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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chicago, Illinois / Palmer House a Hilton Hotel

December 2014, Weekend, 1-night, King suite 13-250


We have stayed at the Palmer House several times, and this has been our favorite Chicago hotel. The building is beautiful, and I always felt like a valued Hilton Honors member in the past. Here are links to two of my previous stay reviews from January 2014 and January 2013. We stayed at McCormick Place in January 2012, and I neglected to write reviews for our other Palmer House stays. All our experiences before this stay have always been similar.  

Status perks and check-in

This is the first time I have stayed in this hotel with points instead of paying for a room, and it is the first time I did not receive an upgrade to the executive floor, other than when it was being remodeled January 2014.

In January, I received two full breakfast coupons and two appetizer coupons since the executive floor was closed. This time, the agent told me that they no longer give Gold members an upgrade to the executive floor; we would receive two continental breakfast coupons instead. Her statement was somewhat inaccurate because Gold members are already entitled to two free continental breakfasts or 1,000 bonus points, no matter what kind of room is reserved. I had chosen to forgo the bonus points for breakfast before this stay because I thought it would add some assurance to all of us receiving breakfast or lounge access. I made our reservation for three adults, and I initially received only two breakfast coupons; however, I received a third coupon in the end, which was one of the best perks this stay. I also received complimentary Internet access.
lounge and lobby area

I did not receive a complimentary room upgrade (I paid $74 for a suite upgrade with Hilton's eUpgrade option after reserving a regular room with 50,000 points), and I did not receive the two bottles of complimentary water for Gold and Diamond guests. The first two continental breakfast coupons the agent said she was "giving" me were a given as I had continental breakfast chosen as my "on property hotel benefit." I inquired about a sofa sleeper or rollaway, and the detail of that request/perk is in the guestroom area of this review. The agent did not smile, welcome me, or recognize my status, which is also the first time I experienced that kind of greeting at this hotel.

There is a special check-in line for Hilton members at this hotel, which is located at the right/south end of the long counter. This is not highly visible when there are many guests present, as there was when we arrived. There is also a Diamond desk across from the Hilton Honors line. There was not anyone staffed at the desk when we arrived, although an employee arrived at the desk while we were still waiting in line to check-in. We had taken the morning Amtrak from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Chicago, so we arrived at the hotel before noon. Of our five or so stays here, we have needed to check our bags at the bell desk on three occasions because our room was not ready for early check-in, and this was one of those times. We checked our bags, and received a text when our room was ready, just after 3:30 p.m.

Guestroom #13-250

This suite is on the thirteenth floor at the east end of the hall, directly above the subway track that runs above S. Wabash Ave. We could hear the train at times, although it was not too intrusive. There is no view from the guestroom or suite, as it is surrounded by buildings taller than 13 floors.

The suite area was spacious, comfortable, and tastefully decorated. It contained a sofa, soft chairs, a coffee table, end tables, conference table and chairs, a beautiful marble [mock] fireplace, large flatscreen TV, bar counter, sink, mini-fridge, and ice bucket with two glasses.

A small coffeemaker with supplies had been placed in the room, as I had inquired about this at check-in when I learned we did not have an executive floor guestroom, and that the suite did not have one. A coffeemaker is not standard in guestrooms, and can be requested for no charge. The condiments included only powdered creamer, as I had forgotten to request liquid creamer.

I was disappointed that our guestroom and suite had not been remodeled, and that the fireplace in the suite was just for show. The temperature was cool at the time of our stay, and I had been looking forward to a fire. The guestroom walls had several minor dings and some peeled paint that needed attention.

The suite descriptions and photos on the hotel website were not very detailed before our stay, and the information has been changed slightly since we checked out. Before our stay, the suite information said two things, which are no longer listed: fireplace, and 1½ baths. The photos on the website now look exactly like the suite we had except that the fireplace photo shown on the website is lit up, giving the illusion that there is a working fireplace in the suite, although this is no longer listed in the details of the suite.
suite bathroom

There were two closets in the suite area, and a second full bathroom rather than a half bath. The second bathroom in the suite area was larger than the one in the king bedroom. Both bathrooms contained a tub/shower combination, toilet, vanity, towels, a hairdryer, and toiletries.

suite bathroom

Our son said that the tub drain in the suite / second bathroom was sluggish. He took a quick shower, and I did not call maintenance.

The separate king bedroom was located inside of the suite at the east end, so it is only accessible through the suite. The first two guestrooms in the hall outside of the suite had connecting doors to the suite. The guestroom diagram showed that guestroom 13-248 is an oversized room about twice the size of the king bedroom inside our suite area. I forgot to take a photo of the diagram.

There was another closet located in the suite hallway just outside the king bedroom, and there was a large closet in the bedroom. The closet in the bedroom contained hangers, five bathrobes, a folding luggage rack, a safe, bedding, and an iron and ironing board.

During check-in, I had asked if the suite contained bathrobes like the executive rooms, and the agent said she could have those sent to the room. She asked if I wanted three, and I said that one or two would be fine. It appeared as though there were already bathrobes in the guestroom, and that extras had been brought up because of my request. The updated information on the website now lists bathrobes under the suite amenities.

The bedroom contained a king size bed, nightstands with lamps, a desk and chair, and a flatscreen TV on an armoire. There was a lamp and ethernet connection cable on the desk. There was a telephone on the desk and on one of the nightstands. The only clock in the guestroom and suite was an alarm clock on one of the nightstands in the bedroom. The bed, pillows, and bedding were super comfy.

I forgot to take a picture of the small bathroom in the bedroom. The vanity was the same size as the one in the other bathroom; however, the bathroom space was only about half the size. The bathroom width without the tub was equal to the vanity.

The door was next to the bed, and entry was between the sink vanity and toilet. It is difficult to describe the layout of the small bathroom, so I have attached a diagram I created. The white space at the end of the tub and side of the sink is the wall; the blue portions depict the layout and size of the bathroom.
During check-in, I learned that the couch in the suite is not a sofa sleeper, so I asked if we could have a rollaway sent to the room with the coffeemaker and robes. The agent said yes. When we arrived at our guestroom and suite around 5:00 p.m., everything I requested had been placed in the room, except for the rollaway. When I called to ask about this, I was told that there would be a $40 charge. I expressed surprise, and I said the agent had not sounded like there would be an additional charge during check-in. We then received the bed for no charge. I thought $40 seemed high for a rollaway, although the bed did look like better quality than any hotel rollaway bed I have ever seen.

I cannot comment about the bed comfort because our son did not end up using the bed. :-/ He had told me when I was on the telephone that he did not need one; however, I thought he was only saying that because I questioned them about the $40 charge. I did not think the sofa style looked very comfortable for sleeping, although he said it was fine. Next  time, I will listen to my son!

Food & Beverage

We used our breakfast coupons for the breakfast buffet. I had the continental breakfast, and my husband and son upgraded to the full hot breakfast for $6 each. All of the food was very good, and the service was good as well.

Items at the cold buffet included cold cereal and hot oatmeal, cut fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt, house made granola (delicious!), meats, cheeses, salmon, bagels, breads, and muffins. Condiments I remember included butter, jams, different cream cheeses, capers, chopped onions and tomatoes, walnuts, dried fruit, brown sugar, cinnamon, chocolate chips, and marshmallows. Purchasing the hot buffet included made to order eggs, and buffet items I saw were: scrambled eggs, bacon, link sausage, and potatoes. I did not notice if there was anything like hotcakes or sausage biscuits and gravy. Juice and coffee was included.

We had beverages in the lobby lounge the next afternoon before we headed back to the train station. The quality was excellent, although I did not see any servers. Our son went to the bar to get our drinks. I was surprised that we did not see any servers, because the lobby and lounge area was standing room only. Seats were taken as soon as guests departed from the sitting or lounge area. In fact, I had tried to get us different seats in the sitting area, and I was not quick or aggressive enough when the guests right next to me left. When we decided to have something to drink, we moved to an uncleared table, which was still full of debris and used glasses when we left the hotel. We had moved everything to the side of the table when we sat down.

Pool area and fitness center

The pool and fitness center was the same as our last visit. Follow the link above for my January 2014 review, if you would like information about these two areas.


This is a beautiful historic hotel. All of the seating is comfortable--in the guestrooms, the restaurant, the lounge, the lobby, etc. Compared to our previous stays, I was somewhat disappointed. The Edison Suite with the perks we received during our last stay was a far better value, as were all our previous stays on the executive floor. I had hoped to see the new executive lounge and take our son up there, too. I understand that the executive floor guestrooms could have been full; however, since I have always received bottled water, and coupons or access to the lounge in the past, I expected it this time, too. I  do not know if the fact that this was a reward points stay had any bearing on our experience, or if the front desk agent may have been new. She did not think that there would be bathrobes in our guestroom, and the remarks she made about giving us breakfast and not upgrading Gold Hilton members does not match the perks listed on the Hilton website or my prior experiences at this hotel. The next morning when I woke up and wanted fresh water, I wished I had thought to request this the night before.

This hotel has over 1,600 guestrooms, and if they were all filled, I can only imagine how much money this hotel made last weekend. Along with a full house, the dining areas, bar, and several event areas were bustling with activity. Considering that, I do not think the fact that my stay was partially paid for with points should have had any effect on the perks or upgrades I received. We were able to get a slightly late checkout at 12:00 p.m. instead of 11:00 a.m. We checked our bag at the bell desk until it was time to head to Union Station.

The basic guestroom rate for three adults was almost $250 when we decided only a week or so in advance to take our son to Chicago for his birthday, which is why I redeemed points for the room instead. In the future, I think I will stick with advance booking methods, as this seems to impact the guestroom type and perks as well as the rate.