The W Fort Lauderdale – Does W Stand for Wow?
By Ava Rosales
Knowing that I was about to leave the toils of the week behind and fall into a carefree weekend at the W Fort Lauderdale, Friday could not arrive quickly enough. Eagerly anticipating the reveal of $55 million in upgrades, how much sleeker and trendier could this renowned brand reimagine itself?
I drove up to valet and pulled my overnighter out of the car – well, you know how we ladies pack, even for a weekend – good thing it was on wheels. Next stop was the “Living Room” for check-in. As the elevator door was closing, another guest hopped on and exclaimed that this lift was far less bright than the one he was on. It was a subtly lit elevator with a neon pink glow exuding from recessed fixtures. Quite soothing. Then the doors opened to a vivacious, pulsating scene where I deduced from the young lady behind the desk was registration. In keeping with the hotel’s newly added theme nights, the DJ was spinning some of the hottest tunes in the “Living Room”. Nice. I finished up my business, turned and headed towards the elevator, curious to see if it would be the brightly lit one that I was alerted to earlier, but it was my familiar subtle pink hue. It could not have gotten any better than when the doors opened on the 20th floor to a splendid view of the sunset.
A few doors down was my room with its own magnificent city and ocean views. I could have slept right there on the balcony setae, watching the sunset to reveal the moon above and the city lights at my feet. I tore myself away and opted for the uber comfy king-sized bed and sumptuously soft pillows, while keeping the curtains open to that splendid view. I floated into a deep sleep.
Awakened by sunrise, as was my goal, I decided to tour the property in quiet solitude and take a brisk walk along the ocean shore. I’ve been told by a seasoned traveler that a great way to get exercise in is to do so on vacation. It makes it feel somewhat novel and less tedious. The early morning also brings an appreciation of the natural surroundings. There were turtle nesting areas and the seagulls were doing their thing. As I picked up seashells along the way, I noticed one lone gull stood staring at the ocean. I could only imagine it was wondering why the ships in the distance were encroaching on its habitat or maybe it was just taking a rest. Either way, nothing seemed to distract its contemplative few minutes.
So, down the stretch I continued and landed in the nearby convenience store to satisfy my Junk food craving. I calculated that a brisk walk down and back would make up for whatever calories.
It was a half mile there and back, so I figured it would all cancel out, no? As I neared the hotel, I noticed some bodies stretching on the beach. As I got closer, it was two W staff members and some guests. I was quickly encouraged to join the group. Was this a sunrise yoga session? The thought had barely floated through my mind when it was quickly answered. Nope! I had sauntered into the hotel’s morning Beach Cross Bootcamp. The instructor had us doing pull-ups, squats, lunges, push-ups, ladder runs and resistance band chest presses. What I found totally enjoyable was that he was as attentive to our needs to hydrate and cool down as he was to our leaving our sweat on the sand. After cool-down stretching, we were invited to stay for the Vinyasa Yoga Flow. One guest jokingly said that he’d head back to the room and do yoga in his shower. I followed up with reminding him that the guest services channel had a yoga session, and some of the poses were done without leaving the bed. We casual exercisers are just full of excuses. In all seriousness, I wished that I was staying for the week to get my body on track with the hotel’s daily fitness classes.
The day’s agenda, however, had more of the hotel’s amenities to explore. The Bliss Spa should certainly be a pitstop. No time this go around. So, I opted for a quick shower with the in-room Bliss products, and it was off to WET East for a private bed poolside and some adult SIPS that included an array of frozen and specialty cocktails. This was the place to soak up a little sunshine. There was quite a selection of lounge chairs with umbrellas, enough for everyone, as the expansive deck wrapped around for gorgeous views of the ocean.
All the planning and lounging took us into lunchtime and it was time to sample something savory from the newest addition to the property, El Vez, for Mexican cuisine, with Baja-style cooking, local style. James Beard Award Winner, Stephen Starr, has done it again and brought his vibrant, eclectic décor and cuisine southeast of the border. With Frida Kahlo painted on the wall and skulls strategically positioned throughout the restaurant, I knew that the menu promised to be equally sensational. At the top was a selection of guacamoles – followed by ceviches, nachos, enchiladas, burritos and so much more to choose from – this was serious business.
After the morning bootcamp session, I was famished. I started with a simple chips and salsa. The tortilla was crisp and hot and the pico de gallo was snappy with an added kick – yum. The tortilla soup followed and was a delicious surprise. I was delighted by the amount and crispiness of the tortillas and the lack of overwhelming flavor of cumin that typically keeps me away from making that selection. Filled with chicken, avocado, tortilla strips and just the right amount of crema fresca and chunks of queso fresca, the flavors came together perfectly. The ginger and toasted morita chile added to the Snapper Aguachile ceviche and became a third (unexpected) salsa for my chips. Then came the ensalada (salad) where the pumpkin seeds created a savory and crunchy complement to the greens. Which brings me to the tacos. Of course, I had to sample the shrimp which came with a charred pineapple slaw and wrapped in a flour tortilla; whereas, the marinated skirt steak sat open faced on a corn tortilla. Just when I thought that I was stuffed, came dessert. Now, in my world, there’s always room for dessert, especially when there’s chocolate involved. Starr has even found a way to spice up a brownie sundae with a dash of chili and praline-like peanuts. Prices were extremely reasonable, and the flavors are fantastically fresh.
I absolutely needed to hit the gym after that smorgasbord, but instead opted to take in the view from my room’s balcony and a quick siesta until dinner at Steak 954. We decided on a late meal and to dine al fresco. As tempting as it was to dine indoors and marvel at the undulating aquarium wall of jellyfish, the ocean breeze and quiet atmosphere was the ideal way to wind down the day. Although the menu featured a varied selection of fresh seafood, we came for the steak! As with all dining establishments, meals are accompanied by bread. However, here, it was in the elegant form of a “popover” stuffed with gruyere. Giving a nod to the seafood, we started with the Jumbo Lump Crab. One word – Wow! It was all crab with “barely there” filler – just enough to hold it together. Our entrees consisted of a 22 oz Prime 40 Day Dry Aged Bone-in Ribeye and the Bone-in Beef Shortrib. Let’s start with the ribeye. It was seasoned to perfection. I’m sure the chef cringed when he heard that I wanted it well done, but he did not disappoint, and the cut was “melt in your mouth” tender. The shortrib was rich with flavor and cooked to fall off the bone. There was little room for conversation, as the meal consumed every spare moment of our mouths. The portions were beyond satisfying and easily shared, but better to have variety. I can only imagine how many visits we would need to sample half of the menu offerings. For sure, our next meal would include an American Wagyu cut, accompanied with fish, shrimp, scallops, lobster, or oysters on the half shell, and paired with some of the impressive selection of wines and champagnes.
If only I could escape reality for the week, to get started on that ambitious undertaking. Each day of the week, I would also be greeted by the new themed programming in the “Living Room”. Had I planned better, I would have started the week with the hotel’s Mondays are a B@#&%! that offers free hand and arm massages by Bliss Spa technicians, where guests create their own body scrub. Or should it have been Tuesday’s Bollywood Night which includes complimentary henna designs, or Wednesday’s The Studio featuring live art demonstrations. Then again, Thursdays are Off the Wall with the DJ taking requests. Complimentary cigars headline Heat Wave on Friday nights. Then it’s a throwback to the 80’s on Saturdays during Neon Nights, then sail into Saxxxy Sundays with live jazz.
The W Fort Lauderdale is definitely the ultimate staycation or vacation for Whatever/Whenever ®. After all, that is their trademark because, if you can’t find it on premise, they’re happy to get it for you 24/7. www.WFortLauderdaleHotel.com