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Forsaking my usual Floridian haunts temporarily, I made two trips to San Diego and Southern California in the Autumn of last year. As the second visit was part conference and part vacation we thought that we would 'push the boat out ' and stay at the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel which has to be one of the most striking edifices in the region.
San Diego is known as the home base for the US Pacific fleet and is only 20 miles from the border with Mexico. My business colleague who lives and works in the area told me that the whole of the quayside and waterfront had been completely rebuilt over the course of the last twenty five years. Central to this redevelopment is the marina, the convention centre and a number of five star hotels.
The Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel consists of two skyscrapers connected by a vast lobby area. Building started in the late 1990s and the first tower rose to 40 floors. The second block (slightly shorter at 33 storeys) was finished in August 2003. This accommodation gives a capacity of 1625 guestrooms and suites, exhibition, conference and meeting facilities and two ballrooms which together have a floor area of 55,000 square feet.
Market Place is the hotel's forecourt and is at the waterfront end of Market Street on the corner of Harbour Drive. The approach to the hotel adds to the aura of opulence with its tiled pavement and its portico of huge columns. There is a long line of taxis, limousines and stretch limos waiting at their respective ranks. Valet parking is almost expected 'de riguer'. The valet captains and bell hops are dressed out in dark red livery.
We had driven south along the I5 from Orange County arriving in San Diego about midday. We missed our exit from the Freeway but did not need to worry as every north-south running avenue eventually crossed Market Street. After our drive we accepted the valet service ($18 a day).
A battery of huge high double glass doors lead into the lobby. Again the sheer size and space of the place almost defies description. My first impression was of the main hall of one of the Grand Union Stations. The floor, walls and ceiling are of polished marble; the check-in and concierge desks are heavily carved dark stained timber. There were six registration terminals, one dedicated to Hyatt Gold Passport members. We were the only couple checking in at the time so there was no hurry or pressure. We were expected and, paperwork completed, we were given our credit card style room keys.
I cannot estimate the length of the lobby but it is the connector between the two tower blocks. For the first half of the week, the ground and first floor meeting rooms were playing host to IBM's annual convention. At one end of the lobby corridor is the Grand Lobby Bar where there is a wide sweeping staircase up to the ballroom. At the other end is the hotel shopping mall. This consists of a series of boutiques, antique shops and (very!) high class souvenir shops. This is where you could buy your full price Louis Vuitton handbag, imported Italian marble bust or gold and silver chess set.
The hotel boasts the usual large range of facilities and activities either on site or within easy reach. The open air pool is on the fourth floor and is actually on the
roof of the lobby. It has its own pool bar, grill and a fire pit. Sun loungers and seats are arranged in tiers around the water and some are sited within windbreaks (from our experience these are very welcome!). This level also offers the tennis courts. On the third floor level is a fully equipped fitness centre and the Regency Spa and saloon which provides massage, hair, nail and other beauty services.
The hotel prides itself on the wide range of help and facilities that are available to disabled guests.
We were allocated a room on the thirty second floor. We were whisked away from the lobby by express lift (one serviced floors 2 to 30, ours - floors 30 and upwards). Our bell hop gave us a running commentary of the amenities in the hotel and the attractions nearby.
My wife, who has a somewhat delicate head for heights anyway, was already feeling a little askance after her travel in the lift. The view from the floor to ceiling window was breathtaking, looking down the whole length of Harbor Drive across the Marina and Convention Centre to the Coronado Bay Bridge in the distance. We could see warships moored along the dockside. What was even more heart-stopping was that the window was open to the fresh air (OK, OK, it was not possible to open it more than about three inches - but still …!!) for ventilation. The window was well double glazed and sound proofed and once drawn the curtains were efficient in cutting off the light. The room was air conditioned although in November the outside temperature was pleasantly temperate.
Our room was at the near end (to the lifts) on the main corridor and could be considered conventional by American standards. It was equipped with a full sized King bed with a deep, comfortable mattress. The bed was made up with sheets, a blanket and a throw. The furnishings were predominantly buff and brown in colour. The walls were decorated with framed paintings. There was the usual cable television in the armoire which also offered pay-per-view films. There was a night stand with a telephone on either side of the bed. 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 and ice bucket. There was also a desk and chair with writing materials and a hotel directory. In between this was an easy chair and foot stool and an occasional table.
The en suite bathroom was well appointed with a shower over the bath. We were given a full range of toiletries (soaps, shower gel, shampoo) and a hair drier and there was a generous supply of towels. Regency Club members are provided with a towelling dressing gown and slippers.
As we are Diamond card holders we were able to choose a 'Welcome Amenity' which consisted of a bottle of Californian merlot and a plate of cheese, biscuits and fruits with a message of welcome from the management. We were also treated to a nightly turn down service at which time small chocolates were left on the pillow.
Both wired and wifi hot-spot high speed internet access is available in your room.
The Regency Club is also situated on the thirty second floor just around the corner from our room. You need an additional activation on your room key to gain access to the floor in the lift and also to open the Regency Club door. The Regency Club is a private lounge which has its own concierge staff. There is comfortable seating, television and newspapers. The windows give a north looking panoramic view up towards the Harbour. It serves a continental breakfast in the morning with canapés and light refreshments in the evening. Tea and coffee is available mid morning and through the afternoon. In the evening there is a room chargeable bar service.
The Manchester Grand Hyatt is a place were public events tend to happen. We were there during the Californian mid term elections at which there were a number of contentious referendum issues being contested. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held a campaign meeting in the hotel one morning and we caught sight of his motorcade sweep into the forecourt. It was a curious experience to watch the happenings in the lobby from wide screen television in the Regency Club. He ultimately lost all eight votes!
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The Manchester Grand Hyatt has three full service restaurants and two bars.
The largest of the restaurants is Lael's which is situated towards the rear of the Seaport tower. The small reception area is quite deceptive and leads to the long main dining room. It is built on the curve. One wall has windows which look out onto the garden and the Marina; the other has a series of semi-circular booth type tables. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it does serve from an a la carte menu.
We dinned there three times, attracted by the all-you-can-eat buffet dinners. Held on three evenings a week, Thursday is Prime Rib dinner; Friday serves Seafood dinner and Saturday the Bayside buffet (seafood bisque, barbeque ribs and strip steak). If you need to come back for more, there is the Champagne Brunch to try on Sundays.
Sally's Seafood on the Water
The second restaurant is in the grounds of the hotel on the boardwalk overlooking the marina. Sally's is open for lunch (a favourite haunt for local businessmen and office workers) and for cocktails at happy hour.
It comes into its own for dinner when reservations are strongly recommended. The busy time occurs when the sun has gone down. For special occasions you can book The Chef's Table where Chef Fabrice Tissier cooks your dinner for you.
We ate there once shortly after it opened for the evening when they were still very quiet. I ate my fill of Seared Scallops with lentils, basil and pancetta to start, followed by California Cioppino - a rich seafood pasta dish containing Alaska king crab, shrimp, mussels and clams in a garlic and tomato broth ($42). My wife was delighted with her starter of Maryland Blue Crab cakes with pan seared Mahi-Mahi as a main course. ($41).
As its name suggests this is a less formal eatery serving soup, sandwiches and salads. They also serve teas, coffees and pastries. Nearby Redfield's Lounge is decorated like an exclusive club with polished oak and deep armchairs catering for the cigar connoisseur.
The Grand Lobby Bar
The Grand Lobby bar is situated at one end of the main concourse and is another edifice of marble, deep mahogany timer and decorative wrought iron panels. Over the bar is a huge Regency
Pictures of Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, San Diego
A post card view of the Manchester Grand Hyatt
style painting of ladies and huntsmen in the grounds of a stately home. Beers (draft and bottles), wines, spirits and cocktails are served to your table by earnest young things who may well be imagining that they will be the next starlet on the block.
Top of the Hyatt
The place to meet for cocktails or for a before dinner aperitif is the bar on the fortieth floor of the main tower. From here the whole vista of San Diego Bay, Coronado Island, the backdrop of the mountains and the coastline down to the border with Mexico in the distance is visible. This is also the place to watch the most amazing sunsets or to experience the heart of a thunderstorm or to be eerily enveloped in the blanket of a Pacific fog.
There are several areas of interest within walking distance of the hotel. Immediately behind the towers running down to the waterfront is the Seaport village, a tourist trap which boasts a complex of restaurants and 75 craft and souvenir shops. Proceeding south is the San Diego marina. Heading north you come to the Tuna Harbour which is where the fishing fleet moors and then the cruise ship terminal which is also home of the aircraft carrier USS Midway (now a museum open to the public). Inland there is the historic Gas Light quarter around 4th and 5th street.
Directly outside the hotel is one of the bus stops for the Old Town Trolley Tour, a two hour narrated tour around the greater San Diego area. Tickets can be bought from the concierge desk. There is also Village Metro station where trains run at regular intervals up to the vicinity of the airport, Balboa Park and down to the Mexican border near Tijuana.
We booked on line at Hyatt.com. It has to be said that the Manchester Grand Hyatt is an expensive place to stay (the rack rate for a standard room is in the order of $349 a night). However there are some bargains to be had and we were able to book our week's stay for $189 a night (this price is still currently available for November 2006).
The Hyatt chain now has an early check-in facility for card members. You can ring ahead or log in to the Hyatt website to check in as early as 11am. All hotels have an in room on screen facility to follow your account and through which you can arrange to check out. Electronic check outs can also be carried out from ATM like machines placed in the foyer. It is also possible to request a late 2pm check out.
Our stay at the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel was a stunning experience. At forty storeys its website claims it to be the highest construction on the West coast of America. It dominates downtown San Diego - nothing comes remotely near it. It is central to all the activities and amenities of the city and well served by public transport. The views over the bay, the coastline and the backing mountains are breath taking. Its inner dimensions are vast, its decoration (marble, mahogany and leather) breathes wealth and opulence. We were treated to a wide range local delicacies (food and drink).
CIAO hasn't put an image of this hotel on the index yet. I have added a few photographs of my own. The hotel's own website has a marvellous virtual tour which is well worth a look at: http://manchestergrand.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/gallery/virtual-tour.jsp
Would we stay there again? Yes of course we would - but I think we would have to sneak away to spend a weekend at the world famous Hotel del Coronado just over the bridge!!