Because my sister was graduating college a few weeks ago, we had to be in Downtown Los Angeles. The family decided that the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles would do the trick! As a newly renovated hotel, I was anxious to see how they had turned out.
Last weekend, Laura and I had the opportunity to stay at the Camby Hotel, an Autograph Collection-branded property in the Marriott chain. Located in the posh Biltmore area of Phoenix, the Camby is in a very desirable location, and across the street from the Shops at the Biltmore.
Normally, if you were redeeming points at this property, it would be a Category 7, requiring 30,000-35,000 points per night. I value these points at around 0.8 cents per point, so you’d want rates to be at $240 to redeem a free night here. Since it was summer in Phoenix, our room rate was only $119 per night, plus a $25 resort credit!
This being a former Ritz-Carlton, I was excited to stay here and see how the new renovation turned out.
There was no parking on-site (except $33 for valet), so we had a friend drop us off. The valet area already gave indications that this was no ordinarily-themed hotel. It features large “topiaries” shaped like a C and a camel. “Camby” is short for Camelback, the most prominent mountain in Phoenix.
Check-in was done in the main lobby, which was just to the left as you entered the property. There were very “design-like” touches in the lobby, which added to the theme. I put it somewhere between a W and an SLS hotel. More comfortable than a W, but less “out there” than an SLS.
At check-in, I was offered 750 points or breakfast ($30 total for two), and 500 points or a $10 amenity. We chose the breakfast and credit, since we’d be here just for one night, and could use $65 towards room charges!
Unfortunately, we weren’t offered an upgrade at check-in, despite there being nicer mountain views and a junior suite available still for sale. After we arrived in our first room, we requested a mountain view, and were granted one. This is one area where Marriott falls behind SPG and Hyatt- no guaranteed suite upgrades if available for top-tier members.
We walked to the elevators, where some cool art was placed at one end of the hallway, and this chandelier greeted us.
Each elevator had a hilarious saying in them.
The rooms were only 350 square feet, but were designed with awesome touches, that both invoked the hotel’s unique design and its Phoenix surroundings.
Coffee in the room was complimentary, and was Keurig.
I LOVED the lamp mounted on the wall in the shape of a steer skull, with “MOO” written out in light when you turned it on.
Our view from our upgraded room.
Above the bed was a copper sheet, with different sayings on it.
The bathroom was a little cramped, with just a shower and glass sliding doors. Shampoos were in large containers with pumps, but were Nest-branded. Lotion and other this-and-thats were waiting on the bathroom counter.
A funny design on the bathroom wall.
I loved the “Camby Times” newspaper that was in the room, which was a fun way of letting people know what was going on in the hotel.
While being a rather small hotel by footprint, guest spaces did still exist. A very small pool with some music playing was on floor two, complete with pool bar. We sampled a Mai Tai ($10) with our resort credit, and thought they were very well made. Unfortunately, we only had an hour in the pool, as a Bat Mitzvah had reserved the space for the rest of the evening.
The “Jim,” however, is a highlight.
We also had cocktails down in Artizen, the hotel’s main restaurant. There’s also a cocktail bar, but it wasn’t open when we wanted one.
The bar menu was cool, celebrating Arizona’s “5 C’s” (Cotton, Copper, Climate, Citrus, and Cattle). I had the Copper, while Laura had the Citrus.
Breakfast was also taken in Artizen. The certificates we were given covered $15, which would take care of the continental breakfast on the menu (coffee or juice, yogurt, pastry). I wanted something different, so I went with the waffles.
Laura went with the avocado toast.
At the end of the meal, we had covered the entire breakfast certificate, with no overages.
Overall, I loved the hotel’s design. I felt that there were some brief issues, like the lack of an upgrade, and no notice on the pool being closed. It’s summer, we wanted to be outside! However, design-lovers that are reading would love this hotel well-located in the Phoenix area.
Part II: Hyatt Regency LAX
After arriving at LAX, we had a choice to either take the shuttle bus to the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport, or walk. Since Terminal 1, where Southwest arrives, is the closest to the hotel, we thought the 5-minute walk would be better than a shuttle that would stop at the 6 other terminals before arriving at the hotel. This alone makes the Hyatt Regency my new go-to for LAX layovers.
Rates were about $126 per night plus tax, so the two-night stay came out to $292.54. Luckily, though, we were able to find 20% off Hyatt gift cards, which drastically brought down the price for us out of pocket.
Arriving at the hotel, I was impressed with how Mid-Century Modern it was. It definitely felt in-theme with how the idyllic Los Angeles would look like my mind had I hopped off a plane in the 1960s. The check-in agent immediately assisted us, and informed us that we would have a King Suite on the top floor as an upgrade! For my first “real” check-in as a Globalist hoping for a free suite upgrade, I was happy! The lounge is still under construction, however, so breakfast would be served at the Unity LA restaurant.
Upon entering the room, I was blown away. The interiors, freshly renovated, continued the Mid-Century Modern theme from the lobby. While definitely a studio suite, the living area was sizable, plenty of room for two people at 814 square feet! Directly to the left of the door as you enter is the wet-bar area, with an Illy Coffee machine, sink, and refrigerator. The fridge was stocked with four cold-press juices, as well as some Evians. I phoned down, and discovered these were complimentary with the suite. At $10 per juice, which is ridiculous, it’s a nice benefit.
The living area was immediately in front, with a sizable 55-inch TV facing the couch. Walking back towards the king bed, you saw another 55-inch TV on the other side of the partition. To the left, you found the closet and bathroom area, which weren’t otherwise very large by suite-standards. There were, however, plenty of bath products from Hyatt Regency’s standard brand KenetMD.
We spent our two nights in Venice this trip, which isn’t too far away from LAX, as well as a quick jaunt down to Disneyland on Saturday.
Each morning, though, was reserved for breakfast. Choices for Globalist were either ordering off the menu at the UnityLA restaurant, or picking the gigantic buffet. We chose the buffet both mornings. Offerings included very Southwestern-styled dishes, like Huevos Rancheros, as well as the standard breakfast items like croissants, bacon, fruit, and toast. It was all very high quality, and I paired each morning with a lovely iced coffee.
Overall, I was impressed with the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport, becoming my favorite layover hotel at LAX (well, besides the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey). Stay tuned for our next installment, where we hop aboard Singapore Airlines to Incheon!
Part XIII: Etihad 777-300ER AUH-LAX
This is the last part of my trip report- it’s taken me longer to write the report than it did to take the actual trip!
We arrived at Abu Dhabi Airport’s dedicated business class check in for Etihad travelers about 1 1/2 hours before departure.
It’s cutting it a bit close for my standards, but we wanted to get as much sleep as possible. Since we had been to the business class lounge on a previous trip (and no longer would receive a free spa treatment), we instead decided to clear security straight away and clear US customs, and hang in the Pre-Clearance Lounge instead. Not as great of a lounge, but we had limited time anyway.
Check-in was fast, and we used the e-Gates after registering quickly, which made customs move very fast. Then, the long, long walk to the US Pre-Clearance facility, which required another security check and then US customs. With all that done with, we had about 30 minutes to relax in the Pre-clearance lounge.
We decided to walk over to the gate a bit early. There she was!
We boarded quickly after fighting through the crowds at the gate. Boy, do I miss the boarding gate at the IAD Etihad lounge!
We had traveled last year on Etihad 787 from DC, so we knew this hard product wouldn’t be as “new” as that one. Frankly, the 787’s business studio seat is gorgeous. This one, not as much, but it’s certainly not terrible.
Then we got comfortable with some champagne.
Menus were distributed.
After about an hour of being in the air, it was showtime. I went with the tenderloin. L, the pasta.
I thought the steak was much better than what I had on SG.
After that, a big time sleep. I think I slept about 8 hours of the 15 1/2 that we had for the flight. No complaints there! I did wake up at one point and have a steak sandwich and some tea.
Etihad’s “Dine Anytime” is great, but I do love have a more full presentation for multiple meals, like what we had on Singapore. No complaints on food quality, though.
After the long journey, we arrived back in Los Angeles, where we started. We still had a short hop on an American CRJ (yuk) to Phoenix, but we exited security to wait for our bags, so I could get my laptop. But, we forgot that they would check all the way through to Phoenix, so we were laptopless. I did get to experience how stupid US Preclearance is for folks that need to retrieve their bags. I think there were at least 6 Etihad employees pointing folks in the right direction to find the carousel, which required people exiting security, exiting the building, and fighting the crowds awaiting other flights outside of customs to get their bags.
Overall, I still love Etihad, but Singapore’s service was ultimately the winner here. Same goes for Hyatt’s new Globalist status. There have been a ton of complaints on here, and they’re well-placed, but for me, I saw the value of the status on this trip.
Part XII: Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
We used a prebooked transfer service to get us to the Hyatt, which only cost $35 after a coupon code. When you have less than 9 hours on the ground, every minute counts, so the cost was worth it to us.
The driver met us right at the exit for customs, and we were in the car in less than a minute. The drive took about 15 minutes this late at night (around midnight), so we weren’t too inconvenienced.
Check-in was bustling at this hour, so we had to wait for one person to finish up before proceeding. We were welcomed graciously, and given a gigantic one-bedroom suite for our 8 hour stay. It’s sad to have such little time in the room, but still very fun to check out, for a rate as low as we paid ($130).
First thoughts on the hotel, is that it’s gorgeous. The lobby’s chandeliers are magnificent! I loved the entry level, which led to the elevators to take you up to the main lobby for check in.
A full 1 1/2 bath 1,000+ sq. foot suite, with a view over the royal palaces of Abu Dhabi. This was quite an upgrade, one category above the standard suite, and included wine. We took this home with us, and while it only retails for $7, the thought was appreciated.
After a quick sleep, we took breakfast at 18 Degrees. The food spread itself was immaculate, and very high quality, though service isn’t great in the restaurant.
Can we PLEASE stay longer?? I was very saddened to leave, but we had to go back home. We hopped in the hotel’s car around 7 AM and headed to the airport for our direct flight to Los Angeles on board Etihad once more.
Part XI: Etihad MLE-AUH
After a wonderful stay, it was unfortunately time to depart. We left the resort around 2:30, with our bags and ourselves picked up by golf cart and taken to the main building for check out. Rough seas as we departed, but managed to make it on the boat and back to the Kooddoo airport.
From there, we had a one-stop flight on Maldivian Air, which was uneventful. Great views of the surrounding atolls.
In Malé, we were greeted by a Hyatt representative and escorted over to the main terminal building. When we learned check in had another 5 minutes to open, our host waited in line for us so we didn’t have to stand. That’s service! After check-in, he walked us over to customs, and that was the end of our contact with the Park Hyatt. Sad…
Customs took no time, and we were in the main, modern terminal building for Malé. It’s undergoing some expansion, so I’d expect more lounges in the future. Since we were flying business class on Etihad, we were entitled to use the Leeli Lounge. A basic but decent food spread awaited us, as well as soft drinks and waters.
After killing time there, we walked through the shops in our terminal, and then to our gate. Once boarding began, we were bused to our plane, an A320 without lie-flat beds but still very comfortable seating.
This was a quick 3 1/2 hour flight, but the flight attendants couldn’t have been more attentive. We were welcomed with champagne, and then given menus to choose our meal for the journey.
I went with the Chicken.
Laura went for the veggie option.
A few more drinks and I was passed out! I woke up just before landing. Taxing took forever at AUH, and 30 minutes after landing we were finally parked. A private bus for business class whisked us away to customs. With fast passes, customs took no time at all. Off to the Hyatt Capital Gate for a one-night layover.
Part X: The Park Hyatt Maldives
With our late arrival on night one, we had about 3 1/2 full days on the island at the Park Hyatt. While we certainly would’ve welcomed more time there, I think that it felt worth the journey to spend that amount of time in paradise.
We were upgraded as Globalists to a Park Pool Villa, which was much appreciated! When reserving, we were going back and forth on whether the overwater villas would be worth it. We decided that the privacy, plus the plunge pool, of the Park Pool Villa would be perfect, and hoped for the free upgrade.
The hotel had champagne waiting for us in the room, as well as two welcome cranberry drinks and some snacks.
Essentially one large room, I felt that the villa was plenty spacious and very well designed. I had read reports that the villas felt “tired,” though I didn’t get that impression.
The pool we used daily, and it was a great place to wash off from the ocean or just relax.
The villa was RIGHT ON the beach, which was just incredible. There’s nothing like this in the US.
Back inside the villa, we loved the bathroom. With sinks separated by the pathway to the outside bathing area, we had his and her sinks which we always appreciate.
The outdoor shower area was awesome and very private. We never used the bath tub, but for those that enjoy baths this seems like a great option.
Nightly turndown came with a little sweet treat and the history behind it.
The island is small, and that’s not a bad thing. While the resort wasn’t empty when we were there, it wasn’t sold out, and never felt cramped or overrun. I’ve been snorkeling and diving around the world, and never have I seen such amazingly healthy reefs. The entire island is surrounded by it, and easily accessible by the two piers. One day, we snorkeled from one pier to the other, which took about 45 minutes. Another day, we saw black-tipped reef shark. Lots of parrot fish. Lots of other fish. So fun!
There are a lot of activities that get you off the island and exploring the world around, but we found them all to be way too overpriced. If they priced these activities a bit lower, I think more folks would book them. Same goes for the spa treatments, though they were offering a 15% discount on them while we were there. The villa also advertised an app that offered activity and dining discounts, but none of them were very good, and required purchasing a separate high-end activity first to activate the deal (think waived boat fees on $1000 scuba excursions).
We were completely content snorkeling, lying on the beach, and watching the ubiquitous crabs dig in the sand. We also took advantage of the gym, and took a back of house tour one day, which was very enlightening.
Dining is also expensive on the island. Luckily, my diamond status saved us lots there- breakfast for two alone after tax and gratuity would be $100 (it included two menu items plus the buffet each day). Plus, the nightly sundowner drink and canapés saved a bit on booze. All in all, we ended up only needing to purchase two meals on the island- an expensive beach buffet that was moved to the island grill last minute (delicious local cuisine, though I wouldn’t do it again the next time around, at $100 per person plus 22% tax/tip), and a room-service dinner. Room service is actually one area that I feel is a deal on the island, since it’s priced the same as the island’s restaurant.
We planned ahead and brought a box of Clif bars. This covered any afternoon cravings.
Food quality was outstanding, however. We loved the filling breakfast each morning, and both meals we tried were delicious. Cocktails were not well made, though, so I would stick to beer and wine next time.
Overall, I feel that the Park Hyatt Maldives is a steal at 25,000 Hyatt points per night. It feels like your own private island. It’s worth the journey. After four days of amazing memory making, it was time to head home, on one of our favorite airlines- Etihad!
Part IX: Transfer to the Park Hyatt Maldives
We had finally arrived in the country of the Maldives, which was Country 72 for me, if we’re going off of the Travelers Century Club list. Woo!
We cleared customs pretty quickly, no real delays, and certainly faster than US customs. Right outside of security, we found our first Park Hyatt representative, who was waiting for us and another couple. They arrived about 5 minutes after us, and we were escorted to the domestic terminal, just a quick walk down a covered walkway.
Inside, we handed our new friend our passports and luggage. He’d be handling check-in for us, which was a great perk after a long travel day. He walked us into the Moonimaa Lounge, which was empty except for the four of us. FWIW, this is a Priority Pass lounge, and it is dry, as expected in the Muslim country. There was a modest food spread and some sodas and water that I picked at.
After about 30 minutes, we were told boarding had begun for our Maldivian Airlines flight to Kooddoo. We lucked out and got a direct flight on the outbound.
Love the dolphin on the tail! On board, our phones died, but we got a wet toilette and a juice as in-flight service. Once we arrived in Kooddoo, we walked into the “terminal” which was basically a room, to wait for our bags. Another Park Hyatt representative found us, and once our bags arrived, they were whisked away in a separate golf cart. We were loaded into one, too, and made our way to the speedboat dock.
We were loaded in, and took a seat towards the back of the boat. Seats were very comfortable, couch-like, and we were given life preservers to wear during the journey.
An iced tea and a snack jar were passed out as well, with the ubiquitous cool towels.
Decently smooth ride got us to the resort in about 35 minutes, and we were met by our host for the four nights, Ameez, right on the dock, ready to check us into our villa! It was about 2:30 in the morning island-time, after getting up at about 6 AM Incheon time. We were ready for bed.
Part VIII: SIN-MLE in Singapore Airlines Business on an A330-300
After the lounge, we made our way to the gate. Singapore does security at the gate area, so that only took a minute, and we had about 10 minutes to kill in the waiting room. Then, they called business class to board.
No seat photos on this leg, as it’s the exact same setup as the previous flight, though we were able to snag bulkheads on this leg. This made the seat way more comfortable for sleeping, which is what I did for the majority of this flight! The day was wearing on me, so I only had one glass of champagne upon boarding, drinking water the rest of the flight.
Crabmeat Salad. I’m not a big crab fan, so I just picked at this. I’m sure it was delicious.
I Booked the Cook again on this leg, getting another steak, because, why not? I thought the sauce on this one was delicious. Steak was decent as well.
This ice cream was SCRUMPTIOUS. Perfectly soft.
Then, I passed out, waking up just before landing in the Maldives!
Part VII: Singapore Layover
With only 6 1/2 hours to kill in Singapore, it was a bit too long to stay in the airport, as nice as Changi is, and we had never been to Singapore before. So, we made the decision to head to the Gardens by the Bay to check them out, as well as a quick walkthrough of the Marina Bay Sands. With a rainy day in the forecast, the infinity pool, the stuff of Instagram legend, would not be in the cards.
As expected, Singapore’s customs was a breeze. It rivaled Hong Kong in efficiency. We stored our bags in the terminal’s luggage storage, which cost about $12 USD for 3 bags, conveniently located by the taxi terminal.
Then, we hopped in a taxi and headed straight for the Gardens by the Bay. We were starving, and we made the regrettable decision of McDonald’s for lunch- while better than the stateside version, we wish we had chosen a more local option, but there aren’t many options at the front gate of the park, and when you’re hungry, you’re hungry.
We got our tickets at a 10% discount with our Singapore boarding passes, and entered the Cloud Garden, then the Flower Dome. They were, naturally, an incredible site. I’ll shut up and let the pictures do the talking. I liked how it was tulip season, sponsored by KLM, of course.
And, just like that, after a walk to the Marina Bay Sands, we caught a taxi back to the airport.
This left us enough time to relax in the Singapore Airlines Business Class lounge, which I thought was elegantly laid out. Tiger beer on tap? Yes please!
Then, we had to make a stop at the Orchid Garden and koi pond before our flight.
Just TWO MORE flights and a boat ride to the Park Hyatt! Good thing we love flying…