Jessy and I needed a three-night hotel stay for our long weekend getaway to Providence, Rhode Island in September.
The city had a surprisingly large selection of hotels for a preppy college town in New England: among Marriott hotels alone, there was the Courtyard, the Marriott, and the Residence Inn that only recently opened. The Hilton Providence gave us another choice, and there were also a host of independent and affordable boutique properties.
Like most other North American markets, though, the hotel prices felt very expensive (both in cash and points) compared to the quality, and after looking at the pictures, the only hotel that I was mildly impressed with from the was the Renaissance Providence Downtown. The newly refurbished property looked much nicer than both the Marriott and the Hilton, and also had a premier location right on the doorstep of the Rhode Island State Capitol.
I went ahead and booked the Renaissance for the lowest cash rate I could find at US$218 per night. If I were to use points, it would’ve cost me 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night for the Category 5 property, which almost met my 1 cent per point threshold for redeeming points, but not quite.
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In This Post
- Location & Arrival
- Vice Presidential Suite
- Club Lounge
- Other Facilities
- The Best of Providence
Renaissance Providence Downtown – Location & Arrival
The Renaissance’s location is particularly favourable if you’re arriving into Providence by train – for example if you were flying into Boston and catching the one-hour Amtrak ride over. The train station opens out directly onto the State Capitol’s front lawn, and from there it’s a short five-minute walk up the hill to the Renaissance on the west side of the Capitol.
The hotel’s lobby is bright and spacious, and you can tell that the property was recently renovated. There’s a small lobby lounge to the side as you enter, and the front desks are found just around the corner.
Renaissance Providence Downtown – Check-in
The check-in agent was a kind fellow who seemed to be keen on getting us checked in and settled into our room as quickly as possible, which I appreciated.
He confirmed our upgrade to the Vice Presidential Suite, the hotel’s second-highest suite type, as a Titanium Elite member.
While I had reached out to the hotel earlier to ask for a suite upgrade, I actually hadn’t expected to be upgraded so generously, and I had been delighted when I saw the room type changed to a Vice Presidential Suite on my Marriott app earlier in the day.
The staff member also took some time to walk us through the hotel’s rather byzantine breakfast offering for elite members. During weekdays, the Renaissance’s Club Lounge is open, where elite members may enjoy a small spread of hot and cold items for breakfast.
However, since the lounge is closed on weekends (and we’d be staying over the weekend), we could choose a few breakfast vouchers in the Public Kitchen & Bar restaurant as an additional elite amenity, although the vouchers would only be valid for a light continental spread rather than the restaurant’s full breakfast – or alternatively we could choose to earn 750 Marriott Bonvoy points per day in place of the vouchers. It was a classic example of the relative stinginess of North American hotels in terms of elite treatment.
In the end, I decided to get the breakfast vouchers anyway, just to see what the continental spread was like. The check-in agent assured us that we could always return an unused voucher and choose to earn points for that day instead if we changed our minds.
With that, we took our room keys and made our way up to the 5th floor. I was impressed with the hotel’s recently renovated interiors, which combined the quirkiness of the Renaissance brand with the officialdom of a hotel that has the State Capitol sitting right next door.
Renaissance Providence Downtown – Vice Presidential Suite
The Vice Presidential Suite here at the Renaissance Providence Downtown is unbelievably large. Upon entering, there’s a small foyer with the guest bathroom to the side – we’ll come back to this later.
Continuing ahead, the working, sitting, and dining areas of the suite – all occupying one large rectangular room – open up to the left-hand side.
Both the desk and the dining table were an impressive size, with the latter having enough seating room for four people.
A pantry is located to the side here, seemingly designed as a space for food and drinks to be prepared before being served on the dining table. There was a coffee maker with some Starbucks filter packs, although I was a little disappointed that a suite of this calibre didn’t come with a Nespresso machine or something equivalent.
Continuing through the suite, we arrive at the spacious sitting area, featuring an “L”-shaped sofa, a coffee table, and two chairs, all facing a wall-mounted television that’s slightly off-centre.
The door at the end of the room leads to the master bedroom, where a gigantic canopy bed dominates the space. The sleep quality of the bed was very good, although if I had one complaint, it would be that the mattress was perched far too high and it was somewhat challenging to get on and off the bed.
There’s also a second television facing the bed, as well as a walk-in closet off to the side.
As with all other parts of the suite, the master bathroom is an ample size, featuring double sinks, a separate shower and bathtub, and a toilet.
While I appreciated the amount of room we had to move around in, I thought that the poorly designed shower betrayed the fact that this was still an older building with a new lick of paint on it – the glass door would not fully shut properly, resulting in water spilling all over the place when showering, which is one of my biggest pet peeves in a hotel room.
On a positive note, though, take a look at those jet-black bathrobes – these must’ve been the slickest bathrobes I’ve had the pleasure of donning recently!
Finally, we’ll head back to the foyer to check out the guest bathroom, which was pretty huge as well. I’m quickly running out of adjectives to describe the sheer size of everything in this whole suite, which gives you an idea of how impressed I was by it.
It’s fair to say that the generous upgrade to a Vice Presidential Suite quickly wiped away any of my earlier feelings of disappointment with the hotel’s elite treatment, and I couldn’t help but think that this would’ve counted as one of the most memorable suites that Jessy and I had received, if only we happened to be on a more special trip than a simple weekend getaway.
To cap it all off, the suite could not have been more well-positioned for its views of the stunning Rhode Island State Capitol building…
…which looked just as impressive during the daytime as well.
Renaissance Providence Downtown – Club Lounge
Let’s take a look at the hotel’s other facilities, beginning with the Club Lounge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to taking pictures of the rest of the hotel until the weekend, at which point the lounge was closed, so I managed to snap a pic via the doorway.
I did get to visit the Club Lounge for breakfast on Friday morning, although I wasn’t impressed by the lounge’s breakfast selection in any way. Scrambled eggs, sausages, oatmeal, cereal, toast, and Starbucks machine-brewed coffee – about as bland and unremarkable as you can get.
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Renaissance Providence Downtown – Breakfast
And yet, the “continental” breakfast offering in the restaurant on Saturday morning would be even more disappointing.
Our breakfast vouchers entitled us to choose from a tiny buffet spread of cold hard-boiled eggs, stale pastries, packaged oatmeal, yogurt, and fruits.
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It boggles the mind why hotels even bother setting up these types of subpar offerings for their most loyal members, and suffice to say that we decided to skip the breakfast entirely and return Sunday’s voucher in exchange for 750 Bonvoy points, choosing to eat at the Cheesecake Factory down the road instead.
Renaissance Providence Downtown – Other Facilities
In addition, the hotel’s business centre is found on the far side of the lobby, where there are a handful of computer workstations set up…
…and the fitness facilities, open 24/7, are located on the third floor, occupying a small rectangular space that would otherwise be used for the guest rooms.
The Best of Providence
I’ll also take this opportunity to mention a few of the things we did in Providence during our long weekend here, since I don’t think there’s quite enough to say in its own post.
If I’m being honest, even though the purpose of this trip was mostly to relax in a new setting rather than do any major sightseeing, we still ended up feeling pretty bored after three days in Rhode Island, and even decided to take the earlier train back to Boston when it came time to depart on Sunday.
We spent the first day touring Providence’s most notable sites, beginning with the Rhode Island State Capitol in the morning.
I find that the official tours of these types of places are always made more interesting by the passionate politically-minded tour guides running them, and this one was no exception: our tour guide regaled us with facts and anecdotes from Rhode Island’s history as we admired the building’s interiors, which I thought were surprisingly ornate for a State Capitol – it even plays host to the world’s fourth-largest freestanding marble dome, which is at least a minor achievement.
We then spent the rest of the day meandering through Brown University’s campus, before continuing on to the fashionable Beacon Hill district in Downtown Providence later in the evening. Unfortunately, Providence’s famous Waterfire event – a biweekly fire show performed on the river – didn’t happen to fall on the weekend that we were visiting.
Perhaps the highlight of our trip was the next day, when we took the Seastreak ferry down to Newport, Rhode Island, and enjoyed a very leisurely day out by the water.
We embarked on a walking trail along the seaside for several hours before breaking for a delicious seafood lunch and some beer, spending the rest of the afternoon exploring Newport’s delightful town centre.
Truth be told, hotels in North America rarely leave me feeling overly impressed, and the Renaissance Providence Downtown pretty much fell into that default category as well. I appreciated the generous Titanium upgrade to a stunning Vice Presidential Suite; however, I thought the elite recognition was well below par beyond that.
Ultimately, though, the newly renovated property is much more visually appealing than any of the other major hotels in town, and the location is also a major plus, so I’d probably still stay here again if I happened to be in Providence again for whatever reason.
As for the city itself, while this slice of New England was pretty and preppy, it was also a little too sleepy for our tastes – we much preferred our long weekend trip to Portland last fall, for example. If you happen to be travelling between Boston and New York, then a half-day stop along Newport’s waterfront would do you a world of good, but I wouldn’t necessarily make this part of the world a priority on your bucket list.