Tuesday, January 1, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO: Omni Hotel

While not exactly a frequent guest at Omni Hotels, my few experiences have been outstanding, which is why I chose the Omni San Francisco for a Christmas night getaway after my wife and I spent several days with family in Sacramento.

Service at this AAA Four Diamond-rated property was consistently excellent.

Hotel front entrance
From the valet who met us in a driving rain and insisted that we stand under the canopy while he unloaded the bags from our car to the front desk clerk who checked us in and upgraded us to a room on one of the hotel’s Signature floors (the three highest floors at this hotel), to the housekeeper who always greeted us with a smile and asked how we were doing, to the servers in the crowded bar on Christmas afternoon, I could not have asked for better service.

Our room, 1529, was lovely and had obviously been recently refurbished. Its high ceiling gave an additional feel of spaciousness. The guest room had all the usual amenities – flat-screen TV, desk/workspace with both wired and wireless Internet access, iron and ironing board, safe – plush bathrobes waiting in the closet (no need to make a special request) and an increasingly rare minibar. The room also had a Nespresso coffee maker instead of the all-too-common mini-Mr. Coffee, which is an upgrade provided in the Signature level rooms.

The large bathroom had a lovely marble floor, tub and shower combination, lighted magnifying mirror (which we aging Boomers appreciate more with each passing year) and high-end amenities.

An additional perk provided to Omni Select Guest® loyalty program members of even the lowest tier is complimentary, freshly brewed coffee delivered to the room in the morning at a time of the guests’ choosing. Pastries can be added for a modest cost, and are included without a delivery charge.

Room 1529
As we head into 2013, connectivity is king, and the Omni did not disappoint in this regard. I clocked in-room Internet access at 3 Mpbs using www.speakeasy.net/speedtest, notably faster than many hotels at which I’ve stayed recently, which seem to average about 1 Mbps.

The Omni San Francisco also has a pay-as-you-go business center, and a FedEx office is less than a block away for those who need additional services.

Staff was helpful to a fault

When I booked our reservation, I chose a room that was described as having a “city view.” The room we were given had a view of the hotel’s courtyard and the Transamerica pyramid a few blocks away.

When I inquired at the front desk the next morning, an attendant told me they had given us “a room in the back” because I had also requested a “quiet room” using the “special requests” field on the website. The “city view” rooms faced California Street and the sounds of the city’s famous cable cars that pass in front could readily be heard. In addition, I was advised that the Omni is not generally considered a “view hotel” – understandable considering that it is in the heart of the financial district – so we had not been deprived of a spectacular view in any case.

Kudos to the staff for endeavoring to meet my request. Although I wouldn’t have minded the sounds of the cable cars, which don’t run late into the night in any case, I should have said something upon entering the room and finding it different than what I expected.

Specific to meeting expectations, I was disappointed by the size of our room.

The Omni’s web site described the size as “385 square feet” based on the common industry practice of stating the total area allotted for the room before it is sectioned into sleeping space, bathroom space, closet and hallway. Accordingly, the actual living space in most hotel rooms will be smaller than advertised. How much smaller varies greatly from one property to another.

Our room at the Omni over Christmas was considerably smaller than our room at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego about four weeks earlier, even though The Del described its room as 325 square feet, some 60 square feet smaller than our room at the Omni.

Workspace in guest room
Of course, layout will play a part in how much room is devoted to livable space. While our room had a large, spa-like bathroom, it also had a long hallway that took up about 45 square feet. After subtracting for those spaces and the closet, the area of the room with the bed, sitting area, and desk measured about 230 square feet, or only about 60% of the area advertised. It was comfortable but considerably smaller than I expected based on the web page description.

By my measurements, the living area in our room at the Hotel del Coronado measured about 275 square feet, or about 85% of the area advertised.

When I worked in the hospitality industry, our mantra was, “Under-promise and over-deliver.” In my estimation, the difference between advertised and actual livable area is significant and misses that mark rather dramatically. Omni corporate would do well to adjust their representations and better manage expectations.

Bob’s Steak and Chop House, the on-site restaurant and aforementioned bar, was excellent but a little pricey, even for San Francisco. There are plenty of other places within easy walking or cabbing distance, though, so choices are usually abundant; just not on Christmas night.

All things considered, I’d recommend the Omni San Francisco for its service, location, and amenities. The only travelers I’d recommend book somewhere else are those who are dead set on having a view from their room.

Photos credit Carl Dombek unless otherwise indicated
Click on photos to view larger images

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


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