About six months ago Jonathan, the General Manager of the Andaz 5th Avenue, moved over to Hyatt corporate. His role was filled by the Director of Rooms from the Park Hyatt Washington DC. Most things remained the same, but a few things changed.
I haven’t been to New York much the past few months, or if I have it’s been for a specific purpose that’s had me staying at another hotel, it’s been for a flight connection, or it’s been a same-day in and out so no hotel stay needed. A far cry from a time not too long ago where I was here pretty much every week. So I haven’t stayed at the Andaz 5th Avenue in awhile, and I haven’t reported on things here in even longer – at least six months – since I realized I was over-covering the property (hah).
Diamond Free Room Service Breakfast Benefit
I had heard that the breakfast benefit had become more restrictive, but that turned out not to be the case. When I began staying at the Andaz the breakfast benefit was taken either in the restaurant or through unlimited room service. What was nice, even, about the room service was that no check was delivered to Diamonds, it wasn’t a matter of billing it to the room and having the bill removed at checkout. They just never brought one over in the first place.
Unfortunately they were being a bit too generous it seems. The Andaz Wall Street used to provide a $50 breakfast credit taken either through room service or in the restaurant, and the room service option was taken away. At one point the room service option was removed at the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle, though I’ve seen recent reports of Diamond members being offered to take their breakfast benefit via room service again (though theirs is also one of my favorite restaurant breakfasts).
The Andaz 5th Avenue didn’t get rid of room service, but they limited the benefit to $75. Certainly there were guests truly taking advantage, ordering everything on the menu. But they were by far the exception, and the food cost is actually quite low, my favorite lemon poppyseed pancakes represent about a dollar and a hlaf’s worth of ingredients. And there was something so undulgent, so classy, about the way they used to do breakfast. Still, $75 is more than reasonable. The quality of the food is good. And there’s just something wonderfully indulgent about quality room service breakfast that you don’t have to pay for.
Further, it seems on examining my bill that though they mention a $75 credit they actually removed $100 (room service isn’t cheap, and I did go a bit overboard in any case):
Free Non-alcoholic Beverages from the Minibar and Free Internet for All Guests
Of course the whole Andaz brand offers the other indulgence of minibar, something I otherwise only partake of at Intercontinental hotels because through Royal Ambassador status with them all of the beverages are free. At Andaz it’s all of the non-alcoholic beverages, plus the snacks (of which there are just a handful). Still, room service breakfast and minibar at no extra charge, plus internet free for all guests, are nice offsets to the room rate (which is at a reasonable price point for the area and the city in general).
Of course for the alcoholic side of things there’s also a free happy hour in ‘the Liberty’ off the main entrance in the evenings (where you can also find a refrigerator with bottled water, any time).
Confirmed Suite Upgrades
What has changed, though, is the room assigned for suite upgrades.
When the hotel first opened they really did upgrade diamonds to the best available non-suite [i]at checkin[/i], meaning whatever was available and clean at that moment. They didn’t do any pre-assignment. And that led to lots of frustrated Diamonds, because sometimes at the time of check-in that best room might be a tiny room on the second floor. So the system that they moved to is to pre-upgrade Diamonds 2 room categories when possible, but at least 1, so that they would be assigned the best room available in that category. That seemed to help.
But for confirmed upgrades — either with Diamond suite upgrade certificates, or redeemed by any member with points, they’ve changed the room category they assign.
Confirmed suite upgrades are now to a Splash Suite rather than the Andaz Suite, and that’s good and bad — much bigger room that most prefer, no balcony like many of the Andaz Large Suites have, but also far fewer of these suites so it’s much harder to confirm one.
I had stayed in one before on a one-night stay when i checked in late (not using a confirmed suite). I wanted to see whether the change was official so I confirmed a suite with points on my most recent stay, and it originally wasn’t available but the thing about Hyatt is they don’t ‘wait list’ the upgrade, often suites will open up closer to the stay when they aren’t initially available, and whomever is on top of it can get it by following up.
Funny thing, though, I actually prefer the ‘smaller’ suite — although that’s not quite correct, there are several different smaller suite. There’s the Andaz Suite and the Andaz Large Suite. Some suites have balconies and a few have quite large balconies (that have actual furniture rather than just being walk-outs). They’re a nice place to drink morning coffee and read the paper in the spring and fall.
The Splash Suite doesn’t have a balcony, but it has a huge couch (really, a double coach — about the length of two from the smaller suites) and a more comfortable side chair that’s wide enough, has bigger arm rests (I can rest the side of my laptop on an arm), and swivels. So that’s a plus.
And it also has a library view, which is nice but not especially important to me.
The hotel won’t confirm upgrades into anything but the Splash Suite apparently so if they don’t have one of these prized rooms you’re out of luck. I need to come back and not confirm an upgrade to see whether they’ll provide the lesser suites on arrival to Diamond members or not (they aren’t required to upgrade to suites, so it depends how they categorize these other rooms, though I used to be a regular enough guest here that I’d often get the upgrades without confirming them in advance anyway).
As a result of all this I’m torn on the new room category they upgrade to, though most will probably like it especially those who plan far in advance.
I don’t entirely understand why those chains that do upgrade their top tier members to suites don’t usually upgrade to anything but a standard suite. There are some hotels where that standard suite is just really impressive — the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur for instance and the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi — but often it’s just a double room. That’s the ‘policy’ at Starwood and Hyatt. But they can give out those suites when they wouldn’t otherwise be booked, why not offer the better suites on arrival to your best customers if they are sitting empty day-of?
The program where I’ve gotten the most impressive suites has been Intercontinental’s, because many hotels follow a ‘2 room category upgrade’ policy (whatever you book you get two room categories higher). That’s not the official terms and conditions, but in many places that’s the practice for how they upgrade Royal Ambassador members. Some hotels ‘cap’ how high a room you can get an upgrade to. Others don’t, so that’s how I wound up with a Diplomatic Suite at the Intercontinental Bangkok, Ambassador Suites at the Intercontinentals in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and the Presidential Suite a couple of times in Manila.
I suppose on the whole I have to applaud the better suite category now at the Andaz 5th Avenue, even if it means space for a confirmed upgrade here is no longer a gimme and also that I lose my balcony.
Minor nits about the hotel
Probably the two complaints I hear the most are that the bathroom lacks sufficient lighting — and really, it depends on the room, because in some rooms if you lave the curtains open you can get plenty of outside light into the bathroom and in others you cannot — and that the ‘blackout curtains’ don’t keep out enough light because there’s a good inch of space on either side that’s uncovered and light still comes into the room. Neither has really been an issue for me, I don’t really want to look that closely at myself anyway andI don’t need it to be pitch black to sleep just fine. But those issues are bothersome to some.
My ‘thing’ here is the lemon poppyseed pancakes at breakfast. They’re still quite good, but they were different on this stay — less custardy. I think they normally (or used to?) cook them on the stove top, but this time they rose more and didn’t darken nearly so much and I’m guessing were cooked in the oven instead.
Not Cheap – But Reasonable for Manhattan
Service is reasonably good, rooms are large, there’s included value-adds and with tons of suites below the Splash Suite level there’s good odds for Diamond members to get upgrades and the breakfast is great. All that makes it my favorite hotel in New York. The thing is though the room rates aren’t usually high enough for me to justify spending 22,000 points, it’s in the top Hyatt Gold Passport redemption category (six). I can sometimes get rooms there for a price starting with a 2. Usually I see the place in the 3s. Which isn’t crazy for a nice place in New York, though of course it’s not on part with the Plaza or Peninsula. It’s an overall good Manhattan value in what for many purposes is a good location. Though if you’re looking for the cheapest stays there are certainly other options to be had — via Priceline, Hotwire, some non-chain boutique properties, and (much-)lesser hotels redeemable through Wyndham Rewards. Fortunately I had been blessed by a ton of Hyatt gift cards redeemed through a Points.com Amtrak transfer glitch. And this property suits me.