Modern Marriott in Manhattan: A look at the new Renaissance Chelsea
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During the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips. Instead, we have been publishing a selection of our most popular reviews from the past year. However, we have resumed the publication of new, previously unpublished flight, hotel and lounge reviews, from trips taken before the lockdown. We hope this will help you choose once we’re all ready to start booking trips again.
New York is full of hotels. Choosing one often comes down to loyalty programmes and locations.
For those staying in the hip Chelsea neighborhood that all too often means tall, narrow, limited-service hotels like a Hilton Garden Inn.
But there’s a new kid on block that offers more of an upscale experience and slightly less of a cookie-cutter feel.
The Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel, with its well-designed rooms, nice public spaces and an above-average gym, promises to shake up the neighbourhood options.
Would I go out of my way to stay here? Never. But if I needed to be in the area for work or holiday, it makes a wonderful home base.
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As part of the Marriott portfolio, I could have used Bonvoy points for the room. The hotel is a Category 6 property, meaning it would cost 40,000 to 60,000 points a night, under Marriott’s off-peak and peak-pricing system.
My stay in March was part of an effort by TPG to get in a few New York City hotel reviews before all travel ceased because of the spreading coronavirus. Travel to New York was already slowing and I booked the extremely cheap AAA rate of $152 (about £124) plus a whopping $54.61 (about £44) in taxes and the resort fee. I don’t think the developers of the hotel ever expected to be charging $206.61 (about £168) all-in for a night here.
TPG values Bonvoy points at 0.7p each. So even at the 40,000-point off-peak rate, that would have been £280 worth of points. Plus, as a Bonvoy Platinum Elite member, I ended up earning 2,874 points — worth about £20 — for my stay.
As you can see above, I checked into the hotel on Thursday, 12 March 2020. I arrived early in the afternoon to get some photos while it was still light outside and then walked back to TPG’s headquarters to finish up some work. While I was there, New York City declared a state of emergency because of the coronavirus and we — like other businesses — shut our office down for the foreseeable future.
I ended up going back to the hotel, had a drink at the bar and checked off a few other things to review before packing my belongings and heading uptown to my family. So, although I tested the shower pressure, lay down on the bed and used the desk, I did not actually spend the full night at the hotel or eat any of the food there. (When in New York, we hope you are escaping your hotel for a few good meals.)
There is no one ideal spot to stay in New York City. Sometimes, you want to be near the Broadway shows. Other trips might require staying near Wall Street.
But for Marriott loyalists who need to be near Chelsea or the Flatiron District, the Renaissance is a great option. The hotel is on West 25th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Madison Square Park is a five-minute walk away and there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the neighbourhood. There are subway stations two blocks away on 23rd Street.
And TPG’s office is only 10 minutes away!
The hotel was pretty empty when I arrived; friendly staffers told me about the various hotel amenities and thanked me for my loyalty.
The property opened at the start of 2020 and the lounge was not yet ready. So I was offered either a breakfast voucher or 750 bonus points. (The regular restaurant wasn’t open yet and they had a modified breakfast buffet catered in.)
I was upgraded to a “king view” room. It wasn’t the type of upgrade you would shout about, but the view was nice for an urban hotel.
The elevators were my only complaint about the arrival process. You needed to hold the key card down while also using a touchscreen to select your floor. It seemed simple enough but everybody, including me, seemed to struggle with it.
I hate resort fees, or as they called it here a “daily destination fee.” This is one of those upsetting trends with hotels that don’t benefit guests.
That said, this hotel actually had as fair of a fee as one can wish for.
For the $25 fee, the benefits I found most useful were the $25 food and beverage benefit and $20 toward dry cleaning (drop it off by 9 a.m.; get it back that night).
The free hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus ticket could also be a nice benefit for tourists. It was easy to get: I went to the concierge desk and they gave me a preprinted ticket.
There wasn’t yet a food option for my $25 food and beverage credit, so I headed to the bar.
The biggest disappointment about the fee was that there was no replacement benefit for the “enhanced Wi-Fi.”
That fastest Wi-Fi usually comes for free as a Bonvoy Platinum Elite member. Marriott’s loyalty programme called for hotels charging such a fee to offer a replacement benefit for elite members. The front-desk staff didn’t know about such a requirement and neither did the manager on duty.
I ended up emailing Marriott’s customer service team after my stay and was ultimately given 1,000 points as a thank you for the mistake.
My room on the 26th floor was clean, nicely laid out and big enough for a Manhattan hotel. Most important, it didn’t feel like the cookie-cutter chain-hotel rooms that I have spent way too much of my life in.
There were quirky hooks to hang jackets on and fun desk lighting. Yes, there was no traditional closet but I assume that most guests here are only staying for a night or two and just need to hang a few items.
The bathroom felt much bigger than it was and there was plenty of natural light coming in.
There were plenty of outlets on the nightstands and at the desk.
The hotel didn’t yet offer room service but had a menu of food to be delivered by a third party. None of it looked that appealing but again, in Manhattan there are many delivery options for somebody stuck in the hotel.
But what really excited me — yes, it is the little things — were the Aveda bath products. I first discovered the brand 18 years ago at a hotel in New Orleans. It’s now my go-to brand at home.
Somewhere Nowhere, the rooftop pool bar — 38 stories up — was not open but promises amazing views and is likely to become a favorite summer hot spot in the city.
The lobby and restaurant areas are well-designed and, again, break out of the stuffy mold that most hotels seem to fall into.
There is a small space for sitting outside the entrance and the hotel offers big, oversize umbrellas for those walking through the city on a rainy day.
The real gem for road warriors might be the spacious (by Manhattan standards) gym. It’s in the basement and lacks natural light but offers enough free weights, treadmills and other equipment to suit most workouts.
There is also a Peloton bike, something that will make TPG’s loyalty and engagement editor Richard Kerr very happy.
This isn’t the sort of hotel that you are going to come home and rave about to your friends.
But it is an amazing choice if you need to be on the West Side of Manhattan in the 20s. And it is close enough to several subway lines that it can be a great base for tourists.
It’s a well-designed hotel that — while familiar — has enough unique characteristics to set it apart from the hundreds of other properties in the city.
All photos by the author.