Sep232009

St. Regis Monarch Beach – Part 1 – The Room

My only regret is I spent my last two Starwood Preferred Guest Free Weekend Nights at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, California. If I knew a month ago what I know now, I would have burned six free nights at the Mobil 5-star, SPG Category 6 St. Regis Monarch Beach.  I rank this hotel stay in my all-time Fave 5 hotel stays.

And I didn’t even get a room upgrade!

View from Room 146, North Wing, St. Regis Monarch Beach
View from Room 146, North Wing, St. Regis Monarch Beach

I have lots of photos of the Monarch Beach resort and I will write my review in several posts to break up the lengthy commentary and include more photos.

St. Regis Monarch Beach – Part 2 – The Hotel

St. Regis Monarch Beach – Part 3 – Pools and Beach

St. Regis Monarch Beach is truly a resort property. There is entertainment for all types. Water is a prominent feature at Monarch Beach. Three main swimming pools, a children’s wading pool, large Jacuzzi pools in two locations, small Jacuzzi pools in the men’s and women’s Spa Gaucin changing rooms, and an in-room deep Roman bath.

The Orange County Pacific Ocean water temperature was quite tolerable in the 85 degree sun of September for a day at the beach compared to our home area of Monterey on the Central Coast of California where swimming is an exercise in cold water endurance.

Golf, fine dining, exercise programs and personal trainers, tennis club, fitness center, beach club, surf lessons, and more await guests.

A mandatory $25 per day resort fee ($27.54 after tax and fees) covers local phone calls, internet access, and spa access for the saunas, Jacuzzis, fitness room, yoga room, and lap pool.

The most amazing part of the hotel stay for Kelley and me were the several hours we found ourselves swimming alone together in the resort pools while several hundred guests occupied themselves elsewhere on or off the premises.

We spotted porpoises leaping out of the water and pelican fly-bys while relaxing at the beach. We gazed on bats feeding in the twilight sky over the golf course from the Botanical Garden gazebo at dusk. We saw bobbing noses of bunnies on the grass lawns and in the shrubs all around the resort grounds throughout the weekend.

Relaxation and rejuvenation were welcome rewards from our weekend stay at the St. Regis Monarch Beach.

I fell through a Crack in the 5-Star Service:

Pre-arrival: I received four separate emails from the St. Regis Monarch Beach. A staff member from St. Regis Monarch Beach even called me three days before my arrival to greet me, ask if I had any needs or special requests, and offer assistance with any arrangements such as spa, restaurant, or golf reservations. One email provided menus for the restaurants and spa services.

Unfortunately, I missed opening the one email offering a room upgrade for additional cash.

Arrival: The hotel was easy to locate in Dana Point using Google Map directions. The main entrance wall has a large water fountain feature.

resort-entrance-fountain

There were several cars in the entry drive at 6:30pm when we arrived. A valet came over and Kelley directed him on our luggage while I checked in.

Front Desk:  There were three staff members working the front desk. I had no wait. Check-in was prompt.

No room upgrade as an SPG Platinum member. I was surprised to hear the front desk staffer state “Your reservation is for a King bed in a garden view room.”

Well yes, that is what my reservation stated for the room I booked.

This was the first time in at least a couple of years I did not receive any kind of hotel recognition as a SPG Platinum member. Just mentioning the words “Starwood Preferred Guest” and “Platinum member” elicited the response, “We are a resort. We don’t have to provide a platinum amenity.”

This was promptly followed by “Is there anything I can have sent to your room?”

The message seemed clear. The free night in the lowest category room was my only free ride. Any additional perks would require additional cash.

This was the missed upsell opportunity by the St. Regis. I hadn’t read the email before arriving that offered me an opportunity to upgrade my room category for additional cash. The front desk staff did not pitch an upgrade offer. We were celebrating the end of Kelley’s 9-month long cancer treatment and her birthday and I would have paid a supplement for a room with a view.

st-regis-mb-sunset-shadows

Parking: I thought it odd but I appreciated the staff member insisting he walk out to my car with me to see if my luggage was being attended to promptly. Our luggage was already loaded on a cart. The parking valet explained my two parking options for $30 per day valet parking with in-and-out privileges or $24 per day for self-park with no in-and-out privileges.

I told them I would self-park since I had a third parking option plan. Stonehill Drive, one long block away from the resort, has about 100 yards of unmetered, unrestricted parking. The street parking was only half-full when I passed it on the way to the resort. Stonehill Drive leads to upscale residential gated communities and is located across from a fire station. Stonehill Drive free parking is less than a ten-minute walk from the hotel. I parked my car there for two days.

The St. Regis self-park garage beneath the hotel allows one free hour and then charges $5 per hour up to the daily self-park fee limit. You must have your ticket validated and pay parking garage charges upstairs at a window just to the right of the front lobby entrance before you can exit the garage.

Kelley was escorted to the room with the luggage as I self-parked the car for my free hour before moving the car to Stonehill Drive for the weekend.

The Room:

St. Regis Monarch Beach has north and south hotel wings. The south wing is the smaller wing located on the conference center side of the resort. Rooms either face interior to the resort pools and gardens, exterior to resort grassy areas and gardens, or face the ocean at the ends of these two wings.

Our room was #146 on the ground floor of the north wing.

The north wing of St. Regis Monarch Beach

The north wing of St. Regis Monarch Beach

The room itself was lovely.  The location within the resort was not so lovely. Our room was a ground floor interior resort facing room. We were one room away from the main central building and our room view gazed out to the wall of a stairway leading to the third floor restaurant Motif. I would place this room location in the bottom 20% of room locations at the resort.

South Wing of St. Regis Monarch Beach

South Wing of St. Regis Monarch Beach

There really aren’t bad room locations at Monarch Beach from my visual observation of the property. Our particular room location at 146 just happened to gaze out on one of the more crowded pedestrian walkways in the resort due to anyone on the upper floors of the north wing taking the elevator down to the First Floor doors exiting the hotel to the grounds and pools. A parade of guests, children, and dogs passed just outside the patio of our room throughout the day heading to and returning from the resort pools.

room-146-patio-view-day

The advantage of Room 146 was the proximity to the only elevators in the north wing and ground floor access to the resort pools. Last time I stayed at St. Regis Monarch Beach in 2005 I was upgraded to a deluxe ocean view room on a middle floor at the end of the north wing (back then I did receive a complimentary SPG platinum member upgrade). The ocean facing rooms at the west end of the north wing are about a 150-yard walk down long hotel corridors from the elevators.

Having also spent several nights in the St. Regis San Francisco this month I can compare and contrast the two rooms. Bathrooms in each hotel are comparable. They are nice. Monarch Beach rooms, like most San Francisco St. Regis rooms, have shutters on the wall between the bath and bed. San Francisco has a nicer rain shower feature.

bathroom-shower

Our Monarch Beach standard bathroom had two sinks.

bathroom-decor

Remede bath products are provided at both St. Regis hotels.

bath-amenities

There were plenty of towels for our weekend stay without needing any replacements. My effort at being hotel “green” is to avoid changing towels during a hotel stay when I can get by with the standard room allotment.

bath-towels-robe

The only issue with the room we encountered was the shower leaked onto the marble floor and even to the carpet. There was a slight bit of rot in the doorjamb. We kept pool towels on the floor to absorb water and prevent slippage. The towel covered floor kind of detracted from the beautiful décor.

shower-runoff

The beds and bedding are higher quality in San Francisco. The Monarch Beach bed was a little broken down on the edges. I could feel the mattress metal springs on the side.

bed

The other pieces of room furniture were better quality at Monarch Beach.

tv-cabinet

Our standard room had two desk chairs, a cushion chair, chaise lounge chair and two metal patio chairs, whereas the basic rooms in San Francisco only have one chaise lounge and one or maybe two desk chairs. Overall, I thought the room décor at Monarch Beach was better.

chaise-lounge

Every room at Monarch Beach has either a patio or balcony and window door.

Desk Chair

Desk Chair

 

Somehow I overlooked taking a photo of the desk and large slanted floor standing wall mirror used as a prominent design element within the hotel. I think we had so much stuff it was always cluttered.

mirror-and-desk-lamp

In the closet were wooden hangars, an iron and board, umbrella, shoe shine brush, and safe.

room-safe

There are no ice machines which I find to be a drag at any hotel. I find calling for ice an unnecessary inconvenience. Evening maid service provides a bag of ice for the room.

mini-bar

The room description on the Starwood website states rooms have a 47” LCD TV. My measurement of the LG brand screen showed 42”.

entry-hall

The room is listed as 535 square feet on the website room description. My measurement of the room interior was 33 feet from door to window and 13.5 to 14.5 ft wide. This works out to about 470 square feet plus the patio. With the patio the room space is slightly over 535 square feet, but an upper floor room has a much smaller balcony than the patio. The rooms are sizeable and feel spacious.

A hotel guidebook on the desk provided details about the facilities including how to lock the patio door. I actually made a trip to the desk to tell them I thought the patio door lock was broken. Apparently the bellhop had shown Kelley that you must lift the door handle to lock the door and I wasn’t there for the demonstration.

 

Room 146 Nightstand and Clock/CD Player

Room 146 Nightstand and Clock/CD Player

 

Resort Charge Policy

The hotel has a daily resort charge of $25.00 that includes the following: spa facilities (steam room, whirlpool, relaxation room, refreshments, shower facilities, sauna); high speed internet access; toll free and local phones calls. Amenities and prices are subject to change without notice.

Missed Upsell Opportunity

Unfortunately for my overall guest experience, I missed opening the email titled “Welcome to the St. Regis Monarch Beach” sent to me Thursday afternoon offering me the opportunity to upgrade my room to a resort view for $30, ocean view for $60, or executive suite for $120.

The St. Regis guest services person who phoned me Wednesday never mentioned this option and the front desk staff member who checked me in never mentioned the upgrade for cash option. I actually just saw the email today, two days after returning home, as I was looking over the four emails I received last week from Monarch Beach regarding my hotel stay.

A different title for the email suggesting an upgrade opportunity would have caught my attention when scanning email. The first email I received on Tuesday was titled, ”Welcome to the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort” and the email contents simply stated my reservation information with the following message:

 

Dear Richard Garrido,

Congratulations. You have successfully redeemed your Starpoints.
Thank you for selecting The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort. It is our pleasure to confirm your reservation, and we look forward to welcoming you once again as a guest to our hotel.
Best regards,
Johnny So
General Manager
The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort
 

 

 

 

On Thursday, the same day I booked a second night at Monarch Beach using my last free weekend night, I received another email also titled, ”Welcome to the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort” that simply showed my second reservation confirmation number in the email content line.

I never opened this since I thought it simply stated my reservation information similar to the first email.

Instead the contents of this email read:

Dear Richard Garrido,

Congratulations. You have successfully redeemed your Starpoints.

Thank you for selecting The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, California’s Only Mobil Five-Star Resort. It is our pleasure to confirm your reservation, and we look forward to welcoming you as a guest to our hotel.

We are pleased extend to you an exclusive offer to upgrade your room from $30 per night. Click image to the right for details.

Note: Special Conditions regarding the spa lap pool and Jacuzzi exist at this time. 

Best regards,

Johnny So

General Manager The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort

 

The other interesting feature of this email is the “Special Conditions” link makes no reference whatsoever to the spa lap pool.

St Regis Upgrade Request email

The image on the right regarding room upgrades linked to this page:

Resort View Room = $30 per night.

Ocean View Room Upgrade = $60 per night.

Executive Suite Upgrade = $120 per night.

 

While I do mind paying $50 to park at the hotel when I can park down the street for free, or $150 for breakfast, I would have gladly paid $60 to $120 to upgrade my hotel room if I had been offered that option at check-in.

 

Resort and Pool View from upper North Wing Floor

Resort and Pool View from upper North Wing Floor

 

 

 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. Thorough review! Although I have to say that the room really doesn’t match the build-up you gave it in the first few paragraphs. I was expecting something fantastic if it was one of your top 5 hotels. Looked more like a typical upscale Vegas hotel room.

    Well, maybe part 2 will explain why you raved about it ! 🙂

  2. The California beach resort experience is what I enjoyed and why I placed this stay in my fave 5.
    The room was a nice upscale room. The room certainly does not rank in the top 5 of rooms I’ve stayed.

    I don’t go to many beach resorts. I lived on the beach in Hawaii for a couple of months in the 70s but I’ve never been to a Hawaii resort.

    My beach resort experience in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Bali all had the same feature of beach vendors being so intrusive that I could not comfortably hang out on the beach while staying in resorts.

    The beach at Monarch Bay is a pretty, sandy beach and relatively secluded due to cliffs on the south and north ends.

    Despite the perception of the resort beach being a private beach, it is not. Anyone can use the public access trail and walk through St. Regis Monarch Beach golf course to go to the beach for the day. California has public access laws for beaches. Only the Monarch Bay Club is private access for resort guests.

    Hotels in Vegas are beautiful but lack two features of St. Regis Monarch Beach – severely limited pool hours at almost all casino hotels (MB is 24 hour pool access) and there is no Pacific Ocean beach sunset view in Vegas.

    Oh yeah. While Vegas is known for cheap rooms, my daily rate for the St. Regis Monarch Beach came out to a grand total of $27.54 per night. That’s why I am a loyalty traveler.

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