I’ve been Times Squared: A review of the New York Marriott Marquis
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To The Point
One of the biggest hotels in New York in one of the most high-profile locations has a lot to offer. Pros: Enormous rooms, spectacular views, great staff and a brilliant gym. Cons: Everything felt tired and impersonal, and the flashing lights of Times Square quickly became irritating.
When you think of New York City, even if you’ve never been before, world-famous landmarks immediately spring to mind: the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Times Square. Right in the heart of one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world, Times Square is instantly recognizable.
Did you know there’s a 2,000-room hotel smack bang in the middle of Times Square? I spent a few nights in the beating heart of the Big Apple to find out what it was like.
The Marriott Marquis Times Square is a Category 6 property in the Bonvoy loyalty program, meaning you need 40,000 points per night off-peak, 50,000 for a standard night and 60,000 for peak dates. Those 50,000 Bonvoy points for a standard night are worth around £350, based on TPG U.K.’s current valuations, but with cash rates going for around £257 per night for a base deluxe king room, it made more sense to pay cash and save the points for another day.
It’s difficult to think of a more central location in New York than the Marriott Marquis. Times Square is in Midtown, and the hotel itself is literally right in the middle of Times Square. It’s one of those hotels I’ve noticed each time I’ve visited Times Square but never thought to actually stay there.
Its has blink-and-you’ll-miss-it signage from the square. Though the front is plastered with flashing billboards, if you’re looking at the steps above the TKTS booth, it’s immediately to your left, opposite the McDonald’s.
A hotel this size covered in gigantic billboards was unlikely to have a luxurious, personalized entrance or check-in experience. Down either side street were the vehicle and pedestrian entrances.
Like Times Square itself, the hotel was big, busy and noisy.
From there you needed to follow the signs and take the elevators up to the eighth floor to check-in.
The elevators were where you started to get a sense of just how huge this hotel was. There was a big bank in the center of the building of around a dozen elevators, and you selected your floor and it would choose the elevator for you.
Several of the elevators had glass walls, and you got a fantastic view of the interior of the huge building as you whizzed up and down.
The check-in area on the eight floor was huge. While 2,000 rooms would never all be checking in or out at the same time, the area was set up to handle dozens of guests at a time, and it felt more like I was registering for a big conference than checking into a luxury hotel.
Like I mentioned earlier, I have Gold status in the Bonvoy program, so I went to the Bonvoy Elite counter, where I was quickly helped. The check-in agent thanked me for my loyalty and happily said I had been upgraded to a room with an excellent view of Times Square, which she said “is exactly where you want to be for New Year’s Eve views.” We joked about how cold it would be outside and waiting all day on the street for the ball drop, and with a wink. she said, “Trust me, you would much rather be in the room I’ve given you.”
She also advised me of the daily $30 destination fee. While not unexpected, this was frustrating, given I was smack bang in one of the biggest cities in the world, not at some secluded destination where I wouldn’t leave the property.
The destination fee could be used as a credit in the hotel’s bars and restaurants (which suited me, as I wanted to try them out for the review), as well as a tour ticket and high-speed internet, though the check-in agent advised me I would receive the high-speed internet anyway as a Marriott Bonvoy Gold member.
There were plenty of facilities around the lobby, including souvenir shops and a money exchange. It felt a bit more like a theme park than a luxury hotel.
Oddly for a 2,000 room hotel, there was not really anywhere for people to relax like they would in a traditional lobby. Most of the floor space of the eighth floor was taken up with the elevator banks, check-in desks and restaurants and bars, leaving anyone who just wanted to sit and wait to either perch on the edge of a restaurant or bar or just about sit in a corridor.
I was assigned a room on the 35th floor down the long corridors. The higher up I went, the bigger the building felt.
As I walked towards my room I could see the gym a few floors below mine.
As I entered the room, there was a bathroom immediately to the left with a shower/tub combo.
The bathroom was stocked with This Works toiletries.
Opposite the bathroom and next to entrance door was a closet with a safe and luggage rack.
And next to that was a coffee machine.
Onto the room. First the good: It was enormous by New York standards. I’ve stayed in hotel rooms in this city before where the door almost touches the corner of the bed as you open it and you can’t open your suitcase fully because there’s not enough floor space. In this room I could have easily fit 25 people.
There was a king bed with plush pillows.
There was a full-size couch, armchair and coffee table that were facing away from the window.
It had a desk with a huge flat-screen TV.
Past that were floor-to-ceiling windows.
Oh, yeah, and that view ….
I’ll happily admit, even after visiting New York several times this year alone, I gasped a little when I first saw this view. It is truly one of the most iconic and recognizable locations on Earth, and I had a fantastic bird’s-eye view from the comfort of my room.
Despite so much free space and that view, the room did feel pretty tired. While this would have a spectacular hotel when it opened 35 years ago given its unbeatable location, the furniture was a few decades past its prime. It felt like the sort of ’90s hotel room Jordan Belfort might have in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
I slept very well on the comfortable bed, but here’s the thing about Times Square: If you’re a first-time visitor, you make a beeline for it, take your photos and marvel at one of the most recognizable sights in the world. But what’s it like to actually be there 24/7? A bit like staying in an amusement park or living through “Groundhog Day.” I walked through the square so many times during my stay I actually started to recognize the costumed street hustlers tricking tourists into expensive photos with them. The girls in big Disney costumes in the mornings stripped off to show off “NYC” body paint in the evenings.
By the time I checked out, I had subconsciously memorized the sequences of advertisements on some of the billboards. Lots of airlines advertise in Times Square.
The usual jet lag from the U.K. time zone hit me just after dinner, and I was asleep by 9 p.m. This meant I woke up very early (around 5 a.m.), which is pretty standard for me when adjusting to U.S. East Coast time. Though I had drawn the curtains as best I could, I could still see flashing lights through the small gaps. I can assure that you even when there isn’t anyone out on the streets, those bright lights of Times Square run 24 hours a day, and at 5 a.m., you just want to switch them off and sleep.
Times Square is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there, and I doubt you would either.
Food and Beverage
Despite having the ability to sleep more than 4,000 guests every night, the hotel only has a handful of food-and-beverage options. Given the hundreds of restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs within a stone’s throw of the hotel, that’s not a big surprise. Even first-time visitors to Times Square might realize that such a popular tourist attraction probably won’t have the best cuisine, but I was pleasantly surprised by what the hotel was able to deliver.
Let’s start at the top. On the 48th floor was The View restaurant and lounge, billed as New York’s only revolving restaurant and bar. The restaurant was open for dinner daily (as well as Sunday brunch), and reservations were required. There was a three-course set menu each evening for $92 per person, excluding drinks, taxes and tips, and it included high-end options like lobster and foie gras. It was a romantic spot for a special occasion for both tourists and locals.
As I was staying by myself, though, I went to the cocktail lounge one floor down instead. The View lounge was just like my hotel room — big and dated but a great view.
The views from the 48th floor were breathtaking, as expected.
I ordered a cocktail, which at $19 wasn’t cheap, but you were paying for that incredible view.
My cheery server also gave me a napkin with a map showing landmarks I could spot as I slowly rotated inside Times Square.
There was also a buffet starting at $61 per person for one hour, including one drink. I did a lap around the lounge to check it out. The items looked OK and filling, but don’t expect lobster and foie gras — it was mostly inexpensive, bulky items.
I instead decided to head downstairs to the main lobby restaurant, Crossroads American Kitchen and Bar on the eighth floor. This was a big space, sitting somewhat awkwardly in the middle of the huge lobby.
Set away from the windows and without those incredible views, the prices here were much more reasonable. I ordered a steak, which was excellent.
This restaurant also doubled as the buffet breakfast. The buffet was cleverly hidden to the side, allowing the staff to keep it completely away from view when not being used.
While I was initially a little shocked at the $37-per-person price tag for the buffet, I quickly realized it did include unlimited freshly squeezed orange juice and filtered coffee.
The buffet was much like the rest of the hotel, huge and satisfying, though not particularly high-end cuisine.
Past the Crossroads restaurant was a big lounge bar on the lobby level. It had a lower view of Times Square, but I probably preferred this to the view from the top-floor lounge, as you could actually see people on the street rather than just rooftops.
I tried out a light lunch here from the bar menu ,which was described as deep-fried calamari with jalapeños, lemon and a spicy marinara sauce.
This is what arrived.
The marinara sauce didn’t have a hint of spice to it, and after hunting unsuccessfully for jalapeños and lemon, I bit into the calamari before realizing the missing ingredients were also deep-fried and mixed in with the squid. This meant each bite could be calamari or a flaming hot chile.
The entire dish didn’t really work for me.
The hotel had 24-hour room service, so I treated myself to a sleeping in and then breakfast in my room on the last morning. I filled out my menu card and hung it on my door. Right on time, it arrived the next morning.
The presentation wasn’t much, given I was eating it in my room, and there was an obscene amount of packaging plus the dozen or so sugar packets with my one coffee.
I did enjoy the taste of my breakfast bagel while relaxing in my enormous New York hotel room, though.
Even with 2,000 rooms, there was no swimming pool at the hotel. The best amenity was the excellent, full-size gym. With jet lag waking me up early, I visited at 6 a.m. to find it fairly busy.
This was the best-equipped hotel gym I had ever seen, and it had absolutely everything I needed.
It also had this ridiculous view from the treadmills.
There was no spa on site, thought the hotel did recommend a nearby third-party spa.
If you’ve never visited New York before, it’s difficult to think of a more central location to explore some of the attractions this incredible city has to offer. If you score a Times Square-view room like I did, you can stare out of the windows at one of the best views of the city all night long.
But you probably won’t.
The rooms, by New York standards, are enormous — it is without question the biggest hotel room I have ever set foot in during my five visits to the city. The second-biggest hotel in New York is always going to feel impersonal, but staff members did their best to make me feel welcome.
While this hotel would have been spectacular when it first opened more than 30 years ago, it’s definitely showing its age, and everything feels a bit tired. The lobby restaurants and bars are fairly dark and dingy unless you have a seat right on the window.
The thing about Times Square as a tourist is that when you first see it, you are in complete awe, but after the first few visits, it’s not at the top of your list of places to hit up. A one- or two-night stay for a first-timer to the city is a great idea, but I doubt you’ll still be staring at the view after a week.
All photos by the author.