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During a recent trip to Sydney, TPG Contributor Sarah Silbert stayed at Sheraton on the Park, the city’s priciest Starwood hotel. (All photos by Zach Honig.)
Sydney is one of few markets where the Sheraton hotel is often priced higher than the Westin — both for cash stays and points redemptions (on occasion). I’ve only stayed in a few Sheraton hotels that I’ve truly loved. The enormous (and brand-new at the time) Sheraton Macau was perhaps the most memorable, due in no small part to our massive suite upgrade, and save for a few procedural and personnel shortcomings, Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park is one of the brand’s most spectacular properties, as well.
Even though we were only planning to stay three nights, we booked a four-night stay to take advantage of the fantastic 4th Night Free benefit you get with the Citi Prestige card, which gets you a full rebate on your fourth-night stay at any hotel booked through the Citi Prestige concierge. We knew we’d be arriving early in the morning, so we booked the stay to begin the night before our arrival rather than risk a delayed check-in.
The booking process though Citi was relatively painful, unfortunately. First, you need to call the number on the back of the Prestige card and ask to speak to a concierge, who will then ask for your stay details. Typically, the concierge will then submit a request for the partner travel agency to book your stay, in which case they’ll confirm within 24 hours. The problem with that option is that the concierge is unable to confirm the hotel rate. You’ll get the rate via email within 24 hours, but if you’d like to speed up the process the concierge can bring a travel agent on the line, who can provide a rate and confirm your booking right away. We chose that option, and the rep confirmed an AAA rate of $299 AUD (about $220), which matched Starwood’s website, and booked the stay. If the rep adds your loyalty number the reservation should appear in your account right away.
In total, it took about 25 minutes to book the same stay I would have been able to book directly on Starwood’s site in only a couple of minutes. If you want to take advantage of 4th Night Free, though, you have to book through Citi.
Upon driving up to the hotel, it became immediately clear that this is no average Sheraton. It’s fancier, for one thing, and high-end stores connected to the property give it a posh vibe.
We entered the spacious lobby to find a long line at reception, though no one was standing in the Starwood Preferred Guest line. As members, we queued up there, but were quickly admonished by other guests — and the woman working reception — for “cutting” in line. After a minute spent trying to clarify that we were SPG members, it became clear that the staff either didn’t know about this perk or simply didn’t care to speed up our check-in process. In any case, we ended up waiting in the one long line for a few minutes before being called up by another associate.
While the man who checked us in was nice enough, he wasn’t very helpful. Again, we had booked a room for the night before our arrival to ensure we’d had a place to crash when we came in early the next morning (and to take advantage of the 4th Night Free benefit mentioned above), but it turned out that this worked against us. Prior to arriving at the hotel, we noticed that plenty of suites were available, and we arrived at the Sheraton expecting a Platinum upgrade. When we asked the receptionist about an upgrade, he seemed frazzled and brought over the manager.
The manager explained to us (as if we were children) that because there were no upgrades available the night before (technically the first night of our stay), we weren’t entitled to one even though plenty of suites were open on the actual date of our arrival. When both of us bristled at this rationale, he said that this policy was “to make everything fair to all guests.” We weren’t very happy with this exchange, but there wasn’t much we could do other than contact Zach’s SPG Ambassador.
Feeling snubbed by the rude receptionist and the odd interaction with the manager, we headed toward the elevator to check out our Park View Room. As at many other Starwood properties, you’ll need your room key to access all floors but the lobby and the spa/fitness center.
The Park View Room
As it turns out, the Park View room was perfectly nice — we didn’t need an upgrade to a suite to feel comfortable. As promised, this room type does offer a view of the park — Sydney’s Hyde Park, to be exact.
The bedroom area was well appointed, with a desk and a sofa for lounging.
I was impressed at the size of the walk-in closet; there was more than enough space to store our sizable checked bag that saw us through two and a half weeks of travel.
The bathroom, with a separate tub and shower, was generously sized as well.
I was a bit disappointed to see the usual Sheraton amenities, though — this property feels decidedly higher-end than other hotels that fall under this brand, so I was expecting something more luxurious.
There’s a mini-bar, but there’s also a convenience store (with much cheaper prices) just outside the hotel.
$9 is an insane price for a water bottle, even if we’re talking AUD (with the current exchange rate, this works out to be roughly $6.50 US).
The Executive Suite
Long story short: After the kerfuffle with the manager at check-in, Zach contacted an SPG Ambassador (his was out of the office at the time) to explain the confusion around the upgrade. She was very upset on our behalf and said she’d work with the hotel to figure out why this happened. As it turns out, because the Sheraton on the Park Sydney is privately owned, it has some unique policies. You can’t really argue with that.
While we were perfectly happy with the smaller room (that was still quite large), the Wi-Fi wasn’t functioning properly; neither of our laptops would maintain a connection. After 45 minutes of troubleshooting with the IT director in the room, he made a call to see what could be done.
After the Wi-Fi issues and the back and forth with the Ambassador, the duty manager seemed very apologetic and relocated us to an Executive Suite. As I mentioned, the Park View room was very nice and we would’ve been happy staying there, but more than anything it was nice that the staff ultimately wanted to make sure we enjoyed our stay.
The Executive Suite was much larger and airier than our previous room, with plenty of windows and a spacious living room with an L-shaped sofa and a desk.
Like our other room, the suite overlooks the park below, and I loved how much light came in — it felt the complete opposite of stuffy.
The bedroom is pretty straightforward, with no bells and whistles when it comes to decor, but the King mattress was very comfy and everything was clean and fresh. My only complaint was that the huge Bose clock radio and in-room hotel phone took up pretty much the entire bedside table. I would have been much happier about it had I not sold off my CD collection a decade before.
The bathroom in the Executive Suite is actually smaller than the one in the Park View room. I wished there was a bit more counter space for storing toiletries, but that’s hardly a huge issue. I did notice that the sink counter flooded very easily, a hotel pet peeve of mine.
As Platinum members we got a free continental breakfast up in the lounge, but unfortunately it was constantly crowded and chaotic. Instead, we ventured down to the (equally chaotic) lobby restaurant, which had a very comprehensive breakfast spread. Platinum members can “upgrade” to the full breakfast for $15 (about $11 US). Since we were visiting Sydney during Australia’s winter season, there were Christmas decorations — including a tree — throughout the breakfast room.
We ordered room service lunch during our stay, and the food was tasty, though not exceptional. Basically, it hit the spot.
As the final episode in our saga with the manager, we were sent a bottle of sparkling wine along with chocolates and a handwritten note. It was a very nice gesture and we made sure to thank him.
Guests can receive two complimentary pressed items, which Zach took advantage of ahead of our dinner with a friend at the trendy Rockpool Bar and Grill.
The Wi-Fi wasn’t great in our rooms (as I mentioned, it didn’t even work initially in the first room), so we ended spending lots of time in the Club Lounge, where speeds were decent. Luckily, the lounge has a nice happy hour spread every evening, so we could catch up with email and work while enjoying a bite or a glass of wine.
The gym on the hotel’s top floor has tons of equipment, though everything feels a bit dated. I enjoyed starting one morning with a run on the treadmill and watching planes come in for landing at SYD airport in the distance.
Also on the top floor is the hotel spa, which offers a wide variety of treatments at pretty decent prices. I got a great massage, and the staff even gave me a product sample to use on my way out.
We spent plenty of time in the Club Lounge, and it was usually pretty quiet except for during breakfast and the nightly happy hours. There’s a selection of hors d’ouevres available each evening, and the lounge staff is very attentive about refilling guests’ glasses.
In addition to being a nice place to hang out and get some work done, the Club Lounge offers great views of the city. There are several balconies, though they weren’t too appealing to me with the winter weather.
Our stay at the Sheraton on the Park had a rough start, but ultimately this is a lovely property with nice rooms and a great location. It’s about a 25-minute walk to the Sydney Opera House, and it’s surrounded by shopping and dining options.
Apart from the confusion about the SPG line at check-in, I enjoyed our three-night stay. I’m excited to try out the Westin Sydney and compare experiences next time I’m Down Under.
I’ll leave you with one piece of advice: If you want to stay in a suite during your visit to the Sheraton on the Park, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration by booking one in advance (or using a Suite Night Award). That said, the base rooms are also quite nice, and we would have been perfectly happy staying there if it weren’t for the Wi-Fi issues. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.