Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC: Sheraton Pentagon City

I spent four nights here while presenting at a conference and found the hotel to be quite nice, if somewhat less conveniently located than others at which I’ve stayed in the Washington, DC area. I also uncovered an important caveat for coffee drinkers.

Exterior, Sheraton Pentagon City
The Sheraton Pentagon City is located on Columbia Pike, about a mile west of the Pentagon and just beyond the southern boundary of Arlington National Cemetery. Despite that, there’s little within easy walking distance of the hotel in terms of restaurants or other attractions.

However, shuttle buses run every half-hour to Reagan National Airport and the Pentagon City Metro Station a little more than a mile away, and several city bus lines run along Columbia Pike, so it’s not difficult to get off-property.

The hotel itself is quite nice, with an inviting lobby, on-site bar and restaurant, fitness center, indoor pool, and meeting space.

Interior of guest room
Rooms are well appointed with the amenities travelers expect today including a workstation with both wired and wireless Internet access, flat screen TV, safe large enough for a good-sized laptop, iron and ironing board, and in-room coffee. In addition, the bed is quite comfortable and the curtains dark enough to allow me to sleep in, even though my room faced east and got the full morning sun.

The hotel has ample meeting space on the ground floor and several reception rooms on the 16th floor, which provide an outstanding view of Washington, DC, from the Air Force Memorial near the Pentagon to the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. Farther away, the panorama stretches from the Kennedy Center on the Potomac River to the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol in the distance.

The view from the 10th floor
For the best view, be sure to get a room facing east, on the highest floor available.

Staff was attentive and friendly with most everyone acknowledging their guests whenever they encountered them on the property.

What price coffee?

Much to my surprise, a cup of coffee in the hotel restaurant was $4.95. Per person. No, I’m not kidding: $4.95!

While the price is listed clearly on the menu, a price that high that borders on being deceptive because, when a waitperson asks, “Coffee?”, coffee drinkers often say “yes” almost reflexively, especially at breakfast. I just happened to see the price before I was served and asked my waitperson to confirm it was correct. I then decided I could live without it.

Other than the cost of joe, I thought food prices were quite reasonable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Hiccups
In addition to the modest inconvenience of not having much within walking distance, I did experience a few shortcomings.

One minor hiccup was addressed promptly. On my first morning, I called at 9 a.m. and asked that my room be made up. More than two hours later, it had not been touched. A pet peeve of mine, especially when I’m at a conference, is returning to my room after attending a couple of sessions to find that it has not been made up, particularly when I’ve specifically asked the hotel to do so. However, when I spoke to the manager, he had it addressed immediately, and my room was made up early each successive morning.

Internet access was slow, at about 1 Mbps for both wired and wireless access. The speed in my in-home office is about 25 Mbps, and I have stayed at hotels with access as high as 40 Mbps. Business travelers who rely on e-mail will find this lack of speed limiting, and likely frustrating.

The hotel's historic site
The hotel also lacks a proper business center. Instead, it offers Link@Sheraton, a casual lounge with several computer terminals and a printer available without charge. While that would have been fine for many travelers, several of the computer workstations did not work properly (or "at all"), making them less useful than they should have been.

The hours at the indoor pool were quite limited. During the week, it is open only from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. When I went to take a look at the pool, there was actually a lifeguard on duty; if that’s required in the state of Virginia, the limited hours are probably to limit the hotel’s overhead.

Finally, another conference attendee told me of an issue he had with the hotel’s phone system. For some reason, he was unable to receive an inbound call in his room but when he reported that to the hotel operator, s/he offered to place the call for him. Considering the circumstances, he presumed the operator was making an accommodation for his inability to receive the call in the first place. However, when he got his bill it included a charge of more than $50 for the “operator-assisted” outgoing call.

Ultimately, the hotel took the charge off his bill but it does serve as a reminder to always check the invoice before checking out.

Generally, I give an approving nod to the Sheraton Pentagon City; just pay attention to prices.

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



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

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