My wife and I have been coming to the Sheraton/Westin Denarau complex for some thirteen or so years. Some years we've even come twice. So we have a strong basis for comparison.
The comments in this review are critical of our most recent stay but should be interpreted in the light of the paradise that is Fiji.
When we first started to come, the Starwood chain had the whole island to itself with a Sheraton Resort Hotel alongside the Westin and the Sheraton Villas which were relatively new at the time. As we returned, more and more five star properties took up beach front positions alongside the beach. It is now one of a number of five star properties on this small island just twenty minutes from a major international airport. Its competition includes a Hilton property, a Radisson and a Sofitel.
Check-in for the villas is done in the same lobby as the hotel. The hotel is starting to show its age as it hasn't really been reburbished much in the years we have been coming. The Villas were closed during one of our stays a few years back for a refurbishment but it seems from my observation of the rooms to have been somewhat superficial and mainly cosmetic.
The Sheraton still has the remarkable Ports o'Call restaurant (separately reviewed favourably). From my own experience, many of the Fiji native staff have been there all the times we have been coming. These lovely native people have a wonderful memory for repeat customers and what it takes to exceed customer expectations. However, I have noticed that there's nearly always a substantially new team in customer facing executive positions and at this executive level the corporate memory appears quite poor. Unlike many other places I stay at, I don't get a hand written note from one of the executives welcoming me back to the hotel.
As my wife and I have been to the Sheraton complex 15 times over 13 years, we have incredibly happy memories of many wonderful holidays both before and after our children (now 8 and 10) were born. However, our last trip just completed means we will never return unless the owners fix the problems we observed in customer service.
The lovely Fijian and native staff get paid a pittance (I know this for a fact from speaking to many of them) but the locals perform exceptionally especially those who have been at the hotel for many years. A lot of them come up to my wife and me and remark on how much the children have grown. Many of them remember my eldest in his pram back in 2002. I can tell they love being of service in their heart and they are proud of their country and what they see as their hotel.
When we were there this time (23 to 26 September 2012), I had a few issues that in the past would have been resolved quickly and simply. I asked to speak to someone in executive management but was told the executive management team was in Sydney for a budget planning session.
From the regular email promotions I receive and the commentary on the Starwood Preferred Guest website and my twenty-five years membership in their executive program at different times at the Gold Preferred or Platinum Preferred Guest level, I am personally aware that Starwood claims to be one of the leading brands in hotels in the world and this is one of their best resort hotels. I expect and should receive five star service.
During these school holidays, I paid a premium price for accommodation - around double what I have paid on my last trip.
Our first night was a horror of being moved three times as the hotel tried to accommodate our simple requirement put in writing three weeks prior for a ground floor room. The hotel knows from previous visits that we need a ground floor room because my wife had an ankle injury some ten years ago that makes it painful for her to walk up stairs. The hotel only has two levels - so 50% of the rooms are ground floor. Yet we were placed in a room where you have to walk up dark badly lit stairs and overlooked a swamp (I know they are now called wetlands but they are just swamps - low lying areas where surplus rain water accumulates). We were paying around FJD 900 a night for a view of a swamp. During one of the moves, my wife stubbed her toe on one of the steps due to the slippery steps caused by rain. She was and remains in a lot of a pain.
There is only one conceivable reason why we would be allocated a completely unsuitable room. Someone in room allocation management failed to read our detailed requirements, check on our history and do their job properly by planning room allotments correctly. They had plenty of notice - three weeks and half the rooms to choose from. It wasn't a last minute request. We had dozens of upgrade vouchers with us and had advised them of this as well in an email sent on 9 September 2012 which they acknowledged by the standard automated reply system.
Every other time we had been to the hotel including our first visit back in 1997, we had received a ground floor room with a view of the water. That was our expectation - we were repeat customers and had Starwood Gold status.
The night staff tried their best. In the middle of a rain storm, they found and moved us to two adjoining but smaller rooms in the Sheraton Resort Hotel complex on the ground floor. Unfortunately, the parents' room with the king sized bed had been occupied by a chain smoker and none of the TV's or any of the technology in the room worked. Our room stank to high heaven with the dank smell of ash in all the linen, the walls and the furniture. Housekeeping came and sprayedroom deodoriser which merely masked the smell momentarily.
In the end, they all they could do was move us back to the original misallocated room in the Villas. The next day the local Fijian front desk supervisor found us a room on the ground floor overlooking the pool. He was a real decent fellow.
When I complained the next morning about the unacceptable room allocation, the hotel management refused to refund our first ruined night's accommodation so we checked out after two more days when we found one of the other hotels on Denarau Island to stay at.
This hotel ruined 30% of my stay there as part of my family holiday. We were forced to live out of a suitcase instead of enjoying our holiday because we had no guarantee that we could stay in the new room. We are now at this other five star hotel in a beautiful ground floor ocean view two bedroom family room and resting. Our holiday has finally started.
When I checked out, I left a note addressed to the General Manager to contact me when I return to Australia on 5 October 2012. I have also complained to American Express.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The ideal hotel for a family holiday in Fiji, the Sheraton Denarau Villas feature 82 luxuriously designed two- and three-bedroom-villas. All villas feature a comfortable lounge a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, flat screen, TV, DVD player and sound system, ensuit bathroom and laundry. Located directly adjacent to the Sheraton Fiji Resort and The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Fiji, guests can enjoy all facilities of the resort complex including access to the 14 dining venues, 6 swimming pools, kids club and business centre. Starwood Preferred Guest(R) members receive complimentary in room internet and dining discounts when booking direct. Book direct today. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sheraton Denarau Villas Hotel Denarau Island
- Sheraton Denarau Hotel
- Sheraton Denarau Resort
- Sheraton Denarau Island
- Denarau Island Sheraton
- Sheraton Denarau Villas Fiji/Denarau Island