As many of you know I joined Leslie in New York last week after the RWA Board meetings were concluded. We stayed in the conference hotel for the upcoming 2011 National conference. The Marriott Marquis on Times Square is beautiful. We weren't there for long but I spent some time checking the place out. I tried to look at it from the perspective of a conference attendee so I focused on a few things I knew would be important.
The Hotel is 45 stories. Our room was on the 44th floor. When you enter the hotel from the street you are greeted by an information desk, an escalator, and a bank of elevators. There is also a Starbucks but it's not very big and keep in mind it is also accessible to non-hotel guests passing on the street. Floors 2 through 8 are serviced a series of escalators in addition to the elevators. I'm told that a lot of the conference workshops and functions will be held on these floors and the hotel encourages liberal use of escalators on these levels. The actual lobby of the hotel is located on the 8th floor. Once there you are greeted by a 37 story open atrium with a central column which houses the high speed glass elevators. More about the elevators in a minute.
The 8th floor has a series of shops as well as the hotel's second Starbucks. I'm not sure about the weekday hours but this Starbucks closed about 30 seconds after I arrived in the lobby at around 1:00 PM on a Sunday. There are also several restaurants and bars on this level. One of these areas, the Atrium Lounge has a very large and comfortable seating area. When I arrived on Sunday the bar in the middle of the lounge was closed but many of the seats and tables were being used by people having impromptu meetings or just killing time waiting for someone. This particular area takes up a sizable portion of the atrium floor near the desk and I saw nothing to indicate it was a "restaurant". On Monday, while Leslie was on a business call I ventured down to the lobby, picked up a coffee and headed to this lounge to check my email and chill. I put my things down on a table and before I even reached for the chair a waitress approached and informed me the "no outside food or beverages are allowed in the restaurant." Sorry to say that unless you're having something in the restaurant during business hours, this very large, very useful meeting area is off limits.
We did have drinks in one of the lounges which overlooks Times Square. The service was a bit slow (I also heard this from others who had been there all weekend) and the prices were very New York. House Chardonnay $12 a glass, Sam Adams on Tap $8.
Internet is available in the hotel. In your room it can be accessed by connecting with a cable and purchasing the business package for $17 per day (which includes unlimited telephone long distance). Wireless Internet is available in the hotel common areas for $9.95 per 24 hour period or $2.95 for 15 minutes (and $0.25 each additional minute). Be careful if you choose to pay and use it for only one day. Leslie did this and although she only used it one day it automatically billed each day thereafter. The hotel was very happy to remove the additional charges.
While on the subject of the staff, in the short time I was there everyone I observed and/or interacted was very friendly, professional, and competent.
I promised more about the elevators. This hotel is equipped with a "state of the art" high-tech elevator control system which is supposed to move guests to their floors more quickly and avoid elevator congestion (which you regular conference goers know can be a huge problem in some hotels). The system is easy to use once you figure it out. That also is the biggest problem I noticed - the only time(s) the system seemed to get bogged down or not work efficiently was when people who didn't know how it worked tried to use it. With that in mind I though I'd provide a little instructional to make you all experts before you get there.
Step 1. When you approach the bank of elevators you'll see this control pad:
There are NO Up and Down buttons. You approach this pad and simply press the number of the floor you wish to go to.
Step 2: The system assigns an elevator (lettered A, B, C, etc.) and even points you in the right direction.
Step 3: You go to the assigned elevator and wait for the doors to open.
Step 4: Once inside there are no floor buttons, only the few you see here:
Step 5: You watch the two display panels. The one on the left (with the 37) indicates the current floor and direction, the one on the right will have a list of the floors the elevator is traveling to. It is a glass elevator so alternatively you could turn around and enjoy the view, unless you don't like heights.
If you need a little more help here is a short video of me walking through the process:
I hope this helps. There is one more very important thing. Please make note of the dates for the conference. It runs from June 28th through July 1st. This is TUESDAY through FRIDAY. This is a change from previous years. The entire conference has been slipped back a day. This means the conference concludes with the RITA awards on FRIDAY night just before the 4th of July weekend - in New York City. Please make your travel plans accordingly (and bring your patience). You can get more information on RWA's conference website.