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The Hi-Lo Portland Introduction
Given that I was booking two paid rates in Seattle through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel and The Four Seasons Hotel, I knew I wanted to find a points redemption in Portland. Since it was New Year’s Eve, rates were moderately high, and the choices between SPG and Marriott properties were limited. Making the situation even worse was the lack of pet-friendly properties in the city, though eventually I narrowed it down between The Nines, A Luxury Collection Hotel, and our ultimate pick, The Hi-Lo Portland.
I went with the Hi-Lo mainly because it looked to be a bit more our style, seemed like it might have more going on for New Year’s Eve, and seemed really pet-friendly without fees (we thought). Best of all, it was readily available for 40,000 Marriott Reward Points per night, with paid rates hovering around $350USD.
This was my first stay at an Autograph Collection Hotel, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. From all I could gather, I kind of expected a more hip Marriott, with limited services but still by all measures a ‘luxury hotel’. To be honest, I’m still not sure where this brand fits on the hotel scale, but more on that later!
Hi-Lo Portland Arrival
We checked out of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle shortly before noon and made the almost 3 hour drive to Portland. Located just a few blocks up from the Willamette River, The Hi-Lo Portland is in a pretty great spot, though Portland does seem to be struggling with a growing homeless population which is quite visible in this part of town (didn’t bother us).
The hotel is the historic Oregon Pioneer Building, and as such parking is an issue. There is no dedicated pull-in, with valet operating out of whatever available spots are open directly in front of the entrance. When we arrived shortly before 3pm, there was no parking, and no valet staff to be found.
We parked in a fire lane and I ran inside to get further instruction and hopefully quickly check-in. The lobby of the hotel is small, with just a reception desk and a bit of seating, though I really did like the style!
I was greeted by one of two staff working the front desk, who said the valet guy was alone and had just stepped out but would be back any minute. I asked about checking in, though she wouldn’t process the paperwork since it was actually booked under Brad’s name. Unfortunately Brad was waiting in the car with the dogs in the fire lane, so I waited about 10 minutes before valet was able to get the keys and move the car.
When Brad came in with the dogs the front desk agent seemed surprised, and said there would be a delay since they hadn’t assigned us a dog-friendly room. Not happy at this point, I asked to speak to a duty manager, which is where it got interesting:
Duty Manager: I’m sorry, but our Director of Housekeeping is insisting that you wait for a pet friendly room at this point. A lot of our guests have allergies so we have a dedicated floor.
Me: Really? I told the Marriott rep when I booked, so I’m not sure why we should have to wait after driving for 3 hours because of a service failure on your end. I’m sure whatever allergens my dogs leave behind can be cleaned up before the next guests check-in.
Duty Manager: Why don’t I buy you guys a drink in the restaurant while you wait for your dog-friendly room?
Me: So let me get this straight, you allow dogs in your food/beverage outlets, which seems like a clear violation of some health code, but only in specific rooms?
Duty Manager: Correct.
Me: That doesn’t make sense.
Duty Manager checks with housekeeping again….
Duty Manager: Great news! They’ve decided to allow you on the 5th floor. Here are your keys. Please be advised there is a $50USD per pet, per night fee for deep cleaning.
Me: Your website makes no mention of fees, and the Marriott rep said you were pet friendly and didn’t impose fees. Which is why I picked this hotel over the other SPG option in town. Now you’re telling me you only have the first floor for pet rooms and you impose $100USD per night for two small dogs?
Duty Manager: Admittedly our website needs to be updated, that’s our fault, but yes, we impose dog fees.
Me: I’m not paying them.
This went on for a little while, but the guy was not budging. Eventually I got the pet fee down to just one $50USD fee, and told him we’d be taking him up on his offer for a drink once the dogs were settled in the room, and that I would just call Marriott for some customer service after the fact since it was maybe more on them as I booked through the call centre.
Hi-Lo Portland Standard King Room
Our room, 501, was a Standard King Room, which is the lowest room category offered by the hotel (what we booked – no upgrade with Marriott status). It actually seemed like everyone in the hotel was on the 5th floor, and by the end of the night the carpets in the hallway were filthy.
Although small, the room was really functional, and featured a large king bed opposite a wall-mounted smart TV, a small office area, a closet with very limited storage, and a well-appointed bathroom with large walk-in shower. You can see the closet pictured below, which hardly had enough room for our bags and a hanging space that wouldn’t accommodate a dress without it folding.
I appreciated that the television was smart, allowing guests to access their Netflix, Hulu, etc. I really wish more hotels would offer this (The JW Marriott Parq Hotel in Vancouver has this feature also).
The corner of the room featured a small sitting area and office desk, which came complete with a sad little coffee maker and Starbucks coffee, along with two bottles of complimentary water.
Interestingly enough, there was no in-room fridge or glassware. A luxury hotel without glassware?! This is where I’m a bit confused how this hotel claims to be a luxury brand – the in-room amenities. How about a Nespresso maker, or fridge, or in-room safe, or a cup?? Also, for $50USD per night, there were also no dog amenities.
We called down for a couple of champagne glasses, dog dishes, and a fan, which were all delivered promptly by the same front desk agent who checked us in. This felt weird… I’m not used to luxury hotels sending their front desk people to deliver in-room amenities!
Anyway, back to the room! The room featured some neat qualities, such as reclaimed wood and exposed concrete, and the knot on the door instead of the traditional ‘do not disturb’ sign was a cute touch.
The views from the room were limited, which is often the case in these low-rise historic buildings.
The bathroom was probably the highlight of the Standard King Room, with a beautiful walk-in shower and high quality amenities (though they were in the big reusable bottles).
We had bought some champagne, but without a fridge, we decided to be classy and fill the bathroom sink with ice. It took quite a bit of effort though since the ice machine was clearly not meant for commercial use! It would fill about half a bucket before stopping and needing a break to replenish. I sincerely hope this was a temporary measure.
Hi-Lo Portland Lobby Lounge And Breakfast
A large part of why we picked this hotel (apart from being the best pet-friendly option, or at least we thought) was the lobby lounge. It looked really cool, and in that regard it didn’t disappoint. It had somewhat of a communal setting and we assumed it would be a great spot for New Year’s Eve, kind of thinking back to The Fairmont Pacific Rim lobby lounge in Vancouver last year.
We. Were. Wrong. Apparently the hotel wasn’t planning on it being busy, and decided to close at 10pm!! Even when we went down for a cocktail later in the evening, the bar staff clearly didn’t want to be there, and we almost felt like we were being dissuaded from sitting down and ordering a drink. Such a shame.
We did get a couple of cocktails though, and everything was delicious and actually reasonably priced!
As Marriott Gold Elite’s, we were eligible for breakfast in the dining room located just off the lobby lounge, and received a voucher during check-in for both of us.
There was no continental breakfast on the menu, but the server explained we could have one of a few options, or use the voucher as credit towards something expensive. The voucher credit was about $10USD, but breakfast was so reasonably priced. In the end we both went with the standard option, which featured eggs, potatoes and bread, though no breakfast meat.
The lobby restaurant had sort of a ‘hipster Santa Fe’ feel, which felt a bit strange compared to the rest of the hotel.
The service at breakfast was phenomenal, and we thanked our server for being so great. We explained we had quite a few bizarre interactions with staff between check-in and New Year’s Eve in the lobby, and were relieved that someone at the hotel seemed genuinely committed to hospitality.
Hi-Lo Portland Bottom Line
Well, a little bit of a disappointing stay, but mostly due to some service issues and nothing really about the hotel itself. In all fairness, this was still a relatively new property at the time, they were operating a skeleton crew over the holidays, and I had misinformation from a Marriott rep at the time of booking. Not a great recipe for a terrific stay.
Based on that, I would probably give this place another chance, as hotels are usually going through growing pains in their first year. However, I sincerely hope management has improved, as I felt like my concerns weren’t taken seriously, and nothing at the property level was done to remedy our situation. In the end I called Marriott, and they refunded half of the 40,000 points we used to book the room, and threw in an additional 10,000 points as a gesture of goodwill, which seemed more than fair given the circumstances.
Things I loved about this hotel:
- Unique guest rooms with pleasing aesthetic
- Luxurious bathrooms with high-quality amenities
- Charming historic building
- Great location
- The lobby lounge design and cocktail menu
Things I didn’t love about this hotel:
- The service left a lot to be desired
- The lobby lounge closes really early
- Lacking proper in-room amenities, such as glassware and fridge
- Valet is disorganized with limited street parking on arrival
Given the lack of decent point redemption options in Portland, I would give this property another chance, though I’m still not quite sure how The Autograph Collection Hotels are trying to brand themselves. Maybe I’ll have a better idea in a couple of weeks after we stay at their Vancouver property, The Douglas Hotel, which I was able to book as part of an incredible offer through American Express!
Have you stayed at the Hi-Lo Portland before? What about any other Autograph Collection Hotel? How did your experience compare with ours? Let us know in the comment section below!