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On a recent trip to Europe, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen was passing through Amsterdam for a few days and decided to put his points to use at one of the city’s most popular chain properties, the Andaz. Here’s his review of the experience.
I hadn’t really planned on spending any time in Amsterdam on my trip to Europe, but because of work reasons, I had to purchase a round-trip airfare from Amsterdam to Ljubljana (Slovenia) and found out that my return date would be the beginning of Gay Pride weekend in the city (July 31-August 2). I had heard great things about Amsterdam Pride — a boat parade on the canals, big street parties, lots of festivities and concerts — so I decided to look into hotel options.
Did I mention that all this happened just a week before Pride actually began? With no time to spare, I did a preliminary room search on Hotels.com, but room rates were astronomical. We’re talking three- and four-star properties charging 300-400 euros ($330-$440) per night. Instead, I decided to look at Hyatt.com to see what rates were like and if there was any award availability at the Andaz, a property I’d been interested in checking out since it had opened back in late 2012.
Pulling up rates, my jaw dropped to find they were starting at 495 euros plus 5% city tax, for a total of about 520 euros ($572) — which was was more than slightly out of my price range! However, when I checked the “Show Hyatt Gold Passport Points” box, lo and behold, there were award rooms available for the Category 6 property at 25,000 points per night. By redeeming Hyatt points, that would work out to a value of about 2.28 cents per point, well worth it in my book, and higher than TPG’s most recent monthly points valuations, where he pegged Hyatt points at about 1.8 cents in value.
The one problem? I only had 32,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points in my account and I would need 50,000 for the two nights. However, I’ve been diligently earning Ultimate Rewards points with both my Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cards (the two cards I mostly carry when I travel internationally since they don’t charge foreign transaction fees, and earn nice bonuses on things like travel purchases, dining, hotels, gas and more).
I simply logged into my Ultimate Rewards account, transferred 18,000 Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt account, and they showed up there instantly. Then I logged into the Hyatt site using my Gold Passport credentials, made the booking for an Andaz King room, and had my confirmation within seconds.
I arrived in Amsterdam at around 10am and took the train from the airport to the Central Station. From there I got a taxi for about 10 euros ($11) to the hotel, which is on the Prinsengracht canal.
I walked in and was immediately greeted by a “host” at one of the three free-standing desks directly in front of and to the left of the front door. Using a tablet, he checked my passport, took a credit card from me and checked me in. He also “upgraded” me to a Garden View King room from the standard Andaz King I had booked.
I asked him what the difference was between these two room types. The hotel is divided into two buildings — the first right on the Prinsengracht and the second behind the first building, separated from it by a small garden; my upgraded room was in the rear building with a view of this garden, rather than looking at the buildings on the other side.
The Building(s) and Design
The Andaz has just 122 rooms and suites, and is actually set in a former 1960s public library. Hotel designer Marcel Wanders pays homage to that history with literary motifs throughout, including books in the rooms and quotes by famous Dutch folks inscribed in the Delft-tile-like blue-and-white wallpaper. He also includes other whimsical touches such as nautical-inspired installations in the main building’s atrium, eye-catching red tulip-shaped chairs in the lobby and (some might say, disturbing) fish-shaped bed headboards.
In the front building, about half the rooms rooms look out over the canal (and were perfect for watching the parade) and the other half look back toward the garden. As I mentioned, in the back building, half the rooms face the garden and the other half look toward the buildings behind the hotel.
The hotel is in a fantastic spot, whether you’re an Amsterdam amateur or a Holland habitué. The Prinsengracht is the fourth canal off the Dam so it’s a bit quieter there than the tourist-clogged streets closer to the railway station and the Red Light district. It’s also in the heart of the Nine Streets district, which has tons of great little cafes, restaurants, boutiques and galleries, and a short walk to the bucolic (and also restaurant-packed) Jordaan District.
It’s quite close to the Anne Frank House and a good walk or a quick taxi ride to the Rijksmusuem and the Van Gogh Museum, or the Concertgebouw for a concert. All in all, I found its location to be ideal.
As I mentioned, I’d been upgraded to a Garden View King room, which is just a standard room with a slightly better view, though it goes for about 45 euros ($49.50) more per night. The hotel lists these at between 26-33 square meters (290-365 square feet or so), and with high ceilings and big windows that let in a lot of light, my room did indeed feel on the spacious side of that equation.
The bed in my room looked a bit too small to be a true King, but take a look at the photo above and see what you think. (The hotel also sells Andaz Queen rooms, so I thought I might have gotten one of those, but I wasn’t sure.) I figured that since the Dutch are now the tallest people in the world, surely their beds would be big — but apparently not. Still, I liked the room, so I didn’t press the point with anyone at the hotel.
The walls and sheets were white, while the ceiling was blue, and the big armchair next to the mirror-topped side table was a bright goldenrod yellow.
The room also had a desk with plenty of outlets (though no universal plugs, only European). One of its drawers held the mini-bar. Along with Wi-Fi, Andaz gives guests non-alcoholic beverages and snacks for free, and among the options here were some sodas and juices, flat and sparkling water, some cookies and fruit chips. Not bad for a little nibble.
Apart from that, the room held a wall-mounted 42-inch flat-screen television. Below that was a little shelf that held the clock and iPod dock, though it was too far away from the bed for me to actually use. On the nightstand was a little analog clock, and the decent-sized placard closet (which held a safe) easily fit my big suitcase.
Now for the bathroom. As you can see from the photos, it’s right in the middle of the room with no separation from the bedroom to speak of. The sink and mirror are pretty much right next to the bed. The sink is one big blue-and-white tile, and the mirror is set off to one side and has a tray holding little amenities like soap and Q-tips.
The other side of it is also mirrored and there’s a little vanity stool; if someone was using one side, the other person in the room could use the other to do their makeup. The one big issue here was that the mirror is set off to the side of the sink and doesn’t move, making it pretty much non-functional if you wanted to use it to do something like, say, shave — which I did with some difficulty.
Meanwhile, the shower is behind smoked-mirrored doors, and the bath amenities were the Black Tea series by local brand Zenology. What I really liked is that, in a sort of extension of the mini-bar ethos, the hotel offers a number of amenities for free if you request them, such as toothpaste, deodorant, shaving kits, hair products and combs, and you can borrow (but not keep) phone chargers, curling irons, humidifiers, yoga mats and free weights among other things.
The toilet is set into a little WC closet with lovely Delft-inspired wallpaper filled with quotes and fun facts about Amsterdam and Holland.
Hotel Amenities and Dining
In the basement between the two buildings, the hotel has a small spa and fitness center. The fitness center (yes, I actually used it!) was little but nice, with new equipment and plenty of light, thanks to skylights in the ceiling. The spa also looked nice, but no one was manning the desk any of the times I was down there. However, the menu looked pretty good, with treatments using REN and June Jacobs products, and they were decently priced, with hour-long massages starting at 85 euros (about $93) and facials at 74 euros (about $81).
If you want to stay fit, you can join the hotel’s General Manager, Toni Hinterstoisser, on a weekly 5k run on Wednesdays at 7am. Guests can also rent bikes for the day to pedal the canals, and even get picnic baskets priced at 14 euros (roughly $15) per person including sandwiches, non-alcoholic drinks, chips, cookies and fruit.
In the main lobby area at street level, the hotel has a number of little spaces for guests to enjoy. There’s a small library with windows right on the street where complimentary wine and snacks are served daily from 5-7pm. There is also a casual café/bar area near the reception area where guests can get coffee, drinks (including punch bowls) and little snacks throughout the day to enjoy in parlor-like seating arrangements and around a communal table.
The main Bluespoon restaurant is behind the reception stands and the elevator shaft and is decorated with the same black, blue and white palette as the bar. I didn’t have a chance to eat there, though I had some delicious scrambled eggs with bacon and whole wheat toast from room service. The lunch and dinner menus are mostly a Dutch-French combo with ingredients sourced locally whenever possible.
Though a bit more casual than some of your upscale chains, the service was mostly great during my stay — especially considering how much the staff had going on with the Pride festivities, which included a bar and viewing platforms for guests (for a price) right outside the front door.
My coffee machine wasn’t working my first morning and it did take about 30 minutes to get someone up there to tell me that the master switch had to be turned on (and thus all the lights in the room!) for it to work.
The staff were also great about giving directions, arranging taxis, helping me and friends find things like ATMs, grocery stores and more, and though they were a bit overwhelmed by the full hotel and the crowds outside, everyone was polite and efficient.
The one quibble I had was that at noon when I went to check out, there were just two people working the reception area, and each of them had people disputing charges on their bills, so it took about 20 minutes of standing there waiting with about eight other guests in line to get checked out. That wasn’t a big deal for me since I had plenty of time to get to the airport, but if I’d been in a hurry, I might have been a bit tense.
Overall, I had a great stay at the Andaz. I liked its offbeat design, laid-back attitude, good-sized rooms and perfect location. I do think the room rates were a bit steep for the offerings, but being able to use my Hyatt points for a last-minute reservation on one of the busiest weekends in the city was an incredible value in my book, and I’d highly recommend the hotel to others thinking about a visit to the city.
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