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Completing the Circle – Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown Highlights

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Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown
Royal Suite Living Room.

Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown

The circle is finally complete.  I’ve consumed my Sonesta points, about two and a half years after earning them.  The pandemic required a change in plans, but I just finished a solid stay at the Royal Sonesta along the Chicago river.  I found the hotel’s impeccable location, recent refresh, and reasonable points rate enough for a quick two-night stay during a trip to my favorite big city in the States.  Beyond that, I was intrigued to stay in a Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown, a brand where I’ve had no experience but one which clearly wants to compete with those from other chains.  Here’s what stood out during my late October stay.

An Outstanding Suite

I arrived at the Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown about 10 pm and received a pleasant surprise – an upgrade to a one bedroom Royal Suite!  The gigantic suite spanned the depth of the building, with the bedroom offering city views and living room/work area providing river views (above).  With the suite’s location at the end of the building, I had views from three sides.

Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown
Royal Suite Bedroom.

The hotel’s 2021 refresh still feels, um, fresh.  Colors and decor lighten the room throughout the space, but without appearing garish or cluttered.  The suite offers plenty of seating – two chairs in the bedroom, a few at the bar, a large couch, easy chair, and four seats at a high table overlooking the Chicago River.  The city’s architectural highlights dot the landscape.  The views made me want to simultaneously stare from the room and leave to explore.  I should note that while the bathroom has been updated, as well, it has a peculiarly small shower.

But what if I hadn’t been upgraded to a suite?  Standard room sizes are remarkably generous, especially given the location, coming in around 400 square feet.  I redeemed 27,500 points per night.  All in, the basic room rate was around $300 for the nights of my stay, and the suite was about $500.

Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown
More than I could ever need.

Elite Recognition

Somehow, I’m Platinum – the top status – in Sonesta’s Travel Pass loyalty program, and I’m not exactly sure why.  Anyway, the Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown went all out in recognizing my status and had obviously planned for my arrival.   Upon arriving, the front desk acknowledged it by offering a suite before I could even query about an upgrade.  They presented me a carrier bursting with beverages and snacks, along with my coupon for complimentary continental breakfast at Hoyt’s, the hotel’s restaurant.  Upon entering the suite, I noticed a personal note from management and more loot – a tin of Garrett’s popcorn, macaroons, and bottled water.

The recognition became comical the second day.  I made two separate reservations each night of my two-night stay, allowing maximum flexibility for changes.  When I went down in the morning after my first night to conduct the required key updates/checkout, the front desk agent gave me another oversize carrier of snacks and beverages.  I sheepishly accepted and went on my way.


I have mixed feelings about service from the hotel.  Sure, hotel employees recognized my elite status, but beyond that, how did they do?  Front desk agents were welcoming and jumped to help, when needed.  But I noticed a few basic holes.  The hotel’s restaurant had minimal staffing for my continental breakfast.  The breakfast was fine, but I had to wait for extended periods for a coffee refresh and to sign for my bill (still required even with the coupon).

Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown
Continental breakfast with minimal service.

Obtaining housekeeping service was an adventure.  Long story short, I had to ask four times in order to have my room cleaned.  Upon leaving midday, I saw a housekeeper in the hallway.  I greeted her, she asked if I needed housekeeping, I affirmed I did, and I thanked her.  A few minutes later in the lobby, I requested it again at the front desk, wanting to officially confirm it there.  (Based on housekeeping experiences since the pandemic, I’ve determined over-confirming is best.)  Several hours later, I returned to my room which had not yet been serviced.  I called the front desk, and the rep said they would look into it.  I didn’t receive a response, so I called back about 30 minutes later.  Housekeeping subsequently showed up.

Upon checkout on my last morning, a rep brought up that I had erroneously been charged a “Travel Pass Room Redemption Rate” of $202.  Confused, I asked about this, as I had redeemed the full amount of points for each night of the stay.  He muttered a bit, confirming that he had already refunded that pending amount back to my credit card on file.  Still bewildered, I later thanked him and departed.

a city with tall buildings
View from my 35th floor living room.

Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown – Conclusion

I came out satisfied with my overall stay but without any plans to stay at the Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown again.  Why?  The Sonesta Travel Pass program is a bit clunky and doesn’t have enough desirable properties to draw me in more.  I primarily redeem points for hotel stays, anyway, and I have no plans to earn enough Sonesta currency to stay here again.  I recommend the property to individuals looking for a solid property along the Chicago river who are okay paying cash rates.  Plus, if you’re one of the not-many with Sonesta points, it’s an excellent redemption.  If I’m looking for Chicago river views, I’d opt for another stay at LondonHouse next door while leveraging my Hilton Honors elite benefits.  And plenty of other brands are located in the area, as well.

Have you stayed at the Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown?  How was your experience?

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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