Park Hyatt Canberra ‘How was your stay?’ – do you tell the truth?
Last weekend I stayed at the Park Hyatt Canberra. It’s a hotel I have stayed in roughly once a year since it re-opened as the Hyatt Hotel Canberra in the bi-centennial year of 1988. It used to be the only 5-star hotel in Canberra, not anymore – but it can still be the cheapest depending on whether it is a parliamentary sitting week or not.
It looks like it had a refurb probably more than five years ago, and could probably do with a bit more of a refresh soon. As far as the Park Hyatt brand is concerned, it is unfortunately currently at the crappy end. Memory can play tricks, but mine is that the lobby carpet was extremely rich, probably wool, luxe, deep and deco. The current carpet looks like a Chinese short pile digitally designed machine woven discount store knock-off.
On the positive side, the rooms still have great faux deco bathrooms in green marble, and they have switched up their bath products to Appelles – which I had not heard of, but which are good, and smell wonderful. Park Hyatt’s used to have Aesop toiletries, or was it those hideous June Jacobs?
There are a few things I regard as bad omens when you first arrive at a hotel.
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#1 No Bellman/Bell captain
Although this can just mean things are busy, in my experience, it’s often a sign of bad organisation, or inadequate staffing – both not good signs of a well-run hotel.
You may think me ageist – but in my experience when there is a mature person acting as bell captain – and it’s usually a man, then that’s a good sign. For example, I think the bell captain at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne has been there for at least the last 20 years I have been staying there. His service is always immaculate, and I always give a good tip, even if he just whistles up the next cab in the line.
Distinctive bellman – image from the Canberra Hyatt website
No bellman in evidence – at all – on our arrival. They are usually a noticeable signature in their plus-four knickerbockers and argyle knit jumpers, so we had to schlepp our bags up the steps into the foyer. Hyatt has recently introduced technology that allows you to check in online prior to your arrival. No bellman is a bit of a boulder on that road.
#2 No Turndown service when we specifically requested it
We were in Canberra for a party, so we spent our day at the National Gallery, then had a nap before changing for our evening engagement. One of the things I value most about 5-star hotels is turndown service.
I love coming back to a room after a day of activity to find it refreshed, with fresh towels, bed tidied, water by the bed, bins emptied, and whatever else the turndown service entails (chocolates on the pillow are fine, but a ‘benefit’ I value least). We specifically rang to request turndown, as the room refresh magic hour is usually between 6 and 7 pm, and we weren’t leaving the room until about 7 pm. There was a worrying call back to check whether it was a bottle of champagne we wanted (‘NO, we just requested turndown service – you know, refreshing our room’). This should have been a sign. Off we went to our party. We returned to the hotel sometime after 1 am. No turndown service.
OK, we were drunk and disorderly enough. We didn’t need the room to echo our dissipation.
#3 Unidentified room noise
Throughout the daylight hours of our stay I detected a low-level ‘hum’ which I thought was just the air conditioning – except that it persisted when we turned the air conditioning off. The noise wasn’t present all the time – it seemed to disappear at night.
We had a nap one afternoon – and you know how you get obsessed with something once you are aware of it? Well, I got obsessed with this noise, and for the life of me couldn’t fall asleep. My theory is it was an exhaust fan from the kitchens – but in reality, I don’t know. It’s annoying when (I’m, pretty sure) my preferences say ‘Quiet room, away from lifts, preferably on a high floor’. We did get the last two, just not the first. Is it too much to expect that hotel front office staff will know the characteristics and quirks of their room stock? Gosh, give me the room number of a hotel I have stayed in, and I can probably tell you which side of the corridor it’s on, and what view you are likely to have.
OK, I am obsessed.
We all know the association with godliness, but one of the illusions of five-star hotels is that you are the ‘first’ person to stay in the room. So when there is previous guest detritus (fortunately not in this case), or visible dirt, it destroys that illusion.
On a more serious side – with the number of people who go through a room, transmission of disease (think colds, flu, and tinea) is a real possibility, and cleanliness is the front line defense for this. Below is a view of the door of the shower stall. Need I say more?
There had been warning signs. One morning we came back from breakfast, and the cleaner was still in our room. I asked how long she would be. Her answer suggested she could be out in a few minutes. I made it plain that we were not hurrying her along, and that she should take her time to do the room properly.
When we did return to the room – it had not been done properly. Not egregiously so, but little things – the bed looked like I had made it. In fact, my partner couldn’t bear it, and had to straighten it up (OCD? – no, just precise). A dropped coated nut (you know those bright orange ones that use the same dusting colour as Donald Trump uses on his face) was still on the floor, indicating that vacuuming had been cursory, or non-existent.
#5 Things that should work, but don’t
Fortunately, this was a party weekend – no work, so I didn’t even have my laptop with me, although I did have my (ahem! new) iPad Pro with me.
Usually being able to work at a comfortable desk, with an appropriate chair and lighting is important to me. For this trip – fortunately no.
I put an arrow there in case the difficulty is not obvious. To explain – the light is facing away from the desk, and you can only angle it to the left of this image. The light adjustment should be on the opposite side to the arm and the matt chrome quarter circle should be away from the viewer if that makes sense. As it stands, you can’t point it to the desk, and you can’t adjust. I left it.
What do you say when the reception staff asks you ‘How was your stay?’
Well, I try and pick out something I was impressed with, and/or I mention something that needs fixing but didn’t really have an impact on my stay. You know, like the reading light on the side you don’t sleep on needs a new globe, or the half flush on the toilet doesn’t seem to be working properly, or the complimentary newspaper was not the title I requested, but I wouldn’t have had time to read it anyway.
Well, obviously I hadn’t quite assembled my entire list of impingements at the time of the question, because, I just mentioned #3 – the noise thing, when really my other points are probably more annoying to guests and have more systemic implications. The reception staff member said it was ‘Probably the lift’ – which, given it was one of two rooms on that floor furthest away from the lift bank, indicated that she didn’t know her own hotel’s room number layout. A small thing, but I think indicative of the lack of attention to detail in this hotel.
Did we enjoy our stay despite all of this? Well yes. The room was comfortable, had a nice outlook, and we got it at a very good price of (AU$133 +gst), AU$148 per night (~US$112) by cashing in a total of 15,000 World of Hyatt points that I had hanging around. Pretty good for a Park Hyatt.
Do you report that the robes are so old, the woven label is disintegrating?
So, what have I learned from this?
Well, you need to prepare for that ‘How was your stay?’ question, and work out what you need to share with the staff member, and what you will let slide. If you don’t – if you are me, you go away feeling a bit guilty that you haven’t been truthful, and, the question: ‘Is it OK to send Hyatt a link to this post?
What do you say in answer to the question ‘How was your stay?’
Summary Not one of the best Park Hyatt's in the world, but OK at the price