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Several months ago I was asked to participate in something called the “SPG Stars Program”. I remember reading posts about the program last year from other bloggers including fellow BoardingArea bloggers Lucky from One Mile at a Time and Ric from Loyalty Traveler. Mainly what I remembered from their posts was that their participation meant they got to give away lots of Starwood Preferred Guest points to their readers, so I was very interested in bringing those points to some of you! The deal this year is that I go to three SPG properties/events over the course of the year and in conjunction with each event there is a giveaway of SPG points to one of you.
For this first of the three events, I got to pick from a list of newer SPG properties to go for a quick summer trip. I wanted to pick a type of property I had never before visited so that it might be more interesting to read about, and would increase my first-hand knowledge of the property. So, I decided on the St. Regis Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico. Okay, the fact that it was a St. Regis certainly didn’t hurt! Since this trip was part of the SPG Stars program, the bill for the flights and room cost for my husband and I was picked up by the program. Our ground transportation, activities, meals, etc. was on our own dime. While they certainly could have easily been told we were coming, I never got the impression that the staff we interacted with at the resort “knew us from Adam” any more than staff on our United flights would have known. Of course, I’ll never know for sure, but I didn’t get the idea that we were treated “special”. Still, it’s important you know the background of the trip. Now on to the good stuff…
St. Regis Bahia Beach Location:
The resort was located about 25 minutes or so from the airport in San Juan. It is located on the water on the northeastern portion of Puerto Rico. It is very close to the El Yunque National Forest and is bordered by the 5,000 acre Espíritu Santo River State Preserve. Once you exit the highway and started making your way down smaller roads to the resort, you felt like you were in the forest in a hurry. This made driving there at dusk a bit of a challenge (photo of road below taken the next day), but once you were there it made you feel like you were really on vacation.
As you can see, there is a ton of foliage everywhere and the hotel has a pretty impressive entrance!
The fires in the water at night made it look pretty cool and luxurious to us.
The Lobby and Check-in:
Thanks to a pretty delayed flight with mechanical issues, we arrived much later in the evening than was originally scheduled, and it did not seem to be a heavy “check-in time” part of the day. There was not a traditional check-in desk to go to, but rather a couple of small desks that looked more like concierge desks than a check-in desk. However, they were super easy to find as we were greeted by several bellmen and other hotel staff that led the way. Throughout our stay there always seemed to be plenty of valet/bellmen outside ready and willing to help guests. This was our first clue that the level of service at a St. Regis is a little different than what we are accustomed to at the other types of hotels we frequent.
A day or so before the stay I had contacted the hotel via their email listed on the website and asked if the stay could be put in my husband’s name in order to use his Platinum benefits. I was thrilled that they said yes, so during check-in we were informed of what his Platinum SPG status would get us. We got to pick two of the following items: 500 SPG points, daily continental breakfast for 2, or some fancy cards with bloody mary recipes unique to each of the St. Regis hotels. The recipes actually looked beautiful, but we went with 500 SPG points and the continental breakfast. We would soon learn how wise our breakfast decision was thanks to how pricey the food here can be!
The best part of check-in was when we were informed that thanks to our Platinum status we were upgraded to a suite. This is a part of the SPG elite status program that can be pretty exciting when it works as it should. Platinum members get space-available upgrades to suites at check-in without having to use confirmed upgrades or points. The downside is you usually don’t know until check-in if you will get one, but in this case we lucked out and were given an Astor Suite. In addition to the extra room, this also meant we got a butler since all suites have butler service. A butler you say? I almost died right there…
I also wanted to mention the rum punch that was offered at check-in. They were strong and delicious and when we asked for refills they were promptly brought, so drink up!
While we scored an upgrade to a suite, the basic rooms that you could secure with points are called “Superior Rooms” and they seem pretty large at 674 square feet. They also have an oversized tub, a separate rainforest shower, and a double vanity with an oversized mirror featuring an embedded LCD television. In other words, the basic rooms sound pretty great, but of course the suite was even better.
If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to watch the video below we made of the room (with me as your rum-punch-drinking tour guide), as it will give you a very good view of the suite along with a little commentary about the resort. In fact, you can just about skip reading the post and just watch that if you wanted to . This was our first stab at video production (huge learning curve and we clearly need both practice and better equipment), but hopefully we will get better over time, and that can be a new feature added to the site for those who like to watch instead of read. There will be a separate short video of some of the activities and amenities the resort offers in a follow-up post. Yes, I look like a total nerd in the video…
In case the video isn’t for you, here are some shots of the suite. This is the foyer area you first enter in the suite (entry door to the right). The second shower bathroom is off to the left in the photo and the mini bar complete with expensive (but necessary) OFF is located front and center.
The living room was roughly the same size as the bedroom portion and it is the portion of the suite you walk into after entering through the foyer. They had some pretty interesting books about the history of Puerto Rico spread around the room.After walking down a small hallway you come to the bedroom on the left and the huge bathroom on the right. The bed was so comfortable that it just swallowed you up at night. The only problem was that the air conditioning kept turning itself off. I suspect it has some sort of motion detecting component, but even though we asked for someone to come and help show us how to keep it on, that never happened. It wasn’t terribly hot, but it wasn’t as cool as I would have preferred for sleep. I do think there is a fix for this, but we never figured it out.
The main bathroom is huge and has a double vanity, a separate toilet, a large soaking tub, and a huge rainfall shower.
There was also a TV in the mirror, but we never hung out in the bathroom long enough to watch TV so I can’t really comment much on that feature. I can say that I never heard another guest the entire time I was in our suite. It was spacious, peaceful, and perfect for a weekend away. Had our daughter joined us for the trip there would have been plenty of room for her to run around and explore. On this trip we did little running around, and instead took lots of time to sit around our place, including our patio, enjoying the very good morning coffee that is complimentary from the butlers (though it was late both days). You can also get complimentary coffee in the main lobby in the mornings.
St. Regis is somewhat known for their butler service, but since this was our first St. Regis stay, it was also our first time experiencing this perk. Only suites are provided butlers, but if you are able to score an upgrade like we did, you also score a butler. This is not your own personal butler, but rather access to a butler that responds to many suites. We didn’t know exactly what to request, but we did ask for help with reserving a pool cabana, setting up dinner reservations, bringing morning coffee, setting up golf cart transfer to dinner (too far to walk), and having two items of clothing pressed (included with butler service). The golf cart, dinner reservation, item pressing, and turndown service were all perfect, but the coffee was late both mornings (30 – 60 minutes) and the pool cabana reservation was not made. So, there are some service glitches, but it was still pretty cool to have someone ready and able to assist you.
In the second half of this review that will come later this week, I will cover the pretty extensive list of amenities on the property including the nature center, kayaking, golf, the pool, restaurants, children’s club, and a few other things you can do in the area. I will cover this more in the second half of this review, but I want to mention now that the secluded location and the St. Regis level of service mean that everything on the property was pricey. We had a great trip, but our wallets took a hit even with a good chunk of the expenses covered by the Amex Stars Program. We did pick up a tip or two on keeping expenses down that I will share, but this is not what I would consider a “budget destination”.
I will post about this again when it goes live, but here is a preview that tomorrow (Thursday August 8th) I will be giving away 30,000 SPG points on Twitter thanks to being a part of the SPG Stars program. That is enough for one free night at this St. Regis property, or you can use them however you wish! The giveaway will run just tomorrow, so be sure to come back to get all of the entry details. If you aren’t yet on Twitter, perhaps this is a good excuse to set up an account just for your miles and points hobby. You can follow me @Mommy_Points while you are at it. I will walk you though all the steps of entering tomorrow, so even if you are brand new to the Twitter world you will be able to do it.
Have you been to the St. Regis Bahia Beach? If so, what did you think?
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