In conjunction with my participation in the SPG Amex Holiday Challenge campaign, I received 70K Starpoints for my family and I to spend 2 nights at the W South Beach during Thanksgiving week.
Holiday Challenge Accepted
I’ve always been a huge fan of Starpoints, and I’ve been a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express Member for over 5 years. With that being said, to say I was thrilled when American Express reached out and asked me to join this year’s SPG Stars and participate in the upcoming campaign, is an understatement!
As part of the SPG Stars Program, I was asked to take part in a “holiday challenge” with my family. I received 70,000 Starpoints to book a 2-night stay at a SPG hotel of my choice in North America, during the busiest traveling months of the holiday season (November and December).
I am a huge fan of the warm weather and a beach bum at heart, so right off the bat I knew I was headed South. With the holiday season being busy in general, escaping to Miami immediately came to mind, since it’s an easy flight from New York, especially when traveling with two young kids.
I’ve stayed at many different hotel properties across Miami Beach during my frequent trips to Miami over the last five years, but for whatever reason, I haven’t had a chance to familiarize myself with the Starwood Preferred Guest properties until this fall.
Earlier this fall, I used my Starpoints from my SPG AmEx for a very last-minute stay at the Royal Palm South Beach. That was a great redemption because of the cash rates during that weekend, because of a music festival taking place at the same time.
I really enjoyed my stay at the Royal Palm (at 12,000 points per night), but I wanted to stay at a property I haven’t had a chance to experience yet for the Holiday Challenge.
I was torn between the W South Beach and St. Regis Bal Harbour. Both options looked fabulous for their own reasons, but I ultimately decided on the W South Beach even though I had to redeem more Starpoints towards my rewards night stay, because I wanted to be in the middle of the action (and the hotel is walking distance to my favorite Cuban restaurant).
Using Starpoints at the W South Beach
I visited the property during Thanksgiving week, a busy travel time, so redeeming Starpoints for a rewards night stay ended up being an exceptional value compared to the nightly rate for a standard room.
Plus, since there have been so many incredible flight deals to Florida recently, I wanted to “treat” my family to a little more luxury this Thanksgiving holiday.
Hotel nights in Miami are funny – it’s one of those cities where rates fluctuate so much depending on the time of year and what events are happening in town.
The W South Beach is a category 7 property, and a free night will cost 30,000 – 35,000 points (plus a $35 resort fee) per night. I’ll be the first to say that’s a lot, considering how valuable and flexible Starpoints are for other redemptions.
Playing around with dates in December, the nightly rate can be anywhere from $275/night upwards of $2,500/night during Christmas break.
Granted, I haven’t actually paid several thousand dollars per night to stay at a hotel, using Starpoints from my SPG Amex Card allowed my family and me to stay at the W South Beach during a holiday week and peak travel time, which was nice.
The Value of Starpoints + A Few Words About the SPG Amex Credit Card
Like many frequent flyers, I consider Starpoints to be one of the most valuable points programs out there. I love them because of their flexibility and ability to redeem for hotel nights without blackout dates, and their transferability into airline miles with a nice bonus. 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 airline miles.
Earlier this year, I transferred 40,000 of my Starpoints into 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles and flew 15.5 hours in business class on Cathay Pacific between New York and Hong Kong, continuing onwards to Saigon.
You can earn Starpoints by staying at any of the SPG properties, or you can earn Starpoints with a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which is why it has earned a permanent slot in my wallet for so many years.
But now let’s get on with the review…
Surprise Upgrade Beforehand
About a week before my stay, I received an email from a “W Insider”, asking to take note of any special requests or preferences during my stay.
W Insiders are the brand’s unique take on concierge and creating a personalized stay, and they’re available around the clock via email or text. It’s nice to have someone from the hotel at your disposal before even checking in. I responded back saying I’d be traveling with my two kids and that it was our first trip away during Thanksgiving week.
I received an awesome reply back the next day saying that I was upgraded and confirmed into one of their Oasis Suites so that we can enjoy more space as a family.
A standard room at the W South Beach is already spacious, at nearly 600 square feet, and that would have been enough for us, but seeing the word “suite” instantly made me feel giddy inside.
It took me a whole 2 seconds before I Googled the specs for the Oasis Suite, and reading the room description made me so much more excited about the upcoming stay! It was love at first sight when I saw there was a washer/dryer and a full kitchen in the room. It was such a nice and unexpected surprise!
First Impressions of the Property
The W South Beach is located right off of the famed-Collins Ave at 22nd street. Our room was not ready when we arrived around 2pm in the afternoon, but it was fine because we planned on enjoying the afternoon by grabbing lunch nearby. I received a text message about an hour later inviting me to stop by the front desk to pick up the keys.
The lobby area was very large, modern and stylish, providing tons of couches and places to lounge, without ever feeling crowded. I loved the decor and the high-end SoBe vibe.
We were given room 1714, an ocean-view Oasis Suite on the 17th floor, and I was blown away by my first impressions of the room!
The Oasis Suite is advertised as an “extra-large suite”, but it felt comparable to a killer Miami Beach dream apartment. The “room” is 1,154 square feet in size and features 2 separate bedrooms and 1.5 baths. There are a total of 3 televisions and a walk-out balcony, that seems to go on for days, with insanely gorgeous ocean views.
As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by a view of the ocean (including some sightings of the cruise ships leaving their ports) and the chic decor of the kitchen, dining room, and living room – all flowing nicely one after another.
I noticed a nice welcome amenity of chocolates and champagne waiting for us on the dining room table, along with a handwritten note from a W Insider who I was communicating with prior to my stay.
There were two separate bedrooms, which was more room than imaginable for a family traveling with children. The second bedroom featured two separate twin sized beds and its own 42″ TV.
The master bedroom had a cozy W Bed (which I love so much that I actually have one in my home that I purchased during a great sale a few years ago), and floor-to-ceiling windows with walkout balcony access that offered amazing sunrise views each morning.
As a mom, I really appreciated the luxury of having a full kitchen, complete with a full-sized refrigerator (which doubled as a mini bar), microwave, and dishwasher. The cabinets were stocked with plates, utensils, and pretty much anything that would be needed for a comfortable stay.
As I mentioned earlier, this suite has two bathrooms – a small powder room on the left side of the entrance hallway:
…and a giant master bathroom complete with a large tub, a separate rain shower, and enclosed area for the toilet:
The toiletries were W’s signature Bliss brand, which I am a huge fan of. The lemon+ sage scent is so inviting and distinguished. It’s also worth pointing out that I really appreciated that in addition to the standard shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion products, there was also a Bliss fabulous foaming face wash waiting for me at the sink.
Face wash is one item I often forget the most when traveling, and it’s a rarity to see a face wash provided during a hotel stay, so this little touch went a long way for me.
As a Starwood Platinum elite member, I was offered the choice of 500 bonus Starpoints at check-in or a continental breakfast for two delivered by room service each morning. I chose the breakfast benefit.
The breakfast benefit is very strict and as baseline as continental breakfast gets. Platinum members are limited to the “Cosmo” continental breakfast with no option for any substitutions. The breakfast consists of a few croissants, coffee or tea, juice, and cereal -or- yogurt delivered via room service.
Pool & Beach
The pool at the W South Beach is large, heated (whew), and only limited to hotel guests. Security does a good job of keeping outsiders from sneaking in and using the facilities (you’ll have to show your room key at first, but they quickly remember faces).
There are private cabanas and daybeds available for a fee, but you can choose to sit at any of the poolside chairs that you want to.
Since the in-room breakfast benefit was strictly-continental, I decided to order blueberry pancakes and watermelon juice by the pool for my kids and I to munch on.
Though ordering poolside is expensive, we enjoyed the convenience of not having to leave during an important milestone for my son (he successfully learned how to swim), and that was priceless. The pancakes were tasty, and the service was good.
We did not have lunch by the pool, but I’ll share the menu so you can get an idea about how the food is priced:
As far the beach, there is an area on the beach directly in front of the hotel dedicated especially to W South Beach, and guests are entitled to two beach chairs per room. Daybeds and umbrellas come with a fee, and there’s a sand area for kids to play in with toys, pails, and shovels – all provided. That’s always a hit with my kids.
At the end of the day, I truly got to experience more of the W South Beach than I expected during my holiday getaway with my family.
The great thing about redeeming Starpoints is that there are no blackout dates; as long as a standard room is available, it can be booked using points.
We were able to stay during the busy holiday season, and by redeeming Starpoints, we ended up with a surprise upgrade into a two bedroom apartment, which was like getting two rooms (and more) for the price of one. It was certainly a Miami trip to remember!
Have you redeemed Starpoints at an exceptional value for a hotel night before?
Full disclosure: This experience was sponsored and made possible by the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. As an Amex Ambassador, I received compensation for this blog post. I was provided with 70,000 Starpoints to book my stay, which I redeemed for my rewards night stay at W South Beach. All opinions and stories are my own.