- Introduction and Trip Planning
- Etihad Lounge, Washington Dulles
- Etihad First Class, Washington Dulles – Abu Dhabi
- Etihad Business Class Lounge, Abu Dhabi Terminal 1, and Abu Dhabi – Chennai Business Class
A Park Hyatt representative was waiting outside of baggage claim. I walked up and he immediately rang to summon our (complimentary) car to the hotel. The car itself was an interesting experience — the back of the vehicle had tons of room, and was cut off completely from the driver. You could push a button to speak to the driver, though. And since you couldn’t see out the front of the car, there was a large video screen displaying the view from a camera.
The drive to the hotel was only about 15 minutes. I was thoroughly exhausted at this point, after the flight from the States, and I wanted nothing more than to get up to the room without any hassles. Fortunately the hotel was expecting me, as I was arriving via hotel car, and an employee met me in the lobby and took me straight upstairs for in-room check-in.
I had confirmed a suite off of my cheap rate at time of booking. That meant I was confirmed into a ‘Park Suite’ but I was informed on the way up to the room that ‘as a Diamond’ I was further upgraded to a Park Executive Suite. I suspect it wasn’t ‘because I was a Diamond.’ Instead I had emailed the hotel ahead, when confirming the car, asking if a further upgrade if available might be possible. And the hotel wasn’t looking very full at all. (That changed the next day, when I understand they picked up about 70 rooms due to a diverted British Airways flight.)
The executive suite isn’t really larger than the standard suite, but on first impression it was gorgeous. There’s an oval-shaped living room with panoramic views of the city, and really stylish lighting and furniture.
There’s a separate bedroom and a very large bathroom with open shower, a tub, dual sinks, and a toilet room.
If I thought the room was lacking anything, it was a separate half bath off the living room (considering this was an upgraded suite) and the existence of power outlets of any kind anywhere near the desk. I wound up having to recharge devices on the other side of the living room near the coffee maker.
There were cookies and nuts in the room, complimentary, perhaps as a suite amenity or perhaps as a Diamond gift. They were replaced the second day of the stay but not again.
The check-in process was quick, mostly because I pushed it as quickly as possible. They sent someone off to copy my passport, and didn’t take a credit card from me. I didn’t want a tour of the room. I just wanted to sleep. The only thing I asked, there were six bottles of water in the room (four by the coffee machine, two in the bathroom) and I wanted more. They’ll bring you as many as you wanted complimentary, and they quickly learned that I drink a lot of water and mostly I want to have some handy and not have to call to ask for it when I’m out. The one piece of helpful information I was given was that as a Diamond I could take breakfast in the restaurant (as there’s no club lounge) or via room service. I wasn’t given any sort of dollar limit — just told that breakfast would be removed from the bill, and it was.
The hotel, being in Chennai, occasionally loses power. And by occasionally I mean somewhere between every other day and twice a day. When that happens you just wait a few seconds and the hotel’s in-house generators kick in. There’s even a sign in the elevator telling you this is normal. I never lost power in the elevator, but I did while in the shower and the bathroom went pitch black but fortunately I had read to expect this. The power outage never did last even 30 seconds at a time.
Food at the hotel is really reasonable, considering it’s a Park Hyatt, and of course having complimentary breakfast doesn’t hurt either. I sampled the restaurant buffet breakfast on only one occasion, there’s both a buffet and the option to order off of a menu (included). I didn’t repeat that though because the one area that the hotel really fell down was in service in the restaurant at breakfast. Wait staff simply didn’t deliver on requests, come back to check on you, deliver the right items, etc.
There is a nice outdoor seating area, though.
The spa is also both quite good and remarkably reasonable for a hotel offering — on average ~ US$40 per treatment hour. It’s a large spa, many treatment rooms, and a full locker room, waiting room, and steam room (separate on each side of the spa for men and women of course). There aren’t any double treatment rooms for couples, or at least weren’t while I was there, I was told that there had been but it was converted to a guest room.
Here’s the gym, just off the spa.
The hotel has a rooftop pool, one floor above the spa and gym. You had to take an elevator up to the 8th floor, and then a different elevator up to the roof. It was a gorgeous infinity pool, was never busy, but the fascinating thing was that 9 stories up you could hear all of the street noise. It wasn’t a peaceful area because there were honking horns at all hours of the day. Service at the pool was good, staff were quite responsive setting up chairs and bringing out bottles of water.
Across the board I thought the staff was excellent. In fact it surprised me how good overall the hotel was when they advertise room rates ~ US$99++, since even in Southern India it would seem difficult to support a really high standard at that room rate (and even with labor being inexpensive). The most impressive was an assistant duty, Arun, who let me know that the guide I had had them arrange for me had called in sick and wasn’t going to be available so he was going to take me around himself. But I’ll get to that in the next section of the report with my impressions of Chennai and some of the local food outside the hotel.
I did ultimately tire of local food, though. My boss recently said that we shouldn’t tire of a given cuisine, locals eat it every single day and usually with far less variety than we have access to. Only that doesn’t seem quite right to me, if you’ve become used to doing that over years that’s surely true but eating a cuisine you aren’t regularly used to will feel strange physically after awhile. Southern Indian is more heavily vegetarian than in the North. After four days I didn’t want to see any more fried bread. In fact by the time I hit Abu Dhabi on the way back all I wanted was a steak.
Still, I could eat the food here over and over and consider myself very lucky.
I can’t imagine there’s a better value anywhere than being a Hyatt Diamond, using a confirmed suite upgrade, getting free room service breakfast and free internet, and paying the least expensive rate. Of course that’s only if Chennai interests you. I don’t think I’d want to live there.
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