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Friday, January 10, 2014

Naples, Florida / Waldorf Astoria

December 2013, Weekday-holiday, 3-nights, Reward stay, King guestroom #1526

sunset on the beach
Status perks and check-in
The Naples Waldorf Astoria does not have an elite check-in desk, and we waited in line behind two other guests for about 10 minutes to check-in. We observed a male employee at a desk by the front desk, and two female employees behind the counter between this man and the front desk. I did not see a HHonors sign anywhere, and after we had been waiting several minutes, I walked over to the three employees who were not assisting anyone. I asked if the hotel has an elite check-in area, and the female employees said no. One of the female employees said that she could check me in, if I wanted. I mentioned the guest before me who had been waiting longer than me. The employee did not offer to assist that guest, so I got back in line behind the other guest.

After the guest in front of us had been called to the counter, and more guests were in line behind us, I heard a male voice tell the front desk agent to "ring the bell." I assume the agent behind the front desk pressed something behind the counter, which rang in the back, because a few seconds later, another agent walked out from the back and offered assistance.

We approached the counter, and this employee completed our check-in. He said that he had a nice gulf view room for us. He did not say that this was an upgraded guestroom, although he implied that it was. All of the guestrooms at this hotel have at least a partial gulf view except for the lower floors. I also received a letter with my key packet listing my Gold perks. My name, address, HHonors number, airline number, and status were typed at the top of this letter. The agent referred to my status as Gold, which was typed at the top of the letter; however, he stated that I would get two of the Diamond perks listed in the body of the letter. I did not question him, or try to take advantage of two of the perks, since my status is Gold.

Later during our stay, I had some questions, so I stopped at the desk where the male employee had been seated when we checked in, and asked him if this was the Hilton Honors desk. He said that the hotel does not have a HHonors desk, and he offered to assist me. The letter I had received said: "...please stop by our Hilton Honors Desk...," and I wanted to make sure I had not been given incorrect information at check-in. I like to make sure that the information I am sharing is accurate! During this conversation, I learned that the hotel would be waiving the resort fee, since I was staying on a points stay. I was very happy to hear this since the resort fee is $30 a night.

Guestroom 1526 is on the 15th floor of this 18-floor building. It is located near the end of the hall, at the east end away from the gulf. It faces north with a partial gulf view. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the guestroom diagram on the back of the door. The odd numbered guestrooms across the hall have a better sunrise and sunset view; however, the front desk agent told me that the guestrooms on that side of the building have more of a city view, and that more water is visible from the even numbered guestrooms.

The guestroom was spacious, comfortable, and clean. The beverage area next to the entrance contained a small fridge, Keurig coffeemaker with supplies, four glass glasses, two wine glasses, coffee mugs, steel ice bucket, and bottled water and wine for purchase. I was surprised to see that powder creamer was supplied instead of liquid creamer. The coffee brand was Donut House--not one of our favorite brands. Housekeeping removed one of our used wine glasses during turndown service the first evening, and this was never replaced, so we only had one wine glass after this.

The spacious closet next to the beverage center contained the hairdryer, a large safe, two folding luggage racks, hangers, and extra bedding. A bathrobe was not provided; however, I was able to request one to be brought to the guestroom.

The bathroom located across from the beverage area was a decent size. Bathing amenities and two more glass glasses were set on the long vanity, which had two sinks in front of a long mirror. The towels were thick and plush, just like the bathrobe that was brought to the guestroom.

The bathroom contained a glassed walk-in shower and a large tub. The drain plug in the tub did not seal well, and the water slowly drained out when the plug was in. We both loved the spacious tile shower. There was a ledge in the corner of the shower for bath items, and there was room along the inside ledge at the bottom of the glass by the tub for small items, such as a shaver.

We received an abundance of bathing amenities and more towels shortly after we had checked in. Someone came to the guestroom and set up additional supplies while we were on the balcony. We saw that he was delivering something to the bathroom, and we did not realize exactly what he had brought until after he departed. We assume that another guest had requested extra bathing supplies, which were delivered to our guestroom by mistake.

Guestroom 1526 and balcony
The guestroom area contained a desk with two chairs, a sitting bench, king-size bed, nightstands with lamps and lighted clock, flatscreen TV on an armoire, chaise lounge, coffee table, soft chair, and footstool. The sitting area and bed were both comfortable. The bedding was good quality, although not superb.

The Internet connection speed was great, although there were not enough easily accessible outlets in the living/bedroom area. There was only one unused outlet at the desk, which I used for my laptop. When we wanted to charge the iPad or our phones, we had to plug them in by the floor lamp next to the chaise lounge. Then the item had to either be set on the floor or the seat. The guestroom was well-lit.

We heard some outside noise while in the guestroom--from guests on the balcony, in the hallway, and overhead. Considering how full the hotel was at the time of our stay, and the number of children in the hotel, the noise was minimal.

Two chairs and a small table were on the balcony. We did not have much of a gulf view, unless we stood and looked over the rail. I expect that the guestrooms at the west end of the building have a much better view than this guestroom. Even so, we were happy to have a guestroom on one of the higher floors.

view standing on the edge
of the guestroom balcony
Another guest, who had a guestroom on the 18th floor on the south side of the building, told us that the HVAC unit turned off when they opened the sliding glass door. I am not sure if he was mistaken, or if the guestrooms on the top floor had been more recently updated, because this did not happen in our guestroom. The temperature was comfortable, and we like the fresh air, so I turned our HVAC unit off myself.

This building is designed so that more guestrooms have a view of the gulf. This is nice in that regard; however, the obstruction on the left in the balcony view photo is the guestroom next to ours. Guests on that balcony could look around the corner and see all the way into our guestroom. I could clearly see their faces when they did this while I was sitting at the desk across the room.

One of the things I mentioned when I spoke with the employee at the lobby desk (I have no idea what his title/job duty is; there were no business cards or a sign on the desk), was that our guestroom had not been cleaned on stayover until after 4 p.m. Since we are early risers who tend to dine early, this was not very convenient for us. He said that he could put in a time request for the next day, and he stated hour ranges. I requested the 8 to 9 a.m. time slot. I do not know if he passed on my request (he appeared to write a note on his ledger pad while I was there); however, this request was not met. Our guestroom was cleaned around noon the next day, which was definitely better than 4:30 p.m. Turndown service was automatically provided the first two nights of our stay, and we did not receive turndown service the last night.

Food & Beverages
We did not have many food and beverage items at the hotel, because we thought the prices were high. The cost for Christmas Day brunch/dinner for one was $95. We visited Aura Lounge one evening, and we had food and beverages at Palm Terrace Grill by the pool. The food and beverage quality, as well as the service, were both satisfactory.

Palm Terrace Grill seating
next to the adult pool
I am not sure what I received when I ordered a sangria drink from the pool menu. My beverage looked like it could have been a frothy sangria and the flavor was good. I had not expected the beverage to be frothy, and the cost was less than the one I had ordered off the menu.

I could not find an online menu for the Palm Terrace Grill, and I do not recall the exact names of the food items we ordered. The sandwich I had was some type of turkey club with avocado and a side of slaw. The menu listed this item with a fruit side; however, I had fruit in my beverage from the pool, so I requested something different. My husband had a fish sandwich--mahi mahi, I believe.

My sandwich was excellent, although I did not like the flavor of the slaw. The portion size was average. Our bill with tax and tip was over $36, and we did not have a beverage or any other items on this check.

I saw an ad in the hotel for a champagne glass special on Friday for $5. I think the time for this was 5 to 8 p.m. Unfortunately for us, Friday was the day we were departing. I like champagne, and the brand was one I did not recognize, so I asked our server in Aura Lounge what the cost was for a glass before Friday. She said $24! I guess the Friday special was a fabulous deal.

Pool, beach, outside areas
The hotel did not seem to be very full the day that we arrived, and it was very busy the morning before we checked out two days after Christmas.
adult pool view from our favorite seats

The adult pool area was quiet for the most part, although we did see kids in the area a few times. Some of the kids were with adults who had rented a cabana, and the other children were kids who were not old enough to read, and it appeared that no one had told them that the area is for adults.

adult pool view from our seats one day
We never had trouble getting lounge chairs since we arrived at the pool early in the day; however, many guests could not find seats at this pool. Part of the problem was caused by seat savers. The hotel "resort etiquette" says that chair saving is not allowed; however, this was not enforced during our stay.

At least four chairs had already been saved near us when we arrived at the pool around 9 a.m. We only saw one person arrive at the saved chairs before we departed around 2 p.m. And then, that person had to call someone on her cell phone to find out if the saved chairs she was standing by were the ones for her group. The same thing happened the second morning, only the second morning we did not see anyone at the saved chairs before we left for the beach.

main pool early in the morning
The main pool with the water slide was mildly crowded and noisy the first two days, and it was packed the morning of our last day before we checked out. There is not a whirlpool in this area. The only whirlpool is at the adult pool.

waterfall at the main pool
next to the water slide

I read some guest complaints about the fact that the hotel is not located on the beach. I had read that it is about 1/2 mile (.6 mile is what the cart drivers told us) from the hotel, so we expected this. It was actually almost 3/4 of a mile to the cart drop-off spot according to my phone GPS. It is then a short walk to the beach from there. We thought the walk or ride through the mangroves was part of the charm of the resort.
view of WA from bridge
on way to beach

The beach is beautiful. We enjoyed it during the day, and when the sun set. There is no charge for towels or chairs, although there is a charge for extras, like luxury beds, beach umbrellas, kayaks, and paddle boards. We rented an umbrella one of the days that we visited. The rate was $20, and with tax and gratuity, which is automatically added, the charge was $25.02. One of the questions that I had asked the desk employee the day I spoke with him, was whether the 10% rental discount at the resort I had read about applied to beach rentals. He called someone to check, and then he told me yes. He said that if I charged the umbrella rental to my room, 10% would automatically be taken off. We were charged the full $25.02 on our bill. Since we had not paid the $30 daily resort fee, I did not ask anyone to correct this. I could not figure out what the resort fee covered, other than the cart ride to the beach.

I thought the beach service was lousy. After we provided our payment information for the umbrella, the clerk relayed this information to an employee, along with our request for two chairs and four towels. The employee walked away with no towels, so I started to grab four towels. My husband (whose hands were full), and the clerk who had processed the paperwork, both said something to the beach attendant about the towels. My husband was actually telling me not to get the towels, so I slightly extended my arms with the towels; however, the beach attendant did not return to pick up the towels from me.

After we got to the beach, the beach attendant said we would probably have to sit way down at the end (we had arrived after lunch and were planning to stay until sunset). We said that would be perfect. He positioned the umbrella in the sand where we wanted it, and I set the towels I had carried on one of the chairs. He then told us his name and said that if we needed anything else to let him know. My husband gave him an extra tip, he departed without laying out our towels, and we never saw him again!

I am fully capable of carrying and laying out my own towels; however, at a resort like this, I expected much better service than we received. To say that I was appalled, would be an understatement. In fact, we felt like most of the staff members at this resort expected us to grace their hands with cash just for being there.

The beach was beautiful. The sand was soft, it was easy to walk on, and the sunset was gorgeous. We saw dolphins swim by very close to shore, as well as pelicans and other fowl nearby.

There are restrooms at the beach; however, the Women's restroom was filthy and disgusting every time that I visited it. One day, one of the toilets was apparently leaking because there was water all over the floor. The trashcan was always overflowing with hand towels and the stench in the bathroom was horrible.

There is a beach grill with seating and a limited menu. We did not have anything from the beach grill except for water, so I can not comment about that.

The day that we stayed until after sunset, guests were lined up for cart rides back. We had several items to carry, so we also waited for a ride. Even though we had to wait for the 3rd cart before it was our turn, our wait was not long. Part of the reason the carts were full, is because they also stop and pick up local residents from Clam Pass Beach Park, which is located next  to the Waldorf Astoria.

Here are a few more photos taken from the boardwalk through the mangroves. Some were taken while we were walking, and some were taken while we were riding in the back seat of the cart.

Parking and pool elevator
The Naples Waldorf Astoria website says that self-parking is $10 and valet parking is $22. I like that this hotel actually listed the parking charge as $9.43 on our bill, so that when the 57 cent tax was added, it equaled $10. I have stayed in other hotels and resorts where the charge ends up being more than listed on the hotel website, because tax is added to the quoted charge.

There is an elevator accessible from the parking garage, even though this information is not shared with guests. We were told at check-in that there is not an elevator in the parking garage. The elevator is located straight ahead by the far wall after entering the parking garage. Several parking spaces in the area say, "members only." There is a door by these spaces that opens to the back pool area and an elevator. This elevator only goes to the 3rd floor, and then you will need to walk down the hall to the main bank of elevators to get to your floor. Unless, of course, your guestroom happens to be on the 3rd floor.

The pool elevator is extremely slow, which is probably why the hotel does not want guests using it to transport luggage from the parking garage. We used this elevator every time that we went to the pool or beach and back, so we rode it several times. Even when the elevator arrived empty, it took a long time to arrive. I did not observe anyone transporting their luggage on this elevator, and I imagine that if a lot of people did this, it would get even more clogged up. The only other way we found to get to the pool was by using the main elevator, and then walking through the lobby and bar area.

Misc. and overall
There is a Publix grocery store and a few restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, if you like to walk. We walk every morning, so we walked to breakfast and to the grocery store. Publix is just under 1.5 miles one-way.

This is the second time I have stayed in a Waldorf Astoria hotel, and I felt the same way after this stay that I did the first time - unimpressed. The property was impressive, and we loved the facility; however, we were not impressed with the service. Most of the reviews that I read about this property said that the property is overpriced with poor service, and I tend to agree with that. Since we were staying on points, and our resort fee was also waived, this was an excellent value for us. We redeemed a fairly high number of points for this stay--150,000 points for a 3-night stay. Even so, we were quite happy with our stay. If we had paid more than $250 a night, plus the $30 resort fee, and the $10 parking fee, I think I would have been dismayed instead of unimpressed. Some of the unhappy reviews I read were from guests who had paid over $600 a night.

I shared my blog review with Waldorf Astoria Naples on Facebook, and I was impressed that I had an online reply, and that my comments were taken seriously. About a week after that, I received a telephone call from them. The employee thanked me for my feedback, and I was assured that the observations I noted have been addressed. She provided a brief account of the property ownership and management, which she said had just recently changed. She said that the property is undergoing future enhancements as well. She invited me to visit again, and give them another chance to "wow" me. 

The contact I received after our stay is the type of service and attention to detail that I expect from a business like this. A company that places customer satisfaction as a top priority is the kind of company I want to do business with! We will definitely make an effort to visit the Waldorf Astoria in Naples again within the next year, and I will share our experiences after we do.