Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel: My Pandemic Staycation

Just last Saturday, Shipra and I had a last-minute discussion about heading out for a staycation. There was a lot of back and forth, and we spent a good hour figuring out what we wanted to do. The first thoughts were to get out of Mumbai and head to Goa or Kochi, but after looking at last minute hotel and flight prices and occupancy and the shifting rules, we changed our mind. I then started looking at properties inside Mumbai. Given the Marriott 2X Elite Nights promotion, which is ongoing, I was tempted to try out a Marriott property for this last-minute staycation. Rates were all round reasonable at all sorts of Mumbai hotels such as the JW Marriott Sahar, ITC Grand Central and the Renaissance Mumbai.

The answer was not far away from home. I managed to talk Shipra into heading to the Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel in Powai, Mumbai, which is just about twenty minutes away from home. I’ve been to this hotel a couple of times to speak at events there, but never looked at it from the eye of going and staying there, even though I’ve stayed at the Westin Mumbai further away from home. I discovered some VFM prices available for a room at this full-service Marriott hotel, which overlooks a lake. For instance, for all of March 2021, the breakfast-inclusive members’ rate was just INR 3400 for double occupancy for most of the month, and this, on booking the night before arrival.

Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel

A bit about the Renaissance Powai: it is perhaps one of the largest hotel room inventory in the city. It has 600 rooms and was conceptualised as a convention centre for Mumbai back in the early 2000s. The Renaissance Tower was launched in 2009 and is the newer wing to complete the 600 rooms.

The hotel is nestled behind Powai Lake, in a relatively quiet part of Mumbai with a lot of greenery. The hotels’ owner has signed on with Marriott International to rebrand this property to Westin Mumbai Powai Lake at some point in the future. Marriott also manages the Lakeside Chalet, Mumbai – Marriott Executive Apartments aimed at long-stay guests inside the same complex. A third hotel is coming up on the premises, which will be the W Mumbai Powai Lake. The whole complex is spread out over 15 acres of land.

Arrival & Check-in

Once we made the reservation, I requested an early check-in at noon while checking in via the Marriott Mobile App, although I failed to turn up at that time. I arrived at the hotel at about 2 pm and walked towards the reception for collecting my keycard.  Although the hotel had already provided me with a mobile key, the elevators needed the keycard.

It looked like they were expecting us at the reception, and Shipra and I were walked to the room where the check-in formalities were completed. I just had to sign off on the check-in form, but alongside, both of us had to fill up a health declaration form as well. Our bags were sanitised and delivered slightly later.

While I was not sure what time we would check-out, as a matter of habit, I requested a late check-out up to my full eligibility of 4 PM, and the hotel mentioned that this was a done deal.

The hotel also provided me with an elite amenity card. I was offered to choose between an item to eat and drink or 1000 Marriott Bonvoy points (still Marriott Rewards points, as per the amenity card!)

Renaissance Mumbai Junior Suite

We were not expecting to be upgraded to a Suite at the hotel, given the night before. When booking up, I did not see any suites, and neither did I see any availability for using any of my SNA certificates. But here we were, in a Junior Suite on the 7th floor of the hotel, which was the top-most floor for the first building, and was located in a corner.

The suite overlooked Powai Lake and had a great view. On some more digging around, it turned out the Junior Suites are not put out on sale, so perhaps left out for elite upgrades only.

The suite’s main living room had a small kitchenette with a bar counter adjacent to the entrance, complete with a refrigerator, a sink, and an induction plate of its own. One could cook if they had the right utensils, essentially.

The tea and coffee station was stacked up with the usual requirements. However, the minibar was emptied, I am told, because of CoVid-19 concerns.

There were a nice big television and an L shaped couch, which could double up as a daybed as well. A couple of buttons controlled the sheer and blackout curtains.

As you go left, you enter the bedroom, which was compact but well designed. Facing the king-sized bed was another big glass window with sheer and blackout curtains, which would open up to give a view of Powai Lake.

In an extended corner, there was a small couch for two, overlooking, you guessed it, the lake. It was positioned, albeit a bit awkwardly, in front of a big wardrobe, which would make it very inconvenient to access this wardrobe if needed. Fortunately, our two small bags fit in one closet itself, and we did not have to use this second wardrobe.

The hotel put out a USB fast-charger by one end of the bed, but not on the other, which I found weird and inconsistent.

Turning around, the back of the bedroom was a compact bathroom. It had a wash area with a rain shower, hand shower and an enclosed tub.

There were two washbasins here at some point in time, but one was removed, and you could still see the plumbings shouting out that this was not a well-done job to tell people that they should have expected his and her basins, but now there is just one for them to share.

For reference, here is the image from the hotel itself about the Junior Suite bathroom.

The amenities used were provided by Inara, and thankfully the hotel had not moved to big shared bottles at this time.

However, I found most striking was the lack of a work-desk, something that was a standard issuance in all the rooms we saw open when we would walk by during housekeeping hours. Working on a couch is not my jam, and I was a trifle irritated with this. This was supposed to be a staycation, but I was surely not planning to do my Monday morning calls on Zoom in my jammies in my bed.

The Suite sure was oversized, and I am thankful for all the space, but it lacked upkeep. A stained couch and coffee table and some etch marks on the ottoman were some of the other hallmarks of the hotel showing its age. All of it put together was in your face, but not individually. I hope the rebranding would also bring the hotel to renovate it.

Another interesting thing I noted over my 48 hours or so spent at this hotel was hardly any English movie or international television channels on air. We did watch some Hindi movies while catching dinner, but I’d have liked some choice.

Towards room cleaning procedures, there was a card placed by housekeeping, informing us about all the high-touch parts of the room being wiped down as a part of Marriott International’s Commitment to Clean hygiene protocol. Also, sanitisation wipes placed aplenty in the room, in case we wanted to sanitise something ourselves. I’d be happier, though, if they would have also placed some hand sanitiser in the room as well.

Renaissance Mumbai Dining Options

Renaissance Mumbai has many dining options, but few are open due to the low occupancy at the hotel. The hotel has concentrated all its efforts on the Lake View Cafe, which is the all-day dining outlet of the hotel. Another outlet which is open now is the Mumbai Express, which is a deli. The Indian restaurant and the Italian restaurant are currently closed due to Covid-19.

For us, our first trip to the Lake View Cafe started on Sunday morning when we headed over for breakfast a little before 9 AM. The buffet breakfast opened up at 6:30 AM and was going on till 11:30 AM. When we arrived, we were quickly seated and were told that the rush hour would begin in about 30 minutes when everyone would be there.

The LVC, as it is called, had seating in three parts, indoors, outdoors and al-fresco. The indoor area was extendible and had various other halls opened up as the earlier seating areas filled up. On the outside, there were a few seats open. Right outside, there was also an al-fresco dining area, which was hardly in use given the hot Mumbai weather. Tables were being rolled over quickly with a quick change of table mats. However, no rigorous cleaning with some sanitisation fluids was noticed, as is the case with some hotels and restaurants. It might just be health theatre, but many people believe in it for now.

At the entrance, a sanitiser and face masks were placed. However, I did not notice any mask police, so people were happy to walk around in a public place without masks, and no one sent them back, at least in front of me. When they did have a mask insistence due to some alert associates, I noticed someone bringing out multiple masks by mistake and then trying to stuff them back in, in the process rubbing his hands all over them.

In terms of the breakfast buffet, you had all the usuals there. A fruit, juices and cold cuts counter was set up behind glass walls as an island, and the rest of the food was all laid out for the public to access. There was an Asian counter with congee and other Asian delicacies, a made-to-order egg station, a live dosa counter, a counter for Indian food, some Gujarati options, some international options, and a bread/pastry station. Service was quick, and made to order eggs were wonderful as well. For instance, I asked for Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce on the side rather than on top, and it came along quickly.

For lunch and dinner, the LVC was only available for a brunch/buffet meal over the weekends. So, we either had to sign up for an extensive meal, or we were told we could order something small from in-room dining. Unfortunately, the IRD menu did not have too many options, and stuff as basic as soup was missing. That meant, on Sunday, Lunch and Dinner was both ordered in from Zomato/Swiggy food delivery from restaurants outside the hotel complex.

On our last day, before leaving the hotel, we came down to LVC to finally try out their restaurant for the main meal, and the wait staff continued to want to upsell us to a buffet meal. We, of course, did not give in to the sales pitch and ordered ourselves only as much food as we had the appetite for. Overall, the food quality was satisfactory, and nothing to write home about. I’d say, don’t come here with the expectations of great meals. On a good day, they will do just fine. For instance, the Bhatti da Murg marked as a Chef’s Special turned out to be a regular Tandoori Chicken. It is not a problem to keep it as the Chef’s Special, but there was nothing special about it.

Renaissance Mumbai Executive Lounge

Per the team at Renaissance Powai, this hotel has the largest Executive Lounge in the country. After all, the hotel has a massive inventory (600 rooms), so it has to provide for a reasonably large lounge to provide for many elites landing up at the same time. The Lounge was located on the top floor of the second building, called the Renaissance Towers. So, one has to land up at the lobby and then walk a distance to head to the elevator bank for this lounge, and the lounge is located on the 36th floor.

The lounge had a massive variety of seating options. For instance, there were many seats for two or four overlooking Powai Lake.

Many seats had a full daybed, something I’ve never seen in an Executive lounge before. As much as I wanted to treat it like a personal area and spread out on this day bed, I could not get myself to do it because there were thirty other people around at any time. The other side of the lounge had an open terrace and some lovely views as well.

In the centre, a massive bar was there. However, only the liquor available for customers was on display. While the hotel had a great taste in top-shelf wines, and all of them were from Grover Zampa, a vineyard I like, the other stuff was not top-shelf in my view.

The lounge had reopened only sometime earlier on in February 2021 and was only open for cocktail hours and hors d’oeuvres from 5:30 PM onwards. Many hot appetisers and cold appetisers were presented, which almost could make a meal out of this, but all the food would be removed at 7:30 PM. The staff would make the rounds of every table and inform them before removing the food. Desserts, bar nibbles and drinks would go on for another hour, till about 8:30 PM every night.

The Picnic

How full was the hotel and how popular was an eye-opener for us on Saturday as soon as we checked in. We were informed there would be a picnic, which was a form of high tea, that is held every Saturday for guests. This was done on a side-terrace of the hotel and was interesting and well-organised.

The hotel laid out a lot of camping tents, in case the younger ones, who were the target audience, wanted to get the feeling of a campsite. Others could ask for mats to be laid out on the grass.

In terms of things to do, there was a lot. Board games were laid out, and for those who like to fly kites, they could get one. Chips and soft drinks were free-flowing, and there was musical entertainment in the form of Indian classical music. Later on, for the kids, there was a puppet show as well.

For me, the key attraction was the food. Renaissance Mumbai had organised a street food counter, and for me, it meant getting some street food after almost a year. So, I might have binged a bit.

Overall, for me, this was the most memorable part of the stay at Renaissance Mumbai and only happened on Saturday evening, in case you plan an outing there.

Other Amenities

The pool at Renaissance Mumbai is closed at the moment. However, one could always grab a pool bed and read a book, as was the case with all the European sun-starved flight crew who would use this hotel for their layover.

On the other hand, the gym was open, from 6 am to 11 pm. It was practically empty a few times when we walked by, so it made the decision to sweat it out a bit easier.

Renaissance Mumbai General Thoughts

For the price we paid, the hotel was value for money, if you account for their treatment of loyal guests and all the other benefits that they honoured. However, in conversations with the staff, it turned out they are picking up a lot of conferences and events, as businesses try to kickstart a typical year. Over the weekend, the hotel is usually at 70-80% occupancy.

The weekend we visited, there was a small wedding happening at the hotel, and a couple of big conferences. Topping it all up were the many guests who were over for a staycation as well.

With so many people around, the hotel might have been understaffed to handle the rush. For instance, one day after checking-in, we decided to take it easy, and we wanted to encash our amenity. I chose a bottle of wine and some nuts to be sent over. I called at about 11:20 am to place an order and was told it would be only after 11:30 am that they could send up something, given that breakfast was going to be wrapped up then and everyone was busy.

It was only after two follow up calls and some chats via the mobile app that at about 1:30 PM, the bottle of wine was delivered. The movie we wanted to watch along with was already over. Along came some nuts, which were not expected of a hotel that places itself on 5-star. Broken cashews and walnut kernels looked like leftovers, err, not something to be sent to guests.

On the same day, another drop in service was noticed at dinner time as well. Since we were bringing in our dinner, we asked for some plates to be sent in, and it took a total of one hour to receive them after multiple reminders.

Bottomline

The Renaissance Mumbai is a good hotel for the price it is charging right now to drive occupancy. The location is excellent and very private. However, it is woefully understaffed in some departments, which might not make it the most memorable stay of your life. I tried to cut them a lot of slack for CoVid-19, but there was still a lot that the hotel should own up to and fix to make the experience better and charge a premium for a stay here. And the upkeep needs work, which I hope will be solved by the rebranding of the hotel. Go for the views, stay for the Chaat.

Have you been to the Renaissance Mumbai Hotel in Powai, Mumbai? What has been your experience at this hotel? Do Share.

Book here: Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel


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Comments

  1. Hi Ajay,
    Is there a chance of Junior suite upgrade for a gold member too in this property?

    Sambit

  2. @Ajay, thank you for this. Sorts out my plans for a weekend stay for my b’day.

    PS: Are you a Sindhi?

  3. Try J W Mariott Juhu , ITC Grand central and St Regis on your way to maintaining your titanium status for the year

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