Sydney's Other Park Hotel: Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park
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Without a doubt, one of the best-known and most sought-after points hotels in the world is the Park Hyatt Sydney. Right on the harbor, with sweeping views of the iconic Sydney Opera House, this is one of the nicest hotels in the world and a personal favorite of TPG himself. The fact that you can book an $800-plus room here for as low as 30,000 World of Hyatt points a night, worth $510 based on TPG's valuations, makes it one of the best values for a points redemption, period.
I had the chance to unexpectedly spend a night at the Park Hyatt Sydney on my first trip to Australia when my plans hit a bit of a speed bump, but for my return visit two years later, with my girlfriend, I opted for a different "Park" hotel, the Sheraton Grand Sydney, Hyde Park. While this hotel is obviously a few bragging-rights steps below the Park Hyatt, I found it to be a solid property in a brand that's often tired and past its prime.
I was nearly out of Marriott points after a summer booking extravaganza that saw me redeem just shy of a million points to book The St. Regis Maldives, Al Maha Resort in Dubai, a Korean Air 747-8 first-class award and a few other stays here and there. Needless to say, I was looking for a cash stay in Sydney.
Marriott has a number of solid-looking Category 5 properties in Sydney including the Sheraton, a Westin, Marriott, Design Hotel and Autograph Collection hotel. With prices more or less the same on the dates we were traveling, I left it to my girlfriend to my pick a location as she'd lived in Sydney for five months during college.
She picked the Sheraton Grand Hyde Park, which I was able to book for $284 Australian dollars a night (about $200 per night or $615 for the three-night stay). I put this purchase on my Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card to earn 6x Marriott points and help earn my 100,000-point welcome bonus. When you add in the 17.5x points I earned as a Marriott Platinum Premier elite, my total haul for this stay was around 14,300 points, worth $128 based on TPG's valuations. I could have also booked this property for 35,000 points ($315) or redeemed a free-night certificate from an SPG or Marriott credit card, but cash was clearly the better decision here.
This was my first extended hotel stay since the Marriott merger closed in August, and I was eager to apply some of my suite-night awards to this reservation in the hopes of confirming a suite upgrade up to five days in advance. I was able to select five suite-night awards as my choice benefit for earning 50-night Platinum status, and another five when I reached Platinum Premier at 75 nights. It's up to each property to decide what suite categories they'll make available for upgrades, but I was able to request all three categories of terrace suites with outdoor balconies. Since I was already entitled to a suite upgrade at check-in as a Platinum member, I wanted to save these confirmable awards for better rooms or fancier hotels.
I wasn't sure what my odds would be, since I was traveling in December, peak summer season in Sydney, but four days before we arrived, I logged into my Marriott account and noticed that my upgrade had cleared into a deluxe terrace suite. I didn't receive an email or any type of notification that the upgrade cleared, which is hardly surprising given the tech bugs that have plagued the merger. The deluxe terrace suite was a full 1,291 square feet and sold for $750 or more a night during peak season, so I was very happy with this upgrade.
As the name suggested, the Sheraton Grand Hyde Park was right across the street from Sydney's Hyde Park. Our flight landed early in the morning, and it took about 30 minutes for an Uber from the airport with no traffic. The hotel was also right next to the St. James metro stop, and was no more than a 20-minute walk from Circular Quay, Darling Harbor and Barangaroo. While some people might prefer the Marriott or Westin that are closer to the harbor, we found this central location to be perfect for our stay and enjoyed getting a chance to walk around Sydney a bit.
With our flight from Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) touching down around 9am, we made it to the hotel a little past 11am. The entrance was clearly marked, and we were greeted by a bellhop who offered to help with our bags.
The lobby felt, well, grand, and reminded me a lot of the JW Marriott in Washington, DC, which was also in full Christmas mode when I stayed there last year.
The check-in desk didn't have a separate line for Marriott elites, but the line wasn't too long, and with eight different staffed check-in desks, we were helped in no time. We arrived too early for our suite to be ready, so we dropped our bags and headed out to brunch.
About two hours later I got both a call and a push notification from the SPG app that our room was ready, so we headed back to the hotel to pick up our keys.
The room itself was one of the biggest I'd ever stayed in, and the highest category of the three different terrace suites offered here. The first sign that this was about to be a little bit too much was that it actually said the name of the room type on the door.
Just inside the door to the left was a half bathroom.
The living room had a massive dining table with five chairs arranged around it.
Behind it, separated by a half-wall/island was a desk and a couch that could easily seat 10 people.
There was a flat-screen TV that extended out from the divider, which was hooked up to a Bose sound system.
The TV came with a whole set of input controls, including USB and HDMI, but the room didn't have enough convenient outlets or USB ports to charge our phones.
Behind the dining table was also the first of our two balconies.
It had stunning views of Hyde Park across the street.
There were also two chairs for lounging on the balcony. While it might look a little awkward having another room's balcony so close to us, the balcony behind the dividing wall here was actually part of our bedroom!
The bedroom itself was incredibly spacious and included a balcony and TV. Like I mentioned above, there were no outlets on either bedside table, which is one of the most frustrating things a hotel can do. The phone had two USB ports in it, but neither one charged our phones.
The main bathroom was directly behind the bedroom.
It featured a large tub and a shower.
The room also came stocked with Hermès toiletries, a huge step above what you'd find at most Sheratons. These appeared to be specially for this larger suite, as once or twice when we called up for extra shampoo we received the normal Le Grand Bain set instead. It's a very small touch, but it was nice to see the hotel trying to differentiate its suite through more than just the room itself.
Next to the bathroom was a large closet and storage space. For two (small) people on a short weekend trip, this room was undeniably too large, but it was nice to have space to spread out and relax.
Back by the entrance was the minibar and coffeemaker, which included a selection of chilled drinks (this was my first time ever seeing kombucha in a minibar) and several larger bottles of liquor.
Food and Beverage
As a Platinum Premier elite, I had access to the Sheraton Club Lounge for breakfast in the morning and drinks and canapes in the evening.
The lounge itself was a stunning space that made great use of natural light and the scenic park views across the street. In addition to multiple different types of booths, lounge chairs and high-top tables, it also featured outdoor balcony seating, which I absolutely loved.
Sydney is one of my favorite cities to eat in so I was torn about "wasting" a meal on the hotel breakfast, but we made sure to check out the evening snack spread on our first night. The food on offer was much nicer than I was expecting from a Sheraton, including the fresh oysters and prawns.
There was also a great selection of snacks ranging from fresh-caught to deep-fried.
Healthy options abounded.
Of course, there was a great dessert bar.
Perhaps the most impressive was the drink selection, and we happily enjoyed a few glasses of sparkling wine before heading out for dinner. I've stayed at Sheratons where the entire club spread was lukewarm mozzarella sticks and warm beer that cost extra, so needless to say this was a huge step up from the rest of the brand.
Clearly we weren't the only ones who felt that way. Saturday evening, we went up to the club lounge at about 5:30pm, half an hour after the drink service started. At that point, the lounge was already at capacity, and people were being turned away. Rather than let that turn into a problem, the agent at the door was ready with vouchers redirecting people to the conservatory bar on the first floor.
The glass-ceiling bar offered great views of the park across the street, and once we presented our vouchers, we were treated to the same unlimited drink service we would have received in the lounge. In addition, without us ordering anything, a waitress brought out two giant snack platters for us.
We had dinner reservations that night and barely made a dent in all this delicious food, but the gesture spoke volumes to the service culture at the hotel. Rather than letting any disappointment about the lounge being full fester among top-tier elites and paying customers, the hotel proactively offered the same lounge experience in the bar downstairs. I'm not picky about where I sit, and I really commend the hotel for the way they quickly fixed what could otherwise have been a disappointing experience.
The main reason we were in Sydney was actually to see a concert, and it was great to be able to grab a few snacks and drinks on a night when we didn't really have time for a full dinner.
We did end up making it to the lounge for breakfast on our last morning before we left for the airport. The food options overlapped heavily with the evening canapes (cold cuts, veggies, yogurt and muesli, etc.), but it was perfectly fine.
I preferred the evening food to breakfast since watery eggs are one of my biggest pet peeves. Service was a little slower at breakfast than it had been during happy hour despite a similar number of people being in the lounge. We had to ask three times to get coffee.
Service at this hotel represented everything I love about Australia, as it was friendly, personable and professional. At one point, in the lounge, I tried to get up to refill my own drink, and the young woman serving us (who we found out was only a year older than us) seemed genuinely offended that I hadn't just asked her. We ended up striking up a conversation and she gave us recommendations for where to go out that night after dinner.
The server we had in the bar was the exact same way. She was on the younger side, in her early 20s, and hustling like crazy to serve snack platters and drinks to the dozens of people who'd been turned away from the lounge. In the midst of that, she managed to find time to stop and chat with us about how and why she'd moved to Australia, and made sure that our drinks were never half empty.
A day or two after leaving the hotel, I received an email from the club-lounge manager (who I hadn't met once during my stay), thanking me for being a Marriott elite member and choosing the Sheraton. It was a small, simple, probably automated touch, but given how much I enjoyed the club lounge, it left me with a good feeling.
Meanwhile behind the scenes, service had a few minor hiccups, though nothing even close to warranting a complaint. For example, on the first day, housekeeping cleaned our room while we were out. But all they did was make the bed and hang up the towels. They didn't restock the water bottles or toiletries (even though there were empty bottles on the floor of the shower), which I found quite odd. We had a bit of trouble calling guest services to get someone to bring more shampoo, but the second call seemed to set everything straight.
Before our stay, I'd emailed the general manager to let them know that my girlfriend and I were celebrating an early five-year anniversary on this trip. I know some people send this email to the GM every time they check in to a hotel no matter how true it is, but I prefer to save it for actual special occasions. Of course, in keeping with TPG policy, I didn't mention anything about reviewing the property. We came back to our room on the first day to find what I can only assume was an anniversary gift, a piece of chocolate cake with a Santa cookie and, a bit oddly, a little sign saying "Happy Birthday." The cake was deceptively delicious, enough to make us forget what exactly we were celebrating.
The hotel had a large gym and spa on the top floor. Like the club lounge, it was behind an opaque door that slid open when you tapped your room key. (Photos were prohibited inside for other guests' privacy.) The sauna had a rotating weekly aromatherapy menu, and we enjoyed Sunday's honey-lavender treatment.
This stay, more than any I've had before, solidified the value of Marriott Platinum status to me. The reasons we loved this hotel so much were almost entirely due to the massive suite upgrade and club lounge, both of which were Platinum benefits. It's hard to say how we would have felt in a standard room without the free food and drink, but the club lounge alone makes me want to return to the Sheraton Grand next time I'm in Sydney.