Monday, August 4, 2014

Hotel Review: Westin Desert Willow Villas, Palm Desert

The Westin Desert Willow Villas
SPG Category: 5

Points required for a free night 12,000  to 16,000 Starpoints

Cash+Points Requirement: 6,000 Starpoints + $110 per night for standard rooms, 6,750-7,250 + $150 for upgraded rooms

A year and a half ago we stayed in Palm Springs at the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa for a winter visit. That year we had initially planned on visiting in summer to enjoy temperatures over 40 degrees C but plans changed and we ended up going in December. We still wanted to experience those hot temps and get some early back to school shopping done so we made it out Palm Springs this year in the middle of July. Our wish came true with the Palm Springs area reaching record temperatures during our stay with one day reaching 47 and I can only imagine that with all the concrete around the pool it was even hotter!

Since we had already stayed at the Westin Mission Hills we wanted to try a new hotel in the area and with only a few weeks left in Starwood's Earn Away Getaway promotion and SPG being one of our main hotel programs we decided to try another Starwood location in the area.  It came down to the Westin Desert Willow Villas or the Le Meridien Parker Palm Springs. The Westin won out based on the available amenities for our kids (more pools, waterslides etc.) and for being half the price of the Parker. Looking at the photos of the Westin Desert Willow Villas online it looked like it would be like one of our favourite Westins, the Ocean Resort Villas in Ka'anapali Maui.

I booked us a Premium Villa on the AAA with $75 resort credit rate which was the best rate that I found for us. The regular AAA with no credit was the same price per night and the 3rd night free (Z3R rate) was marginally cheaper but required full payment and was non-refundable/cancellable. I always try to avoid the latter! Check in was quick and easy, I choose the 250 Starpoints Gold Elite amenity over the free drink and we were offer to our third floor villa in building four of the resort.

The Villa did remind us those at the Ocean Resort Villas in Maui with some slight differences like a fireplace! The stay started off great as we made our way to the Palo Verde pool (this pool is closest to buildings 3,4,5 and 6) while the main pool area which has three pools and the waterslide are closer to buildings 1 and 2. We enjoyed a few hours of great swimming, drinks by the pool (making great use of that $75 resort credit) then made our way to the only restaurant at the resort, Agave, for dinner. The food was quite good and much to our surprise came super fast! After some exploring of the Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage area we came back to the Villa to call it a night. The kids were set to crash on the pull out sofa and we found that it only had a small blanket for it. When we stay at the villas in Maui, they have the blanket and a duvet for the pull out sofa and we usually call down for an additional one to use as a 'mattress' cover to make the pull out more comfortable. Since there wasn't even one in our room I called service express to get two duvets and two extra pillows for them. When housekeeping arrived they came with two pillows and two extra pillow covers. I asked where the Duvets were and he said they thought we meant pillow covers and I explained that no we wanted Duvets/Comforters, he explained they don't provide those. Now you may be asking why would you want a Duvet when you are in Palm Springs where it is super hot. Well to be honest, with it so hot outside you want the air conditioning running to cool the room and at times it makes the room too cool but shutting it off makes the room heat up fast and it end up being uncomfortable. The perfect balance is having the duvet with the room somewhat cool rather than hot and stuffy. Anyways I called service express back and explained what we wanted and was told they do not have extra duvets at all and do not provide them. Also they stated they could bring extra blankets up but all were in the wash and it would be sometime before they could come up with them. Definitely not ideal, so I went to the front desk to see how we could rectify the situation and they were of no help. I asked if they could just grab a duvet from another room but the only manager on duty was the Food and Beverage manager and he wasn't authorized to do so. Finally I took it upon myself to go to Wal-Mart and buy my girls a duvet at 11pm! I tweeted my displeasure to SPG and they contacted the hotel manager the next day and he gave us a credit for the amount we paid for the duvet. What gets me, is that neither the front desk nor the manager could provide an answer as to what happens if a customer spills something or somehow messes up a duvet and asks for another one. In all my years of travelling this was the very first hotel that could not provide an extra duvet.

After this issue the first night, the remainder of our stay was good. We ended up enjoying the closer Palo Verde pool more since the main pool areas tended to be quite busy and it seems like everytime we walked by the main pools one or more of them were closed due to unsanitary conditions (saw the sign at two of the three pools over our four night stay). The kids did try out the water slide and enjoyed it, although it seems all four of us had more fun at the Palo Verde pool. The Villa served us well, having a king size bed and the pull out were perfect for our family. The Wi-Fi was relatively fast and we had no problem running multiple devices at once as the resort allows up to 10 items to be logged in at once per room. My only other complaint would be the TV's. It appears it uses some new system to access channels and literally it took a few minutes from the time you pressed the 'on' button to the time you actually got the signal and ability to change channels. Kind of odd in this day and age. We didn't make too much use of the kitchen other than the fridge which we used for our drinks and fresh fruit that we bought. The villa like other Starwood Vacation resorts also had a washer and dryer in it. All great amenities for families on longer stays!

The Westin Desert Willow Villas participates in Starwood's Go Green initiative where you can forego housekeeping and get a $5 dining voucher or 500 Starpoints per day. We choose to Go Green on all three days that we could since you can't Go Green on the day of check out and we chose the Starpoints of course. Somehow the note was missed and we did receive housekeeping the first day in addition to our points.

Here are some of our pictures of the Premium Villa and the resort itself, these do a better job of describing our stay at the Westin Desert Villas than I could writing about it:
Dining Area in the Villa
Double Vanity in the bathroom
Large walk in shower with rain shower head - there was also a separate tub
Villa Kitchen
Living room with pull out couch and fireplace
King size Westin Heavenly bed in the bedroom

Palo Verde Pool
View of the Palo Verde pool from our villa
View of the golf course from our villa

Overall, if I had to pick between the Westin Mission Hills or the Westin Desert Willow villas for another stay in the Palm Springs area I would have to go with the Mission Hills. There was a better feel to the place, the staff seemed more willing to please and despite the girls not minding the pull out couch, the ability to have multiple heavenly beds is always better. To me it seems the Westin Desert Willow Villas may be experiencing some growing pains still as the resort is quite new (I believe it opened in 2010) and that is perhaps why we had some of the service issues. Overall however, the Villas are nice, the pool areas are great for families and couples, the resort is kept clean and the location in Palm Desert has you not too far from the shopping areas of El Paseo and the River in Rancho Mirage. If someone asked me if I would recommend the Desert Willow Villas, I definitely would but I would also tell them to consider the Mission Hills resort as well.

Have you stayed at the Desert Willow Villas before? If so what was your experience like? Please comment below to let us and our readers know!

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