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By David Small

 

Form Over Substance

In the 90’s classic Clueless, Tai, played by our sadly lost talent, Brittany Murphy, asked, “Do you think she’s pretty?” Cher Horowitz (the protagonist memorably played by Alicia Silverstone) responded “No, she’s a full-on Monet.” Tai asked “What’s a Monet?” Cher clarified “It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s okay, but up close it’s a big old mess.” Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown West is beautiful, but somewhat of a big old mess.

Tom Xavier is chief operating officer of the Endeavor Hospitality Group, the ownership group of the Courtyard by Marriott Midtown West.  He agreed in a post stay conversation that the palette needed revamping.

Xavier shared with me, “This is an article I will keep and refer back to, it is truly helpful and is done with some humor, but is also factual. I prefer to read these types of pieces. Not a chore…entertainment with helpful, useful information.  We now have an opportunity to learn from the situation, make corrections, improve training, and ultimately improve the guest experience.”

He also invited readers to contact his hotel staff before arrival, to ensure the “painting” is complete.

“You encourage your readers to engage and communicate with the staff pre-arrival; that can be the answers to the test and should be viewed in that way,” Xavier told me.  “It’s like the prep before cooking…it’s all in the prep. It can make our jobs easier. We need to take advantage of the opportunity.”

I believe Xavier, and I encourage Marriott Bonvoy® members to see the “Monet,” touched up by Tom and his management staff.

The Marriott Courtyard Midtown West is a newer Marriott property, located in “hot” Hudson Yards in the midtown west area of Manhattan. The hotel, which offers 373 guest rooms and 26 suites, opened in November 2019, a less than ideal time to present itself as an affordable destination. Located at 461 West 34th Street, the 28-story hotel is smack in the middle of something I anticipate in the immediate: a tourist destination.

There is no doubt the Edge (the breathtaking platform view, delivering a protruding 100-stories-high observation deck, with a glass floor and 360-degree NYC views); the Vessel — a 16 story artistic structure presenting magnificent views rewarded by walking up 2,500 steps; and Hudson Yards Shopping Mall, invite a visit. Are these and other Hudson Yards attractions enough to warrant a stay that far west in the City? The prices and occupancy of condos, co-ops and rentals in the area confirm the area is “hot” for residents. At this point in the newly developed area’s trajectory, I look forward to more development to lure scalable tourism.

The hotel itself feels new and is very striking — presenting a Courtyard that looks more like a newer Westin or even a W property. The room appointments include Grohe fixtures, enclosed, glass showers, robes, and even a courtesy umbrella for a not perfect weather day. The 300 square foot room is on the average to slightly larger scale for an accommodation in Manhattan.

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The lobby and foyer projects sleek, modern — and not to be repetitive — “W-esque” decor, with more lighting than your typical W property. The greenery wall in the lounging area is accented by a unique and striking lighting fixture with bird silhouettes dropping from the ceiling, reminding me of my favorite drinking haunt in my hometown of Kansas City, the Monarch Bar (same lighting concept with butterflies).

This hotel can be booked using Marriott Bonvoy loyalty points.  For Marriott Bonvoy® members, the property is a Category 6. Award nights cost 40,000-60,000 Bonvoy® points per night  for a standard “Primary” king or two queens room.

Redemption valuation for a non-upgraded room may float between one example of a value of $.005 per point to a much higher example during very high occupancy of $.014 per point.  Through the Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) from Marriott, I secured a rate of $147 plus taxes and fees after matched to agoda.com and Marriott awarded a 25% discount.  The valuation for my rate was a very low $.002 per point.  The cash was so low — especially for a Manhattan property — that points redemption was not a question. 

Lobby at Marriott Courtyard Midtown West


And here is the “Monet,” as displayed currently.

I forgive minor snafus in the spirit of form over substance. The Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown West delivers a gorgeous property with the opportunity to offer a complete and inviting soft and hard product. Form has supplanted substance in some aspects of the soft product (service and customer experience).  General manager Robert Cole, who I corresponded with prior to my arrival, should embrace the standards of customer service that will elevate his Endeavor Hospitality-owned hotel to a wonderful combination of both the aesthetics as well as the warmth and caring that deliver a personality for his destination.

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Arrival at the front desk was hit and miss. I arrived late in the evening and sought an associate by peeking my head into the back room to request assistance. I was checked in and was assigned a room on the 15th floor. I booked a Premium King Room and was upgraded upon arrival to a Midtown King. The associate neglected to tell me upon check-in I was placed me in an accessible room. The first faux pas was the associate and the hotel did not ask or even inform me of the newly assigned accommodation, which did not match my original booking.

Lobby and front desk at the Courtyard Midtown West
The Courtyard’s welcoming Library

None of us want to return to the front desk — the hassle of the endeavor accompanied by the discomfort with even the kindest confrontation. 

I worked up my courage to return to the front desk to explain the issue, but I was informed all the king rooms were allocated. I could have checked in earlier using the mobile check-in to have assured the room that I booked, but I would note here that doing so often defaults to points as a welcome gift rather than the daily food and beverage credit.

Too Close for Comfort for Four


The silver lining of accepting the double queens Midtown non-accessible room was exploring the idea of a four person family staying at the Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown West. While 300 square feet is larger than many standard Manhattan rooms, it does not make for a family-friendly accommodation. The two queens spanned almost the entirety of the room.  

By this time, I was ready for bed. I would say that it was time for lights out, except that the over-desk lighting would not turn off. This required another dreaded call to the front desk, which I resigned myself to after pacing all 300 square feet three times. I was informed it is standard to move the coffee maker away from the desk wall to reveal the over desk lighting on/off switch. Standard? Hidden light switches behind coffee machines?

The following morning, I awoke to an email with my hotel portfolio. I had booked my room utilizing Marriott’s Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) at a rate of $147. Alas, my rate must have escaped during the night to another Gotham neighborhood. Over here in Hudson Yards, I was left with $269 plus fees and taxes for the one evening stay. I called down to the front desk and spent a fair amount of time gaining the correct rate for my BRG submission to Marriott.

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I packed up my clothes and sauntered down to the front desk to secure my revised portfolio. BRG for the win, as I walked out the door with my Manhattan rate of $147 plus taxes and fees, as well as a departure gift from the one of the hotel’s top executives, Tom Xavier.   He promised that future stays will grant an equally pleasing combination of form and substance.  

The Top of the World from The Edge


The Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown West and Hudson Yards are the new kids on the block (or 10th avenue). Are they ready for prime time? Not yet. Hudson Yards is still called the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. It is a work in progress. There are, however, hints of wonderful things to expect in the future.

The Edge, located at the 30 Hudson Yards building near 33rd Street and 10th Avenue, is one of those hints, and the experience is awe inspiring. Take the 52 second elevator ride to the 100th floor and rise to an elevation of 1,100 feet. We walked outside to the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere — a literal ledge jutting out from the side of the building — delivering almost never before seen views of Manhattan and beyond.

The magic of the Edge is the location on the western boundaries of the island. You are not in Midtown with so many buildings in your sight line that you cannot capture the entire, amazing New York City Skyline. The proximity of Hudson Yards allows an unencumbered view that paints the sky on a detailed and gorgeous canvas.

I have been to many amazing vantage points, including the Top of Rock, the Empire State Building, the top of the World Trade Center Towers, 230 5th, and more, and the Edge edges out the competition for the most meaningful view of the Big Apple.

David Small has a love affair with travel, and he “sees the world” through the eyes of his wife and children when they accompany him to destinations in the States and abroad.  He is a Marriott Bonvoy enthusiast who enjoys every brand offered – rewarded by the richness of each experience and the people involved at each property.

Small runs a national media company, and he previously managed airline points loyalty programs for Sprint — in partnership with United Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Midwest Express Airlines.