By way of background, I'd read raves about the Elysian (the name of this hotel before Hilton took it over), and in 2012 suggested to a colleague that he and his wife check it out during a weekend trip they'd planned to Chicago. They loved it, and couldn’t say enough about it.
I paid $450/night (room rate plus taxes) for an Astoria suite, but as an HHonors gold member was upgraded to the Luxury Suite.
My partner and I chose to stay at the Waldorf Astoria (the new name for the Elysian since the property was sold to Sam Zell and Hilton took over the management of it) during our Christmas visit. We were there for four nights this week.
We arrived very early, and found out that our suite had been upgraded to a "Luxury Suite" but they needed time to finish prepping it. Completely understandable, as we got there in the morning. Upon returning we were given keys and were informed our luggage was waiting for us in the room; we made our way upstairs.
The suite was very cleanly decorated, very sleek, and highly functional. The B&W speakers in the bedroom worked with my iPhone, wireless access was complimentary with no passcode required, Ferragamo toiletries were provided, the fireplace was a wonderful touch, the room rates include long-distance telephone calls within the USA(!), the views terrific (we were on a high floor, and could see all the way to Lake Michigan between the One Mag Mile and 900 North Michigan Ave. buildings) from the bedroom windows as well as the balcony, and the service mostly exemplary. I called down to ask that all the drinks and shelves for the refrigerated minibar be removed (I like to stock the fridge with things I like when I'm in hotels), and someone was up in under five minutes. Additional pillows were delivered promptly. There is a small fleet of Lexus automobiles to drop off guests within a two-mile radius of the hotel. Solid training is clearly given; when I called the hotel to ask if they could do pick up, the person who answered the phone let me know that it was only a drop-off service (which makes sense - this is a hotel, not a limo company, etc.) without having to transfer the call to another department.
Three niggling observations of where they can improve:
1) I'm a weirdo in that I curl up into a ball when I go to bed, and wrap the covers under my body. In almost all hotels (In the USA I'm mostly a Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt customer) housekeeping makes the bed by tucking in the top sheets, meaning that I have to pull them out, which means the bottom sheet comes out with it, and then I have to tuck in the bottom sheet again. This was fine when I was 30, but now I'm a number of years older and it's killer on the back. Night one, I dealt with it. Night two, after the bed was made, I dealt with it but called the service desk to ask that the top sheets (the bed top consists of sheet, comforter, sheet, with the “bottom” top sheet tucked in) not be tucked in, as that would spare housekeeping, as well as me, needless back strain, and I was assured this could be accommodated. Night three, I noticed that it was not accommodated so called down again. This time I was told that the person to whom I spoke would contact housekeeping personally to make sure night four was rectified. Night four rolled around and it was only partially right - the top sheet was tucked in from about the middle of the bed all the way around the bottom and half way up the other side. I would suggest to the Waldorf Astoria Chicago that this is a particularly easy request to accommodate. I was not asking for a tree from the tundra, or a koala from the Sydney zoo. I was asking for the top sheet to remain untucked.
2) The beds are kind of "springy" and you may want to test some of them out...
3) A slightly bigger deal: Am I supposed to tip or not? I asked someone early on if the strict no tipping policy was still in place, and was told that "No tipping is expected" in reply. Which seems altogether ambiguous. Either the "strict no tipping policy is in place," or tipping is at every guest's discretion, which would, frankly, put it in line with every other hotel. So, Waldorf Astoria Chicago manager (you seem to read a lot of these reports), could you clarify the hotel's position on tipping? I'm not opposed to it - I was born and raised in the USA and have no problem navigating tipping customs, however a clear statement on whether or not this old Elysian policy is still in place would be helpful. One of the things that attracted me to the property was the lack of nickel-and-diming, and all the rules were laid out. I appreciated the 18% gratuity automatically being added to the restaurant bill and explained clearly, as it took so much of the “thinking” out of the stay.
So, all told, the Waldorf should be giving the Peninsula (I've not stayed there), The Ritz (I've stayed there), Four Seasons (I've stayed there), and Park Hyatt (I've stayed there) a good run for their money, and I hope this property keeps up their standards (and please fix the bed tucking thing and clarify the tipping!). Overall this was one of the most memorable stays I’ve had in any Chicago hotel.