Not everyone swoons over a great hotel like I do, some people just see it for what it is – a place to sleep. Fair enough, we each have our own travel styles, mine involves hotels that make me happy with great design, comfort and good service. So choosing a great hotel in a new city takes a bit of time for me to evaluate all the reviews, photos and other factors. Going back to Portland, Oregon, for my “happy conference”, I didn’t have to do any research to know that The Nines Hotel, was the place to be (it also helped that it offered a fantastic conference rate of $229 per night + tax and I’d earn Starwood points).
Portland is a collection of small easily walkable neighborhoods. The Nines hotel is downtown across from Pioneer Square, a hub of activity- weekly farmers market, World Cup final watching party during my visit and other events. A block in one direction you are at the mall with movie theatre, bowling alley bar and a collection of great stores, including the popular Nike store. A block in the other direction is Nordstrom (with no sales tax need I say more?). The light rail (tram) is steps away.
Flying from the East Coast, I would arrive late at the hotel by taxi (while there is a public transit option from the airport, it was late, I was alone so I chose the taxi option). I was instantly welcomed to the hotel by the bell staff at the door (there were usually at least 3-4 staff visible at the entrance during my stay) and escorted upstairs to check-in. The historic Meier & Frank building houses The Nines on the top levels and a Macy’s below. Meier & Frank were retailers and the hotel celebrates that history in the art in the common spaces. The fashionable parts of the hotel were clearly evident and as this is Portland, the hotel is environmentally friendly with its LEED certification.
Check – In
Welcomed by the Front Desk staff, the check in proceeded smoothly and when I was told that unfortunately my SPG Gold upgrade room wasn’t available for the whole stay, I just laughed and said no worries, I’m “2 for 2”. I explained that I was at the Sheraton London a week prior and the upgrade wasn’t available and I would be going to the Sheraton Seattle next so maybe I’d be “3 for 3”. I rarely get an upgraded room with my Gold status so I really don’t pay it mind anymore – I’m genuinely surprised when I do get an upgrade. While I found my luck funny and par for the course, the girl at the desk took it as a challenge to make me happy. She had a few words with a supervisor, made two calls and then said that she could give me an inside room (faces the courtyard lobby no natural light) on the Club level once they sort it out as there was a note that the room was “out of service”. It was late, I was tired and I thought I heard her say I was getting a Club Level room with access to the Club Lounge (free food, drink and lounge!). Not wanting to ruin things, I just smiled.
I was told that the “out of service” meant that the key card reader was acting up and they would fix it, in the meantime, I was to proceed to the Club Lounge on the 12th floor to wait. So to the lounge with my bags I went (I had tipped the bellman already, he didn’t need to wait with me any longer).
The Club Lounge at The Nines
I’ve done the club lounge a few times before in weird one off upgrades, the best one so far had been the Westin Capetown, but The Nines takes it to a whole new level for me. I was immediately greeted by name when I arrived and given a tour. Not only was there a dessert bar at this time of night but also an open bar. So with cake, cookies and a bottle of water in hand, I happily waited in the lounge for my room to be ready. I would learn that there was food and drinks all day (continental breakfast, mid-day snacks, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, cordials and an open bar) to stop by anytime. There was a television, a few sofas, seating and a concierge on site. I could have happily just stayed here (with more dessert of course)…..but then the night manager from the front desk arrived with my keys to escort me to my room on the floor.
Let’s review so far – I’m getting VIP treatment (or at least it felt that way), have had cake and cookies and I haven’t seen the room yet. I’m able to have unlimited bottle water/wine/beer/drinks from the club and free snacks too? On service so far, I was beyond impressed and hoping that it stayed that way during my stay.
My Fabulous Standard Room
The first thing I noticed as we entered was the light fixture ahead, it was unlike anything I had seen in a hotel room before. A bit more fashion here that was also functional. The features of the room were explained before the night manager left wishing me “a good stay”. The room, despite being “out of service” had been set with turn down service so slippers by the bed (we know I love hotel slippers), chocolates on the side table and the bed prepared for sleep.
While I thought the colors on the website seemed a bit stuffy, in person they worked in an expensive luxury feel. The room’s color palette, furniture, accessories and lighting melded to create a warm, inviting environment. Walking over to the window, I could look down at the lobby and gauge how crowded the bar and lounge seating were (not so much as it was near 11 pm). I was a bit concerned by the “no natural light” but I was able to check the weather out in the elevator lobby.
There is an alcove were the work desk is located which provides a nice private area that is separate from the bedroom. The bedroom had a decorative and comfortable chair as well as the bed, closet and separate minibar area. The minibar is where I would charge my devices as there were two outlets to use.
Spoiled is the first thought when I walked into the bathroom – I’m definitely spoiled by luxury. The vanity/sink area was very functional and you could see the distinctive design choices. The toilet was familiar as I had just left Europe – two flush buttons – half flush or full flush to conserve water. The shower had environmental toiletries, I would not be able to chipmunk them though.
Fun with My Food and Drink
The lobby restaurant is the Urban Farmer, a Portland Steakhouse using local and organic foods. They got me hooked with my first side of bacon, fresh baked breads and fresh fruit. This is not your normal hotel restaurant. I would eat breakfast each morning during my stay, the only downside was that I wasn’t able to eat here for dinner due to conference schedule. The restaurant has different sections well designed for intimate spaces, shared communal table and engaging bar – something for everyone. Dining solo was not a problem as the staff were attentive throughout.
Roof Top Bar/Departures Restaurant
If you want to feel fabulous, look fashionable and have fun, head to the roof for incredible views of downtown Portland, the Willamette River, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens as well as people watching. I would have drinks at the Roof Top Bar during my stay despite the very hot, humid weather. The other part of the roof houses the restaurant, Departures, which serves modern Asian cuisine.
I had emailed the concierge prior to my stay and was provided a vast array of food recommendations in the city. With a last minute request for a massage and manicure before the conference would start, the concierge recommended a salon two blocks away. The empty salon did give me pause when I arrived but the incredible massage and body work I had made me forget all about that (in fact, the therapist lost track of time too so I had an extra 1/2 hour). The concierge printed out a Facebook coupon for me to use at the salon. The team was easy to work with and even gave me suggestions for Seattle where I was off to next.
The Nines Hotel in Portland was a luxury dream stay from start to finish and joins my list of hotels that you never have to leave to be happy. The staff were excellent throughout in all areas of the hotel. The bellman did make me laugh when I had to walk ten blocks asking if I wanted a taxi or light rail directions. I smiled and said “I live on the East Coast and walk twenty blocks for a cookie, I think I’ll be ok”. Not missing a beat, he said “Well there is a donut shop along the way if you want….” Just when I thought, I couldn’t love this hotel anymore……