The Phoenician Scottsdale Then & Now

entry to the north wing, photo by meentry to the north wing, photo by me

The Phoenician Scottsdale is part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection of hotels. The Phoenician is tucked into the Sonoran Desert at the base of Camelback Mountain. From the moment you arrive at the Phoenician you notice the lush grounds and traditional adobe style buildings found at the original hotel built in the early 1900s.  I’ll share more of the hotel history at the end of this review.

Photo by Just Another Points Traveler

Photo by Just Another Points Traveler

In June 2015, the hotel was sold to Host Hotels and Resorts but will continue to be managed as a Luxury Collection hotel by Starwood. Host Hotel and Resorts is best known for their Marriott ownership, but several years ago they bought the Westin Kierland Scottsdale.  They purchased the Phoenician for $400 million dollars and have announced an “extensive renovation”.   Sources at the hotel told us that the renovation would include the rooms (thank goodness because they show signs of aging) and would cost about $100 million dollars.

My last visit to the hotel was in June of 2011 so I was curious to see how the resort had changed over the years.  Last week I was at the hotel for a frequent traveler event and while much remained the same, some things had changed, and not for the better.

In 2011 here’s what I said about service: “The thing that stands out most about this hotel is the level of service from almost all of the staff (It’s hard to be perfect, but the Phoenician comes pretty darn close!) If I had to rate the service, I’d give it a 99.9%.   Based on my visit last week, I’d be hard pressed to give the hotel anything above 75% on service.  Many people in our group experienced similar experiences including long waits at checkin; less than knowledgeable staff; and Starwood Platinum benefits being offered/honored.  The hotel event staff told us, as planners, that the hotel was at 30% occupancy. And you could see that based on how uncrowded the pool & restaurants were.  Unfortunately, the front desk would not offer late checkouts.  Some people were successful in getting a late checkout after asking numerous times and instead of 4pm late checkout were offered 1pm or 2pm late checkout.   My check in experience was less than welcoming and other friends experienced similar problems.

Luckily, the event staff was phenomenal so our event was very successful and we were very pleased with the help we got from that whole team.  In addition, I have to give a shout-out to the social media team for all their help and for all the great tips they provided our group!  The bellman and valet team were on top of everything and left a great impression every time I interacted with them.  I’ll talk more about the service throughout the post.

Here’s the room description from 2011 (there was no upgrade then) “The hotel room had a king sized bed and very luxurious linens. There was a small living area with couch, chair and desk. The desk had a great view of the mountains. The bathroom was very large with a shower, sunken bath, two sinks and private toilet. There were two very comfortable robes and plenty of large bath towels in the bathroom. The shower had great water pressure and the bath products, called Remede – a Canadian brand – were great (I think I found a new shampoo!)”   Side note, I’ve now been buying Remede Shampoo Actif since 2011, it was that good.  Today, the hotel no longer has that shampoo (but you can find it at St. Regis hotels) and has replaced with its own product.

Because we had to meet a minimum spend with the frequent traveler event, I paid for an upgrade this time around.  I paid for a one-bedroom Casita Pool Suite, but ended up being placed in an Executive Suite in the north wing of the main building.  I was happy to have been in the main area and not in the Casitas after seeing how far that walk would have been.  The suite layout was odd.  Upon first arriving at the room I didn’t realize there was a second room because the door was locked.  The bellman came and unlocked that door and I then saw the living room area with pull-out queen-sized sofa bed, dining room table that could seat 6 comfortably, though there were only 4 chairs, and a full-sized bathroom w/soaking bath-tub.   The hotel layout is enormous so be prepared to spend some time walking to and from your room and the lobby, pools, etc…

The suite bedroom was over-sized and included a king bed, two chairs and round ottoman, a work desk with printer, a bar area with Starbucks coffee, a personal coffee maker and mini-bar options.  The bathroom was gigantic. It had a full-sized soaking tub (the tub showed a lot of wear and tear and had many chips), a shower that had great water pressure and an adjustable shower head.  There were double sinks and toilet in a room w/a sliding door.  In total, there were 5 closest in the room offering plenty of storage space.

Photo by Just Another Points Traveler

Pool side, Photo by Just Another Points Traveler

There are 7 pools at the resort including a children’s pool, a water slide, and adult only pool.  We spent one afternoon in a Cabana at the Mother of Pearl pool, pictured below.  The pool-side service was exceptional and having cold water, drinks and umbrellas along with reserved lounge chairs was great.  I would highly recommend this option if you have the chance.

Mother of Pearl Pool, Photo Courtesy of The Phoenician Hotel

Mother of Pearl Pool, Photo Courtesy of The Phoenician Hotel

 

The spa, The Center for Well Being and salon, Salon Mila – offer a variety of relaxing services.  In 2011 there were significant discounts in the summertime, this time around, the spa offered no discounts and the services were expensive.  There is a cactus garden – which had it not been 109 degrees I might have explored – I did take a few touristy cactus photos for the collection. The Phoenician boasts a $25 million dollar art collection and if you take a guided tour of the collection. The hotel also has a 27-hole golf course and tennis complex (I don’t have much to report on those – except they looked very well kept.)

The Roaming Gnome, from Travelocity, sits in the cactus garden.  Photo taken by me.

The Roaming Gnome, from Travelocity, sits in the cactus garden. Photo taken by me.

Cactus Garden, photo taken by me

Cactus Garden, photo taken by me

In addition to the amenities at the hotel, there were 11 restaurants and lounges. I had the opportunity to visit a few. Relish Burger Bar, located above the golf club, is a casual restaurant with reasonable prices and amazing burgers. There was a Sunset menu offering 2 courses for $20 (no substitutions allowed.) Il-terrazzo is an American-Italian styled restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Diners can choose from indoor or outdoor seating.  In July, sitting outside seemed like a crazy idea so we ate breakfast inside each day.  The service at the restaurant is impeccable and every day we had great service from not only the wait staff but from the management team as well.  You can read more about J&G Steakhouse in another post I wrote yesterday. J&G service left a lot to be desired.

As for the history, the Jokake Inn was built in the early 1900s and still stands at the entry of the Phoenician hotel today.  In 1985 the resort was built as it stands today.  The goal was to make the hotel the standard of luxury and according to the Phoenician History “white marble was imported from Carrera, Italy, for the lobby; the ceiling was etched in 24-karat gold, and 11 rare Steinway pianos grace the hallways and workers from the Island Kingdom of Tonga were hired to create the lush tropical landscape that complements the resort’s Sonoran backdrop.”  The Jokake Inn has served as a backdrop to many TV shows and Movies including Raising Arizona with Nicholas Cage.

Jokake Inn

The Jokake Inn, Photo Courtesy Phoenician Hotel

 

Here are some other photos taken around the resort:

View from the room balcony, photo by Casey Hines

View from the room balcony, photo by Casey Hines

entry to the north wing, photo by me

entry to the north wing, photo by me

Hotel Entry Fountain, photo by me

Hotel Entry Fountain, photo by me

I can’t wait to see what the rooms look like after the renovations. The grounds and public areas look great now, so I’m sure they’ll continue to modernize things and add to it, but the rooms need the most updating.   The primary reason I’ve spent time at the hotel was because I had friends nearby and as they will be moving, I’m not sure when I’ll be back next.  What do you think of this hotel?

 

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