We needed a four-night hotel stay in Portland for our long-long-weekend trip in early September. As a Marriott loyalist, there were quite a few hotels in town to choose from, but none stood out as the clear winner.
Compared to other places in the world, North American hotel markets seem to consistently charge more and deliver less. The cash rates tend to be relatively expensive, but the points rates are usually even more so, and the general quality of the rooms and service tends to be a step below what you’d find in Europe or Asia.
I found Portland to fit this pattern as well. For example, the Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront is a Category 6 property, which costs 50,000 Marriott points per night. With cash rates in the range of US$200-250 per night, that doesn’t represent good value for your points at all. It was the same story at the other properties in town, such as the Marriott Portland City Centre, The Nines (Luxury Collection), or The Hi-Lo Hotel (Autograph Collection).
In the end, I decided on the Downtown Waterfront property since it had just undergone a new round of renovations. I paid cash for the stay, and I then used Amex MR Select points from the Cobalt Card to offset the charge. Not the most spectacular use of points, but it beats redeeming Marriott points in this case, and (of course) it beats paying out-of-pocket.
The Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront is located at SW Columbia St and Pacific Highway W in Downtown Portland, a few blocks south of where the airport tram drops you off in the city. It was a beautiful day when we arrived in the City of Roses, so we made the 10-minute walk down to the hotel in the bright sunshine.
The hotel has a bleached white exterior and sits facing the waterfront of the Willamette River. You can access the hotel from the grand main entryway, or from one of the side exits on all four corners of the block.
As you enter, you pass by the hotel’s restaurant, Proof Reader – a casual eatery serving up locally-inspired food and channeling Portland’s vibrant bar culture.
The lobby is a decently sized space, although it was always extremely busy with guests when we were passing through.
The hotel also keeps the lobby pretty lively, with a small spread of complimentary drinks and snacks during the daytime and a DJ booth in the evenings.
Upon check-in, we were told that we had been upgraded to a “higher floor” room on the 15th floor. I enquired about the possibility of getting a suite as a Platinum Elite member, but was told that none were available. I didn’t press the matter too hard, since I had set my expectations beforehand and knew that complimentary suite upgrades are generally pretty rare in North America.
I was also informed that I’d have access to the M Club on the hotel’s third floor, where breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres are served on a daily basis. Unfortunately, breakfast in the restaurant wasn’t included as a Platinum Elite perk.
Other features in the lobby included a small sitting area and a makeshift business centre with computers and a printer.
We headed up to Room 1526, which turned out to be near the corner of the building. When that happens, I always get a glimmer of hope that I’ll be getting a “cool” corner room that’s different from the rest.
Well, I was pretty disappointed. Not only was our room no larger than a standard room, but it actually felt a bit cramped with the diagonal walls on this corner of the building.
Furthermore, I figured that a “higher floor” upgrade at least would provide decent views overlooking the Willamette River, but nope – we were on the entirely opposite side of the building, and we had commanding views of a drab parking lot.
I get that good upgrades are hard to come by in North America (there are a lot more elite members here than in other places around the world), but even so, I was left feeling as though we had received one of the lower-tier rooms in the hotel, and that wasn’t a nice feeling.
Anyway, besides the slightly cramped space, the room itself was decorated very nicely. The recently completed renovations brought the standard modern Marriott palette of dark wooden tones and slate-grey accents, and he Portland-inspired artwork, such as the bicycle wheel design behind the king bed, added a nice local flair.
The king bed occupies most of the space, flanked by two small side tables. I quite liked how the mood lighting behind the bed was placed, illuminating the artwork above.
Opposite the bed is a countertop that runs the entire length of the wall, serving as a desk at the end of the room.
I appreciated the fact that the hotel has USB plugs in addition to the standard power plugs.
A flatscreen television was mounted on the wall above, and I’m happy to report that it was a Smart TV with full Netflix and YouTube access, which allowed us to binge on Ozark from the comfort of our bed throughout several nights of the stay. Meanwhile, the cabinet beneath the countertop houses a pretty basic coffee maker.
Beyond the bed lies an angular chaise longue – which conforms to the shape of the wall behind it – as well as another countertop that houses the vents.
At the end of the room is the “balcony” – if you can call it that, since it’s pretty tiny and there’s not much room to step out into. You can also see how these parking lot views might pale in comparison to those of the Willamette. At least we got to look at some of the buildings of Downtown Portland…
Over to the bathroom, which is accessible via a sliding frosted-glass door in the foyer.
It was a pretty standard-issue hotel bathroom, and very much on the small side, in keeping with the rest of the room. The LED lighting in the mirror looked very sharp, and the shower had good water pressure, which is always a plus.
Despite my initial disappointment, the room was indeed a perfectly fine place to rest our heads for the evening or watch some Netflix. And of course, we spent most of our time in Portland exploring the city and the surrounding area anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.
The hotel’s club lounge, known as the M Club, is located on the third floor and is open 24/7. Breakfast is served every morning from 6:30am to 9:30am on weekdays and 6:30am to 10am on weekends, while appetizers and desserts are available from 5:30pm until late on all days except Friday and Saturday.
The M Club is an aesthetically pleasing space with quite a few features and amenities. More Portland-inspired decor sets the tone in the ample seating areas in the lounge.
Guests can play board games, watch television, or print their boarding passes for an upcoming flight.
Snacks and beverages, including Starbucks coffee and espresso drinks, are available 24/7. As particularly thirsty travellers, Jessica and I also made full use of the lounge’s giant water bottles to bring water with us while we were out and about in Portland.
We ate breakfast in the lounge on all four days. It was very much your standard American breakfast selection of scrambled eggs, streaky bacon, sausages, and potatoes for the hot items, together with some pastries, cereals, and fruits, but it got the job done.
The evening appetizers, which we tried on a couple of our nights, was more varied in their selection. Every night there’d be two specialty hot items, such as meatloaf, Mac and cheese, or buffalo wings. These were served in small ramekins, but you could keep going back for more, so the lounge food could indeed serve as a dinner replacement if you so desired (but you’d be missing out on the amazing food that Portland has to offer!)
If you just wanted something to tide you over until dinner later in the night, then there’s a few lighter items as well, such as roasted veggies, chips & salsa, and charcuterie.
Alcohol is available in the lounge, but as is standard throughout North America, it isn’t complimentary and must be purchased. You can flag down a lounge attendant order off the drinks menu available on each table.
There’s no swimming pool at the hotel, but I did go for a quick workout at the hotel gym on one of the mornings before breakfast. Conveniently, the fitness centre is also located on the third floor adjacent to the M Club.
It’s a pretty good hotel gym, with treadmills, ellipticals, exercise equipment, free weights, and a small aerobics area.
We didn’t end up spending too much time at the hotel at all, as we were busy walking around Portland and getting out to the Columbia River Gorge. With its standout location on the Willamette River and within walking distance from most of Portland’s main attractions, the Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront was therefore a fine place to rest for the evenings, with an M Club that did a great job of kickstarting our days in the mornings.
Nevertheless, the hotel didn’t leave much of an impression on me, good or bad, so I don’t think I’d stay here next time I’m in town. Instead, I’ll probably want to try one of the Autograph Collection or Luxury Collection properties, in the hopes of experiencing a hotel stay with a bit more character.