We recently visited three cities and Marriott/SPG properties in Europe – London, Florence and Paris. I’ll limit these comments to the hotel experiences assuming most site visitors are seeking insights for selected properties.
First up was the JW Marriott in London. After reading various opinions from Insiders we thought this would be a glorious experience. It wasn’t. A few months ago, an Insider posted a poor review and cited noises, smells and rodents. I contacted the hotel via email to express my concern and was seriously thinking of changing hotels. After a delay, they responded with the corporate line. I replied seeking a more definitive response, which was sent a few days later. I even received a phone call from one of the managers addressing my concerns. They promised a renovated room in a quiet area, so again my expectations were high. This is not a 5-star hotel; maybe a 4-star on a good day. The property is nice, but like everything at Marriott they miss with the little things. Especially when compared to our experience in Paris. The entire country of England lives and breathes tea, yet they don’t provide tea or coffee in the rooms. They said it was a safety concern. Sorry, but that is BS. Turn down must take 15 seconds because all they do is turn down the bedsheet cover. And our quiet renovated room had a lovely view of the scaffolding. No upgrade for Platinum, although they were sold out so I understand. The bellman who delivered our luggage didn’t show us the room, how to find things, adjust lights, etc. I’ve stayed at 5-star hotels and this is common and a very nice touch. Again, the little things. The Executive Lounge was fine, but Marriott has lost control of this concept, IMO. For too many people it’s all about putting on the feed bag and hoarding what they can for themselves, kids, etc. It’s not an elegant or special experience. We loved London and will return, but not at this hotel, and perhaps not even at a Marriott brand.
After 6 days/5 nights in London we headed to Florence via LCY (City airport with non-stop flights to FLR). We stayed at the Westin Excelsior (SPG), which is a very nice hotel in a good location. I reserved a River View room and they did upgrade us (although to what I can’t tell – it seemed like a regular room). They are much better at the little things and overall it was a great experience. They don’t have a lounge, but platinum members get breakfast (for me and my wife) in the restaurant. A far better experience than the hoarding lounge. They also have a rooftop restaurant / bar with great views. We didn’t eat there but did go up for drinks. Great service throughout the hotel and very personable staff. The only issue is with the people at Marriott who decided on the 3:1 ratio when converting MR points to SPG points. This resulted in 270,000 MR points for a 5-night stay vs. 180,000 for the same length stay at the JW Marriott in London and Renaissance ADT Paris. The value is extremely poor, but I don’t see any chance for a partial refund of points.
We finished with a week at the Renaissance Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and it was spectacular! We stayed there last year and the consistency is remarkable. We had a wonderful upgraded room (view of Eiffel Tower and Arc from the balcony) and the staff remembers you by name and greets you every time you enter and leaved the hotel. The little things are everywhere, most notable the turn down service. Not only did they leave a different snack each night, but included a card with the weather forecast and a quote from a poem. They sometimes just brought up a gift to say thanks for staying. Totally unexpected and exactly what you expect from a 5-star hotel. No lounge but free breakfast each day, either from the menu or the buffet. Excellent service from top to bottom, knowledgeable concierge staff (Navigators), outstanding location (2 metro stops within 2 blocks), great fitness room, very clean and a Nespresso Machine (and hot water kettle) in the room. Take that JW London!
Travel has become such a pedestrian experience that our week in Paris gives me hope. Luxury Travel Magazine asked me to provide photos and comments on our flights, airport lounges and hotels. Prior to arriving in Florence, it was difficult to find much luxury. The Delta lounge in the International Terminal at ATL is feed bag central, and the first class (Delta One) seats on the beastly 767 show its age (the return on the Airbus 330 was luxurious).
I have contacted Marriott about the JW experience, and the hotel responded with the corporate line. They didn’t even have the facts right as they thought I converted SPG points and couldn’t provide any relief (partial refund of points). That’s the fault of the phone agent who took poor notes. Pedestrian experiences abound. Woot, Woot!
On an unrelated note, I first typed this in Word and copied and pasted to avoid the time-out / log-in issues.