This article is part of my trip report 'Westward bound'. The trip report index will appear below once all posts have been published.
This property has built a reputation for itself as the 'weirdest property' in the Starwood system and I'm happy to confirm the reputation!
It starts with the reservation – I first made a 2 night reservation using points a d later wanted to cancel the second night. Starwood support was happy to do that working with the property but hadn't really reached anyone at the property in a month. Eventually they just 'did it' and while my reservation still showed 2 nights the reservation was partially refunded.
The property is located in Ein Bokek – a 'hotel oasis' on the Dead Sea. Lots of hotels in the desert there but not much else.
When you drive up to the lobby – nobody will be coming out to help you with luggage instead you are welcomed with a friendly ' you can't park here'. Discussions about luggage and unloading are useless. Instead just ignore the 'bell desk' and just park and go about your ways.
Checking-in is equally 'interesting'. No clear line exists and dozens of people anchor for their spot at the front desk. Everyone who has been to Israel knows – you need to 'push your case' or get lost. Once you secure your spot the agent welcomes you with the friendliest word ever 'Passport'. Now if I'd have not stayed in other Israeli hotels I'd thought that is a custom greeting in Israel but it is not 🙂
The agents make sure they do not make eye contact with you, talk to you or otherwise engage in a conversation. Instead they will update their Facebook (or whatever they do for 10 minutes) and then tell you that you are a Gold member. Arguing with them that you are Platinum is great fun as everyone is so motivated to help you. You end up waiting for 15 minutes for the "SPG trustee' who explains you that you are at fault for not calling SPG to update the reservation.
Once you apologize just 15 times the 'SPG trustee' is kind enough to tell you where the lounge is (after you ask 3x) and even gives you a code to the Internet which does not work for anyone. Proof? We asked around and other bloggers could not get it to work either. Calling the 'Instant service' hotline from your room is lots of fun too. You will be able to hear everything new Starwood has to offer while you wait on hold for 30 minutes.
But there are some good news – this place only costs 2,000 – 3,000 points (giving me a theoretical value of 20 cents per Starpoints as the best available rate was $480) and it is right between Masada and the Dead Sea. Exactly where every tourist needs to stop over. The renovated rooms (which I got) are in a good shape and have great views over the Dead Sea.
My iPhone has a Israeli SIM car and the coverage is excellent making for a speedy Internet connection.
The beach is close and offers easy access to the salty waters of the Dead Sea. As you'd expect the umbrellas are torn and blown out but hey it's not their fault it's 'the winds' fault!
The Spa also offers a salt water pool besides a fresh water one. I did not venture inside – that was just too crowded with tourists trying to 'lose weight' with 'salt therapy'.
The hotel apparently had about 1,000 guests for the night when I was there!
The lounge is weird too. The attendants say no Internet exists, while the front desks sends you there to use the Internet. The appetizers at 7 PM are the same food items you saw as desserts just 2 hours before. The lounge attendants does not bother to speak English with you because she appreciates your apparent willingness to learn Hebrew instantly 🙂
Also interesting spg.com delivers absurdly high rates ranging from $450-$900 per night. These rates also show up on other reservations systems. However judging by the tour group behavior most people do not pay $500/night.
The breakfast is pretty good with lots of items but mostly low quality. They advise to eat before 8.30 to enjoy a quiet breakfast which is good advice – it gets really, really crowded and noisy afterwards.
Overall this property is just too good a deal to pass up. They will not care about your status and present every trick in the book to not give you any benefits. It's a house filled with on-night stay tourist by the bus load and the individual could not matter less. They will make sure you feel that. But if you can accept all this with a smile and focus on your room instead it will provide you with great, very cheap shelter for a night at the Dead Sea. The experience of the Dead Sea is marvelous and not to should be missed.
I'd say do stay here before it changes SPG categories finally!