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My hotel reviews always cover what I actually see of a hotel. Due to my erratic travel schedule, that can often be a limited slice of hotel life as I frequently check in late and check out early. Nonetheless, that sometimes gives a truer portrait of what it is like to stay at a hotel, such as my recent stay at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center.
I have a history with this hotel that pre-dates my time as a Starwood Preferred Guest elite member. It is, in fact, one of the very first hotels where I ever credited a Starwood stay well over a decade ago, a serious history mark as I will make Lifetime Platinum in 2015. My early memories of this hotel are a bit vodka-soaked as I got sent with a multi-unit team to cover a week-long trade show in Syracuse a dozen years ago that turned out to be a total disaster and, unable to secure reasonably priced flights home, the group of us decided to stay in Syracuse and stick it out, ultimately closing the hotel bar every night.
My trips there since have all been responsible ones – and often have involved snow storms. As such, I was glad to have a mid-summer trip.
The trip was unfortunately not free of travel gremlins and I landed well after midnight and hauled my cookies to the Sheraton to check-in, ready to hit my pillow.
The streets were quiet which made for a relatively smooth 20 minute drive from the airport to the Sheraton.
The hotel is on the campus of Syracuse University so foot traffic can be heavy in the daytime but was nonexistent on a Monday night in the middle of the summer.
Parking is in a garage adjacent to the hotel and the hotel lobby can be accessed via a door in the garage that’s adjacent to the garage elevator. Be certain to bring the ticket into the hotel for validation as it’s a manned paid parking garage. Parking can be a bit tight as the garage is not well-designed which can make it difficult to pull in/out of spaces.
The lobby area was buzzing at nearly 1 am. A group of four foreign arrivals were at the front desk trying to sort out payment arrangements for their four rooms. (It turns out that a major corporation had an international IT summit starting the following morning.) As a result, I stood waiting for almost 15 minutes as those four guests were served followed by the guest in front of me (one of their regular weekly guests). I was close to curling up on the floor and going to sleep right there in the lobby.
I was assigned room 918 on the Club Floor once I finally checked in and headed up the elevator to my room only to discover that neither of my keys worked. The regular guest who had checked in ahead of me was a couple of doors down, also struggling with a non-working key. He picked up the house phone and instructed the front desk that they needed to send new keys up to both of us. (Smart move… I probably would have trudged back down to the lobby!)
The front desk sent the overnight engineer up and he let each of us into our rooms with the master key. A few minutes later, he knocked on my door with a new key… by this time I was in my pajamas (it was almost 1:30 am at this point) and I had him slide it under the door.
Rooms are NOT the reason to stay here. You will not find the latest and greatest in hotel décor at this property (which I’ve seen go through two refurbishments in the years I’ve been staying there). Furniture is very standard issue stuff and the rooms feel like they would make a perfect set design for Mad Men (1969 called and they want their décor back!)
Still, the bed was comfortable and I was so tired, I possibly could have slept standing up.
The bathrooms have had new countertops and fixtures installed, but there is no disguising that this hotel is old!
My favorite feature in the room was this cute chair with a pull-out ottoman. It felt like it belonged at a weekend fox hunting lodge.
The room was good for sleeping and some work the next morning. It was functional although it didn’t have conveniently located plugs for all my electronic devices.
The hotel has a Club Lounge but I was not overly impressed with it. Its small and I didn’t find much that I could eat there.
I headed to the campus Starbucks which is located less than a minute away by foot. (That same strip also houses several college-centric restaurants and bars – with college-centric prices to match!)
A new feature since my last Sheraton stay are these cute bicycles available to rent. This is a great way to get around the immediate area or see the campus, although leisure riders should be warned the immediate area is hilly!
I did not dine on property during this particular stay. The hotel has a restaurant as well as a bar that can occasionally be lively depending on the guest mix in house at the time. Food on past stays has been decent enough to stay in during inclement weather. In the mornings, there is a self-serve coffee bar in the lobby, but this is not free – cups of to-go coffee are charged via the restaurant to room accounts.
Checkout was much smother than check in was. I had a correct bill and was on my way out of the garage and onward to my meeting with no delay.
This hotel is my default hotel in the Syracuse market as it is the only Starwood property in that immediate region. They face stiff competition from Hilton and Marriott in the market however and Marriott’s properties are not only newer but also often less expensive if you do not have a negotiated corporate rate. I have encountered booking difficulties with this property on my last couple of visits and only secured a reservation a day or two out (and members of my team have reported the same). If you want to stay here, it may be necessary to make a cancellable back-up reservation at another property and keep checking to see if this hotel becomes available.
At the end of the day, Starwood branding and the university location are the two major draws for this property, but other considerations may win out on my next stay.