New York (NY)
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
- Great location close to UN, Grand Central Terminal
- Pleasant housekeeping, wait staff
- Denied HHonors room upgrade as we hadn't 'called a week in advance'
- Rooms are tiny, even by NY standards
- Four-step procedure to take a shower
- Free full American breakfast for HHonors Gold, Diamond members
Built in 1931 and originally the Hotel Tudor, the now Hilton Manhattan East hotel in New York Midtown offers 300 rooms in practically the centre of the city, but which we found to be incredibly small: even by New York standards.
We also found the property's stance toward its Hilton HHonors guests to be overly welcoming in parts and incredibly underwhelming and downright frustrating in others: here's where the hotel excels, and where it lags behind the competition.
Location & Impressions
Situated on East 42nd Street, the hotel enjoys a central address being just two blocks from the United Nations Headquarters and a short walk from both Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.
However, the property loses much of its prestige once you're actually inside – being a Hilton HHonors Gold member, a complimentary room upgrade (where space permits) and two bottles of water are expected as published benefits of the program.
Despite the hotel's own website showing that many higher room categories were still available for sale for the duration of our stay, we were told that upgrades were only offered "to guests who call the hotel at least a week in advance and ask for one".
The hotel also wouldn't budge when 'reminded' of the HHonors Terms and Conditions, specifically "all upgrades are granted on a space-available basis for the entire stay, as determined at the time of check-in" – not 'a week in advance'.
Rounding out the most mediocre of arrival experiences, the hotel hadn't bothered to set the promised two bottles of water in the room, instead simply handing them over at check-in with no carry bag and no offer of assistance, when my hands were already full with luggage.
As far as first impressions go, I struggle to think of a worse one.
The room didn't improve on that impression being so small that the door wouldn't open properly thanks to the TV cabinet being in the way...
... and the shower requiring a four step procedure just to get things happening.
When you've been travelling for over 24 hours to reach New York from Australia, having to decipher an Ikea-like diagram before enjoying a relaxing shower at the end is just mind-bogglingly stupid.
Two taps: one for hot, one for cold – it's not complicated, yet the Hilton Manhattan East makes it so.
The room otherwise offered much of what you'd expect of a Hilton-brand hotel with ample power points, closet space, nice Peter Thomas Roth amenities and a coffee maker, although the lounge chair (image 4, above) had seen better days.
Surprisingly an in-room safe was absent despite being a feature advertised on the hotel's own website, although the TV worked well and offered all channels in crystal clear HD and in their correct aspect ratios – something hotels often overlook.
Also on the upside, the housekeeping staff left a little "God bless you" note in reply to a modest tip that I left for them during the stay...
... which was quite a nice touch and was something I'd not found in any other hotel, as housekeepers normally just take the tip (and your 'thank you' note) and head on their way.
Without an Executive Lounge at this hotel, guests can instead work at the desk in their rooms...
... which offers a number of easy-access power points, although one of which wasn't working.
All HHonors members also receive free wireless Internet access with speeds that were adequate for basic working tasks and a signal strong enough that plugging into the fixed cable wasn't necessary.
As with the housekeepers, the hotel's wait staff make for a noticeable and polite presence at breakfast – also included for HHonors Gold and Diamond guests – with staff member Pablo offering a friendly smile and offering us a takeaway coffee at no extra charge.
Unlike some Hilton hotels in the USA which can substitute a proper brekky for a Starbucks voucher or even half of an English muffin, HHonors guests at the Hilton Manhattan East have full buffet privileges including hot food, chilled meats and pancakes atop the normal cereals, breads and pastries.
While the pancakes (pre-made and ready for you to take) were rock solid, the hash brown was fresh and tasty and the entire breakfast remains available until 11am on weekdays – perfect for jet lagged travellers or those who simply prefer to sleep in.
Herb N' Kitchen in the hotel lobby also serves up a variety of grab and go items aside more substantial choices like sandwiches and pizzas throughout the day and into the evenings, while room service is available for breakfast and dinner, although not lunch.
Complete also with an on-site gym and a 24-hour business centre, the Hilton Manhattan East ticks many of the boxes business travellers look for, but when our basic room was little more than a shoebox and cost us over A$400/night, frankly, we'd expect more from the overall experience.
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