When it comes to hotels, I am primarily a Hyatt person. I’ve been staying in them since I was a freshman in college and became Diamond shortly after. Despite many shortcomings with the IT systems, and a smaller global footprint, the Gold Passport program is one of the best hotel loyalty programs out there. Unfortunately, there are some instances where I am unable to stay at a Hyatt, so I first look at Starwood (my backup program) and then Marriott. On a recent work trip to Portland, the company I was visiting suggested I look at the Marriott Downtown Waterfront, located across the street from their office. Hyatt has just one property in Oregon, the Hyatt Place Portland Airport/Cascade Station, so the prospect of Marriott was certainly appealing.
Portland has excellent public transportation, though because it was close to 10pm when I landed, I decided to grab an Uber to the hotel. $23 later, we pulled into the Marriott, located on the South edge of Downtown Portland. Though I declined assistance, bell staff happily offered to assist me with my bags. While the outside of the hotel looked a bit old, the inside seemed brand new. I later learned that the hotel had just completed a multi-million dollar, top to bottom, renovation which included building a new M Club, adding additional guest rooms and meeting space, redesigning the fitness center and anything else required to pay homage to their vibrant surroundings.
The front desk associate welcomed me to Portland and offered to explain the local area if I was unfamiliar with it. While I have visited Portland a number of times in the past, it was nice to get a rundown on the local restaurants, night life, and other things to do around the hotel.
I was assigned a standard room on the 10th floor of the hotel, though it did offer excellent views of the neighboring Willamette River and Mt. Hood. Had I not booked a room with two double beds, the agent at the front mentioned that I would have been upgraded to a suite. This was a business trip, so I wasn’t too disappointed to hear the news.
Upon entering the room, a large closet was on the left and the bathroom to the right. Shielded by a frosted glass door, those sensitive to light may wish to pack an eyeshade to prevent being disturbed by the bright lights from the bathroom.
Though we didn’t spend much time in the room, outside of sleeping and checking emails, it was a comfortable place to relax and recharge. After hundreds or thousands of guests, you can almost start to feel how old the bedding is. But in this case, everything seemed brand new. The mattresses weren’t rock hard and to my surprise, the soft pillows were actually soft.
Compared to other Marriott rooms I’ve stayed in, the renovated room at the Portland property was brighter and fresher than the rest. The room incorporated design elements from the Pacific Northwest, rather than the standard furnishings you see in older properties. Two of the biggest items for me were the number of power outlets available (is it possible to have too many? never!) and the amount of light in the room. Many hotels rooms are poorly lit and its a huge pain if you want to get some work done in your room or read an actual newspaper (not the tablet version). This room offered a lot of natural light during the day and more than enough wattage at night.
M Club Lounge
When I went looking for the club lounge, I was greeted by the M Club Lounge, Marriott’s new lounge concept. M Club Lounges were first opened at four properties, later expanding to a few others. Unlike a regular club lounge, Marriott describes the new concept as “an exclusive space with premiere services where guests can work, enjoy a bite, recharge and connect,”. Though each lounge has different hours, the M Club Lounge at the Portland Marriott is open 24/7. During the morning and evening services, a staff member at the front verifies guest access, while the lounge is keycard accessible at all other times of the day or night.
As I entered the lounge, I was warmly welcomed by Pedro, a member of the lounge staff. The evening service had already concluded, but Pedro insisted on putting together a “doggy bag” of items for me. True to his word, Pedro returned a few minutes later with a nice assortment from the nights dessert selection. Before leaving for the night, we had a nice chat about Portland, the new lounge concept and Cuba, his birthplace. We parted ways, though Pedro indicated that he would be working the following night.
I spent about an hour catching up on some emails in the lounge, taking advantage of the evening snacks available in the drink fridge. Small containers of blueberries, veggies with ranch dressing and other fruit were available for the taking. The lounge contained a Starbucks machine, capable of creating an assortment of drinks and the fridges were stocked with a variety of pop and juice. In an effort to reduce waste, you won’t see any plastic bottles in the lounge. Instead, glass bottles are provided and guests are welcome to fill the bottle (choose from cold, room temperature or sparkling water) and take it back to their rooms.
With the installation of the M Club came a cash register, allowing guests to order a variety of alcoholic drinks and food (menu below). The lounge still provides complimentary items for breakfast and in the evening, for those worrying that Marriott had decided to charge for all food items offered.
The hotel restaurant, Bistro by Truss, offers a variety of bites and casual entrées throughout the day. They’ve even got an extensive drink menu for those in search of a liquid meal. Apart from the items available in the lounge, I did not have a chance to check out the bistro menu. Prices aren’t too terrible for most items, though it would not be hard to find something local near the hotel (or a short Uber ride away).
While the hotel may be in a quieter part of Portland, one needs to walk only a few blocks before reaching an assortment of shops, restaurants and other amenities to make the most of a visit to Portland. We spent a few hours on the final day of our visit walking to the North, making sure to visit the food carts near SW 9th and Alder streets. Those looking to exercise or just enjoy the scenery can take advantage of the Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park located across the street from the Marriott. With over 36 acres, there is plenty of room to relax and take in the sights and smells of Portland.
Final Thoughts/Additional Photos
When I booked my stay at this property, I was unaware that it had undergone a total renovation. Our trip was a bit pricey at $218/night, but the fact that we were able to stay less than 100′ from the front entrance of the company we were visiting was worth the extra cost. Pedro in the M Club Lounge was one of the friendliest hotel employees I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet and when speaking with him on the final day of our stay, it felt as if I was talking to a family member and not somebody I had met the previous day.
Portland has a lot to offer in terms, though when it comes to hotels, choices are limited if you are a Hyatt fan. My first preference is always to search for the local Hyatt property, though I would gladly stay at a Marriott property like this in the future. With a mix of features unique to Portland, such as the “natural design” of the hotel to the M Club Lounge open 24hrs/day, Marriott has done well bringing some of their older properties into the 21st century.