Review: Casa Marina Key West
March 17-19; 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
I arrived at the Casa Marina quite early, around 1:30. Check-and and parking proved unnecessarily tedious. Initially, I pulled up to the parking gate to find that it was room key-operated only, rather than the usual operation of offering a ticket for entry. I carefully maneuver out, make a u-turn, and pull round to the porte cochere – all while watching for the clueless cyclists.
The check-in desks handled me promptly. I was offered an upgrade for $100 per night, which I declined. This was before any mention of my Honors diamond status was made. /Sigh This was after a 10 minute wait for the IT system to reboot after an apparent digital siesta. I was offered two room keys, but asked not to use them until housekeeping could double-check the room (for monsters?). I was told that this would happen by text within about half an hour. No problem, I would be enjoying the beach and pool. I was thanked for being a diamond, told that no diamond upgrades were available, and offered my breakfast vouchers, and a letter.
Taking my gear, I went back to the car. The street-parked cars blocked any safe view of oncoming traffic. Again, I worried about cyclists. I said a prayer and went around to the parking lot. I pull round to the self-parking lot and try the card. It. Won’t. Work. A car is behind me trying to get in. Awesome. Fortunately, he lets me out without cursing me.
By now, about 25 minutes have been wasted on what should have taken 3 minutes at…virtually any of hotels which saw 115 nights of my stays in 2017. I return to the desk to request that the key be re-coded. I inform this front desk agent that her colleague handled my check-in, but the key would not let me into the self park lot. After being reminded preschool-style that my room wasn’t able to be accessed (WTF?), I was given a parking-only key, since apparently I couldn’t be trusted to not break into my own room. By now, I was furious at the slap-in-face of being sold an upgrade that elites are given complimentary on a space available basis, the waste of time on parking, the waste of time on their IT, and spoken to as if I were just lobotomized.
Thank God for that beach and pool. I needed it.
The Casa Marina has a stretch of private beach adjacent to a public beach. While it’s quite pretty, you can’t walk out from the Casa Marina’s property, due to rocks. The piers one could use to walk out beyond said rocks were heavily damaged during Irma and are still off limits. In order to wade out, I walked around the fence to the public beach. I passed a homeless chap resting on the public side of the fence. My social scientist side couldn’t help but notice the implicit commentary on his plight versus the position of those in a resort where the cheapest room was going, all in, at $690 per night.
After an hour at the beach followed by some time at the Casa Marina’s adult-only pool (kind of a godsend for various reasons), I went to my room. The Casa Marina and its sister property, The Reach, aren’t well-regarded among my fellow Hilton-family elites/regulars on frequent traveler communities such as Flyertalk. Largely, it is due to the properties’ Waldorf-Astoria branding (at W-A pricing) delivering Doubletree (code for: business class, albeit inconsistent) service/style.
While I was braced for disappointment, I was happy enough with the room. The Ferragamo amenities in the bathroom were pleasant, as was the espresso machine. The bathroom itself was generic US airport Hilton/Doubletree (ie no rainfall shower w/ separate tub, middling fixture quality).
The view was a mix of the parking lot and area/town. I imagine that paying $0 on the room rate strongly influenced my general contentedness. At $690 + parking…well…
Before sunset, I headed out for a run along the coast. In what felt like no time at all, I ended up at the airport and realized that I should turn back if I wanted to wash up and make it in time to make an appointment that first night. Key West is awesome for runners due to the sidewalks, scenery, sea air, and low speed limits, by the way.
The next morning, I used my $15 Honors diamond voucher at the Casa Marina’s breakfast buffet. I was happy.
Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond elites are entitled to a complimentary continental breakfast at full service properties around the world. Most properties chuck in the full buffet, but some institute an upcharge for hot items. US Waldorfs offer a $15 voucher.
This is a rather parsimonious interpretation of the rules. A coffee and muffin from a hotel’s coffee shop count, but given that Conrad’s (Hilton’s “contemporary” luxury brand) tend to throw in an excellent complete buffet or menu breakfast, the Waldorfs’ offerings come off as stingy.
Still, the buffet was quite good. Omelets to order, eggs benedict, great fruit, pastries etc.
Not so minor problem: My room was down the hall from the bathroom used by outside pool/bar/beachgoers as well as any guests in the adjacent ballroom. This presented a problem as I’d hear guests of on-property wedding receptions using the hand dryer and opening the creaky door. That was rather annoying between 10 pm – midnight, especially.
On the whole, this was a solid Hilton on a beach. The use of a luxury brand on this property is…ambitious. While the pool and breakfast were quite good, it wasn’t markedly “better” than the Hilton Hawaiian Village, for example. The poorly-soundproofed rooms…are not acceptable at this price point.
– James out!