Saturday, March 22, 2008

March Madness - My bet is on Hyatt

San Francisco days, San Francisco nights.
Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero.

Hyatt March Madness or How I Spent my Economic Stimulus Checks for America

The President and Congress decided it would be great if we spent some money to help the economy.

So what to do? Should I put it in savings as the dollar continues to decline? Investing in Euros seems a financially smart move to make rather than a savings account. Buy some stock that is $150 a share today, but might be worth $2 next year? My 8 shares might buy two six packs of beer after the market crashes.

The Loyalty Traveler has a sound financial spending plan that provides benefits right now and will continue to provide benefits for at least another two years. The Loyalty Traveler plan is to invest in Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty. It is a plan that will pay off as long as I book about 20 hotel stays or more at Hyatt Hotels over the next two years. I know that I will stretch my tax refund and keep America better employed through a transfer of my funds to Hyatt Hotels Corporation and in exchange I will gain several thousand Hyatt Gold Passport hotel points and elite membership through February 2010.

My hypothesis is that I will see a $100/night average added value once I have Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond membership which takes 13 hotel stays with the “Stays Count Double” promotion.

Wednesday night I regained Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum, an elite membership I held in 2005. My goal is to regain Hyatt Diamond status which I held in 2003 and 2004.
My 13 stays over the next two weeks are estimated to cost just about the same amount as the economic stimulus tax checks of $1,200.

I have completed 5 stays this past week (counts as 10 stays for “Stays Count Double” promotion) and tonight will be my 6th stay. There are 14 Hyatt-brand hotels in Northern California and I am planning to stay in 6 of them for this elite-status hotel run. I live less than a mile from the Hyatt Regency Monterey, but their typical room rate is among the highest in California (and I can see the ocean from nearly every room at my home with scenic views better than the Monterey Hyatt), while the Carmel Highlands Inn, about 8 miles away has the highest room rates of all the Hyatt-brand hotels in California. So, I have been working in San Francisco and staying at the Grand Hyatt at Union Square, the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero San Francisco, and Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport.

And to make the deal even better I booked these San Francisco nights using the Gold Passport Special Offer links to earn a 1,000 points bonus for the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, a 2000 points bonus for the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, and a 1,000 points bonus for the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport.

I parked my car in South San Francisco at the BART station. I was surprised to not hit any heavy traffic despite driving highway 85 to 280 at 5:15pm on a Wednesday. The only traffic I hit was during the last mile when 380 merged with 280, but I made the first exit at South San Franciso. Parking is free up to 24 hours Mon-Fri and parking is free throughout the weekend so a person could arrive Thursday night and leave Sunday or Monday without issue. Long-term parking needs to be handled online before you arrive which is not what I read online when I checked.

South San Francisco to Embarcadero is $3.35 one-way. No discounts on BART for roundtrip ticket. The trip took about 25 to 30 minutes to reach downtown. It is a reasonable option for a traveler with a car to keep the car out of the city and take BART and then go pick up car. Parking in the city is between $20 and $55/day. Most downtown hotels charge about $50/day.

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco is directly outside the Embarcadero BART station.
Hyatt Regency has 17 floors and the building is shaped like a triangle with the base on Drumm Street and the sides on Market Street and the preferred side of the hotel faces the Embarcadero. The rooms over Sacramento Alley on the Embarcadero side have patio balconies with a small table and chairs outside.

An Asian woman at guest reception checked me in and said something to me in a thick accent like “You like add 20 breakfast” and when I asked her to repeat, she said, “You like add 20 breakfast” and I said no. I think she was asking me if I wanted to add breakfast to my rate for an additional $20. I am sure the desk clerk was fluent in other languages, but I was taken aback by her English grammar
My room was on the 16th floor on the corridor of rooms forming the base of a triangle above Drumm Street. These rooms do not have balconies. Fortunately, I was given a room with a nice view of the TransAmerica building, San Francisco’s most distinctive skyscraper, commonly referred to as the "pyramid building". Most of the rooms on this side of the Hyatt are closer to Market Street and would not have this view of the TransAmerica tower.

The best room views are towards the Bay side, facing Sacramento Alley, and nearer the Ferry Building on the opposite end of the hotel, and looking out to Justin Hermann Plaza. These rooms provide the best views of San Francisco Bay. The Embarcadero is a large business and shopping complex consisting of four tall, narrow rectangular buildings built around interior, open air gardened walkways with high end shops and a variety of restaurants from Thai and Indian to Chevy’s and Tony Roma’s.

The Hyatt Regency room is comfortably furnished and a good size for San Francisco, about 420 square feet. TV is a 37" LG flat screen, but there are no HD channels, unlike the great HDTV channel selection of Hyatt Place Fremont.

Room has desk area, however the placement of the TV on the desk area where the chair space is located means the TV is directly in your face if working at the desk. The TV would make more sense placed at other end of desk area above the mini fridge. The mini fridge is electronic type, but as it was empty there was no concern over that issue. I hate mini-bar refrigerators that auto charge electronically anytime an item is moved. (elctronic mini-bar at Grand Hyatt SF and Westin Market Street).

The bed was fantastic with 6 feather pillows and comfortable linens. The swirly line pattern on the blue carpet is an interesting effect. Desk chair very comfortable.
The odd thing about the room was the absence of a hotel guide. I arrived about 6:45pm and I was hungry, but when I searched the room for a hotel guide to the restaurants and room service menus, I could not locate a guide. There were several magazines and a Gideon Bible, but no info booklet for the hotel in the room.

The room is set up with bathroom on left of small foyer when entering. The bathroom has shower (no bathtub) and toilet in room and separate sink. No bathtub could be a big deal for some guests and it is unusual for a major city upscale hotel to not have a tub.

Patio sliding glass doors on one wall let plenty of light into room, and in contrast to the Grand Hyatt, these sliding doors open more than 4 inches. Air worked well as the room was too warm for me and I was able to quickly adjust the temperature to a comfortable setting.

I was pleased with the high floor for my room and the location was fine for a person with no elite status booking the lowest available rate. When I went to find ice I had to cross to the opposite side of the hotel on the 16th floor. The rooms along the Sacramento Alley side of the hotel are being remodeled and there were work supplies scattered all along the hallway wall. The ice machine is located at the ferry building end of the hotel. The sun shining on the Bay Bridge and Ferry Building as ferries were coming into the terminal was a beautiful site. I took the ice back to my room and grabbed the camera. By the time I got back to the window, the sun had slipped behind the hill and the intense golden colors of the bridge and the striking white reflection of the ferry building had muted.

There are several fast food options on Drumm Street with Taco Bell, Subway, Starbucks, a falafel shop, a liquor store and mini-market. These are options if $20 breakfast is too much for your pocket. At the base of the Hyatt Regency, on the Embarcadero side are several local food places with daytime operating hours for a quick meal including sushi, pizza, Thai, and other foods.

The room had a nice balance of color with dark wood finishes and light brown vinyl on bed headboard, with lots of metallic silver accents from lamps, mirror, and furniture pieces. The light colored upholstered chair and chaise lounge balance well with the dark woods and shiny metals.
The room’s blue carpet and dark drapes balance the intense light reflection of the sun glare coming off the surrounding skyscrapers.

The shower uncovered two of my hotel pet peeves:

1. No washcloths. I hate having to use a hand towel to scrub. That is a lot of weight when wet.

2. While the water temperature and pressure did not fluctuate, the water pressure was too low for my liking. Since there is no tub for soaking, I’d at least appreciate a good shower blast of water. Tried the shower water pressure again at 11 am and the water pressure was even worse than at 8am and the temperature at maximum is less hot than I prefer when showering.

Remodeling a floor while guests are staying on that floor is another pet peeve of hotel life. The carpet in front of the elevators was being replaced when I decided to head to the lobby the next morning. I had to step around the employees and the floor glue that was being applied to get to the elevator. When I returned 90 minutes later the carpet was in place, but the glue smell was strong and there were hundreds of carpet fibers lying around the perimeter of the carpet. I don’t know how healthy that is to have all those loose carpet fibers being kicked around and stirring up the dust. An hour later, as I was checking-out, the carpet fibers had been cleaned up.

My question is why place guests on this floor which appears to be the only floor in the hotel under major remodeling? There were pieces with sharp edges sitting up against the walls. I envisioned slicing open my arm as I walked by unaware.

Making the best of the situation, the nice feature of remodeling for this Loyalty Traveler were all the open room doors. I was able to walk in and check out several rooms with a balcony and view of the bay. Two-thirds of the hotel rooms are facing Market Street and Drumm Street and these rooms have large sliding patio doors. Only the Embarcadero facing rooms have balconies for sitting outside. The rooms are basically the same size, but the patio balcony is a huge feature, particularly on days like these in the city when the temperature is in upper 60s and beautifully sunny.

Buffet breakfast at the Eclipse café is $27. A fruit/yogurt smoothie $6.

Checked out by telephone and leaving my name and room number on a voice mail message. I did this at 11:55am with no problem. Check-out time is 12 noon.

I had some of the best photos ever for San Francisco this week with the gorgeous blue skies.

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