Hotel Review: Aloft London Excel

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The Aloft London Excel is only 5 minutes drive from London City Airport, making it a nearby option for layovers. When a colleague of my husband heard that we would be staying there for a night, he said it was easily walkable from the Airport. It was raining when we arrived though, so we opted to do an Uber. As the streets whizzed by I thought to myself that while technically possible to walk since there are some sidewalks, it wouldn’t have been worth the 20 minute effort in the rain, especially since I had a large suitcase with me as well.

The Uber driver had a slightly tough time finding the hotel, and found himself driving through the parking lot of another hotel in order to reach the Aloft. It is next door to the ExCeL conference center, but the entrance to the hotel is not well marked.

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Once inside the reception area was hard to miss. Check in was quiet, with only one person in front of me and two hostesses behind the counter. I was given a room on the fourth floor, along with vouchers for two free drinks from their Re:fuel snack area. As a Platinum guest, rather than choosing the 250 points this time I chose the full breakfast which the hostess said was quite good.

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I took a walk around the Re:fuel area before going up to the room.

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I was pleased to see Samosas and Paninis on the 24/7 Eat menu, though I noticed all of the trays were empty of the hot items. The hostess said they would be brought in by an outside vendor if requested.

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The elevators for the rooms were just around the corner from check-in, and required keycard access to get to the right floor.

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The hallway was cheery, with a rainbow of lights, primary colored doors and brightly colored stripes on the carpet.

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My room was near the end of the hallway.

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My first impression was that the room was very tidy and clean. Two long windows in the bedroom looked out over the town, and a TV hung in the middle facing the bed.

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The bed had reading lights overhead that functioned by using the bedside switches.

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The room was quiet, and I heard no noise from any direction.

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The thermostat was easy to use with just a light touch on the up or down arrows. Adjusting the temperature a bit, there was just a quiet whisper as the air flow changed.

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Under the TV was a handy panel that including both a UK charging port as well as EU.

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There were two complimentary bottles of water in the bathroom, and I put them in the cold fridge.

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The bedside had a charging outlet for UK style plugs.

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In the bathroom there was a closet and coffee/tea setup.

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There were Bliss amenities, and even though the soap was blue rather than green as at the W it smelled the same.

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The shower had wall mounted dispensers, which I’m not a fan of.

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The hotel seemed rather empty, so I checked online to see if by chance there were any standard suites available. There were several, so I called down to the front desk to inquire if perhaps I could try a Savvy Suite? She said that typically they do not upgrade, but she said in a cheery voice that she might be able to put me in one of those “since it was my first time at the hotel” and would call right back. Although Starwood’s policy is that if there is a standard suite available during check-in it should be allocated to a Platinum, I didn’t bring that up since she was moving me.

I stayed put in a chair while waiting, so if the suite was available it wouldn’t require any work on housekeeping’s end before being put back into inventory. 15 minutes later she called back and said there was indeed a suite ready on the 6th floor. I’d need to bring my luggage down though to get the key, since I’d need to return the key I had. I complied, and as soon as I got downstairs I saw why it had taken her so long to call back. It was very busy at check-in, with people everywhere. I swapped keys with her, thanked her and headed up to the new room.

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The Savvy Suites on each floor are located next to the elevator as soon as you get off. I was concerned about that since usually being close to the elevator means noise transfer.

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I unpacked my suitcase and got comfortable. Now that all my devices were charging, I turned on my laptop and tried to connect to the internet. No go. I grabbed an iPad, and still got no connection. I tried moving into a different room, thinking that perhaps the signal just wasn’t very strong in the room I had been in. Still nothing. at. all. The hotel’s website online boasts that the property has fast, free unlimited wifi so I called down to the front desk to see if I needed to log in differently.

They said the hotel was currently experiencing some Wifi issues so the higher floors were not able to connect. What? Why hadn’t they told me that in the first place, especially when changing rooms to the 6th floor? I said that unfortunately if that was the case I’d need to move. I wasn’t looking forward to packing everything up again, but I had too much that had to be done online to not have any connection at all. I packed up my stuff and trudged back downstairs. During the last move my drink and breakfast voucher were turned in and not replaced, so I requested new ones since I was down there anyways. I got a lemon-ginger drink, and a bottled smoothie.

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While I waited, I asked if the new room would be a suite as well. The host echoed the comments of the earlier check-in agent and said that typically they do not upgrade but that since I had been given a suite he would give me the same on a lower floor. I said that it was my understanding that Platinums automatically received standard suites if the hotel had them available during check-in, but he said that that particular property did not have to follow those rules. My husband stepped in and asked if he could please forward a copy of those rules to his email for us to look at, and the host said he would.

The host printed out new keys and we were on our way up again, to the 3rd floor. The suite was identical except that this time the internet worked. Yay!

The Savvy Suite had a small powder room off to the right, just inside the door.

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There was a wall of closets to the left, before entering the sitting room.

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I always like having a separate living space, with plenty of seating. Two windows with shades that could be adjusted with chains were on either side of the room.

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There was an additional EU charging outlet in the sitting room, just above the coffee maker. I plugged in my devices to charge.

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The bedroom had a sliding door feature that was silent while in action.

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The bedroom was very similar to that in the previous room.

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I did notice that where in the previous room the bedside table was up against the opaque window shared with the shower, the suite had an extra cubbyhole with an iron and ironing board.

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The bathroom counter was much larger than in the regular room.

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The shower was very similar.

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No trash can in the bathroom? There was a tiny one next to the toilet but during my stay I found myself automatically wanting to throw a tissue or something in the trash, and having to go to the other room to do so.

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I was surprised there wasn’t any sort of shelf in the shower at all and it seemed they really didn’t want me to bring in my own toiletries. I ended up balancing one small bottle and a soap on each of the slightly rounded dispensers, and another bottle ended up getting wedged in between the handheld shower cord and the wall.

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The shower door had a rubber strip at the bottom that kept water in the stall, but that also meant as it opened outwards it pushed aside anything that was there like the bathmat. Not very convenient.

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I’d left the other complimentary waters in the fridge of the 6th floor room, so I put the ones from this room in the fridge.

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The view looked out onto the ExCe building, same as the other room.

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My husband also noticed that there was barely one bar of service on his mobile phone in the room. No matter where he stood, he was unable to make calls. Disappointing.

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I did some work, but found that the overhead lights alternated between spotlights with too much light, and areas where there wasn’t enough. I moved to the bedroom where the lighting was more even.

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The next morning at breakfast, my husband mentioned that the host had emailed him the “rules” that the hotel goes by concerning upgrades. According to the email, it says that “Upgrades are to best available room, including Standard Suites. Not offered at Aloft® or ElementSM hotels” but after calling the Platinum Concierge line, my husband had confirmed that Alofts are not exempt from the SPG standard upgrade rules but that most Alofts don’t have any suites. So the hotel had interpreted the rules incorrectly.

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We were seated for breakfast and asked our room number. The buffet was open until 10am, and it was still just 9am so there was plenty of time to enjoy it.

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There were the usual offerings of meats, cheeses, yogurts, breads, etc.

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There were several trays of hot items such as eggs and baked beans. They were not under heat lamps, but the lights they were under were so bright they hurt my eyes. It was akin to waking up in a dark room and suddenly stepping outside into the bright sunlight. I could barely look at the food and quickly took a spoonful of this and a spoonful of that before moving on.

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There were several different kinds of fresh fruit water, and while I favored the kiwi lemon, the watermelon and mint strawberry came in a close second!

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During check-out, I thanked the host for forwarding the rules to us. He mentioned that he’d talked with my husband and was going to have his manager contact SPG since “it was not their intention to provide anything different than what the program allows”.

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I had mixed thoughts about this hotel. It was close to the airport, which was good. The staff was friendly and welcoming, but they didn’t upgrade as a general rule. Not that I really needed the suite at all, but I don’t particularly like when hotels deviate from the standard policies.

Aloft London Excel

Update: I was informed by a couple readers that all Alofts are exempt from the upgrade policy. However I was contacted by a hotel team leader, who spoke with SPG and had the following to say,

“We do pride ourselves to look after our Platinum members but this was not the case you received from us and I do apologise once again that this was not clarified in the first instance and we will now be more flexible with our most loyalty guests to make sure you get the best room/suite available.”

Outstanding. I will not change my star rating since the stay is already completed, but would definitely stay here again.

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Good To Go

+ Room was quiet, even next to the elevator
+ Full breakfast for Platinums was good
+ Staff was friendly

Good To Know

- Bathroom had awkward touches like no trash can by the sink, no shelf in the shower
- Wifi didn't work on the upper floors (was a temporary issue that was probably resolved a day or two after I left)
- Little to no mobile phone reception anywhere in the room

How many Magic Stars did this hotel stay earn?

 3/5 Magic Stars
  1. DWT
    Reply

    In spite of what SPG may have told you, my understanding has always been that upgrades are not a published benefit for elites at Element and aloft hotels.

    From the SPG T&C for Platinum benefits:
    “Room upgrade, including Standard Suites — Subject to availability for the entire length of stay, provided the room was not booked through a prepaid third-party channel, such as priceline.com, expedia.com, booking.com, orbitz.com, elong.com and delta.com. Upgrades are to best available room, including Standard Suites. Not offered at Aloft® or ElementSM hotels.”

    • Melinda
      Reply

      I was contacted by a hotel team leader, who spoke with SPG and had the following to say,

      “We do pride ourselves to look after our Platinum members but this was not the case you received from us and I do apologise once again that this was not clarified in the first instance and we will now be more flexible with our most loyalty guests to make sure you get the best room/suite available.”

      Outstanding. I will not change my star rating since the stay is already completed, but would definitely stay here again.

  2. Lack
    Reply

    Aloft/Element are exempt from the plat upgrade at checkin policy. Nice from the hotel to make and exception though.

  3. R
    Reply

    I’ve stayed here a few times. Another item to note is that the hotel has a DLR train station attached to it. When I was there, my door to door commute time to central London was about 30 minutes. If prices are high in London then I’ll sometimes stay here to keep the costs low (last trip was 120GBP/night)

  4. Elena-MuslimTravelGirl
    Reply

    I stayed there during a conference. I liked the hotel but I agree internet and phone can be spotty I had the same problem there. I liked the fact it is connected to the DLR and it takes only 30-40minutes to central London. It is great for EXCEL conferences and events but prices then can be sky high. Overall i totally agree with your rating.

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