The W Retreat and Spa in Vieques is like the hipster, musician boyfriend you dated way back in the day: uber-cool, way too sexy and smart for a nerd like you. Your street cred is instantly bumped up just by telling people that you are staying at such a cool, unique, and awesome “retreat.” But just like that no-good boyfriend, the W will let you down in a million different ways.
The W Vieques isn’t a bad hotel: there are a lot of great things about it. Like I said, it’s pretty hot to look at. The rooms, the grounds, the lobby, the restaurants and communal spaces are stunning.
The rooms and public areas were designed by Spanish-born Patricia Urquiola of Milan-based Studio Urquiola, and they incorporate a lot of Spanish touches like macramé lamp shades and large colorful murals. They also used a lot of reclaimed wood and local artwork, which is a nice touch. And they had some interesting unique touches like a pool table, acoustic guitars on stands, and a huge outdoor firepit that folks could sit around every night and listen to the ocean.
We stayed in one of the six Marvelous Suites, which had a private balcony and views of the ocean, private beach, and bi-level infinity edge pool.
The room was amazing, huge, and very well decorated with tons of seating options, including a big round “chill chair” that was strewn with bright pillows and was large enough for two people.
Our room had separate shower and toilet rooms, and a huge horse-trough-like metal tub surrounded by a mesh net adjacent to the bedroom. Very, very cool. (You can buy the tub for around 6,000 euros. You read that right: SIX THOUSAND.)
The beach was gorgeous, clean and pristine with plenty of chairs. Same with the pool area. Over our seven night stay, I only saw people scramble to save poolside lounges one day. The bi-level pool was beautiful and they had these really swanky, curved white plastic loungers that were in the water between the two pools.
We didn’t use it, but the fully-equipped gym looked great and there were always tons of people in it. I probably saw more people using that gym than any other hotel gym I’ve ever seen or been in.
So looks-wise, the W Vieques fires on all cylinders.
However, like that hip boyfriend, where it falls short is on the little things. Like, not answering your calls or ignoring your messages. Let me explain: We tried emailing the concierge months before to arrange a few things, like excursions, reservations, etc. Silence. Well, we thought, that’s ok, we’ll take care of it when we get there. We thought we could call the concierge desk and speak to someone, but we inevitably got put through into a voice mail, where we would dutifully leave a message. Which, by the way, why even have a concierge desk if no one ever picks up the phone? Whatever. So invariably, every night we would go down and ask the concierge or the front desk if our message and request had been received and every single time we would be met with blank stares and then a scramble would commence to fulfill our request. Which seems very unnecessary. IF there’s a concierge on duty and they’re answering the phone.
Or, let’s say, just hypothetically, you make a date with this fine young boyfriend and then he shows up late. We got to the Vieques airport late. Big flight screwup with the local airlines, but we had called the W and told them about the problem. We told them we would be arriving later than originally scheduled, so they would need to change the airport pick up time they had us down for. Sure enough, we land in Vieques after travelling all day and there’s no pick up. The pilot who flew us in (and was also staying at the W) said they’d probably be there soon. After all, he was staying there too, so surely they’d come for us sooner rather than later, right? After waiting 15 more minutes, we called the hotel again and they finally sent the van to carry us the 1 mile drive back to the hotel.
Or, perhaps your musician boyfriend doesn’t like to get up early and doesn’t see why you need to get up early either. The W Vieques had a really, really difficult time getting us our wake up calls. As in, there were no wake up calls the first two days. Which happen to be the first two days of our diving instructions. The funny thing is I spoke (face-to-face) to the very nice girl at the front desk the night before our second day, explaining how we didn’t get a wake-up call the first morning, and were almost late for our first day of diving class, and oh my goodness isn’t that awful, and we’ll definitely make sure you get a call tomorrow morning, let me write it down right this minute. Alas, that call still did not come.
Maybe your cool but careless boyfriend likes to leave your valuables lying around, so they can possibly be stolen. I went to put our ipods, cameras, laptops, and other valuables in the safe the second morning. I put in the code and locked it. Then I couldn’t unlock it. I kept getting this lovely message.
After an afternoon of diving, we came back to the room at 3 pm (it still had not been made up) and called to get the safe fixed. They sent someone but he was just stumped. Could not fix it. He said they’d have to replace it, but he was heading home right now and would tell someone on his way out. Our safe was never fixed. We’re much relieved to report that nothing was stolen, but I don’t like being put in a position like that. If there’s a safe, we just want it to work. End of story.
There were a bunch of other little neglectful things, like another day with no maid service, a day where we could not get any poolside drink service, a bartender with a major attitude when we went for our free (and tiny) “sunset sipper” drinks in the evening, etc. Obviously, on an island with only 8,000 residents, hiring and retaining trained personnel is going to be a huge issue. And it certainly is at the W.
And like all, no-good, pretty, bad-boy boyfriends, you’ve got to keep your eye on your wallet at all times. For example: we went to the W’s Away Spa one day, which was very nice. (I must say, for a “retreat” that also calls itself a “spa,” the list of services were pretty limited.) After perusing all five (?) options, I settled on a facial, which was the BEST facial of my life from a technician named Oria. XFE had a massage that he was pretty blasé about.
We had a 20% off coupon and as Starwood Preferred clients we also get 10% off at the hotel, however, they would not combine discounts, so we just got the 20% off. We also later discovered (upon checkout) that we had been either double charged for our services or someone had put another $300-plus in services on our room number. XFE resolved that issue. But if we hadn’t been paying attention, we would have been facing a whopping spa bill. The facial wasn’t THAT good.
Another example: We ordered room service a couple of times and found it was prompt and good, particularly the lobster Caesar salad, which was delicious and well-priced, I thought, at $24. Alas, they were in the process of changing their room service menus and we got caught in the midst of a pricing dispute. They wanted to charge us their new price, which was $48. Luckily, Puerto Rican regulations (laws?) require that they honor the price stated on the menu currently in the room, and the price was adjusted. Again, if XFE hadn’t been watching everything with an eagle eye, we would have been overcharged.
And so it went the entire trip and even since we’ve returned. A cycle of overcharges that we have to contest, large “incidental fees” held on our credit card even though the room was paid for in advance, and a few mysterious charges of 0.05 cents and even one of 0.01 cent charged to our card the day BEFORE we even got there. Very weird.
Our final night, we ate at their MiX on the Beach, the seafront restaurant with a menu created by Alain Ducaisse. We had eaten at MiX at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and consider it one of our favorite meals of all time, but the Vieques edition was a big disappointment. I had the mofongo, which by this point in our trip I was an expert on, and it was awful. The plaintain mash wasn’t fried at all and the texture was like wallpaper paste. Inedible. XFE had one of our favorites from our meal at the Vegas location, a lobster coconut curry. It looked and tasted like an entirely different dish, with less broth and very little curry flavor. It was actually pretty bland – something that’s hard to do with a curry.
Overall, we loved Vieques and we want to love this hotel, but they’ve really got a long way to go in this relationship. I’m not sure we’d stay at the W Vieques again, no matter how good looking and alluring it is. We’d probably try one of the smaller, guesthouse type hotels that dot the island instead.