When we originally planned our trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls, I was looking forward to crossing another destination off my list. After all, I’d never been to Toronto despite it’s proximity to where I grew up (New York) and the short flight from where I live now (DC).
However, I always thought I had been to Niagara Falls. Apparently, I was wrong. More on our trip to the falls later, but after doing some research, we decided to stay at Sheraton On The Falls, which is a hotel on the Canadian side of the falls. Even though some of the best excursions are on the US side, the Sheraton on the Canadian side is definitely, IMO, the best property to stay at if you’re headed to the area.
For those that haven’t been, Niagara is built up a bit in a Vegas style. A bit over-commercialized, not our normal type of destination. There’s not a whole lot in the way of luxury properties. The Sheraton is one of more well-reviewed properties in town and also the best located.
Top floor rooms on the falls side have a partial or full view of the falls. We tried to use one of the new Starwood Preferred Guest suite nights that I had been given because of my Platinum status. However, we were visiting during peak season (albeit midweek) and we were told no confirmed suites would be available. I had read about two-floor suites in this property that had a good view of the falls, so I was hoping something changed prior to our arrival in regards to suite upgrades. Shortly before our stay, I received an e-mail from the property indicating I had been upgraded to a corner suite. There was no suite night deducted from my account, so it appeared this was a normal Plat upgrade. The suite night process is new, so this may just have been a glitch in the system.
My plan during check-in was to try and work myself into one of the bi-level suites I had heard about. During check-in I was dealing with one of the front desk supervisors. He told me they had me in a wonderful room. I mentioned to him that I had heard good things about the bi-level rooms and would really prefer one of those. He looked like he had indigestion, and said he really thought I’d prefer the room they already had blocked for me. This being our first stay, I really wasn’t sure. We discussed it a bit more, and he assured me that we would really love the view.
He was right. Along with a 20-foot wide window span in the living area of the suite, we also had a floor to ceiling window in the bathroom and a balcony. The views of Niagara Falls were pretty incredible.
The room itself was something of an oversized King room, but with plenty more space. There were two large seating areas, one of which faced the falls. The bathroom was also pretty spacious, with a super big shower.
We had an interesting experience in the club lounge here. They had informed us at the front desk that only 2 people would be granted club access from our party due to my Platinum status. This differed from our stay the previous day at Sheraton Centre Toronto. I’ve heard different statements on what the policy is supposed to be, but the T&C are not specific as to whether the benefit extends to multiple rooms booked by a Platinum member. It’s something most properties handle fairly anyway, so not much to fight about here.
When we arrived at the lounge, the lounge manager indicated the kids would not be charged a fee but my parents would be charged $40 a piece. I really wasn’t expecting the charge to be that high. We generally don’t spend a lot of time in the lounge when we travel, preferring to experience the food and atmosphere of local restaurants. So, it was going to have to be a pretty good lounge breakfast to make it worth our while. To his credit, the manager told us to evaluate things the first day and if we didn’t think we got the value for the fee that he would make it right in some form or fashion.
The food display wasn’t very plentiful. There were more options at the Sheraton the previous day, but we were able to find enough items to fill us up before heading out for a day of sightseeing.
The club itself was comfortable and nicely appointed. Had the food offering been more bountiful I wouldn’t have had a big issue with the $40. However, since it was a bit sparse we ended up eating in the breakfast restaurant the following day, which is usually my preference anyway. We spent far more than $80 as a group for breakfast but enjoyed a number of different options. Ultimately, we didn’t get charged for lounge access. Not sure if that was intentional or not.
The hotel has a brand new health club and a decent sized pool on one of the lower rooftops of the property.
If you end up with a room that does not have a view of the falls, there’s an area adjacent to the pool where you can hang out and enjoy the view.
I ended up having an interesting discussion with the restaurant manager on our second evening in town. The main restaurant is called Fallsview restaurant, essentially a large buffet. It appears at some point that the hotel decided it wasn’t filling all the seats in the restaurant (it is quite spacious), so they contracted with a chef who has a decent reputation named Jamie Kennedy to open a smaller restaurant called Windows. Now, Windows is very much joined with Fallsview. There are two wide open areas where the restaurants are connected and it’s very obvious they were one big space at some point.
I popped down to view the menus because we didn’t feel like heading out again that evening. The menu at Windows was pretty appetizing and they had a very interesting wine list. However, they didn’t have a children’s menu. Fallsview, on the other hand, had a grand total of 11 wines on their list, and it was pretty entry level list (the best thing I saw on there was Brancott Sauvignon Blanc). I asked the restaurant manager if we could order something for the kids off the Fallsview or room service menu while we ate in Windows. No. I asked if we could order a bottle of wine off the Windows list and eat at Fallsview. No.
I asked the manager if the rule about not bringing food into Windows was something that the Windows staff came up with (it was fairly obvious at this point the Windows operation was fairly outsourced). He said no, it was his rule. I asked him if I could order something off the Fallsview menu and take it to my room. He assured me I could but told me he wouldn’t let me bring it into Windows. He assured me we would have a great meal at Fallsview and wouldn’t tell me what he thought of the food at Windows.
Despite the lunacy of the policies established here, we were tired so we chose the buffet to make sure the kids could have a good meal. Not surprisingly, the buffet was a pretty bad value for adults. There were a few things that were decent, but most was your run-of-the-mill buffet food. My expectations were pretty low headed in, but it was pretty frustrating.
The next morning we had breakfast in Fallsview, again because of convenience. The breakfast was okay, but somewhat lacking. My daughter really likes berries. Even though there were fresh berries out the night before, none appeared during breakfast. I asked when we first got there, and the waitress said she would check for me. No response after about 15 minutes, so I asked again. I was told berries were on the way, but they don’t put them out until 9 am. Definitely one of the more original answers I’ve heard. Anyway, around 9:30, right before we left some berries showed up. Lesson learned, we most likely wouldn’t dine at this property in the future unless convenience was the primary goal.
I called down the night before our departure to request a late check-out. Starwood Preferred Guest offers this as an amenity to Platinum guests, one which is guaranteed at all properties except at resorts and conference centers. This property fit neither category, so it shouldn’t have been an issue. Again, unlike the Sheraton Centre Toronto, we encountered issues getting a late check-out.
The first two people I asked gave me a flat-out no. I asked again the next morning and was told I could have until 1pm. The stated benefit allows up until 4pm and I was pretty sure we were going to need most of that. So, I went down to the front desk to plead my case. I even offered to give back 2 of our 3 rooms and just keep one until later. Finally, I was able to get agreement from someone at the front desk to extend check-out on one room until 4pm. She told me her manager was willing to “make an exception to their policies” this time. That type of response used to piss me off royally. It’s one of the most common ones I’ve heard when asking for this benefit in the past, which I don’t do very often. Maybe I’m mellowing in my old age, but I didn’t really care the reason. Just happy to get what we were entitled to when the dust settled.
When we returned from a day of sightseeing, it was after 3pm. The hotel still hadn’t touched the other rooms we occupied. Not surprisingly, they didn’t need them as urgently as indicated.
Bottom Line: Despite some of our issues, this hotel is an excellent value for Starpoints. At only 10,000 points a night, there’s no better location for SPG at Niagara Falls. We received an excellent suite upgrade and the property did a great job getting us 3 rooms together while still accommodating the suite upgrade. A few service bumps and bruises, but a great location and a clean, comfortable property. Points junkies should note that the Starbucks at the far end of the lobby where the shopping mall begins isa part of the hotel, so you can earn points for your latte!