Top program in the West
VIP Ram Passover in Palm Springs was a home run. Here are the specifics (pros and cons): While this was the first year for this group at this location it is clear this is not their first rodeo. The years of experience and working together showed as VIP Ram did a great job on this program. Food: VIP Ram is renowned for their food quality and variety. Large selections and choices at every meal and the food was plentiful. If you have picky eaters in your family, they will find plenty of good food as there are so many options. They have their own pastry chef that is a master. Desserts were always fun, innovative and ridiculously good. Besides the official dining and the tea room (described below) they also had a BBQ going every day by the pool from 12-5 with burgers, kabobs, fries, schnitzel and other meats. It’s a totally different experience when you go swimming, get hungry and have a fresh BBQ at your disposal. Bottom line, food is very very very good. If you have foodies in your family, they will love this program. Location: The Westin Mission Hills is a golf resort getaway in Palm Springs. Pools, tennis courts, 2 golf courses, are spread over this massive resort. (It was so sweet to see all the ducks with their recently hatched ducklings all over the resort.) Rooms were large and all had a small fridge. Beds and linens were first class comfortable. The weather was hot, but not that sticky humid type of hot. It’s a dry dessert heat. Still, if you wanted to golf or play tennis, early in the day was definitely better. It is 2 hours out from LA so it attracted many West coast families. It also meant that taking a day trip to LA was doable. Atmosphere: it’s a pretty chill program with families of all backgrounds. There was even a Sephardi shul in addition to the main Ashkenaz minyan. There was also an early minyan for those that wanted. From black hats to shorts and sandals, everyone seemed to get along with a no judgement attitude. Tea Room: VIP Ram truly shines in this area. Calling it a tea “room” is not quite accurate. It is more a food court. With stations for coffee/tea with fresh pastries, a fresh pizza station, fruit carving area, made to order sushi station, soft serve ice cream station (Dairy and Parve options) as well as slushees, omelet station in the AM, snacks, candy, chocolates, open bar with mixed drinks, wines, sodas and juice, this “tea room” nocked our socks off. And just when we thought we saw it all, there was live entertainment nightly on non-Chag nights. Owners/Operators: this group has obviously worked together before. They are nice, eager to please and go out of their way to accommodate. From check-in till check-out they were polite, approachable and made us feel welcome. Kids Program: This is where this program went above and beyond. Passover programs all provide somewhere for the children to go so that parents can relax and enjoy. However, at this program, the kids program went way above the rest. It was organized with so much programming and activities (all schedules on their website as well as printed in their own booklet), the kids were lining up waiting for the camp to open each day. The director and the counselors were all LA based and brought a sense of LA hipness and fun to the entire Passover program. The camp staff dressed in fun and funky costumes, keeping the energy up even when they were not on duty. They were so much fun to be around. Kids were always joining their table at meal times because they couldn’t get enough. The kids camp offered trips during Chol Hamoed in addition to full programming at the resort for those not interested in the trips. They had evening fun planned every night with on site Laser tag, a huge nerf war, movie nights and activities. We have never experienced a better run kids program. They even had their own website for parents to see daily pictures and videos of their activities. Some of the Cons: Evening program for the adults was weak. No headliners or tier one entertainment. The comedian was great and some of the lectures were good. But, for a program at this level and price, it could use the production value and headliner that other top rate programs have. For those that have gone to VIP Ram programs at the Trump Dural in FL or The Biltmore in AZ, the class level of the Westin resort is one star less. Hotel waiters and service could have been a bit better. The first couple of meals were obvious learning curves for the hotel wait staff. They did pick up their game afterward. The guest rooms are great but rooms but are getting a little dated at this resort, but it seems that the rooms are getting a makeover this coming year. Bottom line, this is a top notch pesach experience with everything one could and should expect. It is pricey but you definitely get what you pay for. This program is worth the extra dough to have peace of mind that everything is under control and that you have experienced operators running the show, proven caterers with plenty of food with variety and choices, and a kids program second to none, all on a phenomenal resort in Palm Springs. If you are an east coaster, the dry heat will warm you up and if you are a west coaster, it’s the best program in driving distance to LA. I rate this program 4 1/2 stars and with a few easy changes it can easily be THE 5 star program in the west.