I spent last weekend at the Park Hyatt Aviara, a former Four Seasons property, and I was really excited to be there. The story as I understand it is that the ownership didn’t want to make the sort of capital investments necessary to maintain it as a Four Seasons given general economic conditions so they had a parting of the ways with their former flag and hence the re-branding.
I tend to think of Park Hyatt as a modern brand, and Aviara was a Four Seasons in the ‘old school’ model, so other than the signage the place doesn’t really fit my mental model of a Park Hyatt.
But what did strike me more than anything other than the old fashioned furniture and draperies was the service. Every single person that I encountered at the hotel throughout my stay was friendly and helpful. I was consistently addressed by name and staff went out of their way to accommodate. I almost didn’t feel like I was at a hotel in the U.S.
The stay was an incredible value for the rate that I paid, which was under $250, and for a confirmed upgrade to a suite with complimentary breakfast and internet as a Hyatt Diamond. And yet the property isn’t really my style since I prefer much more modern design and the physical plant is showing its age. If I needed to be in the area it would definitely be my choice of properties, but the property itself is unlikely to be a destination for me in its own right.
I checked into the hotel a little bit before 2pm and the place was busy, apparently not with guests but rather preparations for a North San Diego “Best Of” event of some sort, complimentary tickets to which were delivered to my room shortly after arrival. My car was taken by the valet and I was guided to check-in, where I was immediately assisted. Room was pre-blocked and ready, lots of pre-prepared papers were given including a handwritten note from the G.M. (odd that it wasn’t waiting in my room), features of the resort, and a listing of Diamond benefits. They spell out 2pm checkout and I was specifically asked whether I’d like to take advantage of that. A far
cry from my experience at the Andaz 5th Avenue the weekend before where I was told 2pm was not possible, and a far cry from Starwood where non-resort properties have never denied me 4pm (though where the late checkout benefit isn’t guaranteed at all at resorts).
I was sent on my way to the room (not escorted), and found a nice sized suite with double sized balcony that had two sets of seating.
The room overlooked the pool and had a nice enough view, but it’s not a resort on the water.
I was offered the Diamond amenity at check-in and chose the points, but in the evening shortly before heading to dinner a plate was delivered with three different dips and three crostinis. No snacks were delivered the second evening.
After the first evening’s local festivities ended, the property really cleared out and we didn’t see many other guests.
Service was consistently outstanding, valet parking very prompt. But while the grounds are lovely it’s clear that major capital improvements haven’t been done in years, and the age of facilities show especially in the pool area. Though in fairness renovations are going on, the main gift shop is closed for instance.
The only odd service element was housekeeping ringing the doorbell before 9am on Sunday. Now, I didn’t have the do not disturb sign up, and I was awake so no harm, no foul, but it did seem odd. Still, that really was my only service complaint.
I was out for the weekend working, my wife came along and took the opportunity to arrange for surf lessons. Timbo was apparently an excellent teacher, her first time on a board my wife got up and caught some great waves and now is sending me lists of places around the world that she wants to give surfing a shot again. At least Kuta is on the list, so I have an excuse to back to Bali. She also want to go to Portugal for the weekend…
Sunday morning at the hotel was busy, even though the place had seemed fairly deserted on Saturday, as the locals turned up for Mother’s Day brunch which ran $90 per person. The hotel apparently offered another breakfast location, or so another guest mentioned, but my check-in letter specified the location where breakfast was complimentary and that was the location of their rather decadent brunch. I was really curious to see how it was handled at check-out, and I had understood from previous discussions of the property that the Diamond breakfast benefit was $65 so I rather thought they’d give me that amount as a credit. The full charge showed up on my bill, which the agent at checkout apologized for and explained was because it had been coded as a lunch charge rather than breakfast, and immediately removed the brunch from the bill. A $225 or so charge for two.
Now, $90 did feel a bit much for the offering, though it was definitely excellent. When we sat down we were offered all you could drink champagne for $9 per person. They didn’t mention what kind of champagne it was, and everyone in our party was heading to the airport shortly after, so we passed. Still, I was surprised that $90 didn’t include at least a glass of champagne.
There was carved meats, salads, sushi, egg station, caviar, and an enormous dessert selection. All high quality, all tasty. And a nice way to spend a couple of hours with friends on a Sunday.
I was thoroughly thrilled with the place at the price point and as a Diamond using a confirmed suite upgrade and receiving breakfast and internet, and also given the modest occupancy levels. Without status, paying high season fully occupied rates, I wouldn’t have been as excited for sure. But the service was some of the friendliest I’ve come across in the states, and that was true independent of the Gold Passport loyalty offerings.