice, so I didn’t love the more modern aesthetic. In a place with so much rich history, I'd hoped to experience something with a little more Venetian flair, and this newish, "modern Venetian" style didn’t quite do it for me.
I’m glad I stayed there and really enjoyed the terrace, but until the kinks are fully worked out, or if you want a true Venetian experience (using Bonvoy points), it may be best to stay elsewhere, like the Gritti Palace or the Danieli.
For more on my St. Regis Venice experience, check out my pinned Instragram stories on the hotel.
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