Review: Amangiri, Utah

Amangiri

Amangiri, Utah
Room type: Mesa Pool Suite and Dessert View Suite
Duration: 1st > 6th September, 2014
Booked with: AMEX FHR

Pre-sales

I begged.  Boy did I beg.  Please, Amangiri, give me an upgrade.  I promise that I’ll be a good boy this year.  No more writing horrible anonymous things online, I swear.  But Santa was not listening.  When I booked, Amangiri was already fully booked, so I could only book the Mesa Pool Suite for 3 nights and then had to move to the Dessert View Suite.  On arrival my curiosity kicked in, so I checked the Aman website to see if any availability remained – it did.  The Mesa Pool Suite still had availability for our dates, as did The Girjaala Suite.  The offer of a complimentary or paid upgrade was not forthcoming, so on arrival I had to slum it in the 3rd best suite instead.

Amangiri

Getting there

A quick 2 hour drive to Gatwick Airport.  Followed by a short 12 hour flight to Las Vegas.  Followed by a teeny-weeny 5 hour drive to Utah.  It’s a shock that we have only been once when Amangiri is just this easy to get to.

After a journey that even Jules Verne would be proud of, we arrived, full of anticipation, glee and wonder at the gates of Amangiri.  As we drove up to the gate, we slowed down, hit the buzzer and waited for an answer.  “Hello”, came back the gentle voice.  “It’s Mr and Mrs C”, I replied, “can you please let us in”.  The only response was the sound of the wind.  Being the American desert, I don’t think it would have been too cliche to suggest some tumbleweed blew past.  After being hung up on 3 times and having to call back each time, they finally let us in.

Entrance to the reception area

Setting

Amangiri pool

Set in such an area of the United States so remote that there are no fast food restaurants within 10 minutes, Amangiri was specifically selected due to the rock that the pool could be built around.  Stunning, awe-inspiring, striking and beautiful – all words other people may have used to describe Amangiri.  I kid, I kid; not even the poor service could take away from Amangiri that it is a unique, visual experience.  Yet whilst the pool is without doubt stunning, I could not help feel there were a large number of missed opportunities elsewhere, notably the rooms and range of other facilities, as without any doubt space was not an issue.

Another photo of the freaking pool

Every photo of Amangiri is around the pool.  The entire resort is focused around the pool.  The different wings of the rooms are either side of the pool.  The only restaurant is by the pool.  Pool, pool, pool, blah blah blah.  Unsurprisingly, my view is that one of the downsides to Amangiri is that everything is focused around the swimming pool.  Whilst this has a specific charm to it, it also has its disadvantages, notably that the reception, library and dining room are all in the same, single building.   This means that you find yourself constantly walking past reception, where they will do their best to ignore you at every available opportunity.

Rooms

The rooms are divided into 2 sections of the resort: Mesa View and Desert View, which sit either to the left or right of the main reception area.  Speaking as someone who would not even appreciate the Mona Lisa if it was personally made for me, I did not really care at all about the view.  What the main difference comes down to is that the Desert View has you further away from the spa area.  Up from the standard rooms you have the Desert Pool Suite or Mesa Pool Suite, which are identical rooms, yet – as a massive shock – come with their own pools, along with outdoor beds that allow you to stargaze.  We stayed in the Mesa Pool Suite, which seemed to miss a massive opportunity by placing the pool inside the suite and therefore facing a wooden wall, when it could have been looking out into the desert views – something even I, Tom McNoTaste, would appreciate.

Amangiri bathroom

We received all our meals, a free mini bar and the glorious, once-in-a-lifetime event of not needing to sign any bills, which therefore meant not needing to tip in the United States.  It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.  You throw in that the pool was heated to 36 Celsius and you would think I would be delighted with everything, but alas I will never allow myself to experience joy.

Mesa Pool Suite

The fact that between a Desert View Suite and Mesa Pool Suite is only a pool and no additional indoor space in the room is definitely a let down.  The rooms are very similar in their design to Amansara, in that they are very simplistic and mostly consisting of concrete.  Where they decided not to use concrete was the bathroom door, that then would squeak every time you went to open it, thus making it the likely #1 cause of homicides in Utah, as you will wake-up anyone else in the room if you need to go.

Amenities

Main indoor area
  • Swimming pool, in case I didn’t mention it.
  • Outdoor fire area, where they do roasted marshmallows
  • Library
  • Restaurant
  • Living room area, designed for lounging around and playing board games
  • Multiple out door lounge areas
Amangiri outdoor, area near the Mesa rooms

Spa

Hot tub

Amongst my favourite spa area of any Aman – the Water Pavilion, contains a fantastic sauna, steam room, outdoor pool, outdoor hot tub and plunge pool.  You will also find another hot tub right besides the pool, just in case you somehow get claustrophobic from there being more than 1 person nearby, which actually never happened even though they were at full occupancy…well, according to them, not their website.

Outdoor Thai massage rooms

Activities

Horse riding

Possibly the largest set of activities available at any Aman.

  • Horse riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Free daily hikes with very knowledgable guides
  • Hot air ballon guides
  • Fantastic paid guides to visit some of the slot canyons

There’s way too much to focus on just here, but suffice to say the amount of variety is incredible.

Hiking
Yehaaa

Food

The food available during breakfast and lunch was incredibly limited, to the point that after day 3 we were really struggling to know what to do.  The quality was actually very good, but it was most bizarre that dinner had a large variety of options but lunch was so limited and they could not offer you anything for lunch that was on the dinner menu, just like Aman Venice.

Service

This is always the largest part of my reviews, as it is the area that allows a hotel to shine or rot away in the shade.  When eating at an expensive restaurant I must experience wonderful food and great service and staying in a hotel I demand the minimum of an amazing room and incredible service for me to consider returning.  Excluding the pool, the room at Amangiri certainly had no wow factor, so could they manage to pull through with the service?  No.  No.  And another no, just for emphasis.

  • On the first night, at 10:30pm the doorbell went. At first I ignored it as I was already asleep – having been exhausted from a 5 hour car journey from Las Vegas – yet they rang it repeatedly until I had to get dressed and see what they wanted. When I got outside, it was room service attempting to deliver something to the wrong room, who had clearly realised their mistake as they were scuttling off into the night without apologising.  The next day I discuss this with management, who were apologetic.  When we came back to our room after breakfast there was a note to say that something was in our mini bar as an apology. A nice gesture with one small issue: there was nothing in the mini bar. When I bought this up with management again, they said they’d come back to me but never did and nothing was ever provided.
  • Basic elements of standard Aman service was missing: when we left, no fresh water was added into the car.  At Amanzoe they even cleaned the car for us.  Some friends of ours visited Amangiri earlier in the year and did have the real Aman experience, so perhaps we just chose the wrong week.  When returning from any activity, no one was ever waiting for us with cold water or cold towels, which is standard at every other Aman, yet should be more so here seeing that we visited during such high-temperatures.  At any of the other Aman resorts, if you go out for a trip, even if it’s as simple as going to the beach, you would have people waiting for you on return with warm towels and water. At Amangiri, you would go out on 2-3 hour long hikes in nearly 40 degrees heat and come back without anyone being anywhere near by.
  • We were never given any confirmation of any activities that were going ahead.  We booked a hot air balloon trip for our final day, yet at 4:10pm the day before I asked them about what time they would wake us up, only to be told the trip could not take place, as they accidentally booked it in the first place.  I’m unsure at what point they were planning on telling me this.
  • We had to move rooms for the 4th and 5th night of the trip, as the Mesa Pool Suite was not available. Upon doing so, we were simply handed a key and told where our room was and pointed to it, rather than escorting us to the room. The purpose of an Aman is to allow you to live within this dream of luxury, and at the moment we were just pointed to an area of the resort we hadn’t been to before and given a key, the dream died.
  • We were after a late lunch and enquired with the staff what was possible.  They told us we should go to the bar counter and ask for it, even though it turned out the bar counter was closed.  Why not simply offer us the menu instead?  Or know your own schedule, when there is only 1 restaurant in the resort?

I felt the overall training of the staff at Amangiri was about as thorough as the watchmen of the Titanic.

Slot canyons. Chances are the service levels here are higher than Amangiri.

Worth Knowing

We ended up using Aman for several paid for excursions, which are booked directly via Aman.  On completing the excursions I looked up the company who was involved and found their direct prices were half of what Aman was charging.  I never have any issue with someone marking-up, but I do have issue when it becomes so exploitive and you receive nothing back for your money.

Maybe the horse is elitist and only obeys commands from Aman staff.

The Good

  • Huge range of activities

The Bad

  • Severe service mishaps
  • Not as private as you may think, due to all the hiking options around the resort giving full view of your room

The Luxurious

  • An unforgettable location; a photographers dream
  • My favourite spa area of any Aman
Amangiri spa reception area

Conclusion

Aman at its best is close to unbeatable.  Aman at its worst is like having a best friend that steals money from you, whilst continuing to ask if you will lend them money.  Aman are infamous for not only their stunning locations, but the hotel, rooms and service is of such a high quality that you wonder why you would ever consider going anywhere else. However, the sheer sign of quality is consistency – doing something over and over is orders of magnitude harder than doing it once.  Amangiri has let the side down.

So would I return?  The GM has now left and moved onto Amanpulo, so I think given a few more years I would.  But as North Island taught me, I need to complain more when I’m there, rather than waiting to leave.  At nearly £2500/n for a Mesa Pool Suite, there are definitely large areas that need improving in the resort.

Guess what? A photo of the pool.

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