St. Regis Hotel Monarch Beach CA – Much Ado About NOTHING!

The St. Regis Hotel in Monarch beach was one of the worse resorts I’ve ever stayed at. I think because they build tips into everything the incentive to provide good service isn’t there. The grounds are nice but if you feel like you will have some luxurious vacation, you will find that this particular St. Regis falls far from the mark! Don’t waste your starwood points on this resort!

I needed to go to Monarch Beach to meet with a company that we wanted to hire to create promotional videos for our company.  My sister was going to be there with her family and I was lucky enough to stay with them for 7 nights and I only had to pay for 2 nights.  The whole family was looking forward to experiencing a truly luxurious vacation and pulling into the St. Regis your hopes soar even higher!  Its mandatory valet parking and as I handed over the keys to my car I marveled at the TWO or was it THREE Bentleys parked off to the side.  Bentley’s, Mercedes and every luxury vehicle you could imagine were parked and gleaming in the sun.  I handed over my keys feeling my car would be safe….

When I got to my sisters room I was surprised to see it wasn’t a suite.  We both have platinum status with Starwood and I had called ahead to see if there were suites available.   When they had asked if I wanted to book it, I said no but i wanted to make sure that our platinum number was on file so that when she checked in they would be able to upgrade the room.  I was told it was done by availability at time of check in.  the regular spiel, but in this case I learned that they DO NOT provide suite upgrades to Platinum members even if they are available. They will (if the rooms are available) move you from a resort view room to a pool view (which is actually a BEAUTIFUL view) we got that upgrade. And the room was nice enough with 2 queen sized beds and a HUGE balcony.  I unfortunately had work to do as soon as I got there, so my sister took her kids down to the beach.

In order to get to the beach you have to take a tram.  Its an EXTREMELY long walk.  Unfortunately the hotel doesn’t have enough trams running.  A large line forms and some people are very polite and wait their turn while some rush the tram as soon as it arrives and try to by pass the line.  As the week went on I heard horror stories from some of the other guest of waiting in lines for the trams upwards of 45 mins. On one such occasion my sister and her kids choose to walk back instead of to continue to wait.  She told me one of the men there had asked the driver to send 2 or 3 trams down so that everyone would be able to get back to the hotel when the next trams arrived.  Of course when the tram came, there was only 1 and at the most you can 2 or 3 families at a time. A max of 15 people basically.  Anyway my sister realized it would be 2 or 3 more trams before she and the kids could get on so she decided she could walk instead of wait the hour to hour and a half for the tram.

The long wait was a pain, but the beach itself was beautiful and not crowded since it was frequented mostly by the hotel guest.  They have a restaurant down there which quite frankly was one of the better on the property.  The cheeseburger was really good. The Chicken Caesar Salad was a bit dry.

The food on property was pretty poor.  Our first night we ordered room service and I ordered the spaghetti with three meat meatballs.  I really expected something wonderful and was shocked when after a few bites i realized that this spaghetti dish tasted alot like what would come out of a can!  The sauce tasted EXACTLY like Chef Boy-r-dee!  It was gross and cost almost $30 with all the fees and gratuity added on it.

We decided that maybe it was just the room service food that sucked and went down to dinner the next day at Motif.  Thats where i found out the bad food came from.  We went down around 6:30 and didnt’ leave until after 9pm!  My sister had to send back 2 meals!  The first dish my sister had asked if there were lots of mushrooms in the sauce and the waiter said no, barely any,  but when it came there were a LOT of mushrooms and she sent it back.  On the next dish she asked for, it was a Cheese tortellini, what came out of the kitchen was an artichoke concoction.  The waiter said it was a tortellini stuffed with artichoke hearts, onions and some other thing.  My sister HATES artichokes. We asked for the menu and re-read what it said.  NOWHERE did it say artichoke stuffed tortellini  we called the waiter over again and he said he wasn’t sure why the cook made the tortellini that way and took it back to the kitchen.  My sister finally choose the salmon, sure that they couldn’t mess that up. When it finally arrived most of the other dinners had left and my sister got it to go since my niece had fallen asleep at the table as we waited and waited and waited.  I was SHOCKED when the bill came and my sisters meal had not been comped.  They made a point of pointing out to us that we would not be charged for the other 2 meals.  We were all so tired we didn’t make a fuss, but my sister made a point of going to the front desk and canceling the kids club meals that she had prepaid.  We would not be darkening the doorstep of Motif again!

We ate Stonehill Tavern a few nights later and really liked it.  I ordered the Jidori chicken for two which was really good.  The food was taking a little long to come out of the kitchen and the chef sent out a complementary cheese and tomato dish (not sure what it was called) but it was really tasty and a few mins later the main dish came out.  It ended up that the Jidori chicken takes some time to cook and since we came kind of late I think they didn’t have one prepared.  Anyway it was a really good meal and the only restaurant on property that I would recommend.

If you guessed from my first paragraph that something would go wrong with my car, you guessed right!  Everyday as a thank you to my sister I would take the kids to breakfast at ihop we ate at the hotel only 1 day.  The kids liked it but for me paying over $30 for an omelet that was just ok wasn’t worth it.  I was really glad when my sister canceled the kids club I didn’t want to spend that kind of money each morning for something I probably wouldn’t pay more than $10 for anywhere else! Anyway I would take them to Ihop which is their favorite pancake place and luckily it was less than 5 miles from the hotel.  Every time i went to valet to get my car I would notice that the little rubber cover over my foot brake would be on the floor.  When I brought this to the valets attention he gave me an over the shoulder sorry and went on his way.  Another valet saw me starring at it and told me it was a quick fix and put it back for me and apologized again.  I got in and took the kids to Ihop, brought them back and then left to go down to the production company down in Laguna beach.   I drove around all day and the rubber cover never came off.  The next morning when we were leaving for breakfast, guess what was on the floor again,  and again I got an apology and a quick fix and we left.  Again I had a full day and it never came off the rest of the day.  Guess what happened the next morning….yep it was on the floor again.  This time I stopped the valet and told him, look,  my car isn’t the best one here on the lot, but its MINE and if anyone is going to destroy it, it should be me, not their staff!  I told him what was happening and I wanted it to stop!  So he fixed it again and he comped the valet fee for the days we had been there so far (nope they weren’t so sorry that they would comp it for the whole stay).  From that day forward, the rubber cover wasn’t on the floor when we would get the car.  It just so annoying knowing that now it could happen again (although the cover hasn’t come off again) I have no idea what those guys in valet were doing, but I know they were not treating my car with the utmost care.   So think about taking a rental there instead of your own baby!

All in all we had a good time doing things off property.  We didn’t eat to much there and when i would be in the room working I used that great service grubhub.com to order food.  I found a great place, NY’S Upper Crust Pizza, that would deliver to the hotel.  They serve HUGE portions of food.  I had spaghetti and homemade meatballs.  It was DELICIOUS.  I ordered something called Pinwheels for the kids.  In my mind it would be these small little appetizers.  They were really quite large in all actuality. It was dough layered with cheeses then dough then cheese or the filling of your choice.  It was SOOO good i couldn’t believe they were charging $4 for them!  I ordered them a cheese, a spinach, and a sausage.   They were so large we were all able to share them.  After all the bad food we had received at the St. Regis we laughed at how good the food from the Upper Crust was!  My order of spaghetti with meatballs, and extra side of their homemade meatballs and 3 pinwheels came to about $30 including delivery & tip!

My experience here makes me wonder why the St. Regis has such a good reputation.  I will never stay at this brand again.  Every other night we had to call them to bring us soap.  I mean every day they cleaned the room and it never occurred to them that we need more soap even when I throw the soap bottle in the trash! Did they expect us to wash with the shampoo?

The experience of the beach, beautiful golf course (although this course was really hard and not really for the beginner you should be able to do 9 holes in 2 hours, it took us almost double that) and location were almost overshadowed by bad service, bad food, and an un caring attitude. I went on trip advisor after our trip and found more than 1 review that pretty much mirrored my experience here.  Some people said it was just this particular St Regis that sucks, but for the price the value isn’t there.  My sister doesn’t mind paying for luxury but even she said that if she looked at it like was this trip worth the money spent based on the service received at the hotel, she would have to say no.  But if you look at the location, the beach, beautiful golf course,  the surrounding areas, how close it is to San Diego and such and base it on EXPERIENCES then it is.

Probably in two months I will need to go back to the Laguna area to check on the process of the videos and I won’t be staying here.  At one point I actually went down to the Marriott down the road to scope out rooms, we were that unhappy with the service at the St. Regis.

If you do stay here, do so at your own risk!  Some tips to make it more affordable,

  • Buy the kids club that will cover your kids meals but be prepared for poor service and bad food.
  • Become acquainted with www.grubhub.com you will save a ton and get good food
  • Check out the surrounding areas, my sister went to the spa 3 times and I nearly choked on what she spent.  I on the other hand, I went down the road to get my nails done before going to the production company and my mani – pedi cost less than the tip she left for her massage!
  • A great restaurant in the area is Sapphire its down in Lauguna beach, great place to eat out, enjoy the weather and is kid friendly
  • Bring good walking shoes just encase you need to walk back from the beach to the St. Regis
  • Be prepared for everything to be really expensive and have mandatory tips for the subpar service
  • Don’t forget to use your AAA card.  Sometimes they will have sales that will include free breakfast for two (worthless) and free Valet parking
  • Don’t forget there is a Ritz Carlton across the street.  While it is more expensive the service there I here is top notch so you will get what you pay for there.

I’m a Starwood girl all the way, but in this case, on my next trip out to Laguna beach, I’ll be staying at the Marriott up the road.

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