Arrival Experience: Physically connected to the popular James Hotel in downtown Saskatoon, the Sheraton Cavalier is one of the city's busiest and best business hotels. It lies just across from the South Saskatchewan River with many rooms offering exceptional views of the water and the opposite bank's lush foliage.
Preparing for a renovation in the lobby at inspection, the hotel was still looking bright and contemporary in the guest room and restaurant area making it a solid contender for those not interested in forking over for the higher rates at the exclusive James next door. Within walking distance of restaurants, shopping, and business offices, this was an ideal choice for my visit.
Dining: Windows is the main casual restaurant serving three meals a day including a fine breakfast spread overlooking the street and riverfront park. More popular with locals, however, is Carver's Steakhouse that opens only for dinner. The menu is elegant and highly regarded drawing in outsiders who may not be staying here. While I did not have a chance to dine at Carver's, I did take a peek inside and was impressed with the modern ambiance. A Starbucks coffee bar and pastry shop in the lobby seemed to do brisk business throughout the day. The 6Twelve lounge makes a full menu of martinis and takes its name from the property's street address. Like Carver's, locals pop in for a drink or two in this swanky space before heading out for a night on the town.
Accommodations: Guest rooms here are fresh from a renovation, and the first thing that struck me upon entering was the ample natural light. This is especially important in winter months when the temperature can drop drastically so it is nice to at least see the sun even though you may not be able to feel it once outside!
The standard Sheraton appurtenances were all in place from my favorite hotel bed: the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper with pillowtop mattress and duvet, to flat-screen cable TVs and clubby décor including an armchair.
Soft carpeting underfoot leads guests into the room where ample storage space is available (winter clothes can be bulky!). Other amenities include minibars, safes, and coffeemakers with packets of Starbucks grounds. By the beds, an iPod/iPhone docking station doubles as a convenient phone charger and stereo alarm clock (no need to reposition furniture to find an outlet to plug in my phone). The bathrooms have contemporary tiles and Sheraton's Bliss Spa line of toiletries. Hairdryers and make up mirrors were in place. Club level rooms have a slight uptick in rates, but are also distributed to Starwood Preferred Guest and elite members (Sheraton's loyalty program). The primary benefit of the upgrade is access to the swanky club lounge that has recently been refurbished. Inside, a hot breakfast is offered each morning and changed to a different menu daily to cater to longer-stay guests. A refrigerator remains stocked with free drinks and bottled water throughout the day until the evening when the buffet gets filled up with hot and cold evening snacks (enough to make a dinner out of for some people). One of those fancy coffee machines whirls and clanks like a real Italian coffee bar would to produce tasty caffeinated concoctions. Work desks in all rooms are spacious with easy-access electrical outlets and comfortable chairs on wheels. Phones with data ports and voice mail are standard in all rooms.
Conclusion: The best benefit of this hotel, and many hotels in Saskatoon, is that complimentary wireless high speed Internet is a given throughout the property. This is one of my biggest pet peeves at hotels, and it is certainly appreciated especially at a business hotel. Social functions and special banquet meetings quickly request the rooftop venue, which books up quickly. On the top floor, one entire wall is lined with windows overlooking the river. The conference space downstairs is plentiful and often booked with groups. If meetings are extremely large, space can be shared with the Delta Bessborough across the street. Back in the lobby, the Link@Sheraton station provides free wired Internet access from flat-screen computers and a printer where guests can print documents like work materials and boarding passes. A modern fitness center is well-stocked with cardio and weight equipment, not that I made any use of it though. What was surprising is that this hotel houses the River Country water park. It includes indoor pools, whirlpools, and family play areas including massive water slides that curve and dip until they deposit their happy riders into the pool's deep end. This indoor pool play area makes the hotel quite popular with families, but also with business travelers that like a place to relax indoors on colder days outside. Access is free for all guests. For travelers interested in loyalty points, the Sheraton is the strongest bet in town for the time being. Many Americans book the property simply for that reason, but the friendly service and recent interior improvements are icing on the cake. The compact downtown area of Saskatoon makes it easy to walk around town, and the Sheraton Cavalier is a great home base from which to do it.