New York, NY
September 9-10, 2016
Room Rate: 140 USD
Just about every New Yorker I know would roll their eyes at the thought of spending the night in the Times Square area – I’ll admit this hotel stay is a little unusual, even for me, given that I live in the city.
This year, SPG is running a promo where you can earn 11,000 Starpoints if you stay at each brand at least once. At this point, I’d stayed at 9 of the 11 – I was missing a Design Hotel and an Element Hotel stay. I have an upcoming stay for a Design Hotel in November, but no plans of staying at an Element Hotel the rest of the year. Since I was so close, I couldn’t resist finding a reason (or a good deal!) to stay at an Element property.
The Element Hotel in New York City is an SPG Category 5 property, which typically ranges from about $250-$350 or 12,000-16,000 points per night. Below is the pricing for the property for a random weekend in October.
For an Element property, the pricing is a bit high (and perhaps not the best value when using of points for this brand, though both rates are not terrible for New York City). Meanwhile, the Element across the river in Harrison, NJ is an SPG Category 4 and prices at around half of its New York City counterpart (though the points option is still pricey in my opinion). Now, I’m not sure I was willing to go out of my way and head to New Jersey to stay at the cheaper property (though it is admittedly a quick Path ride away), but I did periodically check the pricing on the New York hotel to see if it ever dropped – and just my luck, it did!
On Friday, September 9 the price dropped down to $140, which, considering its usual pricing, is a great deal! I booked the room and packed up my dog (since the hotel is dog-friendly!) and Brian for our weekend staycation. We always talk about staying in hotels in different parts of the city to explore areas we don’t usually spend time in, and since we’ve never lived in the midtown west area, this seemed like a great way to see a different side of town.Jump to the Takeaway
We arrived at the hotel at around 7pm. At a lack of a better description, the lobby was like a zoo – it was packed. People checking in, guests were lounging around, about to head out for the evening. I managed to find the SPG counter (since the other check in lines were incredibly long), which itself was pretty busy – one person was ahead of me, while someone else was trying to jump in and resolve a small issue. I noticed several boxes stacked up against the wall – a little odd and unusual, but it wasn’t particularly surprising given the unusually chaotic lobby. Around me, I could see people checking in – lots of them had reservation confirmations printed out from Hotel Tonight, which surely adds a bump to their popularity of non-SPG guests.
Finally, it was my turn, and the front desk associate quickly checked me in, ran me through the details of my rate and information about the property, and handed me my keys. Since I was traveling (so to speak) with my dog, I had to sign the usual pet waiver form, but there was no pet charge. He assigned me to a room on the 30th floor (an upgrade to the low-floor room I had booked), handed me a green gift bag and sent me on my way. I’m not surprised about the lack of exchange in niceties, given how busy the lobby was, but the check in process was overall very impersonal and un-SPG-like, if you will.
The three elevators are located in the middle of the hallway, and open up directly into a row of doors. My room was located right in front of the middle elevator door.
My room was a Deluxe Room with a king-sized bed. Upon entering the room, the kitchenette was positioned by the door on the left side, with the bathroom on the right. The kitchenette came fully equipped with a refrigerator, sink, electric stove, microwave, dishwasher, and coffeemaker.
The kitchenette even had everything that a person would need to use it, including paper towels, dishwashing liquid, silverware, plates, cups, a toaster, a wine bottle opener and kitchen cookware.
The entryway lead into the the bedroom and sitting area, which came with a small desk and what appeared to be 3/4 of a couch.
Behind the sitting area was the bed, with a nightstand to the right and a closet on the left.
The bedroom area felt small, due mostly to the fact that the closet was built right up next to the bed. The closet could have easily been built against the wall perpendicular to it (which in this case was the wall dividing the bedroom from the bathroom), since it was empty and unused, and would have opened up the space and allowed for a second nightstand.
Tucked away in the closet was the luggage rack, an iron, an ironing board, and the room safe.
Though the bedroom was on the smaller side (or at least felt that way), the bathroom was on the other hand, fairly spacious. The sink area didn’t have much counter space, but the sink itself was fairly large.
On the other side of the bathroom was the shower stall, which was large. The space could have easily fit a tub (though did not come with one). The shower came equipped with a rainforest shower head and a small handheld shower head, and I liked having both options.
The bathroom came with toiletries from a organic brand called Pharmacopia, and the shower came with body wash and the dreaded 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. I’m not sure if the shampoo part of the shampoo and conditioner was not particularly effective because it was organic or because it was a 2-in-1 combination, but I didn’t think it did a good job of getting the dirt out of my hair, as it felt oily-ish after I dried my hair post-shower.
The little welcome bag I received at check in came with a couple bottles of water, a snack, plus some information about the property.
The room had a view of the Empire State Building (though you had to be standing fairly close to the window to see it), which I’m sure is a nice touch for out-of-towners.
Since Element Hotel rooms come with Westin Heavenly Beds, the bed was nicely comfortable and I slept well. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to sleeping with lots of noise, but the proximity to the elevator (plus the fact the room faced the street) didn’t bother me at all.
All SPG properties offer breakfast on-site in some form, and SPG Platinum members are allowed to select the complimentary breakfast as an amenity at check-in, though in this case, the room rate came with breakfast – and so did everyone else’s. Breakfast at the property is complimentary for all guests. Needless to say, at 9 AM (breakfast ends at 10 AM), the dining area was full.
The breakfast offerings were fairly standard, there were plenty of bagels (carb heaven), doughnuts, and some hot items like eggs and bacon. There was also a selection of self-serve juices, a smoothie, and lime water
The dining area was so packed, the breakfast-goers overflowed out to the lobby, and I found all the couches taken up by guests, perched at every corner, trying to get comfortable while eating breakfast.
I’m not a fan of crowds, so I left the area and decided to try to find the roof deck I thought I heard the front desk associate mention at check in.
I took the elevator up to the 40th floor (which I assumed would be the top), and found myself on a regular-looking floor, no roof deck in sight. I called the front desk from a courtesy phone on the floor and the associate directed me to go up one level on stairwell A.
And there it was! There were plenty of empty tables and chairs (though no lounge chairs, which is a shame) – clearly no one else thought to come and eat breakfast up here. On the west side of the deck was a view of the Hudson river (and New Jersey), which was pleasant. The area was a nice break from all the other shared spaces in the hotel.
On my way down, I found the regular way to access the roof top terrace – which can only be done through elevator number 1.
After a day of exploring midtown west, we spent the afternoon winding down in the hotel room, and checked out at 4pm. The lobby was a little less busy this time – the quietest I’d seen it during our entire stay!
As I’d mentioned earlier, this property was a pet-friendly one (as are all Element Hotels, according to the Starwood website), so not only were dogs allowed, but they also did not charge a pet cleaning fee – a plus! Other than that, there were no other pet-related items provided to us.
We welcome dogs weighing up to 40 pounds at Element. As part of our Love that Dog program, we’ll provide our signature dog bed, food and water bowls with a floor mat, and clean-up supplies, including waste bags and latex gloves.
It’s a little disappointing they didn’t provide any of these, but it’s not surprising, given the busy location. I did notice my room’s floors were made of a treated material that appeared water repellent – so any accidents (animal, or human, I suppose), would be easy to clean.
Overall, our stay was alright. While this was my first stay at an Element hotel, I would say this fell below expectations of a select service Starwood hotel. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily from a lack of trying, but probably more so to do with the busy location. The hotel was busy all the time, and to be frank, it felt like staying at just about any other random hotel. I imagine most of their guests are not repeat guests, but are one-time tourists staying in this location, so there is little need to provide service to keep people coming back, but rather, keep people fairly content while they’re there, get them what they need, and get them going on their day. I’m sure guests with that intention in mind find this property to be just fine – and it is, but as I said, falls a little short from what I’d expect from a Starwood property.
Make a Green Choice: Yes
Check In: 6/10 – Busy, quick, lacking of any conversation. They have to keep people moving!
Elite Recognition: 8/10 – I was upgraded to a higher floor, though not a better room per se.
Room: 7/10 – Comfortable bed, but the room was designed a bit inefficiently, which made it appear to be smaller than it was. The 3/4 couch was definitely odd.
In-Room Technology & Entertainment: 7/10 – Standard flat screen TV and free wifi throughout the hotel. Outlets are available on only one side of the bed, thanks to the location of the closet.
Staff: 7/10 – Staff was nice and approachable, though I could tell they were keen on moving on to the next guest to get them going. I do appreciate that they’re trying to get the job done.
Location: 8/10 – Great location for first time visitors to New York City – the A, C, E line on 8th Avenue will be the nearest subway line to this hotel, however, the 1, 2, 3, N, Q, R, S and 7 train are a few minutes further on /7th Avenue with tons of access to other neighborhoods in the city. Anyone looking for a more “unique” New York City experience might consider another property in a different part of town.
On-Site Dining: 7/10 – Breakfast was very basic, though it was offered to all guests at the hotel, which is a bonus for non-SPG visitors.
On-Site Amenities: 8/10 – Very few actual amenities, since this is a select service hotel, though it did have a roof top terrace, which was a nice touch, especially in New York City, where these are few and far between. A business center and gym is available on-site as well. And of course, having a kitchen in the room is great for those doing an extended stay.
Hospitality Services: 5/10 – I’d have to rate this one poorly, not because there was nothing offered (this would be expected for this type of hotel), but the hotel staff was simply too busy to offer assistance in any way. There was a kiosk in the lobby with information about the city, so points for that.
Hotel Appearance: 7/10 – Though the hotel looks clean and new, the property seems to have outgrown itself. With random boxes stacked in the lobby and people in every corner of the shared spaces (except the roof!), it felt chaotic in the hotel all the time.
Overall Rating: 70/100 (70%) ★★★★★
Based on the price I paid, I’d say I got a good deal, however, if I paid something closer to what this property typically runs for, I’d be sorely disappointed. I’d definitely consider shopping around other hotels, Starwood or otherwise – the nearby Westin Times Square tends to run a little bit more expensive than this property, but is a full service hotel. However, if you’re in town on an extended stay, like to cook, keep mostly to yourself, and need to be in midtown west, this would be a good property to stay at.