• andychalk


Updated: Oct 21

by Andrew Chalk

I have always wanted to stay at The Royal Sonesta New Orleans but could never find a price that made it a good deal. The hotel has the best location of any full-service hotel in this city where being in the right location has such huge benefits (at the intersection of Bourbon/Iberville/Conte in the French Quarter in this case).

Now, with a stash of Sonesta points, was the ideal time to stay as Sonesta has one of the most useless hotel loyalty programs, so burn the points on a treat rather than watch them languish or, more likely, get devalued by new program rules. Sonesta is so proud of the New Orleans property you cannot book with points online. You have to call an agent, and then pay a point/dollar rate of exchange that translates into almost $300/night for a room (30,000 points). And that is when the Saints are not in town.

As you enter the hotel, the common areas are all marble and chandeliers, which creates a good first impression. Then the first problem arrives. Long waits to check in (no electronic check-in is available) at times or, as we found, inept staff. First, the clerk confirmed the wrong stay dates. Then the extra pillows a text told us to request at check-in appeared to be as comprehensible as requesting a flying saucer to take us to breakfast on Alpha centauri. The pillows did not arrive, by the way.

Once you depart the front desk and take the elevator ride to your floor you enter the world of dingy corridors, 1960s era light fittings, vapid wallpaper, well-worn (not quite threadbare) carpets, and ubiquitous evidence of chipped paint dating back several vintages. Leave this depressing world as you enter your room to find a tiny bathroom off a tiny room filled with furniture out of Peyton Place. So small was the room that I could not sit in the chair at the desk due to the bed in the way. I manually moved the desk over two feet to create access. That meant that I could not charge my computer because the one-and-only socket was too far away. Indeed, this was a room designed before Steve Jobs was born and never updated to account for the computer revolution. It needs a lot more sockets and they need to be at waist height.

Why is the furniture so mismatched to the location? Why is it so OLD? Why are essential features (sockets) missing? Because Sonesta is engaged in (very) deferred maintenance, letting a once grande dame deteriorate.

Services in the room are a mixed bag. On the plus side, WiFi Internet service for loyalty members is strong. On the downside, the shower has the controls below the head, so you get soaked every time you turn it on or off, or adjust it. Temperature and pressure are also on one control, meaning you have to recalibrate the temperature every time you use the shower. Why not have the control away from the water spray and why not have separate controls for pressure and temperature? Hard, huh?

Shower amenities are in a chlamydia magazine rather than individual sealed packages. Hotels claim that this setup is “good for the environment”. The credulous will believe that right up until they look at the NIH tests for disease on the shared units. Hotels don’t clean them!

If you have had your chlamydia shot, you will notice that the bathroom is the size of a postage stamp. Forget two people using it at once.

Worse than upkeep issues may be the basic structure of the building. We could clearly hear the snoring of the occupant in a nearby room. Presumably, non-structural walls have been erected to increase occupancy and the dividers are too thin.

Of course, I took these problems to management. They had their bot reply. They even give it a human-sounding name, Randall, although no position -- usually a giveaway.

New Orleans is as great a city as ever and I shall return, but to a different hotel.