Review: How the W Doha Hotel Called Out My Blog (But Was Still a Great Platinum Experience)

The W Doha Hotel is a great property, much more in line with the Ws of Asia than the US. It’s gorgeous, with friendly staff, and they treat Platinums well.

Previous Installments:

On arrival I had the W Doha Hotel pick me up. They offered several transportation options, the most expensive (~ US$65 at the time) was a Bentley. I’d never ridden in a Bentley before, and decided to try it though it was thoroughly unnecessary.

Ultimately it was just a car, and not even a super spacious one, I didn’t get anything out of a Bentley compared to any other vehicle really… but now I know that (even if I would have earlier suspected that).

W Doha Hotel

w-doha hotel

There were cold towels and snacks in the car. I used a towel, didn’t open the snacks.

It was only a short drive to the W Doha Hotel. There’s so much construction around, there’s bare ground preparing for building near the W and also construction in progress. It was a bit unclear to me what the ‘neighborhood’ would eventually look like other than a concrete jungle.

The hotel itself though is lovely from the time we pulled up.

W Doha Hotel

Though the design of the property is unlike other Ws I’ve stayed at, it was also very consistent with the brand. I felt like I was in a W.

w-doha hotel

Check-in was friendly, although it took longer than I might have expected. Sometimes check-in can be too friendly when I’d prefer that it was efficient, but that’s a minor quibble and of course guests have different expectations.

We were escorted to our room by the woman who checked us in. I had used Suite Night Awards for the two night stay booked here on cash and points. The woman who brought us up was friendly enough, but a bit clueless about Starwood elite status or even the hotel’s own policies. For instance, I asked about the club lounge and she was surprised we’d have access — even though I’m a Platinum member, and guests staying in suites have access per hotel procedure.

The room was gorgeous, though. There was a long hallway as you enter the room, and a half in the entryway before reaching the living room.

The living room was large and attractive. The couch was comfortable. There was a dining table and a desk. I do think the chair suspended from the ceiling was more for decoration than for use, although I imagine there are people who use it to stare out the windows.

The bedroom was great in that it made the bed a real centerpiece. I love rooms whose design are themselvs art, whether or not they’re arranged how I would do so myself at home.

The large master bath was about the size of the bedroom, and the shower featured large size Bliss amenities. Since I’ve long enjoyed the Bliss products in W hotels, I always appreciate the extra large bottles.

This was just the regular W suite. When One Mile at a Time stayed here, Lucky received a Wow Suite. When The Points of Life stayed here, he received a Wow Suite. I received the standard W suite that’s confirmed using the Platinum Suite Night Awards which I used on the stay and no further upgrade.

However I was a little bit uncomfortable by the display I found in the room. It was funny and it clearly took effort however. I’d just never seen anything quite like the way the W Doha Hotel was calling me out.

This was the first hotel where I didn’t already know the general manager that clearly flagged me as the author of this blog. And they did it in a pretty shocking way, I thought. Although it didn’t actually get me anything beyond what any other Starwood Platinum guest would receive.

The hotel is well-regarded for upgrading Platinums even without use of one of 10 suite night awards for the year. I used two of mine, and I got the room that normally comes with that. Meanwhile people often report much better than that. I guess they wanted to flatter me — not give me a Wow suite.

The breakfast benefit is the hotel’s full Market restaurant buffet. And the property is one of only 2 W hotels I know of with a club lounge.

Platinums can take breakfast in the lounge or the restaurant, there’s substantive amounts of food throughout the day in the lounge and complimentary evening cocktails as well.

The breakfast buffet was bountiful. Service was a bit lacking, so whenever I saw a server I flagged them down for more coffee even if I had just started my last cup.

Here’s the menu: (Click to enlarge)

The buffet featured an array of hot and cold items, and you could order something off of the menu freshly prepared as well.

The club lounge is on the second level of the hotel, and looks out over the lobby.

Here’s the evening beverage list. There’s a full bar but other choices are charged.

(Click to enlarge)

And part of the evening spread:

The club breakfast is a nice spread as well, and there are snacks during the day too.

There’s something unique about a hotel in the Middle East — there are policies and there’s practice, and the two coexist and contradict. That takes many forms. While Qatar is one of the more conservative countries in the region, the agent who checked me out of the St. Regis Bangkok had previously worked at the W Doha Hotel. He was gay, so I was fascinated to hear from him that Qatar is his favorite place in the world. He offered to share his favorite night spots. Although he conceded his attachment to the country had much to do with the personal friendships he had formed, as opposed to particulars of the nation itself, he shaed that he felt at home there and missed it working in Thailand at the St. Regis.

In an arguably much less serious manner I thought the juxtaposition of contradictions was nicely highlighted by the no smoking sign on the 12th floor — directly above an ashtray.

While I didn’t avail myself of the spa, gym or the pool, I checked those out briefly.

Of course the whole idea of visiting Doha briefly, for two nights, was to check out the Museum of Islamic Art.

Even the museum building itself is art. It’s among the last things designed by architect I.M. Pei who reportedly spent 6 months — in his 90s — learning about Muslim architecture to develop inspiration for the project. The lore is that he rejected all of the proposed sites for the building, ultimately suggesting a standalone island.

Inside is a collection of Islamic art spanning nearly 1500 hundred years and across Europe, North Africa, and Asia. And much of the artwork emanates from useful objects of everyday life.

The hotel was a great value on cash and points. I paid $110++ and 6000 points per night, was upgraded to a suite and had both complimentary restaurant breakfast and club lounge access — and it’s a nice lounge if not a bit dark for my tastes. There was no problem with 4pm late checkout.

I’d absolutely return to the W Doha Hotel, with the caveat that I’m not likely to spend a lot of time in Doha having done the only thing that really drew me to the country already, and also that I’d be tempted to try the St. Regis as well.

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 InsideFlyer.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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Comments

  1. @Dave It’s not a complaint. I had a great stay! It was kind of creepy (even if you might say ‘creepy awesome’). And I also want to fully disclose whenever a travel provider ‘identifies me’ in case that affects the stay, so I felt like I needed to work through whether it did at all and I don’t think so.

  2. gary, does your CFO work take you to places like doha? or is most of your travel for the sake of providing content for the blog, and you simply work remotely for both it and your CFO job?

  3. Creepy and inappropriate – they could have just recognized you at check-in with a tour or something.

  4. @mike My work travel is pretty exclusively domestic. My international travel is mostly vacation with my wife. This was a personal trip.

  5. Terrifying.

    I am always surprised when bloggers are surprised that hotels keep tabs. Of course they do.

  6. given past comments i feel like you probably have some strong thought out political/economic opinions; do you have a hard time visiting gulf states? returned from my 2nd visit to the UAE and a longer one (3 weeks).

    i stayed with a bunch of young people in dubai marina w/airbnb, and an older indian accountant in abu dhabi. i chat with some locals i met at ferrari world, including a guy who grew up there but was syrian so was being kicked out. also chat with the dude who cleaned the toilets while waiting for a shuttle at yas.

    the recent vice episode ‘trump in dubai’ shows some of the problems there, which weren’t that hard to find once you looked (or were there a few weeks) – as a libertarian i find it hard supporting a place built up so much human misery and suffering and for little apparent reason. i recommend friends not to go although have gone in the past and may hypocritically go again; my hobby/blog is pretty car related, and it’s hard to resist that this is the one place in the world where you can – and affordably at that – essentially rent a real race car and drive it on a real F1 race track. i have friends who want to go just to see the glitz/wealth and view it as a las vegas of the middle east… but if they are not car people, i try and steer them away from visiting at all.

  7. Someone working where you are sleeping spent hours photoshopping your body on other people’s bodies… totally not creepy. Totally normal.

  8. @mike I’ve written on this. I think it’s really quite complicated, though I try to keep my own approach pretty simple.

    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2015/03/01/should-you-travel-to-countries-with-awful-human-rights-records/

    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2015/08/05/is-it-wrong-to-fly-an-airline-when-you-dont-support-their-countrys-government/

    Travel providers in countries with problematic human rights tend to be among the most progressive forces in those countries. That’s not universally true, but it’s largely true.

    I don’t think any one traveler will either prop up a regime or produce change through their visit. But I think that engaging with different countries and cultures can produce better understanding of what things are like there, and you can bring that understanding back and influence your own politics at home.

    I do think that in general the MOST repressive societies can only remain so as closed societies. That’s why North Korean restricts the internet, and restricts which of its citizens can interact with Westerners. But that doesn’t mean interaction is enough to create larger degrees of freedom. But then the UAE and Qatar are far from among the worst of the worst in the world either.

  9. gary, you are a public figure, even a celebrity of some sort.
    i’m a nobody and found that W hong kong had checked out my linkedin account before i arrived.
    if someone were going through my garbage or peeking in through my windows to find out more about me then i would consider that creepy. but accessing publicly available information that one actually publishes with the prime reason being publicity cannot be considered creepy.
    i very often have a quick look at peoples’ profiles that i have interactions with either business or personal. just to get a bit of background info on them like what they do, have done, what they like, etc. is that creepy? if so, then why would they make that information so freely available?
    i don’t find those papers about you very amusing but i’d hardly find them creepy. maybe a twenty-something would be delighted. who knows?

  10. Its such a blatant marketing ply by these hotels and airlines – they give bloggers special treatment well knowing that this will get on to the blog sites. Not that as a Platinum and Hyatt Diamond I don’t get good treatment, but this OTT fawning, which results in erstwhile positive comments are blatant disqualifiers for unbiased reporting – but I guess thats for reporters and not bloggers!! 🙂

  11. @DT what extra treatment? I got the standard room for platinun suite night awards (even though they frequently comp that to platinums anyway, and sometimes better rooms still). I got club lounge access and breakfast and late checkout as… a Platinum. I paid full price (well, cash and points). So how was my stay improved in any way because I write a blog?

  12. @ Gary – I have stayed at this property in the suite category you list. The welcome amenities, hand written note and the display was way OTT from what I recall. The car (ok, I did not take the Bentey!) , was about the same rate as you list and water/cold towels are the standard. Look, I would try and influence someone if I could get free publicity – and looks like mission accomplished for the W Doha. Not a knock on you – I dont think you asked for DYKWIA treatment, but one does admire the lengths to which Ruth Reichl (and others)- the influential NY Times Food Critic (one who could make or break a restaurant) went to, to ensure anonymity and impartial treatment. It simply elevated her reviews to a final authority level. As I said, blogging is not the same as journalism, so what you (Lucky and others) do is just fine – one just needs to call it out from time to time. For what its worth, you do a far more impartial job than most.

  13. @DT the only extra here is putting my face on other bodies, and i found it a bit weird not a positive, they got nothing out of it that i can tell. very few hotels do anything extra, or go to any lengths to figure out who i am. i told tell them, but i don’t try to check in under fake names [which is harder and harder now that you get asked for your papers at most hotels].

  14. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Middle East, most recently in Riyadh. The hotel staff there, upon learning that I was away from my wife on Christmas, brought me a lavish, romantic spread consisting of a heart-shaped cake, strawberries, chocolate, and other similar goodies. It came with a card signed by a bunch of the hotel staff. Kind of an odd thing to bring a business traveler, but I appreciated it. My take was that Christmas is not exactly a thing in Saudi Arabia but the hotel staff were doing their best. They don’t necessarily know what Christmas is all about, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t be allowed to implement anything too Christmassy for their guests. But they know that everyone likes sweet treats and hand-written cards, and they have the power to make that happen.

    In your case, Gary — the hotel staff know that you’re a blogger and that people have made memes about you. But they may not have a good sense of exactly what that means in an American context (or in your context, specifically). I guess I’d be kind of honored, kind of bemused, but no need to feel “called out”.

  15. The pictures are hilarious, I’m not even sure if they’re trying to recognize you or tongue in cheek mock you. I’ll put this W on my list if I’m ever in Qatar.

  16. At least the furniture in the room looks more comfortable than many other W properties I’ve been to. Usually it’s mostly style with very little comfort

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