I took my wife and daughter to Aruba for a surprise birthday trip. We tried the Holiday Inn Aruba Resort and the Hyatt Regency Resort Aruba and were surprised by the results.
Usually, Hyatts Are Great
I have made no bones about it, I love Hyatt as a brand. I am also a fan of Apple products in the same regard, and in most instances will look past an inconvenience to see a personal benefit. This property is not a loser, in fact, if you spend time mostly at Hyatt Place and Hyatt Regency properties throughout the United States, the property is a dream come true. But my problem with the property is that it’s priced higher than hotels giving similar amenities and features, and for points, the property is a staggering Level 6 and the service is also apathetic. To give you an idea about how overpriced in terms of value this property is, in order to stay there for just one night you would need to spend $5,000 with the chain to accrue enough points (without any bonuses of course).
Before I review the property I want to forewarn you, it’s nitpicking. However, this is a question of value. For example, if I am paying $3,000 for American’s soon-to-be-retired angled flat middle business class seat for a 14-hour flight to Shanghai and the next week it converts to an all-aisle access, a fully-flat product with no middle seat at all for the same price, I would feel ripped off. That doesn’t mean it’s the same as coach, but it also doesn’t mean that I feel I got a fair price for what I booked, and that is where this review begins.
Level 6 hotels in the Hyatt system are an elite group. So elite in fact that until last year, it was the highest level in the system, there was no level 7. This year there is a level 7 where free nights start at 30,000 points for a standard room, and points plus cash are available for 15,000 points and $300.
Out of nearly 600 hotels in Hyatt chain, there are just seven Level 7 hotels, among them are the Park Hyatt Tokyo (as seen in the movie, Lost in Translation) and the Park Hyatt Hadahaa – a $1,000/night property in the Maldives on it’s own private island. We stayed in the Park Hyatt Beijing recently in a suite with our own Butler where every hotel employee we encountered knew us by name, and that was a Level 5 property.
While we were on points plus cash at a rate of $150/night plus 12,500 points that does not include the eco charge of $3+ per night (a fee that we did not pay at the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba) and the “Resort Fee” of $18. Resort fees are like the “Fuel Surcharge” of the hotel world. Many believe they should be included in the rate or removed, and while it’s not a million dollars, it’s a total profit center for the hotel chain that gets around standardized rates. Hotel chains allow it, we continue to pay it, but it’s bush-league.
I am a Diamond member and while we did not use a Diamond Suite upgrade (DIAX), we were placed in an ocean front room with large balcony, a pleasant surprise but not distinctly different from the Holiday Inn two properties down and available for 1/3rd the cost. The Sunset suite (aptly named) was the perfect place to watch the sun dip into the water at the end of the day from the balcony, six floors above the sand of the beach. Julian, their rooms manager clarified that this was not the suite we would have gotten had we used a DIAX, those are family suites with separate rooms for living and sleeping. I got the impression that those had more of a resort view than an ocean view. There were also a couple of very large suites on floors 8 and 9, but I was unable to view them during my stay.
The design of the “studio suite” was big and there was plenty of room for our small family of three. There was a long hallway to the main part of the room, with the bathroom passing on the right. There were some nice touches in the bathroom, like a separate water closet for the toilet where the door could be shut for privacy but still allow someone else to use the bathroom at the same time. There was also a large shower that was not over a tub, which is my biggest pet peeve. One missed opportunity was the single vanity. There was really no reason for there not to be a double vanity as there is a ton of space and just towels stored underneath the far side of the counter where a sink could be installed. It just didn’t make sense that there wasn’t one.
The bed was to the immediate right and normal for any Hyatt Regency property, no better and no worse, plenty comfortable. There was also a convenient nightstand at each side of the bed with easy access to plugs for charging.
Continuing on the right side of the room was a couch immediately next to the bed which had a small coffee table and the couch was a pull out wide enough for two. There was an out of place window and shade behind the couch, next to the bed which did offer some light and a view to the other side of the beach, but it was so small it wasn’t noticeable until our second day, and when we did notice it we kept commenting on how odd it was. I could see how seeing the rest of the bay would have been a nice touch, but it was up high, and small – a good idea poorly executed.
The balcony was extensive and you could see over a mile in either direction down the coast. There wasn’t much in the way of table and chairs, and with everything else, about this property, for a top rate cost (at least in the form of points), I would have expected something more than wicker chairs. You don’t have to install a hammock (though that would be cheap, easy and unique) but a chaise lounge type outdoor furniture piece would have made it more comfortable out there for reading or working or even just finishing a phone call.
Back inside on the left side of the room from the entrance, there is a mini bar to the immediate left. I saw mini bar and not mini fridge because it was full to the brim with booze and drinks. I opened the door to have a peek and bottles of water fell out on to the floor. While I am sure a lot of their clientele uses the mini bar, it seems like a common courtesy to me to leave a slight amount of space where guests can put in something of their own without taking out an item they will need to remember to put back. In our case, it was a single bottle of milk for our baby, then later a single bottle of water. Each time was a process and made it very inconvenient. Again, not a big deal, but it’s not thinking with the guest in mind, it’s thinking with the hotel in mind and that’s not guest friendly. It wouldn’t happen at a Park property.
On the back wall, there is a large mounted TV, at least 40” with lots of American channels and a few Caribbean ones. Oddly our TV was tilted when we arrived and though the room was serviced four times before we left it was never adjusted. I wondered why this was and brought it to the attention of the rooms director Julian. I realized that there is a lamp that gets larger from the base to the top and sits on the edge of the dresser. The TV was angled to not interfere with the lamp that we, of course, did not turn on once, though we watched the TV several times (the NBA playoffs were on several evenings of our trip). We did not feel comfortable trying to adjust the TV angle because if it had been improperly set and came loose when we tried to adjust it we could have dropped and broken it. The fact that it was cock-eyed in the first place and then passed up by staff on at least four visits was not really a HUGE issue, but it demonstrates a lack of care for details, and that is what extended throughout the property.
One key missing element in the room was a working desk, there was space, just no desk. While very few come to Aruba to work, that doesn’t mean that no work needs to be done. I am a busy professional with a day job that requires me to be available 24/7 even on holiday, and I am sure I am not alone. I am also in a master’s program, and I write for UPGRD, I have a lot of needs for a desk. What about children who need to do some schoolwork before returning back from vacation? There are plenty of reasons you can easily come up with for a need for a desk, there are very few reasons to have a three-pronged floor lamp that illuminates a dead part of the room and no one can turn on.
Lastly, there was a table between the partition and coffee table. Maybe this is supposed to serve a dual purpose for both meals and any work that needed to take place, but in the middle of the room, it’s just awkward to do any work there.
It Gets Better
While I cover the aspects that I did not love here, I will make this a compliment sandwich and discuss some of the finer portions of our stay in the next post. It might not have been as bad as I made it out to be (yes it is).