Wellington does not have too many points hotel. Amongst the major hotel groups, only IHG & Hilton are represented. There are no Marriott or Hyatt properties. The IHG group’s Intercontinental is possibly the pick of the hotels, although given the massive devaluation IHG Rewards Club recently went through, I find it hard to get excited about booking a stay with them.
The program perhaps works fine in countries such as United States where IHG also operate a credit card business & card members are incentivised for making stays. But at most places, points & miles collectors would find that the value proposition just isn’t there.
That left DoubleTree by Hilton as my only option during a recent 3 day trip to the Kiwi Capital.
DoubleTree by Hilton boasts a central location in the heart of Wellington CBD. It is roughly a 25 minute drive from the airport, although my Ola driver mentioned the trip can sometimes take an hour or more depending on the traffic situation.
Note that Velocity members are able to earn points on trips taken with Ola New Zealand, and the program works exactly the same way as it does in Australia.
Hilton axed their fixed rate awards a few years ago. Since then, the Honors programs ties the redemption rates to the prevailing cash prices at the time. That does not mean individual properties can name their own price. The program caps nightly redemption rates in a standard room at 95,000 points at vast majority of their hotels. The only exceptions are Waldorf Astoria properties in Maldives & Los Cabos (Mexico) where award night in a standard room can cost up to 150,000 points.
Award prices at other properties typically fall within a range & the best way to find out how many points you need for a stay is by searching for it on Hilton website or the phone app. Beyond this, Hilton offers a tool called Points Explorer which allows members to see the number of points other members have redeemed for a stay at a property in the past.
To be clear, the tool is not designed to tell you exactly how many points you need for a stay, rather, it provides users with a general idea of what an award night may cost them.
During my stay, cash rate on two out of three nights (2/3) was $330+ per night, meanwhile the award rates at the property seem to be consistently set at 40,000 points per night.
My own valuation of Hilton points is $0.007 (.7 cent) per point, meaning those 40,000 points were worth $280, a $50 saving over cash rate.
So I redeemed 80,000 Hilton points to cover those 2 nights. The cash rate for the 3rd night was $150 so I paid cash to cover it. To sum up, It cost me 80,000 Hilton points & $150 cash to fund my 3 night stay.
I arrived at the hotel just after 4 pm and walked inside what is, a fairly smallish lobby with a single check in desk. If first impressions last forever, as the saying goes, than my lasting memory of this property isn’t going to be a good one.
The check-in was completed quickly and the staff managing front desk advised me I had been upgraded to the Junior Suite on the top floor. I thanked her and headed towards the lifts. There were 2 lifts servicing the hotel guests, they were old and a bit slow but functional.
My experience with past stays in a Junior suite haven’t been good, the term itself is a misnomer. Most Junior suite’s are nothing more than glorified rooms. So I was totally unsurprised to see that the Junior suite allocated to me was just as I had envisaged and did nothing to dispel my notion 😉
As the door swung open and I stepped in, the bathroom was to my left. It was a large, windowless space. There was a vanity with the single sink in the centre and a large, circular mirror hanging above it.
To the right, there was a deep soaking tub,
with the shower and the WC located on the opposite end.
The shower featured hand-held as well as the monsoon rain-shower head suspended from the ceiling. The water pressure and the temperature control were excellent which made showering a real joy.
Toiletries were from Evelyn & Crabtree, a brand commonly seen at most Hilton group properties but not amongst my personal favourite.
Back out, you had a king size bed with a selection of pillows by the wall.
There was a large flat screen television mounted on the wall opposite from the bed.
The bed was flanked by a bedside on one side and a small table plus a luggage stool on the other.
Past this, you had a free standing wardrobe and a work/study desk and chair next to it.
The power outlet and USB ports were positioned on the side of the wardrobe, within easy reach. I made good use of the set up and got plenty of work done.
There was a small sitting area featuring a chair and an armless couch with cushions, at the end of the room.
Alongside, and at the back of the wardrobe, there was an electric kettle, coffee maker and provisions for making tea & coffee.
The bar fridge underneath was empty, a sad indictment of the times we live in.
There was a 2nd flat screen TV and couple of bottles of complimentary water on the buffet.
Overall, this was a nice & comfortable space for which I will be happy to pay a premium over the standard room, but this ain’t no suite.
The property does not offer too many dining options. Thankfully, this is largely negated by its excellent location which puts many of Wellington’s top bars & restaurants within walking distance. The hotel’s sole dining venue, Spring Kitchen is located on Lvl 1. Breakfast is served each morning between 7-10 am on weekdays & 7-11 am on weekends.
Although of a good size, the place gets very busy on weekends, as I learnt on arriving for breakfast on my first morning. There was a queue waiting to get in and it would be 15 minutes at least, by the time they could find me a table.
Note that the pictures below are from various times of the day and do not fully capture the rush-hour, that was breakfast.
The breakfast was a stock standard fare of bacon & eggs, hash browns, toast etc.
If you wanted something lighter, the options were fresh fruits, cold cuts, yogurt & muesli, breakfast cereal & so on. Hot and cold beverages could be ordered via one of the many roving staff and is delivered to your table.
I had the buffet on one morning,
before better sense prevailed and I gorged on this delicious omelette on latter days.
The venue runs a Happy Hour menu each day between 4-6 pm. I dropped-in on one evening and spent an hour drinking & chatting with the barman Lucas who was a great sport. So much so that we ended up following each other on instagram 😉
On that note, I should mention that every staff I came across during my time at the hotel were courteous, helpful & wore a smile. Absolutely no complaints there. The property also offers in-room dining for guests, although I didn’t make use of it.
The only other hotel amenity worth mentioning, or perhaps not, was the tiny, make-shift gym on Lvl 3. Mind you, I am stretching the limits of credulity by calling this a gym.
A more accurate description would be, a small stuffy room with couple of cardio machines and free weights.
DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington promises more than it delivers. The pricing is steep (in both cash & points) and I cannot honestly say it provides the greatest bang for your buck. The best part about the hotel is its location and the staff. The rooms are ok without being spectacular.
If you are a Hilton elite (Gold or Diamond), you will receive full breakfast. That said the repetitive nature of the menu means those on long-term stays will soon find themselves hunting for alternate options, of which thankfully there are many in the close vicinity. The gym is awful, there is no pool nor an Executive Lounge which is understandable for a DoubleTree. But beyond the breakfast, which wasn’t exactly of the highest of quality, there is absolutely nothing by the way for elites. It would be nice, for instance, if the hotel made Happy Hour complimentary for Diamond elites.
If you are wedded to the Hilton group, or need a place to crash overnight, DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington would suffice. For free agents or for someone making an extended stay in the city, I suggest they cast the net wider when searching for options.
Have you stayed at DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington? Leave a comment below.