Where I spent today (yes, virtually the entire day): Room 2166 at the Westin St. Maarten. That's me with one of the hotel tech guys who tried to fix my room's wireless and cable connectivity problems, Feb. 17, 2009.
by Wendy Perrin
If you're wondering what I've been doing since you last heard from me, the answer is: battling one tech breakdown after another. It all started with my Palm Treo 750 dying, the apparent victim of Dutch-French network confusion. First it worked on the
French side of the island but not the Dutch side, then on the Dutch
side but not the French side, and then last Friday it stopped working everywhere.
Hours spent on the phone with the AT&T International Help Desk and
Conde Nast Tech Support couldn't revive it. I've been without mobile Web or e-mail access for five days now.
Then on Saturday I checked into the Westin and promptly lost that critical hotel accoutrement--in-room Wi-Fi--that had made life so easy at the property I'd stayed in the previous six nights. (I can't tell you more about that first property because it's part of an article I'm writing for Conde Nast Traveler's upcoming June issue. What I can tell you is that, in a crazed moment of optimism about a
month ago, I redeemed Starwood points for five nights at the Westin because I thought it might be nice to tack some vacation days onto my work assignment down here. The plan backfired: Between writing my article, blogging, and losing 20-or-so precious hours to tech problems, there's been zero time for any vacation.)
So when I arrived at the Westin on Saturday and was told the only place you can get a Wi-Fi signal is the lobby, I freaked. I can't leave my kids alone in a hotel room while I spend hours in the lobby, after all. Then this morning even the lobby Wi-Fi was on the blink. The front desk promised to call my room when the lobby Wi-Fi was restored, so I stayed put in room 2166 waiting for a call that never came. When I marched back down to the front desk, I was told that the problem had been fixed and, actually, there should indeed be Wi-Fi in my room, as well as at the pool. Of course I checked both the room and the pool and couldn't connect at either place. Back at the front desk for the fifth or sixth time, the Westin finally started taking my complaint seriously, sending a parade of tech guys to my room. The third one finally offered some decent help:
That's Kerry, who calls himself the hotel's "clean-up guy."
Kerry strengthened the room's Wi-Fi signal to the point where my husband's laptop can now access the Internet wirelessly. I still can't connect wirelessly in the room (even though I'm able to in the hotel's lobby), but Kerry was able to get me connected by cable and figured out why the cable hadn't worked earlier: the person who'd installed it had plugged it in wrong in some back room of the Westin.
So now my husband's connected via in-room wireless, I'm connected via in-room cable but using my husband's computer because it's providing a much quicker connection ... and we're each paying $14.95 per day (yes, $30 per day total) for the privilege.
And that is the story of how I spent pretty much the entire day in my hotel room.
Now, here's where I should have spent today: The Westin's pool. I haven't actually been in it yet, but I have walked the entire area holding an open laptop, searching in vain for a Wi-Fi signal.
By the way, if I were here at the Westin on assignment for Conde Nast Traveler, I wouldn't dare name the hotel while still staying in it (for fear that, if the hotel knew I was there, it might give me preferential treatment). The only reason I felt it was okay to name the hotel this once is that I'm here purely for "vacation," I'm not reviewing it for the magazine or this blog, and I'm clearly not getting any discount or freebie, as I paid for the room fair and square with 64,000 hard-won Starwood points.
Before I sign off, my husband wants me to add that this is the second time I've had a "blogging breakdown" (his words) on the island of Sint Maarten. The first time was two years ago, when we were on a cruise that stopped here for a day. Because the ship's Internet access was kaput, I had to spend most of my one day on Sint Maarten in an Internet cafe!