As I returned my rental car in downtown Toronto on my second day in the city, I reserved the standard room at the Sheraton Centre which is located opposite the Toronto City Hall along Queen Street West, and thus right smack in downtown Toronto. It is also one block and a half away from Yonge Street (or one tram stop away). This makes it convenient to access the public transport system, for shopping and even sightseeing in the city. I managed to park the car temporarily at the lobby while I proceeded to check in. Being a large downtown hotel, the lobby is huge and there is actually an area dedicated for check-in. It is good to know that SPG Platinum members have a priority lane queue as there was a long queue at most times for check-in.
Having booked a cash & points rate, I paid very little for the room and was automatically upgraded to a club room, though again no suites available. And as usual, SPG puts me in the higher floors most of the time as I have indicated in my member preferences. Thus I had room with a magnificent view of downtown Toronto, including the landmark CN Tower. Though with all club rooms, the views from the large Club Lounge on the 43rd floor is probably the best.
The club floor rooms were still small for normal North American size hotels since this was an old downtown building. And when I entered the room, the air conditioning was noisy as it tries to cool down the room from the summer heat. The bathroom was the basic shower and bathtub combination, and it was also the smallest out of all the room in this Toronto trip. Fortunately the rest of the room was satisfactory (though only just) and the bed was comfortable since it is not too soft like some older Sheraton properties. Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail is also distributed to Club Floor guests on a daily basis.
As I mentioned earlier, the Club Lounge at the 43rd floor is a great place for views over downtown Toronto as it has wrap-around views, since it occupies nearly the whole floor. The lounge was also one of the largest hotel lounges I have been in, with very neat furnishings compared to the usual Sheraton Club Lounges. Thus while I was initially ecstatic about the lounge, it was also the biggest disappointment of the stay. For starters soft drinks were served through the bar, meaning no individual cans. Next the club lounge has practically nothing in the afternoon, not even a selection of fruits like apples or bananas, or energy bars, or cookies. Finally the evening cocktails offering consists of only one selection of snack (like a chicken skewer on day 2 or a croquette on day 1) with some crackers and nachos with a selection of dips. It was very poor in terms of food selection and very dismal indeed. Breakfast was more or less the same with a very small selection of pastries, boiled eggs, packed cereals, milk and juices. No scrambled eggs or bacon or sausages. Thus far they have the worst food choices in a hotel lounge managed by SPG ever, which makes me wonder what happens when people actually pay for the club rooms and expect them to be repeat visitors with this kind of offering? Fortunately I had not planned on having dinner in the lounge during my stay as Toronto has a pretty good variety of food options around the downtown core.
Using Cash and Points for my stay in Toronto, I used this hotel as a base to explore the city and visited the Royal Ontario Museum which is probably one of the finest in Canada in addition to exploring Union Station and the Financial District, Yonge Street, Toronto’s Chinatown, the chic district of Yorkville and the fashion district around King Street West. It was very pleasant to visit the city during summer though the weather can be a killer compared to Vancouver as it was hot and humid, close to being unbearable when the sun was out and damp and wet on one of the day when it was raining.
During my stay in Toronto, I took the opportunity to dine at some fantastic places like the c5 restaurant in the Royal Ontario Museum, Lee Restaurant by Canadian celebrity chef Susur Lee and Pho Tien Thanh along Ossington Avenue. Amongst them I liked Pho Tien Thanh best for the savoury Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Somehow the fusion-Chinese style of cooking lacks the distinctiveness of Chinese cuisine and fails to be spectacular. The best westernized Chinese cuisine I had so far was in Miami at Mr Chow.
Another major issue I had with the hotel was during the last day of my stay, the hotel actually had no water for the whole of the afternoon. This disrupted my travel schedule as I was expecting to have a shower due to the humid weather before heading out for dinner. Apparently there was some problem with the generator or something. While the hotel did apologize for it, I would have expected something more substantial in lieu of the discomfort. In addition to the disappointment of the club lounge, I found the hotel to be less pro-active in improving customer satisfaction and it will not be my choice of hotel to return to in Toronto. The only redeeming quality of the hotel was its convenient location and good views from the club lounge.