Monday, December 21, 2009

PORTLAND, OREGON: Aloft at Cascade Station

I’ve wanted to stay at an Aloft Hotel ever since they became a member of the Starwood group. My recent experience at the Portland Airport Aloft was generally quite pleasant and if you like contemporary surroundings, this may be the hotel for you. If not, be aware that Aloft properties appear to be pretty taste-specific in some areas.

If the Aloft at the Portland Airport is a fair representation, these hotels (part of the “W Hotel” group) are deliberately designed to appeal to younger, hipper traveler. Many of my fellow guests were young families with young children who delighted in the amorphous floor tiles in the elevators that changed patterns every time someone stepped on them.

This Aloft hotel is contemporary, strives to present an enviro-friendly vibe (special parking reserved for hybrids, for example), and has activities that appeal to younger, trendier travelers. As an example, Tuesday nights in the lounge feature a trivia contest (complete with an Alex Trebec-like host), meaning it was not the best place to grab a quiet drink after a hard day on the road. That said the bar’s snack menu was pretty impressive, with an array of Pacific Northwest treats in addition to the expected offering of varied nibbles.

Please don't misunderstand: it's not that Boomers like me were made to feel unwelcome; not at all. There were several of us 50-somethings staying there just after 4th of July weekend. It’s just that it's designed to accommodate the tastes of younger travelers.

Of course we all have to start somewhere, and this Aloft was obviously the starting place for many who want to work in the hospitality industry. Most of the people who work there -- as well as most of our fellow guests -- were the ages of my adult children: early 30s or younger. They were eager, friendly, and sincere but lacked the experience and refinement of people who’ve been around the block a time or two. That's not meant as a knock; just don't expect the polish of the staff at the Hay-Adams in DC or the Savoy in London.

For some inexplicable reason, the Aloft chain has glommed onto an ersatz Hawaiian theme: desk clerks don’t say, “Hello,” or “Good evening;” they say “Aloha.” That’s fine when you’re in Hawaii, but in Portland it seems a little affected, especially since there is no apparent Hawaiian theme other than the way guests are greeted.

The guest rooms are comfortably equipped with many of the amenities we expect today: flat-screen TV, high-end toiletries, hairdryer, in-room safe, ironing board and iron, desk/workspace, etc. Furnishings are retro-contemporary: modern in some senses, but retro in their use of the turquoise colors so prevalent in the early 60s.

This Aloft offers the usual fitness center, pool (indoor, of course; this IS Portland), free internet access (both in-room and at complimentary terminals off the lobby), on-site bar, snacks and coffee in the lobby. And the hotel has bicycles available. The property’s proximity to the Cascade Station shopping area means several restaurants are within easy walking distance, including a Buffalo Wild Wings, Red Robin, Starbuck's, smaller local spots, and the cafeteria at the nearby Ikea (GREAT Swedish meatballs!).

Parking is free and it’s close to both the airport and the I-205 freeway, so if contemporary is your thing, Aloft may be the place for you.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
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