Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Luxury

St. Regis Rome Deluxe Room Review: Just too many points

Location: Rome, Italy

Overall rating: 7/10

Pros: Great location, amazingly ornate room, fun splurge for a night

Cons: Under construction at the time, cost way too many points

This review is dated now, but I wanted to wrap up this draft from our Europe adventures in 2016.

During our thirty days in Europe during 2016, my wife and I visited Rome as our last stop before moving on from Italy. For the five nights prior we had been visiting Florence, a lovely city of art and history (SEE: Hilton Florence Metropole: A Review). Even that wasn’t enough time to scratch the surface of what Florence has to offer. But we had to move on.

For our first night I’d booked the St. Regis Rome. It was very close to the train station and one of the splurges I’d settled on for the trip. Whether it would really live up to my expectations remained to be seen.

I booked a deluxe room since there weren’t any standard rooms available for our one night. The equivalent room was going for over $500 per night, so it was a fairly reasonable use of 21,500 SPG points. Reasonable meaning we got what I consider a par “value” for them, when comparing cash rates versus points rates.

Arrival in Rome

We arrived in Rome from Florence on the Frecciarossa train. Frecciarossa literally means “red arrow”. It was definitely the fastest train I’ve ridden and brought us to Rome in no time at all. First on the agenda was picking up our 72-hour Roma passes (SEE: Roma Pass vs Omnia Pass: which is better?). Afterwards, it was off to the hotel.

Although we probably could have walked to the St. Regis directly from the Termini train station, I decided it would be easier to take the metro one stop to the Repubblica station. The St. Regis Rome was only a short walk from there.

First impressions

I had remembered reading that the St. Regis Rome was under renovation. I don’t know exactly where the normal main entrance is, but is certainly wasn’t where we were checked in. I’m sure things are back to normal by now.

The hotel was very regal, and pretty much what I expected a St. Regis to be. The first thing that pops into my head is royalty. The place was over-the-top ornate. We made our way up a grand staircase to our room. The bellhop brought our luggage, something I don’t allow often.

We were in room 222. It was even named.

Deluxe Room

As I mentioned before, standard rooms were all booked during our dates, so I had to call in and book a deluxe room. The ability to book upgraded room categories for a relatively small points increase was an awesome feature of the SPG program. I’m not sure the combined SPG/Marriott program will offer the same value.

Our deluxe room was quite the sight when we opened the door.

From the wall art, to the draperies, to the furnishings, it amazes me that people design hotel rooms like this. We were really out of our element here.

st. regis rome

Our deluxe room at the St. Regis Rome wasn’t especially large, but it was more than comfortable. I made sure I got photos of it from every angle.

Maybe the Cupola di S. Rocco is in reference to the painting above the bed? That was my only guess. That’s the only dome I can spy.

At the end of the bed was a comfortable love seat and coffee table. It was a nice design of living area combined with bedroom in minimal space.

The desk was as regal as everything else. So much for chair comfort, though. There was no way I could have worked in that for more than 30 minutes without wanting to find something else.

There was a smaller table that appeared to be for the sole purpose of doing your makeup, given the lighting and mirrors.

The interior and closet doors were even decorative.

It was a lovely room, and like a couple other properties on this trip, leagues beyond any hotel I’d ever stayed at prior to this trip.

Bathroom

The bathroom was super nice, but it wasn’t the all-time best. We’d just been in the Park Hyatt Milan several nights before and that is still the winner for best hotel bathroom (and best bath amenities…the shampoo smells amazing).

Like the Park Hyatt Milan, the bathroom featured both a bathtub and a shower. If this is a typical feature of high end hotels, I’m definitely a fan.

The glassed-in shower was plenty large and had both a large overhead shower-head and a small detachable one.

The sink area was fairly large and the mirror gilded, like so many other things in the room.

Then there was the phone next to the toilet again, something I’d first noticed at the Hyatt Regency Palais du la Mediteranee.

If a toilet phone is what it takes to be a “fancy” hotel, I just don’t get it.

St. Regis Rome Butler service?

On of the hallmarks of the St. Regis brand is their renowned butler service. Turns out we needed at least an “Imperial Room” for this to be a part of our stay. It would have cost some more points, and we were already spending plenty as it was. It wasn’t like we needed that sort of service anyway, although it would have been a cool experience. I wonder if he would have brought us groceries?

I suppose he might also expect us to tip him handsomely. At $500+ per night, I’m sure whatever we could have given him would not have been satisfactory. We are peasants who can make do without being waited on.

Signature St. Regis Rome experiences

There are a couple experiences I read about that you can enjoy at the St. Regis Rome. First, there is a daily high tea that you can enjoy. You just better be made of money. Tea costs €28 per person.

In the evening there is a champagne sabering. Before our stay, I had no idea what that this is. Thanks to Google, one can look up these sorts of things if they are lacking in “culture”. At 7:00 p.m. every evening guests can gather in the Caelum Lounge and Bar to watch the opening of a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne. By saber. Yeah. It’s a thing.

I guess there is an art to it. Rather than slash the glass of the beck of the bottle, the blade slides along the seam in the bottle until it impacts the joint with the glass seam at the cork, causing a clean break, a flying cork, and a small jet of foamy champagne as an exciting start to enjoying a glass of bubbly.

If you want breakfast at the hotel, be prepared to pay a pretty penny. It would have been nice to be a Starwood Platinum member when we stayed there, but I didn’t have a way of hacking that status at the time. Breakfast for the non-elite runs €43 per person. Don’t choke on your coffee.

We pretty much enjoyed the hotel for the bulk of our stay. I had requested late  checkout, so we were able to enjoy Rome a bit the next day, but our evening at the St. Regis Rome was pretty much just spent hanging out in our lovely room. After days of walking all around Florence, we needed a break.

Conclusion

Hindsight is always 20/20. This stay in particular taught me how content we are with burning points at midscale hotels. The St. Regis Rome was way out of our league.

It was a fun night at a fancy place, but it didn’t provide us any more value staying here rather than at the Sheraton, except for maybe an hour’s worth of time savings. Honestly, we got way less value. We could have spent four nights at the Sheraton Roma for what we paid for the St. Regis. And breakfast would have been included. That would have been the winner, hands down. Our stay at the St. Regis Rome is a very clear example of Vendoming.

The St. Regis Rome wasn’t a bad hotel, it was just way beyond what we needed. In the future I am going to be far more selective with where we stay. After all, when a Hyatt House is basically your wife’s favorite hotel, there’s no need to go all out. 😉

Getting My First Complimentary Upgrade Ever

A few weeks ago I attained airline status for the first time ever. Due to the completion of a Marriott Platinum challenge (SEE: Fast track status: how to sign up for a Marriott Platinum challenge), I was granted Marriott Platinum status, which also gives United Premier Silver status as a published perk (the two programs offer a set of reciprocal benefits).

This coincided nicely with a work trip. I’ve flown Delta lately when headed east, which is my personal preference. But this time I couldn’t justify the expense and time of the drive to the Bay. So United it was out of our tiny local airport. At least this could be my first-ever shot at an upgrade.

Upgrade to First? Yes, please

When I checked in, I was told I’d be placed on the list for complimentary upgrades. I had high hopes for my first flight of the day. Only five first class seats were booked, leaving seven available for upgrades. There can’t be *that* many people with United status flying out of Arcata, can there? But I’d have to wait until the next day to find out.

Much to my surprise, the confirmation came within the hour. I received an automated email from United saying I’d been upgraded, and that my new seat was 4A. Score!

I had understood this wouldn’t be processed until the day of travel. But the news was happily welcomed. I’d even landed in one of the awesome seats along the left side of the plane that is both a window and an aisle seat. This really couldn’t be any better.

Flying in first for thirty-seven minutes

I was among the first to board the next day, and I got to gaze out the window and watch the other passengers climb the ramp to the plane. The flight attendant brought me an orange juice while I waited for everyone else to take their seats. It was a lovely Humboldt County morning.

We departed on time, and the flight attendant began beverage service as soon as we reached 10,000 feet. I requested a coffee. Unlike the economy experience, it came in an actual mug.

The flight attendant also brought around a basket loaded with snacks. We could pick what we wanted. I opted for just a stroopwafel.

The flight is a super short hop. I’ve done it many times in economy, and it’s a totally enjoyable experience on the ERJ-175. But it was super cool to be up in first this time. Even after all my flight segments, this was (amazingly) my first time traveling in domestic first class. I’ve traveled in international business class and first class once each, which is a different world entirely.

The misplaced focus on airline status

In the majority of cases, airline status is something that should be earned 100% organically. That is, if you have to expend extra effort or money to achieve status, you probably aren’t flying enough to really enjoy the benefits.

Even after saying this, I am on track to earn Delta Gold Medallion status this year. A couple work trips, plus our trip to France (paid with mostly points, but a cash fare), and some extra medallion qualifying miles (MQMs) from card bonuses makes it a fairly easy target. I’m losing a bit on opportunity cost, as Delta miles aren’t quite as valuable as other currencies. But it’s still something I’d like to shoot for while it is within reach and won’t cost any extra cash out the door [SEE: How to earn airline elite status without flying (a lot)].

Keeping it real

Although I could certainly get used to traveling like this, I have to remember that status won’t last forever. And it won’t always send me to the front of the plane. But even though it was just a 37-minute hop from Arcata to San Francisco, it was still super cool to sit in the front of the plane without shelling out either miles or cash. The ERJ-175 may be the nicest ride in domestic first class, too, even over larger aircraft. The ‘A’ seats are also by themselves, giving you both a window and aisle access.

Will I get upgraded again? Why, yes. I’m currently waiting to depart on the second leg my current trip, and I had another upgrade clear. Maybe it will be hard to go back to economy after this. 😉

Hyatt Regency Palais du la Mediteranee: A Review

Location: Nice, France

Overall Rating: 9/10

The Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée has an enviable location along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France. The gorgeous blue water of the Mediterranean is at your doorstep, and the Vieux Ville (Old Town) is a mere 10 minute walk. All the research I did when planning our summer trip to Europe pointed to this hotel as the best option for our stay in Nice. With our Hyatt free night certificates freshly in hand, I used all but one to book a three night stay for the first few nights of our trip. The cash rate was running about €400 per night, so I’d say this was a great use of our free nights!

Arrival at the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditeranée

The hotel is very easy to access from the airport. The #98 express bus runs from the airport to the promenade and old town every 20 minutes for most of the day, and it is a bargain at €6 per person one-way. A taxi or Uber journey will run you an easy €40, if not substantially more! And lest you think it may be inconvenient to walk from a bus stop to the hotel, bus #98 literally stops just down the block from the Hyatt Regency.

nice_hyatt entrance

Across the Promenade des Anglais from the hotel.

The hotel looks impressive from the outside. The hotel entry is on the corner, where you are greeted by a beautiful lobby and cheerful staff. The front desk was very helpful and professional. At check in we were given a modest upgrade to a “Partial Sea View” room on the 8th floor. We’ll see how partial this is. The elevator and hall are elegant, but definitely not overstated. Our room was the second to last one on the floor and quite a ways from the elevator.

nice_hyatt hallway

Eighth floor hallway.

The doors used the modern NFC key cards, which I much prefer to the old mag-stripe ones. This stay would have gone smoothly, except it was on three reservations (as each Hyatt free night has to be booked individually). Our keys seemed to reset during the middle of each day. I had expected the staff to link the reservations, but that didn’t seem to affect the programming of the room keys. We had to get new ones every afternoon. Small detail, but kinda annoying.

Our “Partial Sea View” Room

We stepped into our room, excited to see what a Hyatt Regency is all about. This was the first true luxury hotel my wife and I had ever stayed at.

hyatt nice hall

Entry hall.

The layout of the room is nice. There bathroom is directly to the left as you enter, separated into a small toilet room and then the main bath. The closet is opposite, and then the bedroom beyond.

hyatt nice bathroom

Bathroom sink and tub.

The bathroom is lovely. It featured a very nice tub, sizable sink, and a large tiled shower. My wife’s only complaint was the placement of the hair dryer. It was located on the left side, the cord wasn’t especially long, and you had to push the button the whole time to keep it on. It was awkward as she (and most people) are right handed. But it was a small detail.

hyatt_nice shower

Shower.

The room as a whole was absolutely wonderful and by far the nicest in which we had ever stayed (at that point…this was our first big points trip with luxury stays). I could truly say it was my favorite hotel ever, but my perspective may have been skewed by the fact that we had just finished a brutal 25 hours of travel. The Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée was a perfect oasis of comfort for us.

hyatt_nice bed

Bed and nightstands.

The bed was heavenly. We slept very well our first night, and the next two as well. One handy thing was the fact that the light switches next to the lamps didn’t just control the lamps, but other lights in the room, too.

hyatt_nice desk

Large desk.

The desk was large and comfortable. There was a small tray with a hot water kettle, two mugs, tea, and instant coffee. The instant coffee was a surprise. With the going rate for the place often over €400, I figured they would offer better than that. Nescafé really doesn’t cut it.

nice_hyatt desk closeup

Desk closeup.

Compared to a U.S. hotel of similar quality, the T.V. was small. It didn’t really matter, though, because we never turned it on. Besides the first night of our vacation, I don’t think we ever turned a TV on. With how connected millennials’ lives are to the internet, I wonder if the television will be obsolete someday.

hyatt_nice toilet

Yes, that’s a phone on the wall.

The place had three phones. One on the desk, one by the bed, and one…..in the toilet room. Cause that’s totally normal. This was actually mystifying at first, and after doing some research, the best answer I found was that it is most likely just because of the diamond ratings for properties, and also likely a holdover for business travelers from the pre-cellphone days.

The room had a small computerized minibar with a selection of drinks and snacks. We never help ourselves to any, but the prices started around €5 and moved quickly upward. There was a small section in the minibar that we used to store our own food.

hyatt_nice view

Our 8th floor room is classified as ‘Partial Sea View’, at least according to the front desk. In reality, it is a pool view room. While it is true that the ocean is technically visible from the balcony, because of the structure of the front of the hotel, we could only see a few square feet of the Mediterranean. The better rooms were clearly either one floor up, or a few floors down.

The balcony with table and chairs was great for relaxing. We spent some time enjoying the warm and humid summer air of the French Riviera.

The room did give us a view of the pool and terrace restaurant. On our final morning, I finally took a half-hour swim. Staff were busy cleaning and setting out towels, and I felt like I was disrupting them a little. I don’t think they expected anyone in the pool so early.

hyatt_nice pool

The pool was fantastic. The final day included a morning swim as other guests headed to breakfast.

Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée?

Since neither my wife nor I have Hyatt Diamond status, breakfast wasn’t complimentary. Nor was it included in our rate. The morning buffet costs over €25 per person, so we weren’t even tempted. I enjoyed breakfast one morning at a little place just down the street called Sarao. Still pricey at €8.

nice_breakfast not_hyatt

Breakfast at Sarao for ~€8. One minute walk from the Hyatt Regency.

It was quite good, and I felt like it gave me at least a taste of the typical French breakfast. The coffee is still American style. I can’t get used to the typical French coffees, which are essentially a shot of espresso.

 

nice_breakfast seating

Nice is quiet in the morning. The place was nearly empty at 8:00 a.m.

But the location is perfect

The Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée has great beach access. The hotel offers daily sunbed and umbrella reservations at one of the private beaches nearby for €27. This is a bit rich for my blood, not to mention sunning myself on the beach really isn’t my thing.

nice_beach

The brilliant azure water of the Bay of Angels.

The old city is a mere ten minute walk, and was the highlight of our time in Nice. My wife loved the market. Nice is famous for its flower market, but there are plenty more vendors selling local produce, cheeses, and other products.

The best treat, though, was the socca, a regional specialty. It is like a giant pancake made of chickpea flour, water, oil, and salt. Fresh out of the pan, socca is absolutely delicious! We wife hopes to make it at home.

nice_socca

Overall, our stay at the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée was a spectacular use of our free night certificates. Nice is very expensive in the summer, and we were able to stay at a wonderful beachfront hotel for only the cost of the city taxes (~$20). Our room was wondrously comfortable and the hotel was in a great location. It is a stay that I would gladly repeat.