* Advance apology: I took many photos of the hotel during my stay, but somehow they became corrupted and I was unable to use them. I have substituted official photos from the hotel’s website instead. *
I frequently find myself in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for one of two reasons: 1, I’m going on a cruise, or 2, I’m attending a travel agent convention. I’m really annoyed that it is usually #2 instead of #1! But, in all the times I’ve stayed in Fort Lauderdale I have never had the privilege of staying at a beachfront hotel, until recently.
Last week, I attended the CruiseWorld conference, a gathering of professional travel agents from all across the country and Canada for four days of early mornings, late nights, little sleep, and LOTS of coffee. This time around, I decided to stay at Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Westin Beach Resort & Spa Fort Lauderdale. Located on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard adjacent to Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Westin Beach Resort is well-located for the traveler looking for quality beach time but requires close connections to nightlife, shopping, and Port Everglades.
Arrival & Check-In
The Westin Beach Resort is actually two buildings – the North and South Towers, connected by a skywalk bridge. In the picture above, the North Tower is on the right and that is where the lobby, pool, and hotel restaurant are located. The South Tower, on the left, is home to the Westin Spa, workout facilities, conference & banquet facilities, and a Starbucks store. Upon arriving at the Westin Beach Resort, I was immediately met by a bellhop who assisted me out of my town car transfer from the airport with a pleasant greeting, and directed me to the check-in desk. The lobby area was not large, but it was designed well to maximize usage of the space, with plenty of seating of different types from ottomans to love seats to armchairs. A nice touch was a seating area located in a small room off the main lobby, really nice for larger parties to wait without getting in the way of the general traffic flow. Also off the lobby was Shula’s On The Beach, a typical hotel-based restaurant and bar that is part of the Shula’s restaurant empire founded by legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. The lobby was also home to a gift shop that was hidden from view behind the main elevator bank; it is easy to miss and in fact, I didn’t see it until the morning I was checking out, and since it was closed at the time I couldn’t pop in.
While my reservation was on file and my room was waiting for me, there was a small issue that prevented me from checking in immediately (totally my fault). The Westin staff was polite and patient while the situation was resolved, and in no time at all I was in my room.
For this stay, I had a standard double bed room on the 4th floor, #431. It was tucked away in a corner, which was nice, as that kept hallway traffic to a minimum which I appreciate. The room itself contained two queen beds, dresser with drawers, armchair and a work desk with comfy chair. The room also contained a closet, iron with ironing board, console table, and a mini-fridge. The decor of the room was a relaxing neutral beige with darker wood trim, and one wall was a floor to ceiling window with drapes to cover it all. The bathroom was excellently appointed, with a backlit mirror above the sink that kept the light muted to just the right level. I was spoiled rotten by the rain shower head in the tub shower, which I could switch to a hand-held piece if I needed. A particularly nice touch was an open window space on the wall that separated the bathroom from the bed area – a louvered shutter-like door was here, opening up the room a little more. I was a little surprised by the bathroom door, though. It was a wooden plantation door with slats much like shutters, that moved to the side like a pocket door. It didn’t seem that it would provide much bathroom privacy, especially from noises, but since I was staying alone it wasn’t a bother.
Of course, the biggest benefit to any Westin room is the signature Heavenly Bed, and that is an appropriate name for it. Every night was a treasure, and made me wish I could pack the bed up and bring it home with me (Side note: Starwood does sell the Heavenly Beds and they are also available through Nordstrom’s. A queen mattress with box spring ran just under $2,000. Heavenly comfort isn’t cheap!).
In the room, Westin provides their Westin White Tea shampoo and conditioner, as well as soap for the body and hands. Also provided was a coffeepot with Starbucks coffee for that morning kick in the pants, and two bottles of Dasani bottled water. One was complimentary; if you opened the second one, it would be a $2.00 charge to your room folio. A flat-screen television was available, and due to the nature of my stay I didn’t turn it on once. Westin provides in-room internet (cabled or WiFi) for a fee, which is complimentary if you are a higher-ranking member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. I found the WiFi service to be excellent compared to other hotel systems I’ve used: I never had a problem connecting, and once connected there were no service issues except when trying to play internet video – it wasn’t as smooth as I am used to, but that was a minor issue and was expected considering the venue.
The view from Room 431 wasn’t much to brag about – it looked toward the W Hotel next door, and a quick glance down overlooked part of the parking garage. If I put my face close to the window and looked just right, I could see part of the beach in front of the hotel, but it is really a stretch to call it an ocean-view room.
The hotel pool is located on the third floor, and is completely outdoors. It is a decent size and length, and is surrounded by many loungers. I viewed the pool during the early morning hours, and I can imagine that it gets pretty full at peak times. The pool deck also has cabana-style huts on one side, but I am unsure if they are first-come, first-serve or if there is a cost to use them. Guests can access the beach across the street from the pool deck via a skywalk across Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, a great option to avoid tracking water and sand through the lobby when you return to the hotel.
Workout facilities were on the first floor of the South Tower, and contained the basic treadmills and cable-weight machines. I was surprised the workout rooms were not bigger, considering the size of the hotel, but I never saw the rooms packed with people so they must have made the space ‘just right.’ Also in the South Tower was the Heavenly Spa, Westin’s signature spa experience. I didn’t partake of the spa (though I really, really wanted to) but I did check out the space – it is well appointed and gorgeous, and it seemed like it would be easy to just let the stress go away during a session here.
The pool deck is also home to the Waves Bar & Grill serving up appetizers, salads, and other light fare – nothing too fancy, but just the ticket if you’re hanging out at the pool all day. Nearby was Amatsu, a small sushi bar which I didn’t patronize this visit, and of course, Shula’s. I didn’t have a meal at Shula’s, but I had dessert one night (the 7-layer chocolate cake is to DIE for!) and spent a couple evenings with friends at the bar. It was nothing too special, just your typical hotel bar experience. I have eaten at other Shula’s elsewhere and found the food standards to be excellent; I have no doubt this location meets that standard as well. The Westin does not offer a complimentary breakfast, but hot breakfast sandwiches and pastries were available at Starbucks in the South Tower, and it seemed many locals would stop there on their morning runs to get coffee or juice.
On the whole, I was rather happy with the Westin Beach Resort. The property was well maintained, though the hallway carpet could have been a little cleaner. I found the location to be excellent, especially if you were looking for a place to go to the beach a little, but not be STUCK at the beach, and yet close to restaurants, some light shopping, and not too far from the famed Las Olas district. This would be an excellent home base for someone planning a cruise from Port Everglades, but coming in a couple days ahead to start relaxing before the cruise. The Westin is a good choice for families as they have a kid’s program (though I didn’t explore that amenity) and in fact, I saw many families checking in as well as couples both young and mature. I can easily say that I have found a new favorite hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and look forward to returning to the Westin Beach Resort.