I had the distinct pleasure of staying in January at the new Marriott Marquis Houston in downtown. The hotel opened in late 2016 (December), and is a commendable addition to the Marriott Marquis portfolio which now stands at 7 if I recall correctly. With almost 1,000 rooms, (40 of them suites), spanning some 29 floors, it stands just a little taller than its Hilton of the Americas counterpart just across Discovery Green Park. It is adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center, which makes it a prime location for large conferences. It was listed as host hotel for Super Bowl LI.
My stay at the hotel was premised on a conference I attended with some 700+ colleagues from around the country. We were the third large group coming through the hotel since its opening in December, and it was noticeable that they had not yet worked out all the little kinks in their operation. You will indulge, if not forgive, me for pointing out a number of little things I noticed during my stay. My intent is to share this with the GM so they can make it better. I am not a critic by nature, but I highly value feedback from my customers as a means by which we can improve, and hope the hotel leadership team feels the same way.
On arrival, the valet team quickly helped me arrange for luggage to be placed on a cart, while my car was taken to the garage for quick nearby access later in the day. The bellman escorted me and my bags into the lobby where I was formally welcomed by the management as I walked in the door. The lobby itself is massive, with modern appointments, very clean lines and restaurants/bars at both ends. At the very end on the left is a Starbucks next to a very nice, quiet, dark wood wine bar with lots of cozy places to sit and talk. On the other end is a baseball themed sports bar named Biggio’s, of course named after one the Astros all-time favorites. The staff at Biggio’s was superb, with a deep knowledge of their bourbon options - you would love this place erc
At check-in, I was again welcomed, and my platinum status was recognized. While I had checked in online and made a few special requests (extra towels and feather pillows), my room preference hadn’t been observed for a king. The young man at the front desk apologized for the oversight, and offered to make a change. I politely declined, knowing that I was going to spend very little time in my room, and the room they had assigned me was on a high floor, away from the elevators, overlooking the wonderful Texas shaped lazy river below. The only alternative was a king without the view. Had I known my view was going to be slightly obscured by the Lombardi trophy which adorned the entire side of the hotel, I probably would have opted for the change. The uber-polite bellman escorted me and my bags to my room, got me squared away with ice and a quick tutorial on nearby restaurants, and I was off and running. Vic & Anthony’s steakhouse is a quick two block walk away, and I enjoyed an incredible meal with friends while listening to a wonderful pianist play the night away.
That night, and the following three, I enjoyed the blissful comfort of a brand new Marriott bed with my extra feather pillows that were indeed awaiting my arrival via the request from the app. I opted for extra towel s knowing that I wanted to skip housekeeping in order to garner a few more points. The downside to this was missing out on a few extra coffee cups (which I should have requested) for my morning tea. The room was comfortable and well-appointed with a modern flair. Happily, they have a nice desk and chair, so one can actually get work done in the room if needed – a requirement I suspect in a hotel catering to predominately business clientele. The lighting in the room was nice, but it also represented my only disappointment. The bedside lamp has a discreet switch which is very difficult to find in the middle of the night - a time when one might be inclined to need such a lamp.
The ballrooms on the 4th floor are large and certainly suitable for groups of 1,000 or more. The stage and lighting were well done, and the screens appropriately cover the entire front of the ballroom. This is a must for people who are 40 rows back to be able to see the speakers. The hotels elevators are accessible on only one end of the property. As the hotel covers an entire city block, this can prove irksome if your room is on one end, and your ballroom conference rooms are on the other. I did a lot of walking over the 5 days there, but at least Fitbit tells me I got my steps in on those days walking back and forth between meetings and the elevators. The banquet staff and the food were superb, and I particularly enjoyed the surprise barbecue brisket that was served to look like a filet.
The teams that did the room resets in between sessions had their hands full as they worked to rearrange the main ballroom. One thing that needs to be addressed quickly is the back-up beep from the mobile scissor lift they use. It is so loud that you can hear it many rooms away, and it proved to be an annoying distraction during our breakout sessions. The trade-show areas outside the ballrooms are exceptionally well lit with a wall of 20+ feet high windows backlighting the exhibits. That said, the design team had a big swing and a miss not putting electrical outlets along that line of windows. How are you supposed to run laptops, lights etc without discreet plugs behind you? This design flaw unfortunately necessitated the use of a lot of extension cords. The carpet in the areas outside the ballrooms was beautiful, but I couldn’t help noticing that it pilled quickly and made it look worn. That’s not good for carpeting that will get tremendous foot traffic, and is obviously brand new. Additionally, I hosted a meeting in a breakout room adjacent to the kitchen that the staff obviously uses as a shortcut to get back out to the main area. Despite putting a sign on the kitchen side of the door, my meeting was interrupted at least 6 times with a wide-eyed staff member opening the door to our meeting in surprise.
The M Club lounge on the 6th floor is very large and extremely well-appointed. There is a fantastic coffee machine for espresso, coffee, tea etc. that is available all day. Breakfast was outstanding with all the usual high-end full service hotel fare: eggs, sausages, bacon, fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, and a very nice charcuterie board. There are sodas, bottled waters (including Pellegrino), and juices available all day. In addition, there are snacks aplenty available in between meal service with nuts, candies, protein bars, pretzels and the like always available. The M Club staff was extremely helpful and polite. I used one of the small conference rooms off the lounge for a small meeting and found it to be well-appointed with a table for four with a large sliding barn door for privacy.
The magnificent pool is also located on the 6th floor with ample seating in the center of the Texas shaped lazy river. My days were full, so I didn’t get to enjoy an afternoon by the pool, but I am looking forward to doing so on another stay. The doors are all locked at 10 PM, so no late evening beverages by the pool are really possible. Further, and I have mentioned this in a previous post, there is no designated smoking area on the property. With such a vast expanse devoted to the pool, it’s a shame there is no place to enjoy a cigar on this property if one is so inclined. We found ourselves down the street at the Hilton of the Americas enjoying a covered area with couches for cigars and outstanding bar service. The workout facility is also on this level, and it was exceptionally large and well suited for its purpose!
After checkout, it took well over a week for points to show up from the stay. Unfortunately, I found billing errors on my bill as well as some of my team's. Specifically, we were charged for Fresh Bites that we never ordered. It took my assistant well over an hour on the phone with customer service, bouncing back and forth between the property and customer service to get the billing issues resolved. And, wouldn’t you know that the points from opting out of housekeeping did not show up. We got that resolved too, but it also took considerable time on the phone chasing the points down. Marriott, you have to get this right, it’s a source of annoyance and frustration that tarnishes your brand. You sully a great experience when we have to follow up weeks after the fact to get you to make good on your loyalty rewards promises.
On the whole, this is a terrific new property, and it adds a fantastic option for large groups in downtown Houston. We will return to this hotel in the years ahead, and I look forward to seeing how a more experienced hotel team works out the little things that can make a Marriott stay just a little more special. In the meantime, I need to meet up with iahflyr to enjoy a few beverages at Biggio's!