Review: St. Regis Toronto: finest hotel in the city?

After writing my review of the Park Hyatt Toronto, I thought it was appropriate to write about the St. Regis despite this review being older. I think the two places are comparable in class and quality, though the redemption opportunities with the St. Regis are markedly worse these days.

I usually stay with family when I visit Toronto, but occasionally when I get in late at night or have business in downtown Toronto, I will either take the train into the city or rent a car. On this occasion it was my first trip to Canada since before the pandemic so I thought I would roam around a bit and check out the city. I hadn’t photographed the centre ville in more than 15 years anyway. I should note here that this review is from my stay in October of 2021 during which Canada was strictly closed to vaccinated and tested travelers. Things have drastically changed with regard to the pandemic since that time.

Arrival:

I arrived at Pearson around 10:30 am EST to a completely empty immigration hall. In fact it was so empty that the officer took her sweet time to question me like I was some suspect. The entire process must have taken atleast 15 minutes

The line of questioning went something like this:

Officer: “What’s your business in Toronto?”

Me: “Sightseeing and visiting family.”

Officer: “Why are you visiting Canada again?”

Me: “It’s beautiful in the fall and I have family”

Officer: “What “sights” will you see?”

Me: “Fall colors and maybe downtown Toronto.”

Officer: “Will you be taking any pictures?”

Me: “Yes”

Officer: “What sort of pictures will you take?”

Me: “Fall colors and the Toronto Skyline”

Officer: “Why aren’t you taking pictures of people?”

Me: “Because I’m mainly a landscape/cityscape photographer”

Officer: “Will you be visiting family?”

Me: “Yes”

Officer: “Where is your family?”

Me: “Markham”

After this, the officer seemed to grunt and went about typing on the computer. I honestly thought I was in trouble or something and I have to admit that I was a bit scared for no reason whatsoever.

Officer: “Congratulations! You’ve been randomly selected to take another COVID test”

For some reason this didn’t seem so random after the lengthy conversation above, but I was happy to take my passport (now marked with a pink PHAC sticker) and get out from the arrivals hall.

I don’t know what it is with Canadian immigration, to be honest. While I appreciate that they are doing their job by asking these behavioral questions, the way they ask them seems almost like they are setting me up for failure. Maybe they are just that suspicious of us Americans waltzing over? Anyway sorry for the extra text, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I’m not complaining by the way, I hear American immigration is the worst when it comes to “welcoming” foreigners often times.

Random COVID Testing @ Pearson:

The actual COVID test took no longer than 2 mins (they barely swabbed my nose) and I was at the airport rail station within a matter of 10 minutes.  The funny part of the test itself was that I never even heard about the result of it until I got back to the U.S the following Tuesday (it was negative) so take from that what you will.

My takeaway: I suspect Canada was randomly testing to monitor the entrance of new variants rather than to ward off cases which had already gotten into the country.

How I booked the hotel:

The St. Regis Toronto runs almost 70,000 Bonvoy points per night consistently, so normally I wouldn’t be able to afford it. However at the time, Marriott had not yet devalued and I had a Marriot free night award worth 50,000 points from the now extinct Ritz Carlton Card. So this was the ideal place to use that award given that the rates were 1200 CAD per night. Absolute no brainer.

Interesting note about the hotel these days: I can’t seem to find a single night over the next year where a regular room is available at this hotel with points. I believe the hotel has pushed the average room up to a “city view” room and made basic room redemptions near impossible. I guess they don’t take kindly to Bonvoy members redeeming points anymore.

Location:

The advantage of staying at the St. Regis vs the Park Hyatt Toronto is that it’s only 3 blocks from Toronto Union Station, which is pretty much the transport hub of the region. The UP train from Pearson takes just 20 minutes to the center of town and cost approximately 12 CAD.

The hotel is perhaps a 10 minute walk from the station on a busy day. On this particular October morning, the centre ville was completely abandoned so I believe it took me like 6 mins to the hotel entrance? It was a bit eerie to see a city like Toronto almost abandoned. The only souls I saw were the ones I walked out with from the train station.

Anyway, you can actually see the hotel as you walk onto Bay Street from in front of Union Station. It’s the aqua colored skyscraper which is two buildings down in the image below.

As you walk down Bay Street, you can’t really miss the St. Regis and its opulent covered driveway. On this occasion there weren’t many guests or supercars so there wasn’t a valet or person at the door to help guests.

Check In:

I was welcomed warmly by the receptionist who said he was glad to see more Americans back at the hotel. Apparently, Ontario only began to open restaurants without restrictions that very day so it was a slow start to getting back to normalcy. Vaccinations were still being checked for indoor dining venues at the time. As a Bonvoy Titanium member, the hotel upgraded me to a 1 bedroom corner suite without my asking. They did verify my vaccination status to make sure that I could use all of the hotel facilities during my stay such as the spa, gym, and indoor dining. And the following card was issued along with my room key card. I guess if you aren’t vaccinated, you are a prisoner in your room at the time?

As a Bonvoy Titanium, breakfast was included either at the opulent Louix Luis restaurant and bar or in the room. The entire process took less than 2 minutes after which I walked over to the room. The elevators are located right across from the reception desk with a nice chandelier and an incredible autumnal display of fresh flowers and pumpkins.

My room was located on the 26th floor and as soon as I got off the elevator, I was greeted by this nice winter-scape. I got to convince them to put of some Teja landscape originals is what I told myself 🙂

The corridors in the hotel are what you would call understated elegance, though the carpet was quite worn out.

One Bedroom Corner Suite (Room 2608):

My room featured a decently large living space with an attached powder room along with the usual mini bar and coffee maker. The place had features of a St. Regis in its design aesthetics, but the furniture looked like it had seen better days. The lighting situation was also not the very best.

On the coffee table were some chocolates along with a note thanking me for my stay:

To the right of the entry way was the mentioned powder room with a single bar of soap by some random company that I can’t even remember. In fact this lone bar of soap was all I had in the room because the room hadn’t yet been stocked with any toiletries.

Separated from the living room by a door was the bedroom which featured windows on half the wall because this was a corner suite.

The space was quite nice and had reading lights as well as  in the right places and an extremely comfortable king bed. And then there was the old chair which wasn’t comfortable and quite frankly didn’t look too great:

All the controls to the lights and shades were located next to the bed on the end tables:

The room also had a roomy closet with an ironboard:

Attached to the bedroom was a large marble bathroom with both a walk-in shower, and a large bathtub. As I said I had to call in for the toiletries and oddly enough there weren’t any that you could use to draw a bath. In the past I’ve seen many luxury hotels offer bath salts, bubble solutions, and what not, not this hotel. When I asked the guy just out of curiosity, I was brought some additional shampoo and body wash.

There was a television in between the double vanity, which oddly only got one or two channels (not that I was sitting in the bathroom watching TV).

 

The View:

The highlight of the room had to be the views out the various windows, which were especially nice at night.

 

Though there were other buildings blocking a complete view, I still enjoyed looking out on to the streeet scenes.

The following morning I had breakfast early at Louix Louis, which is the hotel’s main bar and restaurant located on the 31st floor of the hotel.

Breakfast @ Louix Louis

The Louix Louis restaurant is what you would call straight up opulence. I don’t think I’ve seen a restaurant in this style and elegance since the time I stayed at the two hundred year old Lake Palace in Udaipur. The centerpiece of the place is the well lit bar and painted ceiling with ambient mood lighting.

I was actually the first one there so I was seated in a corner with a decent view of downtown and the skyscrapers nearby. I wouldn’t call it a breathtaking view, but still a decent one to look over with the morning coffee.

Of course given the view from the room I was more interested in the beautiful ambiance of the restaurant.

As soon as I was seated, I was handed a menu. The same menu was also available via QR code by the way.

I wasn’t feeling like loading up on carbs so I went with an acai bowl and a four berry smoothie. The acai bowl was not only was the right choice, but was perhaps the best I’ve had. The portion size was also huge so I never got around to drinking much of the smoothie or eat the toast that accompanied it.

Service was impeccable and fast. The waiter seemed genuinely sad that I didn’t eat more and made a to go box for me with the toast and a muffin. It was certainly appreciated.

Fitness Club:

Another highlight of the property are the gym and indoor lap pool located on the 32nd floor. The only way to get to this area is actually via a separate elevator across from the spa and the Louix Louis Restaurant on the 31st floor.

The place was absolutely empty when I was there and it featured a great assortment of equipment including 3 Peloton bikes.

There were water bottles and towels at each treadmill and bike, which was impressive.

The views were yet again the highlight of the place. I didn’t do justice to them though given that I came to work out and not take pictures of the place other than with my phone.

 

Down the hallway and in another section of the floor was the indoor heated lap pool.

I may or may not have barged in on a couple’s “private” time at the pool so I ran out and circled back later for the picture. Thankfully there were two different people at the pool and I didn’t have to look them in the eye. Suffice to say, I didn’t want to use the pool during my time at the fitness club.

There was also a seating area near the pool, though I don’t quite get why you would want to sit in that sauna like place for too long.

The change rooms were well equipped with their own showers, lockers, and toilets. I had late check out, but if I didn’t I’m sure the hotel may allow a few guests to work out and just take a shower here instead.

Checkout:

I used the Marriott App to check out of the hotel quickly and the only charge was for a diet coke I had taken from the mini bar earlier. So breakfast was indeed taken care of without having to ask about it.

Transportation:

As I said I love this location for the hotel because Union Station is right around the corner. I headed straight there after checking out to catch the GO (stands for Government of Ontario) train to Markham where my family lives. Saturday seemed to be the more lively day of the two in Downtown Toronto with several climate change marches going on:

If any of you are confused abut where to buy your train tickets, go to the PRESTO kiosks along the wall to get them. These are located inside the central part of the station and a little away from the entryways to the various tracks.

The trip cost a total of 9.40 CAD, I’ll let you guys do the currency conversions. The GO transit system has some slick trains and clean trains. The 40 minute ride out was super smooth and comfortable. This was 2021 so the train was fairly empty despite it being rush hour on a Friday evening.

Markham Unionville station itself had some nice character to it and was pretty much the end point of this brief trip to Downtown Toronto.

Bottom Line:

The St. Regis Toronto is perhaps the finest hotel in all of Toronto and the price tag certainly fits that description. The restaurant, fitness club, and service at the hotel are top notch and certainly beat out anything I saw at the Park Hyatt in Yorkville. I personally like the location of the St. Regis a lot because it’s easy access to the airport as well as walkable distance to many of the city’s attractions. If you need to get to the museum district, even that’s a quick subway ride away. With that being said, I don’t this hotel is attainable on points any longer for me personally. For some reason they seem to be blocking standard room from being booked as far as I can see and paying 70,000 points + cash is unreasonable given that the city has plenty of classy hotels which are more attainable on points. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best Marriott in the city given that the Ritz doesn’t offer the same level of elite recognition.

 

 

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