If I hadn’t known before that I was at a fancy hotel, I would have realized when the man who brought our room service breakfast at The Phoenician came in toting a toaster, asked me whether I wanted a light, medium or dark bagel, and proceeded to make it so. While the toaster ticked away, he carefully laid our breakfast spread on a small round table, complete with fresh flowers and various condiments. No wobbly rolling carts here or trays to balance on your knees — this was a proper Breakfast in Your Room.I’m generally wary of big hotels and resorts. Last year in Vegas I experienced an exquisitely frustrating 15 minutes repeatedly running into dead-end hallways while trying to get to the lobby of my enormous hotel-casino-shopping center.
But the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a resort for people who don’t like big resorts. Located on 250 acres of open space, the hotel buildings are quite flat and the only tall object around for miles is Camelback Mountain. You are never more than a few steps from the outdoors, there are no mazes to negotiate, and no feeling of crowded entrapment (Incidentally, this is a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel and my husband Taz and I used Starwood points for our stay.)
Among the unique features is a narrow cactus garden that runs along one side of the hotel. Our room overlooked this garden, with its tall coat rack-shaped Saguaro cacti jutting up among other smaller, squatter species. Right beyond this garden, not 100 feet away, was the base of the rust-colored Camelback Mountain. I’ve never had a hotel room view quite like that before —- majesty front-and-center outside my window.There’s a $25 million art collection onsite; one morning I checked out the free audio guide from the concierge and took a quick tour that included some unusual pieces by local artists. The same afternoon, we stopped at a bourbon tasting by a small-batch distillery that has created a bourbon especially for the Phoenician (my newbie bourbon verdict: it did not burn going down). I haven’t been to any other resort with as many unusual amenities.
The Phoenician is well-known for its spa. Taz and I both tried the holistic massage, though our massages were customized and ended up being very different. My therapist gave me a combination of several massage techniques, including shiatsu and hot stones. I don’t know if it improved my health but I know it felt good. Taz got myofascial release neuromuscular therapy, which sounds horribly clinical but was blissful, so he reported, and meant to relieve stress and pain. It worked.We met up after relaxing into a near-trance. It was the perfect state of mind to take a free meditation class in the aptly named Meditation Atrium. We learned some easy-to-apply guided imagery techniques that I’ve since used at home; Taz, already semi-conscious from his massage, fell asleep during class, which the teacher gently reassured him can also be part of the meditation process.
One morning, I took a beginner’s lesson at the golf course from a very patient instructor, and now know—in theory—how to swing a club. Several afternoons were spent happily paddling around one of the nine (!) heated pools. The rest of our daylight hours were spent hiking and driving among the beautiful, craggy mountains and gleaming lakes nearby.
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona (about 20 minutes from Phoenix)
Price range: $$$-$$$$ or 12,000-16,000 Starpoints or 6,000 Starpoints + US$110
Selected features: Cactus garden, nine pools, ice cream parlor, spa, golf course and more
Food is often the Achilles heel of resorts, so I was surprised by the consistently good quality across the various eateries, from formal afternoon tea (I’m a sucker for tiny sandwiches) to casual snacks by the pool, to that room service bagel breakfast we enjoyed while looking out at the rocky face of Camelback.
The Phoenician isn’t a cheap hotel, but if you want to splurge some cash (or points), this is a place where you will see the thoughtful details your money is buying. The proof is in the bagel.
Disclosure: Denise Seomin, PR Director for The Phoenician, kindly arranged for some of the dining, spa and golf experiences we enjoyed during our visit. She did not request that I include them in my review.