My wife wanted to visit New Orleans for her birthday, so I decided to go all-out with the hotel. Neither one of us stayed at a Waldorf-Astoria before. And just our luck, New Orleans had one. Late March is still sort of peak season in NOLA (tail end of spring break). So, a premium property came at a premium price. Cash rates checked in at $309 a night at the AAA rate. That’s high for New Orleans, a competitive hotel market. However, I booked four nights using my Citi Prestige “Fourth Night Free” benefit. That brought the average rate down to a more reasonable $232 per night (before taxes). Still, would our stay be worth the price?
The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel
- 130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, LA
- Website: http://www.therooseveltneworleans.com/
- Amenities: spa, fitness center, rooftop pool, meeting rooms, two bars, three on-site restaurants, concierge service, valet parking (fee)
Directions: from I-10, exit Orleans Avenue (Vieux Carre) and go south. Orleans Avenue becomes Basin Street, then Loyola Avenue; continue straight ahead. Turn left at Gravier Street, then left again at O’Keefe Avenue, which becomes Roosevelt Way. The valet stand is on your right.
A word of warning: parking is expensive, at $46 a night before tax. Normally, I’d never pay that much for parking. There is a garage literally across the street (the Unipark Garage) for $20 a night. However, with a ridiculous amount of baby stuff to carry, I decided to pay for the convenience. I really didn’t want to make multiple trips of even a block to unload them.
Dates of Stay: March 21-25, 2018
Before Our Stay
I wrote earlier about my experience using the Waldorf Astoria “personal concierge”. I asked for two simple requests: a plate of chocolate covered strawberries for my wife, and a refrigerator to store stuff for the baby. The hotel went above and beyond on both requests. First, they offered champagne in addition to the strawberries. Both were waiting in our room when we arrived.
The real treat, though, was how the concierge handled the refrigerator request. We got the refrigerator – thanks to an upgrade to a King Suite. Awesome! I’ve been a Hilton Gold on-and-off since 2010, and this was the first actual upgrade I received. Talk about quite a first!
Things started off well. Upon arrival, a doorman greeted us and helped unload our car. Trust me, that was no easy feat. The actual check-in, though, left something to be desired. Despite it being 6 pm on a weekday, only one clerk was on duty. I got in line, though after a couple of minutes, everyone moved over. Apparently, the clerk made an announcement that the line started to the left. I didn’t hear it, and then got barked at that “there is only one line, sir”. Ok, then…
At least by this time, a couple more people came over to help, and the line moved quickly. Another employee came by and handed out bottles of water to everyone in the meantime. The clerk recognized my Honors Gold status, and asked me to confirm my “My Way” benefits. Staring in 2017, Hilton extended breakfast to Gold and Diamond members. Or more correctly, either breakfast or a $15/person/day food & beverage credit, at the property’s option. The Roosevelt offers the $15 credit, so I chose that.
The Roosevelt has a storied history in New Orleans. The hotel originally dates to 1893 as the Grunewald Hotel, a 200-structure facing Baronne Street. A second, 400-room annex was added in 1908. Then, in 1923, new owners re-named the hotel “The Roosevelt” in honor of former President Theodore Roosevelt. The next 40 years probably represented the “golden age” of The Roosevelt, the 1930s and 1940s especially so. During this time, US Senator Huey Long used the presidential suite as his de facto residence. Later, starting in 1965, the hotel operated under the Fairmont Hotels flag as the Fairmont New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the hotel in 2005, at which time it closed indefinitely.
Anyway, after several delays, a new ownership group resurrected the “Roosevelt” name and again rebranded the hotel as a Waldorf Astoria, finally opening the repaired hotel in 2009. The last renovation aimed to restore the hotel to its glory days of the 30s and 40s. And you can definitely see the classic, “throwback” feel throughout the lobby. In other words, don’t expect any minimalism here. As you enter, towering chandeliers greet you from end to end.
Guests also immediately notice the beautiful tile mosaics on the lobby floor.
The huge golden eagle above the front desk certainly grabs your attention, too.
As does the antique piano directly across the way.
Lobby furnishings, meanwhile, definitely feature classic luxury decor as well.
Personally, as someone who’s not a fan of the cold, cookie-cutter minimalism that pervades modern design, I like it. Plus, since the idea is to replicate the high-flying days of The Kingfish, it seems appropriate. Others may find it gaudy.
Meanwhile, the guest floor corridors seem a little drab by comparison, or at least confused. Some ornate column work and wall prints mix with a carpet that seems straight out of the 70s.
The elevator lobbies have some interesting touches, though, like this antique rotary phone and period furniture.
The highlight of the hotel is the rooftop terrace in the original tower facing Baronne Street. A decent size pool takes up much of the space near the entrance, with the beautiful Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in the background. The pool didn’t see much use, given the cool weather in late March. The seating area does seem kind of small for a 530-room hotel, though.
Next to the pool is a small bar, where you can enjoy a daiquiri or margarita while sunning at the pool.
Next to the pool bar is another neat feature, two life-size chess boards.
Behind the pool and chess boards is a large open area used for special events like weddings.
You can look out over the city from up here, though the view is restricted since you’re lower than the surrounding buildings.
Guest Room – King Suite
The “King Suite” qualifies as a true suite, consisting of two separate rooms. The front door opens up into a large living room with a sofa bed, ottoman, and two sitting chairs. Plenty of room for a little one to run around and play. A large TV sits on top of the chest of drawers.
In the right corner by the door is a decent work desk, though with a rather uncomfortable chair. There are plugs on the desk lamp, and also behind the lamp stand near the sofa.
To the left is a wet bar, with a good-sized refrigerator underneath. This actually makes a good spot to plug in a bottle warmer out of the way.
The living room also features its own half bathroom. Though small, I appreciated its utility. We used it to wash sippy cups out of the reach of prying hands. Like Kyle from Live and Let’s Fly, I agree it’s nice to have so that guests or coworkers don’t have to walk though the bedroom to use the bathroom.
Moving on to the bedroom, it is also a large room featuring a comfy chaise-lounge next to the bed. Plugs are conveniently located both on the nightstand, and next to the chaise-lounge. That is one comfy bed, by the way. It sure was hard to get up each morning.
The bedroom includes a surprisingly small TV, though at least it’s located well, centered with the bed.
At the end of the bedroom is a full-length mirror and a small ottoman.
To the right is a huge walk-in closet. Even stuffed with baby gear and bags, there’s still plenty of room to spare. (Yes, I know, we need to learn to pack lighter. It’s a work in progress.)
On the opposite side is the master bathroom. If I had to pick one aspect I found disappointing about the room, this is it. The bathroom is certainly spacious enough, with plenty of space to store toiletries, and even a small TV so you don’t have to interrupt your binge watching when nature calls.
The bathroom floors also feature somewhat similar mosaics to what you find in the lobby.
Amenties are Salvatore Ferragamo “Tuscan Soul” brand, which are decent enough. (I’m hardly the amenities expert like Brad, so there’s not much more I can add.)
But color me surprised to find only a shower. It was one of those fancy ones with all sorts of options, at least. But at a high-end property, I’d expect a soaking tub of some kind to be an option. Granted, the trend of hotels going shower-only is one of my pet peeves, so I’m biased. But still, it just seems kind of…cheap. Anyway, beware, the default option sends water through the overhead nozzle. To use the handheld one, move the lever to the middle. Otherwise, prepare to get blasted by cold water when you try to turn it on.
I guess like the corridors, the decor of the room also seems a little confused. The lobby suggests a hotel trying to mimic the grandeur of the Gilded Age. But the rooms themselves don’t seem to fit with the theme. While I found nothing objectively wrong with anything, it felt more 70s than anything else. In fact, the decor strongly resembled what I saw at the Hotel St. Marie, which was less than half the price. Sure, I much prefer it to the monotone greys and whites of modern minimalism. But even one or two pieces of period furniture, or maybe some artwork, would fit better with the hotel’s theme, I think.
Food & Beverage
The hotel has five bars & restaurants, though we only tried one, Teddy’s Cafe down in the lobby. Teddy’s is a laid-back coffee shop offering pastries, soups, and sandwiches to go with your java. We used our restaurant credit here to grab some coffee and pastries before heading out in the morning. Beware, $15 per person doesn’t get you very far, though. Two coffees, two croissants, and a yogurt ran up a bill north of $25 with tip.
Also noteworthy is the Sazerac Bar, which claims to have invented America’s first cocktail, The Sazerac. This place definitely got hopping in the evenings, though prepare to pay a pretty penny. If interested, you can buy a bottle of Sazerac rye whiskey at the gift shop.
Next door to The Sazerac Bar is the Fountain Lounge, a smaller restaurant serving mostly smaller plates, but also offering fresh fish, as you’d expect in New Orleans.
The hotel’s signature restaurant is Domenica, located on the Baronne Street side of the lobby. A concept by celebrity chef John Besh, the Italian restaurant is quite highly rated. However, it didn’t seem like a good place to take a very small child, so we didn’t go.
A note about the food & beverage credit. The website and Hilton app give the impression that the F&B credit can be used at any outlet in the hotel. The front desk, however, makes it clear that the credit ONLY applies to purchases at Teddy’s and the Fountain Lounge. And as noted, don’t expect a feast for $15, which won’t even cover most appetizers at Fountain Lounge. Nevertheless, I prefer the credit to just a standard free breakfast. Like me, if you’re not a breakfast person, you can get what you want, when you want it. Also, despite requesting the credit at check-in, I noticed it did not post to my folio. One phone call to the hotel a few days later cleared that up, though.
The hotel benefits from an excellent location in central New Orleans, right off of Canal Street. Simply cross Canal to enter the French Quarter (Baronne becomes Rue Dauphine). The Aquarium of the Americas (great for kids) is a roughly 15 minute walk down Canal Street. Jackson Square is also about 15 minutes down Canal and Decatur. Meanwhile, the Garden District and Audubon Zoo are an easy trip using the streetcar or the #11 bus (Magazine). Pick up the streetcar two blocks down Canal at St. Charles, or go down one more block to Camp to catch the bus.
Note that if you need basic supplies like milk or soda, there is a Walgreen’s at the corner of Canal and Baronne.
Some Minor Service Issues
Overall, service at The Roosevelt excelled. With the exception of the grumpy front desk staff, everyone we encountered was kind, welcoming, and helpful. Little touches like handing out bottled water to those waiting to check in or for their car at the valet provide a positive impression. When calling to ask for a bellhop at check-out, the front desk also proactively offered to check me out over the phone to avoid the line downstairs. And after check-out, the doorman graciously helped pack up my trunk and told me a shortcut back to I-10.
But there were a few minor issues. For one, shortly after check-in, housekeeping called to confirm at what time I’d like service every day. I said 9 am – but realized a few minutes later that our sleepyhead son would be having his breakfast then. I asked if I could switch to 10, and was assured it would not be a problem – but the maid showed up the next morning at 9 anyway. That issue did get fixed from the second day. Second, I earlier noted the limitations of the “personal concierge”, which did not offer a welcome on arrival or the advertised bag packing service. And I mentioned the billing issue with the F&B credit not posting.
None of this rose to the level of even warranting a complaint to the front desk. But at a super high-end chain like the Waldorf, even minor First World Problems get noticed.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay at The Roosevelt. I’m a sucker for historic hotels, so the chance to stay at one with a great history like this one certainly made my day, even if the room decor didn’t quite match the theme. Service, despite a few blemishes, met the high expectations I had from the brand. And count me thrilled to score a suite upgrade as a lowly Gold. The hotel didn’t even charge me for the strawberries or sparkling wine, which I fully expected to pay for.
But does the hotel provide good “value”? It depends on when you go. For our stay, The Roosevelt ran nearly double the rate of most French Quarter boutiques. If this weren’t a special occasion, I don’t think I’d spend that much to stay here. Even with the Fourth Night Free discount factored in. On the other hand, a random search for July shows AAA rates as low as $169/night, with boutiques in the $100-140 range. It’s a great value at that price.