STRATEGY AT THE RENAISSANCE
When I was invited to our company's three day leadership team conference to discuss our latest business strategy, I secretly hoped that we would be treated to a few days somewhere exotic. As our organisation is spread across Europe, the possibilities were endless. However, our management opted for prudence and settled on the Renaissance Hotel at London Heathrow as our venue. The airport is a scant ten miles away from where I live, but with our daily sessions starting at 8am and chit-chatting at the hotel bar into the wee hours practically mandatory, I booked myself in for three nights on the company's dime.
I checked in on a Monday evening and had the good fortune to be dropped off by my wife. For those not being chauffeured, the Renaissance, as an airport hotel, offers excellent connections. There is a paid-for bus service (£4 to Heathrow terminals), and a public bus stop on Bath Road (A4) just outside the main entrance, and both Heathrow and Hatton Cross stations (Piccadilly Line) are a short taxi ride away. Ample on-site parking is provided at a charge of £10 per day for overnight guests, but is included for those on the hotel's "park and fly" deals.
On arrival, I was distinctly underwhelmed. The hotel is massive and rather monolithic, with a functional and plain-looking main entrance. The drab image wasn't helped by the shop-fitting work being undertaken on a new Starbucks adjacent to the front door, which typically, opened for service just as I was checking out. As I was picking up my bags to make my way in, my eardrums were assaulted by the roar of an Emirates Airbus A380 landing on one of Heathrow's main runways, located just across the road and over the fence from the back of the hotel. I couldn't imagine how I was going to get any sleep, or who on earth would want to build a hotel so close to these deafening jets.
Thankfully, things started looking up considerably when I entered the building. The reception area is spacious and well appointed. Actually, the word "cavernous" better fits the bill, and, ceilings apart, it had more in common with the an airport terminal than a hotel lobby. However, given that the Marriott-run Renaissance has almost 650 bedrooms spread over four sprawling floors and substantial conference facilities, it soon becomes apparent that the space is totally necessary.
There are several large seating areas both directly in front of, and to the left and right of the main reception counter, as well as a separate airline crew desk which was busy catering to a large Korean Air contingent (looking rather resplendent in their pale blue uniforms). A number of TV screens silently show SKY news and there is one dedicated to Heathrow departures information.
Despite joining a queue of around ten people, each guest in front of me was dealt with courteously and efficiently. There were three staff on reception, plus a manager flitting between them to deal with any complicated queries, and in a matter of minutes, my credit card had been swiped and I was given the key card to my room. I was directed to the bank of four large lifts to the left of reception which seemed to take an age to arrive. The lift progressed serenely to the second floor - at such a deliberate pace that I could probably have walked up and down the stairs twice.
Although the ground floor had given me a hint of the size of the hotel, it doesn't really hit you until you come out of the lift, which disgorges you into an endless warren of identical and labyrinthine corridors. I was tempted to make like Theseus and use ball of yarn to find my way back to the lifts. After what seemed like an interminable walk (which, to be fair, was well sign-posted) I finally found my room, only to discover my key card didn't work. I still had my bags with me, so had to trudge back to reception with all of my gear to get it sorted. It turns out my Blackberry holster had scrambled it. Lesson learned, I trekked back to my room. Check-out was simple. A bill is pushed under your door on your last night, and if you have no issues with it, you simply drop your key card off in a labelled box at reception as you leave.
I fought to open the firmly sprung door and was surprised how small the room was relative to the size of the hotel. The entrance is fairly narrow, so if, like me, you are carrying a shoulder bag, you can barely get through the small "hall". The room was fairly typical of a four-star hotel aimed at the businessman or traveller and consisted of a desk area, a queen sized bed (with one mattress - not two put together), a couple of side tables, a TV cabinet that doubled as a storage chest, tea making facilities and wardrobe. There was a trouser press, iron, clock radio, telephone and hairdryer provided in the room and a non-functional mini-bar which you have to pre-arrange if you want stocked.
I was disappointed to see that the TV was the old CRT type, and would have expected a flat screen in a four star establishment. In any event, after an initial flick through the standard and pay channels available, I turned it off and never used it during my stay. The bathroom was spotless and very well lit, and featured a handy shaving/make-up mirror, a small display of complimentary up-market toiletries, and a bath/shower with an impressive looking shower head. Water pressure in the shower was magnificent, making for a brilliant early morning wake-up. The only issue was with the sink tap, which squealed something chronic when turned on, and would have been very annoying to anyone sharing the room with me.
A large array of towels are provided - including washcloths (more and more hotels seem to be forgoing these) - and a very generously sized terry cloth bathrobe. I unpacked into the three drawers under the TV cabinet, which were quite spacious and gave me more than enough room. However, the wardrobe was a bit of a squeeze. It is fronted by a full length mirror and is also used to store the iron and ironing board. An outer jacket, a pair of suits, and two shirts was about all it was going to accommodate without removing the iron (or having to use it!). If my wife had come with me, it would never have been enough space.
The room was very well lighted with a number of different options available depending on mood or need, and the desk was spacious enough to comfortably hold a laptop, documents and still have free space to work in. Having unpacked, I decided to try the WiFi connection (there is a "hard" connection at the desk, but I had also brought my net book along). The hotel charge £5 an hour for broadband access, or £15 for the day (per computer!), which allows you to surf in your room and any of the hotel's public areas. Access was very simple, quick and reliable with a strong signal almost everywhere I needed to use my PC's in the building.
Having arrived at night, I hadn't yet opened the curtains to check out the view. When I did, I was shocked to see an American Airlines Boeing 747 touching down on the main runway opposite. Apart from an ever so slight rumble, there was almost no noise - the hotel has state of the art soundproofing and you could be forgiven for forgetting you were next to the airport. In fact, the in-room air conditioning was probably louder.
SLEEP, EAT & DRINK
I don't sleep well on my first night away from my bed, but after meeting up with a few international colleagues, I managed a G&T aided peaceful slumber in a very comfortable bed. The linens and duvet are first class and easy to melt into, which made it all the harder to get out of bed in time to nab breakfast and make our punishing 08:00 conference starts. Breakfast is served, buffet-style, at the large Duo Restaurant. The usual hot and cold continental and English ingredients are on offer, and there is a manned central station where you can have fresh pancakes made and waffles pressed, and your eggs made in any style you want. My poached eggs were perfectly done at the first time of asking - a feat not often managed in many of the hotels I have visited, least of all when prepared in full view of the customer.
I had two dinners at the restaurant, and on each occasion, the food was impeccable. However, on the first night, we arrived to eat at 21:30, just as the restaurant was closing and I felt staff somewhat resented the last minute appearance of twelve hungry-looking covers. Service was slow and bordered on sulky, with everything seemingly too much trouble. Things were much better for our corporate dinner the night after. The hotel also provided snacks and buffet lunches during our three day conference, although some of the items on offer were a decidedly strange (scrambled egg and poached trout baps?) and smacked of a few leftovers cobbled together in the hopes we'd be too hung-over to notice.
Speaking of hangovers, the hotel bar was unremarkable and had the feel of an airline lounge. It is almost apologetically screened off from the rest of reception by large, open shelving, with one large screen television showing MTV, or as it happened, Champions League football. It certainly isn't somewhere to go for a cosy nightcap and signature cocktails. Staff were efficient but overstretched and struggled with any requests that were out of the ordinary. In fact, they ran out of ice at one point in the evening and seemed to make very little effort to get some, despite the fact that I, personally, had passed three ice machines on my way down from my room.
I have colleagues who relish staying at hotels because it means a guaranteed work-out. I see it as a chance to sleep, drink and stuff myself silly. Each to their own. I didn't bother visiting the gym, even for a look-see for the purposes of this review, but was reliably informed that - having recently been refurbished - it is clean, spacious and well equipped. There are is a barber and a salon on the ground floor, as well as a shop selling over-priced souvenirs, toiletries, sweets and other sundries. Pets are allowed on site but only on payment of a ridiculous "non-refundable" £50 sanitation fee. An on-site ATM provides access to cash if needed (for a transaction fee of course).
The contemporary and modern styled Renaissance London Heathrow has a transient look and feel about it that isn't helped by its sheer size and frankly uninspiring decor. It is really nothing more than a four star place to rest your head - somewhere to stop on your way to somewhere else, unless, like me, you are there to take advantage of its sizeable corporate function facilities. It seems most popular with air crews (we saw staff from at least fifteen different airlines check in and out) and business types. That said, it is comfortable and relatively affordable hotel with a touch of class for anyone looking for an overnight stay before using Heathrow, but discerning and cost-conscious families may prefer more affordable or child-friendly affordable (for instance, surprisingly for its size, there is no pool on-site).
Given the competition in the area, its rack rate of £220 per night is on the expensive side, but there are always deals to be had, and around £100 to £150 is achievable depending on occupancy levels (see the comprehensive web-site - reference below - for details). There is even a "plane-spotters break" which gives you a run-way view room and access to a club lounge with uninterrupted views of the airport. Go figure.
Recommended. Sort of.
Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel
Bath Road, Hounslow TW6 2AQ
Phone: +44 20 88976363
Fax: +44 20 88971113
Toll-free: +44 20 85646166
Check-in @ 15:00
Check out @ 12:00
If you like planes this is the place to be! Especially if you can get a room at the back of the hotel overlooking the heathrow runway.
I often stayed at the Renaissance Heathrow when working in London on business as it was very handy for both the airport and the office where I was working.
Its an old style hotel which doesnt look that impressive from the outside, but once you're in the main reception area it feels very different and a lot more modern. The rooms are typical ensuite hotel rooms and were in the process of being refurbished during the period I stayed there. There is a sizeable car park if you're driving, but despite the size it does get very full at times.
The staff were always very helpful and the food choice and quality was extremely good both in the restaurant and for room service, though it has to be said it is slightly more expensive than other hotels in this area.
Other than that the services are as you would find in most other hotels, conceirge, ATM, foreign exchange, etc. There is wireless internet now available throughout the hotel, although there is an extra charge for this.
There is a small health club on site which guests can use 24 hours, and some fitness classes for which there is an extra fee.
For those that dont know this, the Renaissance chain is part of the Mariott group, and so there is a very good loyalty scheme which is worthwhile joining if you plan on staying often. You can quickly build up free nights at a choice of hundreds of hotels in the Mariott Group.
Rates are slightly lower than average for this area where there is a great deal of competition from a lot of other hotels, typically around £70 for a weekend night stay, around £99 for a standard weekday room.
The only problem I have with this hotel, and the other hotels in the area is that there is nothing else to do nearby, other than a very dodgy looking bowling alley and a macdonalds. If you're only there a night or two, dont let that bother you, but if you're staying regularly you may want to think about a hotel a bit closer to central London to avoid getting bored!
We needed to stay somewhere at Heathrow on the 15th February before our trip to New York. We chose holidayextras.co.uk which is an excellent site. Our rate was £80.00 inc. 15 days parking, which was a great price. Just incase you don't know, Renaissance Hotels are a brand belonging to Marriott Hotels. Marriott has 3 brands in the UK - Marriott (funnily enough!), Courtyard by Marriott and Renaissance along with Executive Apartments. I have always associated Marriott with luxury, comfort, cleanliness and great service. Well, I was right. My dad used to be a member of the Marriott Leisure Club at the Cardiff Marriott, which was great. My dad has also stayed at a couple of other Marriott's in the UK which have also been excellent and I was looking forward to staying at the Renaissance Heathrow, part of the Global Marriott chain. By the way, Marriott are a chain with nearly 3000 hotels across the globe. Anyway, on the 15th February, after travelling all the way from Cardiff to Heathrow, we arrived at the hotel (the hotel is next to the Heathrow Visitor centre, the road is just left of the British Airways Concorde Statue. In fact, we got lost, despite having the Marriott Directory with us, because the turn is rather hidden, you see it and then you miss it if you are not careful and end up going under the tunnel to the airport! Here are the directions from the Directory: From M25/J15 and M4/J15 towards Central London on M4. Exit M4 at J4 and follow signs to Heathrow Airport Terminals 1, 2 & 3 via the M4/Heathrow Airport access road. Straight over roundabout then immediate left to next roundabout. Hotel is the second exit from the roundabout. This hotel is actually the closest hotel to Terminals 1, 2 & 3, but, if your travelling from the distant Terminal 4, the Hilton is the closest one. As we were flying with Virgin Atlantic (excellent airline, but that's a different review!) from Terminal 3, the Renaissance was great.
Well, on arrival, we were met by a porter, who collected our baggs and put them on to one of those baggage, trolley thingies. This was great. My dad then drove the car down to the car park down the back. There was a bit of a queue at check-in but it was fairly quick. The staff were very friendly and they were helpful. Aswell as the usual key cards, reciepts ect. they (have to) give you on check-in, they gave a mini tobelerone for each person which was a very nice touch. The lifts are large and airy, not to mention, spotless like the rest of the hotel. We were on the 3rd floor, in a standard room. There was a double bed, for 3 people which I thought weird at first, but they came with a comfortable fold up bed for me. I think the max. occupancy is three but I am not sure. The rooms were tastefully decorated and had all the great amenities. This hotel has the 'Marriott Room'. It had sattelite TV in a cabinet, so you could hide the TV to make it look more tidy, a mini-bar (with a Pepsi which was about four months from it's best before date!), tea and coffee making facilities in a cabinet, again to make it look tidy, spacious work desk, en-suite bathroom and the normal things. The room were very comfortable, if not luxurious and flight departures and arrivals was on the TV. We didn't have the runway rooms unfortunately, but the hotel throughout was silent from engine noise for a great sleep. The towels were very plush and there was toiletries branded 're'. They smelt really fresh and were luxurious. There was also a washing line holder in the bath! The bathroom had hairdryer, loads of mirrors and shaving kits. There was also sowing kits in the drawers in the room. We did not want to leave, even though we were going to New York the following day. For both Breakfast and Dinner we had Room Service, reasonable prices, although can't remember how much. The food was cooked to perfection, and was really del
icious. The Pizza, Chips, Club Sandwiches for Dinner/Tea were great and the breakfast set you up for the day. All served with a smile. The bar is, I hate to say it, very expensive, it is very, very luxury hotels prices. But, then again, what do you expect from a 4 star which should be rated 5 stars! The staff were very friendly in here though, like everywhere in the hotel. This hotel does not have a Marriott Leisure Club, it just has a mini-gym, and a sauna, steam room along with a steam room which we did not use. There was a 'Barberella' hairdresser and a gift shop on the ground floor next to the lifts. Check-out was easy, and, agin done in a frindly manner. Collecting our car was done very easy. Would I come back to the hotel again - of course- YES!! It was so comfortable friendly and, in fact luxurious and so enjoyable.
The weekend rate with parking offers exceptional value for money. It?s a pity (for people like me travelling with two kids) that they seem to have reduced the maximum occupancy to 2 adults and a child recently. The location could hardly be better. Plane spotters will love the proximity of the main runway and the Heathrow visitor centre is right next door. For those like me who begrudge paying £3 each way for the Heathrow Hopper the main London Transport route is immediately outside and, since the hotel is within the Heathrow Free Transport Zone, you can get to the Airport bus terminal every few minutes - free. The rooms are standard international quality and restaurants expectedly pricey (McDonalds is opposite). One big drawback - especially if making comparisons with nearby hotels is that there is no pool.
When we needed somewhere to stay after a trip to Seattle and Western Canada, we hunted around for a parking inclusive package at one of the Heathrow airport hotels. We had already tried the Hilton and the Radisson Edwardian, the latter being absolutely awful despite its 5 star rating. We had also enjoyed a stay at Le Meridien, but for 3 weeks car parking the Renaissance offered the best deal, and we were happy to try something different. From the outside, the Renaissance looks pretty unremarkable. It is a rather ugly looking large long four storey concrete block with loads of uniform windows. Once inside, some of the doubts you may have had, judging on outside appearances, disappear. The lobby is large and modern, with places to sit, and shops tucked away at one end. It isn't particularly luxurious, but like many of this class of hotel, is smart and uniformly decorated. The staff at reception were courteous and efficient. We had dropped our car off at the hotel three weeks before, and usually this causes much confusion at Heathrow hotels. We were pleased that on this occasion it had been very simple and our departure to the airport was not delayed. We paid £120 for our room, which included car parking for the length of our holiday, even more of a bargain if you were away for a really long time. This was very impressive as usually Heathrow hotels only include 15 days parking and then you pay between £5 and £10 per extra day. For a stay at the Hilton you would pay £225, so we were more than pleased with the value. After our break, having been spoilt by North American standards of service, we were happy to find the check in was similarly efficient on our return. I had requested a room overlooking the runway, and forever doubtful as to whether requests have been noted, I confirmed this on checking in. The request had been noted and the check in clerk showed me the position of our room on a large floor plan of the hotel - very efficient. O
ur room, which by the nature of the hotel, was on a low floor, was of average size. It was furnished with a table and armchair, a desk and chair and a TV unit all in a medium shade of wood. The bedspread was in a light floral print with the chairs in co-ordinating light green fabric and the curtains were in a light cream colour. It had all the amenities you would need like hairdryer, iron, minibar, fairly good lighting etc. The room was very typical of the Marriott breed of North American chain hotel. It didn't strike you that it particularly needed updating, although it may have been a little old fashioned in places. There was a well publicised refurbishment program under way, and I am sure this will improve the rooms before they really need it. The reason a lot of people stay at the Renaissance is because it is the only hotel really close to the runways at Heathrow. We requested a runway facing room, and this had large windows overlooking the airport a short distance away from one of the two runways. This is a plane spotters dream, and for anyone even vaguely interested in civil aircraft, it is really interesting. Heathrow being such a busy airport with aircraft always landing or taking off, it certainly beats watching TV! The rooms are triple glazed, but you are aware of the rumbling of the aircraft, but I personally did not find this distracting and I slept soundly even during the day after our flight. The hotel has a few shops selling newspapers etc and also tourist items. Off the lobby is the Brasserie restaurant, and also a fairly small bar. We decided to have a light meal in the bar, and the service was excellent. It was quite a refreshing change to have such attentive and professional bar service in an UK hotel. Unlike other UK hotels owned by North American chains where you are never sure if you are expected to order at the bar (and the staff often seem purposely hesitant and let you get up and order!), we were attended to very so
on after being seated and we continued to get the attention we needed when we wanted to order food and/or more drinks. We only really wanted a light snack, so ordered from the bar menu a sandwich and a pizza. The portions were generous and could be described as good bar fare. Breakfast which unusually was included in the package was served in the main restaurant, and offered a good choice of continental and cooked breakfast items. Marriott and Renaissance always seem to do breakfast very well, combining the usual English items with the added benefit of American type things like Muffins etc - making for a really good choice. When we checked out the bill was correct, with the rate of £120 being honoured (we have found on a few occasions that when checking out, hotels deny all knowledge of the rate you have booked, meaning a rather unpleasant and unwelcome confrontation after what has always been a fantastic foreign holiday). We always stay overnight on our return to Heathrow, after an overnight flight, and seem to be working our way through all the 4 and 5 star Heathrow Hotels. Most are at best, average, with the sole 5 star being especially poor. The Renaissance, which does not seem to promise much, actually delivers everything you would require, without the usual confusion, apathy and poor service we have experienced at other Heathrow Hotels. Oh yes, and for plane spotting, it's great to be able to do this from the comfort of your warm and cosy room