MARRIOTT MARQUIS TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK CITY
OK, I admit it. Staying at a 2,000 room convention hotel is not something that has much appeal to me (unless it's in Las Vegas, and then I don't care how many rooms the hotel has as long as I have easy access to the casino.)
And as for New York, staying in the heart of noisy, crowded, ultra-bright Times Square was not something I relished. I prefer quieter, tamer neighborhoods.
But... I was going to New York as a tourist, and since the Marriott Marquis is a hotel with a huge following, I decided that I needed to know why.
Back in the 1980's, when the hotel was being built, it stood as a monolithic monument to corporate chutzpah. Who on earth would commit to a 50-story hotel in Times Square, in the midst of the pimps and hookers and crackheads? Obviously, the gamble paid off. Times Square has been cleaned up and is not only pretty darn safe but family friendly, too. The Marriott Marquis was the first of many mid-range to upscale highrise hotels ringing the theatre district, and it still stands as the biggest, glitziest, best-known (and probably the ugliest) of the lot.
Viewed from Broadway, the glittery entryway notwithstanding, the hotel rises above Times Square in a U-shaped configuration of drab khaki-colored fascia, looking for all the world like an overgrown prison. Once you manage to find your way through the portico to the bank of elevators that take you to the lobby eight floors above, though, the original impressions fall away and the hotel seems transformed.
The hotel's interior is an atrium rising some forty stories from the lobby mezzanine, which has recently undergone a major redesign. This level is filled with bars, restaurants and seating areas divided only by seating groups or half-walls and filled with wood, brightly colored glass objects, sofas and chairs all in a kind of contemporary-deco styling. I absolutely loved it.
We were lucky to get a room on the club level (29th and 30th floors) ... lucky to get any room, in fact, because it was Fashion Week and all the hotels in the city were booked solid. Bryant Park, which is where the big fashion event is held, is only two blocks from the hotel.
The Marriott Marquis' "club room" spans the front portion of the hotel on two levels. The lower level has sofas, a television, restrooms. The upper level is larger and filled with tables and chairs, a buffet counter, a bar and a concierge desk. Coffee and tea is available all day; Continental breakfast is served on weekdays, there is a cocktail hour on weekdays and a late-night dessert buffet. The concierge staff is genuinely warm and considerate; anything a guest needs is handled immediately with good cheer and humor.
Our room faced southwest, over Times Square and out to the Hudson. It was spacious for New York, but the furnishings were old and unattractive. I thought it was ok but my daughter found the room depressing. As high up as we were and with an unimpeded view, the room was still terribly dark. The hotel is doing a complete refurbishment of its guestrooms over the next couple of years; hopefully an upgraded line of furnishings and some brighter colors will enhance the guest experience. Ours had a dark green carpet, a large dark armoire, a large dark desk, a small settee and a couple of chairs in red, peachy colored walls and an orange bedspread. It really was not very appealing.
Much to my delight, however, the top part of the window opened. We had to get a housekeeper to come unlock it for us, but we were able to have fresh air in the room. Sealed windows is one of my major peeves, so this really cheered me.
The bathroom was standard and used fluorescent lighting (another one of my peeves.) The hairdryer kept shorting out, which was irritating, but the shower worked fine and there was plenty of hot water.
Times Square is a riot of sound and activity, street theatre in its most perfect form. Between the Naked Cowboy posing for photos with tourists, models posing for magazine cover shoots and MTV's TRL with Carson Daley, there are performers of all ilk. A South American music group set up shop on the corner of 48th and Broadway, promoting their CDs with an industrial-strength sound system that literally made it sound as though they were in my room on the 29th floor. The canyons of highrises funnel sound upwards; taxis honking and police sirens also seem as though they are sharing pillow space with you.
The Marriott Marquis is an atrium hotel with the rooms rimming an open center space. There is one bank of elevators at what I would call the rear of the hotel; getting to rooms toward the front can be quite a trek for someone who is disabled or for families with young kids. The hotel is so large that it spans a city block from front to rear. Take that into consideration when booking.
Not all of the rooms have spectacular views but most do. Whether you are looking north up Broadway or south towards Battery Park and over Times Square, or west across the Hudson, there is something inspirational in almost all of the room views. The rooms in the center sections (furthest from corners) have less of a view, as do rooms on the lower floors, of course.
The hotel has some "bedsitter suites" which offer more space but I found the standard room quite spacious. The club level rooms are not significantly more expensive than other floors and I think it's well worth the splurge. The Continental breakfast alone was wonderful, with fresh muffins and bagels, cereals, juice, milk, coffee and tea. The additional snacks and fruit throughout the day and the cocktail hour with hot hors d'oeuvres were nice, but the late night dessert buffet provided the perfect end to a New York day. Soft drinks and coffee are complimentary; cocktails are served at a cash bar.
All rooms have high-speed Internet connections (you can buy a package deal for phone calls and Internet service,) large desks, coffee makers, iron and ironing boards, cable television with free and pay movie channels and a game system. The lobby/mezzanine level has restaurants and bars of all types. The hotel's signature restaurant, View, with a revolving floor, is located on the 50th floor. Reservations are recommended.
The Marriott Marquis would not have been my first choice for a New York City hotel but I can understand why it's so popular. Since it's in the middle of Times Square, it's convenient to most of the New York that visitors come to experience. The subway system is just a block away, there is a huge selection of restaurants and bars both inside and outside the hotel, the theatres of Broadway surround the hotel (it even has its own theatre, the Marquis,) and it's within walking distance to most tourism venues in Manhattan. The hotel remindind me of a vertical cruise ship, with its central atrium and self-contained nature, docked in the middle of the Big Apple. Bon Voyage!
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