It's very misleading for me to give this hotel a 3 star rating because, while there are some things about this hotel that are average (and I'll probably hit those up front) the vast majority of them are either very very good, or simply spectacularly bad. To use academic parlance, the "C" grade in this hotel's case is more an average of As and Fs more than a lot of Cs.
Physical appearance. The common spaces (except the elevators) are elegant and well maintained. The rooms are substantially more dated. Other reviewers have noted the pink tiles from the 1970s in the bathrooms so I'll simply echo those here (though to me the larger issue is the fact that there are bathtubs at all; when are these hotels going to realize that no one has used these four foot long, eighteen inch wide tubs to take a bath since 1973?! Replace the darn things with walk in showers already). The beds are firm and acceptable, but the pillows are tiny and old and need replacing. Other Renaissance properties (e.g. downtown Miami) have taken rooms of similar size and completely redesigned them with much larger bathrooms and smaller bedroom areas with much more modern furniture, lighting etc. This property is in dire need of such an upgrade.
Staff. Nowhere in my experience was the "either an A+ or a total F" feeling more appropriate than when it came to the staff. On the plus side, the front desk staff was very polite, attentive, quick to follow up and just generally excellent at demonstrating that they'd been well trained in offering a better customer experience (these folks really are just one small step short of Ritz Carlton in quality). Similarly, the housekeeping staff was excellent. Conversely, the maintenance and food service staffs should almost universally be let go and replaced. If I were made the hotel manager tomorrow, my very first act would be to fire the maintenance manager. One of the "epic fails" during my stay had to do with the climate controls in the room (which I notice now other reviewers have complained about). This hotel in general is *freezing* cold (which was incidentally the number one complaint of attendees of our conference there). At this point in my career, I'm frankly used to these conference center hotels being kept, all year round, cold enough to hang meat in, but most at least have the ability to warm your room. When I could not get warm air from the vent system, the front desk sent a maintenance engineer to my room, who informed me that the heating coils were very small and that there was nothing he could really do. And then he said, "this is really a summer hotel." So basically, if it's 110 outside and you need a hotel that excels at cold, this may be your place ... if it's winter, don't stay here unless you want to sleep in your winter coat (and bring your winter coat!).
The food services for the conference was yet another "A or F" situation. The breakfasts offered by the hotel were beyond pathetic (think worse than a Holiday Inn Express). Conversely the lunches were quite good, and the one person I would NEVER fire here is their dessert chef (decidedly not low fat offerings, but very very good). But the food service staff was dismissive, rude and truly inconvenienced by having to serve our group (for example, when I was asked if I would care for coffe and I said, "yes, decaf please" the staff person actually rolled her eyes at me before going to get me a pot with decaf).
Internet and entertainment. The Internet was *highly* problematic for our conference, but again, was either an A or an F. In our rooms and in the conference areas in the main hotel, it was generally fine, in the building next door, despite having full signal, the speed was either horriffic or non-existent. Internet was included in our room fee for our conference, and it's a good thing it was because if I had paid for this service I would have either had to run to run back to my room every half hour or been demanding my money back. The TV options were also a mix. On the one hand, we had the benefit of channels like NHK and the NFL Network, but no Comedy Central or Bloomberg.
Fitness. Here is the other truly "epic fail" of my stay. I'm a swimmer and, due to back surgery, it's my primary means of working out. I choose hotels based in part on the ability to swim laps. This hotel has an indoor pool that's 45 feet long (15 yards, so a 30 yard lap, basically a 60 lap mile ... not great but not awful). The problem was stepping into the pool and finding it freezing cold. When I asked the maintenance man (who had just walked in) to check the temperature, he reported that it was 74 degrees, colder than pools are kept for *Olympic* competition, much less for normal business travelers wanting to swim lap. When I complained to the front desk, they said it was hotel policy to keep the pool at 78 (which is frankly still too cold for most recreational swimmers but I could manage it) and that she would look into it. Not sure how many days that took, but three days later it was between 75 and 76. The bottom line point here was that before I mentioned the problem it was clear by observation that no one as either checking or cared (BTW, the outdoor pool is half the size and totally unusable for exercise). The fitness center is OK but indequate in size (three treadmills, one of which was broken, two bikes, some weight equipment ... nice room but too small for the dozen or so people standing around waiting to work out on a couple of the mornings between 6:30am and 8).
Bottom line; if I had paid about 1/3 less than I did for my room, I wouldn't be as disappointed ... but even at our conference rate I felt like it wasn't a particularly good value overall ... and our rate was evidently $100/night LESS than the normal rate (which apparently starts at $250 ... and at that rate, I would have checked out after one night ... though again, in fairness, in looking around this area, ALL the properties in this area are wildly overpriced for what they deliver). Unfortunately, unless I came back here to TripAdvisor and found that the climate control in the rooms was fixed, that the pool temperature was being regularly kept at about 80-82, that the fitness center was expanded and maintenanced, and that the entire maintenance and food service staffs had been overhauled, I probably would not stay here again and, as a member of our organization's Board, I would vote against returning to this location when we come back to Austin in two more years.
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