Last weekend, I surprised my partner with a stay at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel (a Disney Resort hotel) for his birthday. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Why a middle-of-the-road Sheraton? Why not a five-star hotel? Why a Disney resort for a grown man? Is he insane?”

Please allow me to explain.

I’m a Starwood Gold Card member and Sheraton is the Starwood’s middle-of-the-road hotel chain. I am supposed to get automatic room upgrades, late checkouts and other perks at Starwood hotels. The Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel is the only Starwood hotel that is also a Disney resort hotel. Disney in Japan means locals having multiple orgasms every time they spot anything remotely Mickey. I figured we could go spy on the locals, laugh at the overall cheesiness, take in some sun, workout at the gym, stroll along the bay and hopefully take home some of that childlike excitement that goes hand in hand with being so close to Mickey Mouse without actually having to enter the park, deal with the crowds, long lines and wailing children.

We arrived at the Sheraton on a bus that had windows in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, entered the hotel and got in line to check in. The lobby was a huge, outdated, faded swirl of pink and white carpeting, scratched wooden wall panels, and dull brass accents filled with wedding parties and gaudy floral arrangements.

When we finally made it to the front of the line, I asked to make sure we had a room upgrade and a late check out and was greeted by a young woman’s smiling face and blank stare. I asked again. Nothing. I’m pretty sure I could have said, “Wipe that annoying smile off your fucking face or I’ll wipe it off for you.” and she still would have continued smiling.

I speak a basic Japanese. A grasp of the language that allows me to tell the waiter that I’m a vegetarian, ask the bartender for another draft beer and tell anyone who cares to listen that my apartment is near Wendy’s. So I asked the woman “Upgrado onegaishimasu.” She asked me to wait for the porter.

The porter was a young woman with a fast smile, crooked teeth and an eye booger. She practiced her English on us all the way to the room as we passed scratched walls, fraying wallpaper and frowning Filipina chambermaids. “The Happiest Place on Earth!” indeed.

Once inside the room, the porter couldn’t figure out how to turn on the television with the remote, gave up turning on the radio, fiddled with the air conditioner in the very stuffy room, opened the drapes and presented us with our view: a back door peek inside the Disney resort.

After she left the room, I turned to my partner and in a flawless Academy Award winning performance screamed, “Wow! Isn’t this exciting!?”

We jumped on the bed. Hard as a rock. My partner, in keeping with my feigned excitement said, “Hard mattresses are good for your back.” I nodded.

“Let’s go checkout the pool and the gym!” I shouted.

Surprise! You have to pay extra to lounge by the pool or exercise at the gym. But this wasn’t indicated on the website. One of the primary reasons we are here is to lounge by the pool. We paid.

The gym was new if the year were 1981. The indoor pool was filled with screaming children (shouldn’t they be at Disneyland?) and tired mothers (shouldn’t they be at Disneyland with their screaming children?). The outdoor pool was not heated and the afternoon suddenly turned windy and cool. Thanks God!

The locker room was dank and smelled of mildew. And try as I might, though I’ve gotten used to elderly Japanese ladies cleaning away while I undress and walk around naked inside locker rooms, I have still not gotten used to five-year-old girls scampering around naked with their equally naked fathers. Inevitably, they stare at you because you are not Japanese. I try to pretend they are not there but in my mind I can’t stop thinking, “My God! What is their father thinking? What if you had some child molester in the room watching your child? Why isn’t this girl with her mother?” But I digress.

Later, we were denied access to the Starwood Preferred Guest Lounge. After going back to the lobby to fix the problem, we were allowed entry. All that trouble to be met with flat beer, processed cheese and stale crackers. The view over Tokyo Bay was nice though.

When dinner rolled around, we discovered that the main restaurant was only serving a BBQ buffet and that the common lounge and pub were closed for wedding parties. We actually visited neighboring hotels to find food and drink. We did the same for breakfast. And let me tell you that except for the newly renovated Hilton (a flashy overkill), the other hotels were just as dated and worn as our hotel.

I know the Sheraton isn’t one of Starwood’s premier hotel chains. It’s no St. Regis. I’ve had nothing but great experiences when staying at a St. Regis. But would it kill the good people at Starwood to update their less glamorous properties?

 

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