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I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in January 2004, which was my first (and only so far) trip to New York, and at the time only my second trip to the USA. Given that I didn't feel I'd be regularly jetting off to New York, I'd decided to check us into the hotel I'd always heard about and hence had always wanted to stay at.
We arrived late evening by taxi which dropped us off at the main entrance to the hotel on Park Avenue. The lobby area is large, with the reception being located right at the back, meaning you have to walk through the lobby and past the main lifts to get to check in to your room. It's not a problem as such, but you are left following your nose and common sense, which, when your body is telling you it's 2am, you're not really up to doing.
We booked the hotel stay through BA Holidays rather than directly with Hilton (the Waldorf Astoria is now owned by this chain) and managed to get a good deal, which resulted in staying a night free of charge. The fact that we had booked via a third party did concern me a little, as it's something that potentially could so easily go wrong, but we checked in without any problems and happily trundled off to our room, which we'd been told had recently been renovated.
The room was good and suited our purposes completely, as we hadn't anticipated
spending a long time in it: our trip was purely for sightseeing purposes. However, for a room which had been recently renovated we were disappointed to notice that the curtains weren't in the best state of repair.
The bed was a large double, which was incredibly comfortable. There was a desk next to the door, and a fitted wardrobe which was great for storing all the new clothes I purchased while we were there! There was also (which I now find to be quite typical of American hotels) a cupboard on the wall opposite the end of the bed which housed the TV. There were plenty of channels, which kept the husband happy when we returned from sightseeing each day frozen (remember, we went in January) and I must admit it was nice each evening to close the door on the TV screen!
The bathroom was cosy but large enough for two people. We did have some trouble figuring out the shower: eventually we gave up and housekeeping sent up an engineer to look at it. He turned it on straight away, which was rather embarassing, but some sort of instructions wouldn't have gone amiss. There was a good range of toiletries, and the shower pressure was good (so disappointing to step into a lovely shower only to find out the water trickles out like a garden hose).
The room was quite high up but we still did suffer some street noise. This is probably only to be expected though given that the hotel's location is so central and NYC is a busy city.
The lobby and reception area were decorated tastefully, and were very tranquil. The area by the lifts had an enormous floral arrangement which was quite stunning.
Near this area there was also a cocktail bar, where a pianist played late afternoon/early evening. One afternoon during our stay we decided to try out the cocktail bar and listen to the piano. I was extremely disappointed to find that the cocktail bar didn't have a cocktail list! When I asked them for a mojito, the waiter didn't have a clue what it was, and I was offered a Cosmopolitan instead, as they knew how to make this. The cocktail was good, but my own choice of cocktail would have been better. This was accompanied by assorted nuts which are served free of charge with the drinks. Unfortunately, drinks are pricey and I think that afternoon for three cocktails and three beers, we probably spent about £40. All in all though, the cocktail bar does have a good atmosphere. They also serve high tea here, which, although I deemed it to be expensive, did look to be delicious with a variety of sandwiches and cakes being served on a tiered serving dish.
We also ate one evening at the Waldorf Astoria's steakhouse - the Bull and Bear. We had a nice meal here, and the service was top notch. We've found that wine in the US is more expensive than you'd pay here in the UK for a bottle, even if you're looking at ordering American wine such as something from California. You could easily pay £20 upward a bottle (and that's with an excellent exchange rate). However, the meal was nice and the New York cheesecake I had for dessert was to die for.
Externally, the hotel is impressive, and is excellently located for the main sightseeing. We were able to walk to most places we wanted to see easily. The only thing we did find is that while there were diners nearby which were suitable for breakfast (breakfast was not included with our nightly room rate) there weren't really any restaurants nearby, except for the hotel's own facilities.
In conclusion, if you want to stay at a landmark hotel that everyone will have heard of, the Waldorf Astoria hits the mark, especially when you factor in location. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but shortly will need some renovation work to maintain the five star luxury that is expected of such a hotel. I do believe though that you could probably get more for your money in other five star New York hotels. Bottom line: would I stay again? Probably, but not with seriously checking out the opposition first.