When we started to plan our long overdue trip to New Orleans, we needed to find a place to stay. We’re not party animals, so staying on Bourbon St. wasn’t very appealing to us but we still wanted to stay in the French Quarter. Hotels in the area can be quite expensive, with the top properties like the Ritz Carlton, Royal Sonesta and Hotel Monteleone charging over $500 a night, so I figured this would be a great chance to book a hotel with points. Since we were staying for five nights, we’d get a free night on an award stay with Hilton or Marriott. We didn’t have enough Hilton points but we had plenty of Marriott points after the merger with SPG. It would also be our first chance to take advantage of Sharon’s newly acquired Platinum Marriott Rewards status.
We had a choice between several Marriott/SPG properties in New Orleans and finally decided on one which fulfilled our needs…
W New Orleans- French Quarter
316 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
The W New Orleans is located on Chartres St., three blocks from St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square and two blocks from Bourbon St. It’s also a 10 min walk to the river and the Harrah’s Casino. If you’re looking to walk around New Orleans, it’s an ideal location.
The hotel only has 97 rooms and was renovated in 2012 when it reopened as the W Hotel. The building, however, is much older and appears to be three different buildings that were connected at one point. I’m not exactly sure of the original date of the building.
Room rates at the hotel can fluctuate wildly. Because I didn’t want to pay for the stay, I was happy to take advantage of the fifth night free benefit and pay 140,000 Marriott Rewards points for the five night stay (28,000 points/night).
We had an early flight to New Orleans and arrived at the hotel around 1PM. After getting dropped off in front of the hotel by our Uber, we had a bit of a problem finding the lobby. FYI, when entering the hotel driveway it’s to your right under the blue globes.
The check in area/lobby is very small and nothing what you’d expect from a W Hotel.
The Whatever desk (podium) is also in the lobby area, along with a small seating area that feels like you’re sitting in someone’s living room.
While check in is usually at 3PM, I requested early check in. I don’t know if the Platinum status had anything to do with it but our room was ready for us when we arrived. The front desk agent thanked Sharon for her loyalty as Platinum Member (to which Sharon couldn’t have cared less) and informed us we were upgraded from a Wonderful (base) room to a Fabulous courtyard room on the second floor (a double upgrade). We left the lobby and headed to the elevators, which were just past the blue globes on the left.
A room key is required to get in the elevators and we headed to the second floor. Our room was located all the way at the end of the building. We quickly found out that we did not have a courtyard room but a balcony room.
Our first thought when walking into the room was “Man, this room is SMALL!” On the Marriott website, rooms in this category range from 240 sq. feet to 324 sq. feet and we definitely got a room on the smaller end of that range. Considering that we were going to staying for five nights, we quickly realized that there was no room for anything. The only drawers were filled with the coffee maker and were otherwise too small (only 12″ deep) to be practical for clothing storage. There was only one chair in the room, which made it difficult for both of us to work at the same time. On a pet peeve note, what’s up with the bow-tie throw pillow? I tried to hide it every day but it always ended up back on the bed.
On my side of the bed, there was nothing but a drawer. The night-ledge (?) had a hole for a plug, maybe it was originally for a lamp, but there were no power outlets on that side of the room. We ended up running our 6ft extension cord behind the pillows so I could charge my phone at night.
The closet ended up being my storage locker for the week. I stacked my suitcases on the floor and used them like drawers. Sharon put her suitcase on the luggage stand against the wall (in front of the mirror) for the entire stay and lived out of that.
The bathroom was also small but functional. Just don’t plan on more than one person getting ready at a time, so schedule accordingly. The glass shower stall made a good seal so there wasn’t any water on the bathroom floor but the major fail was putting the shower controls on the wall under the shower head so there’s no way to turn on the water without getting wet. Also, I don’t understand the design on the mirror besides giving me a challenge to center my face when using the toilet. Sharon was thrilled over the Bliss amenities, one of the few hotel brands she actually likes. I wonder if she wants any for Christmas? (Note from Sharon: Wouldn’t suck…just sayin’. Just the lemon/sage lotion and liquid soap)
One of the big upgrades of this room was the balcony. However, we were located overlooking Conti St. The only thing interesting we could see was the corner of the Louisiana Supreme Court building. Unfortunately, right down the road was a major construction site so we woke up one morning to the sound of jackhammers at 8AM.
If you’re familiar with my experience at a W Hotel before, you know I’m not one to check out the minibar for fear of getting charged. Luckily the minibar in this room was locked and I had no intention of opening it. It was behind a silver door under a mirrored display of liquor, Zapp’s Voodoo potato chips, a Kind bar and Red Bull.
The external spaces of the hotel (aka the courtyard) is very pretty. However, the pool area is amazingly small and we never saw anyone use it for our entire stay (despite the sea horse floaty).
It turned out the stairs from the courtyard let to a terrace on the second floor which was a quicker way to our room than taking the elevator. The courtyard is a popular space to hold events, like weddings. There was one happening on the last night of our stay but since we didn’t have a courtyard room we didn’t notice any additional noise.
The Hotel Gym
I normally wouldn’t mention the gym because we don’t use it. However, I mention it for two reasons. First of all, you can get free bottled water for your entire stay instead of the one free bottle in your room. Secondly, we were in the room right next to the gym.
This wasn’t a problem until Saturday morning when someone decided that they wanted to “Lift Heavy” and throw weights around the room. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones who heard the thump, thump, thump each time the weights hit the floor. Upon later inspection, the only “weights” were dumbbells so I’m not sure what they were aggressively dropping over and over.
It got to the point where Sharon was ready to walk over in her pajamas and bed head and say something (Note from Sharon: I SO woulda done it!), but I talked her out of it (and the noise stopped but the damage was done and we were awake early in the morning).
I wouldn’t usually include the hotel restaurant in a review but this one deserves a mention. SoBou is run by the same people as the iconic Commanders Palace and lives up to the tradition. I ate breakfast there one morning with our Platinum benefit and the food (and coffee) was top notch.
We also visited for dinner with a group of friends. The service, food and drinks were all amazing and it was one of the best meals we had in New Orleans, and that’s saying something. The prices were also very reasonable. Selling a side order of Cracklins for $1 should be illegal.
Since I wasn’t able to work in the room because we only had one chair, I spent three nights at the bar. They let me camp out in a corner with my computer and get work done, refilling my water glass as needed. The bartender even put in a to-go order for me and packed up a burger right before the kitchen closed for the night.
The Surrounding Area
I was correct when I decided on this hotel because of the location. We could walk almost anywhere we wanted and if we didn’t feel like walking, we could get an Uber for less than $10 to anywhere else. While our view wasn’t the best, we were down the block from Sucré for the most amazing gelato and just a block or two from the Hotel Monteleone and the famous Carousel Bar which are both more of our speed instead of places on Bourbon St.
It isn’t until you stay in a room for a few days that you start to notice things. Like the finishes are peeling or the paint is chipped. There were plenty of examples of this in our room, once we started looking.
For a luxury brand that charges over $400 a night for a room, this is totally unacceptable. I think it was summed up best by a guest we talked with while waiting for the elevator after our second night.
Guest: Have you stayed here before
Us: Well, before the last two nights, no.
Guest: I was expecting it to be……. nicer.
It’s all a matter of managing expectations. My friend who lives in New Orleans was able to explain it to me. W Hotels are usually chic. New Orleans doesn’t do chic. So while the hotel tried to stick to the brand, it also tried to stay loyal to New Orleans and ended up somewhere in the middle.
While the location of the W Hotel met our needs, it’s in need of a major renovation of the rooms (if our room is any example of the condition of the hotel). The hotel has very nice public spaces, excellent staff and a top notch restaurant, but it just doesn’t seem to reach the level it’s trying for. The rooms are worn and they exchanged design for function. The variance in room type, while understandable in a old building, will always lead to some rooms being better than others. The location of the hotel gym next to several rooms means you either have to provide better soundproofing or not offer weights that can bother other guests.
Redeeming points and getting a fifth night free made this hotel a good choice for us but I would have rather stay at the Place d’Armes like our friends did. I could have booked a room using the fourth night free with the Citi Prestige card but by the time I went to make a reservation, they were sold out.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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