This JW Marriott property has been around for quite some time and yet it's slipped my memory for so many of those years - I've oftentimes forgotten it even existed when planning family staycations. Alas, my wife finally suggested we do a 1-night stay at the property to check it out. As such, I booked direct through Marriott for a standard King Bed Guest Room at a pre-paid rate. We stayed 12/21 - 12/22 and enjoyed our stay, although there were some elements of the hotel's operations that needed drastic improvement.
I checked-in using the mobile app approximately 48-hours prior to our arrival and was notified mid-morning on the day of our arrival that our room was ready. I opted for self-park at the hotel's onsite parking garage and found that to be an incredibly easy experience - the garage itself is underground and has a few levels, all of which are spacious, well-designed, and appropriately lit. Since I self-parked I needed to obtain a physical key card at the front desk to grant us in/out privileges, and the gentleman who assisted us with this was very kind and professional. He also took the time to explain that the hotel had just re-opened a few weeks ago from having undergone a limited-scope renovation of the lobby and restaurant areas. It all looked very beautiful.
Our room was very basic but charming in its simplicity. This is one thing I appreciated about the property: it's older and has a much simpler feeling to it compared to other JW properties I have stayed at. The room was spacious, clean, and overlooked the Galleria Mall right where Saks Fifth Avenue was located. The only element that was rather bothersome about the room, however, was the air conditioning unit. One of the first things I do when getting situated in a hotel room is adjust the thermostat to a lower temperature (usually in the mid/upper 60's). I've never had an AC unit struggle with this setting, however this room's did. It never got below 70 degrees, or so, which is fine (generally speaking) but my wife & I sleep best when it's cold. As a consequence, our sleep quality that night was rather poor. I had the thermostat set to 65 degrees and the fan setting all the way on High and even then, the room was a bit warm and the air rather stale feeling. Overall that's a minor complaint for an otherwise lovely room.
View from our room
As I mentioned earlier the hotel recently went through a limited-scope renovation. I took a few pictures to show what the common areas looked like, although I admit they do not do the property justice. The renovation brought this JW up-to-speed with other JW properties we've stayed at. Chic and contemporary, yet still warm and inviting.
The Restaurant / Bar:
This aspect of our stay is where our feelings are mixed. I'd like to go ahead and highlight the Pros first then I can expound on the Cons. Note that my wife & I dined at the hotel's restaurant, Stray Horse, for two late Lunches and one Breakfast.
- Lovely restaurant / bar space that is spacious and well-designed.
- Adequate food & beverage selections.
- Friendly and personable staff, many of whom instantly took a liking to our 10-month old son.
- Delicious food that was always hot and fresh.
- Lovely breakfast buffet for a modest price of $23/person. Note: Breakfast was our best dining experience.
- The staff, while friendly, were otherwise incompetent. I hate using this word but unfortunately, it's the best word for what we experience. Poorly trained on how to make drinks (some of our drinks took 25+ minutes to make and required the attention of 4-5 staff members, including a supervisor who was constantly having to be called to the bar in order to show her staff how to properly make drinks.
- Operationally inefficient. As I alluded to above there was one point where the number of staff outweighed the number of diners on a 2-1 ratio and yet our waitress kept apologizing for how long it was taking to get our food & drinks to us, citing that "it was just so crazy." It was neither crazy nor overcrowded and, if anything, the dining room / bar area was overstaffed, it's just that the staff didn't know how to do the more technical aspects of their jobs other than sweep and bus tables. It became abundantly clear to me that only one of the 5 employees I saw try and make drinks for customers knew how to actually make drinks, and this includes a mojito...which is about as basic as it gets.
- The most frustrating aspect to my wife (which was also frustrating to me, as well) was that we were not comped our drinks that took over 25 minutes to make. Not only did we order our drinks promptly after sitting down but the complete fiasco of making them was just not JW Marriott at all. Additionally, what appeared to be another supervisor tried helping the team make drinks (including the mojito, by having a waiter look up the recipe on his phone) but prioritized two ladies at the bar and made their drinks first even though they had only been waiting about 5-10 minutes total. Meanwhile my wife & I (literally the only actual table seated in the dining room) had been waiting for quite some time and ended up being given our drinks last. This debacle was, unfortunately, the final experience my wife & I had at the hotel before checking-out/leaving. We watched the staff try and fulfill a grand total of four drinks over the course of about 30 minutes (it was the only thing they were doing) and yet all we got was an apology and an excuse that "it was just so crazy." I suppose this experience would not have been nearly as frustrating if it weren't for the fact that we were anticipating this being a quick & easy lunch because we were coming down to the wire for packing up and checking out.
Fish Tacos + Elote (ordered these twice)
The Stray Horse (signature cocktail)
Raspberry Lemon Drop Martini
The pool was certainly our favorite amenity at the property. Located on the 5th floor, part of the pool is uncovered and outdoors and the other part is covered and located indoors - both parts are connected, allowing swimmers the opportunity to seamlessly swim from one section to the other. Additionally, the pool was heated, and by heated, I mean to the temperature of warm bath water. This was perfect as it was 40-50 degrees outside when we swam. We really enjoyed our time out by the pool and found the entire swimming / gym area to be spacious, clean, and quiet.
View from pool deck
Aside from the training/operational issues at Stray Horse every person we dealt with at the hotel was friendly and courteous. While we didn't get his name one employee I'd like to highlight saw our son waiving at him, so he smiled and waved back then left for a few moments only to return with a JW Marriott stuffed animal, as well as a goodie bag filled with a coloring book, some Crayons, and a tiny bottle of water. This was a very kind gesture and is something we really love to see happen.
Overall my wife & I enjoyed our stay at this older, simpler, yet charming JW Marriott and certainly wouldn't mind staying here once more - especially on the Executive Lounge level (next time!). However, we will think twice before dining at Stray Horse again, at least for a late Lunch, as I just cannot abide with the service and training errors that were repeatedly made during our two Lunch visits.