Newest Review: ... remembered!! One of the great delights of this hotel is the stability and the cheeriness of its staff. Over the years, we have recognised... more
HOWYA' DOIN' MR C.? WELCOME BACK
Grand Hyatt Resort Tampa Bay (Tampa, Florida)
Member Name: Newfloridian
Grand Hyatt Resort Tampa Bay (Tampa, Florida)
Advantages: Excellent service, luxury resort, makes you feel at home
I have been a member of the Hyatt Gold Passport scheme for a number of years and have been very impressed by the standards that are maintained in their premises both in Europe and the States. Founded in the mid 1960s on the West Coast of America the companys mission statement has been to create hotels that are more opulent, more spacious and more attentive to the needs of the business and discerning vacation traveller. The hotels are usually sited in city centres or close by major airports. They also tend to be built around impressive multi-storey atria and many have distinctive water features.
The Grand Hyatt Resort, Tampa Bay is a multi-storey building (it stands next to an office block of similar design) which occupies a triangular area of land on the western coastline of old Tampa Bay adjacent to the Courtney Campbell Causeway. This is one of three bridges which carry the road connections between Tampa and the cities of St Petersburg and Clearwater on the opposite shore. On the landward side of the building is Tampa International Airport and the hotel is clearly visible from planes taxiing to and from the runway. The hotel is approached from SR (State Road) 60 either from the Causeway or from the Veterans Expressway.
A long drive winds from the main road up to the lobby entrance. The hotel stands in its own 35 acre nature reserve looking out over Old Tampa Bay. The main building houses 445 rooms and suites and there are a further 30 Spanish style Cassitas at the far end of the grounds.
On arrival, the main entrance and valet parking stand are to the right, the entrance to the multi-storey car park to the left of a cul de sac in which is also situated a taxi rank and the terminus for the hotel shuttle buses.
Huge glass double doors (almost always manned by a cheery bell hop) open up into the air conditioned interior. The large atrium is an impressive creamy-sand coloured marble clad area with pillars and a vaulted decorated ceiling painted with palm trees. The reception area and check-in desks are to the left, to the right is a casual seating and waiting area. Beyond reception is the concierge desk, a small gift shop, the business centre and the lifts to all floors. Straight ahead the floor leads past Petey Browns Restaurant (left) and the lobby bar (right).
On the far side of the restaurant are reception and conference rooms. The first floor features a fully equipped gymnasium and leisure centre. The hotel also boasts a beauty parlour, hairdresser, nail salon and florist.
On the far (glass fronted, west facing) side of the hotel, a series of doors lead out into the grounds. Immediately outside is the main swimming pool, towel hut, loungers and sun brollies and the pool side bar. The area behind the pool which stretches down to the waters edge of Tampa Bay is salt marsh covered with mangrove. This is a haven for many water birds (we have seen flamingos, osprey, heron and sandpipers), crabs, fish and lizards. An elevated boardwalk has been laid through the mangrove, one limb of which leads to the gazebo an observation platform which has been equipped with binoculars). From here there are distant views of the bridges, fishermen plying their trade and, occasionally, a school of frolicking dolphins.
The other limb leads down to the south end of the property. From here a path winds through the Cassitas (one and two bedroom detached mini-villas with their own parlours) which are grouped around decorative fish ponds. There is a second, and more secluded, swimming pool and close by the tennis courts. There is also a short pier stretching out into the bay. This is where the motor launch (available for hire for dinner parties and cruises around the bay) is moored. At the tip of the resort is the Oystercatcher restaurant and bar.
Our current stay consisted of six nights after our arrival in Florida and then one further night immediately before our departure. It was confirmed to us that we would have the same room for both parts of the stay.
We were expected and remembered!! One of the great delights of this hotel is the stability and the cheeriness of its staff. Over the years, we have recognised the same faces (promoted with the passage of time) and they have recognised us. It has been something of an amusement to my wife that I am always greeted by name as soon as I draw up outside the hotel even before checking in. On this most recent visit I saw that Joseph was on duty (resplendent in his new Bell Captains hat) as I drove up the drive. Sure enough, he greeted me in his customary fashion (the title of this review) as soon as I alighted. The cases were swiftly unloaded and we were ushered in to the lobby to check in.
We were greeted, again by name, by Celeste, the Front Office Supervisor. Our reservation was confirmed. As a Diamond Gold Passport member we were able to trade in a complementary four day suite upgrade voucher (we had already booked a suite and so our tariff was adjusted accordingly). We were also entitled to a Welcome Amenity which gave us the choice of two items from a menu which included chocolate dipped strawberries, cookies and milk, bottles of beer and a basket of fruit.
Room keys are of the credit card type and ours granted access to the Regency Club. We would be entertaining friends during our stay, so a booking was made at the Oystercatcher.
We were a party of three my wife and I and grown-up daughter. We were allocated a Regency suite which consisted of adjoining rooms (1401 and 1403). These were at the far end of the top floor of the hotel reached through double doors opposite to the foyer of Armanis.
Opening the door to room 1401 leads into a short corridor off which opens a wardrobe with double louvered doors (contained a hanging rail, suitcase stands, iron and ironing board). The room itself was rectangular measuring some 25 feet by 20 feet. It was at the corner of the hotel and windows looked east and south over the airport and the sweep of the city of Tampa in the distance. The room was well double glazed and sound proofed and once drawn the curtains were efficient in cutting off the light.
This room had two double beds (we were given the option of using room 1405 which had a single king-sized bed). The mattress was deep and comfortable. The bed was made up with sheets, a blanket and a throw. There was a lattice headboard, fixed to the wall and a number of pillows and cushions. The furnishings were predominantly buff in colour. The walls were decorated with a pair of photographs of frangipani blossoms. There was the expected television in the armoire and there was a night stand to the left of one bed and to the right of the other.
The rest of the furniture consisted of a fully stocked but locked mini-bar on top of which was the coffeemaker, glasses and a complementary bottle of water, ice bucket and a pot of boiled sweets. Opposite this was a glass topped desk with writing materials and a telephone (there was another telephone by the side of one of the beds). In between was an easy chair and foot stool and an occasional table bedecked with a with pot plant.
The bathroom, next to the main door, was fairly modest in proportion. The bath had a rather ordinary shower over it and a drying line. The basin had a large mirror over it illuminated by two lamps. There was a large supply of bottle green towels. Also supplied was a hair drier and copious soap, bath wash and shampoo.
In room high speed internet access is now available at all Hyatt hotels. The Grand Hyatt, Tampa Bay uses a T-Mobile hotspot service ($9.99 per day)
Our daughter was given room 1403. This was dressed out as a parlour when we arrived with two seater settee, desk, easy chair, occasional table and television console. There was also a separate wash basin. The sleeping arrangement consisted of a Queen sized Murphy bed (this folds up into a recess in one wall) which quite appealed to her. This room had its own wardrobe and drawer space as well as an en suite bathroom. We were provided with a refrigerator for the duration of our stay which was stationed in this room.
The air conditioning was the expected ultra-efficient American standard. We had a nightly turn-down service which left chocolates and a rose corsage on the pillow. We also received six chocolate dipped strawberries and two bottles of Ybor Gold beer with a personalised message of welcome from the management.
THE RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The Grand Hyatt, Tampa Bay has three full service restaurants. We have dined more than once at all three. Indeed I cannot think of another hotel where I could quite happily eat on property for the whole stay.
Approached up a flight of six steps, Pete Browns occupies the left hand side of the ground floor of the hotel. Its size is deceptive as tables sweep away around the corner towards the conference rooms. With its double height ceilings it is a light and airy atmosphere, heightened by the pop art paintings of beach scenes which adorn its walls. Petey Browns is open for all three meals and each is served from a menu or as a serve yourself buffet.
Breakfast is available between 6:30am and 11:30am (noon at the weekend). The buffet ($17.95 a head) consists of the cereals, fruits and juices, breads and pastries. There is a hot bar serving eggs and bacon with the expected sides. There is also an omelette station where chef will prepare your choice to order. There is also a menu with such staples as waffles with syrup and strawberries ($12).
Petey Browns buffet lunch ($13.95 per head) is renowned around the Tampa Bay area. The buffet display is laid out with over twenty different selections including salads, cold seafood, assorted pastas, savoury vegetables and cheeses. Alongside this are pots of hot soup. There are also hot platters of the day (sometimes pasta, sometimes oriental in style). Again this an all you can eat serve yourself feast.
There is also a lunch menu serving the standard American fayre of sandwiches (Cheeseburger; Chicken fillet each $9.50; chicken Caesar salad ($11.50)
The lunch menu is available from the end of breakfast until 2:30pm.
The evening meal is American-style casual dining. We have tried aged Iowa steaks, baby back ribs and blackened grouper. I was also impressed with my surfnturf (a 9 ounce rare fillet mignon steak served with four of the biggest and juiciest crevettes I had come across) ($32.95) The meal can be completed with a trip to the Haagen Dazs help yourself ice cream bar.
Armani's Restaurant is situated on the fourteenth floor of the hotel. From here windows look out across the panorama of Old Tampa Bay, the city skyline and the airport. Its food style is northern Italian. Dress is somewhat more formal but not obligatory. You would not be out of place in a jacket and tie. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
Its lounge has a well equipped bar with an extensive (and expensive) imported Italian wine list but without draft beer. Nibbles are accompanied by music from a grand piano.
The focal point of the restaurant is an amazing antipasti bar, which features an extensive display of cold appetizers where each guest can create their own selection. Their own publicity describes this course as: Antipasto is so stunning that entrees can be anticlimactic. The speciality of the house is veal with Scaloppine Armani its the signature dish. We have also tried the steak and the rabbit. If you can find the room (or if you have the will power to keep some) there is also a damn-the-calories pudding menu laden with chocolate and sauce. I have usually chosen the crème brulee. With a glass of wine, we would expect to pay $75 a head for a three course dinner.
Armanis Restaurant has a statewide (and beyond) reputation. It is a place where you may find yourself dining next to a celebrity. It was even once listed in a Sunday Times World Best Ten Restaurants article a couple of years ago. Amongst a wall full of awards it has received a Mobil Four Star; AAA Four Diamond Award and a Zagat - "Extraordinary" plaque.
At the far end of the grounds is another restaurant which is a regional favourite. The Oystercatcher, as its name suggests, offers an array of fresh fish and seafood dishes with a Key West-style flair. It has a small bar which in the evening employs the services of a guitarist to serenade the diners. There is also a cigar balcony over which fly the aircraft on their final approach to the airport. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and tables offer views out over the bay and, at night, fantastic sunsets.
Ove the last few years we have dined here quite regularly and have developed our own particular favourites from the menu. Their shrimp cocktail is superb with huge crevettes served on crushed ice and two varieties of dipping sauce. I usually choose the sushi grade tuna which is sliced very thin and served almost raw with shavings of pickled ginger and wasabi cream sauce. The catch of the day is guaranteed to be fresh and varies throughout the year. Some we recognise (red snapper, sea bass, grouper); some are unfamiliar (New Zealand orange roughy). We do try to make at least one trip to Florida during the winter. October 15th to mid May is Florida stone crab season. This delicacy is made all the more attractive because only its huge claw is harvested and the animal is thrown back into the ocean to grow a new one. The Oystercatcher serves some of the best there is.
This restaurant is also renowned for its Sunday brunch and because of its popularity you really do have to book ahead. For about $35 a head you can munch your way through a three course hot and cold buffet (seafood, pasta, steak, chicken, roast vegetables) accompanied by ever flowing champagne
The Lobby Lounge
The main hotel bar is on the ground floor of the hotel opposite Petey Browns. It stocks a full range of domestic and imported bottled beers, wines and spirits. Guinness and beers are also on draft. The head barman is also a long serving member of staff and he too has a lexiconic memory for clients favourite tipples. (Ybor Gold and Bombay Sapphire, easy on the ice?). There is always a fresh plate of olives and mixed nuts awaiting each new arrival.
The bar is seated out with brown leather armchairs and settees. Mounted on pillars at diagonals from the bar are two large plasma screen televisions continuously tuned in to a high definition sports channel. We were able to see the live broadcast of Englands demise from the World Cup!
THE REGENCY CLUB
The Regency Club is on the twelfth floor. You need special access permission from the front desk and then your room key will stop the lift at that floor. It is a members lounge which has its own concierge desk, seating for reading and quiet contemplation and superb views across the bay.
A complementary continental breakfast (cereals and fruit, bagels, Danish pastries) is served from 6:30 to 11am. Plates of hors doevres are laid out at 5pm and then chocolates and sweetmeats appear at 08:30pm. Coffee and soft drinks are provided free of charge but alcoholic beverages are served on a room charge basis.
Once again the permanent Regency Club staff have been in place for as long as we have been visiting. The evening server was originally from Essex and always takes the opportunity of swapping news and tales from the Old Country!
The hotel is well served by the road network. A very pleasant fifteen minute drive away across the causeway will bring you to Clearwater and Clearwater Beach. Inland beyond the airport is the new International Shopping Mall and behind that is the Raymond James Stadium (home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Glazer organisation owners of Manchester United)
The highway south leads to the interstate (I275). Westbound leads you over the Howard Frankland Bridge to St Petersburg and its beaches. East will take you to Busch Gardens and then to the I4 (for Orlando and Disneyworld about 75 miles away). Downtown Tampa hosts its business district, the Florida Aquarium and the cruise ship terminal.
We book through the Hyatt.com website but do also check with the hotel front desk prior to our arrival for any special offers. On this visit our two bedroom suite was quoted at a rate of $450 per night. However by the time of our arrival this had been reduced to a Summer special of $375 per night. With our suite upgrade card we were charged only for a King sized room for four nights of the stay.
The current Hyatt.com rates for a King sized (double occupancy ) room in May 2007 are $229 per night (Monday to Thursday) and $179 per night (Friday to Sunday)
This hotel is very popular with organised tours and conferences. At the beginning of our stay we found ourselves amongst the Annual Convention of the Royal Order of Jesters!
The Grand Hyatt, Tampa Bay is a five star resort hotel, but it is an establishment with a heart. It is comfortable and comforting. Its superb food makes going out of the door a chore. It is unusual to be recognised and to be remembered - and this is a testament to the quality of the staff. It really does feel like coming home. I can heartily recommend it.
Summary: A complete resort hotel for the business traveller, conference goer and dedicated vacationer
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