I spent Labor Day weekend at the Westin Diplomat on a cash and points award reservation — $60 and 4000 Starwood points per night.
It’s located in Hollywood, Florida — North of Miami, not exactly in the middle of the action but right on the Atlantic Ocean.
In the 60’s and 70’s the original Diplomat was frequented by Rat Pack types. The hotel closed in 1991 and was acquired by the International Brotherhood of Plumbers and Pipefitters in 1998, torn down, and rebuilt.
A building project funded by a union pension to a tune just shy of $1 billion dollars seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? So it should be no surprise that the State of Florida managed to force the union to get an independent trustee appointed to oversee the money and to require that a professional management company come in, enter Starwood and the Westin brand when the property reopened in 2002.
(One secret about the property: I understand that the mattresses were purchased before Westin came on board. So while the sheets are all of the Heavenly variety, the mattress is a different — though quite nice! — brand.)
During high season regular rooms are well north of $300. Labor Day is still the off-season and lowest rates were around $189. That values the points component of my rate at a bit over 3 cents per point.
This is a very large hotel, I believe 998 rooms. The best features are that it’s smack dab on the ocean and that it has nearly 90 suites which means that a status-based upgrade is a gimme. (In fact for Platinum members my understanding of hotel procedure is that they’ll attempt to upgrade you shortly after booking rather than at checkin — something far better than the Starwood Preferred Guest program requires.)
The Diplomat also may have the nicest club lounge of any Westin in North America — a large room on the 33rd floor with both indoor and outdoor seating and an exceptional complimentary breakfast display (snack and evening appetizer presentations were fine, but didn’t nearly live up to the bountiful breakfast which included lox and all the trimmings). I even picked up my Sunday New York Times complimentary there.
I was upgraded to corner suite on the 29th floor, with the ocean to the East and Intracoastal waterway to the South. This is the most common suite at the hotel, to be sure, but outside of the Presidential suite this may be the most desirable.
I wasn’t charged the resort fee which I had read was $16 but includes high-speed internet. I was charged $9.95 for internet use (since I tried to connect daily) — but I mentioned to the desk that internet service was intermittant for some reason and each day’s charge was deducted without my asking.
Given the size of the property I was actually amazed at never waiting for an elevator or for assistance with my rental car. There was always someone available when I arrived to take my car, and it was always retrieved quickly.
Housekeeping had a few issues, I had a stained towel and only one robe on arrival, plus one of the toiletery bottles had been opened. But every item I raised was dealt with quickly and efficiently.
The rooms seriously need wireless internet — what a shame to have to work on my laptop indoors rather than sitting out on the balcony!
While The Atlantic is probably considered the better property (and thus this isn’t even the nicest Starwood in the area) and I don’t generally like such large hotels, given the amazing status recognition hereand the nice lounge it made for an outstanding bargain.
It’s also worth noting that beach renovations are complete – so the beach is accessible from the pool area and had sufficient space to accomodate guests.
There’s a skybridge between the property and the ‘Diplomat Landing’ shopping area across the street. It’s sparsely populated, lots of empty space and ‘coming soons’ — but the gelatto shop is good!
It was interesting to see the diverse mix of guests constantly walking through the busy lobby. It came as a bit of a surprise that people coming in from the pool and beach would traipse by without changing clothes or even cover up their swimsuits with a towel. A downside to some, no doubt a bonus for others.