Review: St. Regis Bal Harbour

I always go to Florida over the holidays to visit my parents, and since they don’t get to leave home all that much they like to at least leave Tampa when I visit, since they’re taking time off work anyway. I’m convinced my mom is a professional reverse guilter. What is that, you ask? My conversation with my mom when trying to figure out where to stay went something like this:

Mom: “You know, really I just want to spend time with you, I think we should go vacation at a Motel 6 in [somewhere off the interstate near the woods].”
Me: “Mom, that’s ridiculous, I’ll use points for somewhere nice.”
Mom: “Oh you really don’t have to… but if you really want to I hear there’s a really nice Hampton Inn in [middle of nowhere destination of your choice].”
Me: “Hold on a second, let me see what’s available on points. Oh, it looks like the St. Regis Bal Harbour is available on points, it’s near Miami. Do you want to go there?”
Mom: “Oh no, we don’t deserve that. How about somewhere else, like a Hampton Inn?”
Me: “No, it’s fine, really. I’m happy to spend points if it means we can spend time together.”
Mom: “No, I really don’t want that, I’d feel guilty. How many points would it cost?”
Me: “Don’t worry about it.”
Mom: “No, how many points would it cost? If you don’t tell me then we’ll just stay at a Hampton Inn in [middle of nowhere destination of your choice].”
Me: “140,00 Starpoints for five nights.”
Mom: “Oh, that sounds like a lot of points, we don’t deserve that. Let’s stay at the Hampton Inn in [middle of nowhere destination of your choice].”

So the trick with my mom is that you have to figure out what she really wants, then tell her you’ve made a non-refundable reservation there (even when you haven’t, just to make sure it’s what she really wants), and then everyone is on the same page.

What was my actual thought process with booking this hotel? Well, I suck at planning in advance, so a couple of weeks out all the hotels we were looking at were outrageously expensive. The added wrinkle is that we were traveling with our dog, Lucky (who’s blind, deaf, and a diabetic, which makes traveling with him even more challenging), and a lot of hotels don’t accept dogs.

So the St. Regis was going for $1,274 per night plus tax, so nearly $1,500 per night all-in. Meanwhile it was available for 35,000 Starpoints per night (since it’s a category seven property), and when redeeming Starpoints for free nights the fifth night is free.

St-Regis-Bal-Harbour-Rate

So while it totally stings to burn 140,000 Starpoints on a five night hotel stay, at the end of the day it was a phenomenal value compared to the revenue rate. Most importantly, though, points are only as valuable as the memories you can create with them, and I know that any points spent on my parents aren’t wasted.

I actually stayed at the St. Regis Bal Harbour shortly after it opened back in 2012, and had a phenomenal stay. Since that review was thorough, I’ll be focusing more on the things that changed since my last stay with this review. As a result I won’t really be covering the gym, pool, beach, etc., since I think I covered that pretty well last time. So I’d recommend going back and reading the previous review first, and if you have any questions of course feel free to ask below.

Anyway, we stayed from December 24-29, and my parents picked me up at Miami Airport in the afternoon. The drive to the hotel fro Miami Airport takes about 20 minutes. The exterior of the hotel (and the residences) is pretty stunning, and as we pulled up to the lobby we were promptly welcomed and helped with our bags. While I rarely need the help of a bellman, my mom managed to pack about 13 bags for our five night stay, so the help was much appreciated. ;)

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St. Regis Bal Harbour exterior

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St. Regis Bal Harbour exterior

The lobby is stunning, and was decked out with Christmas decorations.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour lobby

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St. Regis Bal Harbour lobby

Instead of having a single check-in desk where you stand, the hotel has you sit down during the check-in process, which is a nice touch. Check-in was efficient, and the agent apologized about not having an SPG Platinum upgrade available. Obviously I wasn’t surprised by the lack of upgrade availability, since the hotel was sold out. We were assigned a room on the fourth floor, which I believe is the lowest floor with rooms.

I was also offered my choice of Platinum amenities, and could choose between 500 Starpoints, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, or daily breakfast for two. Last time I stayed here Platinum members only received continental breakfast for free (per the terms of the Starwood program) and could purchase the hot buffet for an upcharge, though this time we got a full daily breakfast for two, which was impressive.

The St. Regis’ elevators are really unique in that when you get to them you swipe your key card on the access pad, and it tells you which elevator to go to. Once in the elevator you don’t have to input which floor you want to go to, as it automatically takes you to your floor.

We were assigned a King Ocean View Deluxe Room, which is their entry level room. It’s 650 square feet and has a 200 square foot balcony, so it was more than spacious.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour floorplan

Right by the door is an entryway. When you turn right there’s a long hallway with the bedroom straight forward, toilet and closet to the left, and bathroom to the right.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room entryway

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room hallway

The room was gorgeous, with a comfortable king bed facing a flat screen TV, a desk with a chair, and a circular couch.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room

There was a well stocked minibar, though since this is a St. Regis it wasn’t complimentary.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room minibar

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room minibar

The toilet by the entrance to the left was spacious and featured a sink.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room toilet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room toilet

To the right was the bathroom, which featured two sliding doors. There was a massive shower, a soaking tub, and double sinks.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room bathroom

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room shower

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room soaking tub

As is standard for St. Regis properties, the toiletries were Remede branded, which I have a love/hate relationship with. On one hand they’re awesome, on the other hand they sure feel a whole lot like toothpaste.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room Remede toiletries

The highlight of the room (at least as far as our dog was concerned) was the balcony, which was massive. Even though it was on a low floor (and therefore didn’t have an unobstructed ocean view), it had a lovely breeze and nice views of the resort and Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Even though Lucky is blind and deaf he had a blast on the balcony. He sat there most days for hours with his chin up enjoying the breeze.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room balcony view

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room balcony view

Speaking of dogs, the St. Regis charges a $100 non-refundable deposit per stay for dogs, plus $25 per night, so for a five night stay it cost $225. Not cheap, but given the lack of alternatives it wasn’t bad either, I thought. They did place a nice dog bed and bowls in the corner of the room for Lucky.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Deluxe Ocean View room dog bed

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Lucky living the tough St. Regis life

As far as breakfast goes, the last time I stayed at the St. Regis breakfast was served at Atlantico, though this time it was served at J&G Grill, which is usually where lunch and dinner is served. I suspect they were serving breakfast at J&G Grill since it’s a bigger space and the hotel was sold out. It’s a beautiful restaurant with high ceilings and great views of the Atlantic, for what it’s worth.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill

As I said above, Platinum members received complimentary buffet breakfast for two, which ordinarily retails for $36 per person plus tax and an 18% service charge (which seems to be charged everywhere in Bal Harbour, I assume because a vast majority of the visitors are foreigners).

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The buffet was actually really impressive, possibly the best I’ve seen in the US. Not only was it an extensive spread, but everything was ridiculously well executed, which I find to be rare for buffets.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Bal Harbour J&G Grill breakfast buffet

In terms of other hotel facilities I didn’t cover last time, the hotel has a house car (Bentley) that will drive you within six miles of the hotel on a first come first serve basis, which is a nice perk.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Bentley

It sure was nice to spend some time in the Florida sun when it was freezing and rainy in Seattle, so sitting at the beach in December sure did make me smile.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour beach

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St. Regis Bal Harbour beach

I should also note that I found the service at the hotel to be exceptional. For the most part the employees were top notch and really went above and beyond, even though the hotel was crowded and they were working over the holidays. When I went to the pool I was always immediately greeted, offered towels and water, etc. Many employees even asked how my stay was and if everything was exceeding my expectations. But more than anything else everyone was just super friendly, proactive, positive, and constantly smiling, which I find to be fairly rare to this degree at US properties.

Anyway, my parents and I had a great time in Bal Harbour. Ultimately Bal Harbour itself is a bit boring. There’s not really anything to do in the area, and the dining options outside the hotel are limited to the mall across the street from the hotel (at least when you have a dog that you can’t really leave unaccompanied), the Bal Harbour Shops. South Beach has lots more dining options, though between traffic and parking it can be a real pain to get to, unfortunately, even though it’s only a few miles up A1A.

This was the perfect getaway since we had our dog with us. It’s within driving distance from Tampa and it allowed my parents to disconnect for a few days, and we all had a great time.

On December 29 they drove me to the airport as I was flying over to Europe for New Years. While 140,000 Starpoints is a lot to spend on a hotel stay, it was worth every Starpoint thanks to the time I was able to spend with my parents and Lucky.

Comments

  1. elteetrav says

    Your travels with your mom and dad always bring a smile. My first “big” use of miles was to take my mom to Europe. You are right that those kinds of memories are worth all the miles it takes.
    So nice you could bring Lucky. (Are you nicknamed after the dog?)

  2. Peter says

    The hazards of reading too fast. I first thought it was Lucky the person that sat there most days for hours with his chin up enjoying the breeze (as opposed to Lucky the dog.) ;-)

    The imagined reactions:
    “Zis vas a vunderful trip vis zou. Danke Bennie!”

    “It beat the Hampton Inn Benjamin, but we really didn’t deserve it.”

    Lucky (the dog) “The St. Regis? I could get used to this.”

  3. Jay says

    I though spg award reservations are only for 2 ppl per room. Did you tell the hotel in advance of the extra guest?

    Also, how do you generate so many SPG points in a year to use them as much as you do?

  4. Avi says

    I have stayed there three times in the last year (2 Thanksgivings and last year Christmastime) with a full family. They have really upped their game from just talking “it would be my pleasure to…” to talking and then doing. Also, there is a decent restaurant scene for a few blocks on Harding (one block west of Collins) for a few blocks south of 96th Street.

  5. says

    @ Jay — It let me book it for three people without issue. I hoard Starpoints and almost never redeem them, so still have several hundred thousand.

  6. Andrew says

    Lucky, how do you have that many starpoints? I’ve been an SPG Platinum for the last three years, have had the SPG credit card for two (and got the 30,000 sign up bonus) years, and I’m not even sure if I’ve accumulated 100,000 points in that time period. They just accrue sooo slowly with no bonuses on CC spend and only 3/$ on hotel spend.

  7. Steven L. says

    >Once in the elevator you don’t have to input which floor you want to go to, as it automatically takes you to your floor.

    Wait, so does that mean only one person/room gets on an elevator at a time? Or can multiple cards be swiped for the same elevator?

    #importantquestions

  8. Stuart Falk says

    Thanks for posting, as this represents a tremendous achievement for Starwood management, especially considering the average service level for Miami area hotels.

    How much extra did they charge for valet parking?

    How old is Lucky? I assume, with his medical conditions, he’a at a point where your parents would not leave him with a caregiver.

    Overall,an excellent hotel choice: super high quality, within driving distance of Tampa, yet a very different scene and with the Bal Harbour shops nearby.

  9. says

    @ Stuart Falk — Thanks! Indeed, I was impressed as well. Lucky is 14, and actually even if we could find a caretaker I value the time I can spend with him. Last Christmas we took both of our dogs, but unfortunately the other passed away shortly after the trip, so I was happy for the time I was able to spend with her traveling.

    Valet parking is rather expensive at $32 per night (and I don’t think there’s a self park option).

  10. says

    @ Steven L. — Nope, if multiple people swipe their keys it could tell them all to go to the same elevator. The screen on the side of the elevator lists all the floors that the elevator will stop at.

  11. says

    Great Review, and I enjoyed the aside about your guilting mother – I know that move.

    As far as buffets go, the best I’ve ever had is at the Four Seasons Maui. They literally have a dozen types of bread, a dozen types of fruit, and a dozen types of pastries (all delicious), plus instead of an egg station, they have a station that makes fresh eggs, french toast, waffles, and pancakes, and for my gluten free sister, they offered to make any of the above gluten free.

  12. Michael says

    Ben – Your conversation with your mom reminds me of the episode from Seinfeld when his parents stayed in the hotel which was “too nice”.

    [At the Plaza Hotel]

    JERRY: Hey!!!

    MORTY: Hey! I do you like this? Huh, huh!

    HELEN: Oh! my god, Morty lets go, this is too nice.

    MORTY: Hey! This is the kind of room Sinatra stays in. Hey! look , Macadamian nuts.

    HELEN: Macadamian nuts?

    MORTY: Hey! You know what these cost, they’re like 80 cents a nut.

    HELEN: Jerry, are you sure this all right?

    JERRY: Yeah! it’s all taken care of.

    MORTY: ( from the other room) Hey!!! They got a phone in the john here.

  13. Erik says

    I’ve stayed at the St. Regis there 3 times with my 4th stay next week. I keep going back because the hotel and beach are gorgeous and the service is some of the best in the US.

    I also find the 18% service charge odd and find it throughout South Beach. What is your view on tips at that point? Nothing needed or still tip normal US-style?

  14. Ivan Y says

    Read both reviews and it sounds like a great hotel. Too bad it’s Category 7 so can’t combine 5th Night Free wtih 35% off Platinum requalification (only goes up to Cat. 6, right).

    @ Lucky – My mom’s “mid-round” birthday is in August and she loves spending time on beach so was thinking of taking her some place like this. Any recommendations on other quality hotels/resorts with great beaches that would provide a similarly great level of service/experience?

  15. says

    @ Ivan Y — Is going abroad an option? If so I’d really consider Thailand or Bali, for example. For the most part US properties aren’t a very good value compared to what you can get abroad.

  16. Ivan Y says

    @ Lucky – would always welcome your advice about foreign destinations (one day hope to copy the trip your mom & you took last year) but I’m especially curious about US options because we are less familiar with them; and long flights & time change aren’t easy for mom anymore so a short(er) nonstop from Houston would be preferable in general.

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