This is supposed to be a 4-star hotel and a CAT5 in Marriott's recently renewed table of redemption levels.
There were so many issues at this hotel that we've spend more time at the hotel dealing with them than actually relaxing inside the property. If you hate to read long post with yogi whining around and about: just skip to the conclusion.
Arrival / First rooms
Mrs. Yogi B and I set our eyes on the Grand Place Marriott and took my parents for an one-night stay at this property.
I reserved the night before leaving. Since I don't know the staff and they don't know me, I played it by the rules: a smaller room for us two, expecting an upgrade, and a larger Executive Room including lounge access for my parents. Initially I booked the executive room on points, but during the night I realized the redemption math wasn't making sense (69 000 vs. € 208 at AAA rate), so first thing in the morning I edited the reservation to pay for the room.
We arrived by car. On some of the reservation pages, a message would pop up with the address of the parking garage. Do use this address, as the hotel is in a labyrinth of one-way streets, confusing/contradicting street signs and road closures in the case of large events (such as the Christmas market in our case).
So, navigate to: BePark - Parking Bourse (Hotel Mariott) at Paul Devauxstraat 8, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium. Don't come with a suburban vehicle (not that you'll easily find one); the smaller the car, the better for this narrow garage. Or better: don't come by car at all. The left door isn't used (loading dock?) and constantly blocked by garbage. The right door is for the parking garage, but people seem to be passionate about parking in front of that door and than you'll need to turn around in a crowded pedestrian-only square that is at the hart of the public outdoor events. Don't even think about the valet: they don't have any (weird for a 4-star hotel?)
Once we got to the reception for checking in, we were helped by Tetiana. She didn't speak any of the official languages of Belgium (her accent sounded eastern European), so we continued in English. Every one of us had to show passports / European ID cards (drivers' licenses not sufficient) and checked us into our rooms. I gave the keys to what she described as "the premium room" at 526 to my parents and we took the other set (512?). For the premium room, I had to only give a €50 deposit, but for the other room I had to put the entire room rate + €50 on hold on the credit card. I expected a problem with the changed reservation, so I asked why I wasn't asked to pay the room rate on the Executive Room and the girl replied: "It's the system that asks me to do so."
We did ask if we were upgraded, she said: "Yes, we upgraded you to have lounge access." I continued to ask if we got a larger room, she said the larger room was the set of keys that I passed to my parents. I explained that I purchased that exact room size, since they are not eligible for upgrades, so they got what I paid for. I did leave notes on the reservations which was intended for us and which was intended for my parents. She repeated we were upgraded. "Did we get a junior suite or better?" - "No, there are no junior suites." - "There were suites available for booking this morning before leaving home." - "There are some, but they are not cleaned yet."
We went upstairs to drop our luggage. We literally got the room that features in the room description picture on the website:
I've never seen such a cramped room in any Marriott property. Not the kind of room to give to a PP Elite when there are other options available.
I went to see my parents' room, they had a beautiful corner room that is very close to a junior suite and with a view of the Place de la Bourse. Oh, did I forgot to mention that? The Marriott Grand Place is not at the Grand Place, but the Place de la Bourse. Nonetheless, you can walk to the Grand Place by going around the old Bourse building, so it's < 5 minutes walking. Back to talking about the Executive Room, here are some impressions from the end of the afternoon (sorry for the mess, we've just opened some prosecco bottles to start the night on a good note):
- Really nice size. If the room rates are very far apart, I'd rather pay less and have this room than pay more for the Junior Suite.
- Modern TV, although they mentioned that the sound was horrible.
- The toilet had issues flushing paper, so takes 2-3 times to completely empty.
- Coffee / tea station was in this case only a tea station. No coffee maker!?
- No light in the closet, so can't see a thing.
I went back down and got to speak to the same FDA that helped us at check in. I had to put my heels in the sand and say that as a PP Elite I can't expect to be put in the smallest room of the hotel, especially if other room types are available. She defended her room attribution due to our early check in (nearly noon) and she didn't want us to walk around the city while waiting for a room. But we intended to walk around the city any way! She dove back into the system and said there were no other rooms opened up to give away. I proposed we vacate our room, drop our luggage in our parents' room and she can assign a different room later. She said she can't leave a guest without a room number if he's already checked in. She started to get a bit nervous and explained that she's only an intern and relatively new to this. She looked to grab a colleague, but no one was around, clearly stressing her more. Within two minutes, a colleague came back and they looked in the system together. Her other colleague gave the additional explanation that rooms that are still being cleaned can't be pre-assigned to someone already checked in, as it still has the previous guest's name attached. The first junior suite that became available was just given to another guest that arrived, as he booked that exact room type. The young FDA made a note on a piece of paper that I need to upgraded, but continued to say that she wanted us to hang onto our room.
We still vacated our room, brought luggage over to my parents' room and prepared to hit the streets of Brussels. Upon passing through the lobby, we gave our room keys back stating that we are sure they can figure something out for us. At this point, the FD Manager was next to the young FDA. I added that I know the hotel was nearly full, so that I understand if they want our old room to be available as soon as possible. The staff seemed pleased with our gesture.
Arrival #2 / upgraded room
Back around 16h30, we checked back at the front desk. The FDA immediately recognized me from earlier and confirmed that they found a junior suite (Room 308) for us. She programmed our keys and we were on our way to inspect the room. It was a very nice size (but only marginally larger than the "Executive Room"), unfortunately not overlooking Place de la Bourse, but we had larger windows and mini-balconies (although no way to get outside). The major difference was a much larger bathroom, featuring both a bath tub and a separate shower. The toilet was completely at the end of the bathroom and had it's own door.
We grabbed our luggage and got installed, after which we headed back to my parents' room for a drink and around 18h00 we all went down to the lounge (more about that later).
At the end of the night, when we started to relax in our room, we started noting more problems with the room:
- Everything looks old and used: several of the wooden surfaces had large light spots, the lamp shades were old and cracked.
- The TV was old with an even older computer system for the Marriott-branded navigation menu (like the old AVOD systems in the B744s running on Windows 98). Only 3 channels were working 100% stable (such as BBC World and two other news channels), CNN worked 90% stable with some glitches, all other channels were not working (black screen or some screwed up blue stripes). Going back to the Marriott channel (#1) caused the system to jam. Can't turn off the TV as the OFF button on the remote didn't work. Had to unplug the cable. Afterwards, I remembered I had an external hard drive with films, I connected it to the USB port on the TV. After struggling getting the TV to work properly (still stuck on the channel that causes the mini computer+TV to jam) and configuring my phone as a remote control (IR emitter), I come to the conclusion it's not a smart TV that can play content from the USB port.
- Even though we could appreciate the separate toilet, the only way to turn on the light in there is to first turn on the main lights in the bathroom. No night light though and the main lights are brighter than day light.
- Also flushing issues with the toilet bowl. Looks like a wrong model was installed in all rooms?
- Only one pair of room slippers. No bath robes at all (despite that there is no pool on site, guests still might want to use them?)
- The corridor on the 3rd floor looks like it hasn't seen a vacuum cleaner in days. The waiting area at the elevators is even dirtier.
- Although in general the room and bathroom were pretty clean, in some small corners and on top of door hinges we did found accumulations of dust. (No, we weren't looking for it, at some point it caught our attention.)
- We both took showers in the evening and in the morning and found that in the morning we had to struggle to not have a cold shower. The pressure from the hot water was significantly lower and the little bit that was left was fluctuating a lot in pressure.
Here are the pictures:
The Executive Lounge
- Lounge access 24/7.
- Amenities: small munchies, espresso machine, water station and sodas throughout day and night.
- No regular fruit juice nor water bottles.
- 17h30 - 21h30 bites and alcohol, after 21h30 dessert is served.
- Breakfast is in the restaurant.
Available during the day:
When we got to the lounge, it was jam packed! No seats left, little food left.
The lounge entrance is right next to the front door and with all the action, it was easy to wait next to the front door with a cigarette and time your entry when you see someone heading for the door with all those floor-to-ceiling windows.
There was a large group that seemed to be having a social meeting in there (I overheard one lady even saying that on the phone upon arriving), which (I noticed the next day) was the flight crew from a large aircraft. So Thai Airlines seems to have negotiated lounge access as part of the contract, so a crew of 14 already fills up the lounge by 50%. And it looked like they brought in their local business agent too.
Furthermore, FDA Tetiana mentioned at the first check in that there would be a Belgian-beer tasting, but lounge attendant Emy had no clue what we were talking about, but admitted that she only started 2 weeks ago. Alcohol was for free, but beer-wise there were only three options: Stella Artois, Kriek (can't remember which one precisely) and Jupiler 0,0%. Not exactly a big beer tasting, since Stella Artois is pretty much available world wide, the Jupiler doesn't contain alcohol (although a welcome option) and I consider Kriek more a summer beer. So I went for red wine, but the house merlot wasn't really great. The three other family members took the white wine, which wasn't too bad.
We sat down in the lobby for a few minutes, which has a few stylish sofas, but can be drafty close to the door. In the meanwhile, Mrs. YogiB walked to the restaurant and arranged that we could sit down there. Over there, we've met Dennis, who was basically the sunshine of our stay! This lovely guy, with a continuous smile, took care of us in a wonderful way. He gave us a new bottle of white wine, which was considerable better than the wine in the lounge. I took a Trappist beer and, not wanting to walk up and down to the lounge, ordered some small plates to share. And at the end, we only had to pay for my beer; the rest he was on the house!! Needless to say, we were incredibly thankful that he went above and beyond to make things right.
Unfortunately, we wouldn't see him the next day: he accumulated so much overtime during December that he was leaving for 9 days off. He did leave a note to reserve us the same table for breakfast the next day.
No breakfast in the lounge, but full breakfast buffet in the restaurant.
It features a dedicated chef for omelettes made to taste, a waffle station, a pancake station, coffee and tea machines, the works! No bulls#!t about paying to upgrade to warm: everything is included. Even if you want want to walk to the coffee machine or you don't like machine coffee: waiting staff will bring you tea or make you a real cappuccino.
In the morning I realized that the intern at the FD forgot to offer a PAG. After breakfast, I passed by the front desk and was assisted by Gorçia(?). She was very fast to ask: "So, do you want the PAG points or claim the 100$?" I was astounded how little resistance I got claiming the compensation.
She promised to talk to the manager to establish today's US-EUR exchange rate and the options to pay the compensation.
At the end of the day, at check out, I was offered € 77,10 as a rebate on the final bill, which was fine by me.
Locked out / locked in
Overnight, Mrs. YogiB had trouble sleeping, fault of a little flu. So when I left for breakfast, I closed the extra door that is in front of our private little hallway (shared between 306 and 308) to shut out the hallway (on top of it all, our neighbours in 310 were arguing loudly). Coming back, my key doesn't work on the door. Back downstairs, I explained to the FDA what I happened, to which she replied: "Why would you do that!?"
Turns out that these doors can't be assigned to room keys, but it takes a master key to open them. However, she explained that it's only used by VIPs that use both rooms to have a private hallway to walk between the rooms (but who gives a master key of the hotel to people that want to have such a situation???)
So the head concierge was sent with me to open the door. His key turned the light green, but couldn't open the door. I did admit that it was hard to close, so the motorized lock is probably jammed. A maintenance guy joined us, noticed the same thing and left with the remark: "I'll need to grab tools."
I asked the concierge to call into the roof, so my wife could open it up from the inside. However, she just came out of the shower, so at this point it would've been really helpful if there were bath robes in the room. So, the concierge left and I waited for my wife to be dressed up.
Even from the inside, she couldn't open the door. I had to pull like a maniac on my side, then she had to lower the handle and then we managed to open the door. A little scary moment.
At check out, I talked to the FD manager and she repeated the same thing: "Why would you do that!?" Well, if guests can't use the door, it shouldn't be there or there should be at least a note on the door! In many other hotels I've done this same thing and there was never such an issue.
The hotel is at a great location in downtown Brussels, but far from a 4-star hotel and not worthy of being a Marriott CAT5. According to the Front Desk Manager, the entire hotel will be renovated starting very late 2019. But will this solve all issues?
At least the staff is willing to listen and help out any way they can, although the FD Manager mentioned making exceptions for the Platinum member.
For now, I'd be less interested to come back to this property. I'd wait at least for the renovations to finish.