Seen & Heard
The Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa, often referenced as one of the Grand Cayman’s top five hotels and by locals as the ‘next best thing’ to the neighboring Ritz Carlton, boasts reviews about emphasized casual luxe amenities, staff and service that would soon be improved with the hotel’s planned renovations in fall 2012. Basically, travellers are enjoying a five-star experience at three-star rates.
After a four hour journey from New York to Grand Cayman, we arrived at the palm tree lined property, awash in soft blues, whites and creams. Long check-out lines greeted us upon entering — which was expected for a noon arrival at a popular hotel. But our wait in the lobby turned into a quick lunch to pass the time. Due to a high ($15US) daily charge for in-room WiFi, the otherwise modern Caribbean meets colonial-chic greeting space lends itself to more of an iPad recreation room since the wireless in the main area is gratis. The staff was nice, welcoming and receptive to our needs from the beach and we were in our room within the hour, Cayman lemonade cocktail in-hand.
Unlike the rooms shown on the property’s website, our double ocean-front room made the reasoning behind the anticipated renovation very clear. Furnishings, while functional and spacious were dated in comparison to the Bose and Roche Bois-style furniture found in most newer, state of the art hotels in major cities. The decor is nice, clean and functional for a prolonged stay, complete with a bathroom with enough space ample for two. A quick review of their renovation plans gives you a glimpse into the modern touches that will be introduced soon, but when you consider your location — the rooms aren’t built for lounging, it’s all about the beach!
While we couldn’t find a minibar to sample, the empty in-room mini-fridge was the perfect way to keep water cool and early morning snacks fresh. The mini-rum cakes left on our dresser each night were a welcome surprise and the Westin Heavenly Bed was indeed just that. Views of the pool and ocean were a nice touch, at this property the other option is an “island view,” which really mean “view of the main road.” Go for the ocean and enjoy the balcony and poolside people-watching. Trust.
The view from the fitness center looks out onto the pool area, so if you like watching people watch you sweat, then go for it. Speaking of the pool, it is the real main attraction of the property. With a swim-up bar on one side and access to water sports on the other, The Westin does a good job in managing all types of traveller needs. Poolside service is quick, friendly and full of plenty of options and the abundance of palm trees becomes more of a blessing. Why? Because there is one thing no one mentions about Grand Cayman island — it’s one of the hottest places on earth. Refer to the “Hell” magnets in the gift shop.
On the beach, hiding from the sun with the complimentary umbrellas is a hit or miss if you aren’t paying attention, since visitors like to “save” their umbrellas while they go eat, etc. Cabanas, the other option, are available for $100 U.S. per day. After one hour in Cayman sun, that $100 doesn’t sound that bad because you will be melting. If the planned renovations includes ordering 50 more umbrellas then this beach could go casual-luxe to luxe in a minute as Seven Mile Beach’s white sands, blue waters and cool tides are perfect for a full day of tanning. Optional watersports like paddle-boarding and diving are available at a small costs, we opted for competitive cocktailing instead. A trip to the spa was quickly botched by a trip to the lobby bar (hey, it was Saturday!) however after sneaking down for a look — the spa is on the menu for next time.
Additional amenities such as their pretty expansive and convenient gift-shop/market and cafe were lightly used, but held the key to small conveniences such as iced-coffee and toothpaste that can make or break a trip.
When ordering room service, a menu is required – only there was no menu to be found in our room. After a call to the front desk, a menu was brought up — 45 minutes later with our room service order coming arriving 30 minutes after that. Our order, two burgers, were good however the wait to satisfy our hunger did put a cloud on what should’ve been a pretty standard experience on a typically busy hotel night.
The Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa is definitely worth a visit, we plan to return post-renovation. It’s friendly staff, beach location and proximity to the island’s main attractions, new shopping centre (Camana Bay) and popularity with foodie locals for their popular retaurants give visitors the option of staying on the property or exploring the island and still leaving with a great experience. If the planned renovations are as good as they look on paper, than The Westin’s stature on the island as the “second” compared to The Ritz Carlton may change as it will become the premier mid-level destination with some bang for your buck. Leave the pomp and circumstance to the high-class neighbor next door. Note that Grand Cayman is what is known as a “Christian Nation” so don’t expect to be out on a Saturday after midnight. Just reserve Sunday for the Westin’s pretty-awesome champagne brunch, grab a cabana and enjoy the view. Average rates range from $139 to $200 and more for deluxe suites. The property also offers a set of packages catered to divers/sportsmen and families … but the sand and water alone is a perfect option for professional beachers like me.