Thursday, July 30, 2009

A New Vibe in Hotels

Aloft: "W"'s Baby Hotel

From the time you arrive at a new Aloft Hotel, you will know it is something a little bit different. Not so different to be jarring, but different nonetheless. I recently stayed in a new aloft in Franklin Tennessee. It was fun to experience the newest roll-out from Starwood Hotels (intended to capitalize on the success of its trendy "W" chain).

In effect aloft is what would happen if there was a love child born between a Hampton Inn or Courtyard and a "W" hotel.

When you arrive at an Aloft Hotel you can check in at the "Aloha Desk" instead of a "Registration Desk". Or you can avoid the desk entirely and opt to check in at a kiosk that processes your credit card and issues you a key.

Instead of calming music in the lobby, you will likely hear a pulsing techno beat.

Instead of potted palms and hardwood floors, there will be sealed concrete floors and a pool table.

Great swimming area, nice fitness area, full bar, and nice breakfast concept area. You can get lattes and breakfast sandwiches for a small price. Much better than the "free breakfast" drek one might be offered at a Hampton Inn.

The elevator floor had squishy tiles that change color when you step on them. The elevator cab walls were left unfinished and covered permanently with industrial elevator "mover" pads.

When I got to my floor the lights in the hall were covered in a rainbow print fabric stretched over a metal framework.

Upon entering the room it becomes clear that it is different than what many of us road warriors normally come to expect.

There is a small sink area with a pretty countertop vessel sink. There is an a room divider unit with cubby holes for the coffee maker, a small safe, magazine rack (with good magazines!), and a perfectly worthless closet (that is covered by a curtain?!).

The Room Divider

The Worthless "Closet"

The Sink Area
A Heavy Mirrored Sliding Door
Divides the Sink Area
From the Toilet/Shower Area

The sink area is nice (although I hate the easily waterspotted slick surfaces since everything looks dirty after the first use). The shower is wonderful. A complete home run. It has dispensers with wonderful Bliss Bath products (bliss soap and facial cleanser is located at the sink).

Big Shower With A Big Showerhead
The Only Freestanding Hotel Shower I've Used That Didn't Leak!

No Heavenly Bed Here
The Platform Bed is the Focus of the Room.

The compartments on the side of the bed unit hold a tiny ironing board and iron. The obscure glass panel to the right of the bed lets natural light into the shower

The rooms are smaller than market and really feature two key elements: the bed and the big TV. The focus of the room is clearly not for business travellers.

Since it is a platform bed it has no box springs. While pretty it is nowhere near as comfy as the terrific new beds rolled out in mid-priced Marriott and Hilton properties. There is a small place to put stuff on each side of the bed, with no drawers (no place for the Gideon Bible?) In fact there are no drawers anywhere in the room. So if you like to actually unpack your suitcase for a longer stay you can forget it.

I loved the simple to operate and easily read clock!

Very Practical Clock - Loved It!

There is a long upholstered bench under the TV. While cool looking, it is of little use for seating.

There was only one little (IKEA Quality) desk chair in my room.

In a room that is otherwise so tight, there is a whole bunch of unused room to the far side of the bed (which, if I was ruling the world, would have a nice cushy chair and ottoman).

A Puny Built-in Desk
(With the Multi-Media Connector Box)

The second focus of the room is the 42" flat panel TV that you can connect to your laptop using the box on the desk.

The HD Flat Panel TV

The room has a few techno saavy features specifically a connector box that allows you to stream videos, play games, or view DVDs direct from your laptop.

The wireless internet was the usual crappy hotel "free wireless" that drifts in and out. As I've said before, if a hotel can't provide good free "highspeed" internet, I'd prefer an option where I can buy it.

I'm also surprised that a hip concept hotel like this still doesn't get it environmentally. When I leave the room I want a single kill switch that cuts off all lights and puts the AC unit into economizer mode. Nothing fancy, just similar to what you find in every modern hotel room almost EVERYWHERE else in the world.

The Pros:
Cheap and cheerful version of the (overpriced) "W" hotels. Great shower and HD TV.

The Cons:
Small room, marginal bed, needs better chairs, should have room power kill switch, downright silly closet.

I am glad to see Aloft coming to the market. I'd certainly put it on my list of "fun places to stay".

The design features in Aloft are moving the bar (maybe not raising it), but certainly moving it.

Roadboy's Travels © 2009

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