Starwood’s The Nines Hotel, Portland Offers Great Food, Friendly Staff, and a Room Downgrade

I booked a room a ‘Deluxe Corner Room King’ at The Nines in Portland for this past weekend.

It was a cheap rate, and coupled with the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program I’d get a late checkout (duplicated by my Starwood status which is, alas, only Gold — and which I also wouldn’t need), daily Continental breakfast (which the hotel offers as a $34 per room credit each day for rom service as well), and a $100 food and beverage credit in addition — as well as an upgrade to the next room category subject to availability on arrival.

Wireless internet is free for all guests, though that too comes with status. All in all, it was a pretty good deal for a hotel that’s supposed to be the nicest offering in Portland.

The three knocks I’ve read consistently about this property are that the front desk staff tends towards indifferent, that upgrades can be hard to come by at this property, and that the atrium-facing rooms can be noisy. I dealt with the second and third potential concerns by booking the room I was most interested in from the get-go.

While the club lounge at this property is frequently regarded as offering possibly the best food displays of any domestic Starwood, given that I’d be out of the room most of the time I was in Portland and that I had substantial room service or hotel restaurant credit to burn, I didn’t want to angle for a club room. Instead, and at a lower price point, I picked the large corner room I wanted.

When I checked in, rather than being offered an upgrade (admittedly subject to availability), I was told that the hotel was full and that they had placed me in a room with two double beds. In order to rectify the bed-type assignment, the hotel downgraded me to a lesser Deluxe Room.

The front desk clerk checking me in claimed that’s what American Express booked for me, promised to follow up with Amex and get back with me during the course of my stay. (I never heard from him during the course of the stay.)

The check-in issue, handled not at all apologetically, was the only real misstep during my stay. Everyone else that I encountered on-property was excellent. And while I haven’t been to Portland in years, I’m a firm believer in judging properties comparatively. That is, I often go to TripAdvisor and see hotels like the Ritz-Carlton Central Park knocked for having expensive room service breakfast. And I think, “It’s the Ritz-Carlton. In New York.” Judge it for what it is. And compared to other hotels in its class.

Portland has plenty of upscale business hotels, but a dearth of hotels a notch above that. The Nines fills that niche, and everyone I encountered along the way was nice and perfectly pleasant — not polished and refined the way you’d encounter at a Four Seasons, but outgoing and eager to help.

The ground floor of the hotel consists of a bell stand and a bank of elevators, reception is actually on the 8th floor.

Elevators let you out facing the windows and the street, with the reception desk, concierge, and Urban Farmer restaurant 180 degrees behind you. It makes perfect sense, but entering the building for the first time it was actually a little bit disconcerting (signage, though wholly unnecessary, would have been nice).

Behind the reception desk is the atrium, with plenty of space for informal gathering.

My room was one floor above, and required the room card to reach guest levels in the elevator.

The room I was assigned was much smaller than the 550 square feet I had booked, though comfortable and well-appointed.

Toileteries in the bathroom were a lemon-smelling Bee Kind in paper packages that were replenished daily. The quality of the amenities were high, though the scent isn’t my favorite. According to a Mileponit thread on the hotel, they’ll be moving to wall dispensers filled with bath products instead. It’s part of their eco-consciousness motif (the toilet has a full and a half flush option as well).

I completely get the waste and expense that comes from replacing one-third used bath amenities each day, and also a desire for paper over plastic (which is even being replaced, and of course the paper packages contain less shampoo and bath gel than plastic bottle amenities do, they’re cheaper…), I’m not a fan.

The paper bath gel package meant that I had to conserve and make the most out of it in my shower, incidentally only one bar of soap was provided in the room and a pet peeve of mine is having to move it from the sink to the shower and back because I invariably forget to do so before getting into the shower, and for those who would claim that I should get over it in favor of an environmental ethic I’d point out that this failing of mine means that I wind up wasting water, as well as getting the bathroom floor wet in the process wasting additional towels as well.

Net net my hunch is that two soap bars is more environmentally friendly and even potentially less costly for the hotel in addition to being a convenience that I value.

I don’t like wall dispensers, though. Part of it may be that it reminds me of the motel that I used to stay at in Bakersfield in high school when we traveled to debate tournaments there. But mostly it’s my own hangups about cleanliness, I often find spots in bathrooms that are clearly not cleaned as well as they should be even in the nicest of hotels and I’d rather not be using the same dispenser that the previous guest used while showering (even though, of course, I’m using the same shower stall).

What I do have to offer, though, in the extreme positive — and this is reason enough that I’ll likely return — is that the food from room service was outstanding. And not just because room service is 24 hours, a pet peeve of mine that I’ve griped about more than once in the past few weeks.

With the breakfast benefit available by room service in addition to at the hotel’s restaurant, and with so much time spent at a conference (I’m an introvert and find it draining, I want to escape back to my room to recover), I placed multiple orders. And everything was delicious, even better than it looked.

My only quibble, post-checkin where I received a room downgrade in order to have a king bed, is that internet was excruciatingly glitchy. First, it wouldn’t recognize my room number and last name. I called down to the front desk and they guessed that it was a temporary problem that would resolve itself. They offered to send an engineer to my room, I asked in return whether there was a password I could use for access instead of my room number and name and they gave that to me. Once online the internet wasn’t lightning fast but serviceable … but it would go in and out, and it would simply stop working for a few minutes and then it would work flawlessly again. I finally gave up and started working off of my portable wireless device.

Still, if I hadn’t had the downgrade and indifference at check-in, I would have been thrilled with the stay, and I’ll likely give the property another try the next time I’m in Portland.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I assume the room category you were placed in was cheaper than what you had booked. Did they compensate you in any way for the downgrade?

  2. Ugh – that’s so typical of this hotel. Granted, it’s the better of the 3 Starwood properties in Portland (if you count the Aloft by the airport), but they play games with room type all the time. I would initiate a Corporate ticket for the lack of compensation.

  3. I used to stay there once a week… they are absolutely horrible about upgrades. Otherwise like you say it’s a great hotel.

  4. I actually LOVE this hotel, even without the upgrades. Could it be that they were trying to help and get you a king bed? Too often we tend to blaim others and not check. I know this hotel is great, and will continue to recommend it. 🙂

  5. I love this hotel and stay there all the time. Hands down they are the best hotel in Portland, hence why they are so hard to get into. Sounds like you should give them more credit, weren’t they trying to help you get the room type you requested once you checked in? I would reccommend this hotel any day!

  6. I have stayed at this hotel several times and the front desk staff can be at times rude. Other than that this hotel is excellent. It is the best in town.

  7. Dude:

    I would recommend booking the club level. While not having been to all of the flaship airport lounges–but most hotel lounges–I can attest that this place is off the charts. Full wine service from 10 am till 9 pm. Great food for every day-part…But you were essentially right…Whenever we stay there we find it hard to leave the club floor…

  8. I’ve been upgraded to suites a few times, but the standard rooms are very nice and I’m not sure the suite is really worth it. That being said, I always INSIST on an external-facing room for the additional natural lighting.

    The lounge at this property is my favorite of any domestic SPG. If you didn’t try this, you missed out on the best feature of this hotel.

    The staff is awesome, though I tend to be weary of their restaurant recommendations. It seems the owners of this property invest in local cuisine as well and the concierge is always pointing me at those restaurants. Now I always ask if the restaurant is affiliated with the hotel.

    I’ll go ahead and say this is my favorite SPG for under $200/night in the US.

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