Posted by Ric Garrido

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group held a full service brands conference at the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago the last three days of February 2013.

This is my second stay at the hotel courtesy of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. I was there for three free nights last month during the Carlson Rezidor Full Service Brands (Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza brands) hotel conference. In November 2011 I was invited for the media familiarization trip for the hotel opening.

Links to hotel articles from the 2011 trip are at the end of this post.

This post focuses on the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel public spaces and The Lounge on the 17th floor. The room will be covered in a separate post to show the difference in detail between the two room styles and their décor.

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Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

The wavy design of the Aqua Tower has won architectural awards and even an environmental design award from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – PETA – for the hotel’s visibility to birds in flight. A large number of birds in the U.S. die every year from flying into the windows of skyscrapers reflecting sky imagery.

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Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

The hotel is located on the lowest 18 floors of the 859-ft Aqua Tower. Residential units are located on floors 19-81.

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Cityscape illustrated walls at Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

One of my favorite aspects of the hotel is walking down the hallway corridor to the elevators and checking out the drawings of buildings on the walls.

The Lounge

The Lounge on the 17th floor of the hotel was open for this stay. The Lounge was being furnished in November 2011 and I had to get special permission to even see the space. The hotel manager did not want me to post photos of the unfinished lounge in 2011.

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The Lounge, Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago, February 2013.

Well, here is the look now.

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The hotel was filled with Carlson Rezidor management, executives, hotel owners and managers, and media. The hotel lounge was the press room for the conference so it was not set up for normal lounge breakfast service since all hotel guests were attending the conference.

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The Lounge on 17th floor Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

The Lobby

The Carlson Rezidor Full Service conference meant the hotel was fully booked and some attendees needed to stay at other hotels. There is an underground passage connecting the Radisson Blu Aqua to the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park across the street.

There is plenty of seating space for 50 or so in the lobby area and another 150 or so in Filini restaurant and bar.

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Lobby seating in Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

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Filini Restaurant and Bar on two levels of Radisson Blu Aqua.

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Metal floor tiling walkway from lobby to art gallery area.

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Art Gallery corridor between lobby and conference center/ballroom. Items in foreground were temporary placements with charity buttons on a board signifying donations made by attendees during the Carlson Rezidor conference.

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The display of items at the hotel entrance prevents people from congregating by the restaurant stairs and spilling over into the entrance walkway no matter how crowded the hotel. Traffic flows from the entrance to the hotel elevators, the lobby, the conference center walkway or hotel dining area. Reception is isolated on the left side of entrance and located away from  lobby/dining environment.

This trip to the Radisson Blu Aqua was a conference/business meeting trip and an entirely different kind of experience than the small intimate media trip in 2011. Elevators were slow and crowded just before meeting time.

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Ballroom lighting.

The conference room set-up worked well at the hotel with a dedicated area and enough corridor space for ballroom pre-dinner gatherings of 200 or so people. The formal dinners were about 500 guests with good quality food and in fact, noticeably better food than nearly any of quite a few conference meals I ate in 2012.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group conferences always has sufficient Indian food diet attendees that many of the meals have the option of Indian food choices.

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Ballroom space at Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

The snow and wind and busy schedule kept me inside the hotel most of the time.

I checked out some of the second floor fitness facilities again, but did not get to the 3rd floor pool on this trip.

There are some cool rooms after you exit the elevator and before you reach the fitness center on the second floor.

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This is a common space in the mixed-use residential hotel complex.

A media room, a game room and the fitness center are around this space.

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Game Room, 3rd floor, Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

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Media Room at Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

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One of several rooms in fitness center.

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Yoga room. Fitness center also has basketball court room and weights room.

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One portion of weight room at Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

The Mansion House room design for my stay is a blue style and different from the ‘naturally cool’ light wood style of my previous stay in Radisson Blu Aqua Room 604.

The Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago ‘Mansion House’ style room photos are in this Loyalty Traveler post (to come).

There was also good information at the Carlson Rezidor conference about third-party online travel agency agreements and Club Carlson benefits delivery that I will share with readers in another post.

Related posts:

Tour of the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago (Nov 20, 2011) – this has more photos of the fitness center, pool area and hotel gardens area. The rooftop garden was buried under snow this 2013 trip.

Guest Room 604 at Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago (Nov 19, 2011).

My Stay at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel (Nov 18, 2011).

Bird-friendly Aqua Tower and Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago (Nov 15, 2011)

Chicago River Architecture Tour (Mar 31, 2012)

11 Responses

  1. Great sponsored advertisement about Carlson. You lost a ton of respect in my book.

  2. @alex welcome to boardingarea.com …. Everything on BA has turned into this type of things and credit card links

  3. I have attended the Carlson conference every year since 2010. I reported on the Ambition 2015 five year plan in 2010. I reported on the launch of Club Carlson in 2011. I reported on the US Bank credit card deal from the global conference in 2012. I reported on the Country Inn & Suites redesign project last week.

    Part of Loyalty Traveler is reporting about travel and the hotel industry in addition to writing about my own hotel loyalty travels. I attend conferences like Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group annual conferences, U.S. Travel Association International Pow Wow (2011-San Francisco; 2012-Los Angeles; June 2013-Las Vegas), Travel Blog Exchange (2011-Vancouver; 2012-Denver/Keystone; Girona, Spain; 2012 Toronto and Dublin, Ireland). Americas Lodging Investment Summit 2013 – Los Angeles; Berlin ITB 2013.

    Most of this conference travel involves picking up my own hotel expenses. Carlson Rezidor pays for the hotel for media attendees who go to their annual conference.

    I rarely seek out free hotel rooms, but I don’t refuse free flights or hotels when offered. I turned down two trips recently since I did not want to spend too much of my time writing sponsored posts over the next month.

    A high percentage of travel writers with blogs do not pay for most of their hotel or lodging. Boarding Area bloggers in general have much less sponsored travel than a typical travel blogger I meet at TBEX conferences.

  4. The hotel could have been excellent however it suffers from bad management, stingy club lounge offerings for those who pay up or are upgraded and a we don’t care attitude when it comes down to recognition of elite guests. The restaurant while beautiful had average to poor quality food with friendly servers poisoned by once again management that doesn’t care what guests think or their outcome.

    Part of the problem with this hotel is that it was built on the lower floors of a high rise condo. So while the building looks impressive in design and height from the outside its misleading for hotel guests that aren’t going to be that high up at all.
    The hotel itself is built on the lowest floors of the building.
    I was also not thrilled with the gym which while is nice enough has shared usage with residents and their guests.
    This led to some bad behavior of select individuals on my visit that weren’t hotel guests.This hotel could be an acceptable choice but it has a long way to go starting with its uncaring management,high prices and stingy offerings in every regard with club offerings and an overall guest unfriendly fake attitude.
    Chicago is blessed with some fantastic hotels this is sadly not one of them. It could be with effort despite its current shortcomings.
    Some guests will clearly be happy as the hotel is new and their expectations as a non elite guest may just that of a new condition clean Ikea like plus room with comfy beds which the hotel does to its credit deliver.
    Having said that room product without a good experience doesn’t make for a great stay..
    Message to hotel its called hospitality something during my stay which was completely lacking despite some efforts of the inexperienced team members of which there were many

    Comment by D Wonderment on March 30th, 2013 at 12:34 pm
  5. @alex/@tom – why do you bother to post these sorts of critiques? They add nothing of value to the conversation. I appreciate Ric’s posting about a hotel I haven’t been to but have wondered about and his upfront declaration of the nature of his visit.

    I simply cannot understand why people feel the need to call bloggers who are up front about affiliate links, sponsored trips, etc. out without taking into account their history of valuable contribution and content. WTF?!

    And if you feel that strongly about it, vote with your feet and stop reading but don’t clutter up comments for those of us who give a damn with your petty grievance.

  6. I too appreciate Ric and his valuable contributions to Boarding Area.He does a really nice job
    These folks are entitled to some perks IMHO
    Ric and many of the folks on Boarding Area provide a valuable source of content to we the traveling public

    Comment by D Wonderment on March 30th, 2013 at 1:39 pm
  7. @alex you should take your own advice. If you don’t like somebody’s comments, Move On.

  8. Ric runs an excellent blog, I read it everyday. Loved the Rad Blu review.

  9. This is my second favorite hotel, after the Andaz Wall Street. A great upscale location with great design and without an overbearing staff. The price isn’t exorbitant for what you’re getting, either.

    I have more photos of the hotel on my blog as well: http://legjcb.com/2012/11/02/jeff-and-lance-big-in-japan-part-i-the-chicago-opening-act/

    Thanks, Ric! This is a great hotel to spread the word about.

  10. [...] Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago Hotel Public Spaces [...]

  11. Ric runs an excellent blog IMO. His reviews are fair and don’t show the influence of freebies he got. You will know this if you peek at other preachy blogs which are all about applying for credit cards. There it’s pretty clear that it is a business run not in the interest of reader. I don’t advise “reading” them of course.

    Keep on the good work Ric.

    Comment by andreas on April 1st, 2013 at 8:27 am

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