I travel to Houston for business regularly, but I always stay at the same haunts. On this trip, I needed to unexpectedly stay over the weekend and decided to shop around. I found a tremendous rate from the JW Marriott Houston and wanted to review something new. An excellent location, recently remodeled rooms and a five-star staff made this my new favorite hotel in the Galleria area.
In the heart of Houston’s Galleria area and directly across from the massive mall of the same name, the JW is on Westheimer. It’s perfectly situated and is as close to the mall as you can get (along with the restaurants and shops surrounding) as you can get with the exception of the two Westin properties directly attached to the mall. Yes there are two, yes they are both branded Westin, yes that’s very confusing if you are staying at one of them.
One true test for a property positioned towards the very top of the Marriott hierarchy is an expected service level. It comes from small touches like, “My pleasure” and assuming they can accommodate your request instead of assuming it will be unreasonable.
I was greeted by name throughout my stay by anyone with whom I would have exchanged it. The morning of checkout, one front desk staff member was back at work after checking me in the previous night and he asked, “How are you today, Mr. Stewart?” That’s top tier guest treatment in my book.
Staff was cheerful throughout the property from housekeeping to management. It was a stark contrast to the exchange I had at another area property where the managers and valet staff were politely abrasive.
The outside of the building is a brown brick structure and recalls hotels of the late 1980s and early 1990s so my hopes for an updated room were vanishing as I pulled up.
I was surprised by how well the room had been updated. There was an understated, clean luxury feel to the room that was otherwise unremarkable. The bed was comfortable, there were plenty of plugs throughout the room in important places as well as direct USB ports for easy charging.
The desk was enough for two laptops but it would have been tight. I was at the property over a weekend so there was no reason to get out my second laptop and test it out.
There were some luxurious touches in the bathroom. The backlit mirror isn’t necessarily unique to premium brands but is appreciated. The touch I personally like is the soft rug in front of the vanity (not pictured). It makes it feel more like home, and that staff are thinking about the overall experience.
The shower is not over a tub, five points to the JW for that one and surprising given the age of the hotel. The subway tile lined shower featured two sprayers, one handheld, and one fixed though a rain shower head would have been an upgrade. There was a step for those who want to shave their legs, a feature not lost on me as I often travel with my family.
As I was in residence over a weekend, the Concierge lounge was closed and I was notified of this in advance. I can’t comment on the lounge itself, nor the breakfast, but as a Gold (nearly Platinum) I was offered breakfast in the South Coast Grill.
I was greeted by Marva who first checked my room number. Usually at other hotels, once they see my breakfast is free I get a litany of conditions to my breakfast “You can have this, you can’t have that” etcetera.
Marva turned that model on its head and was awesome. She thanked me for my loyalty and my business, asked where I’d like to sit, positioned the table and removed extra settings. She then asked me to join her walking around the buffet and showing me all the options with her personal recommendations.
Sometimes elites are treated like leeches too cheap to pay for breakfast (when in reality it is their continued business that is so essential to the bottom line for many hotels). I had that exact experience at the Hyatt Regency Houston on this trip. It’s refreshing to be appreciated the first thing in the morning.
Lita was my server and she was also amazing. She and Marva had both recommended the waffle so I made an effort to get it. I also ate a little of something from almost every part of the buffet – for research purposes only.
Lita insisted I try some of their homemade salsa, and it lived up to her hype. I put it on my omelet which was expertly made. Something I really enjoy about JW Marriott properties are that each one offer a regional omelet choice featuring local ingredients (though the JW Marriott Bangkok was out of ingredients for theirs). In Houston, this was a southwestern style and it was excellent.
I was also really happy to see fresh fruit, though the orange juice was boxed. Lita asked me a question which I get sometimes but not often.
“Are you one of those travel bloggers?”
What makes you think that?
“Well we get a lot of people in here taking pictures of food, but usually they are ‘Instagram-ing’ from their phones. You’re using a camera.”
Fair enough Lita. I snapped a picture of the scene at breakfast and find it hard not to laugh at how ridiculous my table was setup.
On the fifth floor the pool and fitness center are spread out over a massive area. There are tons of elliptical machines, treadmills, free weights, even a small room that appears designed for classes and yoga. There was someone in there at the time so I didn’t get a photo of that room.
Perhaps the most impressive part was that the pool was indoor/outdoor. The pool had an opening where you could swim underneath the barrier but it wasn’t strictly encouraged. By some miracle, the gym didn’t have a heavily chlorinated smell. This let’s northerners like myself sit happily outside at the pool in January when the outdoor temperature is just 75 degrees and feels like summer to me, but also allows those more accustomed to heat, an option to swim in the winter without braving the “chilly” temperatures.
I shopped the hotel both on the weekend and during the week. My Saturday night price was just $132 (before tax and valet) though it climbed to about $190 when everything was factored in. Still, the price was cheaper than the Hyatt Place down the street and even than other limited service hotels by Marriott in the area. I found it to be a tremendous value, and I would pick it over the Hyatt Regency as well which demanded $266/nt ($330+ with valet and taxes).
During the week, the cash rates were closer to $220-230/nt and I think that’s a fair rate for the area and the property. I am still too new to Marriott to comment on the points per night value and didn’t shop it for my visit. I welcome opinions on the properties value from experienced Marriott guests in the comments
I’ll be back to the hotel if the price is right and justifiable for business purposes.
Have you stayed at the JW Marriott Houston? How do think it compares to other Houston hotels?