Hotel

Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo, 09 July 2016

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

The Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo is in the Pinheiros area. There are many chain hotels like Sheratons/Hiltons and the Morumbi mall. I was trying to hit Hyatt Diamond status via stays, so I shelled out for it. It wasn’t too bad for it had a weekend paid rate of $140.

Location

I can’t contribute too much on this topic. I only went to the mall nearby, which is about 15 min walk away. And for dinner, I went to Fogo de Chao via Uber, which was also pretty nearby. I don’t think the subway is near either. I took an Uber to the airport as well, and that was pretty cheap, and a little over 40 mins without any traffic. Having said that, traffic does come to a standstill around the area. I did have a great view of the traffic gridlock from my room.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Check In/Check Out

I checked in at the main lobby, and was asked if I’d like to check in at the Club Lounge instead. I declined that option. Check in was good. I got upgraded to a club room, and when I asked about late check out (my flight is at 6pm), I was told I had already been given a 4pm check out.

Check out was painless as well.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Room

I was given a King Club room on the same level as the Club Lounge. The room and bathroom are both large and well-appointed, and filled with all the amenities you’ll associate with a five-star hotel.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

In the entryway, there are some cabinets. Hidden in this set of cabinets is a mini fridge, and there’s a tea pot on top of the cabinets. The room is large, with a nice desk, and a King bed in the middle of the room. There was also a chaise lounge by the window.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

My room offers a view of the Morumbi bridge, although not much else in terms of the view. You can see more of Sao Paulo’s skyscrapers on the rooms on the same side of the Club Lounge.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

The bathroom is large. It has a tub, a shower, a bidet and a toilet. There are plenty of amenities, and a large closet in the bathroom. They supplied it with Castanha do Brazil bath products, which I thought was ok.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Club Lounge

The Club Lounge is a very impressive space, with high ceilings. Throughout the day, there are some snacks, and drinks in the fridge. They have evening hors d’oeuvres, and also serve breakfast.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

The evening hors d’oeuvres is pretty decent, although it doesn’t really offer much in terms of hot dishes. If you’re trying to have a light meal before party time, or before a Brazilian dinner time, it’s not bad. The alcohol selection looked pretty decent as well. The snacks I had were tasty.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Breakfast was more continental, with a full array of pastries, yoghurts, and fruit. There’s also some alcohol if you fancy a morning cocktail.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Overall

At $140, the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo was a great deal. It’s really hard to put a finger as to what about a hotel makes you go … “ahhh”, and refuse to leave, but that’s essentially what happened. After checking into the room, leaving it was kinda tough. And that’s a good sign for a hotel.

It comes highly recommended.

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Centric Montevideo, 11 July 2016

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

We spent one night in July 2016 at this property, and had an excellent stay. The deco of the property is fresh, and we were also treated well as diamond members.

Pre-Check In Communications
The Hyatt Centric was proactive in their communications. On the last minute, I decided I wanted a shuttle from the port to the hotel, given that the hotel is some ways from the port, and we arrived after dark. Arranging transport last minute was quick and painless, and our driver was there as promised. It was 27 USD (925 UYU) for the 20 min ride from the port to the hotel in Pocitos, and they supplied a Mercedes (the alternative is BMW).

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Check In/Check Out
Not as quick, but still painless. When I arrived, the Director of Operations came out and introduced himself and thanked us for being diamond members, while the FD did our check in.

Check out was quick, no problems with the bill.

We booked the Pre-Opening rate, which includes breakfast at the lobby restaurant, but the FD encouraged us to eat at the Club Lounge on the 13th floor instead. We had to inquire about the times of service at the lounge for breakfast (printing it on the card like a regular HR would have been helpful).

Although we opted for points, we found a welcome amenity in our room. It consisted of a bottle of Uruguayan red wine, six macaroons, and some fruit. There was also a personalized welcome note from the Director of Operations.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Room
We booked a regular King room, but were upgraded to a Club King with River View on the 10th floor. It’s 49 sq m, and contemporary in design, with three distinct areas.

Sleeping/work areaThis area is carpeted, and the King room is in the middle of the room. The decor is very Room & Board, with hanging lamps, and fabric headboards. The bedside tables are generously-sized, and they also have USB chargers by the wall for your electronic devices. The TV faces the bed.

The work desk is a little bit small, has a work lamp (not adjustable), and power plugs. There’s also a little booklet with things to do, and room service, on a very hipster clipboard.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Lounging
This area is hardwood, and there’s a floor-to-ceiling window featuring view of the river. Part of the view was obscured by a room to the right of the room, so you can peep into the living area of another hotel guest.

There’s a nice fabric sofa, table, and an extra fabric armchair. Our welcome amenity was on the table. There’s also a cabinet facing the sofa, which contains the fridge (really cold!), an electric kettle, and an Illy coffee machine.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Bathroom
This area is tiled, and in the form of a long rectangle. The bathroom has a rather open concept, but you can close it off with two barn-style doors, one accessed from the bedroom area, and one from the entryway. The toilet/bidet can be closed (but not locked), and there’s a walk-in shower with rain shower and wand.

The sink and dresser is pretty long. There’s a actually a chair if you want to sit at the dresser, with amenities like cottonwool.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Club Lounge
On the top floor of the hotel (13th), it’s decently-sized, and offers a great view of the River.

We only went during hors d’oeuvres and breakfast service, so I’m not sure if it’s open throughout the day. Both services are hosted. It’s slightly odd that the hosts ask for my room number only after I’ve taken my food.

The hors d’oeuvres has no hot option, but quite a bit of complimentary alcohol. There are several desserts, one salad option, breads, cheeses, olives, etc.

The breakfast selection is continental. I found the pastry to be on the hard side of things, and I prefer my pastries to be warm and flaky.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Service
Friendly and efficient.

Wifi
Fast

Food and beverage
On the expensive side of things (over 900 UYU for a room service hamburger). We ended up walking a little to a sushi place 6 mins walk from the hotel for our dinner.

Overall
This is a lovely property. I love the design of the hotel, and they obviously did a good job getting it ready – I couldn’t tell that it just opened one month ago. I’d return to this property in a heartbeat if I’m in Montevideo again.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

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Chile: Being Lame in Santiago, 26 July 2016

Grand Hyatt Santiago

I wish I had more to report. I had initially intended to visit Valparaiso today, but travel fatigue was hitting me hard, and I just wanted to veg out the whole day today. I just convinced myself that it’s ok, because I don’t see this South America trip as the last time I’ll visit Chile or Argentina, so it’s ok to leave things for another trip sometime in the future.

I just stayed in bed for the most part and enjoyed the spectacular view of Santiago with the Andes in the backdrop. When it got late enough in the day, I eventually decided I was really craving American Chinese food. With some luck, there’s actually a PF Chang’s at the mall near the hotel. Funnily enough, I’ve never actually tried PF Chang’s in all my years living in the US. Their orange chicken was ok.

Grand Hyatt Santiago

Yes, this IS the view from my hotel room window

I spent some time reading in Starbucks, and then went back to my room eventually to capitalize on their large HDTV, and started a MLB game on my laptop, and streamed it on their TV. Sometimes, that’s ok on vacation, too!

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Hotel Review: Sheraton Airport Tempe, 25 March 2016

Sheraton Airport Tempe

Sheraton Airport Tempe was a category 2 SPG property when we first booked it, and costs 3000 points, because it was a weekend when we stayed. They offer a complimentary airport shuttle from Phoenix International Airport, and the property is in the process of being upgraded.

Location:

It’s a short drive (~10 min) from Phoenix International Airport, and located near the restaurants/services near Arizona State University. Those are about 10 mins drive away, and if you are there for Spring Training, it’s really close the Los Angeles Angels training complex – Diablo Stadium.

Check In/Check Out:

Painless and quick. I showed my SPG business card, and was granted lounge access. We were given an updated room.

Room:

It’s an average-sized room with a balcony. Our room overlooked the parking lot, so not much to see there. The room is updated, meaning there’s new wallpaper. They do have a decent-sized fridge, where we stored our beverages.

The bathroom is updated, but on the small-to-average side of things. It has a tub with a shower head.

Sheraton Airport Tempe

Club Lounge:

The evening hors d’oeuvres was pretty decent. I have a thing for potstickers, so whenever that is offered, I do tend to be happy. They have a self-serve fridge with soft drinks and water, but no coffee machine. It’s pretty small, with room for about six tables. We didn’t eat breakfast because we couldn’t wake up in time for it.

Parking/Wifi:

Parking is complimentary. Wifi is also complimentary, but very spotty. I was doing my annual fantasy baseball draft, and it crapped out in the middle of the draft. I ended up with Ryan Braun. I let out a scream when the wifi died on me. True story.

Overall:

It’s a pretty nice property with a pool. The club lounge is also pretty decent. I don’t feel a compulsion to return, but I also don’t have any negative feelings about it.

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, 24 March 2016

Morning view from Junior Suite #1909 @ Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

I’m working on re-qualifying for Hyatt Diamond in 2017, so I’ve been mattress running Hyatt properties whenever possible. The HR Albuquerque is one of the cheaper properties (<100 USD), and also close to the airport for our early flight, making it a perfect candidate. Additionally, I also have a number of Diamond Suite Upgrades expiring soon, so I used one on this one night stay.

Location:

It’s in downtown. It seemed rather dead in the evening, because the downtown is a business district. But it’s a quick, 15-min drive to the airport, so there was that.

Check In/Check Out:

Check in was relatively quick, but not without some drama. Our parking charges (~18 USD) were waived on account of my Diamond status, which I appreciated. We were given suites, which are two connecting rooms, but to our shock, we opened the door to an un-cleaned, previously-occupied room. We were given the wrong room.

While check out was quick, there was also some fuss with the bill. One of the diamond benefits is complimentary breakfast for up to 4 guests in the same room, but I ended up getting charged for it.

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite Living room

Room:

The suite (#1909) is decent, but not much to write home about. It’s basically two rooms joined together. The living room actually has a murphy bed, giving it the opportunity to transform into another room, if required. We basically had two rooms. It’s a high floor, so in the morning, we had great views of Albuquerque and the hot air balloons floating over the mountains.

The rooms are of an average size, and the bathrooms are slightly larger than average, and come with a bathtub with shower. One annoyance is that they don’t provide complimentary water, and the bottles they leave in the rooms are charged at $5 a bottle.

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite Bedroom

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite bathroom 1

Breakfast:

The HR Albuquerque does not have a club lounge, so we could have our breakfast at Forque restaurant. I ordered French toast, which was amazing, a juice, and a latte. The breakfast was excellent.

Forque @ Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Sticky Bun French Toast with Pecans and Blueberries at Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

Overall:

It’s an ok property. I’ll probably stay here if I’m in Albuquerque and need a cheap Hyatt mattress run. The breakfast is great, but I wouldn’t use a Diamond Suite Upgrade on this property.

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Hotel Review: Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque, 23 March 2016

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque is a category 2 SPG hotel. We opted for it because it costs 4000 Starwood points. Sheraton Uptown is about 30 min drive in average traffic from the Albuquerque airport and in a good location if you want to buy things or eat, because it’s located in strip malls and close enough to a freeway.

Check In/Check Out:

Quick and painless. I am just a SPG preferred member, which is what you can get if you sign-up for their loyalty program, and was given a room at the second highest level. I showed my SPG Business card, which gives me Sheraton Club Lounge access, and this was processed with no problems.

Room:

The room is very large, and had some views of the surrounding mountains. The King bed took up about 2/5 of the room, and there is also a nice lounge chair in the room.

The desk and TV console are together. While this created more space in the room, it also left less space for work. I do prefer standalone desks.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque

Bathroom:

It’s an average-sized bathroom. Part of it contains amenities like coffee brewer and complimentary bottles of water. The toilet seat is slightly broken, but ok. The bathtub and shower was also average. I did appreciate that they had a wall-mounted container with the bottles of shower gel and shampoo.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque shower amenities

Club Lounge:

Located on the top floor, the Club Lounge is a decent size. We didn’t get up in time for breakfast, but the evening hors d’oeuvres was substantial. They had two types of lasagna, one meat, one vegetarian. There were also other usual crudités. There’s also a great self-serve coffee machine in the Club Lounge.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque Club Lounge Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque Evening Hors D'oeuvres at Club Lounge

Parking/Wifi:

Wifi is free with SPG membership and of decent speed, as is parking.

Overall:

This is a lovely property, and excellent candidate for redemption or a cheap paid stay (depending on season). I won’t hesitate to return to this property if I’m in Albuquerque.

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Hotel Review: Hilton Garden Inn Sabana San Jose Costa Rica, 21 March 2016

Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

The Hilton Garden Inn Sabana San Jose is one of the newer hotels in San Jose, Costa Rica. It also happens to be one of the tallest buildings in San Jose. We stayed there for one night in March. The rate can range from the high-90s to low-200.

Check In/Check Out:

Check in was pretty rapid. I did online check-in, and pre-selected my room on the top floor (20th). When we got there, we were just given the keys to our room, even though we were a little early (noon).

Check out wasn’t slow, but it was a little bit odd – I filled in the paperwork for express check-out, but was still held up to do a standard check out. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind, but we were running late.

San Jose

Location:

In the Sabana business park, it’s near a number of coffee shops (Starbucks, Juan Valdez, Costa), and there’s a McDonald’s across the street. There are also a number of little bistros nearby. I’d say it was a good 45 min walk from the HGI to downtown San Jose. The walk is pleasant enough, so it’s not too bad. We took Uber back, and that was ~5 USD (or less – I can’t remember)

Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Room:

Contemporary. Think retro sofas, over-sized, hanging lamps, and grey-tiled bathrooms. Space wise, it was a little bit tight, but no complaints. There was also a mini-fridge, and a coffee machine by the entryway table. The bathroom was stocked with Neutrogena products.

Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Amenities:

They have a pool, which while awesome in theory, wasn’t exactly pragmatic. The winds made it a bit too cold to swim. Also, it’s probably a one-lane lap pool. The gym is on the small side of things, but the equipment is new. It also offers a great view of the national stadium.

Pool at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Breakfast:

As a Gold or Diamond member, you can choose the point amenity, or breakfast for two. We went with the breakfast, and it was excellent.

The buffet had quite a selection, and there were four hot items. The key to breakfast is – you had to read the menu on the table, where they have made-to-order breakfast items. I got an omelette, and the French toast. The French toast is amazing. Try it!

Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

French toast at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Overall:

We had an enjoyable stay, and would return to this property. The staff were friendly, and the property offered great views. The lobby also had complimentary coffee and cookies.

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Hotel Review: DoubleTree by Hilton Cariari San Jose, 20 & 22 March 2016

DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

The DoubleTree by Hilton Cariari in San Jose Costa Rica is a four-star resort that’s located midway between the Juan Santamaria International Airport and downtown San Jose. The paid rates hover around mid-90 to low-100s. For some reason, the premium rooms were available for redemption at a discounted rate, so I redeemed ~21000 Hilton points for the first night, and ~23000 Hilton points for the second night.

Overall, it seems like a lovely resort property, with some nice green spots to chill out. However the pool was undergoing maintenance during our stay, so we didn’t get to enjoy the resort fully.

Check In/Check Out:

Quick and painless. I’m currently in the midst of a billing dispute with them with regards to them double-charging me for transportation, though.

Executive Balcony Double Room at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Room:

We got the executive double room. It is large, and has a coffee machine, which we didn’t use. There’s also a nice-sized balcony, but with the pool maintenance going on during our stay, it was too noisy for us to hang out on the balcony.

The bathroom is average size, but dated. The resort has seen better days.

Executive Balcony Double Room at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Service:

There are highs and lows. In the online check-in, we could designate some items we wanted in the room. We asked for a map and slippers, and we found these in the room after check in.

At breakfast, the staff was very attentive.

On the other hand, the first front desk agent didn’t tell us where the executive lounge is, so I couldn’t locate it the first day.

Welcome package at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Breakfast:

The Gold and Diamond benefit is complimentary continental breakfast that was served in the restaurant. The hotel stuck with the rules of a continental breakfast. The pastries were delicious, and I didn’t quite feel the need to pay a $10 upcharge for a full breakfast.

Breakfast at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Executive Lounge:

Located above the front desk, it’s only open for select hours. They have hors d’oeuvres in the evening from around 5 – 8 pm. It’s hosted. The lounge itself is rather small, and probably had about four tables. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Evening Hors D'Oeuvres at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Overall:

We enjoyed our stay. It’s a lovely property with a great location.

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Hotel Review: Sheraton San Diego Marina and Hotel, 19 March 2016

View from Club Lounge at Sheraton San Diego and Marina

The Sheraton San Diego Marina & Hotel is a four-star outfit in close proximity to the San Diego International Airport. We stayed here for 1 night in March. We had a 8-ish am flight out the next morning, so we opted for the Sheraton San Diego Marina & Hotel, because of the free airport shuttle. The paid rates of this hotel are in the mid-200 USD range, but we used a 10,000 Starpoints redemption instead.

The hotel has a very nice hard product, but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement.

Check In/Check Out:

At check-in, the front desk lady was lovely enough, but pretty much every guest who walked in was given an upsell pitch. This actually set the tone for our stay. She did comp our resort fees (20 USD), and was good about granting us lounge access as part of my Amex SPG Business benefit.

We were running a little late for check out, so we just dumped our keys in the express check out box. There were no billing issues.

Sheraton San Diego Marina

Room:

The SPG award room books into Lanai rooms. These are in a further wing at the resort, facing the airport. We did get a marina-facing room, but our window wasn’t exactly sound-proof, so we could hear planes taking off and landing. The room itself is large, and in a beautiful nautical theme, with rich-blue paint. There was a little entry foyer with an armchair, and there was also a little private balcony with two lounge chairs.

The bathroom was also a very lovely white-tiled affair, and looked like it could have come out of Home & Decor.

Sheraton San Diego Marina

So, why the complaints? 

Well, outside our door, we found a dirty wine glass. We checked in at 3 pm, and got back to our room at 9 pm. It was still there.

When I lifted the toilet seat, the toilet was not flushed. Gross!

To add to the diming practice of the hotel, the refrigerator was rigged. You couldn’t move any of the items in the refrigerator. Or put your own items in the refrigerator. A sign on the refrigerator indicated that if you put your personal items in the mini-fridge, you’ll be charged a $20 “cleaning fee”.

Grounds:

They have two pools. They looked lovely. The pool by the lanai wing was significantly less crowded.

Sheraton San Diego & Marina Club Lounge

Lounge:

The lounge is on the top floor of the main wing. It offers amazing views of the marina, and at the lift landing, you can also get some beautiful views of downtown San Diego. They serve hors d’oeuvres from 5-8 pm. It was pretty much salad, some cheese, and no hot item. While they have a self-serve fridge with some sodas and water, there was no coffee machine. They did put out some coffee and tea during the evening hors d’oeuvres.

I do recommend sitting here to enjoy the view. I’m not sure sure about the food.

Sheraton San Diego & Marina Club Lounge

Room service: 

We ordered room service. It was prompt, the food was decent, the prices were ok. Mister might have gotten sick from the mayonnaise, but I can’t say for sure.

Overall: 

I want to like this property, but diming practices do tend to leave a bad taste. I probably wouldn’t stay here again if I’m San Diego. Downtown really isn’t that far from the airport.

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Hotel Review: Aloft Boston Seaport, 20 – 21 February 2016

Aloft Boston Seaport The Aloft Boston Seaport is a 4-star (really??) hotel located near the Boston Convention Center. It is a SPG Category-5 hotel, so a redemption would have cost 12000 Starpoints. They had an opening promotional rate for $90 (+ taxes), so I booked a paid rate, because it’s definitely not worth 12000 Starpoints. When I stayed there for one night, it had just newly-opened some two weeks ago. For a newly-opened hotel, it had some little kinks in the Starwood system, but aside from its (creepy) empty storefront, you wouldn’t know that it is a newly-opened hotel.

Location:

Well, unless you are attending a convention, there really isn’t much around here. It took about 30 mins for me to walk from South Station. You can walk to Silver Line Way station, but the public transportation options are quite limited. Unless you want to be held hostage by hotel catering options, there’s just Jimmy John’s and Dunkin Donuts within short walking distance. The area is just surrounded by residences, industries, and hotels.

Check In/Check Out:

Check in was quick, and I was offered the option of choosing my check-out time. I was very appreciative of being offered a late check out.

Check out was a bit slower. There was just one receptionist, and he was busy with people buying stuff from the self-serve bar. And for some reason or other, I was charged an extra 1 cent over my prepaid rate (yes, 1 cent), which added time to the check out process.

Aloft Boston Seaport

Room:

I booked into an Aloft King. I was given a 5th floor room without a view. It faced a ginormous parking lot, and if I peered hard enough, I could see the sea. You can try asking for a higher floor with a city view. You might be able to see something.

The room is pretty much a standard Aloft. The King bed is the focal point of the room, and it has a contemporary decor. The bench is somewhat awkwardly placed, as it is beneath the television. There are plenty of outlets by the bed, and at the table.

The bathroom is also a standard Aloft – vanity in the main room, with walk-in shower and toilet in a separate area. The walk-in shower is slightly brighter than the Aloft in New Orleans though. There is a Mr Coffee coffee maker, and a mini-fridge under the sink.

Aloft Boston Seaport

Wifi:

This was free because I booked through SPG. It was fast.

Overall:

For the rate I paid, I was ok with the stay. I think they did a pretty good job, because there were very few kinks for a newly-opened hotel (the main kink I experienced was – I had to do a manual claim for Starpoints for my stay). It is pretty much your standard Aloft hotel. But unless you were attending a convention, I wouldn’t recommend it, because there was nothing nearby, and it’s definitely not a good use for Starpoints redemption.

They do have an interesting elevator feature, where you key in the floor you are going before you enter, so the system optimizes elevator use. For all the other times in your life you have spent waiting for an elevator, this is probably the one hotel you wouldn’t have to.
Aloft Boston Seaport

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