STAFF HOTEL REVIEWS
Wherever we go, we have to stay somewhere. And we're picky about our hotels. So in addition to all of our user reviews, we provide staff reviews to help you find the best (and avoid the worst) places to stay. We sneak in advice about tourist attractions and restaurants too. But we save advice on frequent flyer miles and hotel points, among other travel tips and news, for our Travel Tips blog
Wish to contact us about any of our reviews? Have an "above the rest" property you'd like us to check out the next time we're in your area? Please let us know here.
Archive for the ‘W Hotels’ Category
W Hong Kong bedroom
W Hotel Hong Kong review
1 Austin Road West, Kowloon Station, Kowloon
Hong Kong, China
By Dave Grossman, HotelMagician.com
When a surprise change in plans left us unexpectedly with New Years Eve in Hong Kong, I fired up the computer and booked us into the W Hong Kong. The pictures looked great; the reviews, even better. But I wanted to experience it for myself. So I booked us a “Fabulous Room” and 2 days later we were checking in.
W Hong Kong bathroom
The first thing you notice about the W Hong Kong is that it has all the “design elements” you’d expect in a W, plus about 100 more. The artwork in the lobby, the electronic Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening mats in the elevator, the faux bookcase theme by the elevator banks and in the hallways. I was in a good mood before even seeing the room, or the pool – don’t even get me started on the pool!
The room was gorgeous. A large living space, tremendous ocean views, and a bathroom I wanted to bring home with me. Large shower, deep soaking tub with a flat screen TV built in, large sink area, and two large sliding doors that could either open the space up or seal the whole space off for privacy. That tub was great after spending a day walking all over HK.
But my favorite part of the hotel was the pool and jacuzzi on the 76th floor rooftop. AMAZING. The view was
W Hong Kong Infinity Pool
just gorgeous and the pool area itself was beautifully done. You could bathe while looking at sweeping views of the ocean or the skyscape. There’s a very nice gym as well.
The location is both a pro and a con. It sits right atop the Kowloon Airport Express station, so coming and going from HKIA is a breeze. This is also a large shopping mall (Elements) with tons of shops, an elegant Starbucks (wood carved logo!), several nice restaurants (quick serve and nicer), and a subway station. The only drag about that subway station is that it isn’t on the main Kowloon side lines. So you’ll need to transfer to get anywhere you want to go (except for the Big Buddha – the train line actually goes there directly).
It’s also NOT walking distance to anything – simply because of just how far it is set back from the main road. A cab to the main road, though, would only set you back $20HKD (about USD$2.25) so that shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Overall, the W Hong Kong is an excellent choice for those that generally like the boutique hotel feel – as long as you are OK with not being situated right in the hustle and bustle of the city.
More hotels in Hong Kong from HotelMagician.com
More hotels in Hong Kong from VacationMagician.com
W Chicago – Lakeshore
644 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL US 60611
By: Dave Grossman, HotelMagician.com
It was going to be a warm, sunny weekend in Chicago and I wanted someplace happening and near the lake to enjoy the weekend. The W Chicago – Lakeshore is located on N. Lake Shore Drive at Ontario Street. That’s a 5 minute walk to the nearest beach spot on the Lake and under a 10 minute walk to Navy Pier.
I checked in around noon on a Saturday and asked for a room facing the lake – a request they were happily able to grant on this location. You can see why I asked – look at the amazing view from my 14th floor room!
This is a slightly older W property but the age doesn’t show in a notable way. The rooms are modern with the standard plush W bed and modern look and feel. Flat panel TVs and modern bathrooms are in each room.
But the modern bathrooms (see picture) do warrant special attention for how, well, revealing they can be. If you look in the picture you’ll notice shutters that open the view of the bathroom right into the main living area. I suppose the idea is you may want to watch your significant other showering.. which is interesting, but also worth noting s that if you are sharing the room with friends rather than an SO, even the closed shutters and sliding door may gnaw at some people’s desire for complete privacy in the loo. I’d also comment that I didn’t love the rain shower. It’s very much like trying to get clean in a light rain – a bit unsatisfying.
The W Chicago Lakeshore features two bar areas – one in the lobby and the Whiskey Blue lounge on the top floor. The Whiskey Blue does have amazing views but both times I’ve been there it has felt a bit cramped. The crowd totally varies by the night – it could be packed with models one weekend and empty the next, depending on who’s staying the the hotel and how occupied it is overall. There is also a signature W Bliss Spa in the hotel along with a nice workout area and pool which are included in the room rate.
W South Beach
2201 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, Florida
By: Dave Grossman
HotelMagician.com, January 2010
Book the W South Beach at HotelMagician.com
This was one of my best experiences at a hotel. Ever.
I booked in to the W South Beach for a 5 night stay at the end of January so I could attend a 3 day conference and tack on a couple of R&R days. With rates at this hotel averaging north of $500 for the cheapest room category, I was hoping the hotel (which just opened in 2009) would live up to my lofty expectations. I’ve stayed in more than my fair share of hotels over the years and I’m the first to admit I have a problem with being easily disappointed by them – especially when the room rates are high. But from check-in to check-out, this hotel met and exceeded my expectations time and time again. Sure, I found a few flaws – and I’ll mention them – but after 5 nights here I really wanted to just move in. Incidentally, you can – the W sells residences that are part of the hotel (the condos are scattered throughout the hotel without any separation and you can then rent them out through the hotel if you choose).
So what made this such a great experience?
1) The staff. Management at the W South Beach clearly knows that welcoming staff can make or break the guests’ opinion of a hotel. I was greeted with a warm smile, upgraded from a Wonderful Room to a Spectacular Room (Same room type, higher floor and better view), and while there were no further upgrades available, Vanessa called me twice after I got upstairs with updates on possible other room availabilities (for a fee, of course) and had an Ambassador show me one. She then immediately called after the viewing to ask what I thought. The attention to detail would continue throughout the hotel all week – from the extremely polite workers at the pool who arrange the towels and “towel pillow” on the chaise loungers for you, to the bartender (Richie) who offered to infuse a vodka for me on the spot. The doormen always smiled at me and made me feel welcome.
2) The facilities. You can see the pictures of my room. And that is the smallest kind they have! It’s 570 sq ft not including the balcony. Everything just looks great and they are clearly trying their best to keep everything looking new. Housekeeping was excellent every day and left some complimentary water and chocolates at the evening turndown service. The gym had all brand new equipment and TV on the cardio. The Spa, while not opening until Feb 2010, will likely be fantastic based on the rest of the property.
3) The location. Located at 21st Street and Collins, you are about a 10 minute walk from touristy Lincoln Road and Espanola Way. You are steps from the beach. The Acura car (that is currently complimentary, but I caution may go away at any time) can whisk you anywhere in SoBe from 11am to 7pm and cabs are plentiful.
The “Spectacular” room I was given was at the southeast corner of the hotel, with a perfect angled view of the beach and ocean. There was no balcony above mine so I had unfiltered sunlight (which was perfect for me; if you want a balcony that has one above it for shade, just ask). The room had a sleek and modern tropical feel to it (lots of white). The flat panel TV on the wall was, at first glance, at an odd angle to view from the bed but it turns out you can swivel it! There was a refrigerator/mini-bar that you are free to use to keep your own drinks cold as well as a coffee maker. A selection of alcohol is also available (at a cost, of course) if you are too thirsty to leave your room… There was not one but two iPod docking stations – one on the Bose setup attached to the TV and another on the nightstand. The spacious bathroom, pictured, included a shower with 3 shower heads in addition to a hand-held stream. Be warned, though – the nozzles are powerful!
The (1oo sq ft) balcony was pretty dreamy itself. Two plush chairs with a table were perfect for lounging out there, perhaps reading a book while looking at the waves of the ocean.
The blinds are a bit tough to use. Housekeeping will open them during the day and draw them for you at evening turndown, which is nice because they are a real chore to operate. You need to turn the handle into a crank and then crank and crank and crank until you get them to the desired position.
The pool / beach:
The pool area, like most in South Beach, doubles as a bar/club at night. Perhaps this is why it was designed the way it is. In what I found to be one of the hotel’s only shortcomings, the pool area is decidedly too small for the size of the hotel. There are 130 day beds for a hotel with 400 rooms (assuming 2-3 guests a room would be 800-1200 on a full day). I was told that on sunny weekend days, people need to get down by 9am to get a chair. In addition, the beds are squeezed so tightly together that you can’t help but feel you are imposing on whomever you are sandwiched between. On the plus side, the pool itself is nice, designed as an “infinity pool” with overflowing edges and kept between 80 and 85 degrees. You can also get a full breakfast or lunch menu as well as drinks from the many waitresses at the pool. The W also has it’s own section on the beach, which if more people used would probably help the overcrowding at the pool! I went to the beach on my last day and had tons of room as well as access to nearly the same menu from the beach waiters.
There is a basketball court and a tennis court available. I was also told that Whatever/Whenever can arrange for tennis lessons.
Food and drink:
The W South Beach caters to the crowd that can afford their rates with a top “name” restaurant in Mr. Chow. It’s one of the “see and be seen” places of South Beach and if that is your scene, you will enjoy it. Solea is their Spanish themed restaurant with tapas and is the only breakfast option. They do have free coffee at the entrance to Solea. One thing missing from the W, though, is a grab and go option. A Starbucks would probably have fit in perfectly here. If you don’t want to sit down for a fancy breakfast, you’ll have to leave the hotel. I found a Cafe Bustelo 1.5 blocks north which did the trick. As for drinks, the bar in the Living Room has a very extensive menu of mixed drinks and the bartenders are keen to make you whatever you want provided they have the ingredients. They are definitely in the class of bartenders you would refer to as “mixologists” and that suits the atmosphere of the W South Beach perfectly.
I also toured the Fantastic Suite (the lowest category of Suite) which has more space, a “plunge tub” (which seemed cool to look at but perhaps a bit impractical to use), and a larger outdoor area with day beds. Here are pictures of the Fantastic Suite:
As of January 31st, 2010, the spa had not yet opened.
Starwood Preferred Guest Benefits:
A side note for members of SPG. The 4pm late checkout benefit for elite members is not always honored here as the hotel is considered a resort and that makes this benefit at their discretion. If they are not too busy, you should be able to get a 1pm checkout. Also, for SPG Platinum members, all suites are considered Specialty – so an upgrade from Wonderful to Spectacular or Fabulous studio is all you should expect. They will sometimes upgrade higher if, for example, they are out of Spectacular and Fabulous but have a Fantastic or Oasis suite available – however, those are not considered standard Platinum upgrades.
The W South Beach is like a home away from home. The property and the staff are all top notch. If you like the South Beach “scene”, you will feel right at home here as well. If you’ve stayed here, please add your comments below!
W San Diego
421 West B Street
San Diego, CA 92101 US
With just one night to spend in San Diego, the W San Diego was the perfect choice. I’d heard good things about it from follow travelers and it didn’t disappoint.
From check-in to check-out, it was a very nice experience. I was given a Spectacular room (a small upgrade from the booked Wonderful room) and it was nicely decked out in that W-style that you either love or don’t love. I’m on the “love” side of things.
The staff at this W were all delightful – and I dare say that is a departure from the standard W experience that is helpful yet a bit “you’re lucky to be here”. Here, I felt welcomed and got every bit of advice I needed for a proper night including hotel amenities and where I could actually find food past 9:30 (hint: it’s not the hotel, it’s the nearby Greyhound station).
The rooftop bar has a beach which it both kitschy and delightful. The sand is heated and the seating, firepits, and cabanas make it a real loungey experience. It’s only really “hopping” on the weekends if you’re looking to make new friends, but it’s open all week and serves food during the day (it’d be really nice if it served food late at night, but alas the whole hotel does not, save for room service). There is also a small pool on the level leading to the beach bar.
The Living Room (the W version of a lobby) was very nice with a small bar and free WiFi access. The WiFi kept trying to charge me but a front desk manager was able to sort it eventually.
Parking is valet only – a pet peeve of mine – at $30 a night as of Sept. 08. That, and the lack of any food besides room service past 9:30 aside, the W San Diego is a top notch hotel.
* More San Diego Hotel Deals
W Chicago – City Center
172 West Adams At Lasalle
Chicago, IL 60603-3604 US
Location: If you are going for business, the W City Center‘s location in the loop will be appealing. If you are going for pure leisure, it may or may not be where you want to be. You see, it is still very well located for many things, including the Taste of Chicago at nearby Grant Park at the end of every June. The Orange line from Midway Airport will get you a half block away in 45 mins. And you are close to several El lines and State Street shopping. Yet, if you don’t like the feeling of being in a business district on the weekends (i.e. many local businesses are closed because weekday businessmen provide the bulk of their business, you may prefer the W Chicago Lakeshore instead. The W Lakeshore is located very close to a beach and to the famous Navy Pier and is not a all in the business district like the W Chicago City Center.
The rooms: Very much standard W fare. The picture of the room in this article is of a “Wonderful” room. Bathroom was nicely appointed with a bathrobe, a nice shower, and room on the sink pedestal for your things.
The vibe: The “Living Room” as they call the lobby was being redone during my stay, but from what I saw it was a nice chill place to hang out with friends and drinks or just your laptop. The bar at this hotel was far from crowded on a Saturday night – very different from the W Lakeshore Chicago which was mobbed – and it was shut by about 1am. If you’re counting on the usual packed W bar with a line outside, this may not be the right choice.
The Acura Experience: One very cool feature here (and at many W’s around North America right now) was the Acura Experience. All you had to do was give your room number and name to reserve a ride in a well appointed Acura MDX. Anywhere within the downtown Chicago area – even up to Wrigley Field – was in the included area and it’s all free (although you will want to tip your driver based on how far you are going, perhaps from $3-$5 within a 15 minute ride area.
The staff: although I had to be a bit assertive to get the Starwood elite member 4pm checkout, it was granted and all other interactions with the staff were generally free of “W Attitude”. I would stay again if I needed to be in that area of Chicago.
W Seattle, 1112 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Dave Grossman, Hotel Magician
The W Seattle strikes us as a very typical W. That is to say, if you generally enjoy the W experience, this hotel should be no exception.
It’s not quite as modern-funky as, say, the W Montreal where the bedrooms have windows leading into the bathrooms (which may or may not be your thing). But it has the full “W vibe”.
Room types start at “Wonderful”, then “Spectacular” (which we were told is just a Wonderful room on a higher floor or with a better view), then “Cozy Corner” which is much like a “Wonderful” except with a long entrance area and, of course, corner windows which does give the room a more spacious feel. We did not see the suites.
Amenities are typical of a W: Bliss Spa products in the bathroom, nice flat panel plasma TVs, overpriced Voss water waiting for your consumption on the nightstand. They are modern, chic, and comfortable. Both rooms we tried (a Wonderful and a Cozy Corner, had either a lounger or a couch-like area by the window on which to relax. The beds, in Starwood style, was extrememly comfy.
The Staff: Very typical of a W, we found some to be extrememly helpful while others struck us as quite conescending in that “this is the W and you are lucky to be our guest” kind of way. But again, this is how W’s tend to be so a regular W guest would not be taken by surprise.
The “Living Room”, as they call the main lobby area, was cozy with many chairs and couches as well as free Wifi – a nice touch. At night, it becomes a bar for the ultra-hip.
There is also a crictially acclaimed restuarant in the W Seattle, called Earth and Ocean (http://www.earthocean.net/) – well known for the house-made charcuterie.
The location: The W Seattle hotel is very central within Seattle, on 4th Ave and Seneca St. It’s only a 10-15 minute walk to the Pike Place Market, the main shopping areas, Pioneer Square, or the shopping center that houses the monorail entrance (to get to the Space Needle). There are also approximately 25 Starbucks within walking distance. As an aside, do try the local “Top Pot” doughnuts, sold by area Starbucks stores. They really are that good.
Other recommended Seattle hotels:
Courtyard by Marriott Lake Union
Warwick Seattle Hotel
Sheraton Seattle Hotel
The Paramount Seattle, a Coast Hotel
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Seattle Downtown
Mayflower Park Hotel
Hotel deals beyond Seattle
A Selection of Things to Do in Seattle:
- The Pike Place Market. Start from Union and 1st Ave and walk from there. There’s a lot of ground to cover! Be sure to watch the guys selling fish and tossing them to each other (and sometimes into the crowd!). It’s just in side what is called the “Economy” area of the market. But you can’t really miss it.
- The Space Needle. Just take the monorail from Pacific Place Mall (600 Pine St.). $2 each wasy as of July 2007. The monorail was built for access to the Space Needle due to its distance from downtown. The 605-foot tall Space Needle was completed in December 1961 and officially opened a mere four months later on the first day of the World’s Fair, April 21, 1962.
- Have a lunch at Armandino’s Salumi (309 3rd Ave S). It’s only open Tue-Fri 11am-4pm and you will probably wait 30-60 minutes online (your best chance of getting a spot at the communal table or few other two seaters is before noon or after 2pm). Get some cured meat sampler plates or perhaps try the Porchette sandwich – slow roasted pork with fennel and carrots, in a sandwich, optionally with their fresh mozzerella or provolone cheese.
They put a garlic spread on the bread first and will top with peppers and onions on request. Really well known spot but possibly off the beat of some standard guidebooks.
- The original Starbucks. Located in the Pike Place market and with no tables or chairs, experience where it all began for the now-global coffee chain.
- More espresso. Duck into any of the espresso bars around town for a cup of real joe. Seattle knows coffee.
- The Underground Seatle tour (www.undergroundtour.com/ ). Leaves from Pioneer Square daily. Learn about the orgins of Seattle. Did you know that in the early 1900′s, the sidewalks were up to 30 feet below the streets? Why? Nobody wanted to pay to put the sidewalks at street level after the city was rebuilt after a fire burned the whole town down. Streets were raised one story to allow for better sewage but the city didn’t want to pay to redo the sidewalks. People had to navigate ladders to cross the street and many were killed either falling off drunk or being crushed by objects falling from the street. Learn more about the Underground Seattle at this fun tour.