Upside-down W: A review of the Maxwell Hotel New York City
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To The Point
With sky-high prices, New York is a tricky city for those looking to pay cash for a hotel. Enter the Maxwell, a very attractive value for the price. Pros: Great location, cheap cash rates and a manager who knows how to treat customers. Cons: No upgrade (despite multiple available suites) and a deceptive and poorly advertised destination fee.
Beside the range-topping St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton hotels, my favorite brand in the Marriott portfolio by far is W Hotels. I vibe with the aggressive lighting schemes and the nonstop party atmosphere, and some of my favorite hotels are Ws, like the recently opened W Dubai The Palm. In fact, I’ll often seek out Ws when traveling to a new city, as they offer the right mix of luxury and (relative) affordability (in both points and cash).
While New York is home to a number of W Hotels, it was The Maxwell that caught my eye. This hotel used to be the W New York, the first W Hotel in the brand, until it became a Tribute Portfolio property in early 2018. This was the first Tribute Portfolio property to open in New York, and I wanted to see how much of the original eclectic W design was retained when the hotel rebranded.
I ended up needing to stay for three nights, and during my stay the rates varied from $150 (£114) to $250 (£190) before taxes. That’s an absolute steal by New York standards.
The Maxwell is a Category 5 hotel, meaning that a free night will run you 30,000 points for an off-peak night, 35,000 for a standard night and 40,000 for a peak night. However, in my case, cash rates were low enough that it made sense to save my points for a later stay.
The Maxwell is in Manhattan’s Midtown East neighborhood, and the corner of 49th street and Lexington Avenue, right across the street from the iconic Waldorf Astoria. It’s a couple blocks from the 51st Street Lexington Avenue subway station (the 6 train took me straight to Union Square and the TPG office). Rockefeller Center, Times Square and Central Park are also easily walkable from here. For first-time or infrequent visitors to New York, this would certainly make a great home base for exploring the city.
I arrived at the hotel around 2 p.m. and could immediately tell I’d entered a former W, clued in by the bright lights on the wall by the bar and the fish-scale patterning on the check-in desk and the restaurant in the back. During my stay, a number of international airline crew members came and went, including from Cathay Pacific and Alitalia.
I was happy to see a quick survey opportunity to earn 500 bonus Marriott points. I ended up sharing feedback on the second day of my stay, but more on that later.
I was helped instantly, though every other time I walked through the lobby there appeared to be long lines of people waiting to check in and out.
I inquired about the possibility of a suite upgrade as a Titanium elite and was told there were no suites available for my stay. Now, I’m not the kind of person who feels entitled to a penthouse suite everywhere I go, but I work hard to maintain my elite status with Marriott (and more importantly, I spend a lot of money in the process), and think it’s fair to expect an upgrade when one is available especially as that’s a listed benefit of my Titanium elite status. Once I got up to my room, I did a quick search, and the hotel was still selling both junior suites and standard suites during my stay.
My room was on the 10th floor and decently sized by New York standards. I could tell they hadn’t redecorated all that much, as the art behind the bed screamed “W.”
And the art wasn’t the only thing they were recycling: The minibar contained two signature W items (the typeface was a dead giveaway) with stickers placed over the logo. The minibar itself was fairly average, though within five minutes of checking in, someone was knocking on my door to do inventory and check if I’d used anything from the minibar. I told him to come back later and never saw him again.
The room had a TV on a stand in the corner, right next to the usual W cocktail station and bottle opener.
The desk was next to the bed, infuriatingly blocking the only outlets. I had to either snake my cords under the glass part of the desk or actually move it in order to plug in my laptop charger. Go figure, housekeeping moved it back to its original position, so I had to readjust it every day.
There was a mirror and a small bench between the minibar and the door to the bathroom.
The bathroom felt cramped, especially when I tried to open or close the doors. The toilet paper holder was also hidden under the sink, so I had to twist my arm in a weird way to get to it.
The toiletries featured a nice lemon scent and were restocked daily.
I liked that there was both a shower and a bathtub, and the water pressure and temperature control were both excellent.
The closet was just inside the main door to the room and featured an automatic light that came on every time I opened the door. The closet was surprisingly deep, and I wished they’d used more of that space for the room itself.
Overall, the room was nice and plenty spacious for a solo traveler, but the placement of the desk and outlets was quite frustrating.
Food and Beverage
After arriving on an early-morning flight from D.C., I ordered some room service while I settled in. I ordered penne arrabbiata with grilled chicken, and while the chicken was delicious, the pasta didn’t have nearly enough sauce (or flavor) for an arrabbiata. The fruit plate was generous, though, and I liked the tower of berries held up by the melon and pineapple.
As a Titanium elite, I selected free breakfast for my welcome amenity, which was served in the hotel’s Heartbeat restaurant.
From the design to the name, everything about this place felt like a W (and I mean that as a compliment!)
Breakfast was served off a small fixed menu, not a great deal if you’re paying $28 cash for it, but not bad if it’s free.
I had the oatmeal the first day, which came with a great selection of toppings. What I really appreciated is how quickly the food arrived, no more than three minutes after I’d ordered. Orange juice and coffee were included, as well.
The next day, I had scrambled eggs with turkey sausage, which were just all right. Again, it’s hard to complain when it’s a free breakfast, but it was not something I could see myself paying for.
I ended up meeting a friend for drinks at the hotel bar one night and was surprised to find it jam-packed on a Wednesday. Still, service was quick, and though the drinks were pricey, they were strong enough to make you feel like you got your money’s worth.
With space at a premium in Midtown Manhattan the hotel didn’t have much in the way of amenities, though it did have a well-stocked gym. There also appeared to be a large conference going on. Rather than crowd the guest-room elevators with conference attendees, the hotel had a separate set of stairs near the entrance that led right up to the meeting rooms.
Because my travel plans changed at the last minute, I ended up booking one reservation for two nights and a separate one for one night. This meant that I got a bill halfway through my stay, and, well, there were some surprises. First of all, I was double-charged for my room-service order and billed for an $8 Tropicana juice that I had never ordered.
I was also charged a $25 daily destination fee for my first two nights. I remembered seeing this fee advertised when I booked, but there had been no mention of it at check-in. More importantly, there had been no mention of the fact that this fee entitled me to a $30 daily credit at the bar or for laundry services. While I don’t love them, I’m not entirely opposed to destination fees when they represent a good value (in this case, spend $25, get $30) but for the hotel not to mention it when I checked in seemed sneaky.
Thankfully, there was a friendly agent at the desk, and after I waited in line for about 10 minutes, she was able to fix the billing problems. She was shocked that no one had mentioned the destination fee, and even showed me the little handout I was supposed to have been given explaining all the benefits it entitled me to. She happily removed it from my bill and reminded me that I could still use the $30 bar credit for my last night.
It was at this point that I decided to take the quick survey about the hotel to earn 500 bonus points. I don’t remember the exact answers I gave for the various questions (on a 1-to-10) scale, but most of them were somewhere in the middle, reflecting my honest opinion of my stay to that point. Within a few hours, I received an email from the head of hospitality at the hotel asking what went wrong with my stay and what he could do to fix it. I explained the billing problems (which were minor and bound to happen) and how I was wrongfully denied an upgrade, and attached the screenshot showing availability for a junior suite. He wrote back quickly, apologizing for the shortcomings and offering me 10,000 bonus Marriott points (which posted to my account instantly — now there’s a miracle!) and a refund of the $45 I spent at the bar that night. He also gave me his cellphone number and told me to contact him personally if I ever stayed at the Maxwell again, when he would offer me one of the following: 10% off the room rate., breakfast for four guests, an upgrade to the best available room or an in-house wine amenity.
There are so many moving parts that go into the hospitality industry that things are bound to go wrong from time to time. A friendly agent happily fixed the billing problems, and while I probably should have received an upgrade when I checked in, it’s certainly not necessary and didn’t ruin my stay. I found this response to be more than adequate and a sign of someone who values their customers and cares about their experiences. I probably would’ve returned to the Maxwell at some point anyways for its competitive pricing, but now it’ll be the first hotel on my list the next time I’m in New York.
An upscale Marriott hotel in New York for under $300 a night (or even under $200) is an absolute steal, and there’s no denying that the Maxwell offers great bang for the buck. I loved the legacy W design elements that gave this hotel some pop and color, and would be happy to return here in the future. While the food left something to be desired, that’s an easy fix in a vibrant city like New York.
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