Hyatt tagged posts

A Little Report from Berlin

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My report from Berlin is going to be fairly brief. Not only was I just in Berlin two years ago, but I stayed in the exact same two hotels as I did last time: the Intercontinental and the Grand Hyatt.  Both were excellent last time, both were excellent this time.  The only difference was cash rates at the Intercontinental were nearly three times as much as they had been 2 years ago on the same weekend, so I spent two nights there using points.  I then used my Hyatt Category 1-5 annual Visa cardholder certificate at the Grand Hyatt Berlin for my last night again.  I’m not going to do a full review of the properties again as there was nothing appreciably different.  Check out my review of the Intercontinental Berlin here and my review of the Grand Hyatt Berlin here.  If you’re interested in more of what to see and do in Berlin, I’d recommend this post as a supplement to my 2014 report, available here.

Berlin and the River Spree

Berlin and the River Spree

As I did last time, I took the public bus from the airport to the Zoo Garden station and walked about 10 minutes to the Intercontinental.  The stay was really just lovely, and reminded me why I’ve stayed at about 20 different  Intercontinental properties (with return visits to several) over the years: the consistently good service and treatment of elites.  (And I generally find Holiday Inns and Crowne Plazas underrated too!).  This stay was no exception.  At check-in, I was asked how my trip was, and told “Welcome Back.” While this should be a no-brainer at any hotel, I’m rarely asked these questions as a Hilton Diamond.  Although I was on an award stay, I received the same upgrade I had two years ago, and was proactively offered a 4pm checkout.  Just after I checked out, I realized I had left my passport wallet in the room, and the front desk clerk profusely apologized to me, as if *they* had done something wrong.  Good job, Intercontinental Berlin.  It makes me excited for my upcoming stay at the Intercontinental Wellington.  (And note, I did not have a free breakfast or lounge access, yet still came away feeling like a valued guest of the hotel.

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2015 Index and YWW Year in Review

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It’s a bit late, but here is my 2015 travel year in review post.  It was a huge travel year for me, as I hit 5 continents and did more long-haul flying than I’d ever done before. It was a lot of mileage redemptions, and low on the mileage earning front.  I re-qualified for American Airlines Gold status. I thought about going for Platinum but it was a busy enough fall and winter that the marginal utility was not enough to outweigh the financial and other costs.

As for the blog, I have kept it as a personal travel diary rather than changing to something else, but hopefully folks find it enjoyable, useful, or both.   My philosophy is the same today as it was in my 2013 year in review post: “I will never stop loving travel, but business class and nice hotels isn’t the point of life.”

So, what were my travel patterns and accomplishments of 2015? I’ve put indices of the places, planes, and hotels I’ve reviewed at the bottom of this post, and have some statistics as well. It was a heavy year of international travel, with only one domestic purely leisure trip.
6
Total continents visited: 5
New continents: 1 (Australia)
Total countries (excluding U.S.): 10
New countries: 5 (Australia, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil)
New states: 1 (Missouri)

New airlines: 7 (Qantas, Etihad, Asiana, TAM, Virgin Australia, Germanwings)

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Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Melbourne

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My final night in Australia was at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne. Where the Park Hyatt was in a pretty, but sleepy, area of Melbourne, the Grand Hyatt was right in the thick of things – though only a 10 minute walk down Collins Street from the Park Hyatt – the Fifth Avenue of Melbourne. Physically, on first blush, it reminded me a lot of the Grand Hyatt Berlin- neither being like the large convention hotels I think of when I think of Grand Hyatts. Although not as fancy as the Park Hyatt, it’s a lot more recently renovated, and still plenty fancy. In fact, for the days I was in Melbourne, the Park Hyatt was going for $200 less a night than the Grand Hyatt. But I could only use my free Hyatt Visa night at the Grand Hyatt, because it’s actually in a lower award category.

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Exterior, Grand Hyatt Melbourne

Exterior, Grand Hyatt Melbourne

The Grand Hyatt feels very new. The lobby was super modern and shiny, and the Singapore Airlines crew was checking out as I arrived. Check-in was easy. I wasn’t expecting any upgrade or anything, as I wasn’t entitled to one, and was sent up to my Grand King room on the 26th Floor. As a Diamond member, I was proactively offered late checkout at check-in, which I appreciated since my flight out of Melbourne didn’t leave until 5:30.

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Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Melbourne

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I had one night in Melbourne for which I had no great deal or points strategy. There are tons of hotels in Melbourne, but I decided to splurge for one night in Melbourne as I ended my trip. I had been having great luck at Hyatt properties lately, even though I don’t have high status with them (and I won’t ever due to their limited global footprint). For my final night, I was going to stay at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne using my annual free night as a Hyatt visa cardholder. The Grand Hyatt is a lower category property for awards, but was actually $200 more a night than the Park Hyatt for a revenue stay. So I booked a Visa Signature package on Kiwicollection.com at the Park Hyatt, which included continental breakfast for two, an upgrade, early check-in and late check-out, waiver of credit card merchant fees, and a US$100 food and beverage credit. For about $225, I thought that was a fantastic deal.

Park Hyatt Melbourne

Park Hyatt Melbourne

The Park Hyatt is on the edge of the downtown area, near Parliament and amongst some government buildings. I took the tram down Collins Street from Docklands, and got off the last stop in the “Free Tram Zone” – about 3 blocks from the hotel.  It is definitely one of the more bucolic properties in the heart of Melbourne, set back from the street with a long driveway, and having a “grounds” including its multiple towers. It wasn’t as chic and modern as many newer Park Hyatts, and was instead a little glitzier and dated, but still was luxurious and nice. IMG_3777

Lobby, Park Hyatt Melbourne

Lobby, Park Hyatt Melbourne

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Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Berlin

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The Grand Hyatt Berlin is probably one of the nicest (and most expensive) Category 4 hotels, making it a great use for the free night that comes with the Hyatt Visa each year. The hotel is very new and modern, and has a very central location, right on Potsdamer Platz, which has its pros and cons. The pros are that you can get anywhere in Berlin pretty easily. For business travelers, the location is great as there are a lot of large office buildings close by. But its not exactly picturesque, and the area lacks the charm and character of other neighborhoods in Berlin, as all of Potsdamer Platz was built after reunification, since the Wall had bisected the plaza.

Grand Hyatt Berlin lobby

Grand Hyatt Berlin lobby

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Anatomy of an Award: Labor Day in Berlin on Short Notice in Premium Cabins

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A few weeks ago, I decided I really needed to get away for a long Labor Day.  Preferably to a city where I could explore nightlife if I wanted, but also could lose myself walking or sitting at a cafe.  Oh, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I didn’t want to repeat a city I’d been to recently, and I wanted to be able to get there relatively quickly from DC.

Berlin seemed like a great choice, as I’ve only been once — in 2004 with my study abroad program on a “study tour.”  10 years older, and for leisure travel, it would be a completely different city.  Berlin is also a very reasonably priced city, and would serve as a place to use my expiring free Hyatt night that I get as a Hyatt Visa cardholder, as the Grand Hyatt Berlin is somehow only a category 4 hotel.

But late July is not the best  time to be looking for premium transatlantic availability for Labor Day,  particularly to a city like Berlin that has almost no direct transatlantic service  — just Newark to Berlin on United, and Chicago and JFK to Berlin on Air Berlin.  So I wasn’t surprised to see there was nothing available on the days I could travel.  So I watched  both Star Alliance and One World availability on all transatlantic flights like a hawk for a few days, and when a flight from Venice to Philadelphia on US Airways in Business class opened up, I grabbed that for 50,000 American miles  (which ends up as 45,000 miles since I’m an AA credit card holder).  Unfortunately, there was no Air Berlin connection into Venice that would get in that time, so I figured I’d fly in the day before and have 22 hours in Venice.  I hadn’t realized how expensive Venice hotels were though, and 22 hrs is kind of a rush through a city like Venice.  So I figured I’d keep my eyes open, as AA has a free change policy on award tickets so long as the origin and destination are staying the same.

I wasn’t that concerned about an outbound flight, because I...

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Hotel Review: Feeling Welcome at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

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I am not a huge Hyatt customer, simply because there aren’t a lot of Hyatts where I want to go, and most Hyatt Regencies/Grand Hyatts remind me of conferences. But some of my favorite hotel stays over the past few years have been at Hyatt properties in Argentina, New Mexico, and Vietnam — particularly Park Hyatts. And one of the best ongoing credit card sign up offers is for the Chase Hyatt Visa. Back when I got the card, after making a single purchase with the card, which comes with a $75 annual fee, you got two free nights at any Hyatt property in the world. I used mine at the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhao in Buenos Aires in 2012, and was astounded by the level of luxury. I’ve kept the card, paying the $75 annual fee, as I’ve found a use for the annual category 1-4 certificate each year that far exceeds that cost.

Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

When we decided we were going to Paris, I knew I wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome. I’d heard outrageous things, it had a great location, and I wanted to end our 2-week trip somewhere special – not a cramped “okay, for Paris” hotel. Rates, though, were not in our budget – making the hotels in the Seychelles look cheap. The advanced purchase rate was 688.50 Euros per night, so I knew that this would be a great use of Hyatt free night certificates. For comparison’s sake, for Argentina, my two nights were worth a measly $1282.60.  So I was able to persuade my boyfriend to sign up for the card, which now has a $1,000 spending requirement before you get the free nights. It all worked out, the nights were deposited in his account, I called, and we got our reservation without a problem.

Que rico

Que rico

Fast forward a little over a month, and we had our stay.  The synopsis is that the room itself wasn’t particularly special, though good-sized and had a great bathroom. But what was amazing was the level of service that the hotel provided, making us feel like welcome guests from the moment we walked in the door til the time we checked out. It’s amazing how few properties even attempt to do that, but the staff at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome tried, and succeeded.

Due to some transportation snafus, my boyfriend and ...

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And we’re off… to the Seychelles and France!

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I’ve been a bad boy and haven’t uploaded my thrilling summary of what to do in Little Rock.  Hopefully in the next few days, as tomorrow morning, we’re off on our Three-Last-Hurrahs mileage burning adventure to the Seychelles and France.

We’ll start off tomorrow bright and early with a flight from Dulles to Addis Ababa, in Ethiopian Airlines’ Business Class — “Cloud Nine”.  For a 13.5 hour flight, it won’t be super-luxurious, with only angle-flat seats, but a newish plane and should be pretty comfortable.  After a few hour layover in Ethiopia, we’ll take the 4.5 hour flight to the Seychelles on one of Ethiopian’s older planes.  While Ethiopian may not be the fanciest airline, it is still pretty cool to be able to get from DC to the Seychelles with one stop.

We’ll spend several nights a...

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A Day in Paradise: The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort, New Mexico Review

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Even if my flight to Albuquerque had gone as scheduled, I wouldn’t have landed til about 5pm. So I figured I’d spend my first night somewhere around Albuquerque and then head up to Santa Fe the next day. There were a lot of relatively affordable, though uninspiring, properties in Albuquerque, and overall, it seemed there was nothing amazing to see in the city on a Monday evening. But I looked on the Visa Signature Hotels site and found an amazing deal at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya, a resort located just a bit north of Albuquerque.  It was a phenomenal stay.

Visa Signature Hotels , which I’ve covered in prior posts, is a booking site for anyone with a Visa Signature card, which I bet is most of my readers.  It offers perks with bookings, in addition to a guarantee of the best available rate.  The perks aren’t usually as luxurious as those offered by Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program or the Virtuoso program, but the rates are generally better.  The benefits have recently adjusted a bit, but still are very good—and most importantly, are benefits I can often use.

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YWW Does East Asia: Trip Report Part 5: Park Hyatt Saigon Review

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IMG_0269Of our three nights in Vietnam, we spent two at the Intercontinental on paid nights, and then switched over to the Park Hyatt Saigon, using my free one night that I get each year as a Hyatt Visa cardholder.  This is a perk that can make the $75 annual fee for the card well worth it.  Although the night can only be used at a level 1 through 4 property, unlike other chains (cough cough – Marriott), level 4 is pretty high up in the Hyatt hierarchy, including lots of nice properties in major cities, and several of Hyatt’s top properties, including the Andaz in West Hollywood, Savannah, and Shanghai and multiple Park Hyatts around the globe.  For our night at the Park Hyatt Saigon, rooms were going for about $400 – about 2.5 times the rate at the Intercontinental down the street.

We took advantage of my guaranteed late checkout as a Platinum Ambassador at the Intercontinental and, after a morning of exploring and pool time, made our way to the Park Hyatt.  If it weren’t for luggage and 100 degree, humid weather, we could have walked between the two properties, a straight ¾ mile walk through central HCMC.  Instead, we took a cab, which cost about $3.IMG_0268

Upon arrival, I went to the front desk and presented my passport, and we were shortly escorted to our room for in-room check-in (something I generally dislike – let’s get business done in the lobby and let me be).  We had a humorous exchange in the elevator with the agent, who, very professionally, first stated: “As a valued Platinum member, we have placed you in the best room in the class you booked, so you have a lovely view of the pool.  Oh, wait, I am so sorry, you have a City View.”  With his accent, this sounded like “Shitty View”, which would have been correct.

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