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Hotel Review: Sheraton Barra Rio de Janeiro Hotel

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
January 17-29, 2016
Room Rate:  150 USD

 

Introduction

With the Olympics right around the corner, seems like a good time as any to (late) write about my trip to Brazil in January.

Jump to the Takeaway

 

My office is located in the Barra da Tijuca area of Rio de Janeiro, which is (from what I took) a quieter side to the city. After a red eye flight on Delta from JFK-ATL-GIG, I arrived (terribly) early to the hotel. The hotel is located about 30 minutes outside of “central” Rio de Janeiro, where you might find the standard tourist sites. The area itself is much quieter than other parts of the city, so if you’re expecting a crazy nightlife, you should consider staying in the Copacabana area.

The lobby had been recently remodeled and is notably different when compared to the rest of the hotel. In its prior life, the property had been a Radisson hotel, and this was fairly evident in the rest of the property. From what I understood from the front desk,  the hotel was undergoing upgrades, and I hope to see these throughout the rest of the property if I find myself in the area again.

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Sheraton Barra Rio de Jeneiro Hotel lobby. Image Credit: Starwood Hotels

 

Check-In

As I checked in, I certainly wasn’t expecting an early check in (9 am was a bit aggressive, after all), though the front desk kindly obliged (thankfully!).

The Room

My room was situated in the front half of the hotel. I was pleased with the size, it was what other properties might consider a junior suite, as it came with a small living room area and kitchenette space.

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Sheraton Barra Rio de Janeiro Hotel Executive Room bedroom

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Sheraton Rio de Janeiro Hotel Executive Room living room

The room size was spacious and comfortable. Though I was traveling alone (and didn’t really need it) the living room space was great to be able to unwind over a glass of wine at the end of the day.

The bathroom was a little worn down, but given the price point of the property (around $150 USD per night) and the proximity to my office, it didn’t bother me too much.

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Sheraton Barra Rio de Janeiro Hotel Executive Room bathroom

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Sheraton Barra Rio de Janeiro Executive Room bathroom

My colleague mentioned to me that her room smelled “damp”. I didn’t quite know what she meant until my second week there when I spent some time working on my balcony and left the sliding door open for a couple of hours.

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View from my balcony at the Sheraton Barra Rio de Janeiro Hotel

Afterwards, I noticed a damp smell in my room. After mentioning this to a Brazilian colleague, he said it because I left the sliding door open and the humidity had made its way into the room. I should have known better, especially since the bedroom area was carpeted – smells tend to stick on fabric. I hope the hotel considers removing the carpeting to help with this.

 

Location

A big bonus with this property is the beach is right across the street. I appreciated this factor a lot, as I was visiting for work, I only had evenings and the weekend to explore, so being able to walk over to the beach after a long day at work is a major pro.

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Sitting on the beach after a day at work watching the sunset – it could be worse

The Sheraton has a small set up on the beach, where guests can borrow chairs, umbrellas, and towels. Towel service is available until about 6pm. You’ll find a few fresh fruit stalls on the beach, but not at the multitude that you might find at Copacabana or Ipanema.

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Lounge chairs, umbrellas, and towels available from the Sheraton Barra Rio de Janeiro on the beach

 

On-Site Dining

As the property is still upgrading to build in Sheraton-standard amenities like a lounge, SPG plats are invited to the breakfast buffet served at the Terral restaurant, even without picking the breakfast as your amenity (read: get 500 points at check in and breakfast). Not a bad deal. The breakfast is pretty standard, with several standard continental options, and warm items such as eggs and sausages as well.  The fruit options were my favorite, as the hotel changed up the fruit line up a couple times while I was there.

As the hotel is located right on the beach, there are quite a few restaurants within walking distance. If you take a quick 10 minute car ride, you’ll find more restaurants on the east side of the beach.

Hospitality Services

Prior to my arrival, I contacted the concierge desk to inquire about a tour of the main sights, since I only had a weekend. The concierge services were a little bit unusual in that they didn’t seem to openly market itself that way as the desk was located right by the front entrance and could be easily dismissed as the bellhop desk. On a side note, I noticed I had forgotten my flip flops when I arrive and inquired about any places nearby I might be able to purchase flip flops. The concierge mentioned a mall nearby, which was a bit further than I would have liked to go, though failed to mention the existence of a Havianas store a mere 10 minute uber ride away (and right by several restaurants). Just a bit odd.

Back to the tour – we opted for the “Rio Express” tour which takes you to Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. While I typically prefer to explore a city on my own, I was a little concerned about safety and figured a tour van would be a quicker and safer way to see the sights.

The tour cost $60 USD/person, including tickets to both locations, in a van shared with about 10 other people. My colleague and I were the last to be picked up (and first to be dropped off!), so we were lucky and didn’t have to stop by other hotels. The tour van was particularly helpful when we went to see Christ the Redeemer – most people have to take a bus up to the ticket booth/station and then take either another bus or train to the statue itself. We got to skip the first bus (though we saw the line – and it was long), and only had to queue for the second bus thankfully.

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Stunning view of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) from the Christ the Redeemer Statue

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Most hotels will allow you to bill extras like tours and hotel transfers to your room, however, because of the complicated tax system in Brazil, this is not the case – everything is billed separately. We had to pay for the tour with the tour guide directly. Transfers between the hotel and the office/airport had to be paid directly to the taxi company, who had a desk at the hotel. Not too terrible, but can be a bit annoying if you’re used to billing everything to your room.

Transport

According to my Brazilian colleagues, Uber was very popular among locals, so I felt comfortable using it while I was there – and I certainly won’t complain about earning two extra SPG points per dollar spent on Uber while staying at the property. I also used the “radio taxis” from the taxi company at the property and found the Uber rates to be about half the cost, with much friendlier drivers (and nicer cars to boot).

 

The Takeaway

Concierge: Yes
Pool: Yes
Make a Green Choice Option: Yes
Check In: 10/10 – Friendly and efficient (and checked me in a full 6 hours early!)
Elite Recognition: 10/10 – No room upgrade, but was given a room towards the front of the building which made for a great beach view.
Room: 7/10 – Large and spacious, but dated, old, and damp smelling
In-Room Technology & Entertainment: 7/10 – Large TV, plenty of outlets, but not much else. Free WiFi.
Staff: 9/10 – Courteous and friendly, aimed to please
Location: 9/10 – Far outside of the main area of Rio de Janeiro, but a great location if you need to be in the Barra area. Conveniently located across the street from the beach
On-Site Dining:  7/10 – Restaurant served up the same dishes every day – a little boring
On-Site Amenities: 8/10 – Pool on-site, business center available (though actual services within center appear limited). Chair and towel services provided on beach.
Hospitality Services: 7/10 – Concierge services were convenient in setting up tours, but did not offer up other services while I was in touch.
Property Appearance: 6/10 – Other than the  lobby, the property was dated, old, and could use updates and upgrades
Overall Rating: 82/100 (82%)★★★★

Overall, I had an enjoyable stay. The hotel staff was friendly and helpful to my needs, despite my lack of ability to speak any Portuguese. The property could definitely use some improvement, but considering the price, it’s not too terrible. While I would stay again, I definitely see how some visitors may have negative things to say (you’ll find a mixed bag of reviews on their TripAdvisor page), but considering I was there for work, I enjoyed the proximity to the beach and nearby restaurants.

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