SAN ANTONIO: Hilton Palacio del Rio

The Hilton Palacio del Rio is conveniently located on San Antonio’s famed Riverwalk, adjacent to the Henry M. Gonzales Convention Center and two blocks from the historic Alamo. It’s a beautiful property with service that, despite a couple of slips, generally met Hilton’s -- and my -- high service standards.

Guest Room 710
Arriving for a conference, I was checked in smoothly and directed to the elevators that would take me to my room, #710. The room itself was lovely with modern furniture and fixtures, deep rich colors, and all the amenities we expect when traveling, including in-room safe, iron and ironing board. The desk and workstation had enough power outlets to charge the electronics with which we travel, very good wireless internet connectivity in the 4.0 Mbps range ($14.99 per night unless you’re a HiltonHHonors Gold or Diamond member), and a panel of audio-visual inputs allowing guests to connect their electronics to the room’s large flat screen TV.

Guest room work station and TV
The first service slip-up surrounded that A/V panel. I hooked up my laptop, intending to listen to my music through the TV’s speakers instead of the small, tinny speakers on my computer, but I could not make the connection work. I called the front desk and, though the clerk could not offer any suggestions to assist me, he did offer to send someone from engineering to my room. Excellent service there. However, when I suggested that including instructions on how to operate the panel in the in-room literature might be helpful, the clerk audibly sighed before saying, “Yes, sir.”  Astute hoteliers at least consider their guests' input.

A/V Panel
The gentleman from engineering arrived quickly and provided a diagnosis of the problem immediately. He said the panels had all been disconnected and were to be removed. My initial reaction was that the front desk should have known that. However, when I e-mailed the hotel manager after I returned home to advise of the service shortcomings, he responded that the panels had not been disconnected. Second slip: inconsistent information across departments.

Later that evening, I stopped at the front desk and asked the desk clerk for a map of the adjacent Riverwalk. “They’re over there on the bell stand,” she said. Considering that there were no other guests in the area, what she SHOULD have done was offered to get one for me or walked me over to the desk, not just pointed and said, “Over there.”

Updated bath
The hotel manager agreed that, at a minimum, the desk clerk should have walked me to the bell stand and said, “We definitely will use this … as a teaching opportunity with our staff.” High marks there, both for responding directly to me, and for using this as an opportunity to improve.

Other staff members more consistently met Hilton's high standards.

Housekeeping responded quickly to my request for a robe, which arrived at my door within minutes. Staff members I passed in the hall or the lobby offered a smile and a “Good morning,” afternoon or evening. Bartenders at the Lobby Bar were pleasant and efficient. The desk clerk on checkout was efficient and corrected a minor error on my bill without hesitation. The bellman was very prompt in offering to store the suitcases of a colleague and me upon checkout, and the valet was quick to call a cab when it was time to head to the airport.

The Hilton Palacio del Rio is a nice place to stay in downtown San Antonio and will be even better when management gets its entire staff on the same page, service-wise.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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