Through branding or otherwise, there is no denying the Waldorf is a popular place as evidenced by the crowd at check-in. There was a hefty multitude, self-organized into one of those random scrambles where you try to pick the fastest check-in station and get in that line, then jump to another line when it becomes clear that the idiot in front of you is going to need a detailed description of his assigned room right down to the expiration date of the M&Ms in the mini-bar, discussing every detail with his deeply aggrieved wife who is clearly looking for a reason to bitch. And if that sounds like you, then yes, that was us behind you giving you dirty looks.
When you throw in the group travelers who split into different lines then instantly converge when the first one reaches the desk and the sharpies who try to subtly position themselves in two adjacent lines at once, the random scramble check-in becomes a seething caldron of human neuroses. Larry David could do an entire Curb Your Enthusiasm episode about it.
After a few minutes in the caldron, we noticed an automated check-in kiosk, so we dashed over to it in a moment of technological fearlessness. After following the on-screen instructions carefully and going through the entire sequence of displays, it unceremoniously informed us that there were no rooms available and we should get our pathetic ass back in line like everyone else.
Luckily, there were rooms available, I guess nobody told the kiosk. But that turned out to be just the start of the adventure.
The first evening was unseasonably cold, and it seemed the thermostat was not working. Every hour or so we would punch the temperature up a couple of degrees only it never got any warmer. The thermostat continued to read 68, but the little thermometer charm on my key chain said 62. By about 4AM I finally stumbled on the discovery that the heat didn't work when the fan is set on the lowest speed, it only kicks on at the medium or high speed. Of course at higher speeds the fan had one of those now-and-then rattling noises that are the audible equivalent of Chinese water torture. (To the Waldorf's credit this was fixed at my request the following day.)
Sleep would have been difficult anyway, since the fire alarm went off at 5AM, and again at 6AM. But we can't blame The Waldorf because some juvenile jerk-off decided to pull a prank.
The plumbing was also plagued with weirdness. There was a good thirty second delay from when you adjust the shower faucet until the temperature of the water changes. It took a good ten minutes of fiddling each morning to keep the shower from scalding and/or freezing us.
The paint was peeling badly. And there were loud renovations on the floor below between 10AM to 6PM, so no sleeping-in late or mid-afternoon cat naps because the fire alarm kept you up.
We have two bellwether amenities that we use as a litmus test for hotel's attention to modern necessities: An in-room safe that can accommodate an average-sized laptop and free high-speed internet access in all rooms. The Waldorf failed them both.
There is no safe at all.
High-speed (wired) access is $10 in room, but wireless is free in the lobby. Why charge for access in rooms? Maybe they are trying to recover the cost of the wiring. Why make valued guests run down to the lobby to save dropping $10 just to spend a few minutes checking my email? Allow us to state for the umpteenth time: ALL HOTELS SHOULD HAVE FREE HIGH SPEED ACCESS THROUGHOUT. At this point in history, it is roughly equivalent to free HBO. It's a no-brainer. Just do it already.
Of course, even if it's free you have to make the service functional. We strolled down to the lobby to get some emailing done and sure enough as soon as we got a couple of emails off, the wireless connection went out. (Again, this was corrected the following morning.)
As a result of all this, we have come to the decision that a glamorous past and sparkling chandeliers don't count for dick. From now on, the more modern the better.
Was anything good? Well, the lobbies (there are two) are elaborately beautiful, evoking that storied luxury of the Waldorf past, at least as we imagine it to have been. Take note: Appropriate dress is required in the Waldorf lobby. Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are frowned upon in the lobby. I don't know about you, but there is nothing more terrifying to me than the thought of having a desk clerk frown at me.
There are three restaurants and four bars, all looking very appealing. We did hang in the Lobby bar one evening it was an ace place to watch the appropriately dressed Waldorf=Astoria clientele walk by. Plus, you can check your email for free. We find it's always a good idea to reply to your email when drinking.
The employees all seemed to be genuinely devoted to giving good service. There wasn't a hint of defensiveness when I spoke to them the morning after the fire-alarms went off even though they must have been relentlessly hammered by complaints. Our standard request of a late check-out also was accepted without hesitation.
It could be that all of the construction is indicative of the Waldorf trying to modernize. That's a good step. Updating the services and amenities for this century would be another good step. The hardest part -- good service -- is already covered. Combined with a more updated rooms and revised policies, they might have something. But not now.
Considered as a salad, the Waldorf's lettuce is wilted, its apples are bruised, and the mayo is on the sour side. It's served promptly and with a smile, but that's just not enough at premium prices. The clever traveler would go elsewhere.
· Waldorf Astoria reviews [TripAdvisor]