Westin St. John Resort & Villas Review

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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!

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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.

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Westin St. John Lobby

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.

The Room:

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”.

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The room was a bit outdated, as expected, but was very large.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.

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The bed, however, was certainly comfortable enough to pass out in after a long travel day!

20140104-165149.jpgWhere things really took a turn for the worse was in the bathroom.  The decor was really not my favorite – pink?!  However, again, that wasn’t a surprise.  I can tolerate dated, but clean.

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20140104-165235.jpgThe problem is that it wasn’t clean.  There was dark hair on the floor (ew!) and mold in the bathtub.

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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.

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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.

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20140104-165416.jpgRenovations:

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.

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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!

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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.

20140104-174724.jpgOn the other hand, the seasonal fruit plate that rang in at $16 was not my favorite as the fruit was not very fresh and not very good.

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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.

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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.

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20140104-181014.jpgThe 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.

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The pool area was closed and under construction while we were there, but I have read that it has now re-opened.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Josh entering the water to snorkel!

Overall Impressions:

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!

Comments

  1. Something I just remembered is that you arrived just after the area had experienced heavy rains and I have to wonder if that didn’t increase the amount of bugs you encountered vs a different time period.

    Interestingly enough no one in my group encountered any bug issues over on St Thomas over the 6 weeks I was there.

    Also note that Verizon Wireless charges a $1.99 per minute roaming charge for all calls made on any of the Virgin Islands.

    • omatravel, maybe that had something to do with it. Weird that Verizon has roaming charges – yuck! AT%T seemed to work just fine while we were on St. John without giving me any roaming or data roaming issues.

  2. My wife and I just used our platinum redemption to go to the W Vieques, and I had been anticipating your review of the Westin St John to determine if we should have gone to Saint John instead. I’m sorry to see that it wasn’t very good, but it does make me feel more comfortable with the decision to go to Vieques. Maybe after the renovations complete at the Westin we’ll give it a try!

  3. Yeah, I got a $500 Verizon bill in the first 2 weeks I was there. Fortunately it was for work and they paid the bill. I ended up getting an AT&T Go phone for $10 and then paid $2 a day for the days I used the phone.

    AT&T has there own cell sites on the islands, however Verizon does not and therefore AT&T has no roaming and Verizon does.

    I can confirm the rooms at the Marriott on St Thomas are generally cleaner but my experience throughout the Caribbean is inconsistent levels of service.

  4. We stayed here last year using our Starwood Vacation Ownership and would never return. Our 1 bedroom villa was amazing and had recently been renovated and sat up on the hillside. Our biggest issue was the amount of time it took to get there from the Midwest. We determined that we get to Hawaii quicker and without all of the hassles such as connecting in Miami, waiting at the St. John airport for our car, driving to the ferry, riding the ferry to St John, etc. We found ALL of the people we encountered to be rude with a lazy, whatever attitude. We didn’t let it ruin our trip as the island is beautiful and we went on two majestic sailboat adventures, but it just isn’t a place we would choose to return to. Kauai here we come!!!!!

  5. Yeah, we are about to take our second trip here in late Jan but our “vacation run” (like that term, btw!) led us here again: DL had $200 flights nyc>stt months ago on the 757s with BE seating. Not really our first choice of Starwood properties, but you can get decent value out of it (5th night free) vs many of the other options on the island (i.e caneel bay/other higher end resorts, vacation rentals, etc).

    Basically we had similar thoughts to those who have stayed there. OK resort, pretty lousy service, great island. We’re staying in one of the renovated pool rooms, so hopefully we’ll have a better non-villa room than what we had last time, but there’s still a lot of construction going on (beach cafe closed, other rooms under renovation). One thing I will add to visiting St John/staying at the Westin…we found it pretty much essential to have a rental car. Unlike a lot of other SPG resorts we’ve been to recently (st regis mauritius, st regis punta mita), we didn’t actually like being on the property, but LOVED the island, so our daily beach runs/nightly restaurant/bar excursions (and general freedom that the car afforded) made the property a lot more bearable. I think we would have gone insane without that car. The key is finding the rental car companies that allow travel to St John (Budget is one). So worth it.

  6. We have had great experiences staying here, but in the villas. The property is primarily and increasingly timeshares. You can sometimes get a studio villa using Starpoints which can be a great deal for five days; otherwise you are better off using Redweek or similar secondary market for a villa. I found service fine, and spent most of the time exploring beaches, which are some of the best around.

  7. We had been thinking of going here for our 20th anniversary in April. I think we will head elsewhere. Thanks for the honest review!

  8. This holiday season was our first in about 9 years that we didn’t spend on STJ. We absolutely love the Westin and even bought a timeshare a couple of years ago — but 1 week isn’t enough so we typically tack on an extra 5 days in hotel rooms. You need the right expectations — folks are on “Caribbean time,” certain things at the resort are inconsistent, food at the Beach Cafe leaves something to be desired, takes a long travel day given the ferry from STT. But we wouldn’t trade STJ for anyplace else — best beaches in the world IMHO (not the Westin’s, but the north shore beaches like Trunk and Cinnamon), very friendly people, a standard of living among the locals that you don’t have to shelter yourself from them (a reason we would not go to a great # of Caribbean islands), sunset and snorkeling sailboat cruises from the hotel, a number of gems of restaurants in Cruz Bay. And while the hotel rooms can be hit or miss depending on renovation, the new Bay Vista villas are fabulous. We missed it this year and already can’t wait for next xmas-time. We recommend giving it another try after the renovation so you can enjoy the pool and everything else. And bring your daughter!
    [by the way, pretty sure the info re Verizon is incorrect — if you are on the north shore of STJ, with any of the cell companies, you might pick up a BVI tower accidentally and roam so you have to be careful to turn off roaming but my phone is ATT and ipad is Verizon and both have worked fine at the Westin with local service]
    [also, don’t need a rental car — we haven’t gotten one in years. The kids go nuts for the taxis on STJ]

  9. We spend 6 days at this resort 2 yrs ago and had a good experience. The Island itself is one of my favorites. We didnt run into a dirty bathroom but the room was good and the property was above avg. The real treasures are Cinnamon and Trunk Bay and the restaurants in Cruz Bay.

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