aloft Minneapolis (Minnesota) - Master Thread

Discussion in 'Starwood | Preferred Guest' started by MSPeconomist, Mar 1, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. MSPeconomist
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    This is a standard aloft hotel that opened in August 2008. It is located on the edge of downtown, about ten blocks from the nearest skyway connection and about six blocks from the closest light rail line (airport service). It is part of a new and vibrant downtown mixed-use neighborhood with restaurants and trendy loft apartments. Walkable attractions include the Metrodome (at the light rail station), the Mississippi River and a lock (including a small museum), the historic Stone Arch Bridge (pedestrians and bikes only), the (new) Guthrie Theater (walk into the building when the box office is open and give yourself a tour of its award-winning architecture, including the cantilevered "porch" near the upstairs bar), the Mill City Museum (local history with an emphasis on flour mills, fun and different), and the upscale Saturday Mill City Farmers' Market.

    There is a small surface parking lot behind the hotel, pay public parking ramps (=multilevel parking garage, in this case, not totally enclosed), and street meters for short term parking. The parking lot has a drop off circle, although taxis use the front street. Despite the limited number of parking places, I've never seen every one in use simultaneously. UPDATE: This has unfortunately changed. Expect to pay $15 per night for inconvenient garage parking. See post below for more details.

    Room service is delivered from a sushi (and more) restaurant across the street. The lobby has the standard aloft market for prepared foods and a bar which is sometimes lively but sometimes empty. UPDATE: There's no longer a room service menu in rooms, from the sushi place or elsewhere, but the lobby has a booklet from a restaurant delivery outfit. I don't think they deliver alcohol.

    The hotel has a heated indoor pool which IIRC can also be used by residents in a condo building behind the hotel. There's a small health club. The standard outdoor courtyard area is less pleasant than in some alofts and seems to be filled with smokers and overflowing big ashtrays. The first floor has space for retail store(s), but the hotel has apparently had difficulty attracting tenants.

    There isn't a lot to say. This is a new aloft. It's fine but not exceptional.
     
  2. drdubs
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    drdubs Silver Member

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    I know this won't matter to most people in this forum, but I think it's worth noting that the event and meeting planning staff at this hotel are pretty unhelpful. We were looking to book a block of rooms for an event and schedule some meeting space and the staff was nearly impossible to reach and, when we did speak with them, they proved to be unwilling/able to help with our event.
     
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  3. MSPeconomist
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    That's surprising because they seem to do a fairly big special event business. I've noticed set-ups and groups using their function room, between the kid's play room with the thing that looks like a bowling lane at table height and the new trendy barber shop. Summer weekends seem to be filled with wedding groups.
     
  4. MSPeconomist
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    SOME ANNOYANCES:

    The only ice machine is located on the lobby level, hidden to the left just before you go through the double glass doors to the health club and pool areas.

    Most of the food in their market doesn't have prices indicated.

    There are no stoppers in the sinks, so that you can't fill the basin with water.

    Shampoo (combined with conditioner) and shower gel are only in dispensers in the showers. I always wonder how sanitary and tamper-proof these big containers are.

    "What have you forgotten" items (toothbrush and tooth paste, etc.) are in lobby display cases in fancy kits that are very expensive.

    No newspapers.

    PARKING used to be free and easy here, but now a big bunch of spaces are reserved for the new fancy barber shop, even when they're not open, and staff seem to grab some of the few remaining spaces. People had been parking with abandon under the no parking and fire zone signs (which were former parking spaces), but now there's a sign at the front desk warning people not to do it and front desk staff try to sell parking at $15 per day. Now it's much harder to stop for a drink or meet a hotel guest unless you tell them to stand at the door and wait for your car.
     
  5. MSPeconomist
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    A NICE PLAT BENEFIT: Coffee (and other hot beverages) in the lobby market area are free 24/7 for Plat guests. This is in addition to the coffee makers in rooms, where housekeepers seem willing to give out extra coffee supplies, beyond the one cup of coffee and one cup of decaf provided per room.

    Also, the staff seems to be proactive at giving rooms with the best views (of a park and the replacement to the bridge that collapsed a few years ago--you can't see the water in the river from the hotel) to SPG elites. At night you can see the blue lights on the bridge and the matching blue lighted columns in the memorial to those who were killed when the I-35W bridge collapsed. Unfortunately, there's an empty lot in the foreground and less desirable rooms either look into the associated condo building or front on a busy street (Washington Avenue). The best rooms are top floor (fifth) with even numbers and far from the elevator. The rooms that I've seen do have in-room safes.
     
  6. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I recently stayed at this property and wrote a review for my blog. I copied and pasted it here and removed most of the photos since I'm limited to five. Overall a good stay, not spectacular though.

    A few weeks ago I found myself being shipped off to Minneapolis for a five-day business trip. While some might not be thrilled with the destination, I’m actually a big fan of the city. A stroll through the wonderful parks along the Mississippi River or jogging across the Stone Arch Bridge over St. Anthony Falls are two great ways to spend a summer evening. There are even a few restaurants in the Minneapolis downtown core that I really enjoy.

    Typically when I stay in Minneapolis for work I have booked the W Hotel at Foshay Tower. The government rate was not available at the W this time around though, nor was it available at any of the other Starwood properties near the W. The only Starwood hotel offering a government rate just happened to be the Aloft Minneapolis, located a bit east of the downtown center in the Mill District. I’d never stayed at an Aloft property and watching to broaden my brand loyalty horizons a bit I figured I would give it a shot.

    LOCATION

    The Aloft Minneapolis is located on Washington Avenue, which was difficult for me to access when coming from the airport in a rental car. I ended up shooting past my exit since it wasn’t clearly marked and had to make a winding u-turn in order to get back to where I needed to be. Unfortunately the Aloft Minneapolis does not have a parking lot for guests. While there is a parking garage located directly across the street, I found parking in the lot to be less than satisfactory. While the daily rate wasn’t too high ($8), since the garage is affiliated with the nearby Guthrie Theater, they add an additional $8 surcharge on nights when there was a “special event”. Perhaps it was just bad luck, but I had to pay the surcharge 3 out of 4 nights parking at the facility.

    The hotel’s location in the Mill District is a mixed bag. It has excellent access to the Guthrie Theater and the parks lining the Mississippi River. The Stone Arch Bridge and Saint Anthony Falls are less than a 10 minute walk from the hotel. One thing I did not like about the Mill District was that restaurants seemed to be woefully lacking. There were dining options available, but being so close to the Guthrie meant that the prices were aimed at diners who were out for a fancy evening. Since the Aloft does not have an extensive dining menu (no room service or restaurant, only a small grab-n-go), I ended up having to get food delivered in the evening 50% of my stay.

    SERVICE

    This was going to be my first stay at a Starwood property with SPG status. While I have enjoyed Starwood properties for years, I never invested in their loyalty programs. As I mentioned in my Best Western Coconut Waikiki review, I have been dabbling with hotel loyalty for most of 2012. Armed with status, I wanted to see if the experience would improve at all. Unfortunately I was not impressed with the service provided by the front desk at the Minneapolis Aloft. As soon as I walked up to the desk, the agent said, “If you’re trying to check-in, you probably can’t get a room. You know that we don’t allow check-ins till 3 PM, right?”
    Oh. Okay. So it’s going to start off like that, eh?

    I tried to remain friendly and handed over my credit card. She clicked away on her computer for a few moments and then said, “Well it looks like we have one room I could let you have right now, but that’s not our normal check-in time, just so you know….”

    I’ll take what I can get, but certainly a lackluster introduction to the Aloft brand.
    The staff, fortunately, was much more helpful and friendly during the rest of my stay. Each morning when I walked out to my car on my way to work I was greeted with a smile and cheerful “Good morning.” Check-out was smooth and quick, and the desk agent made sure to wish me a safe flight and asked if I needed a cab to the airport.

    The Aloft Minneapolis skips any efforts to have a restaurant and instead has a grab-n-go concept area called Re:Fuel. Think of the refrigerated area of your local Walgreens/CVS/Rite Aid which features prepared sandwiches, salads, and other snack foods. That’s exactly what this looks like. A few sandwiches, salads, and granola bars thrown in with a small selection of drinks. In the morning, hot sandwiches on english muffins are offered, kept hot wrapped in foil on a warming plate. Overall, it was convenient and the food was up to par for what you’d expect from this type of set up.

    ROOM

    The concept of the room seemed to be “loft living” in a modern city setting. There were lots of blonde wood finishes, stainless steel, and playful light and dark color accents across the space. The fixtures in the bathroom looked very modern. The space was open though I felt like there could have been a bit more lateral space.

    [​IMG]

    Immediately on your left when you enter the room is the closet and bathroom space. The closet is not enclosed, rather it’s a set of shelves/cubby holes built into the back of the bed’s head board. Two spaces are available at the bottom for holding shoes. Behind the curtain you will find an area to hold a suitcase (standard carry-on size, probably not ideal for anything larger) as well as a few clothes hangers. This area also holds the in-room safe, coffee/tea making amenities, and a magazine rack.

    The bathroom vanity area is opposite of the closet/storage space. The mirror was large and wrapped around slightly onto the side of the wall. Directly under the vanity was a small refrigerator as well as a hair dryer. The white counter top was spacious and the raised sink basin was a nice aesthetic touch. In practice I found the sink basin rather problematic though. The faucet was perfectly fine for pour water into the bowl, however, if you wanted to stick something under the spigot (to wash your hands or a cup/toothbrush) the space was very tight and you often found yourself bumping into the basin walls. Form over function, and it was rather annoying.

    [​IMG]

    The bathroom/shower area was set up nicely. The towel rack was located directly over the toilet and was well stocked with clean towels. Sadly the wallpaper application next to the shower was already peeling off, which indicated to me that either it was thrown together rather shoddily or the materials used for this low-budget version of the W brand was indeed low-budget.

    [​IMG]

    The shower was spacious and typical of what you’d find in many hotels of this category. One of the nice features about the shower is that the wall section facing the shower head was made of frosted plastic. This meant that taking a shower in the morning when the sun was rising or right after work when the sun was going down bathed you in a golden light and almost left you with the impression that you were showering outdoors. One of the nicest features of the room were the bath amenities. They were similar to the W Hotel products since they were from the Bliss Spa line. The last time I was at a W Hotel the products were lemon & sage scented. I am not sure this is still the case, but the Aloft scent was marine (as in the sea, not the armed forces). I’m a big fan of ocean-scented products, so this was a big plus in my book.

    [​IMG]

    Despite the modern features some of the fixtures in the room were decidedly retro. Pieces in the room such as the clock or some of the linens definitely had a bit of the “throw back” appeal one can find in many things these days.

    The bed, overall, was comfortable. The air conditioning unit blew cold air directly onto the bed, which made for some chilly nights. I wasn’t able to find a happy medium in terms of temperature settings, so I ended up deciding that I’d rather be a little cold than a little hot.

    [​IMG]

    The desk area was where I spent most of my awake time while in the room, and it served me well. The three things I really look for in a desk are a comfortable chair, spacious area for my laptop and other tech toys, and plentiful outlets to charge everything. This desk scored in all three areas, which meant I was perfectly happy while browsing travel websites, sending work emails, or updating my little corner of the blogosphere.

    The room also had a multimedia box that allows the more tech savvy traveler to utilize the television to display media from other devices. Unfortunately I can hardly type, let along hook up my devices to a television, so this went unused but seemed like a nice feature for those who are more up to date with technology. I simply used it as a stand for my iPhone and iPad.

    Next to the desk was a small couch which was visually nice but practically served absolutely no purpose. It was situated directly across from the bed, so unless you happened to be laying down the set up for a visitor trying to have a conversation with you was awkward. It would have been much better against the far wall that had nothing on or against it except a single picture.

    To cap things off, the room did have a nice view of downtown Minneapolis.

    GUEST SERVICES

    WiFi at this property is free and very fast. I didn’t have any connection issues, and my devices all synced back into the network when I returned to the hotel.

    The gym featured only a small number of machines (one stairmaster, two treadmills, and a bicycle if I recall correctly), as well as one weight resistance machine. Free weights were also available and mats were laid out for stretching and other types of exercise. Towels were provided, spray to clean off equipment, as well as cold water.

    I did not use the pool though each day when I went to the gym after work at least one family with children seemed to be utilizing it. The W XYZ bar seemed very trendy, but I didn’t see many people drinking there during my stay and unlike many of the reviews on TripAdvisor, I did not find the music troublesome at all.

    OVERALL

    The Aloft Minneapolis is a solid offering from Starwood. The location is not ideal due to the odd parking situation, but there is the added bonus of being so close to the Guthrie Theater as well as the natural trails and parks along the Mississippi river. The rooms are comfortable and modern, though the concept of “loft” living means that some of the features are much nicer to look at than they are to use. The service from the staff started off a bit rocky but recovered immediately after and was friendly and helpful for the remainder of my stay. I still prefer the W Foshay Tower when it comes to Starwood properties in Minneapolis, and for my next business trip I would consider testing out the Westin before coming back to the Aloft. However, should the Aloft be my only choice, I wouldn’t be disappointed to book another stay at this property.

    GRADE B-
     
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  7. MSPeconomist
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    Unless there's been a recent change, the lobby bar offers a limited food menu in the evening. Also, IIRC "room service" is provided by deliveries from the sushi place across Washington Avenue. There are some advertising brochures near the stacks of newspapers in the lobby that provide menus for a number of other restaurants that deliver.

    There are fewer restaurants in the Mill City neighborhood than downtown, uptown, etc. but IMO there is a variety, at different price points. In addition to Sea Change in the Guthrie (which has a bar menu and IIRC fixe prix offerings at certain times), there are several restaurants run by the Guthrie upstairs that you can access without theater tickets, Spoonriver across the street, and Sanctuary across Washington Avenue, plus (slightly less upscale and not recommended) Spill the Wine on Washington near I-35W. On Saturday morning, you can eat well at the Mill City Market food stands and food truck (a local legend). In additon, you can find Thai (IIRC across from Spoonriver), a large Indian restaurant on Washington (also Spaghetti Factory in the area), a new Japanese place, and the restaurant and bar in the Renaissance at the Depot. There's a pizza place that delivers in the next building along Washington Avenue, which also has a good wine store (free tastings every Friday and Saturday), and a deli-grocer, although you can get much better pizza delivered, for example by Pizza Luce (gourmet, including vegetarian and vegan choices) in several locations around Minneapolis, including downtown.

    You can use the aloft's free shuttle van service, which operates until fairly late every evening, to go to downtown restaurants or, if so inclined, you can borrow a bike from the Minneapolis program responsible for the distinctive lime green ones that you see throughout downtown.
     

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