The highlights at this Westin are the brand's signature features: a large, modern gym, a great spa, and the Heavenly Bed. The dark atmosphere, dated decor, and sub-par upkeep diminish this mid-priced hotel's appeal. But travelers who want to be close to the Strip but away from the crowds will appreciate the location.
Top-notch facilities to please spa lovers and fitness enthusiasts, but the overall dreary feel may turn off travelers looking for Vegas glitz.
A decade after Westin took over this off-the-Strip, 826-room, mid-priced hotel and casino (formerly the Maxim), the company has yet to bring it up to the standards of its luxury brand. True to Westin's "feel better" ethos, all the rooms come with the signature Heavenly Bed, arguably the most plush and comfortable bed around. The spacious, well-equipped gym and luxurious full-service spa live up to what Westin devotees, including business travelers and health-conscious guests, have come to expect.
Yet overall the atmosphere is dark, the furnishings in need of an overhaul. The small pool, an important element of any Vegas vacation, is made even less appealing by the monorail tracks running by it. The casino is also small (though some Vegas visitors prefer that to the labyrinthine gaming centers of larger hotels). And with no entertainment in-house, guests in search of nearby nightlife will have to venture down the street to the Jubilee show at Bally's or to Margaritaville at the Flamingo.
Plus, Westin's low-key, feel-good features come at a price: All guests must pay a hotel services fee for the spa and steam rooms (excluding treatments), fitness center, pool, and the Unwind Event, a cocktail reception on Thursdays through Sundays. That mandatory fee isn't clear when you book. Plus, most Vegas hotels include use of the facilities in the cost of the room, or offer it for a separate, voluntary fee.
Guests at large chains like the Westin expect plentiful service -- bellmen, room service, housekeeping on call, a concierge. Yet large chains can also have the reputation for impersonal treatment. But I found the staff remarkably friendly and professional. When I arrived, a smiling baggage attendant was there to help me with my luggage and direct me to the front desk. (Guests must walk past the casino to reach the front desk -- a common layout at Vegas hotels -- so I was thankful for the extra help.) A separate bell service took over after check-in. Service was attentive everywhere. The restaurant servers at Savona Bistro were particularly doting, and quick to respond to requests.
The front desk is composed of several podiums so the staff can deal with guests privately. The disadvantage is that there's no clear queue for waiting guests. If you're a Starwood Preferred Guest, the front desk can offer checkout as late as 2 p.m. so long as the hotel isn't busy. Guests staying in suites are entitled to extra services like twice-a-day maid visits and turndown service.
Located on East Flamingo Road, the Westin Casuarina is a mere tenth of a mile from the Strip, the densely packed three-and-a-half mile long stretch of hotel-casinos. It's a pleasant ten-minute walk, and along the way you'll pass by Bally's and the Flamingo and a monorail station that provides easy access to the rest of the Strip. A gas station and convenience store are right next to the hotel.
Cabs are also easy to find at virtually any time of day or night on the Strip. A generally less expensive option is the Deuce, a double-decker bus that runs up and down the strip 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and costs $3. The monorail stops at MGM Grand, Bally's/Paris, Flamingo/Caesars Palace, Harrah's/Imperial Palace, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Hilton, and the Sahara. A single ride ticket is $5; a one-day pass is $13. If you're traveling along the Strip with at least one other person, a cab is often the least expensive option.
The traditional guestroom is large at 370 square feet, with a king-size bed, ample seating and a work space. The Westin-style monochromatic palette is a bit dull. In fact, there's nothing exciting about the room, with one king-size exception: Westin's signature Heavenly Bed is one of the most comfortable beds you'll ever sleep in. To find out what makes it so heavenly, see this detailed description.
Guest rooms were given amenity updates in 2012. All rooms now also have a 42-inch flat-screen TV with basic cable and movies on-demand, new carpeting, and Wi-Fi (for a 24-hour period rate). The minibar stocks snacks like peanuts and gummy bears, drinks like Red Bull and Bud Light, and an intimacy kit and first-aid kit.
In the otherwise standard bathroom, the Heavenly Shower, with its two massage showerheads, stands out. And the bath products go beyond what other hotels offer: white tea aloe shampoo, conditioner and lotion, moisturizer, mouthwash, cotton buds and tips, and a sewing kit. The coffeemaker on the bathroom counter comes with free Starbucks packets.
Other room types include a WestinWorkout Room, which comes with either a treadmill or a stationary bike; a Deluxe City View Room (also 370 square feet, but with a view of the cityscape and extra features like an iPod dock); and one- or two-bedroom suites, starting at 750 square feet and featuring extra perks like turndown service.
A small but deep pool, a large gym with a wide range of new machines, and a full-service spa and salon. Free cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at the Unwind Event.
Located on the second floor, the 450-square-foot heated pool is small by Vegas standards. The shallow section (where kids can play) gradually drops off to 6 feet, so parents be aware. A few cabanas with two lounge chairs and a mini-fridge sit to the side. Inflatable beach balls dot the pool deck, and a seasonal pool bar serves drinks and sandwiches.
A shaded Jacuzzi is set on an elevated platform, next to a wall of cascading water. It's scenic in the evenings, when the Jacuzzi is illuminated by the neighboring buildings' colorful fluorescent glow. Yet evenings spent around the pool also entail looking at the trash that's piled up all day. And the nearby monorail tracks diminish the relaxing ambiance.
Hibiscus Spa, located next to the pool, is well worth a visit. The resort fee tacked onto the bill every night covers the steam room and sauna and lounging in the spa's lounge, where the hotel's low lighting is relaxing, not oppressive. Spa treatments are extra. The 14 treatment rooms are spread over 10,000 square feet on the second floor beside the pool. Prices are standard for a hotel spa: a Swedish massage costs $115 for 50 minutes. From Sunday to Thursday, you can get half off of a second treatment. The sports therapy treatment -- a deep tissue massage said to improve range of motion -- costs $130 for 50 minutes.
The spa's salon offers manicures, pedicures and even men's treatments. Pampering those little digits can cost anywhere from $35 to $100. Men's haircuts cost upwards of $45, and a 50-minute blackjack facial -- intended to "wake up, transform, and revise the masculine skin" -- is $125.
Every Sunday to Thursday guests can gather at the Unwind Event, an informal cocktail party in a small room beside Savona Bistro, the hotel restaurant. Beer, wine and juice are served, plus hors d'oeuvres, including grilled and fresh vegetables, cheeses, chips and spring rolls. A masseuse gives free chair massages (tips welcome).
Small, but with all the standard games. Caters mainly to hotel guests.
The casino is small, but it has all the requisite games: slot machines, blackjack, craps, roulette and Texas Hold 'em Bonus Poker. Since the hotel is off the Strip, this low-key casino attracts mostly -- if not only -- Westin's guests and a few locals.
Pets under 50 pounds allowed for a one-time fee and a deposit
The hotel charges travelers with pets at check-in, and puts a $150 hold on the room bill. The charge is removed at checkout, provided the stay was free of unfortunate pet-related incidents. All pets under 50 pounds are allowed, and the hotel will allow pets up to 70 pounds with manager approval.
The rooms are spacious, and and the restaurant has a kids' menu. But it's hard to shield kids from the front-and-center smokey casino.
With large rooms that can easily accommodate the hotel's free rollaway beds and the Westin's signature Heavenly Cribs, this hotel is relatively family-friendly. In-room movies include family movies, and the room service menu includes kids' choices like silver dollar pancakes, cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese. And for a casino-hotel, the property isn't so big that kids can easily get lost.
But while the casino is small, it's front and center, and smoking is allowed. If you'd rather keep your kids away from loud machines, indoor smoke and drunk gamblers, take your family to a non-gaming property like the Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Las Vegas Strip.
The rooms, spa, and lobby get high marks, but that standard doesn't extend throughout the hotel.
No question, the rooms, spa, restaurant, gym, and lobby were kept clean and tidy. But in other parts of the hotel, the standards for cleanliness were sub-par. Trays were left in the hallways for up to two hours. Even a mini-fridge sat in the hallway for several hours. The pool was not cleaned up in the evening, leaving remnants of the day's activities all over the place. Dirty towels strewn about, paper cups and puddles on the cement floor -- it was unsightly and, frankly, unacceptable.
Savona Bistro serves American cuisine, including steaks, pastas and seafood. The Casino Lounge and Starbucks Cafe offer drinks and light food.
The hotel restaurant, Savona Bistro, is right beside the casino. With the low lighting and a partial view of the slot machines, there's no escaping the casino at breakfast, lunch or dinner. The food is good, though not exceptional. For dinner, I ordered a grilled Alaskan halibut ($35), served on a bed of asparagus, and a side of spinach. While I enjoyed it, I'd say it was overpriced given the bleak setting. For lunch I had a Nicoise salad, which is a tricky dish to make. It erred on the side of being too sour and was decent at best. The menu also includes pastas, steaks, sandwiches and California wines. Open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
In-room dining features the full menu from Savona Bistro, and is available 24 hours, with a limited late-night menu. Breakfast is available from 6:00am to 11:00 a.m., and choices include omelets, a mango banana smoothie (made with fresh fruit and soy milk) and oatmeal.
The Casino Lounge, on a low platform overlooking the casino, serves cocktails and light fare such as pizza. Open 24 hours. Also in the hotel is a Starbucks Cafe.
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