Review: The US Grant Hotel, San Diego

Late last week I was in San Diego for a night with a friend. As you may recall, I had a tough time deciding where to stay. I’m absolutely addicted to miles and points, and have top tier status with Hyatt and Priority Club/InterContinental. So logic would have dictated that I stay either at the Andaz (to take advantage of my Hyatt status) or the Hotel Indigo (to take advantage of my Priority Club status). I honestly couldn’t decide, so ended up only making a booking while sitting in the Red Carpet Club at O’Hare, about to hop on a flight to San Diego.

What did we decide on? Neither. We went with the US Grant, a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel. The room cost $189 through American Express’ “Fine Hotels & Resorts” collection, which was $50 more than the cost directly on the hotel website. But through Fine Hotels & Resorts the room came with a $100 food and beverage credit, free breakfast, and a room upgrade. For $189 that’s pretty tough to beat, and I figured it would be an interesting hotel to review as well.

We arrived at around 7PM after taking a cab from the airport, which was about $15. The lobby was fairly “grand,” though totally empty.


Entrance


Lobby

There was a single agent working at the reception desk, and she was on the phone as we arrived, so we had to wait for a few minutes. Most definitely not a great first impression of the hotel, especially since they only had one person working. But that was quickly forgiven, as the lady working the desk was very, very professional. She explained we had been upgraded to a Signature Suite with two king beds (two king beds=awesome). She further informed us that we could have breakfast and dinner at The Grant Grill using our food and beverage credit. Soon enough we were off to our room.


Elevator area

While the hotel has been recently renovated, the elevators were (understandably) tiny, given how old the hotel is. Fortunately there were never long waits and we never had to share the elevators with others, so that didn’t turn out to be an issue. We arrived at room 707, where there was an entrance foyer leading to the bedroom, living room, and bathroom.


Entrance foyer


Bedroom


Bedroom looking towards living room


Living room


Bathroom


Shower and toilet


Toiletries


Floor layout

We were both really, really impressed by the room. First of all, I was impressed that we were upgraded to such a nice room just by booking through Fine Hotels & Resorts. I fully expect to end up in a basic room when booking through a hotel chain with which I don’t have top tier status, so this was really, really impressive; at most I was expecting a “deluxe” room or room with a view. I also really liked the layout and decor of the room. Usually I’m all for modern hotels, but they did an amazing job restoring this place — the room felt modern while still retaining some “old world charm” (gosh, I feel as cheesy as Samantha Brown from Great Hotels when I phrase it like that).

So they get all the credit in the world from me for the amazing restoration job they did. Wireless internet was $13 per day. I haven’t paid for wireless internet in a very long time thanks to my status with Hyatt and InterContinental, so decided to take an evening and morning off of work and not use my computer. Quite refreshing, actually!

Unfortunately the excitement wore off pretty quickly when my friend found a bug in the bathroom. He’s more neurotic than I am, and insisted it was a bedbug. I wasn’t so sure, which left me with only one option — go onto Twitter to figure out what the real story was. The responses were mixed. My friend insisted that it was blood inside of the bug, which he thought made it a bedbug.


Bug

So we went down to the front desk and asked if someone could come up to our room to take a look at the bug. I have to say they handled the situation really professionally. Within a few minutes an “engineer” arrived at our room (he even consistently addressed me by name), and removed the bug, explaining they’d do a test on it, but that he didn’t think it was a bedbug. But he was truly very professional in handling the situation. He asked if we wanted to switch rooms, and we expressed a preference for doing so.

Moments later we got a call from the front desk, offering us a suite on the 11th floor. The guest relations guy on duty met us up there with a new set of keys. Unfortunately this was far from a suite (I’d guess slightly larger than standard room at best), and it had two double beds instead of two king beds. This is also where I start to get neurotic. In seeking advice from people on Twitter, many asked whether the original room smelled sweet, since that would be a sign that there are bedbugs. The original room didn’t smell sweet, though this one did. Now, I’m sure the hotel doesn’t have bedbugs, but this is where perception seems to kick in more than anything else.

So embarrassingly enough we trotted down to the reception again and asked if we could switch back to our original room. The original lady that had checked us in gladly switched us over, and couldn’t have been more professional and apologetic about everything. We felt like such chronic complainers, though the thing was we weren’t trying to get anything out of this — it was just that at that point, we felt more comfortable in the original room.

Anyway, the lady at reception tried to offer us something, like a $50 breakfast credit, though we reminded her that we already had that included and really didn’t want anything. Eventually she said “well, I see you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest member, so we’ll credit your account with some extra points.”

All of the employees at this hotel really do deserve credit for going above and beyond. They were truly top notch.

Eventually we were once again settled into our original room, feeling much more comfortable about everything.

Once settled in again it was around 9PM, so we decided to go Grant Grill for dinner. We had $100 to spend, which was plenty for a nice dinner. The restaurant was deserted, so we got a nice private booth.


Grant Grill

To start they offered focaccia bread, which was insanely good. It was quite possibly the best bread I’ve ever had.


Focaccia bread

Then they offered an amuse bouche consisting of some crab-tasting thing. Also quite good.


Amuse bouche

As an appetizer we ordered crab risotto.


Dungeness Crab Risotto, Snap Peas, Green Tomato Relish, and Toasted Pine Nuts

For the main course my friend had sea bass and I had chicken. My friend liked the bass, though I wasn’t a huge fan of the chicken.


Herb Crusted Californian Sea Bass, Artichokes, Sweet White Corn, Garbanzo Beans, Citrus Tomato Sauce


Roasted Organic Chicken, Farrotto, Peaches, Swiss Chard, Golden Raisins


Side of Creamed Corn

For dessert I had a chocolate tart with espresso ice cream. It was delicious, though in fairness I rarely come across a dessert I don’t like.


Chocolate Tart with Espresso Ice Cream

All in, with soft drinks, tax, and tip, the dinner came out to just a bit over $100, which was reasonable (especially when included with the room!).

We had breakfast with FlyerTalk’s illustrious “Mr. Pickles” in the restaurant as well, where I had a shrimp frittata which was quite delicious, though a bit overpriced at $18.


Laughing Bird Shrimp Frittata with Old Quebec White Cheddar Mornay, Avocado

We checked out at around noon, and once again had the same lady checking us out that checked us in. She was incredibly professional, mentioned that she had credited some extra points to my account, and genuinely seemed interested in how our stay was. In the end they credited 2,500 bonus bonus to my account, which, while not overly generous, is more than reasonable given how proactive and professional they were in handling the situation… not to mention the fact that I really didn’t want anything! Most impressive of all, I received a personalized email today from the Director of Operations apologizing once again for the situation.

Would I return? Probably. There’s no doubt the value I received was excellent, but the thing always holding me back is straying outside of my usual preferred hotel chains. If I ever status match to Starwood Platinum this is the place I’d stay in San Diego, though if Priority Club or Hyatt were offering compelling promotions, I’d probably be stuck staying with them.

But this hotel has excellent employees and an excellent “hard product.” If you can get a deal like I got, I would highly recommend this hotel.

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Comments

  1. Nice report. Unfortunate that you had an extra ‘guest’ in your room. The true colors of an establishment are displayed when a shortcoming occurs, and it looks like The US Grant did a textbook job of trying to make things right for you.

  2. When you book through a non-spg.com channel, I was under the impression that you do not receive spg credit. Did you receive spg credit? Curious…

    Thanks.

  3. @ mark @ MT — I did receive credit and points for my stay. I believe that “Fine Hotels & Resorts” stays qualify for points and credit for almost every chain, since it’s more or less the published rate plus some benefits. I’ve always received credit with InterContinental as well on FHR stays.

  4. Is it just me or does your friend seem a bit *too* neurotic about the bug? Perhaps the window was open and it crawled in? It seems too large for a bedbug.

  5. @MS – Well OBVIOUSLY you have never been viciously ATTACKED by the little monsters. They are out to get you, and if your safety has never been compromised by the blood sucking demons, I’m sure you’d have the opinion I’m *neurotic*. Bite me (no pun intended).

  6. Your trip reports are so accessible yet thorough, informative, and entertaining. This one was outstanding… impressive that the hotel stepped up to help with an undesirable situation.

    My unsolicited opinion is that you’re obviously a points/miles/tricks of the trade expert and you’re very generous in sharing your knowledge and experience.

    While your blog is well balanced… for me the gems are your trip reports and your stories concerning the behavior of both passengers/guests and employees. Keep them coming

  7. FYI That was nothing but a little baby roach. Bedbugs are VERY tiny and don’t have little antennae like that. Still…… at least they came to the room and removed your extra visitor. šŸ™‚

  8. Lucky, did they know who you were? Am I the only one who thinks the treatment & upgrade was a bit fishy, like they knew they were being reviewed? Especially for someone who doesn’t have elite spg status (correct if I’m wrong)

  9. What status level are you with SPG?

    Also, look at Lucky, letting potential blog content influence hotel selection…

  10. @ Ken

    It’s not that fishy… FHR benefits vary from hotel to hotel. While only a single level upgrade is usually offered, when staying at relatively empty hotels for one night (which the US Grant appeared to be when Lucky stayed there) I have been upgraded all the way to one of their largest suites despite only booking a standard room and having low status. It all depends on what is available and how long you are staying. It’s in hotels’ best interest to treat FHR guests well as they are usually relatively wealthy (benefits reserved for Amex Platinum/Centurion cardholders) and could potentially spend more at your hotel if treated well. Lucky has to be at least a SPG Gold as the cards that offer FHR also bestow SPG Gold on their holders, but I bet the treatment was more due to the FHR benefits than SPG.

  11. @ Floyd — Thanks!

    @ Ken — I booked four hours before I arrived, so I can’t imagine so. The hotel just has a lot of suites, and as chasgoose says, some hotels do seem to take good care of guests on FHR stays. I am an SPG Gold, though only added my number at check-in, since I didn’t have time to do so beforehand.

    @ David — What can I say, I really care about you guys. šŸ˜‰

  12. I stayed at the Grant last week, and then the Westin San Diego where I had a similar bug incident. They couldn’t have been more professional. Although they didn’t get me a suite, they had us in a new room immediately (with a much better view), and credited me 2000 starpoints for the inconvenience.

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