Beachfront Luxury With IHG Points: A Review of the Kimpton Seafire Grand Cayman
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To The Point
Kimpton’s Seafire Resort and Spa is a phenomenal use of IHG points in the Caribbean. Pros: Beautiful beachfront design, excellent food and courteous service. Cons: High resort fee.
I’ll be back.
That was the promise I made myself as I checked out of the Kimpton Seafire + Spa in Grand Cayman.
The Caribbean has plenty of great hotels where you can redeem points — and our readers recently shared their favorites. But the Seafire is by far my new top pick.
It’s stylish, luxurious and small enough that you feel like you’re getting personalized service.
IHG is not normally the first hotel group I pick, but in this case, the points were an incredible value for my wife and me to sneak away for three nights to celebrate our fifth anniversary.
Between work schedules, limited nonstop flights from New York City and finding a time when my parents could watch our daughter, our dates were not flexible at all. Plus, we wanted to get away on our actual anniversary.
Oceanview room rates for our three-night stay started at $569 a night when booking directly with IHG.
A better option would have been booking through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, a program I can access with my Platinum Card® from American Express.
The rate was slightly higher at $599 but we would have revived an early check-in, $100 spa credit and free breakfast each morning. The buffet was otherwise nearly $40 a person.
But I wouldn’t be working at TPG if I didn’t know how to leverage points and miles.
Kimpton was purchased by IHG in December 2014 and eventually its hotels became part of the IHG Rewards program.
Rejoice! Points from those forgettable nights at a Holiday Inn Express or Crowne Plaza could now be redeemed for the hipper Kimpton hotels.
In November, we redeemed points for a great stay at the Kimpton De Witt in Amsterdam.
For this trip, the Kimpton Seafire wanted 70,000 IHG points a night. At TPG’s current valuations, those points are worth $350. Remember the cash rate was $569, plus there were taxes of 13% and a 10% fee. So, in reality, $699.87 a night.
We avoided all of that. However, IHG still requires guests to pay resort fees on award stays, and we paid $70 each night. Other chains like Hilton and Hyatt waive the fees on award stays. IHG and Marriott lag behind in this area.
It was not a budget trip by any means, but it was an amazing redemption for a top-notch beachfront resort.
The $70 nightly resort fee included:
- High-speed wireless internet access
- Local telephone calls
- Morning coffee in the lobby
- Kids under 5 eat for free
- Evening social hour with free wine
- Daily fitness classes
- Fitness center access
- Use of kayaks, paddleboards, rafts and a water tricycle
- Snorkeling gear
- GoPro underwater cameras
- Valet parking
We can all debate the merits of resort fees and if things like the use of a fitness center should really be extra charges. The only things we used (and not every day) were the lobby coffee and wine.
The hotel did refund me $5 of the $70 nightly fee for Wi-Fi because I’m a platinum member of the IHG loyalty program thanks to the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
The Seafire opened in November 2016 with 266 rooms and suites. But it felt much smaller.
It is Kimpton’s first Caribbean hotel and the chain’s first attempt at a luxury resort.
I hope more open soon.
The other high-end option on the island is the 369-room Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman at the other end of Seven Mile Beach. I love Ritz-Carltons, but the Kimpton felt quieter, less imposing and more unique.
The Kimpton Seafire sits right on the beach and is less than 20 minutes from the airport.
The bellman asked our name as soon as we got out of the taxi and escorted us to the front desk. We were welcomed by name and offered flutes of sparkling rose.
The staff was friendly and efficient.
Kimpton used to give members of its loyalty program the ability to “raid the minibar.” That tradition carries on with the hotel giving me, as a platinum IHG member, a $15 credit for the minibar or any food or drink during the stay.
There was also a $30 credit toward any spa treatment.
Between the food credit and the $5 nightly Wi-Fi rebate, we saved $30 on our stay thanks to my IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
Food, drinks and the resort fee cost us more than $1,100 over the three nights of the “free” stay. Having an extra $30 in my pocket was tiny, but nice.
One of my favorite quirks about Kimpton is that the chain often has a secret password that is shared on social media. Say it at check-in and you might get a room upgrade, a free drink or a gift. At the Seafire, we ended up with a beach tote bag from Leed’s.
A separate staff member then gave us a short tour of the lobby and pointed toward all the restaurants, the pool and beach.
It was 1pm and our room wasn’t ready, so we changed in the large lobby bathrooms and checked our bags. The front desk took my cell phone number and texted at 3:30pm to say that our room was ready.
We had booked an Oceanview King room.
An oceanfront room is usually at the narrow end of a hotel and is directly facing the water, as it was at the Seafire.
Some beach resorts play around with names.
Oceanview means you can see the ocean but how you see it is often up for debate. I’ve been to some hotels where that means leaning out over your balcony, stretching your neck as far as possible and hoping to catch a glimpse of the waves.
That was not the case at Seafire. We loved the view from room 610.
The Oceanview rooms were on the long side of the hotel, but were angled so they had clear views of the water from the balcony and the bed inside.
Everything about the room impressed me.
The balcony was oversized, had ample furniture and was designed in such a way that you couldn’t see the other balconies while sitting there.
Inside, the décor was stylish and the furniture included a dresser, oversized chair and desk. There were plenty of electric outlets and USB ports, including multiple ones on both nightstands — a must for any hotel today.
The bed was cozy with two firm pillows and two soft pillows. My only complaint was about the pillows — they were too firm and too soft. There was no in-between, and during my first night, I wished I had a Goldilocks option.
The closet had plenty of hangers, a safe large enough for my laptop, Frette bathrobes, slippers, a yoga mat, oversized umbrella and an iron.
The bathroom had a large double sink with shelves underneath. There was a large shower and the toilet was in its own room with a solid door offering plenty of privacy. The bath products from Atelier Bloem came in eco-friendly, large, refillable pump bottles.
Frosted glass separated the shower from the bedroom, offering natural light but also privacy.
There was a platinum welcome gift waiting for us: a nice cheese and fruit plate. We had combined two back-to-back points reservations from different accounts and on our last day got a second welcome gift. This time, it was some fancy nut bars.
The only downside to the room was the slow Wi-Fi.
Generally, I found mornings to be decent but nighttime speeds sluggish. The Wi-Fi in public areas was slightly better, but also seemed strongest during the morning coffee hours.
Pools and Beach
The main pool was broken up into three sections. One was small but deep. The large main section allowed for plenty of swimming but also easy access for little kids.
There was even a shallow section they could play in, right next to a deeper part for parents. Finally, the end closest to the beach was a zero-entry kiddie pool with fountains to splash around in.
We never saw a shortage of empty chairs. And the hotel was sold out — granted, with a wedding and a corporate-incentive trip. The friendly staff was quick to set up chairs for us each day and always managed to honor our request for a spot in the shade.
The staff also took great care each afternoon to place the chairs back in perfect rows.
There were bathrooms right on the beach and another set at the pool, so nobody had to walk far from their lounge chair.
Waiters and waitresses were quick to take orders and bring food. Menus and a flag to summon them were waiting on each set of chairs.
Daybeds and cabanas were available for rental but didn’t seem to offer much extra. They cost, during our stay, $250 and $350, respectively.
If I were to nitpick (and isn’t that why you are reading this review?), the pool and beach chairs were, well, fine. Everything else at the hotel seemed to be top-of-the-line. But the Seafire lacked the plush, cushioned chairs popular at luxury resorts.
During two of our days on the beach, the staff brought around some complimentary snacks. One day, it was pound cake. Another day it was popsicles. Both appeared to be extras from events nearby but it was still a nice touch — just not one I would expect every day.
Food and Beverage
There are three restaurants – two formal, one casual – at the resort. The menu at the casual dinner spot was the same one used for lunch on the beach. I could easily see folks getting bored by the end of a week-long stay.
For our three nights, it was perfect.
The food is not cheap. This is an island beach resort. Expect to pay steep prices. The breakfast buffet was close to $40 a person. Lunch for two people, with just one drink each, cost $100. Dinner for two easily topped $200. (Remember, kids under 5 eat for free at the restaurants.)
All that said, the food was really good. I’ve been to many beach resorts with overpriced food that underdelivered. Here, the food was tasty. Not one dish disappointed during the trip.
The breakfast buffet at Ave offered meats, cheeses, cereal, pastries, waffles, eggs and an omelet station. It was comprehensive but actually the least exciting meal of our trip.
Lunch was served at the poolside bar or the beachfront cantina Coccoloba, where it could be delivered to the beach chairs.
It was the same menu for dinner, but we really enjoyed the shrimp tostadas — something that would have been hard to eat in our beach chairs.
At night, the beach had torches and was really pretty. We tried to eat out there our first night but were quickly bitten by bugs and went to the covered porch instead.
Avecita offered Spanish food cooked over a wood fire.
There was an open kitchen with a chef’s tasting menu. But we opted for the a la carte meal.
The braised oxtail and Caribbean lobster (seen at the top of this section) was fantastic. So were the scallops, the cheese plate and the Iberico ham.
The breakfast spot, Ave, turned into a steak-and-seafood restaurant at night that was the highlight of our meals out.
We ended up getting a mix of small plates including some crudo, burrata and tuna tartare and then we split a small steak. It was plenty of food for us after a late lunch on the beach but we would have ordered more if hungrier.
Of course, we somehow found room for a s’mores-inspired dessert.
One morning, we tried room service.
There is a menu on the TV, and then you call to order. Our meal arrived 24 minutes later. The coffee was steaming hot and the food was plenty warm. By the way, the large carafe of coffee was impressive. As we lounged around on our balcony, the coffee was still warm 90 minutes later.
The room service items and prices matched those on the breakfast menu at Ave. There was a small delivery fee of less than $4.
For those looking for a smaller bite to eat or to save a bit of money, there was a pantry off the main lobby.
It had a few pre-packed sandwiches and salads, plus various snacks. In the morning there were pastries and muffins. We grabbed some one morning along with the free coffee from the lobby — well, free after paying the $70 nightly resort fee.
The beach and pool areas are the highlights of this resort.
Yet there are also just plenty of places to lounge around and maybe read a book. The design of the property really impressed me.
The fitness center had an ample supply of weights, treadmills and yoga mats.
There were complimentary fitness classes each day, including yoga and — some days — paddleboard yoga. I cannot personally vouch for any of those.
The Camp Seafire kids club offered half-day sessions for $50 and a full-day session for $90. Babysitting is offered for $25 an hour. Or those were the prices listed in the pamphlet at check-in. But when we pressed our faces up to the camp door one night, there were new, higher rates written on a wall inside.
We didn’t get to look inside the kids club, but I did notice kid-friendly amenities at every adult activity. For instance, during the nightly wine reception there were juice and snacks out for kids.
Other nice touches included a list of items that the hotel would give or loan you. That’s not unique to Kimpton but was a nice feature.
There were also little surprises in various corners, like this oversized chess set. A foosball table and cornhole sets were set up near the kiddie pool.
The hotel was at capacity and unable to give us a late checkout. But the front desk staff arranged for us to use the spa facilities to shower at 2:30pm, ahead of our 6pm flight home.
Kimpton needs to open more hotels like this — it wasn’t cheap, but using IHG points cut the price in half for us.
The food was expensive, but about what I expect at any beach resort.
The housekeeping staff decided to vacuum the hallway one morning at 8:30 while we were sleeping in. But that was really the only issue we had during our stay.
The beach, hotel and the service were otherwise top-notch.
There was plenty of space to spread out — we never felt like the hotel was packed, even though it was sold out for most of our stay.
We can’t wait to return.
Editor’s note: This story was edited on June 22, 2019, to remove incorrect information about how the hotel handled currency conversions.
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