Overview: An upper-midscale hotel that is long on the tooth and weak on service
Strengths: Lake views, price, SPG gold recognition
Drawbacks: Rooms, service
Update – Jan 17: see note and link in the comments section about shooting at this hotel which occurred just before my stay.
A business trip brought me to Chicago earlier this week. For reasons explained here, I elected to stay at the W Lakeshore. Over the past five years, I’ve stayed here a number of times, though never prepared a review.
Based on this stay and others, while perhaps no one issue unto itself was catastrophic (except the elevator noise?), there was a sufficient number of drawbacks associated with my stay to put this hotel squarely in the not recommended category.
My colleague and I arrived a little after 6pm, after a roadshow-style day of investor meetings. The agent handling was very friendly, and handled the basic check-in process quickly and efficiently. I was pro-actively offered a 4pm check out (a non-guaranteed Gold benefit). I appreciate the hotel being pro-active about this, and not leaving it to the guest to negotiate.
The agent also advised me of the SPG gold benefits (extra points or a free drink); I selected the points. I was also fairly aggressively offered the “green” option (read: no housekeeping) in exchange for 500 additional points. I elected to have housekeeping service, though was asked again if I really wanted the points instead. I reiterated my request for housekeeping, and the matter was resolved. (Assuming Starwood books roughly a one cent liability for each point awarded, $5 to avoid the cost of housekeeping seems much more about Starwood’s greenbacks than actually being “green.”)
Prior to arrival, I received a notification on my iPhone advising me of the availability of keyless room access during my stay. I inquired about keyless iPhone room access and was told it would take “at least 15 minutes” to set up. The agent went on to say, “even if we did keyless, it would still be best if I gave you a key.” I didn’t ask why this was the case and just took a key. The key itself even had a slogan saying it would soon be a thing of the past. Perhaps not at this hotel?
I booked a lake-view “spectacular” room (perhaps it was $10 or $20 more than a city-facing room?). I was not upgraded, but was given a corner room. This turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing. Little about the room could be considered “spectacular.”
The corridors had a W vibe.
As I was arriving at my room, I was greeted by dirty glasses and a coffee carafe on the floor directly outside my room. Unless the guests across the hall put them on my side of the hall, either housekeeping set them outside after cleaning my room (maybe room service picks these up?) or simply walked past them during the cleaning of my room. Either way, not a warming welcome and was reminiscent of a stay at the W Ft. Lauderdale.
Entry to the room was through a fairly narrow corridor with a loose curtain in front of the closet on one side. After I entered the room, I went back to find the light switches and noticed that the door itself didn’t fully close. (Indeed, every time I closed the door, the door didn’t fully close until I gave it an extra shove.)
After giving it the extra shove, I noticed that half of the latch-lock (f/k/a chain) on the door was missing. I decided not to ask for a different room due to this, but this sort of mechanical defect in a room should be replaced very quickly. (The door should also be re-aligned so that it shuts fully when released – not requiring an extra shove.)
The room itself was partially renovated from what I remember on prior stays. There was a frosted window added between the bathroom and bedroom. A wrap-around style backrest was added on two sides of the room. This hotel used to have a fuzzy, soft black cube on the beds as the unique W doo-dad; that was a thing of the past.
The bed itself was reasonably comfortable.
The work area was rather small though outlets were plentiful.
The bathroom was also on the small side.
The sink was not clean.
Due to the design of the shower, it was impossible to turn on the shower without getting at least your arm wet. Also, while the square showerhead looks nice, but needs some additional maintenance that this hotel clearly doesn’t give. Large, flat showerheads end up with sitting water in them between showers. Sitting water ultimately leads to mold and mildew forming, often which you can smell. This showerhead was no exception. There was even a bit of a mold-like substance on the outside of the showerhead.
We have a larger flat-bottomed showerhead at home. Every few months, you need to use a pan of vinegar to immerse the showerhead from below to clear out any mold or mildew. This hotel clearly doesn’t follow such a procedure. (I had a similar situation at the Intercontinental Miami a few years back.) Yuck!
The views of the lake were as I recalled and quite lovely, particularly in the morning during sunrise.
The single robe provided in the closet had stains on the belt. There were also numerous scuffs on the wall in the bathroom (over 5′ above the floor). These sort of things shouldn’t happen.
There was some fairly loud elevator noise in my room throughout the evening. Though it was a “corner” room (with windows only on one side), it was very close to the elevators. I assumed I was immediately next to the elevator. It turns out there was a room between me and the elevators! I feel very sorry for the person next door to me as the noise must have been quite loud. If visiting this hotel, I would avoid rooms ending with 00, 02, 04 and 06.
I ordered room service breakfast both mornings. The deliveries each took a little over the promised 30 minutes. The food itself was fine, but not inspired.
The lobby was renovated since my last stay here. It is reasonably nice, and consistent with what you’d expect at a W. Beyond the front desk, there is a bar/lounge area and separate dining room.
On the night of our arrival, my colleague and I had a quick dinner and some drinks in the bar/lounge area. I had a prosciutto pizza which was reasonably good and my colleague had a seafood dish (which he finished, but didn’t comment on). Service, however, was quite weak. There were two people working the bar, but several waves to them from our nearby seat did not elicit a response. After sitting without having been greeting for over ten minutes, I walked about six feet over to the bar. There was a bartender there engaged in idle conversation with a customer sitting at the bar. The bartender didn’t even so much as acknowledge me and continued in his innocuous conversation about the weather with the patron at the bar. (While I wouldn’t expect the bartender to walk away from the other customer, a subtle acknowledgement was reasonable to expect.)
I ended up walking to the other side of the bar where that bartender was engaged with some task (not making a drink) behind the bar. After about ten seconds without acknowledgement, I said “excuse me, could I have a menu” and was told she’d “be right over.”
To be certain, the bar had only two or three patrons at it. The staff were not busy. This was not a good start.
A minute or two later, the bartender came to our table (in the bar area) with two menus. She set them down and tried to walk away without saying anything. We called her back and ordered two beers.
When she returned with the beers and again attempted to walk away without speaking further. We called her back and asked to order food. This was greeted with, “What do you want?”
Someone different brought the food out to us.
When finished, we tracked down yet a different person down and got a check. I left a tip on the check – but for the first time in probably five years, I gave consideration to not leaving a tip. This level of service was completely unacceptable.
The hotel offers a reasonably sized gym, including equipment overlooking the lake.
The hotel also has an indoor pool.
Despite recent renovations (claimed to be $38 million on their website), furniture in the lobby was already threadbare.
I did not visit the spa. There is also a bar/lounge on the top floor called Altitude. I did not visit this during my stay.
* * * * *
I tweeted to SPGAssist during my stay to let them know about the elevator noise and issues with keyless room access. I was clear that I didn’t want to move to a new room – I can sleep through the noise pretty well and didn’t want the hassle of moving rooms. I was told hotel management would contact me during my stay.
Hotel management did not contact me during my stay and even at check-out, there was no acknowledgement of any of the issues.
After I left, I sent a follow-up DM to SPGAssist letting them know I never heard from the hotel. A few hours later, I received an email from the operations manager suggesting I should have contacted the front desk regarding the keyless entry issue (despite it being the front desk that turned me away previously!). He also offered a suite upgrade on a subsequent stay. I replied with info about the missing door latch lock and stained bath robe (including photos), but never heard back. I hope at least the door is fixed soon.
* * * * *
This was a disappointing stay. Though the lobby level was somewhat renovated and there were modest changes to the rooms, overall, this hotel felt well past its prime. Both the physical facilities and service approach did not meet reasonable expectations. I would not recommend staying at this hotel.
* * * * *
One highlight of my trip to Chicago was a Peruvian dinner at Tanta. The food, drinks and service were all excellent. Of note, I had the slow-cooked lamb. It was on the bone but only required a fork to eat – really excellent. The pisco sours also went down quite easily. Highly recommended.
W Lakeshore Chicago
644 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL, 60611-3017
118 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654