I was prepared not to like the Conrad New York. It’s the old Embassy Suites, given a facelift, and which re-opened in March. I remember staying there for the Freddie Awards in 2004 and paying 35,000 HHonors points for my room, it was my second hotel redemption ever and most of the points were earned changing my email address every quarter.
The property is owned by Goldman Sachs and it’s across the street from their offices. The scuttlebutt I had heard was that their partners wouldn’t stay at the property while it was an Embassy Suites. Back before the financial crisis they would stay down at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park. But now with austerity they want their people nearby at their own property, so it needed to be re-branded. How accurate that is I don’t know, but it has a certain truthiness.
I’d been told that while the interiors were completely redone, they didn’t move any walls, the basic layout of the rooms is the same as when it was an Embassy Suites. So all the rooms are suites, large for New York. But there also aren’t a ton of upgrades to be had, elites are usually just moved to a higher floor (which I’ve never especially understood as an ‘upgrade’ unless the higher floor comes with, say, and unobstructed ocean view).
I was also told that the hotel doesn’t especially like HHonors elites, or at least they show their love especially modestly at breakfast. When the hotel first opened, Golds and Diamonds got only coffee, tea, and bread for breakfast (the “Battery Park” on the menu).
Now elites are given a choice, they can replace the bread with a few other items like cereal.
Still, the hotel often seems fairly inexpensive, and it’s certainly inexpensive weekends when the area is in less demand. Certainly when it prices similarly to the Doubletree downtown it’s an incredible value – both because of the size of the rooms and because it’s a higher quality property. Of course the location needs to work for you.
Some may be shocked that I stayed somewhere in New York other than my beloved Andaz 5th Avenue, or needing to be in the Financial District then the Andaz Wall Street. But I’ve been wanting to check out this property since it opened, and I was attending an evening event at the hotel so it seemed a pretty good reason. Room rates were under $300, a redemption would have been 50,000 points, and cash and points were available for $150 and 25,000 points. Neither point option was an especially leveraged use of HHonors points, but I still opted (against my own better judgment, and not wanting to come out of pocket $299) for cash and points.
After a flight delay and a long ride into the city in traffic, I walked into the hotel around 5pm and headed up the escalator to checkin. On the way in a polite gentleman offered to assist me with my rollaboard but I declined.
As a former Embassy Suites it has an atrium lobby, they’ve spruced it up and put a striking piece of artwork in it to distinguish it as a more modern property.
After about 30 seconds someone at the front desk freed up and welcomed me. I gave him my last name and handed over my Hilton American Express Surpass card. He said, “We have your HHonors number on file. Let me see if I can find you an upgrade.”
After just a short while of typing he said he had something he thought I would like. I asked what it was, figuring it would be a higher floor (which wouldn’t impress me but wouldn’t disappoint me either. He said it was a corner suite. Interesting, I knew nothing about those.
He gave me an envelope with an internet code and a coupon for breakfast, asked me my morning newspaper preference, and directed me to the elevators beside the checkin desk.
I headed up to my seventh floor room and down the end of the hall to the suite, where I was immediately impressed.
There was a large living room/dining room. The dining table was round with four chairs, not large but functional. There was a wet bar area, and gigantic long L-shaped couch. The desk was beside the television.
Here’s the view from the living room:
The only thing that made me unhappy about the room was power. There were two free outlets near the dining table, but no outlets to be found near the desk. I searched and searched, and finally figured out I would have to move furniture if I wanted to plug in over there. That, in my book, is a huge oversight. At a minimum they should offer a lamp which offers an embedded outlet as I find at many hotels. I’m happy with just a single outlet, or at least I’ll settle for that since I bring my own compact power strip. But here I had to plug in at the dining table and use that as a desk.
There was a small bathroom off the dining room, and a gigantic master bathroom with dual sinks, walk-in shower, a separate toilet room, and a small tub. The bath amenities, stocked liberally throughout the bathrooms, were Aromatherapy Associates (which were the spa amenities at the Conrad Koh Samui, and the amenities I’ve had at several Marriott properties like SkyCity in Hong Kong and the Renaissance Newark).
The bedroom looked directly out at some other buildings, but you could see a break between the buildings over to the Hudson. There were two closets beside the television.
I quickly changed for my evening event, and then returned to the room around 10. I was surprised to find there hadn’t been turndown service. But there were two complimentary small bottles of water at the wet bar, so I was well set.
In the morning I showered early and went downstairs to breakfast. On my way out the Wall Street Journal was hanging on my door and I took it downstairs with me to the restaurant.
I had my breakfast coupon in hand so they knew to bring me the HHonors breakfast menu (along with the regular menu).
I would be fine with the limited options if they allowed you to ‘buy up’ or treat the breakfast coupon as a credit towards what you wish. But that’s not an option here.
I ordered the coffee (French press) and orange juice, and the breakfast pastries. I also ordered a side of breakfast potatoes for $6, and so my bill was $6++. The coffee was reasonably good, the orange juice wasn’t bad, and the breads were ok. The potatoes were excellent.
After breakfast it was time to head back to the airport. I brought my stuff down, popped by the desk to ask them to email a receipt to me, and I was on my way.
Ultimately I was very happy with this hotel, largely because of the unexpected upgrade to a corner suite. I didn’t have a chance to see the standard rooms. If I could be assured this upgrade I would stay here frequently, even though I feel like the breakfast is chintzy and inappropriate as a Diamond offering. It strikes me as appropriate perhaps as a Gold breakfast but the Diamond offering should really be differentiated. And in any case they really need to allow you to ‘buy up’ to something more substantial. If I were staying here more than a day I would probably just use the breakfast benefit as ‘free coffee and juice.’
And perhaps not even that, as there is a coffee stand beside the restaurant, I might get my coffee to go!