Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores Review

Master bedroom of two-bedroom suite,
Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores
It's been nearly a couple of years since I've stayed at a Hyatt House, back when I was first mattress running for Diamond Status.  For those stays I spent the nights at the now defunct Hyatt House Rancho Cordova in the Sacramento region.
Fast forward to now, and I've been working on requalifying for Diamond through February 2018.  While most of my mattress runs have occurred at the Category 1 Hyatt Place in Roseville, my girlfriend and I decided to spend a night in the bay, and so booked a stay at the Category 2 Hyatt House Belmont.  For this stay we used 4000 Points and $55 cash for a single night stay.
Kitchen of the two-bedroom suite,
Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores
We pulled up to the hotel mid-evening, and were checked in quickly.  The clerk advised me that we had been upgraded to a two-bedroom suite.  In general I'm inclined to be excited about upgrades, and I wasn't going to turn it down, but as there were only two of us, I was rather unmoved.
We drove around to the other side of our hotel, and brought our luggage to the room.
The room we were assigned was in building 16 on the first floor.  We opened the door to a cozy living area with a couch, a sofa and a TV.  Beyond that was a full kitchen with a fridge.
The room was nice, and quite functional, but that's about it.
Living room of two-bedroom suite,
Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores
 The suite featured two bedrooms each with their own bathroom, and I found the layout of the suite to be a bit cramped.  It was definitely cozy shutting off the master bedroom from the living room, as the door was situated at an angle.  Luckily the living room was big enough for our things as we unpacked.
Opening a closet in the master, my girlfriend noted a smell of cigarettes, as though someone tried smoking in the closet.  As noted in a previous review (See Andaz San Diego), she is a bit more sensitive than I when it comes to smells.  I didn't notice anything, and I guess it was muted enough that she didn't feel the need to change rooms, unlike our stay at the Andaz.
Pool at the Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores
We finished unpacking and decided to go on a walk.
Outdoor Kitchen, Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores
The Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores is laid out more like an apartment complex than a hotel.  It was a stark contrast from my previous Hyatt House experience, which was a hotel with a separate building for loft rooms and suites.  This location was split into multiple three-story buildings, with the check-in desk and kitchen located in what might otherwise be utilized for an apartment clubhouse.  In the center of it all was a pool and an outdoor kitchen area, complete with a grill and a gas fire-pit.  There was also a small basketball court in the midst.
Sadly it was much too cold to be swimming, and we noted that the pool was locked at around 9:30, despite posted hours indicating it closed at 10.
On our walk we found perhaps the best feature of the hotel: a nearby man made lake with a wrap-around sidewalk.  This was a perfect area to take a stroll and enjoy the night.
The hotel is located right near the bay, in the midst of a small housing development and a couple of office buildings.  It is a convenient alternative to the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, though I can't speak to the differences in amenities just yet (I will have a stay at said hotel in a couple of weeks).
The night was quiet and restful, and we woke for breakfast in the kitchen area.  Breakfast was typical, though we did notice an omelet station that we hadn't seen at the Hyatt House in Rancho Cordova. Unfortunately the station was closed down 30 minutes prior to the end of breakfast, when we showed up.
We checked out after another short walk on a nearby nature trail, and my girlfriend noted to the agent, Erika, that the closet in the room smelled like smoke.  Not that we were looking to get anything out of it, but Erika offered to put some points in our account, and we accepted.  It turned out to be a generous 2500 points.

Ultimately this was a decent stay at a category 2 hotel.  It was convenient for our planned day trip to Half Moon Bay, and it was quiet despite a close proximity to a couple of airports, including San Francisco.  I would consider staying again should it the need arise, but would advise anyone planning on visiting not to expect anything more than you'd get at a basic hotel.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Diamond Summary: July 1st 2014-February 29th, 2016


My Hyatt Diamond Status expired February 29th, after earning it via a mattress run I completed during the first half of 2014.  But not to fear! We are already 23 stays into our new run, and will complete the last two by the end of March.

So why would someone stay at a Hyatt hotel 25 times just to earn status, are those people crazy!?  Well, I've compiled the data on how much I spent vs how much value we got out of Diamond status.  Granted, both figures are estimates, but they'll give you a general idea of what is possible depending on your stay habits.

For our mattress run in 2014, we stayed at 6 different hotels: The Hyatt Miami at the Blue (now closed) once, the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento twice, the Hyatt Regency in Monterey once, the Hyatt Place in Roseville twice, the Hyatt Place in Rancho Cordova three times, and the Hyatt House in Rancho Cordova 17 times.

Of those, 5 stays we would have completed regardless of whether we aimed for Diamond status or not.

So for the mattress run itself I spent approximately $1425 and 56500 Hyatt Points (of which 52000 were purchased on promo for $960).  We earned back 16500 in United Miles (Enough for a one-way saver award ticket within the U.S) and 7000 Hyatt Points.  If you value United Miles at 1.5 cents apiece, as I do, that means my net expenditure for Diamond status through February 2016 was ~$2075

So now the big question: What did we get out of it.

First, we received 8 Suite Upgrade Awards (4 upon earning status, 4 more March 1st of 2015) which we applied to the following:
Single night stay at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero: Value $100
Seven night stay at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai: Value $2100
Two rooms on a single night stay at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco: Value $300
Five night stay at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai, which was further upgraded to an Ocean Suite: Value $2000
Two night stay at the Park Hyatt in Abu Dhabi: Value $600
Three night stay at the Park Hyatt in Dubai: Value $1050
One night stay at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco for NYE: Value $250

Total value of Diamond Suite Upgrades: $6400

The bulk of our Diamond status value came from upgrades and club access
at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai.

These values were calculated using the difference in cost between a standard room and the suite we upgraded to. Of course those prices may fluctuate up or down depending on time of year.

So in Diamond Suite upgrades alone we received $6400 in value. Everyone values suites differently though, so consider whether those would hold any value to YOU.

Next on the list are the few complimentary suite upgrades I received.

The first was on a three night stay at the Hyatt Regency in Miami. Granted this was the least impressive of the suites I had been in, but it was an upgrade nonetheless: Value $75
The next was on a single night stay at the Hyatt Regency Monterey: Value $125
Finally was a single night stay at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento. Unlike the other two, this upgrade I requested: Value $250
Not included in the value was a suite upgrade we received at the Andaz in San Diego. We had a foul odor (smoky) in the first room we were assigned, and upon complaint was upgraded to an Andaz Suite.  I consider the possibility that we may have been upgraded no matter our status, but were we a lower tier, we may have just been reassigned to a different room.

Total value of comlimentary upgrades: $450

Next was our amenities. At every Hyatt we stayed at as Diamond members, we received a bonus of either 1,000 Hyatt points or a food and beverage amenity. (Save for a single Hyatt Place stay where we chose United miles on promotion) We only took the food and beverage amenity twice, I'd value that at $30.
We accumulated over 14,000 points through 14 stays with 1,000 points apiece. Incidentally, the two stays where we chose the food amenity, we also received the 1,000 point bonus. Based on those 14K, I'd say the value was $250 (using the same calculation from above whereby I spent $960 for 52K, or 1.8 cents per point)

On top of the above, we also received bonus points during our mattress run this January and February to requalify through February 2018. Most of those stays were at a Hyatt place, 2 were at Hyatt Regencys. Through a total of 22 stays in those two months, we earned an extra 12,000 points we would not have otherwise received. We also earned an extra 4000 points for the 50% bonus I received because 15 of the 22 stay bonuses did not post and I had to call Hyatt to resolve. (14 HP stays x 250 & 1 HR Stay x 500 points) Value: $295

Total amenity value: $560

Lastly was the free breakfast we received at all Non-Hyatt Place hotels (where breakfast was included) and lounge access.  Sparing you another 10 minutes worth of details, I'll just say that my value was calculated using 14 Stays/29 nights whereby I would have not otherwise had free breakfast or lounge access. The figure is far from exact, but I am undervaluing club access  (I.E, you would have to pay more than I am valuing it to get it), and base my breakfast figures on how much the bill came to each time.

Quick stats: 6 stays/6 nights breakfast, 8 stays/23 nights club access.

Value: $1120

Total value obtained via Diamond status: $8530

Obviously the bulk of value came from our room upgrades, and if you took those away, we'd actually have lost $400. Breakfast/Food in the lounge and points are a little more substantive when it comes to determiming a value, and so at minimum I'd value status at $1675.  I have plenty of friends who could care less about having a suite, but I love it.  Of course, I would never spend $6850 to have the  rooms I had, but I would value them much greater than $400.

Here are a couple other great posts about the value of Diamond Status:

We are looking forward to the next two years of status!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hyatt Regency Sacramento: Review

View from the Park Capitol Suite
I last stayed at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento in 2014, prior to obtaining Diamond status.  We had been in a couple rooms, the nicest being a complementary upgrade to a Capitol View King.  Being as this would be our first night at this hotel as a Diamond, I was hoping to get something even nicer.
This would also be our last night as a Diamond until requalification at the end of this month (March).

We pulled up to the front around 7:30 in the evening, opting for self-parking.

Sarah at the front desk checked us in, and confirmed our King room booked on points+cash.  I could tell I wasn't going to get an automatic upgrade, so I inquired about the Park Capitol suite, noting that I saw availability, and asking if the hotel would be willing to comp an upgrade- or if not, how much it would be to upgrade.  After some fiddling with the computer, Sarah handed us our keys to room 902, a Park Capitol Suite!  She also informed us that our parking for the night would be $17, and that the Regency Club was on the 10th floor. We also were offered our Diamond amenity, and we initially opted for milk & cookies and a Pepsi (though when we discovered there were cookies in the club, we called to have our amenity changed to points).  Finally, we were given a 4 P.M late check-out, meaning I could spend my day off in the room if I chose!

While I've been upgraded a couple times to a suite automatically (HR Monterey, HR Miami), this was the first time an inquiry on my part scored me a free upgrade, and I was pretty ecstatic about it, especially considering the standard rate on that suite was nearly $500 for the night!
We got in the elevator and went up to the 9th floor.
Park Capitol Suite

Initial impressions of the room were great.  Off to the left was a 6 person table and counter space aplenty.  There was a mini-fridge and a Keurig machine.
Further in was a worktable and a couch with a 42" television. In the bedroom was the Hyatt Grand Bed and another 42" TV.  The room also featured a mini-balcony with a fantastic view of the Capitol.
Kitchen Area, Park Capitol Suite.
We set our bags down and made our way up a floor to the Regency Club.  As it turns out, the club was directly above our room, but luckily there was little noise to disturb us.  We snacked on white chocolate flakes, tamales, and chocolate chip cookies, all the while being doted upon by the club host, who ensured we had everything we needed multiple times.  Then we went back to the room for some shut-eye.

We woke up for breakfast around 7 the next morning, and grabbed some pineapple and strawberries along with an egg-quiche from the lounge.  The food was slightly better than you'd find at a lower-end Hyatt, though selection was relatively lacking.

We left the hotel around 7:45 so I could drop Kim off at work, with a plan to pick up our belongings later.

Capitol Suite Bathroom
We returned around 12:30 and headed back up to the club to grab a couple snacks.  We took some peanuts, soda, and chocolate chip cookies and went back to the room. to watch some TV.  We arrived at the room somewhat surprised to see it hadn't been cleaned.  Not that it was necessary given that we weren't staying an additional night, but it's been our experience that our rooms get cleaned in the morning regardless of our check-out time.  About 5 minutes after settling in to watch a show, housekeeping showed up to ask what time we'd be leaving.  I informed her that our check-out was at 4, but in the meantime asked for additional bath amenities.  She returned shortly after with a small bag full of specialty bath amenities (more on those amenities in upcoming Mattress Run Summary post).

We left the hotel a little after 1:00.  I later discovered that my Diamond Amenity points had not posted, and called HGP to have them added along with the 500 point bonus for having to call.  It was the most complicated call I've had with HGP, because my account history confused the representative, and because by the time I made the call, I was no longer Diamond status.  None-the-less, it was worth it for 1500 points.

Ultimately this was a fantastic experience.  My previous stays were lackluster at best, and this stay beat my expectations.  Service at the front desk was great, and service in the Club was phenomenal.  I wish I had more excuses to come back.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hyatt Regency Monterey: Stay 3 Summary

Third Time's A Charm

I've reviewed the Hyatt Regency in Monterey twice already, so I'll keep this summary rather short.
Our golf-course view room.

I pulled up to the hotel around 12:30 in the afternoon on a beautiful Saturday. I left my car out front to go check in.  The valet requested my keys in case they needed to move my car, so I obliged.  However, I forgot to mention that just the previous night I discovered the window had come off it's track. (I was able to get it back into place by holding it in position and bringing the track to it's top position, so when I left it in front, all appeared normal)
Check-In was smooth.  I was helped by Nina, who advised that my points+cash booked king bed room had been upgraded to a golf-course view room.  She also explained my Diamond benefits (half-off resort fee, complimentary breakfast, amenity).  Though I had a good experience with the food and beverage amenity on our previous stay, I opted for points this time around.  Nina offered a 4 P.M checkout, which I happily took.  She also offered turn-down service and bottled water, which I also took.  I was told my room wasn't ready yet, which I had no issue with given that it was only 12:30.  I did hear another guest be told their room would be ready around 2.
I walked out of the lobby with a gleeful face, it was quite the gracious check-in.
As I approached the car, I was approached by Nick at the valet.  Nick asked which car was mine, and when I pointed he explained that they had rolled down my window.  "Noooooo!" I cried, half-laughing at my faux-pas.  I explained that this was a prior problem, no fault of the hotel.  None-the-less, Nick offered to send a bottle of wine to the room.  I told him it was not necessary, and he told me that if there was anything he could do, to let him know.  I suggested maybe throwing some extra points in my account (not that I felt I deserved it, but you know... he offered something).
I was taken aback when Nick told me he was going to deposit 6000 points!  Now 6000 is not enough for a free night at the Regency in Monterey, but the going rate on points is about 2.4 cents each (presuming no promotions).  That means I was getting about $120+ worth of points for an incredibly minor inconvenience.
This also surprised me because about a week before, Kim had cut her hand on a piece of broken glass lodged in the couch of a local Hyatt Place.  All it had required was some Neosporin and a Band-Aid, and the supervisor on duty agreed to place 5000 points in the account (her way of comping our Category 1 night).  At the time it happened we were happy with the resolution, but now we're thinking we should've asked for more!
After fixing the window again (a 5 minute task), I made my way to the Fireplace lounge with tablet in tow.  I spent a couple hours there just relaxing and playing games on the tablet, and ordered a fantastic Roasted chicken sandwich and some rum and coke.  Around 2:30, I approached the front desk, and was told the room was still not ready, but it was listed as vacant and they would put a rush on cleaning it.
I went out to make a couple phone calls, and about 20 minutes later, the room was ready.  I brought the bags to the room and ran off to pick up Kim from her business meeting.
Our night was restful, and in the morning we made our way to TusCA for breakfast.

Our previous two breakfasts at TusCA involved the full buffet.  I felt at the time it was the best value, since the full buffet was $22 while most of the menu items were $15 or less.  But we were both in the mood for menu items.  The problem was I couldn't decide on the Crab and Artichoke omelet or the White Chocolate French toast.  Kim couldn't decide on the donut holes with Nutella or the smoked Salmon on bagel.  A quick run to the front desk confirmed my suspicion: our Diamond free breakfast would take care of WHATEVER we ordered (up to 4 registered guests).  So we got all four, and it was not a mistake.
Even nicer was that when we initially ordered, the server offered to bring us crab, artichoke, and white chocolate so that I could bring an omelet and French toast from the buffet and save some money (a $7 difference for the two entrees vs the buffet).  I mentioned we were Diamond members, and he told us then to order whatever we wanted.  The total bill with write-in tip came out to $75, a fantastic amenity to have as a Diamond member.

Overall this was a great stay.  We had the best meal we've had at this hotel, and while there was no availability to be upgraded to a suite, we were quite content with our golf-course view room.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

D.C, Dubai, & The Maldives: Pre-Trip Report.

Photo Courtesy Hyatt

THE BIG ONE: Pre-Trip Report

The idea to travel to the Maldives first came to me in 2013, while visiting the Grand Hyatt in Kauai.  I figured if we could utilize points and miles, I could save some significant money to do the trip.  While I originally envisioned travelling there in February of 2015, my booking ended up being for April of 2016.  Even with free hotels and airfare, I needed to budget a lot of funds.  In the end, I booked 16 nights across 6 different hotels for our vacation. 

The booking process was extensive, and everything had to come together in a short period of time.  Unfortunately it was not a perfect process, and on top of the booking fees, I spent an additional $300 to change our flights once the bookings were made.  As for the flights: for a grand total of $3636.80 and 350,000 United Miles I have the following:

First Class on United Airlines from San Francisco to Washington D.C
Business Class on Lufthansa from Washington D.C to Dubai (With a stop in Frankfurt)
Economy Class on Emirates from Dubai to Male
Seaplane flight to/from the Park Hyatt Maldives
Seaplane flight to/from the Conrad Maldives
Business Class on Turkish Airlines from Male to San Francisco (With a stop in Istanbul)

In a sadistic twist of irony, $1650 of the $3650 will get me 36 out of 45 hours in-flight in lie-flat business class seats, but I will be forced to shell out an additional $2000 for two round-trip <1 hour seaplane flights to and from our hotels in the Maldives.

For our hotels: For a grand total of $785.10, I will have: 1 night at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, 2 nights at the Park Hyatt in Abu Dhabi in a suite, 3 nights at the Park Hyatt Dubai in a suite, 4 nights in a Beach Villa at the Park Hyatt in the Maldives, 5 nights in a Beach Villa at the Conrad in the Maldives, and one night at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Of course, I plan to upgrade our rooms to Water Villa's many of the nights, which will add a hefty fee to the total cost of the trip, but I'll leave that out for now.

Thus far, we've only run into a couple of hiccups: the first being the changes we had to make for our flights, and the bigger one being United's announcement in December of 2015 that their direct-service flight from Washington Dulles to Dubai would be terminated at the end of January 2016.  I quickly rebooked into the best available alternative: Business class on Lufthansa.

While the change adds a bit of travel time into the equation, it also enabled us to move the flight back a day without charge, and I'm expecting service and comfort will be better overall on Lufthansa.

Additional plans are:

Dinner at an underwater restaurant
Camel Rides
A trip on the world's fastest roller coaster
A day trip in Istanbul

I look forward to bringing you reports from all our hotels in the coming couple of months.