Review: The Westin Cape Town, South Africa
We had a five day stay in Cape Town and centred ourselves in the modern Westin Cape Town hotel. We had a terrific stay at this property, and really enjoyed our suite, the Executive Lounge, along with the central location of the property.
This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, a Safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Mauritius. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
Read More from This Trip
- Trip Introduction: South Africa, Kenya & Mauritius via South African Airways, Swiss and Air Canada Business Class
- Vancouver Airport Transborder Maple Leaf Lounge
- United Business Vancouver – Chicago O’Hare
- United Club Chicago O’Hare – Concourse B
- United Club Chicago O’Hare – Concourse C
- United Business First Chicago O’Hare – Sao Paolo International
- Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare
- United Business Chicago O’Hare – Washington Dulles International
- Lufthansa Senator Lounge – Washington Dulles
- South African Airways Business Class Washington Dulles – Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport Dakar
- Dakar Technical Stopover
- South African Airways Business Class Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport Dakar – O.R. Tambo Johannesburg International Airport
- South African Airways Baobab Lounge – O.R Tambo Johannesburg Terminal A Domestic
- South African Airways Economy Class O.R. Tambo Johannesburg – Cape Town international
- Westin Cape Town
- A Visit to Robben Island: South Africa’s Most Famous Jail
- Exploring Table Mountain by Cable Car, Cape Town
- Where the Two Oceans Meet: Visiting Cape Point at Cape of Good Hope
- The Test Kitchen
- Le Quartier Français – Franschhoek
- Touring Western Cape Winelands in Stellenbosch and Franschoek
- The Tasting Room
- South African Airways – Cape Town Cyobab Domestic Lounge
- South African Airways Economy Class – Cape Town – O.R. Tambo Johannesburg
- Hyatt Regency Rosebank Johannesburg
- Soweto & Informal Settlement Tour
- SAA Baobab Premium Lounge – OR Tambo Johannesburg
- South African Airways Business Class O.R. Tambo Johannesburg – Mauritius
- St Regis Mauritius – A Beachfront Suite
- St Regis Mauritius – Le Morne Penninsula, Iridium Spa and The House Reef
- Air Maurituis Amédée Maingard Lounge
- South African Airways Business Class Mauritius – O.R. Tambo Johannesburg
- South African Airways Business Class O.R. Tambo Johannesburg – Jomo Kennyata Nairobi, Kenya
- Fairmont Norfolk, Nairobi
- Travelling the Gritty Streets of Nairobi, Kenya
- Air Kenya – Wilson Airport – Ngrende Airstrip
- Fairmont Mara Safari Club
- Locating Elephants, Rhino’s and Giraffes in the Maasai Mara, Kenya
- Being Surrounded by Lions in the Maasai Mara, Kenya
- Dancing with the Elders at a Maasai Mara Village in the Rift Valley, Kenya
- Air Kenya Ngrende Airstrip – Nairobi Wilson
- Swiss Air Business Nairobi – Zurich
- Swiss Air Arrivals Lounge – Zurich
- Swiss Air Concourse D Lounge (non Shengen) Zurich
- Swiss Air Business Zurich – London Heathrow Terminal 1
- Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge – London Heathrow Terminal 3
- Air Canada / SAS Lounge – Heathrow Terminal 3
- Air Canada London Heathrow – Vancouver International
Review: Westin Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
“One of my favourite modern chain hotels in Cape Town, with a world class Executive Lounge that offers sparkling Cap Classique at breakfast”
How we Booked:
We picked this hotel because it’s a Westin property that was fairly new. At the time, the Westin was the only property in the Starwood Program in Cape Town, South Africa. We redeemed points under the Starwood Preferred Guest program. As a (then) Category 4 hotel, our redemption under Starwood Preferred Guest was for 10,000 points per night. The rate got even better with the fifth night free on SPG award stays, lowering the rate to the equivalent of 8,000 Starpoints per night, for a total of five nights for 40,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points. I felt that this was a pretty good deal for a hotel in a major city.
As we all now know, the Starwood Preferred Guest Program was absorbed by Marriott Rewards program in 2017 to form the new Marriott Bonvoy Program. The hotel today remains a reasonable deal as a Marriott Rewards Category 5 Program under the new Marriott Bonvoy regime. The rooms remain available for 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points (or the equivalent of 11,666 Starwood Preferred Guest points by today’s 1:3 value), with the fifth night free on reward stays of 5 nights. At an approximately value of 0.005 cents per Marriott Bonvoy point, if you can get a room rate under $175 USD, you’d be better off paying cash. If the room is over $175 USD, you’re likely better off redeeming points if you’re okay with the lost opportunity earning cost. Thanks to Marriott / Starwood merger, there are also lots of Protea Hotels in the Cape Town area that are of lower category points that may also provide other opportunities.
Getting to the Westin Cape Town:
As we were arriving at about 10 PM, I decided back in Chicago that we’d attempt to book the car service for our transfer to the hotel. The Westin Cape Town was attentive enough to respond to emails within 24 hours. By the time we had arrived in Johannesburg, the process had been confirmed. On arrival in Cape Town, we were met by the Westin meet and greet service and were taken to the hotel in a pleasant E Class Mercedes for a 20 minute transfer to the hotel.
There are a few international hotel chains in Cape Town, and our choices for this trip were really limited to the Westin, the One and Only or the Table Bay hotel. We ended up at the Westin and our decision did not disappoint us.
Checking into to the Westin Cape Town:
On check in we were recognized as an SPG Gold. We were offered bonus Starpoints as the welcome amenity or a free drink in the bar. We accepted the bonus points as glasses of wine in the bar started at $3 USD.
Our check in agent Jan offered us a “nice” room and said that he had upgraded us to a suite for our stay. I was super impressed has a suite upgrade at the desk has never happened to me before; especially as an SPG Gold which does not qualify for upgrades as a published benefit. As a result, we ended up in a Junior Suite for our stay. Jan also explained the process for executive lounge access which came with the suite, and the complimentary van shuttle to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront which ran every 30 minutes (travel time 12 mins).
The Room: A Junior Suite, King
We headed up to the room, which was on the eighth floor. The room was accessed behind a glass keycard door which limited access to the floor.
The room itself was spacious and comfortable. As a corner room, it featured a proper separate living and sleeping area. The room was attractively and freshly designed with fashionable, but neutral colours.
The living area had a proper work area, along with a separate place for lounging. The living area offered a television, a couch and chair, a stand alone work table and a computer printer.
The room also featured a fridge that was fully stocked with mini bar goodies, along with a snacks, proper stemware and coffee makers.
There are only a few suites per floor. Our’s occupied the corner of the property.
With nineteen floors in the hotel, the likelihood of a suite upgrade isn’t completely guaranteed. But there may be one or two available if you happen to be lucky.
A Room with a View:
The room had a view toward the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, overlooking the convention center.
Security signs were prevalent around the room. This was a theme that we experienced through all of our stays on the African continent. We locked our bags at all times and did not have any issues.
We did also did SPG Make a Green choice for 4 nights by waiving the housekeeping in exchange for 500 Starwood Preferred Guest points per night. Despite this, housecleaning did some spot cleaning twice a day regardless of Green Choice option of varying qualities. The two thousand SPG points posted without issue within 24 hrs.
The Westin Executive Club on the 19th floor:
The upgrade to the executive lounge meant that we had an included complimentary buffet breakfast. The executive lounge access made our trip as we ended up taking breakfast (continental) up there every day. The views from the 19th floor over breakfast were also spectacular. There was a small $4 USD up charge for egg items off the menu but in practice, they would often waive the charge. We only were asked to pay once over our 5 day stay.
There were limited dining options immediately around the hotel, and the main restaurant in the hotel downstairs only offers a full priced buffet. With no coffee shop near the hotel, I’d recommend getting a breakfast included rate if at all possible. The executive club restaurant is also open to guests not on the executive floor via the executive reception, although most other guests appeared to end up in the lobby restaurant.
In addition to the table dining area, there was also a small couch lounge area. Lounge area of the 19th floor. There is no second part to the photo – the seating area is extremely limited. Free wifi was offered in the Executive Lounge for all guests.
We enjoyed breakfast up here on a daily basis with local sparkling Cap Classique with breakfast everyday.
There are also some interesting views of the partially completed elevated freeway system around Cape Town. I was told in 1998 that South African did not have expropriation laws on the books which meant that some freeways had to be built in phases. It seems that some projects did not get completed.
Food and Beverage at the Hotel:
The Westin Cape Town also offered a free manager’s reception in the lobby Thirty 7 restaurant at 17-19 on Sunday. Three free small appetizers and free pour local spirits and drinks. There is also a high end wine shop in the lobby area, which offered shipping to some countries. It was closed during much of our time there as we often returned to the hotel late.
Fitness Amenities at the Hotel:
The hotel was fully featured and offered a gym and small pool area. The pool had a 12 and older age restriction. It was a bit of a dark space, as it was indoors.
Other Amenities in the Hotel:
Europcar Rental Location in the Westin Hotel Lobby:
We rented a car for a week through the Europcar location located within the Westin Hotel lobby through the www.nationalcar.com website. The car rental experience was regretfully probably the worst that I’ve had the opportunity to experience. . It seemed that there were major problems in South Africa between reservations made at the point of sale and what was actually delivered. This was not limited to our experiences with SAA, Europcar but also Hyatt as you’ll see later in the Trip Report.
First off, it’s worth noting that this Europcar location is no more than a single person at a desk off the side of the lobby that’s cleaned out at the end of every night. If someone is in front of you, this will mean a long wait. A poor group behind us waited over an hour just to get dealt with. There are no cars here and all reservations are filled to order with cars delivered from another location. This also means no last minute changes to your reservation, as they bring what’s available to park in the garage for your booking.
Despite being an Emerald Club member, with all personal and credit card information pre-populated on my profile and with the reservation, picking up a car here took 1 hour and 10 minutes of actual transaction time at the rental counter. This included manually calling a credit card authorization number and reading off the individual credit card numbers orally over the phone, seeking pre-authorization for a 12,000 rand deposit.
After completing all the materials by hand, I was hit with the demand that “You have to take our extra insurance cover otherwise we can not let you take the car.” I tried explaining that I have it along with the credit card but this was refused. I was apparently supposed to turn up with a letter from the issuing credit card bank indicating that the credit card insurance applied to rental cars. I asked if they could look this information up on the internet but it was declined. I explained that there was nothing like this written in the terms and conditions (having a copy of the reservation with me). My concerns were dismissed as I had booked through the “National Car” website and not the “Europcar Website” as “National car is not part of our company”. Checking after the fact, the information wasn’t spelled out on the Europcar website either, saying only “insurance details available from the Europcar office”. The process concluded with the clerk from Europcar making an international call to American Express Canada and having American Express Canada issue a letter by email indicating insurance coverage. Surprisingly, the AMEX Canada office was open and this process only took about 15 minutes.
The GPS that we requested on the reservation didn’t arrive (“We have too many requests to honor the reservation”), which wasn’t of real concern as the highway signs around South Africa were really well sign posted. However when we returned the car a week later at the Cape Town Airport (no drop fee), the GPS was showing as on the reservation as a chargeable amount. Another 20 minutes waiting at the counter with the supervisor while they sorted this out, which involved calling the original rental location since they “couldn’t change it from here”.
We were sent on our way without a final bill, which was a bit strange but it seemed to be the normal process by other renters returning cars. When we got the bill 4 days later by email, we were hit with a 10$ USD refueling charge, despite the car being returned full of gas. A bit of a disappointment as the gas tank only held $30 worth of gas so a $10 charge would have represented a 1/3 of the tank missing. Two emails to the designated Europcar address to get this sorted out went unanswered and ignored.
I consider myself a patient guy and considerate of other countries issues. In this case, I felt as though 90 minutes of administrative burden on the part of Europcar was an unnecessary and unwelcomed period of to expect customers to wait for a simple pick up and drop off. The wait, the missing GPS, the unexpected gasoline charges and the unreasonable and unexpected insurance coverage charges weren’t the end of the world but certainly an inconvenience that would make me think twice about renting here next time. My overall impression was that they were running a sloppy company. I’d recommend renting elsewhere, as Europcar didn’t make it easy.
One Additional Point:
As a bonus, but somewhat unrelated to this review, my plastic wrapped lost suitcase arrived at end of day 2 of our stay, having traveled the original ORD-GRU-JNB routing. The suitcase lock was cut off and missing but its contents were otherwise intact. It was a bit of relief since I was running out of clothes by this point! The SAA Baggage Tracer website was hopelessly out of date – as by the time the bag was delivered, the website was still showing as “bag not located – searching continues”.
The Bottom Line on the Westin Cape Town:
In summary, we had a really enjoyable stay here in Cape Town and would highly recommend this property as a home for your travels around the Cape Town area. In addition to being a comfortable place to say, the property is competitively priced on points and offers good SPG Cash and Points availability with reasonable redemption rates. We would end up staying here again in the future as we enjoyed it so much.