Two you never wanted together: purple is being swallowed by big maroon. With Marriott and Starwood exchanging nuptials, I combine them in a 2015 wrap.
Sheraton has a plan to revamp.
Prior to the Starwood acquisition, Marriott acquired South Africa’s Protea and in 2015 their South African properties joined Marriott Rewards, with other African countries slowly coming online. Large variance among Protea properties, compare Cape Town’s African Pride Crystal Towers to Namibia’s Protea Hotel Long Beach, both of which I stayed at in October. The room mood lighting at Crystal Towers sends a clear message to any roommates or visitors.
Canada’s Delta was the next acquisition, a fittingly dowdy brand of unremarkable midrange business hotels and some resorts. It will be brought to the US, starting in Orlando, to confuse customers with the airline, allowing Marriott Rewards to devalue and have customers blame Delta out of reflex.
What havoc will come in 2016? Maybe not much until 2017 if the Protea and Delta timelines are any indication. No word yet on what will become of SPG. I am glad I never was a Mon-Thu consultant busting my hump for SPG Lifetime Platinum.
Good economy, weak promotions for both. Marriott hardly tried in 2015, Starwood had some interesting targeted offers.
My Marriott and Starwood:
I stay in Marriott’s for business when no other chains are available. I have Marriott Gold from my United status, get it if you haven’t.
I had a few business stays at AC Hotels in Spain. One of those low-service, ‘contemporary’ Euro brands with soap dispensers in the bathroom and few benefits for Marriott elites (no free breakfast). I stayed at one on a beach by Barcelona Airport ahead of a meeting. I checked in late at night, wanted a clothes iron and was told the housekeeping had the key and she was gone for the night. In Europe, if you want to iron, request in advance.
For leisure we stayed at the Residence Inn Auburn, Maine on a lobster weekend, a state with few chain hotels. We had certs to burn and my mother-in-law was with us so the living room/foldout bed worked when the upgrade to 2-bedroom did not. The communal fire pit allows guests to waft the scents of their bare feet in through the room windows.
The low drop ceiling panels in the gym can be removed to use the elliptical.
Of their brands, I enjoy Residence Inn for the spacious rooms, residential feel, and unhip happy hour. Too bad points earn 50% compared to their non-extended stay brands.
I have Starwood Gold from my Amex Platinum.
Most of my Starwood stays this year were in China at a collection of fine hotels. The chains always do better in Asia.
I rarely use my Starwood points for award nights, the points earn so slowly and the nights always feel overpriced. Egypt was an except where the Cairo hotels were surprisingly high for cash rates in January due to a national holiday and I used them at the Le Méridien Heliopolis when I had an overnight layover and at Le Méridien Pyramids, which I chose over the Hilton because this was walkable to the pyramids.
I felt sad for every employee at the empty Sheraton Luxor Resort, which was almost paying people to stay. The executive lounge had a beautiful spread and forlorn waiter, with only me to attend.
I did have on at the Aloft in Bentonville, Arkansas. I don’t know how they do it, on the evening of Memorial Day Monday they had trendily-dressed women playing pool in the lobby. My wife, who was flying back to NY that evening, saw the in-room stiff bench in lieu of a sofa and scoffed, “They want to be hip and uncomfortable?”
Readers, what are your Marriott and Starwood experiences in 2015?