Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A better-than-average chain hotel, but it can't compete with the city's luxury icons.
The JW Marriott brand is the company's high-end line, but in a city with so many well-established luxury hotels, from the historic Westin St. Francis to the intimate Huntington to the sumptous St. Regis, the three-year-old JW Marriott San Francisco doesn't come close to cracking those ranks. Instead, the 338-room JW Marriott falls somewhere between a midpriced chain hotel and a true luxury property. The rooms, all with 42-inch flat-screen TVs, are spacious, but the bland decor could just as easily be found at a regular Marriott.
The flourishes that might elevate the hotel are missing, which is a shame because the building is striking. The most notable feature of the 1987 building, originally the Portman Hotel, is the 19-story atrium that rises above the 3rd-floor lobby. Glass elevators whisk guests up to rooms off open hallways, giving them a bird's eye view of the elegant bronze scupture by noted 20th-century American sculptor Elbert Weinberg.
With nightly turndown and a butler on call, the hotel promises luxury service, but the delivery sometimes falls short. If you're a Marriott Rewards member, this is certainly a much better choice than the 1,499-room, convention-centric Marriott in SoMa. For a similar concept but with more style, check out the W San Francisco. But if your preference is a high-end chain, go for the true luxury brands like the St. Regis or the Fairmont.
A wealth of offerings
With nightly turndown service, a "butler" on call, free shoeshines, and other such perks, the JW Marriott strives to deliver the kind of five-star service guests find at top luxury hotels in the city, such as the St. Regis or the Campton Place Taj. The breadth of services is indeed impressive. What's missing is the palpable feeling of being attended to with extra care.
One block away from shopping-centric Union Square
JW Marriott is on the corner of Post and Mason Streets, one block northwest of Union Square, which is famous for its couture shops. Home to enormous outposts of Niketown, Saks, Tiffany, Macy's, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus, among others, Union Square is to San Francisco what 5th Avenue is to New York City and Rodeo Drive is to L.A. Locals don't hang out here, but the square is great for people-watching nonetheless, and occasionally plays host to small festivals and demonstrations. Still, if consumption isn't a priority, you might prefer a neighborhood closer to the biggest tourists attractions, like Fisherman's Wharf.
Large, comfortable rooms with a few luxury amenities
At 360 square feet, the standard room at the JW Marriott is almost twice as big as the average basic room in San Francisco. Ample space may be luxurious, but the room decor isn't. With no rich fabrics or ornate detailing, the plain room could just as easily be in a Marriott as in the chain's high-end JW Marriott arm. The rooms are comfortable to be sure, but they fall short of true luxury. While the impressive 42-inch flat-screen TV and the spacious marble bathroom signal luxury, the plush beddings, lounge chair, and ergonomic desk chair are standard fare at any midpriced chain these days. The room's most distinctive feature is a switch on the wall for requesting service at any time. It's a cool concept -- if it works.
A gym, a business center, and, for the right price, a club lounge
The JW Marriott has the requisite big-city hotel features, but nothing else. Several nearby hotels like the Hotel Nikko have a pool. The Hilton San Francisco has both a pool and a spa. If all you need is a good Internet connection and a gym, though, this hotel will do the job.
Enough space for a family but little else for kids
This city hotel doesn't have a family vibe to speak of. Parents and kids can fit in the standard room -- though a suite with a sofa bed would be better -- and the room service menu has kids' choices, but that's about it for a family. Fisherman's Wharf hotels such as the Radisson and the Sheraton have outdoor pools, and they're closer to major tourist attractions like Pier 39 and the boats to Alcatraz.
Pets weighing 25 pounds and under allowed
The hotel is fine with small pets (25 pounds or less). Guests must pay nonrefundable $75 fee.
Very clean throughout.
No problems in the rooms. Everything's done up with a polish.
Casual lobby restaurant serving New American cuisine
The hotel's only restaurant, Level Three, is on -- where else -- the 3rd floor, right off the lobby. Unlike Postrio at the Prescott Hotel across the street, Level Three isn't a destination restaurant. With no walls separating its red and yellow booths from the lobby, it feels like a standard hotel restaurant, not a distinctive eatery in its own right.
The JW Marriott -- the chain's high-end brand -- tries to keep pace with the town's luxury standard-bearers with touches like 24-hour butler service and 42-inch flat-screen TVs in the spacious rooms. But with unremarkable room decor, no destination restaurant or spa, and so-so service, the hotel is just a better-than-average chain hotel.
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