I don't know about you, but when I started staying with Starwood, I was confused by all their brands. With that in mind, I offer this short primer to help those new to SPG become acquainted with the various flags. St. Regis What they say: The Address is the Experience. An impeccable staff, offering flawless and discreet service, ensures an extraordinary stay at St. Regis® Hotels & Resorts. From New York to Beijing, each St. Regis captures the distinctive personality of its location. What it means: Four Seasons for ‘those people with their points.’ Some (Atlanta?) feel painfully new money. Is it strange that the whole butler thing kind of creeps me out (Or am I being painfully new money if I don’t want a stranger unpacking my underwear?)? Luxury Collection What they say: Collect the World’s Experiences All hotels within The Luxury Collection®, some centuries old, are recognized as being among the world's finest. In renowned cities and resort destinations, The Luxury Collection provides an exceptional experience. What it means: The Buick / Olds of SPG. Not quite a Cadillac, Not a Chevy either. Like a lover that wins you over with personality rather than physique, the physical plant of Luxury Collection hotels may not be quite perfect (‘some centuries old’), but at least the linens and toiletries are nice. W Hotels & Resorts What they say: An Exclusive Whatever/Whenever® Experience. Where to? W Hotels® are situated in happening cities around the world. Fulfill your desires with epicurean adventures, iconic design, non-traditional luxury and extraordinary Whatever, Whenever service. What it means: You are not cool enough to stay in these hotels, let alone have a drink at the bars. Westin What they say: This is how it should feel. Inspiring yet never overwhelming, Westin® Hotels & Resorts are designed to engage the senses in a soothing atmosphere. Recharge in energizing cities and refresh at resorts worldwide. What it means: Like that strange kid you knew in college: sterile to the point of making you nervous, devoid of personality, with a weird Asian fetish. And Henry Ford would be proud: Westin’s can be decorated any way the hotel owner wants, as long as it’s Heavenly. Sheraton What they say: Because you don’t just stay here, you belong. Sheraton® Hotels & Resorts welcomes guests in all corners of the world - from Australia to Uruguay. From full-service hotels to relaxing resorts, Sheraton enables you to connect to your location and to those back home. What it means: Forrest Gump said it, man, ‘You never know what you gonna get.’ You may get lucky (virtually any Sheridan outside the US), but most likely you’ll begin to sympathize with prisoners (anyone stay in Anneheim? New York?). Plus not all Sheridans are Sheridans (Bangkok, Park Tower, etc.), which gives me a headache. Four Points by Sheraton What they say: Comfort isn’t complicated Four Points® by Sheraton has great rooms, comfortable beds, tasty food and lots of locations. Simply put, we know your needs. Fun. Comfort. Value. Relaxation. Friendliness. Who wouldn’t want those things? What it means: Starwood’s low-end offerings that are often actually nicer – or at least newer - than more prestigious brands in the family (including, if it can be called 'prestigious,' actual Sheraton). And, hey, the internet’s free. Aloft – A Vision of W Hotels What they say: Style at a steal Bold and bright, fresh and fun, aloft sm hotels is the forward-thinking alternative to the typical travel destination. With its loft-inspired design and free-flowing energy, aloft lets guests customize their stay and celebrate their style. What it means: Aloft is to W Hotels as IKEA is to Design Within Reach. Or at least that’s the theory. I stay at W Hotels, I know W Hotels, W Hotels are friends of mine. Aloft, you're no W Hotels. Le Meridian What they say: Chic, Cultured, Discovery Embark on a voyage of discovery and enrichment with Le Méridien®. Authentic locations and inspiring cultures are the backdrop to an exclusive selection of hotels and resorts in over fifty countries. What they mean: Hiding behind all this this talk of culture are a lot of surprisingly dated physical plants. The food is generally a notch above that found at Westin, though it is a bit idiosyncratic. For example: the better-than-you-would expect-but-not-very-French burger bar at the otherwise unremarkable Parker Meridian in New York. Or the fact that the croissants are better at the Montreal location than that the Paris locations. In fact, one would think the Paris properties would be flagships, but one would be very wrong. N.B. No one seems to know what qualifies as a “Parker Meridian” or a “Royal Meridian” Element by Westin What they say: A Place to Thrive Inspired by Westin, element sm hotels is decidedly modern with an emphasis on nature and constructed using eco-friendly materials wherever possible. An efficient use of space encourages guests to stay connected, feel alive and thrive while they are away. What they mean: How Westin could inspire anyone at all is beyond the rest of us, but Starwood found a way. I suppose the generic just got greener. Spirit Airlines also boasts to shareholders of “efficient use of space” but I can’t imagine any of their customers feel particularly alive or thriving when traveling with them.