Review: W Santiago, Chile

My experiences at the Grand Hyatt Santiago and W Santiago were almost polar opposites. For whatever reason I had low expectations of the Grand Hyatt, though I was blown away — the hotel was awesome! I had heard so many great things about the W Santiago from friends that I was really excited, though I ended up being quite disappointed and decided to stay only one night and switch back to the Grand Hyatt (I was originally going to stay two nights).

I’m not a fan of the W brand as a whole — I find them to be the stingiest with elite benefits, their employees usually have an attitude, they’re designed with style over substance, and their lobbies have obnoxiously loud music. Funny enough Hyatt’s response to W hotels is their Andaz brand, which I love — the hotels offer great value, service is usually good, and I find them to have both style and substance. The ones on Wall Street, 5th Avenue, and in West Hollywood are among my favorite hotels.

I think the more you’re on the road, the more you appreciate the simple things that make a hotel stay pleasant — fast wifi, rooms designed with the frequent traveler in mind (meaning plenty of outlets, easy to use showers, etc.), and courteous staff.

What I find interesting is that Business Travel News released their 2012 hotel rankings (see page 20) just a few days ago, and W Hotels ranked as the top “Upper Upscale” hotel brand. This is surprising to me, especially since the hotels were ranked by corporate buyers and not once a year travelers that might have the perception that W properties are “cool.” But maybe I’m in the minority, you guys tell me.

Anyway, on to the actual hotel stay. I had booked the hotel for $248 using a “best rate guarantee.” The best rate on Starwood’s website was around $300 while I found it on another website for $248, so as part of the “best rate guarantee” they match the better price and offer you 2,000 Starpoints, which I was happy with.

The W is about 10 minutes by taxi from the Grand Hyatt in a much more fun area with lots of restaurants and shopping, so that’s a plus. The hotel is part of a larger complex, so you have to take the elevator up to the lobby. The lobby had the typical W “living room” theme, with plenty of seating.


Living room


Living room


Living room

At check-in I asked about the possibility of a suite upgrade, and without the agent even checking he informed me I had already been upgraded and they had no suites available. The rate I booked was also inclusive of breakfast, though he insisted it wasn’t, so I decided to just select breakfast as the Platinum amenity and take it up with Starwood later.

Anyway, I went up to the “Cool Corner Room,” which felt more cramped than what I’d imagine a standard room is like. The website lists “Cool Corner Rooms” as being 420-527 square feet, and the room in the picture on the website actually looks pretty spacious.


“Cool Corner Room” on website

The actual room was at most ~350 square feet and sure felt compact. In typical W fashion the design was awful too — the bathtub was in the middle of the room, there wasn’t a single trash can in the room (only in the bathroom — interestingly I’ve NEVER seen a trash can in a room at a W hotel), and the shower didn’t have any sort of a door or barrier, making the heat spread around the room when showering. I’m not saying any of these are the end of the world, but in my opinion it’s unacceptable for an “upper upscale” hotel to fail on such basic design things.


Cool Corner Room


Cool Corner Room

I quickly popped online to check suite availability, and it appeared like the hotel was still selling suites, so I decided to go to the front desk and ask them about the possibility of a suite upgrade. As much as I hate doing that, it’s a published benefit, and sometimes W hotels make you fight for it. The situation got pretty messy, and you can read about it in this post.

Anyway, after all that I did get a suite upgrade, though I’m not sure what type of a suite it was. The suite featured a desk and couch with chairs in the living room. While the living room was large it really wasn’t especially comfortable or livable.


Living room


Living room

There was a half bathroom near the entrance as well.


Half bathroom

The bedroom wasn’t completely separated from the living room but rather just had a wall along the center between the living room and bedroom. It featured a king size bed and bathroom which wasn’t separated from the bedroom.


Bedroom


TV/desk


Bathroom

The bathroom featured a bathtub, shower, double sinks, and toilet. While it looked cool, it was incredibly impractical — the bathroom didn’t have a door (meaning the bathroom was relatively cold while showering, while the bedroom was relatively hot). Beyond that, there was no partition between the living room and bedroom and no partition between the bedroom and bathroom, so there’s no way you could have guests and use the bathroom without them watching you. The dumbest part of the design, though, has to be the fact that the shower was elevated above the rest of the tiles without any sort of a barrier, so half of the water from the shower flowed into the bathroom.


Shower/tub


Shower


Sinks


Toilet

The views from the room were nice as well, though not quite as nice as those at the Grand Hyatt.


View from my room

It was winter so I wasn’t able to use it, though the hotel has a rooftop deck and pool. The funny thing is that there are three different sets of elevators at the hotel — one set that takes you from the ground floor to the lobby, one set that takes you from the lobby to the rooms, and one set that takes you from the lobby to the rooftop pool. All in all it’s pretty damn confusing. The rooftop was nice, though obviously when it’s 40 degrees outside, not especially useful.


Rooftop

Breakfast is served daily in NOSO from 6:30AM till 10:30AM. I went at around 10AM and had the choice of waiting for a table or eating out in the lobby bar, and I went with the latter.


NOSO Restaurant

The spread itself was good — not amazing like some breakfast buffets in Asia, though very good. It’s worth noting they had alcohol available as part of the buffet, and had as many varieties of vodka as fruit (I’m undecided as to whether that’s a good thing or bad thing).


Breakfast buffet


Breakfast buffet


Breakfast buffet


Breakfast buffet


Breakfast buffet

The service at this hotel was rather indifferent as well. Most employees didn’t seem very excited to be there, and couldn’t be bothered to smile. It took about five minutes for “Whatever/Whenever” to pick up the phone.

Now before some of you start calling me a whiner, hear me out for a minute, please. First of all, I love Starwood. I love Sheratons and Westins and find them to be a great value on the whole. I also love St. Regis properties because they’re on par with Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons, in my opinion, with the added benefit of belonging to a great loyalty program.

I spend about 100 nights per year in hotels, ranging from Holiday Inns to Four Seasons. When I share the details of my stays, I try to do it within the realm of what my expectations should reasonably be. In other words, when staying at a Holiday Inn I won’t complain about the fact that they don’t have Bulgari amenities, and when staying at a Four Seasons I won’t complain about the fact that the wifi isn’t free, since both are exactly what I expected.

Back in the day I used to frequent the Holiday Inn Ontario (in California), and even though it was less than $70 per night at the time, it’s one of my favorite hotels. The employees are top notch and have such a “can do” attitude, the rooms are designed with the frequent traveler in mind, and they do everything they can to make you feel like they appreciate your business. In the hotel industry those are the basic principles of “hospitality,” in my opinion. Luxury (or “Upper Upscale”) hotels can’t forget those basics and expect guests to overlook them.

So there’s no way I’d stay at the W again, especially at the rates they charge. I love the Grand Hyatt and would return in a heartbeat, though.

You guys tell me, though, am I off base?

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Comments

  1. Ben, I noticed people swimming in the pool in that pic, is that because its heated well or was it actually warm enough this time of year? That roof deck is incredible, though based on the review of the bathroom alone I think not worth it.

  2. I tend to think anyone who says “I will never return to Property X” after one stay is off base. A stay anywhere can have issues. I’ve heard great things about W Santiago.

  3. @ Ra — Oddly enough they were. I touched the water and it was cold, so not sure how/why they were in there.

    @ Jackson — Fair enough, though in this case my issue with the hotel wasn’t the service or some other snafu, but rather the overall design. I’m writing the hotel off because I didn’t like the rooms and found there to be much more style than substance. No matter how many times I return that won’t change, unless they decide to put trash cans in the room. šŸ˜‰

  4. Unfortunately I have to agree with you. I’ve always liked the W brand but as I travel more, I like the brand less.

    I live at the W Residences in New York because I like the hotel-like lifestyle that it provides but more and more I’m peeved with the design. The bathroom is terrible (although beautiful). I can’t turn the shower on without being soaked with cold water, the tile/grout is black (even housekeeping can’t keep it clean), and there’s no way to use the bathroom without disturbing someone in the bedroom due to a glass cut-through that spills light/noise into the bedroom. Also the AC systems are terrible; they’re noisy and can’t keep the room cool. It’s unfortunate that such a cool brand has really slipped. I think they need to find another designer. They used Graft in Germany for this interior design, they’re a well known reputable design firm but apparently they’ve never used one of their own bathroom designs. . .

  5. I find the trash can issue to be a problem everywhere, across many chains.

    If the bathroom setup was going to be such an issue for you, you shouldn’t have stayed there in the first place IMO. The hotel’s website has at least 4 pictures of bathtubs in the room, including the Marvelous Suite. It is also mentioned on Tripadvisor. That you weren’t aware of this going in is not a knock against the hotel.

    The wife and i ran into a similar bath/shower situation at W Montreal. But we knew it going in, and frankly, kinda
    Iked it ;).

  6. What exactly is the W’s solution for folks who are traveling with non-intimate friends or family members? Plunk down another $300 per person per night so each person can use the bathroom in private? Sorry if this is a silly question, but I honestly don’t understand how this is supposed to work.

  7. Not off base when it comes to your expectations given the price / what W advertises.
    However there’s a huge gap between what the W hotels brand sells and what it really delivers. They try to brand themselves as a luxury provider but :
    . their Wherever / Whenever service is just a marketing toy in order to cut costs when it comes to delivering an efficient and valuable concierge service (which usually differentiates the “luxury hotels” from the 4 star hotels)
    . their room design is usually horrible (like your inroom shower, and you just have to pray that you’re not staying with your sister in the same room, otherwise you’ll be forced to vacate it everytime a shower / bath needs to be taken) and their standart room is cramped if you’re not a single traveler (dont expect more than 20 sqm)
    . the scale of the hotel (always a few hundred rooms at least) makes it impossible to provide a “tailored” service which defines the luxury experience.

    Funny you should mention Andaz. Though their inroom breakfast sounds awesome for Diamond members, they actually sell quite the same product as W. Not upperscale, not luxury at all (a “host” should not be your pal, it should be, at least in a luxury hotel, someone whose only aim is to make your stay more comfortable, mainly because you chose, as a consumer, to pay more for having to not care about the details).
    And these two brands have developed a bad habit of calling “suites” what common sense would call regular rooms.
    Power of marketing … But I’d rather stay at a Westin, knowing what to expect, and being happy with it .

  8. Having stayed at the W Santiago, I agree that it is not worth a return stay. Other issues:
    SMOKE (from cigarettes) everywhere- I know it is SA but common, can we not keep the air clean somewhere in the restaurant??
    Front desk- inept vs indifferent- doesn’t matter if I am not feeling like a guest. Lost bags, misplaced passports (that need to be photocopied out of sight) and archaic billing codes

  9. I completely agree with your assessment that the W brand is more style than substance. The rooms always have some annoying quirk and more chipped particle board furniture than an Ikea showroom. In the last few months I’ve seen the same sort of problems at W’s in Seattle, D.C., and San Diego.

    And I don’t think you ever need to apologize for “whining”. Just seems like you’re stating the facts to me.

  10. The whole open concept shower can be very annoying. The Sofitel in Munich was the same way and it literally floods the bathroom. It has to be done right – the St Regis outside San Juan, PR had an awesome “open” shower.

  11. Not a W fan myself although I’m very loyal to Starwood. I did like the w hong kong though; room was great and access to subway to airport fantastic- very valuable if you are staying only one night.

    I also like W design over most le merediens I’ve been in which seem to me even more style over substance than W.

  12. Completely agree with the review. We stayed at the W Santiago for 3 nights last month. One positive thing about this hotel is the area surrounding it is really nice and safe.

  13. We just came back from Santiago and stayed at the W for 2 nights. We were assigned the worst possible room (lower floor, no view/no balcony) and didn’t get any upgrade on first night even being a Platinum member. I have to fight for a upper floor room with a large balcony on the second night as they only have the “wow” suits available and they won’t upgrade us to…pretty mediocre stay compared to our amazing stay at Westin Lima with a huge suite upgrade.

  14. I had the very same impression from the W Chile. I felt it was downright chaotic.
    I tried the W Walkerhill Seoul and was equelly disappointed. Lesson learned – I will avoid the W brand hotels whenever possible.

  15. Totally agree about W Lucky. The employees think they are too cool to be there and it has a cheap finish to it. I much prefer the Andaz brand myself.

  16. This is why I kind of prefer staying in Hyatt Place, HIX, etc. They tend to be newly built, very comfortable beds, nice TV setups, plenty of outlets where I need them, and it doesn’t take half an hour to get to my room.

    A fancy hotel is great if it’s still convenient. But convenience is #1.

  17. The W used to be something special, then someone got their hands on it and decided it can be just “cool”, and not a functional hotel room. I just had my first stay at a St. Regis, and it renewed my faith in the Starwood brand. They need to really take a look at the W’s, close the clubs in them (or at least remove them from the hotel utilities, elevator, bathrooms, etc)and make it back into a young, luxury brand.

  18. Lucky,

    I just returned from a trip to Lima(Sheraton Lima in a junior suite), Sao Paolo(Sheraton WTC in a design suite) and Santiago(Sheraton Santiago standard room, San Cristobal Tower suite and the W Santiago in the same level suite as you). I would have to say that the W suite was the nicest of all of them. Our bathrooms had doors which the Sao Paolo WTC design suite didnt have. Also the people at the W were great. It sounds like my experience was the opposite of yours.

  19. I just had a 2 night stay at the W Santiago in Feb 2017. It was actually quite great. The staff were all helpful, no attitude…. So maybe it’s improved over the years?

    The rooms are still odd, but entertaining. And I really like the toiletries.

    The (commercial) gym connected to the hotel is also good, although I wish it were open earlier.

    I’ll go back when I return to Santiago.

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