CRYSTAL CITY, VA: DoubleTree Hotel – Very good; about to be better.

The DoubleTree hotel in Crystal City, Va., is a very nice hotel that is about to be even better.

About 1/2 mile from the Pentagon City Metro station, this DoubleTree is currently undergoing a renovation, perhaps due to the recent rebranding of DoubleTree hotels as “DoubleTree by Hilton.”

Whatever the reason, the process has made the hotel’s entrance a bit difficult to find, but that’s temporary. It also is likely immaterial, as most guests arrive either by car, cab, or shuttle bus. Because of its distance, guests who arrive by Metro will likely want to take advantage of the complimentary shuttle bus that runs between the station and the hotel. Only those who know their way and don’t mind the walk will be hiking in.

For my recent three-night stay, the hotel put me in one of the suites that had already been upgraded and it was lovely, as these pictures confirm. Done in a contemporary style, the decor features fabrics with neutral tones against dark-colored furniture with angular lines, set off against lighter walls. Here and there, like the bed’s headboard, designers included pops of color.

The room has the usual amenities including in-room coffee, iron and ironing board, wireless internet access, robes upon request, and – because it was a suite – two flat-screen LG TVs. The suite included a small fridge where I could keep snacks or a bottle of wine (which I supplied myself, as minibars are quickly fading from the hospitality scene).

The tubular desk light, while attractive, was less than practical. Its design resulted in lot of glare when I was working on my laptop at the in-room work station. If you look closely at the picture below, you'll see what I mean. That particular feature could have been done better.

As a HiltonHHonors Diamond member, I was provided with certificates to the “continental” breakfast in the Café off the lobby. I put continental in quotes because it was actually a full buffet breakfast, which was better than most buffets I’ve experienced recently in my travels. There was a selection of juices, both pancakes and French toast, the usual breakfast meats, potatoes, croissant, and more.

Unlike many hotels, the DoubleTree would not allow me to apply the $18 value of the certificate to menu items, which were uniformly less expensive than the buffet, ranging from $12 to 15. However, my server Zbignew took excellent care of me. “I have connections,” he told me the first morning, and got me the freshly cooked eggs I was seeking. A great embodiment of two Hilton standards: leadership and ownership. (Among team members, HILTON is more than a name; it’s also an acronym for the service standards of “Hospitality, Integrity, Leadership, Teamwork, Ownership, Now”).

The hotel has a lounge on the 15th floor of the north tower that doubles as its nighttime restaurant. The Skydome Lounge looks like a holdover from a ‘70s disco: round, with a floor I’m told rotates (though it didn’t the night I was there), a very small bar, and food prepared in the kitchen a floor below.

Food is delivered on a cart with plates covered, a la room service. Having to bring the food up in an elevator surely makes the operation less efficient, and serving food from a cart is a little strange. The lounge does feature a spectacular, sweeping view, stretching from the Pentagon (literally across the street; OK, across I-395) to the DC skyline that includes National Cathedral, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Capitol.

Hopefully, renovations will include updating this facility or perhaps expanding operations at the Cafe to include dinner service. Currently, except for the Skydome and room service, guests have to go off-property for dinner.

While the new furnishings are pleasant and, once completed, will no doubt upgrade the feel of the entire property, service is where the DoubleTree really shines.

Everyone was professional and attentive. I don’t believe I passed a team member, from maintenance to management, who didn’t proffer a “good morning,” “how are you, sir?” or other greeting.

Service was equally efficient. I requested a bathrobe when I arrived in my room, and it was at my door in minutes.

Personnel also deal with problems quite professionally. The first day I was there, the wireless Internet access was extremely slow. I reported it to the manager, who looked into it and assured me that it had been a temporary problem, and that it had been fixed (as indeed it had). As a follow-up, he sent a handwritten note to my room apologizing for the inconvenience, and included a tin of those famous DoubleTree cookies.

The hotel runs complimentary shuttles to and from Reagan National Airport, the Metro station, and the Fashion Mall adjacent to the Metro station, so it’s easy to get from point A to B, even without a car.

If you’re traveling to the Washington, DC area, I highly recommend looking into the Crystal City DoubleTree by Hilton.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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