Grand Hyatt New York: Excellent Renovation, Great Club Lounge, Way Too Busy to Get the Little Things Right

My favorite hotel in New York, and my favorite big city hotel in the United States, is the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York. My love of breakfast there is something readers of this blog know well, I’m told by two different people that it even became a subject of a journalist’s interview with a Hyatt Vice President.

Hyatt has several good options in New York, I’ve stayed several times at the Andaz Wall Street which is a good hotel, with a confusing breakfast benefit, and a very different location. If I need to be down in the financial district I never hesitate to stay there.

I’m less a fan of the Hyatt 48 Lex but they’ve improved the breakfast benefit for Diamonds since I stayed there (now allowing a dollar credit in the restaurant rather than limiting folks to the single least expensive item on the menu). And it’s a great value on points as a Gold Passport category 4 property — 15,000 points per night instead of the 22,000 that the other Hyatt properties in the city charge, and also eligible to use the free night that comes with the Hyatt Visa each year upon card renewal.

To round out my Hyatt New York City sampler, though, I stayed at the Grand Hyatt the other day near Grand Central Terminal. Everything in the city was pricing especially high. The 5th Avenue Andaz only had a two-bedroom suite available at over $3000. And I was inclined to re-visit the Grand Hyatt, I hadn’t stayed there since they re-opened a year or so ago after an extensive renovation.

Ten years (and two renovations) ago, it was possible to get the hotel on Priceline for $75 much of the time. It was a fairly run down property, but a great value for the city. Half a dozen years ago it was also a go-to that I sent many folks to because you could buy Hyatt Gift Certificates to secure the property at $165 per night all-in, I once had family stay there when they needed 22 room nights — the prevailing rate at the time was ranging from $469 – $519 plus, the gift certificate method represented monumental savings.

I hadn’t stayed there myself since that time period, I didn’t have an especially good stay — very noisy neighbors in the room next door, and walls that seemed to transmit every sound. For the life of me I cannot remember for certain, but I suspect I must have had a connecting room. The club lounge at the time was a bit of a dreary affair. I remember the lounge staff getting in line for the evening buffet themselves, and trying to check out in the lounge I had to wait 20 minutes while the staff member finished up a personal phone call before she was willing to acknowledge me.

That’s not really anything against the Grand Hyatt per se, at most hotels outside of the truly top rung I shrug my shoulders and say “that’s New York” (I can say that having grown up there). It’s also why I adore the Andaz 5th Avenue so much, since I’ve never gotten that sort of indifference and at a better price point than I usually have to pay to avoid it.

I was up in New York for two nights, I only spent one night at this property both because the second night would have been more expensive but also because I was a bit apprehensive about it. I’ll share details on the hotel I stayed in subsequent to this one in an upcoming post.

I checked into the hotel at 1pm. It’s a big, busy property, long line to check in. Fortunately there’s a club checkin in a separate room to the left of the main checkin desks, past the concierge. It was empty, and I was able to be helped immediately (though it was unstaffed the next day, as I’ll get to later.)

The agent in the club check-in let me know that they had blocked a corner deluxe room for me, but that it wasn’t ready yet, so I took a standard king room instead. It was only one night, so I wasn’t concerned about the amount of space the room had to offer.

In fact, while it’s a small room, its design gives it a more spacious feel, and they make a good use of space with the furniture. The only thing strange about it was just how large the closet was off the entryway relative to the rest of the room, it was almost as big as the bathroom.

At this point I was fairly happy with the hotel, I was really liking what they’ve done with the renovation. I was going to be perfectly happy with the room. Although I wasn’t thrilled with housekeeping when I saw all of the fingerprint smudges still on the light switch panel.

I ordered a bit of room service, a burger is $26 and a cobb salad is $27. There’s a $5 tray charge and 18% service charge on top of tax. When ordering I asked for gruyere cheese on the burger, since it was listed as an option in the menu, but was told they don’t offer gruyere so I opted for swiss. I asked about bacon, not listed in the menu, and was told “the burger comes with that.” Great! Except the burger I received didn’t have any bacon on it. I asked if they could do the fries crispy, they came undercooked. And the cobb salad came without blue cheese or tomatoes. The salad was supposed to come with a vinaigrette but came with a tasteless ranch instead. Disappointing, but it was food and I was hungry. I called to have everything picked up when done with the meal, placed the cart outside the room, but it was still outside door nearly 3 hours later.

The highlight of the hotel’s renovation is the club lounge, it’s probably the second best lounge space of any major hotel chain property in the United States, behind the Westin Diplomat whose lounge has indoor and outdoor seating and a deck that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other.

The evening spread was quite modest and cocktails are at a charge.

In addition to what’s pictured above there was cheese and crackers available as well.

The morning breakfast selection was richer, and included smoked salmon, cereals, and yogurt.

I had been given 4pm late checkout as a Diamond, which was really convenient since I was switching hotels and wouldn’t have any issue with being able to checkin to the next property when I left the Grand Hyatt. Unfortunately my keys weren’t programmed for it, so I had to make an extra trip down to the front desk. I walked into Diamond/Club checkin but there was another guest waiting and no one came to help for 5 or 10 minutes, so I got in line in the regular check-in area, where they gave me new keys and promised to email me a folio (which didn’t arrive, but that I printed out of the website when the stay posted to my Gold Passport account).

Ultimately I thought that the renovation of the property was excellent, they’ve made great strides in updating it and now offer an outstanding club lounge space as well. Even though it’s the only Hyatt in the city with a club, though, I’d still pick any of the other three properties over this one. The service leaves a bit to be desired. And given my own personal predilections I simply prefer a property that’s much less busy. Given the size of this one, and its location, it will likely remain in the number four position for me amongst the current Hyatt offerings.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Which NYC Hyatt would you pick if you were two adults and two kids travelling w/o status? My wife, her sister, my daughter & niece (age 7&5) are planning a girls weekend in the spring (Times Square, Broadway, etc) and I am going to burn a night or two from the hyatt card for their accommodations. I did flip through the reservations one evening and I was discouraged by the lack of double bed rooms. I could burn both nights and go for adjoining rooms, but that isn’t great value.

  2. @Dave I can’t speak to double beds, I haven’t ever looked at that. And I am hardly an expert on travel with children. But I would think the Andaz properties would appeal because of free wifi, non-alcoholic beverages in the minibar, and a handful of free snacks. They’re also nicer. I’d go with 5th Avenue, but again I’m not a travel with children kinda guy..

  3. Dave, last time I checked Grand Hyatt was the best Hyatt option in NYC if you want double beds. They are extremely scarce or non-existent at many other NYC Hyatt properties.

  4. Amazingly, some will insist that the lack of what they deem a blackout curtain renders Andaz 5th an inferior property…

  5. Thanks Dave. Good story. I’m not a big fan of GH NY neither. I 100% agree with you on Andaz 5th ave being yr #1 NY hotel. The location, intimate atmosphere, modern rooms, and OMG breakfast benefit for Diamonds is THE BEST. My fav Hyatt properties in the US however remain Andaz W Hollywood and Grand Cypress in Orlando. Top Notch!!

  6. We talk about FC travel, we talk about great hotels and we talk about gourmet meals; and then we come down to a burger?

  7. @Ram, Gary has mentioned in the past that he does travel like a normal Joe Shmoe, it’s just that he most of the time just blogs about the good stuff.

  8. Great photos and a kind flattering trip report in many regards
    However I would like to add I have issues with the hotel as do apparently many others
    • The hotel hallways except for the Regency Club floors and select others haven’t been truly updated in 20 years besides some light up plastic signs. It still feels tired and dated as you walk to rooms on select floors
    • The elevators are horrible small and cramped with extensive waits during crowded periods with poor ventilation
    • The Regency Club breakfast IMHO is inferior to what they once served as are the evening offerings which could at present even be considered stingy by Hyatt’s own global standard (covered on Flyertalk and other social media sites
    • Why should the Hyatt Century Plaza and a number of other Hyatt’s serve a better breakfast with more extensive options than the Grand Hyatt New York City?
    • Many rooms and suites though had updates have numerous defects Including electrical and housekeeping issues as have been reported by a number of other reviewers
    • The renovations did nothing to address the microscopic bathrooms in many rooms and suites
    • The check in agents and front office management are wonderful but I ran into a number of folks who are surly and not interested in the guest experience from select doormen & Regency Club staff
    • The hotel at 22,000 points per night is overvalued when comparing other Hyatt Rewards for Andaz properties and the pricing for revenue doesn’t justify the end product
    • So yes the public areas look great albeit crowded with long lines frequently
    • The rooms have certainly been improved as has the revitalized and attractive more spacious Regency Club
    • Good location of the hotel remains a plus
    • Room service suffers from a lack of attention and execution details and it extends to the Regency Club and the on property restaurant.

    I have decades of good memories at this hotel but as the city has brought ardent new competitors with exceedingly better product and value. I’m afraid the Grand Hyatt falls fast on the list of my personal go to properties in New York City. Except as you state by default when looking at other more preferred properties even other Hyatt’s in NYC
    That wasn’t the case in the past by any means when it was my number one choice for many years despite ongoing issues back then. Except for one important fact the hotel was an excellent value using stay certificates (Premier now higher category),points(formerly 15k now 22k ) or revenue.
    Let the buyer beware there are much better choices in the city of New York even within the Hyatt Family of Hotels. At the end of the day it will never matter what we say demand drives bodies into the hotel as does the Hyatt name. The hotel would still fill if they took the beds out and put sleeping bags in the rooms calling it a 5 star Grand Hyatt New York Youth Hostel
    And they would still fleece guests for every last cent
    from their $60.00 dollar a day parking to the 70.00 dollar a day suv charge with no in and out Privileges
    Do I talk about your almost 40 dollar room service hamburger patty with undercooked fries and missing order requests?
    I’d stay here in a pinch only.
    Without substantial Gold Pasport promotions very little chance unless its under 200 dollars which typically does happen in January through March if it happens at all
    Cheers

  9. @Dave – just stayed at the 48Lex this past weekend with my wife and son on points. I was able to get a rollaway bed (supposedly a $20/night charge, but wasn’t billed for it), but the room was tight. As a diamond, the $50 per day credit for breakfast was nice as it can be used in the restaurant anytime during the day. Internet is also free.

    The Grand has always been my go to in NYC because of the stellar service I have always received. The last 3 times I have stayed, they have upgraded me to a full entertainment suite even though I was staying on points. YMMV as I have been a Diamond since 2006 and average @ 125 nights per year in paid stays.

    @ Gary – I am going to try the Andaz 5th in Nov based on your suggestion. It sounds like it will be a nice change of pace.

  10. Thx Gary, MP and Chris. I was seeing the most availability at the Grand. We’ll see how we do once they pick dates.

  11. I have to wonder about all hotels’ choices when offering breakfast as a ‘Benefit’ than getting cheap about it. Considering the volumes that most places do, the cost of a real breakfast vs. the least cost item or a contential option is next to nothing. Those buying “Club” rooms, with points or cash are already up-charged a substantial fee. IMO, the “Club” room should not been seen as a substitute for dinner, but breakfast is a low-cost meal and a good one is worth its weight in gold. When they offer it as a benefit, but then get cheap with the offerings, perhaps stale pastry and coffee, the word spreads faster than thin jam. At those inflated “Club” rates, a bad breakfast is going to hurt them.

  12. I agree that the Grand is not as impressive a property as 48 Lex or either of the Andaz properties. I’d say this is a property I’d choose over most of the Starwood properties in the city, depending on rate.

  13. I do like LPM. But, I’ve had some of the same noise issues with adjoining rooms at LPM that you had at the Grand. So, I guess if you could guarantee me a Jr Suite (not connecting), that would probably be my pick too. But my upgrade % at LPM has decreased more recently. I used to get a Jr Suite every time. How has your experience been lately?

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