In an ever so slightly crazy quest to stay at 1 of each of Starwood’s nine hotel brands, I headed to Dallas for a night at the Element Dallas Fort Worth Airport North.
The hotel’s website describes the hotel as being “centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth, just minutes from DFW International Airport.” My flight landed just before midnight and after picking up a rental car – with GPS – I headed to the hotel. The GPS I picked up could not locate the hotel by name or by address on the Starwood website. I use the SPG app’s driving directions feature and got what I thought would be turn-by-turn directions. The estimated driving time was 23 minutes and that was with zero traffic.
The directions to the hotel were confusing and ended in the middle of a highway. There was no information about where to exit the highway or how to get to the hotel. The estimated 23 minutes turned into 35 minutes after I had to drive around looking for the right exit. While writing this post I discovered, buried on the hotel’s website – not the Starwood website, a small note with a specific address to use with a GPS. Would have been nice if that had been more prominently featured, included on Starwood’s site or on the app.
There is very limited parking at the hotel with specific areas of the parking lot marked as “off limits” to hotel guests. Once inside I was given a note from the hotel management explaining that hotel guests could not park in the south side of the parking lot because they did not own it. The note intimated that there had been some incidents – I read it as break-ins, and also noted that hotel guests parking there would be towed by the owner of the lot. Since I’d arrived after midnight, there was only 1 person working and he couldn’t assure me that I’d parked in the right area, which left me a little wary.
I had a room on the 4th floor directly behind the elevators. That wasn’t a problem when I arrived after midnight, but that changed in the morning as people started using the elevators regularly.
The room, a one-bedroom suite, looked really nice at midnight, but in the morning I started noticing some issues. When you enter the room there’s a kitchenette with full-size fridge, small range, sink and kitchen tools/dishes, etc… There is a small table on wheels that tucks under a cut-out in the wall. It’s a clever use of the space. Just off the kitchenette is a very small living room area with work desk, couch and television. I noticed that the blinds were pretty stained.
In the bedroom there was a king size bed and two small nightstands. There was just enough room to walk around the bed, but no room for anything else in the space. Mounted on the wall was a large TV. The walls of the bedroom were dirty and stained – thank goodness I didn’t see that before I went to bed – I would have been out of that room!
The bathroom was clean and bright. The shower-only bathroom had shampoo and body wash dispensers in the shower just like the Aloft hotels. There was a bar of soap and body lotion next to the sink. There was almost no water pressure – the water from the sink faucet was a slight trickle and in the shower, it wasn’t much better.
At 9am, sharp, there was a very faint knock at the door – I actually thought it was someone knocking next door or across the hall it was so faint. But within seconds the door shoved open catching on the swinging bar door guard. I was startled, sat up in bed and just then heard someone say, “housekeeping.” I responded that I was checking out at 11am and asked them to come back. About 30 minutes later I was getting ready to shower when there was another knock. I said, through the door, please come back after I check out. I tried to call the front desk and/or hotel operator unsuccessfully. The phone in the bedroom would dial both zero and the front desk, ring once or twice and then go dead. I gave up calling and got in the shower, packed up and decided to leave right away.
I told the woman at the front desk about the experience and she offered me 500 points. Today I read through some of the reviews on Starwood’s website and saw several reviewers mention the same experiences with housekeeping. One reviewer said he was promised 3,000 points for the inconvenience. Seems the hotel still hasn’t found a way to manage their keepers effectively yet.
The hotel opened in 2009 with 123 guest rooms made up of studios, 1 and 2 bedroom suites. The public areas are bright and modern and seemed to be well maintained. I was downstairs by 10am, but breakfast had been cleared so I’m not sure what they offered. There was complimentary coffee still available.
I’ve found Element hotels to be very hit or miss. I’ve stayed at the Element New York Times Square several times and had great experiences. (Yes, everyone complains about the speed of the elevators, but that’s a problem in many 40+ floor buildings). One of the worst stays I’ve ever had was at the Element Arundel Mills in Hanover, MD. The layers of dust and dirt in the room I was checked into was mortifying. In fact, when I showed the GM the photos she held the next day’s housekeeping staff meeting in that room. Here’s a picture of the floor under the desk.
I am not sure where the Element brand is headed. There are just over 10 open in the US with several more scheduled to open this year. Starwood needs to enforce some brand standards and consistency among locations for me to start staying at these regularly. I’ll stick with Aloft and the other brands until I see some more consistency.