Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino

Hotel:  Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino
Room:  One Bedroom Suite
Price:  $95.20 (+ Diamond Suite Upgrade; $20.00 resort fee; $15.63 taxes)
Category:  5

Regardless of the time of year, the Lake Tahoe area is an idyllic wonderland. It's the closest ski destination to Northern California, and I have fond memories of annual dorm ski trips to Tahoe with hundreds of us packed into cabins designed for twenty people.

The only Hyatt property in the Tahoe area is in Incline Village on the north shore of the lake. It's a sleepy town on the Nevada side of the border with California that seems totally reliant on tourist traffic (like much of the area). It's a sprawling property decorated in a ski-lodge style.

The suite

I used a Diamond Suite Upgrade certificate to upgrade to a one-bedroom suite. Using an upgrade is like buying a lottery ticket - it'll be fun, but you won't really know whether it was a good decision until after you use it.

Upgrading here was not a good decision. The first sign of trouble came when I had to go down from the lobby to get to the room. It's fine - it's not like the suite was in the basement with tiny windows looking out to street level, but it's also a little demoralizing.

There was nothing wrong with the suite itself- it was just sort of humdrum compared with some of the other suite upgrades I got during this trip.

The living room area has an oversized leather couch with a pullout bed, but no separate half-bathroom.

The bedroom is separated from the living room through sliding doors. Unfortunately, there's no way to get to the bathroom without going through the bedroom.

 The bathroom was unremarkable.

(As an aside: "unremarkable" is an adjective that's almost always a lie. When I call something
"unremarkable," I just remarked on it. Sorry for lying. It won't happen again).

The Regency Club was in a separate wing from my suite, so I had to change elevators at the lobby level. The evening hors d'oeuvres were... unremarkable. The only hot item was a sorry looking tray of mini chorizo tarts.

The casino

At check-in, the front desk gives guests a $5 match-play voucher for the casino and a glass of champagne (I thought these were impressive, but I'd gladly trade those back if the property were willing to waive the exorbitant resort fee).

I would have thought that the casino would be just slot machines - impressively, they also had table games (craps, roulette, blackjack, Ultimate Texas Hold'em, and a small poker room that wasn't open). I took the last seat at a $10-minimum blackjack table to redeem my match-play voucher.

An aging bleach-blonde Real Housewife of Somewhere-Not-Very-Nice sat to my right nursing her dwindling pile of chips. Braydeen was hammered off of free champagne, loudly berating the cocktail waitress who refused to bring her two glasses "so I can double-fist them like fancy people." Braydeen's lover (or at least the object of her attention) sat to my left. After every hand that Cody won, Braydeen reached over me to high-five him and slobber over his hand.

After busting when she hit on a 13 with a dealer 6 showing, Braydeen remained at the table with three empty champagne glasses and a pack of Marlboros (but no money) in front of her. Cody was willing to play the role of generous benefactor; every few minutes, Braydeen promised: "Imma make out with you if you gimme some chips." He was happy to oblige.

I left after the shoe finished, happy to have won $5, and wished Cody good luck. I don't think he'll need it.


Diamond members get a complimentary continental breakfast in the Regency Club lounge. On my way there, I got onto the wrong elevator and went down when I wanted to go up. As the doors opened on the lower level, one of the hotel's janitorial staff (pulling a vacuum cleaner) asked, "You come out?" When I explained that I was going up, she groaned.

Maybe the hotel forbids its staff from riding the elevator with guests. Maybe she wanted to vacuum the elevator. Regardless, groaning at your guests is not a good way to win repeat business.

The Regency Club was crowded with families and Louis Vuitton-accoutrement'd tourists from the Far East. One of these tourists stuck a whole bagel into the toaster (which can accommodate sliced bagels, but not whole ones) and was disappointed when the bagel started burning. Her perfunctory efforts to dislodge the bagel were unsuccessful. By the time a Club staffer came to help, the bagel was on fire.

The spread was about average for a Club breakfast - smoked salmon, fruit, cereal, pastries, etc.

I wasn't impressed with this property. Of course, the motley cast of guests was not the hotel's fault. But the lackluster suite in the lower-level, the groaning janitor, and the resort fee are. I probably wouldn't stay here again, and I definitely would not use a Diamond Suite Upgrade.

The night before, I had stayed at the Hyatt Regency Escala Lodge in Park City, another ski town. The front desk receptionist was excited to hear that I was headed to Tahoe. He said that the Park City property was considering remodeling itself to make it more similar to the Tahoe Hyatt.

Don't do it, Park City. You're so much better than your rival to the west.

My Hyatt Diamond Challenge