Nov302009 Hotel Reviews Cover San Francisco

Oyster Hotel Reviews is a website offering users an abundance of visual information through hundreds of photos for a single hotel. This colorful photo hotel review site has been developing a portfolio of hotel reviews, one city at a time, for the past year. I like the concept of showing numerous photos of a hotel. Recently, San Francisco hotels were added to the site.

I commented to a hotelier once that when I write about hotels I want bias in my review. There is the AAA Tour Guide for a sterile, just the facts hotel description. A reader benefits from finding a reviewer with similar travel style and interests. Most Oyster Hotel Reviews have personality.

The interesting aspect of the Oyster Hotel Reviews is the different take I have on many of the hotels and neighborhoods described by the reviewers in San Francisco. I think travel reviewers are like music DJs.

My experience may not have been the typical experience for a hotel guest, but it was my experience. I try to reflect my stays accurately, good and bad, when I choose to review a hotel. I try to separate what may be one time circumstantial inadequacies from what appear to be systemic issues with the hotel experience. As always, hotel loyalty elite membership usually makes a significant impact on the hotel stay experience.

A common statement I see repeatedly in the Oyster hotel reviews for San Francisco are locals don’t hang out in the SOMA arts district, Union Square shopping and theatre district, or the Financial District. That doesn’t help me as a hotel guest with the hotel location. You don’t tell me where locals hang out. Besides, do I really want to be where the locals hang out? I’m a tourist.

Together with Fisherman’s Wharf, another area where locals don’t hang out much, these four areas contain 90% of the hotel rooms in San Francisco. There are 10,000 to 20,000+ tourists in these neighborhoods on any given day and plenty of businesses to cater to them. Restaurants, bars, and cafes are all around the downtown area. The central Financial District around the Mandarin Oriental and Le Meridien is a location a little more closed up at night and weekends, but there are great pubs and restaurants scattered throughout even the financial district.

The entire central business district of San Francisco is the hotel area for 95% of the city’s rooms. Of the city’s 750,000 locals, 95% live in other parts of San Francisco. San Francisco seems like a small city until you try moving from one end to the other in a bus or taxi.


Oyster Hotel Review – Starwood Hotels Luxury Collection – The Palace 

In the service section the reviewer states there was no doorman at arrival to help with bags and follows with the statement, “That wouldn’t happen at the St. Regis.”  Well, that did happen to me at the St. Regis last June when I was ignored by the doormen. Car valets were standing within 15 feet of me and didn’t bother to assist me at a time when no other guests were arriving.

One issue I have noticed with the Oyster reviews is the tendency to label hotel rooms as suites when there is not a separate sitting area room.

My helpful suggestion to make the photo sets more user-friendly is please use the same labels as the hotel’s own website uses for room types so a reader can match the Oyster photos to the correct room rate when searching hotel rates.

I find it interesting that the bed at the Palace Hotel was described as “sumptuous”.  Perhaps I like an abnormally firm bed since in my opinion I found the soft, bouncy bed the most serious flaw of the property after staying in three different rooms at the Palace Hotel this year.  The reviewer may have never had a back injury to know the value of a firm mattress.

Loyalty Traveler Palace Hotel review April 20, 2009 

History of the San Francisco Palace Hotel and California Earthquakes – Loyalty Traveler April 23, 2009

Maxfield Parrish painting in The Pied Piper bar at the Palace Hotel

Maxfield Parrish painting in The Pied Piper bar at the Palace Hotel


St. Regis San Francisco

Oyster Hotel reviews rates the St. Regis San Francisco as the best luxury hotel in the city. I won’t argue with that since I haven’t stayed in all the other luxury hotels. The St. Regis beds are the best I have slept on in 2009. The Oyster reviewer states a large staff prevented front desk pile-ups and the hotel has some of the best service in town.

A hotel may have only one opportunity to make a great impression. My three stays at the St. Regis San Francisco this year had me convinced the hotel had cut back too much on service. I didn’t feel the front desk was adequately staffed on several occasions. I saw inconsistencies in service between stays. The butler service is a standout feature of the hotel and that aspect of the service worked fine during all my stays.

Loyalty traveler St. Regis San Francisco hotel review part 1 – June 15, 2009

Loyalty traveler St. Regis San Francisco hotel review part 2 – June 16, 2009

Loyalty Traveler Best Bed Award goes to St. Regis San Francisco

Loyalty Traveler Best Bed Award goes to St. Regis San Francisco


Westin St. Francis

The reviewer suggests to readers to pick the Palace Hotel over the St. Francis. The rooms in the historic building are described as “small – 200 square feet or so.”

Sure, there are small rooms in the historic tower. I saw a woman once working her way around the bed in a tiny interior room and I wondered if she regretted booking the St. Francis. I have not stayed in one of those 200 square feet rooms.

I absolutely love the historic building rooms facing Union Square with windows that open and the sound of cable cars clanging below on Powell Street and musicians playing in the Square. My wife and I find the historic building of St. Francis to be some of the most romantic hotel rooms in the city. 

I am a Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum member. I book those 200 square feet room rates all the time when staying at the St. Francis. SPG elite-level membership means I have never actually had to stay in one of those small rooms. The Tower rooms are good for views, but lack the ambience of the historic section.

Loyalty Traveler Westin St. Francis Hotel review – June 7, 2009

Union Square late night view from historic St. Francis Hotel

Union Square late night view from historic St. Francis Hotel


Hyatt San Francisco

“Spitting distance from the Embarcadero and Union Square.”

The Embarcadero? True. The hotel is actually called the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero on building nameplates.

Spitting distance from Union Square? False

I recall being rather late for a meeting after a 15 minute walk to meet my sister last year.  I left the Hyatt Regency Club to meet her at the Starlight Room at the top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel at Union Square. Even Tiger Woods would require a few long club drives to get his ball the 0.75 mile distance from the Hyatt Embarcadero to Union Square.

There is little mention of the top floor Regency lounge in the Oyster review. As a Hyatt Diamond elite-level member of Gold Passport I get complimentary access to the Regency lounge. This is a great lounge for relaxing, viewing the waterfront, eating snacks and breakfast, using computers, or relaxing in a full body massage chair. The lounge makes this hotel my favorite in San Francisco when the rates are low.

The reviewer also lists this hotel as a dull part of town at night. I love the food places at the Ferry building and there is a bit of life here after dark. Take a night ferry on San Francisco Bay. The hotel is physically connected to the Embarcadero Complex offering a few blocks of shopping, a variety of restaurants, a movie theater, and overground pedestrian bridges linking the complex from the Hyatt hotel  to Le Meridien Hotel (formerly Park Hyatt) on the opposite end of the complex. There isn’t going to be a 4am rave happening in the Embarcadero Complex, but if you want to eat and drink, go to a comedy club (The Punchline), or see a movie, you can find it all in this neighborhood.

Loyalty Traveler Hyatt Regency photos and website useability issue – August 25, 2009

Loyalty Traveler Hyatt Regency San Francisco review – August 5, 2008

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Bay view

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Bay view


Bottom line on hotel reviews: There are all types of travelers and all types of reviewers. One person’s experience and expectations may not mirror another’s.

I am glad to see Starwood Hotels St. Regis (Best Luxury Hotel), Westin St. Francis (Best Hotel Restaurant) and Le Meridien (Best Business Hotel) rate highly with Oyster Hotel Reviews for their best in class picks.

Oyster Hotel Reviews San Francisco Best Hotels link.

View of Union Square from 10th floor St. Francis historic building junior suite

View of Union Square from 10th floor St. Francis historic building junior suite


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 in 2008.

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  1. San Francisco’s setting on a hill-dotted peninsula surrounded by bay and ocean gives it a plausible claim on the title of world’s most beautiful city.

  2. I stated in this article Fisherman’s Wharf is a place where locals don’t hang out. After spending the past two days around Fisherman’s Wharf I feel the need to qualify this statement.

    While the Wharf area itself is quite touristy, the major hotels on the adjacent Bay and North Point streets are actually border San Francisco local neighborhoods.

    The advantage to hotels in this area are the supermarkets like Safeway and Trader Joe’s by the major Fisherman’s Wharf hotels of Sheraton, Radisson, Hyatt, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, and Marriott.

    When staying at the major hotels in the Union Square area, there are only little corner stores with limited food selections.

    There are popular Italian restaurants and many other ethnic food eateries filled with locals in these Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhoods once you get away from the water. Where else can you have $2 pints of Guinness at an Irish pub sharing space with an Indian restaurant?

    A walk up Powell Street places you in the North Beach neighborhood with all sorts of trendy bars and restaurants in just 15 minutes. Chinatown is another five minutes walk.

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