Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hotel Review: Westin Cape Town

Leading up to my recent trip to Cape Town, I didn't really know what to expect. I ended up having an amazing time, including three amazing (and dramatically different) dining experiences, but the only things I'd really taken care of before the trip were the flights (see: Flying South African Airways Business Class From DC to Johannesburg) and the hotels.

We ended up spending 6 nights of the trip at the Westin Cape Town (still referred to as the "Westin Grande" to most locals), which is a short walk away from the city's waterfront area. Being a category 4 property, I was thrilled to be able to use cash and points for the entire trip - which as I talked about the other day, is the best option for these types of stays.

Having read up on the hotel on Flyertalk, I had a better idea of what to expect, and I'd say my experience was well within expectations.

Here's my summary of the highs and lows:


#1 - The Room. I had actually made 2 separate reservations, a single night stay for New Year's Eve (fortunately booked well in advance as the hotel ended up being sold out), and then the first 5 nights of January. I was able to use 5 Suite Night Awards to confirm an upgrade to a Junior Suite for the 5 night reservation, anticipating we'd just have to change rooms after the first night. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had linked the two reservations, and that we had the Junior Suite from the first night, with no need to change rooms!

Junior suite at the Westin Cape Town #1
Living room area - mostly separated from the bedroom
Junior suite at the Westin Cape Town #2
Bedroom, with a second flat-screen TV
Junior suite bathroom at the Westin Cape Town

In my experience, a "junior suite" is usually just an over-sized room - but this was about as close as you could get to two distinct rooms without them being separated by a "true" wall. The furnishings were modern, but comfortable - a combination that nicer Westins do a great job of balancing. We were on a low floor (5), and since it was REALLY windy near the water, we often heard a loud cracking sound as the wind whipped by the windows - at times it really felt like something was going to break!

#2 - The Food. While we were out and about for the vast majority of our meals, we did eat at the hotel a few times, particularly for breakfast. With my Platinum status, we had access to the Westin Executive Club on the 19th floor, which had a nice breakfast buffet and fantastic views of the city, and Table Mountain / Lion's Head.

Executive Club Breakfast Buffet at the Westin Cape Town #1
Cold station at the breakfast buffet
Executive Club Breakfast Buffet at the Westin Cape Town #2
Fruit and cereal station
Executive Club Breakfast Buffet at the Westin Cape Town #3
Breads and hot food station
Executive Club a la carte breakfast at the Westin Cape Town
The buffet also included great a la carte options
View from the Executive Club at the Westin Cape Town
View of the city, Table Mountain, and Lion's Head

We also sampled some of the food in the restaurant, and from room service. I tried the club sandwich and the ostrich medallions, and really enjoyed both of them.


#1 - The Internet. After reading up on Flyertalk, I was expecting the internet to be bad - and I wasn't disappointed. The speed was pretty slow, but that was only of concern when we were actually able to connect. The WiFi connection dropped countless times during the trip, and often it wasn't even possible to reconnect right away. In addition, it was bizarrely fickle - sometimes our computers would be able to connect but not my iPad, sometimes the opposite, sometimes one computer but not the other. There was really no rhyme or reason, and it was exceedingly frustrating. It was also really surprising, given that the Westin is clearly a "business hotel" and is connected to a large convention center.

#2 - The Food. As I mentioned above, it was generally good - but there were more than a handful of times where it fell well short of expectations. Let's just say that I would recommend steering clear of the sushi bar if you happen to be staying at the hotel. The fact that they only had tuna and salmon on the menu (and then informed my friends upon ordering that they were out of tuna at the moment) should've been a red flag. It was pretty bad - easily less appealing than your run-of-the-mill cheap sushi joint in NYC.

I would also recommend making sure that the person you're placing your order with has an accurate understanding of what it is you're ordering. One night, we decided to order an ice cream sundae as a late night snack. Per the room service menu, it was supposed to have 3 kinds of ice cream, and 3 different toppings. What came was 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream, with a little bit of chocolate sauce on the side. It was fine - but I really don't know where the confusion could've come from, as there was no "plain ice cream" option on the menu.


Overall, I would recommend the Westin in spite of the internet problems - at least for a vacation. However if I were in Cape Town on business, and internet was more crucial, I would certainly have reservations. It's a nice hotel, with good amenities, and (generally) good food - just stick to the basics. The location is a short walk from the waterfront area, and a short drive from many of the top tourist areas. Plus, it's one of only 2 Starwood properties in all of South Africa (the other is in Pretoria), so if that's important to you, you really don't have much of a choice!

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  1. i agrree! internet connection was terrible! r u still here in westin?

    1. Not any more - good luck with the connection if you are though!