PR Travel Guide
Every time we go away, we feel pangs of guilt if we don’t bring back souvenirs for our nearest and dearest; especially, our beloved dog-sitter. As a carry-on only kinda gal, it can get burdensome, and many times we cop out with a 25¢ cookie cutter postcard with an impersonal message.
Well, the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino just launched a very cool (and complimentary) service that lets guests send a virtual shout out to the folks at home, and avoid the whole issue of having to schlep a bunch of useless tsotchkes. Plus think of all the money you’ll save on ever-increasing postage prices if you’re a postcard kinda person.
[Ed. Note: This is the Bad Rate in our Good Rate/Bad Rate feature. This rate was valid on January 23, 2007 and is subject to change. Enjoy.]
There's a little secret in the lodging industry that when a hotel announces the completion of some multi-million dollar renovation, you'll soon be paying for that fancy new "Balinese-inspired spa" whether you use it or not. Apparently guests of the renovated Westin Rio Mar in Puerto Rico will really be paying for it--to the tune of $509 per night.
If you thought an escape to Puerto Rico would be a way to get a Caribbean deal without getting a passport, well, let's say you'd be better off going to a Westin in Florida than the one here. We thought something must be amiss when we saw rates of $429 for a "resort view" room and $499 for an "ocean view" room in March on a popular hotel booking site--no meals included. It was just a shade less than the rate for the island's Ritz-Carlton.
So we visited the hotel's own site to look for a package. The best we could do there was this screen shot: a tad less for the bad view rooms, but $509 for the ones with a glimpse of sea. Apparently the rooms look good enough to eat though. "Recalling the golden glow of beautifully tanned skin, the rooms' color palette includes a blend of chili, cinnamon and mahogany, with accent shades of olive and amber."
You don't get much out of this package besides breakfast, but at least the taxes and resort fee are folded into the room rate (as the latter should be anyway). So unless you can surf around and find a better nightly rate elsewhere, this is probably the best you're going to be able to do at the Westin. Add in another $450 to $700 each for a flight and you may be better off hitting Miami or the Keys instead--or finally getting your butt in gear to apply for a passport!
[Ed. Note: Welcome to our Good Rate/Bad Rate feature where we look at hotel prices in the same city and decide which is better worth your hard-earned benjamins. The screenshot here was taken on January 23, 2007 and rates are subject to change.]
Today is the day when Americans can't re-enter the U.S. without a passport, so Puerto Rico has been spending a lot of money and manpower to get the word out that they are a Caribbean alternative for procrastinators. Since it's a U.S. territory, no passport required.
Whether it's this new demand or just rate inflation, the hotel prices there are no bargain, and on par with or above most resort areas in the U.S. itself. (See today's Bad Rate for a sampling.) One exception is the secluded and laid-back Villa Montana, near the town of Aguadilla, in the northwest Porta del Sol area of the main island. This low-rise resort on a 3-mile stretch of empty beach stands in stark contrast to the sea of standard concrete high-rises so prevalent on the island. It presents a more traditional Caribbean face, with 35 acres of tropical vegetation and verandahs meant for swinging in a hammock.
It's also half the price of the standard international chains, despite a little fame brought by a 2006 photo spread in Elle. High season rates are running $220 to $340 for a one-bedroom unit--the latter a suite. Spend in the range of today's Bad Rate and you get a 2-bedroom suite with two baths, a full kitchen, a laundry room, TV with DVD player, and a CD stereo. This is also one of the most eco-friendly resorts in Puerto Rico, working hard to follow sustainable tourism practices and maintaining an organic kitchen--complete with their own garden.
For those looking for a place just like they'd find in their home city, Villa Montana probably won't be the best choice. For a true Caribbean getaway where you can forget about home for a while, however, this is a Good Rate.