Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Grand Hyatt Kauai: A Room Guide

I've already been over the fantastic experiences I've had at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai, so now I'd like to share some tips with you.
I've spent 17 nights at the Grand Hyatt, and I've experienced 8 different room categories, from a Pool View to a Presidential Suite.  So I'm going to start by sharing which rooms I've stayed in and giving you the pros and cons.

The lowest category room is what the Grand Hyatt Kauai classifies as a standard room.  Standard rooms will vary in location, but all share common traits.  Each of these rooms will either face the parking lot or the gardens on the south side.  On the Poipu wing, these will be 1st floor rooms, in the shipwreck wing these will be from 3rd to 6th story rooms.  In my opinion, the worst of these rooms is a 4th-6th story room in the Shipwreck wing, as these will most likely have Parking lot views.  You will not be able to see the Ocean from these rooms.  All of these rooms will feature a terrace or balcony to relax outside.

Room 3132: The very first room I experienced at the Grand Hyatt was a pool view room on the ground level of the Shipwreck wing.  The room is spacious, and incredibly convenient for pool access.  The terrace has an obstructed view of the pool.  Pool view rooms will be located in the Shipwreck wing at ground level (3rd floor)

Room 3092: As a late checkout accommodation, I was assigned this partial ocean view room for several hours until it was time to leave. This room is not too far from the lobby in the Poipu wing.  It would be ideal for access to the club, or for wedding guests who would not have to wander far from the outdoor altar to return to their room after the ceremony.
View from room 3092, a Partial Ocean View Room.
Partial Ocean view rooms will be spread across both wings of the hotel, and are basically defined as rooms that have less than a premier view of the Ocean.  Close proximity to the lobby can be viewed as a pro and a con.  Shorter walks to the car are appreciated by many, but it's always possible the Ilima Terrace restaurant may be hosting an event.  In such a case, it's possible the noise will disturb guests located here.

Room 6093: The last two nights of my first stay were upgraded from a paid standard room to this Deluxe Ocean View Room.  In size it is similar, if not the exact same as most of the rooms on property, but the view was spectacular.  Unfortunately it was not well appreciated by me or my girlfriend, as we had downgraded from a suite just a few doors down.  Along with said Suite, this room was not all that ideal location-wise.  Stairway access to the pool is a long walk through the hall, and compared with the pool view room we stayed in for our first two nights it felt like a significant trek.  It shouldn't discourage most people though, as compared to rooms in the Poipu wing it was a cakewalk to get places.
Deluxe Ocean View Room with 2 queen beds.
View from our Deluxe Ocean View Room

Room 1029: A single night in this Garden Suite was sufficient for us.  Larger than the Ocean Suite we had spent a night in the previous year, this suite did impress us in size, and it would certainly be comfortable for up to a family of four.  It was also fantastic to have a hammock right outside the room.  Yet we discovered here that ground floor rooms are not our forte at the Grand Hyatt.  You too may realize that the ground floor is grounds for many critters, and while geckos and other reptiles are scattered everywhere at the resort, the ground floor is the most occupied. Plan to encounter at least a few creatures in your room.
We also realized just how inconvenient this suite was.  It's quite a roundabout trip to the club, and very distant from the lobby, the pool, and the parking lot.  We utilized the valet while staying in this room, and it's likely you'll want to do the same.

Room 6083: I blame this room for many of my financial woes.  We were given a complimentary upgrade to this room for a single night from the paid Deluxe Ocean View Room.  While I found out later this is the smallest room in the Ocean Suite category, it was by far the most luxurious accommodation I had experienced at any hotel I'd ever stayed in.  Like all the Garden and Ocean Suites, this room features a wet bar, a table for four, and an L-Shaped Couch with a TV in the living room.  In the separate bedroom is a Hyatt Grand King bed with a TV.  The master bath is equipped with a shower and a jetted tub, along with a small TV above the sink.  This particular room had sliding glass doors leading out to an oversized balcony from both the living room and the bedroom.

Room 2029:  This standard sized Ocean Suite was directly above the Garden suite we had stayed in the previous year.  In layout and features it was exactly the same.  The sole difference was that instead of access to the Garden and a hammock directly outside the room, a balcony offered ocean views.

Room 2038:  While this Large Sized Ocean Suite essentially had the same features as the other standard suites I had stayed in, it was significantly better.  It's location was slightly more convienent than the Standard Size Ocean Suite and Garden Suite I had stayed in, but most impressive was the views it offered.  This room featured an oversized living room and an oversized balcony off the living room.  Additionally, the bedroom featured sliding glass doors with a small balcony on the other corner, meaning you could view the ocean or the hotel lobby from the room.  Of all the rooms I have stayed in at the resort, we spent the most nights in this room (5 nights).

Check out the video above for a preview of four different standard suites in the hotel.

Room 6127:  This Deluxe Ocean Suite is impressive in size, views, and location.  Featuring a 6 person formal dining table and a half-bathroom along with all the other features found in the hotel's standard suites, this is one of the best rooms on property.  French doors off the bedroom lead to views of the expansive pool.  The oversized living room has two sets of sliding glass doors that open to a giant balcony with premier ocean views.  Ultimately, my assessment of the property has led me to believe that this room has the best views on the resort, though there are a few rooms closer to the ocean.  The following video is a tour of this incredible room.

The Ultimate of Accomodations at the Grand Hyatt Kauai: The Kaumuali'i Royal Suite
Room 6026:   This is one of two Presidential suites at the resort.  From what I've seen of the other and because of the location of this room, I'm led to believe it is the better of the two.  While clearly the most luxurious accommodation offered, unfortunately you have to sacrifice the best view and a premier location to get it.  Granted the views are nothing short of spectacular from this room, but having a line of sight to all of the pool grounds and having convenient access to the lobby and pool in room 6127 was invaluable to me.

Despite that, if I had to choose between 6127 and this room, I would take the Presidential Suite.  This suite is the ultimate in entertaining options at the resort, and would be a spectacular family retreat for a week.  From separate living, dining, and entertaining areas to the oversized Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, this suite has it all.

The suite entrance features double doors.  For additional space, the adjacent room can also be rented, and an additional set of double doors in front of the suite entrance and prior to the adjacent room can be closed to turn this suite and the adjacent room into a 2-bedroom, 2 & 1/2 bath suite.

Enjoy the video above for a preview of this home-sized suite.

I hope you've enjoyed my review and guide of the Grand Hyatt Kauai.  If you have time, check out my video of the Garden Island below. (2D Version on Top, 3D Version on Bottom)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Grand Hyatt Kauai: A Comprehensive Review

The Grand Hyatt Kauai may be the young traveler's most aspiring destination within the U.S.  Indeed, it was mine nearly three years ago when I came across the Hyatt Visa card and wanted to know where the best place to use my two free nights was.  In September of 2013, I spent my first five nights there.  Since then I have stayed an additional 12 nights and I've experienced a total of 8 different rooms.  No day has been a let-down, no moment has been forgotten.

Our departure for this trip was a calm Thursday morning.  We departed Sacramento on an economy ticket with United and connected at Los Angeles International, where we took advantage of both the United Club with our day pass and the Alaska Board Room lounge with our Lounge Club access.  From there we departed direct to Lihue on an eventless 6 hour flight.  We arrived in Lihue around 12:45, and after grabbing our baggage, picking up our convertible, and making a snack run at Costco, we drove the 15 miles to the Grand Hyatt and arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon.  We chose as we always have to utilize the valet for the first night.  If you stay at this property, you should at the very least use the valet on your first day.  You are presented with a Lei, offered water, and assisted with your baggage.  You may otherwise be presented with a Lei at the front desk, but I've heard of instances where people miss out on this.
On our first stay we were checked in by Eric, on our second by Lauren.  This time we were helped by Jessie.  Jessie welcomed us back and informed us that our government rate Diamond Suite Upgrade to a Garden Suite had been further upgraded to an Ocean Suite.  Based Hyatt's website, upon check-in there was availability for all room categories across the board, less Garden Suites (as these typically fill up with people using Diamond Suite Upgrades).  I informed Jessie that I had spoken to Darlene in the reservations department about paying to upgrade further to a Deluxe Ocean Suite for the last two nights of my stay.  After conferring with a supervisor, Jessie let me know that there was availability for a Deluxe Ocean Suite on the 5th floor in the Poipu wing.  I then specifically requested room 6127, as I had heard this was the most lavish of the Deluxe Ocean Suites.  After a quick check, I was offered that room at an additional cost, which I agreed to. In the meantime, we would be in room 2029.  We confirmed our 1,000 point bonus for our Diamond Membership amenity, although for the first time we considered taking a Cabana rental instead (Value between $70 and $150)
The bellhop, Teddy, walked with us to our room and unloaded our luggage.  As bellhops go, I haven't experienced any friendlier than those at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, Teddy was no exception, nor was the man who later helped us move to our other Suite (though I missed his name)

Our Diamond benefits.
Room 2029 is a standard sized Ocean View Room.  It is larger than the small version I experienced in room 6083, though it did feature a smaller balcony.  It was smaller than our corner large version ocean suite in room 2038, and even less convenient location wise.  It was directly above the Garden Suite I stayed in last year, and was essentially exactly the same.  All Ocean and Garden suites feature a television in both the bedroom and the living area, a wet bar, a table for 4, an L shaped couch, a Jacuzzi tub with a small TV in the bathroom, and toilets with heated seats and front and rear cleansing options.
As a Diamond member, we received a card with information about our amenities, and I scrolled through, having forgotten what they were.
Throughout our stay we would take advantage of a nightly turndown service, access to the Spa, 15% off at the Logo Shop, and most importantly Club Access.  We were disappointed to find that 15% off the Anara Spa Retail Price applied only to the Spa store, and not to services (this led to our decision to postpone a pampering until our upcoming trip to the Park Hyatt Maldives)

After unpacking, we made the roundabout trip to the Grand Club.  I say roundabout because there is no easy access to the club from a good portion of 2nd floor rooms.  We literally had to walk down a hall, turn left down another, turn left down another, elevator up, and another left with a short walk to the double doors.  All in all, you turn 235 degrees for the trip.  But definitely a worthwhile trip.

The grand club is almost always available for snacks and drinks, in fact on our last trip I did not once show up to locked doors.  Among trail mix, wasabi peas and macadamia nuts you'll find my favorite amenity: Passion Guava juice!  You're also provided with Pepsi products in cans and bottled water, along with some various carbonated canned fruit drinks.

After grabbing some trail mix and a couple of soda's, we went back to the room for some R&R.
View from our first room.

Desserts compliments of management.
After a small amount of rest, we did something that we haven't done in our many days at the resort: walked up the trail to the big rock east of Shipwreck beach.  We admired the view of the resort and took in the awesome Kauai weather, then went back to the club for dinner.
The club was serving chicken enchiladas, and we both chowed down.  While it was nothing to write home about, they were quite enjoyable, and served as sufficient dinner.  When we returned to the room, we found an assortment of four truffles delivered by management.  We had also received a welcome dessert our previous year, and I'm unsure whether this is an amenity passed to all guests, diamond members, or return guests.  We devoured the truffles and quickly passed out.  It was 8:00.

On Friday morning we woke up to sunset, and realized we had time to make it to the morning fitness walk hosted by Ani. Ani hosts many of the fitness classes at the resort, and while I hadn't attended any in the past, she did recognize my girlfriend from previous years.

My Girlfriend opted for a Salmon bagel,
but I indulged in scrambled eggs with ham.
Our walk took us west over to Poipu beach park.  Last year we were able to spot Sea Turtles in the shallows, but this year we were not so lucky.  Shortly after leaving the resort, a downpour began.  We huddled under some brush for 10 minutes until it cleared enough for us to continue.
Upon returning from our walk, we went back to the club for breakfast.

Breakfast at the club consists of an entrée, and offerings of pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe.  They also serve sliced turkey, salami, and oatmeal.  Miso soup is served consistently throughout the day.
There is also a station for bagels and toast, with Guava and Mango jellies, Smuckers peanut butter, and delicious North Shore Coco peanut butter.

Load up while you can
for daytime snacks.
Our entrée for Friday was scrambled eggs with ham.  While we once had a great breakfast at Ilima Terrace, saving the $25+ per person with our club access was well worth it.  You may have more options and better food at the restaurant, but this was still a great substitute.   When we finished breakfast, we loaded up with extra pineapple, watermelon and cheese and salami, and dropped it off at our room.
Extra treat!
When we arrived at the room we found a small dessert plate along with a bottle of champagne and two champagne flutes.  We opened up the note, which was clearly marked for other guests at the hotel.  We called the front office to let them know of the mistake, and offered to return the champagne.  They apologized, though no apology was needed, and told us to keep the champagne for ourselves.

Next up was to move our car from the valet to self-parking.  Though we used the valet every day during our last stay, we were on a tighter budget this trip, and the convenience was not worth the $16 a night fee.  In general, I'd recommend using the valet if you're staying in the Poipu wing, as it will save a little bit of a walk.  Last year our entire 7 night stay was in the Poipu wing, but this year 2 of our 5 nights were spent in the Shipwreck wing, far closer to the self-parking.

We grabbed our car from the valet and decided to drive over to a local shopping center to visit some jewelers and art galleries.  There, we heard about an art festival later in the evening in the town of Hanapepe.  After an hour exploring, we drove back to the hotel and dropped the car at the self parking lot.

The rest of our day was spent mostly at the pool, where we enjoyed several beverages including Lava Flows, Banana Split smoothie with rum, and the Mount Wai ale ale chiller.

The pool at the Grand Hyatt Kauai is expansive and incredible.  It begins with an adult pool level with the third floor of the hotel.  You can follow a mini-river under a bridge and over to a short tile waterslide which flows into the river pool.  From there, you follow a river with a light current around past two waterfalls that feature hidden grottos.  Once at the end of this area, you can walk up a few steps to their waterslide, and end at the 1st level of the resort in the main pool.  The main pool features a volleyball net and a mini-river that ends at the base of a large waterfall.

We also rented a 2 person kayak for 30 minutes at a cost of $10.  We used this at the lagoon pool, a "sand" filled saltwater pool larger than the others.

We had come prepared this trip with water shoes, as the stairs leading to the waterslide are uncomfortable to walk on in bare feet, along with the "sand" at the lagoon pool, which is more akin to fine gravel.  I'd strongly recommend you bring water shoes as well.

After spending most of the day at the pool, we departed for Hanapepe, where we spent the night roaming the street at an art festival.

Upon our return, we went back to the grand club for dinner.  We were served delicious sliders with Chile mayonnaise, then it was bed time.

The incredible view from the Grand Club.

A delicious breakfast... except for
that weird meat!
Saturday morning we woke, got ready, and headed straight for the Grand Club.
The club was serving Petite Quiche Florentines, which were terrific, along with the usual fare.  I added a muffin and a couple meats to my bowl, and discovered that I absolutely despise whatever the extraneous meat was (not pepperoni or salami).  I'm sure it's an acquired taste.  Maybe you can identify it on the left.

As shown above, the view from the club is terrific, and during a couple of our visits we did sit outside for our meals.  If you take this route, beware though... there are birds and cats abound.

More than once I've dropped off some food, reentered the club to grab something additional, and returned to find a critter had scavenged!

After our breakfast and a little relaxation, we headed west out to old Koloa town, to the Kauai coffee Plantation (highly recommended), and to Waimea Canyon.  I'll spare most of the details, except to say I was delighted that the Waimea Canyon falls were flowing in force, unlike the last time we had trekked all the way there to find it dry.

Dinner at the club was ravioli served with either Alfredo or Marinara sauce, and after our meal, another early bedtime preceded a day spent entirely at the resort.

For all the days we had spent at the Grand Hyatt, not once had we managed to stay at the resort for a whole day.  We were always too busy on an adventure--- tubing down a sugar cane canal, soaring over Jurassic Falls in a door-less helicopter, hugging the Napali coast on a luxurious catamaran, etc.
But on Sunday we "pooled" it off, spending our day changing rooms and enjoying the pool.

Our morning began with another visit to the club.  I'll spare you my breakfast photo and just let you know it was a scrumptious breakfast burrito along with a toasted bagel and peanut butter.  We continued our morning by packing up our Ocean Suite in preparation to move to a Deluxe Ocean Suite.
Our Deluxe Ocean Suite: Room 6127.

In the middle of preparations, we got a call from the lobby informing us that our new suite was ready.  Thus, we had them send a bellman to help us load up our luggage, and strolled down to 6127.
In contrast with the suite we were in, 6127 is on the opposite side of the hotel in the Shipwreck wing.  It is bigger, has a nicer view, and in my opinion is a far more convenient location for nearly everything at the hotel except for the Grand Club.
Despite it being significantly smaller than the Presidential Suite I had stayed in, this room was still magnificent.  Its location and view are prime, and it is by no means too small.

We continued our day out at the pool, this time with a water tube in hand.  We spent several hours enjoying the outdoors until it was time for dinner.

In my opinion, no trip to the Grand Hyatt is complete without at least one dinner at Tidepools, and this one was no exception.

Tidepools: No stay is complete without visiting at least once!
Tidepools is the resort favorite when it comes to restaurants, offering an incredible setting with even more incredible food.  While I did once run into an entrée that didn't take my breath away, I have not run into an experience here without at least a little awe.  This time around my girlfriend and I shared an appetizer of Crab Cakes and Polenta Crusted Scallops.  The crab cakes, while great, were still a step down from my favorite: Ruth's Sizzling Crab Cakes at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  The Scallops, however, were terrific.  So were our entrees: my girlfriend's usual Hawaiian catch, and my kryptonite... Butter Poached Lobster.  Along with our cocktails, this was a very satisfying dinner.

Monday began with Quiche and Pineapple at the Grand Club.  We spent our final full day in Kauai heading north.  We visited Costco for more sunscreen, hit Wailua falls, the town of Kapaa, and enjoyed fish taco's at Tropical Taco in Hanalei.  We also grabbed ice cream from Lappert's and took some scenic photos at the Hanalei valley overlook.
Hanalei Valley Overlook
Wailua Falls

We got back with barely enough time to grab some desserts from the club, and went back to our room loaded with chocolate brownies.  Even though we were in time, we decided to order some take out from Tidepools.  We ordered Crab Cakes, a Cream Brulee, a Chocolate Lave Cake, and a couple of cocktails.  Unfortunately the Crab Cakes weren't as delectable as they were a night earlier.  Maybe it was just because it was takeout and was presented differently, but I was not as impressed as I was at the table.   The Crème Brulee and Chocolate Lava Cake were great, so were the cocktails.  On our last night in Kauai, we passed out around 10 or 11.

We had already confirmed a late check-out of 4 P.M with the front desk, which was terrific considering the previous year we had to move out of the Presidential suite by noon on our last day.  After a quick breakfast Tuesday Morning, we made our way to the lobby to try to catch the 10:00 Bird Talk.  
Bird Talk 2013.
Rico: A Green Winged Macaw who enjoys
listening to the tune from Hawaii 5-0
Unfortunately for us, the talk was at 10:00 A.M, and it was 10:30 when we arrived.  A quick check with the front desk confirmed that the talk only lasted 10 minutes.  This was disappointing, as the bird talks give kids and adults the chance to interact with some of the resort's exotic birds, and we've enjoyed it in previous years.

The resort has 4-6 birds that are usually on display either in the lobby or near the shipwreck bar by the pool.  You can pick up an activities guide from the front desk to find out when all the bird talk events are hosted.

We left the lobby and went back to the room to suit up for a day at the pool.

Alas, it was finally time to leave, so we packed up our belongings and loaded up the car.  Even though we were 30 minutes late getting out of the room, we had no issues from the hotel.

With our car loaded, we wandered over to the Grand Club.  Normally we wouldn't have access so late in the day after already checking out, but we had made acquaintance with one of the staff and she was nice enough to let us in to grab some dinner and snacks.  After saying goodbye, we took off for the airport to catch our red-eye back to San Francisco.

While this wasn't our favorite of our trips to Kauai and the Grand Hyatt, considering we had 2 nights less this vacation than last year, it was no less a wonderful time.  I'm intrigued by the few who don't have a perfect time here, but am well aware that there are those who can't be satisfied, and that every experience is different.

If there is one thing I wish the hotel would do differently, it would be to keep the waterslide open longer.  As it stands, it opens at 10-11 and closes somewhere between 4 and 6.  It's been like this for at least the last 3 years that I've stayed, and is definitely not long enough.

Special Thanks to all the staff who made this vacation fantastic.
Staff I had positive interactions with: Teddy (Bellhop), Irvin (Bellhop), Victor (Valet), Michael from San Diego at the Front Desk.  Jessie at the Front Desk, Eric at the Front Desk, Ani from the fitness center and Simone from the Grand Club, among many many others.

Come back soon for a guide to the rooms and grounds of the Grand Hyatt Kauai, and in the meantime checkout my Youtube channel for videos of a variety of suites on the property, including a Presidential Suite!  I also feature a video of Kauai from Land, Sea, and Air in 3D!  Youtube user novelist1985

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Ultimate of Ultimates!

Anyone familiar with the Hyatt brand may know that the Park Hyatt in the Maldives is arguably the most aspirational property in their portfolio.  Next April I will finally have the opportunity to bring you a review of said property, along with reviews of the Park Hyatt Washington D.C, the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, the Park Hyatt Dubai, and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero.
While there is no shortage of reviews out there when it comes to the PH Maldives, a unique aspect I will be bringing is a side-by-side comparison of another chain's Maldives property: The Conrad Rangali Island- where I will be staying for 5 nights immediately after my 4 nights at the PH.
I hope you all come back when the review is completed!
In the meantime, our next review will be up in a couple of weeks: The Grand Hyatt Kauai, which will feature a comprehensive guide of most room types (I've stayed in almost every room/suite type at this point).

Even more info about this trip can be found at

-The Hyatt Guy

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The TIMESHARE Guy??? (Grand Mayan Riviera Maya Review)

Local Wildlife at the Grand Mayan Riviera Maya
I'm a hotel guy through and through (specifically Hyatt, though in my childhood years, it was whatever the family could afford), so you may be surprised to learn that I recently spent a week in a timeshare.  There is a catch--- this timeshare is owned by a friend of my family, and she was there with us while we stayed, making this stay free for me.  On top of that, because of my resistance to travel to Playa Del Carmen and stay in a timeshare, my SO offered to pay for my airfare.  Done deal.  So aside from F&B and local transportation/activities, this was a free trip to Mexico.
I don't need any more free trips.
From one standpoint, the Grand Mayan Riviera Maya looks like an expansive resort with lush foliage, relaxing pools, local nature (Iguana's abound), and great restaurant options.  It has gigantic rooms with plunge pools, full kitchens, jetted tubs, rainfall showers, and HBO.  Located north of the city and right on the beach, the pitch to stay here really sounds ideal. 
But that's all it ever pulls off: sounds ideal.
The reality is much different.  Being north of the city means you pay a ton extra getting anywhere.  Scuba diving, local nature parks (Xcaret, Rio Secreto, Xplor), shopping... all will be at LEAST 20 dollars each way.  Throw in a bunch of activities to your vacation, you've now spent an extra $200+ just on taxis.
The pools, though massive and with swim-up bars, all lack appeal.  They are waist deep for adults, and way too warm for the summer sun.  No waterslides, no waterfalls.  A volleyball net is the most entertainment you'll find in one of these pools. (Though a pool with a lazy river should be completed in the next few months).  You can cool off if your room has a plunge pool, but don't expect to get any swimming done in those.
The resort is truly expansive... so much so that a shuttle is necessary for a good portion of guests.  A shuttle from your room to the pool, from your room to the lobby, from your room to the restaurant, from your room to the shuttle exchange to your friends room.  Waiting for the shuttles while the sun beat down upon me or while the mosquitos tore at my skin was the greatest reassurance I had that staying in hotels is a better choice.  Twice in an evening I spent 20+ minutes just waiting for the shuttle to arrive.  (ultimately I ended up walking).
Next are the restaurants. During my stay, I had the chance to eat at four of the resort's restaurants.  None of them were truly overpriced, but you can easily find better food in town for cheaper (cheaper aside from the Taxi fares, of course).  I was not impressed by any of the meals I had--- from French toast to burgers to tacos and enchiladas.  None made me sick or tasted bad, but none made me want to return.  Speaking of restaurants: every single one of them closes at 11 P.M or earlier.  OK, so my go-to hotel, the Grand Hyatt in Kauai, closes their restaurants at 10... but come midnight I can still order cocktails from room service.  No cocktails available with the Grand Mayan's room service.

So the pools are too warm and take too long to get to, the restaurants are mediocre, it's too expensive to go into town... okay, time to return to the room and watch HBO..... in Spanish.
The reality is nobody should expect television to be in English at a Mexican resort (though some of the channels were in English), yet when all other options were exhausted, it would have been nice to come back to the room and watch a movie.

I will say the one thing I enjoyed at this resort: the wildlife.  A Coati, Racoon, Bat, Lizards, Iguanas, Crocodiles, Oriole's, and more all share the grounds of this gigantic resort.

I can't compare this resort to the Grand Hyatt down the road, so maybe this is a good place to be by Playa Del Carmen standards, but I can say with certainty I have no need to return here.
I look forward to returning to the Grand Hyatt Kauai in September all the more now.

Despite my distaste for the resort, I had an enjoyable time with my girlfriend down in Playa, and put together a video featuring the resort and all the wildlife it had to offer (the entire video up until the boat is filmed on the resort grounds, room featured is from the Grand Luxxe).

Monday, August 3, 2015

Return to Hyatt Regency Monterey (Review #2)

Last week I decided to book a night down at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey.  It would be my third trip to the hotel, and a great option for an evening getaway.  I used 15,000 Hyatt gold passport points to book the room, as opposed to a $339 nightly rate.
While our last stay was clear-cut excellence between receiving a free suite upgrade and relaxing times at the Regency club, this trip was more of a mixed bag.
We arrived at around 9 P.M.  I already knew it would be busy because the Hyatt website showed the hotel had sold out for the night, and the lobby made that even more evident.  While there was a separate desk for Platinum and Diamond check-in, there was no separate Queue for it, nor was there anyone staffing it.  About 4 people were ahead of me when I first got in line, and only one check-in agent to help them.  After a few minutes, a few more agents filed out of the back room and manned the additional stations.  Overall it was a short wait to get to the front.  Chris checked us in, letting us know we were booked in a top floor golf-course view room. He explained that as a Diamond member, I would receive complimentary breakfast for two in the Tosca restaurant.  This was new in the last few months since the Regency Club had closed down.  I got no direct answer about potential reopening of the club, it sounds like it may return or may stay closed.
He offered us our Diamond amenity: either a 1,000 point bonus or a food and beverage option.  I'm typically inclined to take the 1,000 points, as I find the food and beverage amenities at most hotels to be sub-par.  But in this case they offered a local artichoke dip, and I chose that along with a bottle of Pepsi and Tropicana orange juice.
We took advantage of the complimentary valet and carried our bags over to our room.
Golf Course View Room (#852) at Hyatt Regency Monterey

Our room was spacious in size.  Definitely smaller than the suite we had received on our previous trip, but still good size.
View from room #852 at Hyatt Regency Monterey

 The view from the room was a decent panorama of the Del Monte Golf Course, par for the hotel.  I did notice some ocean view balcony rooms scattered about, but the views of the ocean were obstructed, and it was still a distance between the hotel and the ocean.
Fruit and Cheese Platter
About 5 minutes after arriving in our room, Chris from the front desk called to inform us that the kitchen was backed up and that our amenity might not arrive until 10 P.M, 45 minutes from his call.  I advised him that it wouldn't be a problem, and kicked back into the bed.  A mere 10 minutes later a knock on the door surprised us.  It was room service with--- the wrong amenity.  They delivered us a fruit and cheese platter along with my soda and orange juice.  I informed the server about the mistake, and he in turn showed me the amenity sheet that had been delivered to him.   Sure enough was my handwriting next to the beverage option, but it was Chris at the front desk who had mistakenly drawn a star next to the Fruit and Cheese platter option.  No biggie, it would be another 20 minutes before we received our artichoke dip with flatbread, and in the meantime we tried out the fruit and cheese platter.  It came with assorted nuts: pistachios, cashews, walnuts.  It also came with cinnamon pears, dried cranberries, garlic bread, and a small cheese collection.  I could not tell you what type of cheese, but that my taste buds were not keen to it.  The rest of the platter was enjoyable, but not as much as the Artichoke dip platter.

Artichoke Dip Platter

Before heading to bed I called the front desk to inquire about a late check-out.  Diamond members are given a check out as late as 4 P.M when available.  The agent on the phone offered us 1 P.M.

We passed out around 11 and woke at 9 to take advantage of breakfast.

It was a quick seating at the restaurant, and a waiter came to take our drink orders.  I mentioned my Diamond membership and inquired as to what was free, but got a vague response.  I decided to take a chance and order a Raspberry smoothie on top of the full breakfast buffet.  My girlfriend opted for hot chocolate and the buffet.

I made my way to the omelet station where a cook served me an Omelet with tomatoes, pepper mix, bacon, and cheese.  I also loaded up a plate with bacon, French Toast with Maple Syrup and brown sugar, and yogurt.  The food was great, and we downed our meals quickly.  When the waiter brought our bill, he told us breakfast would be removed, and I asked if I could just write the tip on the receipt, to which he answered that I could.

We left the dining room and traveled back to the front desk to see about an even later check-out.  The agent offered us 3:00, which we gladly accepted.  We left the hotel to enjoy our day in Monterey, and arrived back at 2:30.  Upon check-out, the front-desk agent advised me that my only charges would be for my Raspberry smoothie and the tip for breakfast.  This was disappointing, as my last few breakfasts I was able to order what I wanted and leave a tip without being charged for any of it, smoothies included.  Examples are at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Andaz San Diego, and Hyatt Regency Orange county.  I imagine every hotel has a different take on the "free breakfast" policy, and since the Regency club had only recently closed down, I'm sure the policy in Monterey hasn't been refined to fit the norm.  I decided not to argue the bill and took off to enjoy the rest of my day in Monterey.* (See Update at Bottom)

While this stay wasn't as great as our last visit, most of the reasons were beyond the hotel's control, and I still think this is a great place to getaway for a night or two.

Check out this short video I took of whale watching in the Monterey Bay.

*Update.  Less than a week later, after completing the online survey, I received a call from the asst. food and beverage manager informing me that I was correct that I should not have been billed for tip or my smoothie and that they will process a refund for me.  After a short discussion, it sounds like this mistake is less likely to happen for future guests.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Review

View from a Park Suite on 4th floor.
After a night in the Regency Mission Bay and a night at the Andaz San Diego, our third and final night on our mini-vacation was spent at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort.  The resort is located in Carlsbad, actually about 30 miles north of Downtown San Diego.  It is 3 miles from Legoland, and 20 miles from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Park Suite Bedroom
My girlfriend and I had spent the day at the Safari Park, and were happy to arrive at the resort for a night of R&R (and as it turns out: pool, air hockey, foosball, and shuffleboard).  We dropped our car with the Valet, which is the only parking option at the resort, costing $35 nightly.  Tony at the front desk went out of his way to make a positive impression, offering info on the spa and restaurants, upgrading our room, and walking us to the elevator to get us on our way.
Our original booked room was an ADA King tub room, which I booked due to availability with the government rate.  Tony upgraded us to a Park Suite, likely in part due to my Hyatt loyalty.

Our suite was exceptionally large.  It featured 1 1/2 Baths.  It had two balconies each with chairs and a table.  It had a living room with two single-person chairs and a sofa, master bedroom with a single-person chair and ottoman and a desk work-area.  It also had a walk-in closet and a master bath with dual-vanities and a separate tub and shower.
Park Suite Living Room

While the size made the room comfortable to me, the furnishings I felt were less than welcoming.  Not for a lack of an update though, as the hotel website states it was renovated in the last couple of years.

We dropped off our belongings and went back to the lobby to inquire about the on-property restaurants.
There are several on-property options for dining, but for dinner the concierge printed us menus for both the Lobby Lounge and Vivace.  We settled on the lobby lounge, and found a seat on a couch.  Shortly afterwards we were brought pistachios and green olives, and we placed our order.
We shared a non-alcoholic Strawberry Campari Crush, which was terrific, and munched on House Smoked salmon, Applewood Smoked Bacon truffle Mac and Cheese, and the Brandt Natural Beef Sliders.  For dessert we took back to our room a slice of the Aviara Cheesecake.

Park Suite Master Bath
All in all our evening meal was delicious.  I preferred the sliders to the Salmon, and the cheesecake would have been better if my girlfriend had shared more with me!

After loading up on our dinner, my girlfriend scrolled through hotel activities and discovered that the Park Hyatt featured a game room.  We went in search for the room and found it on the opposite end of the hotel one level below the lobby.  In it were pool tables, foosball tables, an air hockey table, and in a separate area a bar and shuffleboard table.  It also featured an video game area with an attached Xbox.  We were the only ones there, and so we played a round of roll-pool, a few rounds of air hockey, a single game of foosball, and some games of shuffleboard.

When we were thoroughly worn out, we went back to the room where we plopped into bed and immediately.... turned on the TV and watched it until 1 A.M when we finally passed out.

Where I relaxed and fantasized
about never working again.
In the morning we made our way to the California Bistro for the breakfast buffet.  As part of my Diamond membership benefits, we both received complimentary breakfast.

The buffet was a decent size, offering standard fare: waffles, sausage links and patties, scrambled eggs, French toast, bacon, and more.  The food was enjoyable, and there was better selection than at the Mission Bay's Regency club, but it paled in comparison to the prior morning at the Andaz.  It was comparable to the buffet's found at Hyatt House and Hyatt Place hotels.

Our last quest was to tour the Spa.  We had tried to visit the previous night, but it was already closed by the time we got over there.  Spa access at the Park Aviara is free for Diamond members, and the receptionist led my girlfriend on a tour of the ladies' spa while I quickly strolled through the men's.

There was nothing particularly great about the spa: but for anyone who wants to get away there was a relaxing Jacuzzi available.  There was also a solarium, where I found myself kicked back enjoying a magazine while my girlfriend showered at the spa.  Between running all over the place over the last three days and being out in the sun all day at both the Zoo and the Safari park, I was thoroughly exhausted, and the solarium was the perfect place to get some comfortable relaxation.

After packing up, we left the hotel around noon and headed back to Sacramento.

Between a night at the Regency Mission Bay, a night at the Andaz Downtown San Diego, and a night at the Park Hyatt, I discovered all had their special aspects, and I think the Park Hyatt would easily be the best option for a couples getaway.  Less rowdy than the Regency and more refined than the Andaz, the Park Hyatt caters not so much to the family crowd or the partying crowd.  That's not to say there was a lack of activity options for families.  Quite the contrary: a family pool, game room, and close proximity to Legoland and the Safari Park make this a decent choice for families, but ultimately the focus seems to be on making this property more of a retreat than a family getaway spot.  Golfing, tennis, an adult's only pool and bar area, a spa, and upscale dining options all lend to this aspect.

In the end, this was an excellent hotel, though I'm impartial to waterslides at the Regency Mission Bay and both the Regency's and Andaz's proximity to the city of San Diego and the beaches.  I was also disappointed that none of the rooms have solid views of the Ocean, though there are a couple from which you can supposedly see the ocean from.

If you have a chance, check out my video from the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park.  Available in both 3D (top video) and 2D (bottom video) below.


3D Version Above (3DTV and Glasses Required)
2D Version Below

Monday, May 18, 2015

Andaz San Diego Review

Our Andaz Large King Room
Night two of my three night San Diego Vacation took place at the Andaz San Diego.  After spending the day at the San Diego Zoo, we drove the 3 miles south to downtown.

The Andaz only offers Valet parking at $40 per night.  I did not inquire about other nearby parking options.  We dropped off the car and walked into the most elegant lobby of the 18 Hyatt hotels I've stayed in (although not the most impressive).  As opposed to a standard check-in counter, the front desk agent entered my information into her tablet, and quickly processed my check-in.  While she did that, we were offered wine or soda along with delectable Red Velvet cupcakes.  I chose my 1000 point bonus for Diamond membership as opposed to the standard food/beverage amenity, and was told that our breakfast at the Rooftop Restaurant/Bar would be removed from the bill.
Mirrors give the illusion of a much larger room.
After less than 5 minutes, we were on our way up to our room: #513.
This was the first time since beginning my loyalty to Hyatt that I booked the room using another source than Hyatt's website: in this case, Rocketmiles.
I took this route, paying $175 for the night as opposed to the Government Rate of $145, and instead of earning 1375 Hyatt Points for the stay (Diamond Membership 30% bonus + 3X Points for using Hyatt Visa), I instead opted to use Rocketmiles' promotion to earn 350 Ultimate Rewards Points (2X for Travel on Sapphire Preferred) and 5000 United Miles.
Our original booked room was an Andaz Queen, but we were given a free upgrade to an Andaz Large King.
Our initial impression of the room was that it was huge, and I immediately thought I had been given an upgrade to a suite.  But my girlfriend and I both quickly realized that it was an illusion: mirrors on either side of the room made it seem much larger than it was.  After comprehending the actual size, I realized this was not a suite, but it was certainly much larger than we could've ended up in had we gotten what we booked.
View from room #513
The highlight of this room (and apparently most of the rooms in the hotel) was a see through-shower area with Rain-shower head.  It also had a nice view of Downtown San Diego.  But as much as we both liked the room, my girlfriend is extremely sensitive to smells, and the room smelled as though they may have covered up some smoking.  To me, it was a light, non-bothersome odor, and I could've easily stayed, (I also feel most people would not be bothered by it) but it was not to be.  Before we went downstairs for dinner recommendations and to request a room change, we quickly toured the rooftop of the hotel.  The rooftop features a bar area, dozens of chaise lounge chairs and numerous cabanas along with a small sized pool.  On this Sunday night, there were a few 20-somethings scattered about relaxing or drinking, all rather quiet.
After taking a few minutes to relax in a cabana, we made our way downstairs.  We told an agent about the smell and asked to be moved.  He introduced himself as one of the managers (I'm pretty confident Daniel was his name), and offered to show us another room we could move to.  We followed him to the elevator, and he took us to the 6th floor.  He opened the door to room #647, and we determined it would be more than suitable:
Room #647, an Andaz Suite.
The room was an Andaz Suite, featuring a separate living area and a full tub and shower.  Though I still feel there was a smell in this room as well as the other, the odor here was significantly less noticeable.  Neither room bothered me at all, but this was more tolerable for the girlfriend.
Desk area of Andaz Suite Living Room.
Living area of the Andaz Suite.
We headed out to dinner while Daniel had the staff move our luggage from the previous room to this one.  We took many recommendations from Daniel, but we ultimately ended up at Osteria Panevino.  I won't review dinner here, but I do highly recommend it.

We returned to the hotel and took a bath.  We discussed our breakfast options.  As a Diamond member, our breakfast would be free whether we ordered in room or on the rooftop.  My girlfriend was convinced that the layout of the rooftop restaurant would make for an uncomfortable breakfast, as we both figured we would end up at the bar.  But I ultimately decided against ordering in, as I wasn't completely enthralled with the room service menu, and hoped there would be additional items on the breakfast menu at the restaurant.
Breakfast Worth Photographing:
Andaz Bananas Foster French Toast: caramelized banana, maple cream.

As it turns out, I was right, somewhat.
We woke up around 8:00 with plans to head out to the San Diego Zoo Safari park 30 miles north of Downtown, followed by our third night stay at the Park Hyatt Aviara resort.
Breakfast Worth Photographing:
Caprese Omelet: Eggwhites, tomato, mozzarella, basil pesto.
After packing up, we headed upstairs to the rooftop restaurant for our breakfast.  We were happy to see that they had reconfigured some of the patio to accommodate tables, so no need to eat at the bar.  We sat down and scrolled through the menu. The breakfast menu offered only a few additional items than what was on the room service menu, including the Andaz Bananas Foster French toast.  I ordered the Daily Fresh Juice, which in this case was a delicious, frothy fresh squeezed Pineapple Juice, and ended up ordering an item also offered on the room service menu: the Caprese Omelet.  My girlfriend ordered the French Toast and Hot Chocolate with a fruit platter.  Both entrees were incredible, easily the best breakfast I've enjoyed during my many stays at Hyatt's around the country.
Total bill with Tax and Gratuity $62.50--- complimentary with Diamond Status.

Last on our list of things to do at the hotel was request a tour of their largest accommodation, Room #648: the Star Suite.  We spent 5 minutes touring the party-centric pad.  We didn't learn anything that couldn't be derived from the website, and since we had an agent with us the whole time, I didn't bother with photos.  I did learn that discounted upgrades could be had on request at the time of check-in pending availability.  The Star Suite varies in price from $500-$2000 a night depending on time of year and events in the area.

As I discovered from both the previous night at the Regency Mission Bay and the following night at the Park Hyatt Aviara, the three Hyatt hotels I stayed in during my trip to San Diego all had their own pros and cons.  Catering to the 20's-something crowd, the Andaz would be my last choice for a family trip, as activities are fairly limited and the pool is rather small.  The proximity to the Zoo is unbeatable, but for anyone looking to take in more of the San Diego experience than solely the Zoo, you'd do just as well at the Regency closer to Sea World or the Park Hyatt closer to Legoland and the Safari Park.  Major pros of this hotel versus the Regency or Park include select free mini-bar items, treats upon arrival and served throughout in the lobby, more modern and stylish rooms, and breakfast that can't be beat.
Cons include smaller rooms, less family activities, and views inferior to those at the Regency.

In the end, extra friendly agents, a modern lobby and rooms, and an incredible breakfast make this my favorite of the three.  Yet I feel that I would be unlikely to book any room smaller than a suite, as the Andaz Large king felt rather cramped to me.

On a final note, the hotel did attempt to charge me for my breakfast despite my Diamond membership.  I noticed the charge on the bill and questioned the front desk agent.  She removed the charge from the bill and all was settled.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Review

My recent trip to San Diego took me through three different Hyatt Properties, each with their own unique niche. First on the list was the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay, situated only a couple miles down the road from both Sea World and Mission Beach.
While my girlfriend concluded her business portion of our 6 day getaway, I drove over to the hotel from the Doubletree Mission Valley (where her job was conducting presentations) to see if I could check in early.
I arrived at just past noon, and was happy to find out they had a room ready for me on the 17th floor of their tower building.
I had considered using a Diamond suite upgrade (or two, or three) for this trip, but since each stay was only for a single night, I decided it would not be worth it and instead booked a King Garden View Room using my Hyatt Visa card annual free night. I did inquire as to what the suites were like (knowing already there was only availability for two queens and not a king as I prefer).  I was informed that most of the suites were waterfront suites in a separate building facing the marina, and were only two stories tall.  It was an easy call for me not to request an upgrade, since I generally prefer a better view over larger room size.  I mentioned seeing a rather large balcony on the top floor of the tower building, and asked if there were other suites in that building.  The agent told me there were other corner suites with living rooms.  She didn't expand on her description, and because I got the feeling I may have scored one of these corner suites, I didn't press the issue.
I parked the car in the nearby lot.  The Regency Mission bay offers both Valet and Self Parking for $35.  I decided to save myself the tip money I'd be doling out by self-parking instead.  The distance to my spot was no further than the distance to the valet, anyway.
I hauled our luggage across the sidewalk as I meandered through plenty of tropical foliage, then entered the tower building.
I entered the elevator, noting that the 17th floor was the top floor.  I was anxious to see my room. Arriving on the 17th floor, I found my room, #1716, a couple doors down from what I figured would be the corner suite.  I was bummed, but certainly not upset.  I entered the room....
A standard, comfortable room with a view.

The room was spacious and clean, and had a fantastic view of the Ocean beyond Mission Beach.  It was far from lavish, but not uncomfortable by any means.  It was also a decent upgrade from my booked King Garden View Room.

After dropping off the bags, I went in search of the Regency Club, which I found.... just a couple doors down.  The front desk agent had told me that the lounge was closed to guests from 1-3, and when I entered it was 12:30.  Someone immediately greeted me, and told me that the lounge wasn't quite open yet.  Not deterred, I asked if I could grab some cookies (which were on display).  She told me to help myself, and advised me that Hors D'Oeuvres would be served at 4.
I was somewhat put off, as she made it seem like I shouldn't be in the lounge, but I still grabbed some chocolate chip cookies and fruit water.
I went back to the room and took a seat on the balcony, only to be disturbed by significant base by a concert that was setting up between the hotel and Mission Beach (on what I found out later was Mariner's Point).  I managed to distract myself from the noise and relax for a bit, but I finally had to retreat to the room after it got just a bit too breezy to be comfortable.

Heated pool with a Kiddie slide and two Water Slides

I took a trip over to the front desk to inquire about the noise, and the concierge advised me that it was not a Hyatt event, nor typical.
Finally, it was time to pick up my girlfriend from the Doubletree.
Upon our return, we went back to the Regency club for Hors D'oeuvres.  On our way up the elevator, I discovered the reason why I thought there was another floor above us... there was a button for the Penthouse Suite on floor 18 (only accessible through the one elevator).
At the Regency club, I found the selection of food to be mediocre at best, with subpar asparagus and a tomato and mozzarella skewer being the highlights for me.
After finishing at the club and then spending some time at Mission Beach, we returned to the tower building.  When we entered the elevator, another guest hit a button to the Penthouse, and after a short conversation, we were invited to tour it.

A lesser view than that from the Penthouse.
The Penthouse of the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay takes up the entirety of the 18th floor.  Balconies on either side span from the living room over to the two bedrooms and feature views of either downtown San Diego or the Ocean.  The master bedroom features a king bed and a shower and tub while the guest bedroom has two double beds and a shower in the bathroom.  A large flat screen TV hangs in the living room.
I didn't press to stay long, as our host was part of a larger gathering, and I didn't want to impede more than I already had.  This room was easily the nicest of the rooms we stayed and toured in San Diego, and the price tag was shockingly reasonable (though perhaps not ordinary).
On check-out, I noticed I had not been charged for parking either through mistake or with compliments of the hotel.

As I discovered over the following two nights, the three Hyatt hotels I stayed in during my trip all had their own pros and cons.  This hotel easily had the best views of the three, and the heated pools with Waterslides definitely would appeal most to the family crowd. Its close proximity to Sea World was also a perk, and even the San Diego Zoo was relatively close (though Andaz was only 3 miles away).
The Regency Club experience was Sub-Par, though our breakfast the following morning was much more appealing than the Hors D'oeuvres offerings. 
I definitely wouldn't recommend using a Diamond Suite Upgrade, as you may easily end up in a larger room with no decent view.
Ultimately, this hotel met my expectations for the price I paid.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Reaching Hyatt Diamond Status on the Cheap

Last year, I qualified for Hyatt Diamond Status by staying at their hotels a total of 29 times.  Their requirements for Diamond Membership are 25 separate stays or 50 total nights.  During my stays, I accumulated approximately 40-50K Hyatt points.  This year, Hyatt has introduced two promotions: a "Stay More Play More" promotion, wherin by staying 20 nights you can earn 50,000 bonus points, as well as a "20% Off Point Redemptions" promotion.  The latter of which requires being a Hyatt Credit Cardholder.

Between these two promotions, I have considered trying to requalify for Diamond Status for 2016.  To recap, Diamond Membership includes: 30% Point Bonus on qualifying stays, 4 Free Suite Upgrades Annually, 2 United Club Passes Annually, access to the Regency Club or Grand Club (or free breakfast vouchers at properties where no club exists) as well as a welcome amenity for each stay: either 500 bonus points at Hyatt Place and Hyatt House properties, 1000 bonus points for all other Hyatt properties, or your choice of a food and beverage amenity that varies at every property.
It also includes premium internet access and a best available room guarantee (excluding suites).

It's up to you to decide what Diamond status is worth, but last year I stayed for 7 nights at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai and made up a good portion of what I spent while on the path to becoming a Diamond member through a free upgrade to a Garden Suite, along with free club access that normally runs as high as $125 per night.  I even spent a night in the Presidential Suite for a significant discount via an exclusive Diamond Member offer through the E-Standby Upgrades.

This year, I estimate it will cost me $1250 to retain my Diamond status through 2016, and it will also net me nearly 25,000 points: enough for a free night at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, among other resort properties.

Here is my strategy:
Book Category 1 rooms using points+cash 25 times. The points+cash rate for a Category 1 Hyatt Property is $50+2500 points, and I have two Category 1 properties within close driving distance from me.  The total cost becomes $1250 and 62500 Points.  However, with my 20% off redemption rates promotion, the total points required reduces to 50,000.  Now, add on the stay more play more bonus of 50,000 points, and you've now reduced the cost to just the cash amount.  Because I am already a diamond member, and will be using my Hyatt Credit Card, each dollar I spend will net me 9.5 points... for $1250, that comes to 11,875 points.  Add on 500 bonus points per stay for my welcome amenity, and that's an additional 12500 points.  That comes to a grand total of 24,375 points.

$1250 may be steep to pay if all you're after is retaining status, but if you know how to use your benefits wisely, it can easily pay for itself.

Even if you're not a Credit Card holder or a current Diamond member, you would still come out with an even amount of points, the only other caveat is that if you don't already have 62,500 points in your account, you would need to purchase those points in order to use them with the Points+Cash rate.  Bear in mind, Points + Cash is a specialty rate that must be booked over the phone, and availability is not guaranteed.  I do not recommend this plan if you do not have any category 1 hotels nearby, or if you are unable to complete at least 20 of your nights by the end of the "Stay more, play more" promotion on April 30th, 2015.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hyatt Regency Monterey Review

After checking out of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands in the morning and spending the day at the Monterey Bay aquarium, we drove 3 miles down the road to the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.  Kim and I had stayed here a year ago when I was platinum status and at that time booked a king bed room rate that included tickets to the aquarium and breakfast for two.  Because I had eaten breakfast in the hotel's restaurant before, I was under a misguided impression this time around that there was no Regency club and that I'd receive a breakfast voucher.
Tyler greeted us at the front desk, welcoming us and thanking me for being a Diamond member, he offered us our amenity or bonus points, and because we didn't know there was a club, we ordered two bottles of Pepsi and a cheese platter.
He then asked us if we wanted a 4 P.M late check out the following day, which I agreed to since we figured our day might run into the afternoon.  After a quick check of his computer, he offered us a golf-course view room with a 4 P.M check out or a Monterey Suite with a King Bed with a 2 P.M check out.  I eagerly took the suite upgrade, happy I didn't use one of my four annual suite upgrades for my one night stay.  He handed me a Diamond Member welcome letter and showed me on the map where our room was along with where the Regency Club was.  Upon being told there was a Regency Club, we changed our amenity to the 1,000 bonus points.
Tyler offered to get someone to assist with bags, which we declined since we only had two, then we headed out for a drive over to the building our room was in.

Large Gazebo at the Hyatt Regency Monterey
The Hyatt Regency Monterey is divided into several buildings throughout the property.  A few are by the conference center and a small pool, a few others are on the east side of the driveway alongside the golf course and a pool with a small waterfall near it.  The hotel also features a giant Connect Four set, a giant Checkers Board, ping pong tables, board games that guests can check out, and a gazebo with a giant fire pit.  Some people don't like the separation of buildings because it means going outside to get to any other building.  I didn't feel it was an inconvenience, most buildings were just across from one another and had covered walkways.

Living Room of the Monterey Suite

Our room was at the far back corner of building 3, room #304.  When we opened the door we were both instantly impressed with the size of the room.  Not the largest suite we had stayed in by far, but certainly roomy and comfortable.  To our immediate right was a half-bathroom, and to our left a large closet.  Ahead was the living room, which held a single-armed sofa, flat screen TV, ottomans and a work table.  Behind the curtains was a view of the pool, and to the right of that double sliding doors opened to the bedroom.

Bedroom of the Monterey Suite

The bedroom was fairly typical with a Hyatt Grand Bed, Ihome radio, and flat screen TV.  The one added feature that was really useful was an Insignia brand outlet adapter with two outlets and two USB ports for charging.  To the right was the master bath with an oversized shower and rain-head faucet.

The current Regency Club is scheduled to close April 2015

After settling in, we made our way to the Regency club for some evening Hors D'oeuvres.
Amidst many other snacks, we found delectable bacon wrapped scallops.  The offerings were relatively decent, but not one of their best clubs. 

Despite that, Bryan at the club was incredibly helpful, ensuring guests had everything they needed and keeping the place clean.  He told us that the club would be shutting down at the beginning of April and that they had plans to move the club to a larger area.

We finished our food and headed outside for some evening fun.  While other guests played ping pong, Kim and I exercised our minds with a few games of Connect Four (as much as one can exercise their mind with such a game).  I was incredibly disappointed that the game didn't come with the trademark red and blue pieces, instead we were supplied with donut shaped green and yellow pieces.  It will be quite some time before I recover from that disappointment.
She won.

As the sun was going down, we went back to the Regency club to pick up some desserts and soda, then made our way back to the room.  We brought back apple pie and some cake-batter brownies.  We watched TV for awhile, then went to bed.  We had no noise problems and the A/C was quite efficient, the evening was quite comfortable.

The following morning we stopped for breakfast at the club.  We had a breakfast quiche and toasted bagels with peanut butter, then went out on a walk to Fisherman's wharf, which is just a couple miles away.  Upon return we packed up and checked out.

Overall Impressions:
The last time I stayed at the hotel, the only standout was the continental breakfast that was included in our package rate.  If that breakfast was included as part of Diamond membership it would be an incredible benefit, as the club offerings were pretty meager. 
This time around I accomplished a little more exploring than last year, and discovered that this hotel is a pretty decent place for a weekend getaway in Monterey.  There are activities abound, and the extra space I received with the complimentary suite upgrade made this one night stay quite enjoyable.  Even their standard rooms are pretty spacious, albeit not that impressive.
The most notable negative at this hotel is the external air-conditioning units found in all of the rooms.  While they featured a remote control that made for easy changes right from bed, they all took up space that could be better used, and they stick out like a sore-thumb in an otherwise well laid out environment.  Service was great in general, and definitely superior to my experience at the Carmel Highlands Inn down the road. The location is perfect for experiencing what Monterey has to offer, and the grounds are well landscaped and well-kempt.