When a new luxury hotel is opening, the marketing team for that hotel will hype it up. If they’re good at their job they’ll have you champing at the bit to stay at the hotel as soon as it opens up. And marketing aside, there’s a certain inherent allure to being one of the first to experience a new offering.
Patty and I heard early in 2015 of the new mega resort known as Baha Mar slated for the Bahamas and we got excited and booked a four-night stay for the Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar.
Now having done quite a bit of traveling I knew better than to book a stay within the first few weeks of the scheduled opening date in March 2015 (which had already been pushed back once according to reports). Instead we decided to book for late July for our first anniversary trip. We were ready to do that and pulled the trigger when we saw the announcement from Hyatt that the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar was going to be moved up from Category 4 to Category 5.
Our Original Booking Was A “Steal”
Our booking was a great deal because we made it while the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar was still a Category 4 hotel in Hyatt’s Gold Passport program. That meant we were able to use our two Chase Hyatt Visa anniversary night certificates (good for any Category 1-4 hotel) and only needed to redeem 30,000 Gold Passport points total for the other two nights. We also got an incredible deal using points for our Southwest flight.
After we made the booking, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar was bumped up into Category 5. This meant the use of anniversary award night certificates for bookings from that time onward was eliminated and that the point price for a standard room rose from 15,000 to 20,000 per night. At the time that was seemingly irrelevant to us because our reservation was confirmed.
The First Twist
You would think a booking for four months after the scheduled opening date would surely be safe, right? Nope. Yesterday I received an email and a call from Hyatt informing me that the hotel management team was delaying the opening of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar again, this time to August 1st. Compounding that was the additional news that the hotel would not be accepting new or modified reservations for August or September.
That last note is somewhat understandable. The hotel management team is apparently going to focus on making the experience enjoyable for those staying in August and September by ensuring the property isn’t overwhelmed upon opening. That essentially meant though that our vacation which was intended as a celebration of our first anniversary, in late July, would perhaps have to be delayed until fall.
Making matters worse, our award night certificates are set to expire in late August, which is before any new reservations are being accepted at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. Also, the points rate for the hotel has risen. It also quickly registered that we’re unlikely to get the same great points rate on airfare for a future booking.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that Hyatt stepped up and offered us a strong courtesy package to make up for this mess.
Hyatt Management Offered Us Three Options – One Strong, One Mediocre, One Weak
Hyatt’s remedy to this late opening mess was to offer us three options:
You may rebook for future dates at your previously confirmed rate or the prevailing lowest rate. You will also receive a reimbursement of up to $300.00 per person confirmed on your reservation for changing your airfare and a complimentary upgrade to the best available room depending on hotel availability.
You may move your reservation to Atlantis. To book your reservation, please contact us at 888-848-9496. You will also receive 40,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for a 2 night return stay at Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, a complimentary upgrade depending on hotel availability as well as a welcome amenity.
You may cancel your reservation without penalty and receive 80,000 [points]. We will also reimburse up to $300.00 per person confirmed on your reservation for cancellation fees and non-refundable airfare.
The first option didn’t seem generous to me. Essentially the offer was to rebook us at a later date and pay for airline change fees but not really provide much to make up for the major hassle of having to delay our trip by months. The offer of a complimentary upgrade to the best available room came with the usual qualifier of “depending on hotel availability” which usually means “don’t count on much of an upgrade.”
The second option was a bit better but our plan to visit the Bahamas was partially driven by the desire to stay at this brand new resort, and to a much lesser extent, play golf at the brand new TPC course. The close proximity of the resort to the airport is also appealing as it means more of our short trip would be spent enjoying the destination instead of driving/ferrying to and from it. So we just weren’t amped up about the idea of visiting Atlantis.
The third option was strong and the clear choice for us. I confirmed that we would receive back the two award night certificates and the 30,000 points we used for the original four-night booking plus the 80,000 additional points (20,000 points per night of the reservation).
Because we wouldn’t be able to use the award night certificates for this hotel, as we had originally planned, the agent went a step further and awarded us another 20,000 points.
The Points/Award Night Tally
So once the cancellation was completed we had a total of 130,000 points and our two award night certificates (expiring in August). We reviewed our calendars, mulled over the fact that the hotel is now supposedly going to open August 1st and decided a November booking made sense. The four nights would cost us 80,000 points, leaving us with an extra 50,000 points and our award certificates as a consolation for the hassle of having our anniversary trip significantly delayed.
Hyatt is also offering to cover the change fees on airfare. Well, we hardly ever pay for airfare, thanks to the approach highlighted on this site. We booked this trip with Southwest Rapid Rewards points. The Southwest booking schedule isn’t yet open for November so I don’t if we’re going to take a hit on airfare points rate. If we do, I plan on submitting a letter to Hyatt highlighting the difference in points rate and using a value of 1.4 cents per Southwest Rapid Rewards point to determine reimbursement request. Will they reimburse us in that way? I don’t know yet.
24 May Update: Once the Southwest schedule opened for November I booked us new roundtrip airfare using Rapid Rewards points. The roundtrip cost me 9,896 more points than my original booking for August (Patty is flying for free with my companion pass). I emailed Hyatt the Rapid Rewards confirmation email and indicated that Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth 1.4 cents each, meaning I essentially incurred an increase of $139 in airfare due to this forced change in trip dates. I have now received a response from the Hyatt rep that they will be sending me a check for that amount.
The Second Twist
As the saying goes, sometimes it seems that nothing’s ever easy. I visited the Hyatt website to make our new booking and lo and behold there were no standard rooms available for point redemption for the weekend of interest (or a few others that I checked). There was however the option of booking a Grand Club King room for 27,000 points per night. Though that’s quite an increase over our original booking of 15,000 points per night, it’s of course a nicer room with club access and still covered by the points we received back and as a courtesy. So we decided to book that room. If availability for a standard room opens up, we can switch to save the 7,000 points per night.
07 May Update: I made a follow-up call to Hyatt and requested the pre-category-change rate for the Grand Club King room (21,000 vs. 27,000 points per night) be honored for our November booking. The Hyatt agent agreed to do so and immediately credited the difference. I am very impressed with their customer service!
The first takeaway here is that if you can’t accept having your reservation delayed then you definitely shouldn’t book a stay for dates anywhere close to the hotel’s opening date. A honeymoon is the type of trip that best fits this description. It would be brutal to deal with a situation like this a month or two before your wedding.
If you’re booking a honeymoon for a hotel that hasn’t actually opened yet, I would suggest ensuring the hotel’s planned opening date is a full six months or more before your honeymoon. Exactly how much buffer you build in may depend a bit on the size and complexity of the property.
The second takeaway here is that, at least for us, Hyatt stepped up and offered us a compensatory/courtesy package that was surprisingly very generous. Kudos to Hyatt for excellent customer service. At a time when some other brands such as Carlson are basically trashing their frequent stay programs, Hyatt is again standing out as a great brand to patronize. My preference would have been to not have gone through this at all but in the end they made up for the hassle.
We’re now looking forward to our fall trip to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. I’ll be sure to follow up with a full review of the property after we return so bookmark the site or sign up for our email list to be notified when that happens!
Did you have a booking canceled do a hotel’s late opening? If so, please share your experience in the comments section.