For the my first World Travel Market conference (WTM), one of the largest travel events in Europe, held each year in London at November, I knew that I needed my hotel to be easy as convention days are long and exhausting. As the conference was being held at the ExCel Convention Center (in the Docklands which is outside of central London about 30 minutes + by transit depending on your starting point), I hoped for a points stay at the London Aloft Excel which is adjacent to the Convention Center. Basically you don’t need a coat to walk from one building to the other it’s that close! Lucky for me, I found a room for 10k Starwood points per night and instantly booked the room before I bought airfare or registered for the conference. You need to be strategic when the conference is expecting over ten thousand (yes 10,000+) attendees and the hotel is steps away with 252 rooms, 12 suites and 19 accessible rooms.
London Aloft Excel – Location at Docklands
The Aloft Excel is far from Heathrow (but close to City Airport LCY) so with other plans scheduled for the day, I happily paid Airportr to deliver my bags from the airport to the hotel. Located out of central London it’s about an hour or so by a combination of trains (Heathrow Express to Paddington, tube and light rail DLR). From central London you can take the DLR to the ExCel Center station at Prince Regent. While there isn’t a lot of life around the center, go a few stops to Canary Wharf (a business district) and you’ll find many great restaurants.
On the plus side, it’s quiet with a water view. You can walk to the Emirates Air Line and use your Oyster card to fly over the water to the boat dock to ride into central London on the River Bus (boat transit aka Thames Clipper) past the photo highlights of the city. Sadly, I had a rainy day.
Arrival at London Aloft Excel
I arrived from the DLR train after spending the day at the Spirit of Christmas Fair (held in late October/early November) and climbed the two flights of stairs as if I were going to the Excel conference center. There is an entrance to the hotel at this level bringing you in at the 2nd floor Docksider restaurant lobby so you can take the lift (elevator) down to the lobby or use the wooden spiral stairs.
The small circular front desk was a quick check in and as this is a limited service hotel with standard rooms there was no gold upgrade available so I chose the points over the drink option for my Gold status amenity. Wi-Fi is free for all (what a concept). My bags were quickly retrieved from the storage room and I was off to my room.
London Aloft Excel – re:fuel grab & go
There is a small takeaway shop called re:fuel that pretty much had everything you need in a grab and go – coffee, pastries, pre-packaged sandwiches, snacks and drinks. The prices were reasonable. The local market was about a ten minute walk through the convention center to local shops. The convention center has fast food options and a few sit down restaurants that are open various hours depending on the event.
My Aloft Room in London
The elevator plays upbeat music that makes you want to dance which is the opposite of the hallways which are pin drop quiet but nicely designed with color accents and lighting features. When I reached my room, I was pleasantly surprised by the large space and how well designed it was.
When I entered the room, the open sink space was on the left with a closet behind it. The bedroom with wall length desks and seating was in front of me as was a water & parking lot view.
The bedroom was practical in all ways – the bed had two nightstands, the room had two desks, the TV was mounted in between the desks in front of the bed. The windows had room darkening shades to pull (no curtains) down. The iron and ironing board were hidden in the built in nightstand. It was simple and the design helped elevate the mood from conference hotel to a boutique like experience with a different Starwood concept (imagined as a “vision of W Hotels”).
The open bathroom is designed to help couples share a room more efficiently with the sink open into the room with the toilet and shower behind a sliding door. The walk in shower had Bliss products in eco-friendly mounted bottles (sadly I could not feed my toiletry chipmunk habit). The only oddity for me was the glass shower looked into the room but had a shade if needed (I’m not a fan of the glass doors as glass room wall).
London Aloft Excel Restaurant
The Aloft Excel restaurant, Docksider Bar & Restaurant, has a set lunch menu (if you don’t want to wait in the long queues at the conference center) of two courses. It’s a nice change from the fast food options at the center to sit down and enjoy lunch with a glass of wine of course!
The dinner menu is standard fare with burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads and entrees. During my stay the restaurant wasn’t crowded after the convention folks had left. The service was a bit harried during lunch but leisurely at night – all were friendly and the food was good.
XYZ Lobby Bar at London Aloft Excel
I had a drink and some appetizers in the lobby one night when I was too lazy to get on the train to Canary Wharf. The bartender was friendly, the live music (guy on a guitar that night) was good and the food good. Despite sitting at the bar alone, no one bothered me and the bartender was all business so you can be alone if you want.
Other London Aloft Excel Amenities
There’s a gym and a pool! A pool in London what a perk! With a busy conference schedule I didn’t get to use either as I was so happy to fall into bed each night. This property is also dog friendly (up to 40 lbs.) with their ARF (Animals are Fun) program. A dog friendly London hotel is a rarity in my experience. The bar also had a pool table and the hotel is constantly updating its social events and artist/musician appearances.
Final Thoughts – London Aloft Excel
The Aloft at Excel is a limited service hotel which keep prices lower and gives the guest what they want – simple nicely designed hotels with comfortable spaces to eat, sleep and work. The London Aloft Excel website describes the hotel as “……sassy, ultra-effortless, fresh, fun, fulfilling, modern…” I’m not sure about “sassy” but I think the hotel definitely captures the spirit of the modern traveler. If you are visiting ExCel Convention Centre, this is the perfect place to stay in London. The London Aloft Excel exceeded my expectations in product, design and service.
ExCel Convention Visitor/Exhibitor: The hotel books up quickly for conventions/events so book early (if using points you can always book and cancel later without penalty). They do offer SPG points redemptions and participate in the “5 nights for the price of 4” points’ promotion. If attending an event at ExCel, this is a fantastic hotel to stay in.
Flying to/from London City Airport (LCY): If you need a hotel in East London close to London City Airport (LCY) this is a wonderful option. They also offer day rooms if you need that. City Airport is 20 minutes by DLR and a bit less by bus or taxi.
Going to O2 for a concert or event? The London Aloft Excel is a nice option across the river. It a short walk to the Emirates Air Line to transit the water.
First Time London visit (for vacation): I don’t recommend staying this far out (the Docklands/O2 area) on your first visit because the cost savings will be offset by the transit cost and commuting time. Use your points instead at the Sheraton Park Lane which is across from Buckingham Palace and close to Hyde Park on Piccadilly.