“ Address: 1110 Old Elkridge Landing Road / Linthicum / MD 21090 / USA / Tel: 443-577-2300 „
DIFFERENT SHADES OF GRAY
As a business traveller, my choice of hotel is usually dictated by corporate policy and the location of the meetings I am travelling to, so I rarely get to stay anywhere scenic or interesting. The Westin BWI is a case in point. Located on the outskirts of Baltimore Washington International Airport, it is situated in a "hotel corridor" populated by almost every hotel brand imaginable. Externally, apart from the prominent signage, it's hard to tell one property from another. Each company tries hard to offer some unique aspect or variation of service, but to be frank, they strike me as much of a muchness.
The Westin is, as its full name suggests, very close to BWI airport, one of three major airports that serves the Washington DC metro area. Baltimore is north of DC, but transport links (road, rail and bus) from the airport make it a decent base for exploring the nation's capital. The hotel, in common with most, runs a free shuttle service that picks up guests from just outside the arrivals hall, and from there it is less than ten minutes to the property. There is plenty of available parking on-site for those who need it. I arrived at around 8:30 in the evening on a Sunday, so reception wasn't particularly busy. Check-in was quick and efficient, and two key cards were issued for my room on the sixth floor.
The hotel is very modern in style with white, polished stone floors, lots of dark woods and earthy décor and furnishings. Opposite the reception desk is a pebbled wall water feature meant to exude a sense of calm and relaxation to the place, but I found the idea a little forced. To the right of reception is a small kiosk selling "Sundries" which I used to re-acquaint myself with some of my childhood favourite sweets (Butterfingers and a Hershey Bar if you must know). Further to the right is a large, well-equipped gym and swimming pool complex, neither of which I used during my three night stay, but they seemed well-maintained and very clean. The ground floor of the property is characterised by high ceilings, plenty of natural light and comfortable seating areas. The services are completed by the "Luminous" restaurant, which serves as a breakfast venue by day and a bar by night. There are a couple of departure boards showing flights for BWI in the communal areas which does nothing to distract from what is very obviously, a typical airport hotel.
Rooms are spacious, tastefully decorated, and, in my case, dominated by the large king sized bed that proved to be every bit as comfortable as it looked. I usually have trouble sleeping the first night in a hotel bed, but the Westin was a happy exception - its no wonder they call them "Heavenly Beds". The chore was getting out of it in the morning! The mini-bar was not stocked, but complimentary bottled water is provided and refreshed on a daily basis. There is also a Starbucks filter-coffee machine in lieu of a normal kettle, and it was a real treat to brew a fresh cup first thing in the morning.
The large wardrobe contains a safe, an iron and ironing board, and plenty of storage and hanging space. A large LCD TV sits on top a long chest of drawers, and the desk provides enough space, plugs and cubby holes to work comfortably should the need arise. There are various lighting options around the room, but I had two small niggles. Firstly, the light that can be operated from the door is barely bright enough to get you into the room, and second, there is no switch by the bed to turn it off. It's been a while since I've stayed at a hotel absent this arrangement, and it was something of a surprise.
The bathroom is large and well appointed with both standard mirror above the sink and a magnifying mirror for make-up and shaving. There is the usual selection of toiletries (soap, shower gel and shampoo) and accessories, and a nice array of white, fluffy towels. The shower head was a very strange two headed arrangement, with one directly above the other, but water pressure was excellent and did much to blast away cobwebs from the flight and the social events of the night before. Although the shower curtain is the thin white type that I hate, the bath is widened at the shower end, so it's more of a cubicle. The sides of the bath are also quite low making it dead easy to step in and out of.
FOOD & DRINK
As I was there for a conference, I only had breakfast in the restaurant on my final day (we were separately catered for outside our conference suite on the other days), and was (happily) expecting the usual American buffet overkill and abundance of choice. As such, I was a little disappointing to find that the breakfast offering was very understated and much more akin to the continental style we are accustomed to in Europe. The only available hot food was an "egg bar" making fried eggs to order and omelettes, as well as a waffle press where you could make your own. Other than that, there was nothing remarkable or impressive about it. I ordered some poached eggs (which, counter-intuitively came from the kitchen rather than the egg bar) and when they arrived (it took almost 15 minutes) they were reasonably well cooked, but came in a bowl that was awash with water.
WiFi is available throughout the building - it is free in public areas, but charged at USD $9.95 a day if you use it in room. Apart from selling junk food, soft drinks and microwaveable snacks (there is a small microwave provided) the Sundries shop has a good selection of tourist information. One noteworthy leaflet gets you a discount book to use at the local Arundel Mills outlet mall, which is around a 15 minute cab ride from the hotel and will cost around USD $25 each way.
Despite its proximity to the airport, the hotel is not under the flight path and the windows are soundproof, so once you are inside, you'd have no idea that BWI is less than a mile away. Service was decent, but like much of the establishment, there was very little to distinguish it from any other Starwood property, or, for that matter, any other major hotel chain serving the business and executive market. Prices are reasonable and comparable with similar properties in the area (around USD $199 per night excluding taxes and charges). All in all, my three day stay was pleasant enough, but unremarkable. This property will mainly appeal to travelling business people attending conferences or visiting the many businesses in the immediate vicinity of the airport, but there is not much here to commend it to anyone else.
© Hishyeness 2012 (Returning for a second stay in May 2012 and will update accordingly)