This summer, Jessy and I spent one week in the USA before embarking on our trip to Asia: after speaking at the TravelCon 2019 conference in Boston, we’d hop down to New York for a day, before flying out via Chicago on Japan Airlines business class.
One of the main reasons I had scheduled our little side-trip to New York was to stay at the historic St. Regis New York. The first-ever St. Regis hotel is one of New York’s finest addresses, and also one of the most sought-after city hotel redemptions within the Marriott Bonvoy program.
Prior to March 2019, the St. Regis New York, which often retails for US$1,000 or more, could be booked for only 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Naturally, I had booked several stays for different occasions when I could envision myself being in New York, and in the end I chose to keep this single-night reservation for the first weekend of July.
(Nowadays, a night here will cost either 70,000, 85,000, or 100,000 Bonvoy points depending on the season, which could still be good value compared to the nightly cash rates, although there’s no denying that it’s definitely a huge sum of points to splash on a city hotel.)
In This Post
- Location & Arrival
- Madison Suite
- Destination Fee Amenities
- Other Facilities
St. Regis New York – Location & Arrival
In a move that I would come to regret during the journey itself, I had booked us a Greyhound bus from Boston to New York, so we arrived at Port Authority Bus Terminal shortly after noon, hungry, tired, and dishevelled from the four-hour bus ride. We took the E line up to 5 Avenue-53 St Station, and from there, we just needed to walk two blocks north to arrive at the St. Regis at 55th & 5th.
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The St. Regis’s exterior is about as ostentatious as anything could be here on the narrow sidewalk of 55th St, an alluring black awning, emblazoned with the St. Regis wordmark and logo in its distinctive gold lettering, sheltering the hotel’s esteemed guests from the NYC elements.
St. Regis New York – Check-in
Jessy and I certainly didn’t “look the part” of two such esteemed guests when we arrived on the St. Regis’s doorstep, though – that much was clear from our very first interaction at the front desk.
We were dressed very casually and – I hate to say it – my hair was looking particularly unruly this morning, so the front desk associate looked us up and down as he took our passports, clicked about on his computer a bit, and declared in an icy voice, “Mr. Zhang, your room is not ready yet.”
To be fair, it was the weekend of World Pride in New York, and we had arrived before the published check-in time of 3pm, so Jessy and I left our belongings with the bellhop and went to get ourselves some lunch.
Now, as usual, I had been in touch with the hotel over the Marriott chat app prior to my arrival, to see if we could score a particularly nice suite upgrade for ourselves. The St. Regis New York has a wide range of different suite types available, from the most basic Astor Suite, to the larger Madison Suite, to the even higher-tier Fifth Avenue Suite, St. Regis Suite, Bentley Suite, and of course the Presidential Suite.
I had been informed earlier that the Madison Suite is usually the highest suite tier that they provide on a complimentary basis to elite members, but that none were available for the night that I was staying. I had therefore asked for the Astor Suite, and had been told that it would subject to availability upon check-in, so I never got a clear answer either way (and the snooty front desk associate didn’t bother to clarify, either).
So there I was, sitting at a Sweetgreen restaurant, checking the Marriott app again, when I noticed that one of the US$2,500/night Madison Suites had opened up again tonight, even though it hadn’t been listed for sale previously.
Unkempt as my appearance may be, I was rightfully entitled to ask for the Madison Suite as part of my Titanium Elite benefits, so I shot over another message, basically saying: “I noticed the Madison Suite was now available – what gives?”
As it turns out, someone who was staying in the Madison Suite had cut short their stay and checked out early, making it available for the night, and the chat agent was happy to grant me the upgrade as a result. I’m glad I made the request over live chat, because if I had done so in-person with the uptight front desk associate, I don’t think my odds would’ve been nearly as good.
Nevertheless, the hotel still needed to clean up the Madison Suite, so it wouldn’t actually be ready for our arrival until much later in the afternoon. Jessy and I therefore headed downtown to check out the Pride celebrations (but not too closely, given how packed the streets were), before doing some shopping for a few items we needed to bring to Asia later in the trip.
At about 4:30pm, I was informed over live chat that the suite was ready now, so we headed back to the St. Regis, collected our room keys, and took the historic elevators up to the 14th floor.
In addition to the elevators, there’s also an ornate staircase you can take to make your way up the 20-storey building.
Through the double doors, and you’ll find yourself in the guest room hallways, which exude the unmistakable sense of old-school luxury that the St. Regis brand is known for. This is where it all began for the brand, though, so to be fair I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
We walked down to the end of the hallway to find Room 1436. The door is heavy-set and painted with a striking black finish, setting the mood nicely for what lay beyond.
We had waited a solid four hours for the Madison Suite, so it had better be worth it, I thought to myself as I stepped inside.
St. Regis New York – Madison Suite
The Madison Suite is in the shape of a “U”, with the entrance at the very base, leading to a hallway that branches off on both sides. To your right is the living and dining area, whereas to your left is the master bedroom, and there’s a bathroom on either side as well.
We’ll take a look at the living area first. Follow the hallway to your right and turn the corner, and you’ll find yourself in a sitting room that’s larger than many entire NYC apartments!
On one side of the room is the couch and chairs, surrounding a glass-topped coffee table and fronting a mirrored surface that made the room feel even larger than it is.
The sitting area faces a cabinet with a wall-mounted television above it, which I thought was definitely on the small side for such an upscale hotel.
Inside this cabinet is where you’ll find the minibar, pantry, and glassware.
There’s a dining table with two chairs in the corner, as well as a desk on the far side of the room.
A small fruit plate had been left on the dining table for us as a welcome amenity.
An ornate chandelier dominates the central part of the room, which is otherwise quite empty, giving you ample space to move around between the various furniture pieces.
As we walk back through the Madison Suite’s main hallway, we’ll pop into the guest bathroom, which combines the same parlour-like wallpaper of the rest of the suite with a key design element in any luxurious hotel bathroom: marble.
There’s a set of double sinks, a bathtub (which looked like it would be large enough for one, but a tight squeeze for two), and a walk-in shower unit with marble surfaces on all six sides. Moreover, gold accents were used whenever possible, such as on the taps, hinges, and water pipes, to heighten the opulent atmosphere even further.
We’ll continue, then, to the left side of the suite, which serves as the main sleeping quarters. A delightfully plush king-sized bed is accompanied by a smaller sitting area, another cabinet and wall-mounted television, and another glamorous chandelier overhead.
Once again, there was lots of empty space in the master bedroom as well, and I couldn’t quite decide whether it made the suite feel slightly bare in terms of furniture, or more luxurious considering the scarcity of square footage here in New York. One thing’s for sure: with such an abundance of living space you have, it’s no wonder the Madison Suite ordinarily retails for US$2,500+ per night!
The master bathroom is slightly larger than the guest bathroom, although it comes with essentially the same fittings: double sinks, a full-width mirror, a toilet, a bathtub, and an individual shower.
The shower’s water pressure was excellent in both bathrooms, I might add.
I thought the St. Regis logos on the air vents were a nice design touch, serving to remind guests of their immense privilege in spending the night in one of these rooms.
I was also impressed by the ways in which the 115-year-old St. Regis New York has incorporated modern technology into its historic interior, such as the fact that the in-suite lighting could be controlled by a bedside tablet, as well as the fact that power outlets were very generously installed around the walls and furniture.
The one downside to the Madison Suite was one that’s all too common at New York hotels: the views weren’t great, facing a drab office building and some scaffolding on the building next door.
Overall, when I think of the Madison Suite’s interiors, the word “stately” comes to mind. Most fancy hotel suites seem like they cater to the rich and famous, but here at the St. Regis New York, it felt like even the average millionaire wouldn’t necessarily fit in; rather, you had to be some kind of royalty or head of state to feel at ease within these ultra-luxurious surroundings.
I can’t deny that as someone who redeemed Marriott Bonvoy points to stay here at an excellent value, it felt like the walls were silently judging me throughout!
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Anyway, after getting our bearings, Jessy and I quickly took a shower and freshened up, since we had made plans to hang out with a friend in New York later on.
St. Regis New York – Destination Fee Amenities
Before that, though, I had a few very important tasks to complete in order to maximize my stay here at the St. Regis New York.
You see, the St. Regis has followed the lead of many other New York hotels in introducing an unwelcome “destination fee” of US$50 per night. What is that supposed to represent? Hmm… maybe it’s to cover the upkeep costs of running a hotel in a major destination, just like, I don’t know, every other city hotel in hundreds of other places around the world?
Let’s be honest, the destination fee is nothing less than a greedy cash grab on the part of hotel owners. To be fair to the St. Regis, while many other hotels will tell you that your destination fee gives you things like complimentary internet, fitness centre access, or long-distance phone calls (i.e., stuff you either would’ve had anyway, or stuff that very few guests actually use), the St. Regis actually includes a few worthwhile items in its US$50/night destination fee, including:
A US$50 laundry, dry cleaning, and garment pressing credit
A US$25 food and beverage credit
A US$25 credit at the hair salon
Two museum tickets, to either MoMA or the Met
Furthermore, every St. Regis hotel around the world offers butler service, which typically includes unlimited complimentary coffee or tea delivered to your room, as well as some sort of complimentary garment pressing benefit as well. Here at the St. Regis New York, that benefit covered two items per person per day, so Jessy and I would be entitled to press four pieces of clothing in total.
So, first, I ordered a few pots of black tea for us to sip on, which were delivered via butler service on an eloquently presented tray.
Then, I set about collecting the clothes that I had worn so far to put together my load for laundry and pressing. For some reason, Jessy wasn’t interested in making use of the garment pressing services – she didn’t seem to appreciate the fact that we simply could not allow the hotel to get away without earning its US$50 destination fee – so that just meant I got to pick four of my own shirts to be ironed.
Then, I threw two other shirts and one T-shirt into a separate bag for the US$50 laundry load. (As you’d expect here at the St. Regis, it was US$19 per shirt and US$12 for the T-shirt.)
Soon after I had my laundry picked up, my friend arrived to visit us at the suite, and we sat around to catch up for a while before heading out for dinner.
St. Regis New York – Breakfast
The following morning, we got ready for our day over some French pressed coffee, delivered via butler service.
Then, we headed down to the hotel’s Astor Court restaurant, where the famous St. Regis New York breakfast would be served.
As a Platinum Elite member or above, one of the elite amenities you can select is a breakfast credit of US$43 per person, which comes to a total of US$86 for the room. Then, keep in mind that we also had a US$50 food and beverage credit as part of the destination fee, and since we weren’t planning to take any other meals at the hotel, it made sense to spend that on breakfast as well, thus bringing our total allowance up to US$136.
Now, that might sound like a lot of money to spend on breakfast, but keep in mind that these are St. Regis prices rather than “normal people” prices.
We were shown to our seats – a cute spot in the corner of the restaurant, by the window looking out at 55th St – and presented with the breakfast menu.
Jessy and I spent a fair amount of time doing the math on the breakfast prices, trying to determine how exactly we would use up the full US$136 credit. When a pot of coffee alone costs US$9 per person, you know you’ll have to choose carefully.
In the end, we decided to order the poached eggs with caviar, the jumbo crab cakes Benedict, the New York smoked salmon, a raspberry and almond smoothie, and two coffees.
(The US$125 Astor Omelette, featuring crab, lobster, caviar, and a glass of virgin red snapper, certainly looked tempting! In the end, though, we didn’t want to blow our entire allowance on it and have no room left for coffee.)
The food took quite a while to arrive – we were starting to get a little impatient towards the end – but when it did, the servers had to bring over a little side table to be able to fit everything we had ordered.
This was a lot of food, but we managed to polish off most of it. Both the caviar-topped Eggs Benedict and the crab cakes Benedict (which featured a tangier choron sauce instead of the standard hollandaise) were excellent, whereas the smoked salmon was a more pedestrian dish that didn’t really come close to justifying its US$32 price tag.
The biggest disappointment, it must be said, was the raspberry and almond smoothie – for US$21, this tasted so bad that it was almost undrinkable. Then again, it’s perhaps my own fault for ordering a raspberry and almond smoothie when I could’ve easily gone with “safer” choices like chocolate and banana.
St. Regis New York – Other Facilities
Before we departed the hotel for the day, I took some time to check out its other facilities. The St. Regis New York’s ground-floor lobby is rather limited in size, so lobby guests can take a seat in the elegantly appointed Cognac Room instead.
Further down the ground floor, proceeding beyond the Astor Court restaurant, you’ll find the King Cole Bar, which is supposedly the location where the Bloody Mary was invented. As a result, every St. Regis around the world has its own signature Bloody Mary, and one of my enduring regrets from this stay was not having found the time to stop by the King Cole Bar to give the original St. Regis Bloody Mary a taste.
A few sets of staircases on the ground level leads down to the basement, where there’s a small gift shop, some elegantly decorated hallways, and Fodera hair salon (where I could’ve enjoyed a US$25 credit to get further value out of the destination fee, but never found the time to do so).
Lastly, I also paid a visit to the hotel’s Athletic Club, which are situated among the guest rooms on the 20th floor.
There isn’t too much space up here for lots of exercise equipment, but it seemed like it would mostly suffice for a quick workout.
My minor skirmishes with the hotel’s front desk staff would only continue during the check-out process. For some reason, the associate helping me check out was insisting that the US$50 food and beverage credit would only apply if it had been used the previous day, and so was refusing to credit it towards our breakfast this morning.
After a bit of back-and-forth, I asked the associate to consult with her manager, who swiftly overruled her and proceeded to credit the US$50 to our bill, and also handed us the complimentary Met tickets that we had requested as part of the destination fee as well.
And finally, there was one more luxurious St. Regis New York specialty that we needed to try out: the complimentary drop-off service for hotel guests in the house Bentley.
The car is booked on a first-come first-served basis, and it’s not possible to make reservations in advance. Complimentary drop-offs are provided within 10 blocks of the St. Regis’s location on 55th & 5th.
While the Met museum is located quite some distance beyond that 10-block radius at 83rd St, it just so happened that I needed to pay a visit to the Adidas retail outlet on 47th St as well. The Bentley happened to be ready soon after we stepped out of the hotel’s front doors, so the driver opened the door for us and showed us inside.
It may have only been a five-minute drive, but that exclusive feeling of riding down 5th Avenue in the house Bentley brought our one-night stay at the historic St. Regis New York to a highly satisfying end indeed.
The St. Regis brand has given me some of my most memorable hotel stays, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to try out the New York location that started it all.
I checked out of the hotel feeling satisfied that I had squeezed incredible value out of the 60,000 Bonvoy points I had redeemed here, as well as all the bells and whistles that the hotel has to offer – from the caviar-topped poached eggs for breakfast, to the on-demand butler service, to the museum tickets, to the complimentary House Bentley drop-offs.
In terms of the service at the hotel, on one hand, I wasn’t happy with the snooty attitudes of certain staff members, but then again, such attitudes are somewhat expected at an upscale New York hotel like this. In addition, the hotel did go out of its way to put me into its stately Madison Suite after all, so I won’t hold too much against them. Just be aware that, like every other St. Regis location but especially so here, there’s definitely an unspoken expectation of a certain level of decorum, shall we say, among the clientele.
I greatly enjoyed my stay at the St. Regis New York, but probably wouldn’t return here on my next few visits to the Big Apple, mostly because the price tag of at least 70,000 Bonvoy points per night is extremely steep for a city hotel, where I don’t expect to be spending much time in the room at all.
That’s not to say that I won’t ever return, though – if we were to celebrate some kind of special occasion in New York some years down the road, then I’d splurge for the St. Regis again in a heartbeat.