Let me start by saying this — in the grand scheme of things none of this matters. With the things going on in the world problems don’t get much more “first world” than this. Nonetheless, at the end of the day I’m a travel blogger, and this is the stuff I write about. While there are things that bother me a whole hell of a lot more than this suite upgrade, this isn’t the place to write about them, other than to say they’re in my thoughts. Hopefully that’s okay with y’all…
I’m on Saadiyat Island right now just outside of Abu Dhabi, and am splitting my time between the Park Hyatt and St. Regis, which are basically right door next to one another. I first stayed at the Park Hyatt, where I had an amazing stay, and then checked into the St. Regis, where my stay is off to a not-so-great start.
I booked the St. Regis using cash & points, which was only 4,800 Starpoints plus $90 per night. In and of itself that’s a great value, and the resort is beautiful (though a bit big for my tastes).
Anyway, one of the new benefits Starwood introduced this year is suite night awards for Platinum guests that stay at least 50 nights per year. This is an awesome new benefit, since it allows you to guarantee suite upgrades five days before arrival. That’s a great way to confirm the upgrades that matter most to you, though you also have to ration them since you only get 10 per year. However this wasn’t meant to replace Starwood’s regular upgrade policy of unlimited suite upgrades based on availability.
I try to be strategic about which hotels I apply suite upgrades at. I just checked out of the Park Hyatt, which was quite literally deserted. Apparently it’s a slow time of the year before the holidays, and at times it felt like we were the only guests there.
When I booked the St. Regis and went to the page for redeeming suite night awards, I was given the following options:
While I was of course hoping for a suite upgrade, I applied some strategy in this case. I assumed the hotel would have low occupancy, and they were selling at least nine of each suite (the highest number that will display at a time).
So this morning before checking in I once again checked spg.com, and they were still selling at least nine Ocean Suites. I was happy with my decision not to apply a suite upgrade, since it seemed like I had this one in the bag.
Anyway, at check-in I was informed that I had been upgraded to a sea view room as there were no suite upgrades available, according to the agent. I explained to the agent that spg.com showed at least nine Ocean Suites as available for sale, and she said they were indeed available, but not for Platinum upgrades. She claimed the standard Platinum upgrades was to a St. Regis Suite.
Okay, this is where I’m a bit confused, because the website offered an Ocean Suite as an upgrade option using a suite night award. The T&Cs of the suite night awards read as follows:
This very clearly states that suite night awards are not valid for specialty suites, much like the unlimited upgrades available on the day of arrival. It’s up to each hotel to categorize which suites are considered “specialty” and which are considered “standard.” But based on my interpretation of the verbiage, the “pool” for suite night awards and unlimited upgrades should be the same. I offered to apply a suite night award, though that can’t be done day of arrival.
So I (politely) expressed my displeasure with the agent. Don’t get me wrong, this was a one night stay and I wasn’t being stubborn because I really needed the extra space that much, but rather because I wanted to clarify what their actual policy is, so I know for future reference (and so they can maybe update their policy if they’re off base). The agent offered me an upgrade for 300 AED (~$82USD), which I declined.
Anyway, I Tweeted the hotel, and got a call from the assistant front office manager, who was polite/apologetic, though insisted that the suite upgrades for Platinum members were limited to St. Regis Suites, and that the Ocean Suite upgrade for Platinum members using a suite night awards was an “added bonus” for using the suite night award. She said a St. Regis Suite was opening up later this evening, and offered to switch me later tonight (while 9+ ocean suites remain available).
So I’m a bit confused. If a room is available using a suite night award, shouldn’t it also be available day of as a Platinum member without a suite upgrade, pending availability? If hotels now have separate upgrade “pools” for suite night awards and upgrades day of arrival then I really need to rethink my strategy.