A Pedestrian Trip, the Marriott Boca Raton

One of my frequent destinations is Boca Raton, Florida. Unfortunately there’s no Hyatt nearby. There’s no Starwood, either. And other than the Boca Raton Resort & Club, there’s nothing in town that purports to be especially nice.

I’ve schlepped from the Hyatt Pier 66 when I’ve had competing reasons to be closer to Ft. Lauderdale along with trips up to Boca on multiple occasions, and my old go to used to be the Westin Diplomat for these trips but I’ve tired of 45 minute drives each way when I can stay mere blocks from where I need to be.

Naturally to the North there are plenty of nice properties in Palm Beach. But you do have to go to Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach to broaden out options for a ncie hotel.

Starting in July 2004 I started staying regularly at the Renaissance. The property had actually been a Sheraton before that, the street it’s on used to be called Sheraton Way and was renamed Renaissance Way. It has a lovely landscaped pool area, and excellent staff. Used to be that the staff were among the best at any hotel, anywhere. Certainly among the friendliest. While they’re generally good, they aren’t quite as outgoing or polished as they once were. The rooms are showing more wear as the years pass. And breakfast isn’t nearly as bountiful, either.

I had earned a Marriott MegaBonus night from my stays at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix and the Renaissance Newark for the Freddie Awards. It’s a free night valid at up to a category 4 hotel, both full service Marriott properties in Boca are category 4 and a great value use of the cert during high season — but the certificate would expire in a few months’ time, and I’ve vowed to burn these whenever I can rather than letting them expire.

So I wanted to use one at the Renaissance. Rates for the weekend were cheap, but oddly a one-night Saturday stay was unavailable. So I couldn’t book a one-night MegaBonus redemption and one paid night.

Instead, I went with the nearby Marriott — the Renaissance is in the Town Center mall, and the Marriott is in the Boca Center mall next door. I had only stayed here once before, back in March 2002. My one night was free, the second night $90 on a AAA rate.

Now, the trip down was uneventful other than the worst security theatre lines I’ve seen in DC since May 2005.

My upgrade didn’t clear, first class was nearly sold out when I bought my tickets two weeks out, and I was at the very top of the upgrade list when we boarded.

But I had an exit row, internet, and the flight attendant comping me a snack thanked me for my loyalty, so no complaints really.

Avis in Miami always has something interesting for me to drive, they had me pre-assigned to a Hyundai Genesis, a perfectly fine car, but happily swapped me to a Volvo crossover SUV that had been delivered that day and never rented yet.

I was also on the tail end of my Platinum challenge that I abandoned after I started digging in and paying attention to the details of the Marriott Rewards program (no upgrades or club access at resorts, no breakfast benefit on weekends, late checkout isn’t guaranteed – and all that at the Platinum tier which requires 75 nights).

The hotel parking lot was as crowded as I’d remembered when I checked in a bit before 9:00pm. They have reserved Platinum spaces out front, but they don’t provide passes for those and don’t monitor the use, the spaces are almost always full and quite clearly not occupied by Platinum member vehicles.

The lobby is nice, with a water feature, it’s also busy and noisy at least it was not just on checkin but throughout the weekend. There were two weddings at the hotel, a women’s leadership conference, and two teenage sports teams staying on property.

I was given a room on one of the two executive floors. The lounge was closed, it’s only open Sunday evening through Thursday. We were told we could go in and get sodes, juices, and waters but the cupboard was mostly bare. There were also dirty dishes in the lounge that stayed there at least through Saturday evening.

This hotel goes above and beyond for Platinums (for all guests really since internet is free). Even though the lounge is closed, they still provide breakfast via coupons offered at check-in. The hotel has menu service and a buffet, we were informed at breakfast that the coupons are for the buffet only and could not be used as a menu credit.

The room was non-descript though perfectly serviceable.

The only noticeable defect was that the shampoo bottle in the bathroom was half empty.

It’s actually a pet peeve of mine. Rationally I know that the shampoo in the bottle hasn’t likely been touched by anyone else. Sure, the bottle has but they were probably clean! Still, I connect it emotionally with an unclean room. I could have called for a replacement but I didn’t notice the issue until I was in a rush to have a shower and leave for the day, so I used the shampoo bottle. Housekeeping didn’t replace it when they serviced the room, either.

Perhaps the hotel is big into conservation, there was an 80%+ finished roll of toilet paper in the bathroom when I left. They replaced the roll, but left the old roll on top of the new one to encourage finishing it off.

I didn’t ask for late checkout, though I did hear someone at the front desk scolding another employee for granting a late checkout request.

All in all at the $90 price point I have no complaints at all, and considering the local options I’d return. I sure wish that Starwood or Hyatt has a workable choice in the area, though.

Finally hit my favorite Cuban restaurant on the way out of town, before grabbing an American flight back to DC (on which I was upgraded this time, but the 737 with power, sky interior, and wifi had the power, video screens, and wifi non-functioning).

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 Milepoint.com, 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. Las Culebrinas. It’s gotten much more expensive over the years as it’s gotten more popular, but it’s still good and authentic. I go to the Coral Gables location by the airport, and the patrons are mostly older Cubans and it’s mostly Spanish spoken there.

  2. Gray, it’s worth just moving to the next town north for the Delray Beach Marriott, much nicer and def. more refined service.

  3. Not a bad hotel for a quick business stay. Given your stance on Marriott, though, surprised to see you didn’t decide to take the commute from Ft. Lauderdale. Did you take the Marriott points or frequent flyer miles for the stay?

  4. @Brad the points, always the points. And I’ve done the Ft Lauderdale thing many times, sick of it if I can avoid it…

  5. Gary, your story is my story!!

    I became a SPG Plat back in the days the Renaissance was a Sheraton. When it converted to a Renaissinace (I was there on 9/11), they service was excellent, and I continued to stay – more because of the schlep not being worth it.

    It has since had staff turn over many times to the point where for 10 years I always got my favorite room but now have to plead for it. I started commuting from the Westin Ft. Lauderdale on Cypress Creek, but like you, I’m tired of the extra half hour drive during rush hour.

    Let me know the next time you are there, and if I’m there (I’m there monthly) I’ll buy you one of the expensive drinks that I used to get free via drink coupons.

    I agree with the comments on the Delary Beach Marriott, except the DB location is usually $40 more plus parking (which is on my own nickel since the Renaissance is the corporately approved hotel). Surprisingly, the Ft. Lauderdale Westin is competitive with the Renaissance on price.

    No matter where I stay, I usually eat in Delray as that’s where the best restaurants are.

  6. Gary, are the seats that spaced apart or are you 4 feet tall? I’m 6’1″ and my knees are always pressed against the seat in front of me.

  7. Regarding upscale lodging options in Boca Raton, have you tried either of the two Waldorf Astoria properties?

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