Hotel Review: Aloft Manhattan Downtown - Financial District
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Last night, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig stayed at the brand-new Aloft hotel in Manhattan's Financial District, New York City's latest Starwood property.
I live in NYC's Financial District, so I've had my eye on the Aloft Downtown for a couple of years now. The hotel was first expected to open a full year ago, in August of 2014, then (likely due to delayed NYC approvals) the opening was pushed back to November, then mid-2015, then September 14, 2015 and, much to my surprise, ended up opening "early" this past Thursday, August 27th. Since the hotel opened before its latest anticipated date, it's incredibly quiet. The representative I spoke to on the phone an hour before check-in said only 14 people had checked in, though a manager I chatted with said the hotel has had about 30 guests each day.
The Aloft Downtown is located at 49-53 Ann Street, though you can just direct your taxi or Uber driver to 49 Ann Street and you'll end up right out front. It's a block away from Fulton Center station, with access to just about every major subway line, including the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, N, R, and Z trains. It's a 5-minute walk from the World Trade Center and PATH station to the west, and the South Street Seaport to the east. As you can see in the picture up top, Ann Street isn't quite as picturesque as other parts of NYC.
There are plenty of restaurants nearby, with tons of options to choose from between Chinatown and Little Italy a few minutes' walk to the north and Stone Street a few blocks to the south. The W Downtown is nearby, and there's a Four Points by Sheraton currently scheduled to open in November, but that property will likely be delayed as well.
In short, it's a great location both for tourism and business, and with the subway so close, you can easily get anywhere you need to go with very little effort.
The hotel includes 128 guest rooms (no suites), spread between 16 floors. The lower floors don't really have a view, though you can see a bit of the Financial District from higher floors.
Booking the Aloft
I decided to book at the last minute, in part because the rate was so low. My AAA rate came to $132 per night, though the standard rate was only $139. This is an SPG Category 5 property, and compared to the 12,000 Starpoints rate (or 6,000 points plus $110 for Cash & Points), the paid rate was an absolute bargain. Regular rates at this property tend to range from $139 (opening Sunday) to $575 (New Year's Eve), with weekend rates often available for less than $200 and weekday rates between $400 and $500, which is exceptionally high for an Aloft property.
While the SPG free nights rate is a bit high considering the reduced rate for weekend stays, you do get the fifth night free, bringing the per-night cost to 9,600 points when you stay five nights. The nearest other Starwood property, the W Downtown, runs 20,000 points per night, and while it's probably worth paying the difference for a much higher-end hotel, that's definitely a big jump. Fortunately, Amex is currently offering increased sign-up bonuses on its two SPG credit cards. If you sign up for both the personal and business Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards and meet the minimum spending ($3,000 in the first three months for the personal card and $5,000 for the business card), you'll earn a total of 60,000 points, which is enough for six consecutive nights at the Aloft Downtown (with the fifth night being free).
There's a parking garage located right next door, with rates of $45 per 24 hours. Unfortunately, the hotel doesn't currently have a relationship with the garage, so you can't bill parking to your room, though that could change in the future.
This hotel is equipped for SPG Keyless, so you'll be able to skip picking up a key at the front desk and unlock your hotel room with a smartphone or Apple Watch, though it wasn't working yet during my stay. The front office manager assisted with my check-in, and asked if I wouldn't mind moving up to a king accessible room on a higher floor (note that SPG Platinum upgrades aren't available at Aloft hotels). He said the accessible rooms are actually by far the largest, with a large bathroom as well.
I was also offered a check-in amenity of 250 Starpoints (worth $6 based on TPG's valuations) or a $12.50 breakfast credit at Re:fuel. I opted for the breakfast. Note that some rates also include two free cocktails per night, but I had booked the AAA rate so I didn't receive drink vouchers. The manager did send up a few gifts to my room, however, including an Aloft bag with an area map and snacks, plus a box of Hostess cupcakes and a can of pistachios, which must have been my Platinum gift.
Aloft King Accessible Room
When I entered the room, I was hardly blown away by its size, but from the entrance door's position I could tell it was larger than the room next door. I'd definitely book an accessible room if you can, or ask for one at check-in.
Even with the larger floor plan, the room was definitely cozy. There was room to walk around on both sides of the king bed, and the desk wasn't too cramped.
There isn't much surface space in the room, so I set my Platinum amenity of pistachios and Hostess cupcakes on the desk — hardly a gourmet offering, but I was hungry and enjoyed some of both during my stay. For better or worse, there isn't a stocked mini-bar, so you'll need to head downstairs if you're looking for a bite to eat.
There's a wall-mounted 42-inch TV with a variety of local and national channels. The standard Starwood promo reel was running when I walked in.
I have a request for extra water bottles and towels in my SPG profile, and I received both in the room. Above you can see two of the three (free) water bottles, a small refrigerator, coffeemaker, safe, iron and a very compact closet with hangers.
My room (1206) had a decent view of the Financial District, though it's certainly nothing like what you'll get from many rooms at the W Downtown, which overlooks the World Trade Center complex. The room had motorized blinds that could be operated either by starting to pull in one direction or by using a wall switch (which had reversed positions — I had to press "open" to close the drapes).
The only major difference between the accessible room and a standard room is the support bars and fold-down seat in the bathroom. The bathroom itself was large for an Aloft room, though quite basic.
Up to this point, everything seemed great, but then I noticed that the body wash was white and creamy, while the shampoo and conditioner was blue. Which didn't seem right. I called down to ask, and apparently the shower liquids were loaded incorrectly, which I suppose is a risk when you opt for permanent dispensers rather than individual amenity bottles. Fortunately I noticed the error before taking a shower.
Like other Aloft properties, there's not much to speak of in the way of amenities. Fortunately, there's plenty to see, do and eat just a couple blocks away.
The Wi-Fi is free for all guests, and while it's not terribly fast, it was easy to connect and access the Wi-Fi throughout the building.
The hotel doesn't offer room service, though in New York City, that's actually a blessing in disguise (more on that in a moment). There is a Re:fuel snack area downstairs, where you can purchase snacks and breakfast items ($6 for a breakfast sandwich, $12 for a regular sandwich with chips or fruit and a drink).
But there's an even better option. NYC has a service called Seamless that lets you order delivery online, and with hundreds of restaurants within range of the Aloft, you can have everything from Indian to Japanese at your hotel room door in less than an hour. It's cheaper than room service and likely much better-tasting; you can pay online with a credit card (and receive an emailed receipt); and you can benefit local businesses in the process.
I tried a couple cocktails with dinner on the back patio. Drinks are pricy in NYC, and Aloft's w xyz bar is no exception. Though the bartender was incredibly helpful and friendly.
This morning, I decided to push my Platinum breakfast voucher to its limits at Re:fuel, picking up a breakfast sandwich, orange juice, fruit and yogurt. The breakfast sandwiches are made to order, so I requested a wrap with egg whites, turkey bacon and pepper jack cheese. The hotel didn't have any of those items, so instead I had an English muffin with scrambled eggs, regular bacon, and Swiss cheese. I ate my breakfast — which tasted pretty good for a microwaved sandwich — at the w xyz bar, which doubles as a place to hang out, with board games and a pool table available.
There's also a small gym in the basement that's open 24 hours (accessible using your room key), with three pieces of cardio equipment, but nothing else. Each machine has a TV function, though the cable wasn't connected, so you'll probably want to bring your own entertainment. The Wi-Fi connection was decent in the gym, so fortunately I was able to pass the time with a couple episodes of The Office.
The Aloft Downtown is fairly basic, and sometimes overpriced, but with a great location, friendly staff and (comparatively) affordable redemption rates, it's a fantastic addition to Starwood's NYC hotel portfolio. If you're planning to visit, don't forget to check the AAA rate, or if you're ineligible for discounts, be sure to book Aloft's special rate to get your two free cocktails per night.