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New York hotel site inspection report

New York hotel site inspection report

Old Dec 3, 08, 1:09 pm
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New York hotel site inspection report

I recently spent six nights in New York, stayed at three properties, and visited four others. Here's the site inspection report I wrote for my agency.


The Lowell

Don't be put off by the postage-stamp lobby right off of East 63rd Street in Manhattan's Upper East Side. I loved everything else about the Lowell from the residential feel of its guestrooms to the genuine warmth and personal attention provided guests at this boutique hotel. I was upgraded to a Junior Suite on one of the floors recently decorated by interior decorator Michael Smith. The room is large by New York standards and extremely attractive with muted earth tones of tan, gold, and brown. Renovated rooms feature dark hardwood floors with oriental rugs. My marble bathroom was large with double sinks, a tub (with its own small flat screen television to match the large wall mounted set in the bedroom), and an immense shower. Being on the south east corner of the building, the room was flooded with natural light. Other perks? Bvlgari amenities, free internet, a live potted orchid in the bedroom, and an orchid in a vase on the bathroom vanity. Families will appreciate the spacious one and two bedroom suites, and for a real treat, book the Penthouse suite.


Waldorf Towers

My impression of the Waldorf Towers began while sitting in the lobby waiting for the Sales Manager to arrive to begin my site inspection. I watched as three generations of a family arrived at the Waldorf and saw their two young, impeccably dressed granddaughters twirling in the marble lobby. I saw a fashionably dressed mother and her three teenaged daughters leave the hotel for a day of shopping on Madison Avenue. This as much as anything told me about the guests for whom this would be the ideal hotel for a trip to New York.

The Waldorf Towers is a small luxury hotel within the very large Waldorf Astoria located on Park Avenue. With its own private entrance on E. 50th Street, the Waldorf Towers is comprised mostly of suites elegant, impeccably decorated accommodations with a neo-classical style that reminds one of an earlier gilded age. The suites are incredibly large with full living rooms well suited for entertaining and wonderful bedrooms. The hotel is so configured that it is easy to create anything up to a five bedroom suite. Even the yet-to-be-renovated rooms were wonderful, and the newly renovated suites are even more so. A special treat: walking down the hallways and viewing the pictures of the many celebrities who have visited this storied hotel.


The Carlyle

Located at East 76th and Madison, the Carlyle is located in a residential neighborhood very convenient to such attractions as the Metropolitan Museum. This is a very attractive hotel, and the newly renovated rooms come in either an ivory or a blue color scheme; I found both very appealing. There is much variety among the rooms (and the bathrooms), and it's important to know your client's preferences when booking this hotel. Do they want a bath tub? a separate shower? a powder room in their suite? a kitchenette? Chances are, the hotel can accommodate whatever they wish if you work with the Sales staff. For a special treat, book a tower room for incredible views of the full expanse of Central Park or looking south down Madison Avenue.


The Towers at the New York Palace

I knew virtually nothing about the Palace Hotel except that it had been recently acquired by the Dorchester Collection. I was first shown a basic room in the main hotel a 350 square feet room that feels spacious because of the wide dimensions of the room and an especially good layout. The room was quite attractive with a neutral decor a light tannish-gold color scheme. Moderately priced, this is a good value option in midtown New York for visitors who want to be in the area of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Rockefeller Center. Executive Lounge floors in the main hotel cost $150 extra and offer breakfast, small sandwiches at lunch, and canapes and cocktails in the evening.

But what is exceptional is the Tower wing (only the Tower wing participates in the Virtuoso program). This "hotel within a hotel" was the find of my trip. With a completely separate check-in area and concierge desk, these rooms occupy floors 41-54 of the hotel with alternating floors offering "modern" and "traditional" decor. The styling of the contemporary floors features a distinctive modern carpet design and beautiful blond zebra wood doors and trim. The traditional floors feature red carpeting and rosewood woodwork. Guests can request the styling category of their preference; I liked both. Request a west facing room for their fabulous views of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Lead-in Tower rooms are a generous 450 square feet, but because Virtuoso guests receive an exclusive upgrade at the time of booking (as of 2009, but the Sales Manager will honor it now), they will end up in a 600 square foot Junior Suite. This is a screaming value in midtown Manhattan. Baths in the Junior Suite category and higher are spacious with separate tub and shower. Parents traveling with their children will appreciate 1 BR corner suites with 1 1/2 baths, kitchen with stove and refrigerator, expansive living room and dining room, and a Master Bedroom. For even more space, the corner suites connect to a double-double room to create 2 BR suites. Other perks include Butler Service and the use of the hotel's Maybach courtesy car.


The Plaza

This property, perfectly located at the southeast corner of Central Park, has recently undergone a $400 million renovation. The 59th Street entrance is now reserved exclusively for apartment owners; hotel guests enter on the Fifth Avenue side of the building (as do patrons of the Palm Court restaurant and the Oak Bar). The public spaces of the hotel are impressive, and the Palm Court has a beautifully reconstructed stained glass ceiling, a feature of the original property that was removed by a previous owner.

This is one hotel where room selection is critical. A room with a lot of natural light is highly desirable because the gilded furnishings look overdone in artificial light; it is especially important to work with the Sales Manager when booking this property. Block clients into a room with full-length windows and a view preferably to the east (Fifth Avenue) or the north (Central Park). In the summer months when the sun is high in the sky courtyard view rooms are said to have plenty of natural light. The lead-in Plaza Room is a large 600 square feet; request a "38 unit" on floors eleven or higher which offers a peak of Central Park. 1 BR Fifth Avenue Suites are especially nice and for clients who want a real WOW, book a 1 BR corner suite with Central Park views.


W Union Square

This hotel, located on the northeast corner of Union Square, is an attractive "trendy" hotel which would be perfect for business travelers needing to be downtown, and the convenient Union Square subway station provides a quick 15 minute train ride to midtown. The lead-in "Wonderful" room is small (285-320 square feet). I saw a "Spectacular" room, quite nice at 340 square feet. While not overly large, it would be great for a single traveler. I was told that Virtuoso guests in either of these room categories are upgraded if possible to a "Mega" room (355-390 square view) which has a southern exposure and looks directly out onto Union Square. For families traveling together, consider a "Fantastic" suite especially an "05" unit on the southwest corner of the building. These suites have a small living room and the option of utilizing a connecting bedroom to create a 2 BR suite. I had lunch at the hotel's restaurant, Olives, Todd English's restaurant with moderate prices and very good contemporary Mediterranean cuisine. Note: the entire hotel will undergo a rapid rolling soft goods renovation between March-July, 2009.


Plaza Athene

The best surprise was for last. I have been a frequent guest of the Plaza Athene which is around the corner from my sister's apartment on the Upper East Side. It is a classic small hotel with an European feel. While the rooms are a bit on the small side, the hotel offers very warm and personal service.

However, I learned that the property will close on Jan. 5 for a substantial renovation, reopening in six months. I was shown a model of the new rooms so recently completed that the smell of fresh paint was still in the air. The room was stunning and substantially larger featuring hardwood floors, very tastefully chosen wallpaper, and new built-ins. The effect was a slightly contemporary take on the classical ambiance of the hotel's. But the biggest WOW was the new bathroom, much larger than the tiny bathrooms now existing in the rest of the hotel, featuring beautiful marble floors, new marble vanities, a large new tub, and a separate rain shower with three massage jets. It's hard to know exactly where all the extra space came from, but I learned that the hotel will lose about 10 rooms in the course of the renovation, and I expect that space will be better utilized. (The present layout loses a lot of useful space in large entrance hallways to some of the rooms). I expect that upon its reopening this summer, the newly renovated Plaza Athenee will be the crown jewel of New York's boutique hotels.
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Old Dec 3, 08, 1:49 pm
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I've stayed in the NY Palace Towers rooms precisely once and my feeling was directly the opposite of DavidO's: it's not worth the upgrade. Yes, the room is larger, but service was mediocre, and what amenities there were ("personalized" laser printed calling cards) were dated in concept. Calling some random staff member a butler doesn't make mediocre service any less mediocre. It's especially surprising that although the rooms cost MORE than the executive club upgrade in the main hotel -- which isn't worth $100 or $150 a day, by the way -- there is no equivalent of the clubroom for guests in the Towers.

The main advantage of the Towers is if you are staying in a regular room, and there is a long line to check out, just sneak into the Towers entrance across from the front desk and they will usually check you out with no waiting.

For the past year or two, the hotel has taken to charging a premium for the west facing rooms. This means that if you book the cheapest room, your upgrade will be to an identical room that doesn't have a view of what appears to be the world's tallest brick wall. That has some value but isn't much of an upgrade.
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Old Dec 3, 08, 2:52 pm
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how high do upgrades go at the palace?

Last edited by Kagehitokiri; Dec 3, 08 at 3:58 pm
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Old Dec 3, 08, 3:32 pm
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DavidO, as always, it's a pleasure reading your reports! Thanks!^
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Old Dec 3, 08, 5:12 pm
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I believe they go up to a 1 BR Suite. The low season (Jan - Mar 15; Jun 26- Sept 7) rates are pretty attractive, given the upgrade at booking:

Tower Deluxe (upgrades to Jr. Suite) - $690
Jr. Suite (upgrades to 1 BR Suite) - $970

Originally Posted by Kagehitokiri View Post
how high do upgrades go at the palace?
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Old Dec 3, 08, 5:17 pm
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Originally Posted by MACH81 View Post
DavidO, as always, it's a pleasure reading your reports! Thanks!^
My thoughts exactly ^
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Old Dec 4, 08, 5:38 am
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NY Palace Towers

It will be interesting to see if Dorchester improve the service and, most especially, the room service in the towers, as when I stayed in one of their suites, room service and food quality were Marriott level, as the food came from the same kitchens as the main hotel. Despite having a large dining room in our suite, the 'butler' wheeled in a tacky trolley with a pink cloth and cheap tablewear and glasses and then proceeded to set up this makeshift table in the sitting room.

The Lowell, on the other hand, is what I call real high-end - immaculate service throughout.
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Old Dec 4, 08, 6:30 am
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Thanks David!
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Old Dec 4, 08, 7:39 am
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NY Palace Towers

I have also stayed at this hotel (although prior to its Dorcehster acquistion) on the Towers levels and was completely underwhelmed. The service was (about) on par with the much loved Sheraton in this wonderful city..
I always appreciate your reviews DavidO- may want to check with some colleagues on their feedback on the Palace Towers.
BTW- no review of the Four Seasons with its hi-tech bath tubs?
Thanks as always!
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Old Dec 4, 08, 6:23 pm
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David: Great report. I'm partial to the Waldorf Towers, but always try to stay in properties new to me. The Carlyle has been running great deals so maybe next trip I'll try them.
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Old Dec 4, 08, 9:37 pm
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Originally Posted by TRAVELSIG View Post
BTW- no review of the Four Seasons with its hi-tech bath tubs?
Thanks as always!
The FS was in last year's batch of site inspections.
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Old Dec 5, 08, 6:11 am
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David, nice report but unfortunatly you say nothing about service. The hotel can have the nicest looking room in New York but without exceptional service, it means nothing. Out of the hotels you list, in my opinion the onlyl ones that excel in service are The Lowell and The Carlysle.
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Old Dec 5, 08, 6:22 am
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St Regis NY

I find it interesting that nobody talks about the St Regis NY anymore. I never liked the place, but I have numerous friends in North America who used to swear by it. Has it fallen from grace?

My current top choice in NY, in no particular order, would be:-

The Lowell
Four Seasons
Mandarin Oriental

I like the suites at The Pen, but don't like the public areas. I used to love the R-C Central Park (club floor suites) but think it has begun to go the same way as many R-Cs in North America. What's with the BLT Market restaurant?

Should I be trying something else? Is the Plaza Athenee truly high-end?
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Old Dec 5, 08, 8:00 am
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Originally Posted by speedbird001 View Post
David, nice report but unfortunatly you say nothing about service
True, but I have no way to evaluate service in a site inspection. I also recognize that sales staff is going out of their way to make a positive impression...

Originally Posted by vuittonsofstyle View Post
Is the Plaza Athenee truly high-end?
When their renovation is complete in June, it could very well be. In the meantime, they are offering a "third night free" (subject to availability) through Jan. 4th.
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Old Dec 6, 08, 11:27 am
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Interesting report. I'll admit to having not stayed in many of these hotels in a while (I live in NYC), but the Waldorf Towers has an incredibly stodgy reputation (your diagnosis based upon the clientele is right on, but the rooms are said to be old if not older). . .nice to see they're upgrading.

I've stayed at the NY Palace, and I'll admit that service is lacking (though I liked the plant for a low maintenance traveler). Also, I'm shocked you didn't see the triplex suites, I'm told they're incredible. . .
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