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Recently my husband and I stayed for a couple of nights at the Westin St. John Resort in the US Virgin Islands on a cash and points that was booked before the award chart changed in 2013. Getting there wasn’t the most direct process in the world (as outlined here), but once you are there you have access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
We knew going into our stay that the resort was undergoing some pretty significant renovations, and to compensate the hotel was handing out complimentary certificates for a two night stay on a future visit through 2015. Because of the renovations, the hotel wasn’t truly up to speed during our stay, but I’ll still comment on the things that were operational.
Check-in and Lobby:
This is the Caribbean, and you need to go into it with a slower pace and mentality because everything is slower. There were only two people ahead of us at check-in, but it still took a good 30 minutes to get to us. The service was always very polite, but just don’t be in a hurry. We were not able to secure a suite upgrade or similar with Platinum SPG status even though occupancy rates were very low, but that was likely related somewhat to the number of rooms and suites out of commission due to the renovations.
The open air lobby locked pretty nice, but when standing in line to check-in for 30 minutes at night I was getting a pretty fair number of bug bites, so have the bug spray ready as soon as you land. A golf cart was available to take us to our room, which was good as it is a pretty large and spread out property that wouldn’t have been easy to navigate with bags and in the dark.
Oh boy. I go into properties wanting to like them and have a great time. In this case I went in with pretty low expectations for the room thanks to reviews I had read, but it was certainly at least as bad as I thought, maybe a little worse. However, don’t let this cross the resort off your list as the rooms are getting renovated, and the resort does have “good bones”.
The room was a bit outdated, as expected, but was very large. Honestly it was so large that there was a good amount of wasted space with just the two of us in the room.
The bed, however, was certainly comfortable enough to pass out in after a long travel day!
The drain was also broken, but I didn’t dare touch it to try and figure out if it was an easy fix. Honestly, I do really poorly in anything I perceive as a dirty bathroom, so it took a lot for me to just stay calm and “shower on”. Clearly there are much worse bathrooms in the world, but at a Westin resort I think it is fair to have higher expectations.
To end the room portion of the review on a more positive note, there was a decent sized outdoor patio where you could read the paper and drink coffee, though I am way too yummy to bugs to want to just sit out there and get eaten.
Near our room was what must be a renovated model they are using for timeshare tours based on the amount of traffic in and out of the room. I didn’t do the tour, but did photograph what I could through the glass door. It looks like they have better utilized some of the unused space in the large room by adding a wall and thus creating a separate (small) bedroom area with greatly updated furnishing and decor.
Of course I’m sure this won’t be a standard room available for standard award redemptions after the renovation, but it does look a million times better than the room we were in…though they will have to work to keep it clean so it doesn’t eventually devolve into condition of our room.
Platinum Breakfast and On-Site Restaurant:
During our visit the only restaurant that was open was the open-air Beach Cafe that overlooks the on-site beach. This really is the perfect spot to watch amazing sunsets!
I believe that normally there is a buffet breakfast available as the SPG Platinum breakfast, but that was not available during our stay so I can’t comment on it. We were given a credit to use toward breakfast each day as Platinum guests. The credit roughly covered an entree and coffee. My favorite breakfast item we tried was the $16 banana bread french toast. I’m sure it is probably bad for a diet, but it tasted pretty great and was very filling.
Dinner at the restaurant tasted totally decent, but since I am such a bug magnet, eating outdoors near the beach at night was not a comfortable situation for me. From what I remember, a dinner for two at the restaurant runs close to $100 with either an appetizer or dessert, two entrees, and non-alcoholic beverages. This restaurant also has many cats that will come up and beg for a scrap of food.
On-Site Beach and Activities:
This is a beach-front property with very calm water that was host to many young kids and families. There were chairs, rafts, and umbrellas available for use. There were also small boats available for rent for a fee.
The beach was well maintained, and nice for young families who want something close and easy. I would absolutely utilize the on-site beach while visiting the resort with my family when I wanted a simple option, but make sure not to miss the larger and prettier beaches on the island.
The pool area was closed and under construction while we were there, but I have read that it has now re-opened.
The resort had some other offerings such as a scavenger hunt and bingo game where you could win SPG points. We couldn’t resist that offer so played bingo, and it was a pretty fun time hanging out with other guests, but they charged $10 per card for something that probably should have been free given the $40 daily resort fee. Most of the prizes are really bad, so unless you actually win the SPG points or spa gift card you are burning a fair amount of money if several family members play without any real return, even if you win a round. We did have a good time, but probably not $40 worth of fun given that I won a round and all I got were some free smoothie coupons.
There is a playground area on the property that looked like it would be a good option for an easy play time with the kiddos.
There is also a Kid’s Club available for a fee for kids 3-12 years old who are potty trained and a new Teen Arcade Center. The Kid’s Club is open daily from 8:30am to 10pm and drop off sessions are $15 an hour with drop-off times available at 8:30am; 9am; 1pm; 2pm; 4pm; 5pm. It is $95 per child for a full day from 8:30 – 5PM (lunch included), $75 for morning session, and $50 for the afternoon session.
Beaches and Fun Around St. John:
You are doing yourself a disservice if you spend most of your time on the island at the resort. The island has some amazing water, but you need to leave the resort to get to it. Our trip was short, so we only made it to Trunk Bay, but it was a great and beautiful way to spend an afternoon. Getting there was relatively easy using the open air cabs (aka trucks) that are available at the Westin.
There is a small admission fee at Truck Bay of $4 for adults, and children 16 and under are free at this National Park. Note that they do not take credit cards, so bring cash.
There are on-site restrooms, showers, and lockers, as well as some snacks and on-site snorkel, umbrella, and chair rentals. The rental company did accept credit cards.
Once we rented our chair, umbrella, and snorkel gear we hit the beach. The umbrella rental was probably unnecessary given the shade from trees, but this afternoon was absolutely the highlight of our time in St. John.
There is a snorkel trail that was pretty neat, but not quite as long as I had expected. Still, there were colorful fish and nice underwater features to gaze at while kicking your way through the crystal clear water. Our visit was in November and the water was comfortably warm, as was the air. The beach wasn’t overly busy, but a load of cruise ship visitors did come at one point, so I’m sure the level of activity at the beach is tied to some degree to the cruise ship schedule.
This is a Category 5 SPG property that starts at 12,000 points per night, which can be a very good deal given the cash rates. The property is in the middle of a major, and much needed, renovation that I believe goes through later in 2014. I would not return to the room we stayed in in its current condition, but I have not ruled out returning again once the renovations are complete. The fact that we have a free two night certificate makes it easier to consider returning in 2015. There is no arguing how beautiful some of the beaches are in St. John, and being able to use US currency and a US cell phone plan are very nice. I have a real issue with bugs in the Caribbean, but of course bugs are not unique to the Caribbean.
I think the Westin St. John will be very different once the rooms are renovated, the pool is re-opened (which I think already happened), there are more dining options than just the Beach Cafe, and everything is back up to speed. I hope we are able to go back with our daughter once all of that happens. You can check out their renovation schedule here.
If you have been to this resort, or are thinking about going, we’d love to hear your thoughts!