Hotel sagas are part of an allergic world, certainly part of mine. I do as much recon as possible before I leave: do you accept pets; do you have allergy-free rooms; do you have non-down bedding? I prepare, bringing medicines, snacks, pillows or pillowcases. And most importantly, I bring a sense of adventure, trust that it will work out, and a flexibility of spirit [but not on pets or down bedding to be sure]. And a sense of humor, which will get one through everything and anything.
I was able to get a room last minute at a new hotel, still in its soft opening, as everything was booked for the The South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Not surprisingly. A concierge from a hotel I had stayed in last year helped me on this one, thanks Edgar! And the reservationist was able to give me a small discounted rate because of that connection, an excellent start!
Part of a larger hotel chain, the Regent is located right at the start of Ocean Drive. I checked into the suite: two bathroom sinks, two flat screen TVs, a large terrace overlooking Ocean Drive, and at a decent rate [for this area]. All seemed good, very good. Minus two minor issues:
-The bed hadn’t been changed as per my request upon our arrival-it was all out down: duvet, pillows, and a feather bed. Housekeeping came up and quickly swapped that out and made a beautiful bed. Great.
- I noticed as the a/c cycled, I was sneezing in perfect time: on sneeze, off no sneeze. Sensing a pattern, I called engineering; they changed the air filters immediately.
Two problems solved, excellent! However, I did mention saga. So, on to day two.
-When I awoke in the morning, I ate a small snack, put it down on the nightstand and upon returning from the bathroom, the half eaten snack was covered in tiny ants and so was the nightstand. Yes. Ants. So a room change and upgrade was offered. Nice. Manager Masato couldn’t have been more helpful. Bellmen came up, repacked the room and moved me.
-Firmly settled in a Penthouse Duplex Suite, complete with rooftop Jacuzzi, I unpacked and settled in to enjoy some serious luxury.
-At the hotel restaurant bar, Table 8, I spoke directly with the Chef de Cuisine Kevin about my needs, who listened and made suggestions for lunch. The Kobe beef burger seemed the easiest and best bet.
-Table 8 has its own celebrity Executive Chef who's involved with the Food Fest this weekend. I saw him walking through the bar and flashed him a warm smile thinking perhaps he would chat about his menu and philosophy. No such luck. He saw me, looked at me blankly and kept walking. It wasn’t even a blank look; it was slightly chilly.
-The plain burger with lettuce and tomato, no bun, no sides, was delicious. BUT it took over 40 minutes to get to me. Why? No reason was given other than the kitchen was busy, at 2:45pm when I ordered it. Busy. A kitchen. Go figure.
-After my return from the afternoon’s events in the Food Fest tents, and upon entering the suite, my nose was assaulted by the stench of raw sewage. Not good. It wasn’t coming from the toilet or the sink; maybe it was in the vents, or in the Jacuzzi upstairs. Night Manager Joseph, with the pretty green eyes, was equally horrified by the odor. He called in engineering teams to figure out the issue and sent some champagne as I went off to a VIP party at the Sagamore.
-Upon my return, the sewage smell had become progressively worse. It was going to take a lot more than champagne to fix the issue. There were no more suites, no more rooms, and the smell was becoming toxic. Joseph worked his managerial magic and found a room on the pool level, ant-free and smell-free. He also discounted the hotel fees accordingly for the two days' trouble.
-Engineers, bell men, maids, housekeeping managers joined in the great move with salsa music blaring in the background. Dancing makes a ridiculous day go by quicker I find. They all settled me into the new room with down-free bedding, new filters in the vents, ice in the ice bucket, clothes on hangers, and finally, an Allergic Girl sleeping allergy-free.
Bottom line: some hotels work incredibly hard to accommodate their guests’ needs; some don’t. I’ve stayed in the big chains, Sheraton I’m talking about you, and it was an allergic disaster from beginning to end. I’ve stayed at a small boutique like Hotel St. Thomas D’Aquin in Paris; modest but you couldn’t ask for a more accommodating hotelier.
It isn’t dependent upon how much money you spend: some hotels just get it right.
It might be too early to tell if the Regent will get it right. Infestations and inexplicable sewage leaks are unacceptable; but a hotel staff making every effort to make it right gets a gold star. I’ll be curious to see what they’re like when they are up and running fully.