One Suite Upgrade: A Review of The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort
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When my mom texted me in mid-March saying, "I need a mini spring-break trip," I was more than willing to figure out a way to make that happen. Even though winters in New York aren't the coldest or the snowiest (looking at you, Midwest), they're long.
So, by the time the ides of March rolls around, you're really, really ready for some sun, even if it's a quick getaway. And, that's exactly what ended up happening for us -- I was able to find reasonable fares from New York City to Miami in early April, so I booked them and then turned my attention to where we'd be staying on our quick weekend in South Florida.
Miami has plenty of appealing points properties to choose from, but perhaps the most appealing of all is The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, a refined oasis of calm and serenity in frenetic, pulsating Miami. The property hadn't been reviewed on TPG in quite some time, so this was the perfect chance to give the property another go and see if it still lives up to the high standard it set in previous visits.
The St. Regis Bal Harbour is one of Marriott's new Category 8 properties, meaning that before the chain introduces peak/off-peak pricing, you'll need to shell out 85,000 points for an award night. If you're looking to book a stay with points and need to bolster your Bonvoy account, you could sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is offering a 100,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $5,000 on your card within the first three months of card membership. Act quickly, though -- this offer expires on May 16.
If you're looking to pay cash, be prepared to shell out anywhere from around $400 for a night in the low season all the way up to about $3,800 for a night during the holiday season. The hotel charges a resort fee of $40 per day, which includes one fitness class per adult per day, bike rentals daily for up to two hours, upgraded internet, access to spa facilities and a daily complimentary cocktail at the St. Regis Bar. Considering that cocktails on the property cost about $20 a pop, this wasn't a particularly egregious resort fee, but the fact that hotels list "upgraded internet" as a perk that's covered by the resort fee is frankly ridiculous.
As its name would suggest, this St. Regis property is in Bal Harbour, an exclusive enclave located north of Miami Beach. The area is known for the Bal Harbour Shops, an ultraluxe outdoor shopping center that houses stores like Alexander McQueen, Chanel, De Beers, Gucci and Rolex.
Naturally, The St. Regis is just across the street. It's also about 16 miles (30 to 45 minutes depending on traffic) away from Miami International airport (MIA) and about the same distance from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport (FLL). Though I flew into Miami this time around, I usually fly into Fort Lauderdale and find it much more convenient. We grabbed an UberX from the airport, which cost $35.
As I mentioned, I was traveling with my mom, and she and my dad have Titanium status with Marriott (I'm now just a measly Gold, thanks to the complimentary status that comes with the Platinum Card® from American Express; enrollment required), so naturally I booked the reservation under her account so that we'd qualify for the free breakfast amenity and hopefully score an upgrade.
And that's exactly what happened. When we arrived around noon, the friendly check-in agent noted our (well, my mom's) Titanium status, explained all that we were entitled to (I really only cared about the breakfast) and said that she'd look to see if they could accommodate an upgrade.
Sure enough, just a few moments later she looked up and told us that she'd upgraded us to a suite that was one level below the presidential suite, meaning we'd have two entirely separate bedrooms and bathrooms, plus a full living room. I can't think of a better upgrade than that, besides maybe when I got upgraded to a corner suite with a harbor view at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong.
Our jaws still on the floor, we were introduced to the butler who had been assigned to our room. She told us that our bags had already been brought to the suite and that she'd be showing us upstairs to explain the features of the room. First, though, she showed us how to operate the smart elevators. You approached the elevators and simply swiped your key over the panel, and then it told you what elevator to go to. Then that elevator dropped you off at your floor. It actually took a little time to get used to, but it was a neat concept and worked really well once we got the hang of it.
As we discovered the first time up to our room on the 20th floor, the smart elevator opened directly into our room ... err ... rooms.
The Royal Oceanfront Suite we had was formed by combining two separate rooms together. Overall, it had the feel of a luxurious apartment -- in fact I'd have no trouble at all living in the room full time. The "main" room was a large suite -- there was a foyer just inside the entrance with a full (yes, there was a shower) bathroom that opened into the kitchen and living space.
The kitchen was trimmed in light wood and had everything you needed to cook and entertain: a microwave, Sub-Zero refrigerator, dishwasher drawers, a wine fridge and a full set of dishes, silverware and glasses. It was certainly nice to look at and added to the impressiveness of the suite, but I'm not sold on the practicality of having a full kitchen in a hotel room, especially in a city like Miami, which has an abundance of phenomenal restaurants to choose from.
On the counter were the room's minibar as well as the Nespresso machine and associated pods -- though remember that with The St. Regis butler service, you can have fresh coffee delivered daily. In the refrigerator were several beverages, though they weren't complimentary. We did use the fridge, though, to store the water bottles that the housekeeping staff left each time they came.
The dining table could seat six people, and it looked impressive under the beautiful chandelier.
The kitchen gave way to the living room, which was also more than sufficient for entertaining, with a large couch, chair and mounted TV.
The media console below the TV was home to the overpriced ($12 for a bag of chips) snacks that I definitely maybe sampled.
Beyond the living room was one of three(!) balconies our suite had. It was quite large, had comfy chairs for reading and watching a famous South Florida thunderstorm and was angled -- I wouldn't call it oceanfront, per se, but it was about as close as it gets without having a straight-on ocean view.
Moving into the (first) bedroom area of the suite, there was a hallway with a stackable washer and dryer in a closet (which came in handy when there was a tomato-sauce spill on white pants) and an open walk-in closet at the end of the hall.
To the left was the positively enormous bedroom, featuring a gorgeous king bed dressed in white linens and highlighted by an intricate glass-tile headboard.
The sitting area consisted of a curved sofa and two chairs.
Throughout the whole suite, the color scheme, decor and furniture were at once both sumptuous and calming, with light wood, marble and neutral colors used in combination to produce a high-end but accessible ambience.
The bathroom was spa-like -- I especially loved the lighting elements that illuminated the marble walls behind both the shower and the soaking tub.
There was a double vanity as well as a separate water closet and rainfall shower, and the amenities were Remède, as is typical for a St. Regis property. Interestingly, though, each time I used the shampoo, it felt like I was having a minor allergic reaction, as my eyes would well up with tears and I wouldn't be able to open them until I washed the shampoo completely off. This didn't happen to me when I stayed at The St. Regis Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico just a few months earlier, so I found it strange.
Back on the other side of the room was the other bedroom, which on its own would have been a Grand Luxe Oceanfront Junior Suite.
My mom took the master bedroom, but I wasn't exactly getting the short end of the stick.
My room had the same king-sized bed and a smaller sitting area with a couch and just one chair opposite it.
It also had a kitchenette, which wasn't stocked like the kitchen in the main room, presumably because the rooms were combined. I imagine that if the room had been given to guests just by itself, it would have come with glasses and plates, for example.
My bathroom was more or less the same as the one in the master end of the suite, but I did notice that my soaking tub was more shallow than the other one. It didn't matter to me at all, since I never use the tub, but for someone who uses bathtubs regularly, this would probably make a difference.
This portion of the suite contained the third balcony. It provided stunning views of the ocean and the skyscrapers of Sunny Isles Beach and Hollywood to the north.
Food and Beverage
The St. Regis Bal Harbour offers guests three restaurants as well as The St. Regis Bar and Wine Vault.
We religiously claimed our complimentary drinks at The St. Regis Bar each night before going out to dinner, and it's where the staff performed its traditional Champagne sabering ceremony.
The bar itself was dark and sleek, with dark, marble floors and gold trim. The highlight, of course, was the wine vault, which houses some very high-end wines and Champagnes. We stuck to our free drinks.
BH Burger Bar was the property's relaxed and casual dinner spot, featuring American foods and open only for dinner (5:30pm to 11pm, Monday through Sunday). We never made it to Burger Bar, as we had plans each night for eating dinner out in Miami, but it looked inviting with its red leather chairs and large booths. It seemed like it'd be an ideal spot for a family to enjoy dinner together after a day of having fun in the sun.
For coffees, pastries, quick salads, sandwiches and more, there was La Gourmandise, adjacent to the hotel's lobby.
The restaurant was open most of the day (7am to 9pm, Monday through Sunday) and had both indoor and outdoor seating. My mom enjoyed a couple of pastries and many more cappuccinos from here, but we never sat down to eat a full meal. The layout felt kind of awkward, and it made the restaurant feel more like a coffee shop with some food than a full-service restaurant. Its terrace was lovely, though. It had plenty of places to sit, but it was never busy.
We did most of our on-property eating at Atlantikós, a full-service Greek restaurant open daily from 7am to 10pm.
The space itself was stunning, resembling a Greek taverna with its white walls, floors, chairs and ceilings and deep-blue stone-topped tables. Thanks to Titanium elite status, we were able to eat breakfast here for free each day of our stay -- I can't overstate how great a value this is at St. Regis hotels, where a breakfast for two can easily cost $100.
Both my mom and I went for the buffet each day -- I was in heaven with the foods on offer. It really doesn't get much better than spanakopita for breakfast.
Oh, and you can't forget the tzatziki sauce -- it was fresh, delicious and made me at least feel like I was having something light and healthy for breakfast, even though that clearly wasn't the case, judging by the rest of my plate.
Atlantikós also provided the poolside and beachside food for the hotel. There was plenty to choose from -- I was an especially big fan of the Greek salad with chicken ($33) and the sushi rolls ($18-$22). While delicious, paying $33 for a salad seemed excessive -- even for The St. Regis.
I really liked the decision to go with Greek-inspired food for the all-day poolside restaurant. Not only is Greek food phenomenally delicious, but it is practically made to be eaten by water -- the ingredients are light and fresh, and, well, the feta. You can't forget the feta.
The resort had two pools for hotel guests, and there were two more reserved exclusively for residence owners. You accessed the pools via the basement level, where the entrance to Atlantikós, the Remède spa and several conference rooms were. Once you stepped outside, you immediately faced the family pool, which was large and featured large loungers and day beds with thick, blue cushions around the deck.
In the corner was the outdoor section of Atlantikós. It continued the white-and-blue theme found inside, with bright, blue umbrellas and white tables and chairs. Next to this was the Atlantikós Bar, which had a shimmery silver tile backsplash. I thought that this space could have benefitted from being more outside. Even though the walls were white and the backsplash was bright, it felt closed off, and there just wasn't a great vibe inviting people to belly up.
Even though it was a family pool, it wasn't at all filled with screaming children running around the deck or throwing things -- it was quite calm. In fact, when we first surveyed the area, we didn't even notice that it was a family pool. It wasn't until a worker at the pool asked us if we wanted to set up shop at the adult pool that we realized what was going on.
Things got even more serene once we moved to the adult pool. It was up a set of stairs from the family pool, which also meant that it stayed sunny longer than the family pool, which became shady quite early.
Unlike at many beachfront resorts, there was absolutely no fighting for chairs here -- whenever I travel with my family, we're used to waking up at the crack of dawn just so we can set towels down on chairs to claim them before the crowds come. However, at The St. Regis, this was no problem at all. We could take our time and be as leisurely as we wanted in the morning. Exactly how vacation should be.
The staff at the pool even offered to reserve our chairs for us so that we could get the spot that we liked each morning. That's never happened to me at any beach resort I've ever been to. Granted, we weren't visiting during a super busy time, so it would have been no problem to get chairs without them being reserved, but I still really appreciated the gesture.
Of course, The St. Regis is right on the beach, meaning the Atlantic Ocean lay just steps away.
My family and I are more pool than beach people, and it was quite seaweedy, so we stuck to the pools except for a few strolls in the late afternoon. The hotel offers complimentary chairs and umbrellas for guests as well as full service at the beach, so you could hang out there all day and never leave, save for using the restroom, presumably.
Set between the beach and the hotel grounds was a walking/running/biking path surrounded by palm trees and other vegetation. We took a walk on this path down to The Ritz-Carlton, Bal Harbour, at the end of the beach, but it was quite a bit hotter than the beach itself.
The only way the relaxation ante could have been upped during this weekend would have been by getting a treatment at the on-site Remède spa. However, with prices for massages starting at $159 for a half hour, I skipped the spa and spent that money on poolside food and drinks instead.
The St. Regis referred to its gym as The St. Regis Athletic Club, but don't let the name fool you -- it was certainly better than your average hotel gym, and the equipment was fairly new and in good shape, but still nothing to get overly excited about.
The hotel's Wi-Fi was one problem area we encountered. It was plenty fast ... when it connected. I had trouble connecting to the network anywhere I went besides our room. It wasn't a huge annoyance for me (thank you, unlimited data), but my mom was frustrated while I was reading and she was trying to watch Netflix by the pool and the connection was iffy, at best. Oh, modern life.
I couldn't have asked for a better stay at The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. I got possibly the best upgrade I've ever had up to this point in my life, the service was spectacular throughout the weekend, and the resort itself is stunning and more than earns its Category 8 rating.
This resort proves that Miami isn't just about the all-night party scene in South Beach, but can be a destination that has both glitz and glamour and refinement and elegance all at once. We certainly had a tough time leaving this hotel. You can be sure that I'm already saving up my Bonvoy points (lots and lots of Bonvoy points) for my next visit.
All photos by the author.