I clambered up the stairs with my luggage whilst two bell attendants chatted away. I entered the huge lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria and just like the exterior of the building, it was awesome. The spaciousness and the olde world charm of a bygone era hits you head on. The lobby seemed to open on to about three diffferent sections. In the main area where the registration, bell desk and concierge was there was a huge grandfather clock in the center of the room that was bellowing out Westminster type chimes on the quarter hour. The clock had been commissioned by the old Waldorf-Astoria and had been placed at the entrance to the hotel.
There was a line to the registration desk which I joined. There were quite a number of registration attendants at work and the line moved very quickly. Within a few minutes I was booking in. It was very efficient and courteous. I had requested a room with high speed Internet access and so I was advised my room was not ready, and if I could come back in two hours it would be then. This then changed to one hour and then 45 minutes without any prompting by me. I lodged my luggage with the Bell desk and went to check out Oscars the brasserie on the floor below. It was packed, and there was a line so I went out on to Lexington Avenue and scooted down the street until I could find one of these new eateries where you select from hot and cold dishes, and then pay about $5 or $6 a pound for the contents.
About an hour later I went back to the hotel and noted the person who had checked me in was off, so one of the bellmen suggested I wait at a different counter so as to avoid the line. I then received my keys to Room 1050 and the mini bar and the bellman offered to bring my luggage up later.
As I opened the door the room opened into a small entrance hall of about 10 feet and an average 6 feet wide. The room was of modern decor with faded lemon patterned wallpaper and bed coverings. The well decorated window opened up on to a view of one of the hotel building roofs and a building opposite. The elaborate multi-colored drapes were quite striking. The air conditioning unit was in the window sill below which had a laminated top. The work desk in the corner had a phone, InnFax and fast speed Internet access via Cais.com, a lamp and a phone. A major mahogany timber cabinet was against the wall and alongside the desk had a TV, coffee making facilities an extensive mini bar, together with two half drawers and two full drawers
The closet had an ordinary door which opened to a dressing and hanging room. A light automatically switched on when the door opened. The closet also contained an iron and ironing board, and a shelf with telephone books and extra pillows and blankets.
The queen size bed was of modern design, two prints were on the wall above, and alongside were two bedside cabinets with a series of drawers and lamps. One had a phone and one had a clock radio on top. At the end of the bed was a bed table which served as a luggage rack.
The bathroom was an adequate size with good bench space and excellent lighting, including a light over the bath/shower.
I connected my computer to the Cais high speed access however it didn't work. At this time I started to become acutely aware of loud rushing noises and rumbling which sounded like something was being moved either above or below me. It also sounded like planes flying overhead. I looked outside and saw nothing. This was very loud and continued on for about 15 minutes whilst I was trying to connect the computer. Having gotton quite frustrated about it, and the computer connection, I phoned Guest Services to ask if there was any major renovation going on. They said no and without any prompting offered me another room. With two major problems I agreed and went down to pick up keys for Room 1077. It appears all the high speed Internet access rooms were on the 10th floor. As I was transferring luggage (the hotel had offered to assist but it wasn't necessary) I noticed on the fire exit notice on the back of the entrance door a lay-out of the floor. Room 1050 backs directly on to an elevator bank of 3 lifts. Therein lay the problem. No doubt the hotel transfers guests from this room on a ritual-like basis. My concern would be for those guests that don't say anything and go away from the hotel with a very poor impression. Whether hotels should let rooms like this, especially hotels of this calibre with the rates they charge, is something management should address. It also reflects profiling of guests at registration, wherein the attendant booking someone in to this room would be aware of its defect but lets it go. I had requested a room with high speed Internet access so I was destined to the 10th floor (as I understand it). Anyway to Room 1077 which also opened into a (much smaller) hallway entrance (and a door to the adjacent room). The room itself was a bit smaller than 1050, the working desk was much smaller (six feet versus nine feet in length). It had the Inn fax on the table which took up more room, as did the phone and a lamp. With the compendium as well there was virtually no room to do anything. The bathroom was also smaller, and the bench space much more limited. The bathrooms in the hotel (in my experience now with two rooms) are very modern. There has been no attempt to even replicate the furnishings or fittings on the basis they may have been when the hotel was built. The tissue dispenser box was in a wall which I only discovered on the second day. The basis area was very limited and the guests amentities were packaged in a way you would expect a lesser stand hotel would package them. I was surprised the hotel did not have its own signature guest amentities rather than a product brand (Neurtogena). There was an old disused and rusty air-conditioning face in the wall under the window.
I attempted to connect to the Cais Internet access, but there was no sign-on procedure as set out in the instructions. I did connect to the internet but it was clearly not high speed. It was agonisingly slow. I attempted to connect to the providor to seek support, however www.overvoice.com was returning an error 404 notice and did so for the duration of my stay. I tried www.cais.com but it diverted to another site. I perservered with it and when I got my bill there was no charge so I didn't worry any further. The problem may well have been with the providor.
The hotel has an exceptional health and fitness facility which I unfortunately didn't get to check out. I did call in to the Bull and Bear Bar facing on to Lexington Avenue however it was full and overflowing so I ventured out into the street. I came across the Marriott East Side hotel on Madison Avenue and enjoyed a couple of drinks there, although the atmosphere was very subdued with only three other people in the bar area. I then wandered back to the hotel and went up to Sir Harry's Bar. This had been packed out when I went by earlier as well, no doubt full of parties meeting for the functsions being held in the hotel that night. I had one drink, a beer which cost about $7.50. The hotel also placed large bowls of mixed snacks and peanuts on the table.
I then went back to the Bull and Bear to the Steakhouse which adjoins the bar. This restaurant does resemble what it probably looked like when the hotel was built. Sir Harry's Bar also had some remnants of that bygone time. The steakhouse had an excelled atmosphere, was very busy and noisy and the staff strode backwards and forwards meeting their patrons needs. I was very well looked after. The Maitre' de passed me to the Captain to seat me, he said he had an absolutely excellent table for me. On arrival it seemed like an ordinary table in an ordinary location but so what. The waiter then brought out some hot rolls, some menus and iced water. I ordered the onion graitnee soup (French onion) ($7) and a charbroiled strip steak ($34). Sides of various vegetables, fries or mashed potato were each around $6 to $7.50. A glass of wine ranged from $10 to $14.
The food, service and presentation were unbeatable. The restaurant is a credit to the hotel. All of the food and beverage facilities in the hotel echo past times, good atmosphere and good service. When I got the bill after filling in the tip I noticed there were in fact places for two tips, one for the Waiter and one for the Captain. No problem but I thought you should know that.
Back at the room the hotel had provided a turndown service. This consisted simply of removing the bed coverings and turning down the top sheet. There was a time when there would be a good night note, a weather forecast for the next day, a thanks for staying with the hotel or a chocalate or two. These days are obviously gone and this is not a criticism of this hotel. It has gone from every hotel I have reviewed in recent years. With storage, packaging and distribution alongside the content cost the resultant charge on a hotels revenues could be around half to one per cent of the hotels accommodation revenue. When you look at the revenues of hotel chains like Hilton, which manages Waldorf-Astoria, it is not surprising to see these little extras disappear.
Checkout was by phone (zip service), video or the traditional method. I selected the video. My bill had been slipped under my door overnight. It was all done promptly and efficiently and I was away to my next hotel.
My overall impressions can be summed up by saying the hotel has a grandeur presence on the New York landscape, it has been around for a long time. It has an excellent reputation and even the US President stays here. The ground floor lobby area, boutique shopping arcade and the restaurants and bars all boast the early century feeling, decor and charm. The rooms are more of a contemporary feel and not exceptional. The bathrooms as I've said are completely modern and not all that spacious. This too is not necessarily a criticsm. When you stay at an old hotel the charm sometimes comes at the expense of other comforts. You cannot change the hotel structure, unless you spoil altogether what the hotel is about.
I've already commented on rooms such as 1050 so I won't say any more and I will have to check out the status of Cais rather than comment further on the internet access situation. The hotel charges high rates, reflective of its standing in New York City. To be frank I think it falls a little short of the mark..... but not by much.
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