Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SAN ANTONIO: JW Marriott Hill Country Resort


After spending two nights at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, I was hooked! I visited the hotel to attend a conference and was blown away by both the property and the service.

In my experience, conference hotels are usually decent but rarely more than that. After all, they already have you. For better or worse, you’re there for the duration and, given the nature of conferences – especially large ones – there will likely be few (if any) other hotels nearby that have space, even if the conference hotel falls into the “for worse” category (see my previous review about my experience at the Hilton Portland).

Fortunately, the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort gave me no reason to wish I was staying anywhere else.

View of the grounds from guest room
The desk clerk upon check-in was very gracious and welcomed me warmly. They could not accommodate my request for a room with a king-sized bed, but she provided me a room with two double beds and what she called “a very nice view.” Although that was not my first choice, the clerk nonetheless made me feel like a valued guest, which is a good first step toward a pleasant stay.

As advertised, the room had a very nice view of one of several courtyards and the golf course beyond. In addition, the room itself was nicely appointed with two beds, an easy chair, flat-screen TV, safe, iron and ironing board, coffee maker with a selection of coffees and teas, and a bath with separate tub and shower, and high-end amenities by Aromatherapy Associates. Augmenting the lush soap and shampoo was a cascade of water that was very soft, a nice change from the hard water at my home.

The desk workstation, complete with a proper task chair, offered A/V inputs so guests can hook their computer to the LG flatscreen TV and listen to music at a higher fidelity or watch videos on screen.

The resort boasts at least five restaurants in addition to a bistro at the on-site Lantana Spa.

Beds in guest room
After my late evening arrival, I opted for nibbles at the Crooked Branch lobby lounge. The bartender as well as several servers made suggestions and one even brought me a menu from the nearby sports bar when it appeared I was having trouble choosing from the bar’s menu. In fact, I was deliberating between two items that had my attention; the addition of another menu made it that much more difficult. Thanks a lot!

Later in my visit, I would enjoy a dinner at 18 Oaks, which is the on-site steak house, and the High Velocity sports bar. 

18 Oaks features locally-sourced, grass-fed beef along with seafood and other items. While the selection of wines by the glass was less impressive than it should have been for a resort, my petite filet was perfectly prepared and incredibly tender. The accompaniments, including rolls with salted butter, house-made beef jerky and house-made pickles, added a special touch.
Guest bath

Food in the sports bar was tasty and well-prepared, if typical sports bar fare: fish tacos, burgers, BBQ sandwiches. While prices reflected the resort atmosphere, they were not unreasonable.

Banquet food the weak point

As with many conferences, several meals were provided and those catered meals fell far short of the fare in the restaurants.  Breakfast offerings, generally egg-based sandwiches, oatmeal, fruit and yoghurt, were OK, but little more than that.  Of two lunches, the one offering the ubiquitous “rubber chicken” was only fair while the other, featuring a Caesar salad with sliced beef, would earn a rating of “good.”

The one provided dinner, however, stood out for its utter lack of appeal.

A Texas-themed tailgate party offered brats, BBQ sliders, and burgers. Each and every one was disappointing. A fellow conference-goer agreed the brats were bland, the burgers tasteless, and the sliders stale. The food quality was so poor I left the party to find a dinner that would actually satisfy.

Borrowed BMW
Fortunately, BMW was offering guests the opportunity to test-drive a Beemer as part of its Resort Driving Tour and I had acquired a car earlier in the evening, so I was able to go off-property to satisfy both my appetite and my need for speed. Unfortunately, the BMW tour won't be there for long.

Outstanding service

Every person I passed in the hall greeted me with a smile and “Good morning!” or “Good afternoon!”

At one point, I was having trouble opening my guest room door, and a call to the front desk brought security within minutes.

Checking out before the end of my conference sessions, the hotel was more than happy to hold my luggage until it was time to depart.

The only drawback is that its location is a bit remote. Guests who don’t have a car will find it inconvenient or expensive to get off property if the need or desire arises.

The resort also offers the River Bluff River Experience, a group of water-based recreation offerings including a pool, water slide, lazy river, and rapids ride.  The resort is adjacent to PGA Tours’ TPC San Antonio golf course, and includes a fitness center.

I would definitely return, and gladly recommend this fine property for your consideration.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

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