Home Away From Home: A Review of the Park Hyatt New York30th September 2018
Sometimes you can turn a vacation disaster into an unexpected gift. A vacation that was supposed to take us to the Maldives ended up bringing us to the Big Apple. No, NYC isn’t the Maldives, but our four nights in the Park Hyatt brand’s global flagship property were fantastic.
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Both my wife and I had signed up for the previous version of Hyatt’s cobranded Visa card, while the sign-up bonus was still two free nights at any Hyatt property in the world after you spent $2,000 within the first three months. The current offer on The World Of Hyatt Credit Card is 40,000 points on a $3,000, three-month spend or 60,000 points on a $6,000, six-month spend — enough to book any Hyatt for two nights.
Our original plan was to redeem the four free nights we had at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, which is the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at. However, we ended up not being able to make it to the Maldives, so instead we invited my mother to visit us in New York at Hyatt’s global flagship hotel, the Park Hyatt on West 57th Street. But my mom also had to cancel. (And, no, Mom didn’t secretly swipe our room in the Maldives.)
Faced with four expiring free nights, our family of three wound up taking the subway a few stops uptown to use the room ourselves. Both sets of free nights were booked via phone, and we were lucky to get the Park Hyatt New York on short notice.
Housed in One57, the curvy blue 1,000-foot skyscraper on West 57th Street that’s nicknamed the “Billionaire Building,” the hotel was near the upper edge of Midtown, two short blocks south of Central Park. As a local, I find 57th downright hellish on a summer weekday, but if you adore luxury shopping, it’s paradise, with all the world’s top luxury brands within arm’s reach.
Midtown was built to accommodate quite a lot of people, but even more have been stuffed in than it can reasonably handle, so that densities during the day approached those of Asian cities. At night, however, when the stores closed and the workers went home, Midtown was spacious and even serene — a lovely place for a leisurely stroll. And Carnegie Hall, right across the street from the hotel, looked beautiful at night.
We visited Central Park several times. From the hotel, the Duck Pond was a 10-minute walk, and you could see the hotel from the park (the speckled blue one in the clouds, third from the right).
Times Square was 10 blocks downtown, and if you think real New Yorkers never go there, then meet us. Every so often you just need a megadose of light, noise and weirdly aggressive faux Disney characters.
The hotel had its own entrance on 57th Street, where we were greeted by a friendly doorman with a wide smile. The bellman accompanied us into the elevator to the lobby, one tall floor up, and directed us to the front desk.
Everything from the exterior to the entrance to the interior artwork bore a Modernist semi-minimalist aesthetic that, in general, I found slightly on the tacky side, though I liked the elevators.
Check-in was relatively smooth, despite the fact that we were substituting a three-person family for a single person. We had reserved a king room for my mother, requesting a high floor. We were put on the eighth floor, the lowest (rooms run up to the 23rd).
I had made another request too, for a room upgrade, based on our Discoverist status (the lowest tier) that came with our Chase Hyatt cards. That also wasn’t happening, no matter how I asked. The woman at the front desk offered to sell us a suite upgrade, then a rollaway for $75 a night. We were determined not to pay, however, for a bed in our hometown, where, after all, we normally sleep for nothing.
I asked if we weren’t supposed to be able to get a free upgrade depending on availability at check-in. The woman said they were very busy. But I’d already ascertained that they had rooms and taken screenshots. At least two of each type of suite were available for parties of three, all four nights we were staying here. I didn’t want to press my luck, though — not yet.
After this relatively bureaucratic initial encounter, the front desk was beyond helpful. Both the front desk and the concierge desk made a point of greeting us nearly every time we passed. Which was often, because they were right by the elevators.
Walking into the entryway of the room, the first thing we saw was a fancy decorative metal divider and, beneath it, a modern take on an old-fashioned steamer trunk.
The steamer trunk turned out to be a cabinet that cracked open to reveal a safe and magazines. The safe didn’t work, and we never bothered having it fixed.
Our room (a king with handcapped-accessible shower) was 525 square feet, huge for an NYC hotel room. Some of the ADA rooms go up to 825 square feet.
When we entered, the TV read, “Welcome, Lila.” That’s my mom. (Hi, Mom!)
The minibar occupied a whole corner of the room, a large cabinet that opened onto racks of chips, square jars of nuts and bottles of wine even outside the fridge. Snacks and more wine and beer were in the fridge.
Prices of minibar items were prohibitive: A small jar of 22 gummy bears would set you back $18. These are gummy bears, people. They should’ve been about the cost of landfill. A Sprite was $8, and an Amstel Light was $12. There was a full-service 24/7 Morton Williams supermarket with normal supermarket prices directly across the handy crosswalk halfway down the block. So if you wanted, say, a six-pack of Amstel Light or enough Sprite to put out a good-sized fire for the same price as a single from your minibar, the supermarket would accommodate you.
That corner of the room also contained a Nespresso machine and enough complimentary pods and real half-and-half to get me up in the morning. Espresso on demand may now be common in luxury hotels, but I always deeply appreciate it.
Towels were large and luxuriously piled. The bathrobes, however, were a peculiarly scratchy waffle-weave of terrycloth and had seen better days.
The room also contained a dedicated tablet with the New York Times and a Bang & Olufsen Play Bluetooth speaker, about the size of a volleyball, that produced decent sound. And two magnificent Asian pears.
Some people complain about the beds being too hard, but we found them very comfortable indeed.
All except the fluffy down comforter. In August. (Why, oh why has it become standard for hotels — from Premier Inns to Park Hyatts — to offer only down comforters year-round? They’re perfect during the winter, but this most emphatically was not — it was just under 90 degrees every day.)
As you see, I’ve foregrounded the Asian pears.
Anyway, the down comforter was why, soon after we arrived, we ordered a conventional blanket. We also requested another bathrobe, bath gel, a loofah, herbal tea, more Nescafe pods and bath salts, and then apologized for making such an exhaustive order. Everything came promptly except the coffee and bath salts.
It turned out that it was never a problem to get as many coffee pods as we wanted during our stay, and though I’m a caffeine addict, I never had to resort to external caffeine during our stay.
Closets were spacious enough. Below is the smaller of the two.
The room was light-tight — well, except for one questionable welcome-to-the-future luxury feature, a motion-sensitive night light under the bathroom sinks that brightened the whole place if you so much as set foot on the floor. Despite that, I’d classify the Park Hyatt as good for sleeping in, and the housekeeping staff was very quiet.
Our view from the eighth floor was a much lower angle than the view from the gym on the 25th floor. You had to tilt up pretty sharply in this neighborhood to see sky.
The housekeepers were uniformly excellent, and special kudos go to the turndown staff, a team of friendly women who replenished our supplies of water, coffee and towels.
The room also contained weird lights that turned off when they shouldn’t have. The lights in the main room were on a short timer (maybe 15 minutes) that turned them off when, say, I was relatively motionless while working on a hotel review on a laptop.
Moving to the spacious bathroom, the first thing I must mention is the in-mirror TV. In-mirror TV answers a need nobody realized they had. It gives you just what you always wanted to see — your own face sprawling like that of a translucent god across a video landscape you apparently created.
The in-mirror TV, about 12 or 13 inches, had its own separate tuner, so the audio wasn’t synced to the TV in the main room. The only real way to use it was while you spent a long time putting on your makeup. You’d have to be Reed Richards to screw your neck around to watch the TV from the tub.
The tub, by the way, was great — long and deep and the highlight of the bathroom. We all enjoyed it, especially with the Le Labo bath salts.
The bathroom offered a full spate of amenities, with hand soap, shower gel, conditioner and lotion by Le Labo. Fresh Peruvian lilies on the double sink were a nice touch.
The attractive rainfall shower head was recessed into the shower’s ceiling. Ours was an ADA shower, thus probably much larger than average.
After cramming three people into a king bed for two nights, I decided I would make a hard push with the front desk for an upgrade. Just as before, we were offered a suite upgrade for $100. Most might consider that a good deal, because the suites ordinarily retail for at least $300 more than the rooms (on zero days’ notice, suites went for a cool $1,845 per night), but as local folk, we decided not to indulge.
Since we still weren’t getting anywhere new, I asked to speak with the manager. I explained that I had just run a check for suites, and though I realized suites were a two-step upgrade from our room, Hotels.com showed at least five suites available for the next two days. Couldn’t the hotel at least comp us a rollaway bed? They could and did.
Food and Beverage
The hotel restaurant featured a definitive view of Carnegie Hall. Mixed drinks were bold and strong.
The $700 Central Park Breakfast, which included caviar and 2004 Dom Perignon, was great — I mean, I’m sure it was great for those who could afford it and couldn’t think of a better use of $700. Actually, we didn’t try the food, except for the nut bowl at the bar. Unlike the $700 breakfast or the trio of pastries for $18 (just croissants), dinner entrees were not too unreasonable.
The pool on the 25th floor was probably the hotel’s most famous feature, next to a wall of window, with a fancy modern sculpture above that gave off a faint glow.
In person, the pool was deceptively smallish — 61 feet in length and about 12 feet in width. It was only about 4 feet deep throughout. The room it was in was aswim with vaguely Asian New Age mood music, the kind of content that’s probably been proven to tranquilize unruly children. Which may be precisely what you need here, because when we first tried the pool at about 5:00pm, it contained seven kids and three adults doing laps, enough to make it feel relatively crowded.
When we returned to the pool at 8:00pm, an hour before closing, it was still relatively busy with six people. There were also quite a few guests just lounging on chaises — so many that when we got there, there was only one spare chaise lounge in the place out of maybe 30. The ones that looked unoccupied were claimed, a hotel worker told me.
The sauna was a steamy one. I couldn’t see anything other than that it was pretty crowded on our first visit. At other times there were plenty of seats.
We enjoyed the whirlpool, a large one, about 11 square feet, about a third of which was consumed by an oddly sloping shelf. The jets were a bit tamer than I prefer, but adequate. The water was set at 101 degrees.
Like the pool, the whirlpool was usually busy, with four other people besides we three when we first arrived — and anywhere up to 11 people (boiled sardines) on subsequent visits. Our first time there, one kid cannonballed in. And then his brother pushed him into the main pool. Of course, such behavior is not supposed to be allowed. But it was tolerated that day by the lifeguard.
On another day, the same brothers got themselves summarily kicked out of the pool for similar horseplay by another, more vigilant lifeguard. We learned then that at least some of the lifeguards were temps sent by an agency that serves only hotel pools. The pool-sauna-whirlpool complex opened very early in the morning and closed at 9:00pm sharp.
The men’s and women’s locker rooms were rather luxurious, with all you could need, including grooming supplies, towels, robes, slippers and a centrifuge for drying swimsuits.
Both men’s and women’s locker rooms offered another unusual luxury touch, a nine-jet shower. The locker rooms were fairly crowded, serving both the pool and the gym, which was up a short flight of stairs.
The gym was huge and loaded with equipment. As in the rooms, there were complimentary Asian pears on offer (cosmetically inferior but tastier than the prettier ones in the rooms), along with adequate in-ear headphones. It was open 24 hours and rarely busy.
The gym had a superb view of a slice of Central Park sandwiched between the JW Marriott Essex House hotel and Hampshire House.
There was no real business center, just a couple of computers in the small lobby beside the front desk. If you wanted to print out a document, you emailed it to the front desk. When we did it, we expected to pick up the document later, but they brought it up to the room.
There was a complimentary house car available on a first-come, first-served basis for short jaunts — and I mean short, limited to about a 10-block radius (you could get them to stretch just a bit beyond). You had to be downstairs at the bell desk to check with the doorman — they didn’t accept reservations or phone inquiries. The drivers were quite friendly. We took the car twice, both times into Central Park. The second time, we got a nice new Mercedes S550.
Speaking of the bell desk, they also had a computer and could flag taxis and give rudimentary directions. The first night I asked them the address of the Japanese market Dainobu on West 56th Street.
“Nobu?” the woman asked me.
“No, Dainobu on 56th Street. D-A-I-N-O-B-U.”
The other bellperson stepped helpfully into the conversation. “Did you want Nobu?”
I haven’t yet mentioned the spa, Nalai, where we dropped in a few times for the excellent view (like the pool, it was on the 25th floor), tea, dried pineapple and blanched almonds. They were quite welcoming. Spa sessions were crazy expensive — both massages and facials could cost as much as $495. A couple of these and you’d save money flying to Southeast Asia to get your massages!
Finally, there was a tiny patio round the back of the bell desk that I’m sure doesn’t get many customers.
On the eve of our departure, I asked for a late checkout, which was granted. The front desk even said we could check our luggage and then use the entire facility for the rest of the day. So that was how we got a final day at the pool and turned a four-night visit into a five-day stay.
New York is a notoriously expensive hotel town. You normally pay a lot for a little bit of space. The Park Hyatt New York, while not feeling quite like a super-luxury hotel, offers spacious rooms by local standards and excellent service by any standard, as well as nice (if sometimes slightly peculiar) amenities.
If you like Midtown or Central Park or just want a central location, the Park Hyatt is beautifully situated, and, for visitors headed to New York, a very cost-effective use of 30,000 Hyatt points (rooms cost a minimum of $595 per night, and inferior Hyatt properties in NYC charging as little as $160 per night still ask for 25,000 points per night). We enjoyed our temporary home-not-so-far-away-from-home on 57th Street!
All images by the author.