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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Chicago, Illinois / Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago-Downtown

December 2015 - January 2016, Weekday-weekend, 3-nights, King 1-bedroom #1207

view from suite 1207
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago-Downtown was undergoing renovations at the time of our stay. Our stay was satisfactory because we had been able to book a reasonable rate. If we had paid a high price for our room, we would have been disappointed. This building was in need of an update, and I am sure it will be fabulous when the renovations are complete.

Reservation, arrival experience, Gold status perks

I had a couple of questions, so I called to speak with someone a few days before our stay. My call was transferred to an offsite service. The person I spoke with sounded willing to assist me; however, I did not feel confident that our needs would be met after the call. The day before our arrival, I browsed the online check-in process. The highest floor guestroom available for online check-in was on floor 8, and this hotel has 19 floors. I also saw that a king bedroom was now the same price as the king studio we had booked, so I decided to call the hotel again. This time, I spoke with someone directly in the hotel, and she changed our guestroom to a 1-bedroom suite.

On the day of our arrival, we had taken the Amtrak to Chicago in the morning. We arrived at the hotel around 10:30 a.m. We went to the 6th floor where reception is located, and spoke with the front desk agent to let her know we were in town. She said check-in is at 4:00 p.m., and she took my cell phone number to call us, if our room became available before then. We checked our bags with the bellman on the ground floor, and our guestroom was ready shortly after 2:30 p.m.

I waited behind another guest when I returned to the front desk to get our keys. The agent provided that guest with hotel information, and she gave him a paper bag to get snacks and beverages from the lobby. She asked how many were in his party, and then told him he could get three beverages and some snacks. We did not receive any information or snacks when she provided our keys. I thought maybe we did not receive snacks because I have bonus points chosen for my Hilton on-property benefit, so I did not ask about this. When we got on the elevator,  we encountered a staff member who was bringing a bag of goodies to our suite.
cute door knocker peepholes on every door!

Suite 1207

This guestroom is on the 12th floor, and it is located on the south side of the building near the east end.

The layout and amenities were similar to other Homewood Suites I have stayed in: kitchen area with full size fridge, coffeepot with supplies, electric burners, microwave, dishwasher, table with two chairs; living room area with sofa, flatscreen TV, coffee table, and end table; bedroom with door, king size bed, nightstands, flatscreen TV, armoire; bathroom with separate vanity area, tub/shower combination, toilet, long vanity, Neutrogena bath amenities, hairdryer, and closet containing a folding luggage rack, extra bedding, iron, and ironing board.

We appreciated that housekeeping, or someone, had turned the ice maker on in the freezer, and there were a few cubes in the tray. This is often not the case, and then we have to find an ice machine when we first arrive.

The suite was in dire need of a facelift. Hence, the renovations going on. The bathroom sink was cracked, one of the closet doors was off the track and did not slide, the carpet was torn and/or stained, and the furniture was not very comfortable.

The pictures I am providing in this review are mainly for guestroom layout purposes, as I imagine most furnishings will be replaced when the guestroom is remodeled. The guestroom was basically the same as the diagram on the hotel website with a few minor differences. The kitchen and bathroom configurations were slightly different from the model shown online.

The most important thing for me when traveling is sleep quality, and the sleep quality in our room was great. The pillows and bed were comfortable, and the bedding was clean. The time on the clock in the bedroom was an hour off. It happened to match our home time zone, so we did not attempt to change it. A disappointment for me, was that this hotel did not have bathrobes. The hotel website shows a picture of a bathrobe under every room type. One of the reasons I had called before our stay was to confirm that they did have bathrobes. The person I spoke with the first time I called, told me yes, and she added a comment to my reservation requesting a bathrobe in the guestroom.

screen shot of the bathrobe photo
shown on the hotel website
There was not a robe in the guestroom when we arrived, so I called to request one. The manager answered the call, and he said they do not have bathrobes. I kicked myself for not re-asking this question when I had called back the second time and spoken with someone in the hotel. I am an extremely light packer, and I had packed my luggage based on the information from the person I spoke with the first time I called.

One thing I like about the studio guestrooms is that they have a walk-in shower rather than a tub/shower. Since we were staying New Years Eve, I thought a 1-bedroom suite would be a better choice, because the bedroom has a door. I was right about needing the bedroom door because there were some noisy guests in suite 1205 across the hall. After we had been woken up the third time, at 4:00 a.m., I decided to call the guestroom. No one answered after four or five rings, so I hung up. Possibly, the guests thought a hotel staff member was calling about the noise because we did not hear any more noise after my call. Before I called, there had been a lot of door slamming (from people going in and out, as the doors shut loudly), and we could smell cigarette smoke - the smell was in our suite kitchen area, and not in the bedroom with the door closed. I smelled it when I walked into the kitchen to look out and see where the noise was coming from.
floor diagram on back of guestroom door
The complimentary Internet in the guestroom was kind of irksome. Even though we were staying for three days, we could only sign in for one day at a time, so I had to enter my information to "re-join" everyday. If you need the Internet in your room for work or something important, you may want to consider the purchased service. The complimentary WiFi was slow and it often disconnected.

Even though I am detail-oriented, and I often stay in hotels, I sometimes forget to check little details. Especially, when I am half asleep. The first morning, I poured water in the coffee pot and started it. I always skimp on the water, since we like strong coffee. A few minutes later, when I thought the coffee should have been done, I returned to the kitchen and found the canister almost ready to spill over. Apparently, there had already been water in the reservoir, when I added more. That coffee ended up down the drain, and my husband went down to the lodge/breakfast area to get us two cups of coffee. After I finished waking up, I thought I probably should have realized the coffee pot seemed kind of full.

Along with breakfast everyday, this hotel provides a complimentary evening social on Monday through Thursday, and the menu was posted on the fridge in the suite. I have attached photos of the food offerings for December 2015 and January 2016, which can be enlarged by clicking on the photos. You can find details of our experiences under the Food & Beverage heading below.

Food & Beverage - breakfast and evening social

Similar food items were offered for breakfast each morning: scrambled eggs, sausage patties or links, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, diced mango pieces, breads and bagels, oatmeal, cold cereals, fat-free and 2% milk, juices, hot beverages, and French toast or pancakes. The second hot item with the scrambled eggs changed each morning: tater tots, potato wedges, or sausage biscuits and gravy. We were disappointed that bacon was not served one morning. The scrambled eggs tasted good the first morning; however, after three days they were not so appealing.

All the foods were fresh, and the whole fruit was the best I have ever had from a hotel breakfast buffet. Extremely fresh and delicious bananas, apples, oranges, and grapefruits were in a bowl on the counter.

The first evening of our stay, the evening social included cheesy broccoli soup, fresh salad, pork sliders, and cookies. I think there was also some type of snack item, like chips, although I am not certain, since I only tried the items shown in the plate photo here.

All of the foods that I tried at the evening social were fresh and delicious. I was impressed with the quality of the food at this Homewood Suites.

Three types of wine were available in the evening: rose, white, and red. I do not know the wine brand. The red wine was okay for a glass or two without becoming too sweet. Bud Light was the only beer type served. I imagine soda was also available, although we did not see any.

contents from one of the
snack bags we received
I had contacted this hotel by email before our stay because I wanted to find out if they were going to have the evening social on New Years Eve, a Thursday. The reply I received said, "The evening social will take place as usual." We planned our activities and dining arrangements based on that reply. After we got settled in our guestroom, I noticed there was not anything written on the fridge calendar for Thursday, December 31st. When I learned they had decided to cancel the evening social, I shared the information I had received via email before our trip. Along with some extra snacks, we received a card with an apology and a gift card for Season's 52 across the street. Again, I was impressed.

Pool area

The pool and fitness center were located on the top floor. There is a good view of outside from both rooms. The water temperature in the pool was warm. Several lounge chairs were located on the pool deck, and there were a few tables with chairs, as well. Even though construction was going in the rooms outside the pool area (one guestroom right next door), we did not hear any noise while in the pool area.

Misc. and overall

If you want to purchase any groceries while staying at this extended stay hotel, there is a Jewel-Osco located around the corner on State St. I suggest bringing your own shopping bag(s) to the store, if possible.

We were happy at this hotel, and I would choose to stay here again. All staff members provided excellent care, including housekeepers, doormen, and food attendants. The evening front desk agent (Jeremiah, I think), manager on duty the afternoon we arrived, and Erich T. were especially cordial. I have stayed in at least seven different hotels in downtown Chicago, and this is the first time employees made me feel genuinely welcome. During our stay, we experienced a couple of mishaps/miscommunication, and it was the way things were handled that won me over.

As I already mentioned, the hotel was being renovated at the time of our stay. There was quite a bit of noise Wednesday afternoon when we arrived, and on Saturday before we departed. In between times, we were either not in our room, or the noise was minimal. The fact that we had a reasonable rate made these disruptions tolerable.

I did not like the telephone system/procedure when dialing into this property. If you want to speak with someone in the hotel, I suggest starting right in with your question after the call is answered. Both times that I called, a female answered the call, and then said, "How may I direct your call?" The first time I called, I stated the reason for my call (wanted additional hotel information), and I was transferred to the offsite service where I received incorrect [bathrobe] information. The second time I called, I asked a question, rather than stating the basic reason for my call. The employee answered my question, and then assisted me with my remaining questions/requests. I would have preferred my call being initially answered by a recorded message with options to direct my call, as long as one of the options had been to speak with a hotel member.

In order to keep this post from getting any longer, I have written a separate post with additional Chicago information: public transportation, Shedd Aquarium, and a couple of local restaurants and bars.

Please feel free to share this post for future Chicago travelers!