My first/initial (and somewhat preliminary) experience/impressions with SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) linked to Marriott Rewards and the Platinum/status match, here in Panama City, Panama. On, and, frankly, I didn't have a lot of experience with WESTIN, either, so here goes...
Quick summary: for the most part, I was impressed, pleased, and pleasantly surprised with both SPG and this particular Westin.
First, a little background on Panama and the Marriott
- pics - Panama Canal and Panama City
- Panama downtown hotel review -
- Direct service on Copa from Dulles (IAD) - much better than changing in Miami.
So here I am in Panama at the Westin Playa Bonita.
- This is a VERY different property than the Marriott downtown!
- Nice, large resort property on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.
- Front desk clerk offered warm platinum welcome, and we had a nice chat about the merged programs.
- Cheerily upgraded to top floor with killer balcony looking out over ocean - the phone pic, above was taken from my balcony. The view was equally expansive in the other direction, but my phone couldn't do it justice....
- Front desk staff APOLOGIZED (whoa) that there were no suites available, but told me that - if I wanted to move after the first night, I could have a suite for the rest of my stay. (I was delighted, but declined.)
- The executive lounge, with killer floor to ceiling glass looking out over the ocean (looking out into the ocean where dozens of cargo ships of all sizes are waiting for their passage/appointment through the canal), has many features
- in appearance and staff - similar to JW level properties;
- Full table layout: china, glassware, flatware, linen throughout the day;
- Food offerings were limited but generous. I've seen better (recently at the Marriott in Abu Dhabi - nice!) and worse (more places than I can count).
- Nice coffee/espresso machine;
- Finger food/fruit & nuts during the lunch hour;
- Limited wine and beer on offer during limited hours. Bloody Mary's available Sunday morning, a different alcoholic breakfast drink on Monday.
- One irrelevant but (to me, fascinating) ornithological point .... dunno if you've ever seen the magnificent frigate bird (no, I didn't make up the name), it's typically classified as a cormorant ... stunning - looks like a kite (but a big one - wing spans of 7-8 feet - no, that's not a typo). Anyway, the only time I've ever seen them in large numbers has been here in Panama - at the canal locks (another trip), where the fish get caught and driven up to the surface, they are ubiquitous... up on Ancon hill, they're common as well... But it's wild (sorry, no pun intended) seeing them flying at, around, and under the hotel windows and balconies... At the moment, there's one riding the thermals up (e.g., circling) - it appears to be climbing at about two stories a minute - and at no point during when it was in my field of view, did it move its wings.... incredible...
- Comfortable room, spacious, nicely appointed bathroom, robe and slippers, different (but satisfactory) toiletries. Two bonuses:
- post-9/11 travel basics - including tooth brush/paste, razor/cream, Q-tips, etc. and
- Zika-area handy insecticide wipes....
- Recycling container in room! (C'mon Marriott, get on board.....)
- Mini-gripe - solid desk chair but NOT ON WHEELS and not adjustable. ARGH.
- Pools, pools, pools, swim up bars, water volleyball, etc... But, hey, I'm here for a conference so that's all lost on me...
- Strange and inexplicable ... head-scratcher: the Starwood web page is chock full of information, but much of it is ... um ... just plain wrong. WEIRD. Among other things, I sent emails to three (3) different addresses prominently displayed on the web site, and I received responses from, you guessed it, none of them.
In any event, a good first impression of Starwood, SPG (Platinum Match), and Westin.