I stayed at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers about 5 years ago for a bachelorette party. I had booked the room on Priceline and remember being extremely impressed with the quality and location of the hotel, considering the price I had paid.
I returned to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers in July 2009 for a much different reason and walked away with a much different impression.
My most recent experience with the Chicago Sheraton started several months ago when I booked a room to attend a blogging conference that was being hosted at the hotel. I was thrilled to hear about a “reduced” conference rate and happily made my reservation and paid my deposit by phone with no problems.
And then I started getting emails confirming my deposit. Several of them. I checked my bank account online and found that, yes, my credit card had been charged numerous times – with credits back to my account made in between the various charges.
I wasn’t overcharged. I was, however, a little concerned that the Sheraton seemed to be confused about how to properly bill a credit card. You hope for a little more competence and confidence when you’re about to hand over several hundred dollars to a major corporation.
However, seeing as how I wasn’t actually overcharged, I put the issue out of my mind and went about making the rest of my preparations for the conference.
I arrived at the hotel by cab and was met inside the beautiful lobby by no line at a fully staffed registration desk. The hotel seemed to be properly prepared for a busy weekend in their fully (over)booked property. Check in went quickly, once I clarified that the other name they had on my reservation was incorrect.
And then had a minor panic attack about whether or not I had just inadvertently left another conference attendee with no room for the night.
(I hadn’t. I still have no idea WHY they had this other person’s name on my reservation, but she checked into a room of her own later in the day with no problems.)
I made my way from the lobby to my room by way of the express elevators. With 32 floors in the towers, I was grateful to find I would only need to navigate half of them every time I went to and from my room. I also got a little kick out of the head rush from the extremely fast elevator ride.
I was staying in a standard guest room with two double beds. I was a little disappointed to discover how small the room and bathroom felt upon entering it and hauling all of my luggage inside. I was slated to share this room with three other women, and I was having a difficult time imagining sharing the space with even one other person. I would have probably preferred to ditch the desk in exchange for a little more floor (and breathing) room.
And, yes, I realize that the room was designed for double occupancy. But I have crammed four women in a two double bed hotel room several times before with much more comfort than the Sheraton rooms provided. The room and bathroom felt smaller than most hotel rooms I’ve stayed in.
Despite the size, the rooms were beautifully appointed, clean, and fresh. (No threadbare carpets or worn out bed linens here!)
Because I was there for a blogging conference, one of the first things I unpacked was my laptop. Part of our conference rate included free wifi in our rooms and I was eager to plug back into the matrix for a moment. Except that the wifi sucked.
I finally gave up and PAID to plug in to the internet via an ethernet cord.
Shortly after unpacking and getting my online fix, I made my way back downstairs to the hotel bar. The drinks were expensive, which I expected, but the service was excellent. This was a theme that would continue throughout my stay. Every employee I encountered offered me a smile and an eagerness to help in any way they could.
The lounge area offered ample space for small groups of people to talk, and although the area was full for most of the weekend, it was never too loud to enjoy your conversation. The seating was extremely comfortable and the area was obviously designed with the idea that this would be a place where people would spend time relaxing during their visit.
Later that night I enjoyed a meal at Shula’s Steak House on the main level of the hotel. Again, the prices were what you’d expect from an upscale restaurant inside a Chicago hotel, but the service was of the caliber that you almost forgot the damage you were doing to your bank balance. Sadly, the steak itself was mediocre – but the Oysters Rockefeller were to die for.
Stuffed from my meal and drunk on good conversation, I finally made my way back upstairs to my room for bed late into the night.
And then the bed tried to swallow me whole.
Holy softness. I appreciate that some people prefer a softer bed than I do. Really. But the beds at the Sheraton were ridiculously soft. Too soft. I heard other people complain about them all weekend long. The beds were soft enough to become a topic of conversation at an internet conference. I spent every night trying to ignore the fact that I felt like I was sleeping on an incline and desperately trying not to roll downhill into the great abyss created by my body weight.
I managed to get a few solid hours of sleep before the first morning of my conference.
The Sheraton is set up perfectly for an extensive conference like the one I attended. There are several rooms of various sizes that are easy to get to via elevator and escalator. I never felt like I was lost in a maze of hallways or that any place I needed to get to was too far from where I was at the time. The conference made use of everything from a small meeting room meant for 100 or less people to a large ballroom that held over 1500 people.
What the Sheraton was not designed for was an Internet conference or any conference where the participants are going to want to access the internet during their stay. Or their cell phones.
I have an iPhone and spent the majority of my weekend searching for a signal of any kind. The wireless internet was spotty at best and even the cell phone coverage seemed to disintegrate the instant you walked into the hotel.
WiFi Fail, to say the least.
That was my biggest complaint about my stay at the Sheraton. As someone traveling for a blogging conference, it was a serious issue for me and I would seriously consider any tech groups rethink using the Sheraton for business.
However, the hotel itself was beautiful and well laid out. The location is perfect for enjoying Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier and Lake Michigan. The staff was friendly and accommodating. I would highly recommend this hotel as a home base if you plan to visit Chicago in the winter, when the financial and shopping district are bedazzled in tiny, white Christmas lights.
But don’t expect to get online while you’re there.
(And considering bringing a board if you have a bad back.)
Photos Credit: MissHeathyrm