Sydney is not a cheap city. Add in Mardi Gras and the Cricket World Cup and hotels were pretty expensive. At first, I hoped to use my Hilton “Be Our Guest” certificate for a free night at the Hilton, but five months out, all the “Standard” rooms were “sold out.” So I moved down the list of points and other tricks up my sleeve.
In the end I decided to do two nights at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney, taking advantage of Club Carlson’s “bonus award night” for cardholders, which gave you the last night free on any award stay of 2 or more nights. I say “gave” because yesterday the card announced it would be getting rid of this benefit. (Given how meaningless Club Carlson elite status has been, I see no reason to continue to pay the annual fee on this card—the only real benefit is 40,000 points a year, which aren’t enough for one night at most decent Club Carlson properties. The benefit was too good to expect it to continue for a long time, but Club Carlson botched an opportunity to get people hooked on its properties. If Club Carlson treated its elites wonderfully over the past few years this benefit was available, people would stay loyal. But it hasn’t, and as I’ve discussed before, benefits are inconsistent at best, and even when they are provided aren’t even that good.) After that, I’d move to the Intercontinental Sydney, where I’d use my annual weekend BOGO certificate as an Ambassador.
Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney
The Radisson was a perfectly fine property, and a great use of points with the bonus award night. Without that option, I probably wouldn’t stay there again unless there was a good rate, given the range of options in the city.
The weirdest part of my stay was at check-in. It was after noon when I got to the hotel, so hardly super early. The agent told me that because the hotel was “fully booked,” my room wasn’t ready….unless I wanted to pay for a “Business Class” upgrade, in which case the hotel would have become not fully booked and a room immediately available. For 66 AUD a night ($50), and as a matter of principle, I wasn’t going to do that. The availability of that room meant that either (1) the hotel was not “fully booked” or (2) non-business class rooms were overbooked, meaning someone who booked a non-business class room would be put in a Business Class room, and that should have been me, an elite guest. (Especially since Business Class rooms are the same size as the room I ended up in and the only difference is lounge access and a higher floor.)
So I asked when the room would be available. The response “Perhaps you’d like to make some plans for the day and come back later?” No. When will the room be available. “Well I must have it ready by 2!” The agent seemed to act like no one ever tried to check in early before, which was certainly not the case as both of the next two days I saw people checking in at 10am (and getting rooms right away). Finally she said, “Perhaps you would like to use the health club?” “Are there showers there?” (why else would I want to use the health club?) “Oh, yes.”
Great. So I schlepped my luggage to the basement health club, and went into the small locker room. The lockers required you to pick a code to set the lock, and I put my most valuable things in there, since my suitcase wouldn’t fit. The shower was fine, but, of course, when I came out, I could not get the locker to open. So in a towel with no glasses, I had to go out to the front desk. Apparently this is a common issue, as the woman knew the problem immediately and said she’d send someone to open it. Someone came in less than 5 minutes and opened it, and I was clothed.
I headed up to the lobby, left my suitcase at the bell desk, and then sat in the lobby to try to make a plan and finish catching up on the past 24 hours of the world. Unfortunately, most of the lobby is a restaurant/bar, and I am guiltable, so ordered a Coke Zero when the waitress came over. Turned out to be only 7 AUD – ~$5.50 for a small glass bottle. Theoretically, I may have been able to get a discount as a Club Carlson elite member, but Club Carlson does not post a list as to which hotels that benefit is available at outside the U.S. and Canada. When I’ve asked Club Carlson, I was told you have to ask each individual property if they offer the benefit. Making the benefit close to useless.
After about two hours walking around the city, I came back to the hotel and was told the room was ready and my luggage already waiting. I was a bit nervous as to what the room would be, but it was actually quite nice. Using the base level of points, all you can reserve is an “atrium room,” i.e., one that faces an interior courtyard. I did get upgraded to a “premier” room, one category up, which faced the street. On the relatively low fifth floor, though, there was still very little natural light and no view at all. But the room was decently sized and recently renovated, with a large comfortable bed and a sitting area. (The walls were oddly bare.) The bathroom was very big, with both a stall shower and a separate tub.
After my second journey out into the city, my welcome amenity of a basket of 3 pieces of fruit and a bottle of mineral water arrived. There were also free bottles of water throughout the room, and a coffee/tea kettle setup. The minibar was large and had room for you to use as a fridge.
The free internet was mostly good, though unusable at night.
The only facility I used in the hotel was the gym. Excuse me, “health club.” Located in the basement, it had a salon and an indoor pool, in addition to a small workout room. There were 3 treadmills, 2 ellipticals, 2 bikes, one bench and a small rack of weights, and a weird combination weight machine. I couldn’t do much lifting, as one guy monopolized the bench the entire time I was there both days. I’ve had worse facilities, but the thing that really bugged me was a sign in the gym “Looking for additional equipment?. . . Because we are a heritage-listed building we can’t always offer the equipment you might be after….” So you could buy a pass to a real gym for 10 AUD (which is actually not a bad deal). This falls into the “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me that it’s raining” category. If you don’t want to invest in a gym, don’t make other excuses. If you can put a salon and an indoor pool in a hotel, you can put a second bench and room for people to warm-up in the gym. The age of the hotel and space for a gym have nothing to do with one another.
As for location, the Radisson is pretty conveniently located for walking around the entire city, as its in the middle of the CBD. The immediate area is boring and mostly office buildings. But it was about a 10 minute walk from the train from the airport and Circular Quay, and shopping and restaurants are about five minutes walk away.
I didn’t have regrets about choosing the hotel, particularly at 50,000 Club Carlson points for 2 nights. I’m not quite sure it’s a “Five Star” hotel like it suggests, though, or that it is worth the $300 or so it goes for many nights (or the 75,000 points per night the particular room I had goes for!)