WESTIN ST. JOHN, USVI
... A review of a Starwood Resort in the US Virgin Islands (stay:
After a year of planning and executing events for a multi-billion
dollar corporation and staying in multiple Starwood properties, my
partner and I decided to cash-in a hard-earned 78,750 Starwood
Points and experience someplace relaxing. Over the Christmas
holidays, we spent eight days at the Westin Resort on St. John.
Prior to arrival, we chose to spend the $65 each to have the
Westin handle our transfer from St. Thomas to St. John. The Westin
handles your luggage from the time you check in at the Westin desk
in the St. Thomas airport and delivers your bags directly to your
room at the resort on St. John. And, of course, you arrive on St.
John directly at the dock at the Westin Resort. In addition, you get
unlimited transfers back and forth to St. Thomas during your stay …
that is, if you really want to spend time on St. Thomas. St. John is
so beautiful, that you may not want to leave at all.
When we checked in at the Westin desk in the airport on St.
Thomas, we found that the resort did not recognize our Platinum
status with Starwood. After a few awkward moments of trying to get
the situation resolved, the person checking us in made us feel like
it was a hassle to see if there were any room upgrades that are
supposed to be made automatically available to Platinum members,
based on availability of course.
We boarded the resorts open-air mini-bus and was transported to a
local marina where we boarded the Westin boat. The boat, although
new, is utilitarian … so, don’t expect a sleek, 110’ yacht such as
used by Hayman Island Resort on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
The voyage from St. Thomas to St. John was very enjoyable. It was a
perfect day for the trip ... bright and sunny with just a light
chop. We debarked the boat to find a number of resort
representatives offering refreshing, cold, wet towels to remove the
grime from our day’s travel and glasses of Rum Punch.
After a few pleasantries, we were shown to a golf cart and a
resort employee gave us a tour of the grounds and then took us to
our room. We arrived to find a standard-sized room that smelled of
mold and mildew, a bathroom that was so filthy that our feet stuck
to the floor when we walked on the tile, a safe that did not work, a
toilet that constantly ran, no work desk, and a phone that did not
have a working data port.
Since this is a vacation resort, I guess I can forgive the fact
the room had no desk. But, for those of us who never really get a
true vacation, it was a disappointment. Compared to other Westin
properties, the room was on the lower end of the luxury scale.
Even though we had cashed in enough points to gain us a two-room
upgrade, they put us in a “pool view” room. The building that housed
our room certainly was not in the back of the property, however,
there were buildings that had the same sized rooms as ours that were
between the beach and us. I have no idea how one would gain access
to the beach rooms. If we cashed in any more points, we would have
been upgraded to one of the suites or villas. But, the suites and
villas were in the back of the property and up on the hillside. It
was a head scratcher for sure.
Problem resolution is not a strong suit with the property
management. I contacted the property’s general manager, Mr. Graeme
Davis. He referred me to Matt Balcik, “Rooms Executive”. Although
Matt really did try to solve the issues, the only things that got
taken care of was the repair of the safe and the phone’s data port.
He sent housekeeping to clean the bathroom floor. But, nonetheless,
the sticky mess remained and slowly went away as a result of the
daily housekeeping duties during the week’s stay.
Matt did take the time to show me another room with a “better
view”, but as I explained to him … once again … the problem was not
the view, it was the stench of mold and mildew that, it seemed, was
the bouquet of choice that all rooms offered up to its guests. The
room he showed me certainly had a better view, but yet offered the
same smell, although a tad less pungent. Since we were already
unpacked, we stayed put in our original room and Matt ended up
sending someone to attend to the smell. While we were out to dinner,
someone masked the smell of mold and mildew by dousing the room with
a pungent fragrance of lemon. We arrived back wondering, which was
worse! For the duration of our stay, we turned the air conditioning
down to 65. It was rather cold, but it reduced the stench of the
mold and mildew that ended up overcoming the smell of lemon post
We think the problem with the stench comes from the carpet that
seemed to absorb the constant humidity. Why any hotel or resort in
the Caribbean would choose to have carpet in their rooms is beyond
me. A logical choice, to us at least, would be a tile and/or marble
floor with throw rugs. But, now I digress!
Now that I got some unpleasantness out of the way, let me say a
few positive things about the resort. The grounds are beautiful. The
grounds crew has done a fabulous job at making the exterior
environment very pleasant indeed. Walking through the Westin
property is like walking through a botanical garden. There are
beautiful flowering plants in every direction. Several tropical
birds have been made pets by the property and we saw several Iguanas
lumbering through the grounds. It made every stroll through the
resort quite intriguing and fun.
I’ve seen several reviews on this resort that spoke of the
expansive grounds and the need to take a healthy walk wherever you
decide to go. We actually found our short walks to be enjoyable.
Unless you got one of the rooms on the back of the property, we
thought all rooms were relatively close to the most popular
amenities of the resort. As well, having the building spread out a
bit made the environment feel more open, providing a feeling of
There are a few restaurants on the property. The Snorkels Bar and
Grill has a small, but perfect menu that compliments its very casual
surroundings. As long as your private parts are covered, you’ll be
welcomed at Snorkels. You can eat alfresco at several tables that
are between the pool and the beach or you can order directly from
the comfort of your lounge chair besides the pool or from the beach.
Just flip up the red flag on the back of your lounge chair to notify
staff you wish to place an order. What could be easier? The staff is
engaging and friendly.
The Beach Café is a little more formal, but yet very casual. As
long as you wear a shirt and sandals, you’re fine. It’s an open-air
café that serves breakfast and dinner. We had the breakfast buffet
several mornings and enjoyed every one of them. It’s very enjoyable
eating alfresco while watching the boats in the awakening harbor. I
remember seeing reviews from other authors complaining about the
price of the buffet. But, we expected food to be a little more
expensive on the islands and even more so at the resort. The cost of
the breakfast buffet is $20 per person, which is a bit expensive for
the offerings, but not out of line with what we expected. Here
again, the staff here is wonderful, engaging, and friendly.