Call it the best New York hotel you’ve never heard of.

The entrance to the CitizenM New York Times Square, at 218 W. 50th. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The entrance to the CitizenM New York Times Square, at 218 W. 50th. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Opened in April 2014, the CitizenM New York Times Square is the first North American property to be opened by the Dutch-based CitizenM hotel chain that began operations in 2008. Their entire philosophy revolves around providing cool, welcoming hotels that feature small but insanely well-designed rooms with the latest high-tech doodads.

This wasn’t my first foray into CitizenM territory; I first discovered them last year during an overnight stay at the CitizenM Amsterdam Schiphol Airport location and quickly fell in love with the hotel for its funky stylings, friendly staff and commitment to providing more than you’d expect. And in New York (particularly two blocks from the heart of Times Square), the CitizenM gives you way more than you’d expect.

Welcome to the CitizenM New York; CitizenM's first North American property. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to the CitizenM New York; CitizenM’s first North American property. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

So when the time came for me to book a hotel to stay in prior to my Quantum of the Seas preview cruise, this was at the top of my list. It was also half the cost of the nearby Marriott Marquis, Hilton New York, and other similar properties.

Check-in was beyond efficient; there was a friendly girl working the self-check-in kiosks who helped me with my reservation when I arrived just after 7 p.m. last Tuesday, and within seconds I was headed up to my room on the 12th floor, keycard in hand.

Elevators to the top. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Elevators to the top. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The entire room is small but functional, and bathrooms – normally created of transparent glass in Europe – have been “North Americanized” to help us hide our nakedness behind walls of semi-transparent plastic that keeps details out but which still allows the colourful mood lighting to permeate both bathroom and living space.

Speaking of, the entire room is controlled by a single device: a small Samsung tablet known as a MoonPad. The MoonPad lets you control the brightness and even colour temperature of the room’s lighting either by hand or through a half-dozen handy presents that range from “Work” (soft blues and bright lights) to “Romance” (dim and red.) Everything from the room’s music to the flat-panel television to the digital artwork frame and electronic blinds are controlled this way. It’s stunning.

My room on the 12th Floor of the CitizenM New York. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My room on the 12th Floor of the CitizenM New York. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The reverse angle. To the left is the sink. To the right is the bathroom compartment containing a toilet and rainforest shower. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The reverse angle. To the left is the sink. To the right is the bathroom compartment containing a toilet and rainforest shower. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Also noteworthy is the oversized bed. It’s so large, you practically have to crawl out of it. Soft and yielding, it comes with more pillows than you could conceivably want, along with an under-bed storage drawer that’s large enough to conceal a small suitcase. Additional closets are positioned at the entrance to the room, and the hotel’s fun, whimsical styling is even apparent on the do-not-disturb door knocker that proclaims “There’s someone naked in here!”

CitizenM Shower. You can change the lighting in here, too. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

CitizenM Shower. You can change the lighting in here, too. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

CitizenM is also noteworthy for their belief that you shouldn’t be nickel-and-dimed at every conceivable opportunity. It’s a belief that many North American-based hotel chains still don’t subscribe to.

Here’s what CitizenM throws in:

  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Complimentary VOIP-based phone calls anywhere in the world
  • Complimentary movies-on-demand
  • Fully-customizable lighting, music, and even artwork
  • An oversized king-size bed that spans the entire width of the room
  • Designer toiletries & rainforest showerhead
Use the MoonPad to control every characteristic of your room, from the lighting to the kind of wake-up call you'd like. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Use the MoonPad to control every characteristic of your room, from the lighting to the kind of wake-up call you’d like. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Compare that to my last stay at a New York hotel chain, where they wanted $25 for Wi-Fi access and $19.99 for a movie. I don’t even watch movies when I stay in hotels, but I can take myself out to a movie in a theatre for far less.

Because I’m also a CitizenM member (free to join), they even threw in a complimentary welcome drink. Unlike most welcome drinks, there were no limitations on what I could or couldn’t order – so I had a $14 martini. For free.

The lobby of the CitizenM New York features a bar and plenty of cozy seating...Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The lobby of the CitizenM New York features a bar and plenty of cozy seating…Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

...not to mention a combination library/bookstore. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

…not to mention a combination library/bookstore. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Now obviously, the CitizenM approach won’t work for everyone. If you need a room that sleeps more than two, this won’t work. If you’re going on a trip with friends or business colleagues, this won’t work – or, at the very least, it will require more than a few martinis at the bar and a good deal of open-mindedness. But if you’re a couple looking for a fun, funky hotel that gives you more than you’d expect, it’s ideal. Ditto for the road warrior travelling solo: all I really need in a hotel is a comfortable bed, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a nice bathroom. CitizenM exceeds that.

After my second stay at one of their properties, my only complaint with the chain is that they don’t have more locations! Currently, they offer two properties in Amsterdam, along with ones in Rotterdam, Glasgow, London and Paris.

Find out more about CitizenM Hotels by visiting their website!

 

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