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Seattle Marriott Waterfront
2100 Alaskan Wy.
Seattle, WA 98121
206-443-5000, 800-455-8254

On the Waterfront

by Kim Fay

Downtown Waterfront Renaissance

For a city with such a dynamic maritime history and fun downtown docks area, it’s strange that Seattle doesn’t have an abundance of great little waterfront hotels. The piers are full of character, with their lively ferry terminal, seafood restaurants (Ivar’s is a landmark) and kooky stores—you must visit Sylvester the Mummy at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Yet as far as lodgings go, The Edgewater has long been the only contender, still capitalizing on a photo op of the Beatles fishing out one of the guestroom windows. But with the recent gentrification of adjacent Belltown, it was only a matter of time before some savvy hotel group demanded a share of this prime Elliott Bay location. Who could have guessed that the group would be Marriott, and that their challenger would be a real winner that suits Seattle’s discreet, classically simple demeanor?

We’re well aware that one of the reasons hotels avoided this area for so long was the none-too-pretty, bi-level Highway 99, which severs the waterfront from downtown, leaving just a meager strip between the roadway and the bay. The Marriott has triumphed over this problem by simply not putting any windows on its backside. Although views of downtown can’t help take in the highway, the focus is on Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound and sunsets over the Olympic Mountains—we love room 801 because you get a full panorama. As for the windows, they’re astonishingly soundproofed.

Eye-catching Lobby
Waterfront Suite

The area the Marriott inhabits, at the north end of the piers, has seen a flourishing of condos in recent years. Northwest in architecture (low rise with simple lines), the hotel fits into its surroundings. Many of the 358 guestrooms have balconies, although we wish they were bigger. You can step outside for an intoxicating whiff of saltwater and creosote, but there isn’t room for a chair, so that you can sit out and read over a cup of morning coffee. The rooms are nicely done in soothing colors and a traditional European-inspired décor, with a few unique touches here and there: an intricately carved headboard that looks as if it came from Bali, or an artful vase arranged on a dresser.

Also caught by our style radar were the imported glass artwork and mosaic tile wall panels in the public spaces. Even the meeting rooms on the lower level offer eye-catching touches, such as the navy blue leather in the Executive Boardroom---known on the inside as the “Command Center”—and marble inlays on the floor of the fabulous ladies room. Most dramatic, though, is the arcade that connects the hotel to its Fish Club restaurant. This theatrical gallery features small alcoves decorated with elegant glass pendant lamps and harlequin colored drapery. Each has its own private table and gazes across the trolley line (there’s a stop right outside) and two and a half mile waterfront jogging path to the bay.

Imported Glass Artwork
The Fish Club

The Fish Club is the first Seattle offering from Todd English’s The Olive Group. This urbane space—with its chef’s table, cool English-designed oven in the open kitchen and intimate Club Room for private dining—is run by executive chef Chris Ainsworth, whose warm personality fits right in at this northwest haunt. Ainsworth opened the restaurant for English, and has created a creative but not too fussy menu based on the venue’s inspiration: the fishing villages of the Mediterranean.

Because the hotel attracts so many business travelers (it’s right next door to the Trade Center and across the street from Bell Harbor International Conference Center), the rooms come with all the expected amenities, such as high-speed Internet access and work desks. There’s also an executive level that includes breakfast to the tune of CNN in a private lounge and evening wine and hors d’oeuvres. Those execs that want to conduct small meetings in their rooms can choose a waterfront suite, in which meeting friendly areas are held separate from the bedrooms.

With its waterfront setting, the hotel also caters to the cruise ship crowd, mainly from April to September, and thus also features a complimentary guest laundry room. There is also a cozy library, the cute Trolley Café, indoor/outdoor pool area and fitness room. But while the hotel is well-equipped, this isn’t what sets it apart. In the end, it’s the hospitality, unintimidating style and great location (just hop on the elevator outside and you’ll be whisked up to the Pike Place Market level) that gives this hotel its edge.

Going to Seattle? Check our out guide.

(Updated: 06/27/08 HC)

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