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Westin Chicago North Shore (Wheeling) [Master Thread]

Westin Chicago North Shore (Wheeling) [Master Thread]

Old Mar 11, 06, 3:16 pm
  #1  
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Arrow Westin Chicago North Shore (Wheeling) [Master Thread]

New Westin due to open sometime in Wheeling, on Milwaukee Ave, just south of Lake Cook Rd. (near Riverwoods, Buffalo Grove)

Read that famous (and good) Chicago chefs Gale Gand and Rick Tramonto both executive chefs at Tru, have partnered with Rich Melman to lauch some additional restaurant projects. The first two being Osteria di Tramonto and Tramonto's Steak & Seafood, aiming for autumn '06 openings at this new Westin property.

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Old Jan 2, 07, 8:05 pm
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I stayed there in December. Wonderful experience all the way around! Very nice rooms, beautiful lobby, great restaurant. By far the best place in that general area.
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Old Oct 28, 08, 4:03 pm
  #3  
 
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Arrow Westin Chicago North Shore [Master Thread]

This hotel has been open for more than a year now, but there seems to have been little on FT so I am opening a new threat for its discussion.

With a new baby at the start of the year we’ve been doing a lot of weekend trips down to the Chicago area to give some relaxing time away from routine as a family. I’ve now done six one night stays at the Westin Chicago North Shore, mostly on Friday or Saturday night. The hotel is Cat 4 but can be good value on weekends – I snapped up a number of prepaid promo $89 rates early in the year but the regular weekend rate is often not much higher.

The hotel is new and clean, reminding me of the Westin Minneapolis and Westin Arlington Gateway in being pleasant but a little bland. In terms of service it seems to be cutting costs by doing the absolute minimum required to meet brand standards. In SPG elite treatment I suspect it’s failing to meet them. For the low weekend rate it meets expectations, but I would hesitate to pay a significant premium to stay there.

Exterior and Lobby: It is a nice, new built Westin about 17 stories tall. On the ground floor is a large area of ball rooms and meeting capabilities. These always seem to be in use on the weekends for bat mitzvahs, dance competitions, business events, weddings, etc. It’s much nicer and newer than the other hotels in the area and I suspect has is pulling in a huge amount of event business from the locals. The lobby is quite stylish and has free wi fi but no bar. Unfortunately the front desk is understaffed and you almost always have to wait for a few minutes. The concierge desk is generally unmanned.

Location: A few minutes off I94 close to where 94 and 294 meet. It’s a good location. Upscale suburban pub/eateries Ram and Claim Jumper are immediately adjacent, and several others are nearby. Ram does takeout until the early hours and I've seen people walking into the hotel with its food as a good alterantive to room service. It’s a short drive east on Lake Cook to the Chicago Botanical Garden, and not far to the wealthy North Shore lake side downtowns of Highland Park and Highwood which have lots of nice little shops and interesting restaurants. Also on Lake Cook is a nice mall with Neiman Marcus, Teevana, an Apple Store, Crate and Barrel, etc. This is much less crowded than the shopping further south in Woodfield
Mall. A wood preserve area full of hiking trails is immediately adjacent to the hotel and can be accessed from the corner of the parking lot. Self parking is free, which it isn’t at some of the O’Hare area hotels a little further south. The hotel has a shuttle – I’m not sure if this runs as far as the airport or not.

Restaurants: It has an Italian restaurant, a steakhouse and an upstairs sushi lounge. I’ve only eaten in the Italian restaurant. The food is quite good and the prices low for a Westin. But the service can be awful. The one time I had lunch the waitress was hopelessly out of her depth – refused to take our food orders when she brought the drinks because she was too busy, brought us the wrong check, charged us for the free glass of wine we’d been given a coupon for, etc. So since then we’ve stuck to breakfast.

Room: A typical modern Westin room. The air is fresh and the air conditioning silent, which is the biggest practical advantage this has over the aging Hyatts and Sheratons in Chicagoland. The hotel seems to do as little as possible to satisfy franchise guidelines. There’s no shower gel or mouthwash or shower cap and only one bathrobe. The rooms are not cramped but not particularly large either. I’ve never had water with the “SPG complimentary” tag but just drink it anyway and have not been charged. The king bed does not seem to be an actual king bed but is still large enough. Never had turndown. There is a minibar. The flat screen TV has several HD stations and gets HBO. Some pay per view films are also HD.

SPG Recognition: Very bad. As SPG plat on six stays I've been given a regular room on the SPG floor, three slightly larger corner rooms on low floors, a regular room on a regular floor, and a junior “suite” (nice large room with big bathroom) on a regular floor. No club level upgrades. On most visits the hotel has clearly been empty. The one junior suite upgrade we did get took place at check in when the clerk took it on himself to check – so blocking of elite upgrades is not taking place. The check in amenity points do post OK. I’m going to start checking on availability of club floor rooms online before arriving, which is not something I usually bother doing but after missing out six times running I am starting to get suspicious. On the plus side they freely grant the 4pm late checkout.

Lounge: The hotel lounge has been shifting opening hours and no longer seems to be running at the weekend. It’s weird – club rooms are in the booking system for weekends at a big premium even when the lounge is not open. I can’t tell you what they’re like as we’ve never been upgraded. When the lounge is closed I’ve been given $15 per person breakfast coupons but only after asking for them – they’ve not been volunteered. When it is open it has an OK continental breakfast with salmon and berries. The service there is bad – the attendant tended to come in occasionally but not to do anything about accumulated dishes. There seemed to be only one packet of bagels, so even though few people were eating breakfast it ran out and was not replaced. No weekend newspapers in the lounge. On the plus side the restaurant breakfast is nice – no buffet but a good range of menu items.

Pool: Nice – reasonably large, stylish. Has a hot tub but no sauna or steam room. May be busy or empty depending on what event is taking place. Exercise room is also OK.

Last edited by ENIAC; Oct 28, 08 at 9:12 pm
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Old Oct 29, 08, 6:21 pm
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Thanks for the excellent report ... lots of great information here.

On the Westin's though, I think what you describe in regards to Platinums IMHO is more or less the brand standard.
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Old Oct 30, 08, 2:09 am
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I'd agree that suite upgrades are rare at most new Westins in the US, though I've tended to assume that this is because newer hotels have more uniformity in room types. But I'd usually expect to receive a club room, or at least SPG floor, in the hotels that have them. Free water, shower gel, etc.
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Old Oct 30, 08, 6:20 am
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Stayed there a lot this summer

Thanks for the great writeup, ENIAC.

I was posted on a project in that area earlier this year and stayed at that property for approx 30 nights across multiple stays - I think it's a great location, the workout room is well-equipped (if crowded in the mornings - perhaps it could be a bit bigger....), the restaurants are VERY nice, and the staff extremely friendly.

One particularly enjoyable part of my stays there was the executive club - it was always well stocked with good breakfast and evening foods, and the staff working the morning and evening shifts were very friendly and remembered all their guests.

overall, thumbs up from me.
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Old Dec 22, 08, 7:58 pm
  #7  
 
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Stayed here Summer 2008

I did about 8 2-3 day stays here this summer. It is a very standard Westin. While I was there, a couple of the floors were closed and it was difficult to get a king bed. The workout room was nice with about 10 different cardio machines and a few weight sets. It also had an indoor pool. The restaurants were very good - a very expensive ($50+ per person w/out alcohol) steak restaurant, an Italian restaurant, and a sushi bar. The restaurants seemed to draw visitors from outside of the hotel. The room service menu, however, was very, very limited (like 3 entrees), but if you called the restaurant directly, they were often willing to send other entrees up via room service. Rooms had new flatscreen televisions. King rooms had a comfortable chair and ottoman. Before I made gold status, I was upgraded twice - once to the concierge floor (only different being a bottle of mouthwash, q-tips, a scale, and a plant) the other time to a large corner room. Ironically, after I made Gold I was never updgraded although my colleagues (who did not have status) often were upgraded to a corner room.

As others have mentioned, the hotel seemed to do the bare minimum for their elite guests.

Happy to answer any questions about the property if I can.
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Old Mar 31, 09, 2:14 pm
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Here's an update to the earlier reports.

I have something of a love hate relationship with this hotel. Weekend rates have been down to about $75 with recent promotions, so it's a nice place for a cheap getaway on the weekend.

The company running the restaurants went bust. The hotel has taken over the smaller space, the steakhouse, and is running it to provide basic meal service.

At least at weekends there is a real skeleton staff. The front desk is undermanned, and the front desk clerk and bellhop seem to be the only people working at night. We needed a crib. They were "unable to locate" it, so we had to wait for the next shift in the morning.

Upgrades only seem to happen at the time of checkin. You have to ask -- in about 9 stays I've never been preblocked to a junior suite. One time I got updaded to a nice two room suite on the top floor. This had a large dining area, kitchenette, big TV, etc. There are not many of them. There are two junior suites per floor. The junior suites have large glass fronted bathrooms with a big shower but no tub. Also a sitting area with a coffee table. Junior suites were being presold as $30 a night upgrades, which is maybe why they don't like to block them for elites. Rgular upgrade is to a corner room on a non-SPG, non-club floor. It has a little coridoor and an extra window but is not much bigger than the regular rooms.

On our last stay SPG.com showed club king rooms for sale (at a 50% price premium), but the check in clerk would not give us one. He said that only two bed rooms were actually available, that all online reservations were run of house, that the rooms were not available for sale, etc. The coherent part of his explanation was that these rooms were not cleaned, as they only bother cleaning when they've been sold. I think it was the same deal with the junior suites, as we were able to move to one at 10am after it had been cleaned. (To be fair, SPG was not showing suite availabity, so it's possible someone had slept in it and checked out early).

The ammenities in the regular rooms are stripped right down. They've gone with the 4pts water policy: one free bottle of Nestle water rather than the Aqua Pana. There was only one soap in the bathroom, to share between shower and basin. The corner room I was given didn't have a bathrobe. Junior suites have one robe. No shower gel in either room.

The lounge is closed at weekends. Getting breakfast vouchers is like pulling teeth. We were staying for two nights. The check in clerk at night didn't know anything about them. We had to go back in the morning. The front desk person then gave us one voucher ($15 value). I said we were staying for two days. She went away and got another one. I pointed out that the lounge benefit is good for two people so we needed two breakfasts each. She had to check with the manager while we ate breakfast. Afterwards she said told us that the manager said they usually give breakfast for one person only but that she would make an exception for this stay and we got the other two vouchers. So next time we go it will be another struggle. (Update: apparently SPG doesn't mandate breakfast vouchers when a lounge closes for the weekend, but in every other property I've experienced this they've been given freely).

The building is beautiful, and they seem to be keeping business up well with parties, meetings, and weddings. I think the strategy must be to cut hotel expenses to the bone and demphasize service to individual guests.

One real annoyance is bogus charges after checkout. Last time it was $6, presumably for drinking the water on the SPG floor. Didn't bother fighting it. This time, $23 for the "honor bar." They arrive on new folios via email, but the hotel posts no email address so I'll have to call. Maybe they're trying to offset the low rates?

On the plus side the pool is nice, the building is new, the breakfast is nice once you get it, the parking is free. The points post and the late checkout policy is complied with.

So the sense of relaxation is somewhat spoiled by having to fight for basics like breakfast vouchers, a bath robe, and a crib. The service is bad Sheraton rather than Westin. Then you'll have to call up afterwards and get bogus charges removed. You don't really feel welcome or pampered. They can't be making much money on a $75 night, but nobody is making them offer it.

I've got three more cheap prepaid stays booked, and I'm hoping things pick up.

Last edited by ENIAC; Mar 31, 09 at 4:17 pm
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Old Mar 31, 09, 3:21 pm
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BTW, there is another master thread on this property under the name "Westin Wheeling". http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/starw...er-thread.html

Maybe a moderator can merge at some point.
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Old Mar 31, 09, 4:13 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by ENIAC View Post
BTW, there is another master thread on this property under the name "Westin Wheeling". http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/starw...er-thread.html

Maybe a moderator can merge at some point.
Well spotted, and now done. I've used the same nomenclature for the property as found on spg.com, but added (Wheeling) for additional ease in identifying the property.

/mod
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Old Mar 31, 09, 6:57 pm
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
Well spotted, and now done. I've used the same nomenclature for the property as found on spg.com, but added (Wheeling) for additional ease in identifying the property.

/mod
Yes, I think adding (Wheeling) is a good idea. It took me a few minutes to realize that this thread (before the renaming) wasn't referring to the Westin Chicago River North!
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Old Mar 31, 09, 7:58 pm
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Originally Posted by ENIAC View Post
The company running the restaurants went bust. The hotel has taken over the smaller space, the steakhouse, and is running it to provide basic meal service.
Wow, I'm surprised to hear that - those restaurants were good and were always packed when I stayed there last summer.

There is a winery/restaurant next door (forget the name) that is very good. Also does takeout and was a good alternative to room service.
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Old Mar 31, 09, 8:11 pm
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Originally Posted by DCFlyer0306 View Post
Wow, I'm surprised to hear that - those restaurants were good and were always packed when I stayed there last summer.
Yes. The larger, Italian restaurant, is empty. All the restaurants were operated by some kind of local celebrity chef with dreams of making chains out of them, but it doesn't appear to have worked. http://www.journal-topics.com/topics...090305.19.html

According to a waitress it will be reopening with a new concept under new ownership. The hotel is keeping the steakhouse, which is curently the only choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. She claimed they were considering building a tunnel to it, which sounds odd.
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Old Mar 31, 09, 9:02 pm
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Damn! The Italian Steakhouse actually was pretty good! The sushi joint on the other hand was just okay and nothing special to write about. I guess we'll see how the hotel handles the food quality in these spots.
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Old Jun 7, 09, 1:33 am
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Originally Posted by ENIAC View Post
The company running the restaurants went bust. The hotel has taken over the smaller space, the steakhouse, and is running it to provide basic meal service.
Actually, the story is that Rick Tramonto (the "celebrity chef") pulled out due to fear of the poor economy. He still has Tru, his upscale downtown Chicago restaurant.
We are locals who enjoy Tramonto's Steakhouse (as it used to be called) very much. The restaurant is now run by the hotel with much the same staff, and in our opinion, the same level of quality and service (I can only comment on dinner). We hope that it is going to remain as it is, a great restaurant with an ever-changing menu. Yes, it is expensive, but it's so nice to be able to eat great food without having to drive downtown.
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