Welcome to: Where I Spent My Week Off —by a NYC Restaurant "Insider"
So, what do you do in the industry?
Oh, this and that.
And you have how many weeks off a year, generally?
About three or four.
What made you choose Vieques for this vacation?
Advertising! Ha ahaa, I wish I were kidding, but really I’m not.
We’ve been to a bunch of other Caribbean islands before and we totally love the convenience of the short flight durations. Well, this time we wanted to try something new, and so naturally Puerto Rico came to mind because of its advantageous location. Unfortunately, although a visit to (Old) San Juan seemed appealing, it isn’t exactly known for its awesome beaches, and also the notion of the Ritz Carlton as the typical New Yorkers’ Caribbean playground just seemed a bit tired and kinda played-out.
That sorta narrowed it down to Islas Vieques and Culebra. And I gotta admit, one gander at the new W Resort’s promotional video had me completely sold at pressing "play." Seriously— check that shit out and see if you’re not packing your bags before the 4:49 minutes are all wrapped up.
So, we planned our vacation in Vieques with a one-night stay in San Juan on our way back home.
How were the ambience, service, and amenities, etc?
The W was pretty awesome. Beautiful, chic, and contemporary with a creative ambience and a hip, stylish crowd. The service was mostly excellent— attentive and conscientious but casual— and the food was great nine times out of ten. They’re right on point with a lot of special little details that other high-priced hotels tend to overlook. I really liked it a lot.
The Water Club was okay. It was recommended by a pretty savvy friend, and it was perfect for the one night, but I couldn’t imagine enjoying it for any longer than that. But, for people who want that groovy Ian Schrager ambience at Howard Johnson prices, it’s a very good choice. They sure got their funky goin’ on, but the rooms are small and the walls are thin. I would imagine it was quite the little hotspot when it first opened, but at this point it’s starting to look a tad worse for wear. They are currently renovating the "famous" rooftop pool/bar though, so maybe it’s aiming for a comeback or something.
Any major glitches and/or disappointments?
Sigh, welllll… there was the New Years Eve debacle. I mean, yeah yeaahh, I get it— it’s New Years Eve, so that means it’s Hose the Clientele Night, right? The W’s "Alain Ducasse‘s" Mix on the Beach was already fully booked for dinner, so we got sold the "Burgers and Bubbles" poolside package at $125.00 person, which was supposedly "all you can eat" and "all you can drink." Well, the drinks ended up being mostly pre-made cocktail crap-garbage and even if you could manage to eat three burgers a piece, it’s hardly worth 125 bucks.
Which, ya know, might have been fine anyways, except I had specifically inquired "So there’s nothing available à la carte here this evening?" and the mutherfukking manager LIED to me. He straight-up told me "no, nothing" to my face, but in fact the Living Room bar was open as usual and functioning regularly with its condensed Mix on the Beach "bar menu." Granted, it wasn’t a full dinner menu, but it sure as hell beat pre-paid fucking $125 burgers. So, the fact that I could have had a good bottle of wine and nibbles of my choice for $250.00 instead, needless-to-say really pissed me off.
But the midnight fireworks show was nice.
Oh and the one night we did opt for the full dinner at Mix, it sucked. But it was January 2nd, so I guess the head chef took the night off, probably worn out from working the height of the season the whole time straight through. I say that because all the other meals we had at The W were wonderful, so the contrast of that dinner (and actually come to think of it, breakfast the following day too) was really quite evident. It was so bad, I wouldn’t be surprised if the dishwasher was the only one left in the kitchen cooking.
The only other thing I can think of is drinks at the San Juan Ritz Carlton pool bar. Sour mix in the margaritas— rilly? And ordering the Chips with Salsa and Guacamole was a big mistake. Most of the corn chips were dyed red and green (so corny— haa, corny, get it?) and on top of that ridiculous nonsense, they were stale. Plus the guacamole was awful and I didn’t even touch the salsa because it looked gray, I am not even kidding.
Dude, it’s supposed to be the fucking Ritz! Come on now.
Oh but I should also mention the cute little restaurant in Esperanza called Trade Winds, though. Just simple and rustic, but with really terrific food (and a nice, but very reasonably priced wine list). Evidently, their lobster is famous (and it was delicious!) and they had the best mofongo I’ve ever eaten in my life (apparently, not to be confused with Dominican mofongo, though).
Later in Old San Juan, this nice saleslady in a sunglasses store recommended this seafood restaurant called Aquaviva and it was fantastic. We’d asked for "a good place, not a tourist place," and so she told us about this one, plus another one called Parrot Club. She also mentioned a French restaurant the name of which I can’t recall now, it was something something Onze, which makes me think it was maybe Neuf Dix Onze (?) but I tried googling it and got nothing. If you happen to be in the area and want to give it a try, it’s right up Calle Fortaleza from both Aquaviva and Parrot Club.
How much did you blow all week?
The hotel (suite, ocean view) was about $5000 including taxes, resort fees, etc, but not including meals and incidentals. Airfare from JFK to/from San Juan was about $700 each (booked only two weeks in advance) and additional $240 each from San Juan to/from Vieques. Meals and drinks for two were I dunno, I guess $200 to $300 per day including gratuities.