Friday, February 8, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Renaissance Downtown

I’ve stayed at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown hotel several times over the years and have found there is much to recommend it, including its location. Now, I can add newly refurbished guest rooms to that list.

Interior, Room 722
In the year since my last visit, the hotel located at 9th NW and “I” Street in the Penn Quarter area has given its guest rooms, which had grown a bit tired, a very nice makeover.  Along with some updates to the lobby and techno music that now plays in the elevators, one could perhaps describe this hotel as “trendy,” which its website does.

Everything in my room was so new, I even had to take the guard off the hair dryer’s plug. In addition, everything else is fresh and bright: bed linens are crisp and white, the flat-screen TV, while not the biggest I’ve encountered in hotels, is state of the art, and the carpet is neither worn nor stained.

TV and work station
The redesigned workstation actually has three power outlets for laptop, cell phone, and other electronics. In addition, there are two more outlets near the bed stand; no more plugging one device in at the desk, another on the night stand and a third in the bathroom. One drawback is the sleek, modern light fixture. Tubular in shape, it gives off a lot of glare, making it difficult to work under for extended periods.

Internet speed, which is vital in today’s wired world, was fairly impressive compared to most of the hotels at which I’ve stayed recently: 4.8 MBPS as measured by speakeasy.net/speedtest. Most of the other hotels have been around 1 MPBS, with a few as high as 2 MPBS. However, the only access available in most rooms is wireless, at $12.95 plus tax. Wired access is available in the meeting space and in a limited number of guest rooms.

Bath with historic photos
The rooms have been given a distinctly Washington, D.C. theme. Discreet splashes of wallpaper have replicas of the signatures of many Founding Fathers, a photo collage features black and white photos depicting the District’s history and monuments, and my room – 722 – had a cartoon that even poked a little fun at Washington bureaucrats.

The cartoon, which appeared to be from The New Yorker magazine hanging above the work station, showed a man behind what was obviously a desk in D.C., speaking to two people who looked to be constituents. “We used to feel your pain, but that’s no longer our policy,” read the caption.

Perfect.

Would that the rest were perfect as well. Unfortunately, as have been my previous experiences, I found service at the property to be so-so.

When I attend a conference, I often work from my room between sessions and I hate returning to an unmade room. Accordingly, I call each morning and ask that my room be made up early. During this visit, housekeeping honored my request two out of three mornings. On one morning, however, despite my 7:00 a.m. request, the room was not made up until nearly 11 a.m. While Meatloaf may have sung about how “Two out of three ain’t bad,” I was not impressed. (Baby Boomers will get the reference; others may have to look it up...)

On one occasion, I found myself working in my room through lunch. Because I could not locate a menu for in-room dining, I called the front desk and was told one would be sent up. It never arrived.

Other guests, however, apparently had no problem getting room service. Numerous room service trays and carts from the previous evening were still sitting in the hallways at 10 a.m. the following morning. That is unacceptable.

On two occasions, other guests and I crowded into an elevator with members of the housekeeping staff and their rather large carts. Why they didn’t use the service elevator was a mystery to all of us.

Finally, few staffers on the property bothered to greet the guests they encountered. Bidding your guests “good morning,” saying hello, or offering some other sort of greeting as they pass in the hall or lobby is a basic in the hospitality industry, and an excellent way to make your guests feel welcome. Or not, if it doesn’t happen.

Renaissance Exterior
The hotel has a lobby bar, the Presidents Sports Bar, and 15 Squares restaurant on site, and a Starbucks adjacent to the lobby. Coffee prices at the Starbucks seemed in line but my favorite breakfast sandwich was more than $1 higher than at the Starbucks a block away, representing a “convenience premium” for being able to get your goodies without going off-campus.

The hotel features the Vida Fitness Center and Aura Spa, with complimentary access to the fitness center for hotel guests. Spa services are at additional cost.

Hotel personnel tell me the conference space, which is well maintained but starting to look a bit dated from a style perspective, is next in line and will be redone soon in a style similar to the guest rooms.

Located just a few blocks from ChinaTown, two Metro stations, several restaurants, and many D.C. attractions, the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown hotel definitely needs to polish its service but generally is a pretty good, if not great, place to stay.

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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