A "$50 million view" is how one fellow traveler described it. And while, technically, the new glass-walled lobby overlooking the Westin Grand Cayman's pool area and the bright, blue waters of Seven Mile Beach represent just a portion of that total makeover budget, it didn't feel like an exaggeration
After all, the hotel's claim to the most expansive private stretch of this white, sugar-sand beach has always been one of its greatest assets. The now almost complete, top-to-bottom renovation of the 1995-era property promises to be a game changer that merges the best of its low-key, classic Caribbean style with modern style and its location.
I arrived at night, so the stunning views that are the hallmark of the lobby redesign were not immediately apparent. As I walked into my not-yet-renovated room, I have to admit my hypercritical, spoiled-by-one-too-many-luxury-fams snob radar kicked in and I initially wondered how this very nice but somewhat dated property compared with the nearby Ritz-Carlton and the just-opened Kimpton beach resort.
It didn't take me long to fall in love with every aspect of the resort, including my very comfortable, well-stocked room with its trademark Westin Heavenly bed and an oceanfront balcony. And after three days of dining, playing and exploring, I realized why the resort has won so many awards, with or without the upgrades.
First, I was surprised to hear that the hotel had more than 300 rooms. Because it is spread out, not up, it has a cozy vibe. And the longer stretch of beach gives it plenty of room for more than adequate numbers of comfortably spaced chairs, umbrellas and cabanas so that guests don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to claim a beach spot or sit on top of each other.
Then there's the food. The hotel's Beach House restaurant is one of just two AAA Four Diamond dining venues on the island, and executive chef Sandy Tuason's experienced touches are apparent across the resort's menus, from the egg white frittatas in the grab-and-go coffee shop to the shrimp tacos served beach- and poolside.
Unfortunately, unusually high winds and choppy seas forced the cancellation of our planned paddleboarding and swim with manta ray excursions, but we were able to take a "Jet Ski safari" one morning to snorkel in the various reefs off Seven Mile Beach and enjoy the views from the water.
The highlight, though, was just relaxing and enjoying the beach, the Hibiscus spa, the pool area and the new lobby bar. The bar employs a team of international mixologists, who in addition to developing a unique cocktail menu are at the ready to put together personalized drinks based on your personal preferences of liquor and mixes.
The bar was part of the complete overhaul of the lobby and pool area, which was completed in January. With floor-to-ceiling windows, guests now have an unobstructed view of the resort's best features on arrival.
The resort has also added new beach furniture and is now working on the guestrooms.
Although updated about five years ago, the rooms still have telltale signs of their 1990s roots, like small tubs with shower curtains. Although the room sizes won't really change, all will be redone with white, blue and gray color schemes, glass shower walls and a host of modern touches, including hardwood on the first floor. Sleeper sofas will be added in as many rooms as possible. Visit www.westingrandcayman.com