Grand Hyatt Tampa Was a Fantastic Venue for Frequent Traveler University

The Grand Hyatt Tampa was host to last month’s Frequent Traveler University. I’ve written about some of the sessions there, like the session on putting award booking ‘theory’ into practice, with a live call to Delta to book business class awards to India.

This was probably the nicest venue for a frequent flyer educational gathering yet. Nice and convenient only minutes from the airport, with free parking, and within a few miles of multiple CVS stores that stocked scores and scores of Vanilla Reload cards — plenty of people were taking field trips off-site in order to stock up on frequent flyer miles. (There were even Reload cards up at the cash register.)

Since I wasn’t going to spend much time in my room, I didn’t try to compete with the 60+ Hyatt Diamond members out of the 400-some odd frequent flyers in attendance at the event for a suite upgrade by trying to confirm one. I booked a standard king room at the group rate of $119+, and at check-in was upgraded to a Bay View king which was lovely and well-suited to my needs.

There were folks of course with big suites in the main hotel, and with Casita Suites that I’m sure were lovely but a good 5-10 minute walk from the main building where all events were held. I was glad not to have either, believe it or not. I wanted to be close to the action, but I also didn’t want a room that would become a gathering place — spending most of my time from sun up to long past sundown talking miles and points, and since I’m terribly introverted in person, having a room to myself was a necessary respite.

I checked into the hotel about 15 minutes prior to the end of evening appetizers in the club lounge. I’m always of mixed feelings about club lounges — on the one hand I tend to prefer a restaurant breakfast if the restaurant does a good job (not the average buffet at an airport Hyatt Regency, but something along the lines of Hyatt Olive 8) or even room service. And I find I usually don’t take advantage of evening offerings. But I also really like having a place to go to grab a bottle of water, I drink a lot of water and not having to go in search of water is a huge plus for me.

But I was hungry, and wanted to check out the offerings, and found this to be a pretty good one.

For breakfast the hotel — recognizing that there were so many Diamond members present — while the hotel’s lounge is usually only open Sunday evening through Friday morning, they decided to keep open their club lounge and offer breakfast in the restaurant.

The best of both worlds! I suspect they knew the club lounge wasn’t big enough to fit everyone, plus they wouldn’t have wanted to compensate each Diamond members with 2500 points for having the club closed during the stay while also offering breakfast. That’s one of the great benefits of Hyatt — a hotel that has a lounge but where the lounge is closed has to give up points for it.

I used the club lounge for breakfast throughout my stay because I was busy, and it was both quick (self-serve) and an easy place to work while I ate and had some coffee, and grab more coffee to go.

There was a nice variety of cold items, including smoked salmon.

They had a hot item that I steered away from, a different strange egg dish each morning.

Another Diamond benefit is the check-in amenity. I thought Starwood was brilliant when they introduced their (continental) breakfast benefit for Platinum members — they made it a choice in lieu of bonus points as a check-in amenity. That’s both a cost savings (since if they give breakfast, there’s no cost for the points) and feeds Starwood’s narrative of customization, giving you the benefits you value most.

Hyatt though has the best breakfast benefit, offering full breakfast for up to 4 registered guests in the room if there’s no club lounge available. And it’s not a choice, you get a check-in amenity also. I pretty universally always take the 1000 Gold Passport points. This time was an exception.

It’s rare that I really want the food and beverage amenity, or that I’ll view it as being worth more than the value of the points (at a minimum $15). Plus if I’m getting to a hotel late I don’t really want to wait for something to be delivered, I usually want to go to bed. Or to the club lounge and be done with it.

But I knew that I would be exhausted and hungry at the end of Frequent Traveler University events, and the hotel was happy to deliver the amenity any time rather than just immediately when I arrived. So I had them send up their Cuban sandwich for when I expected to be done with events on Friday evening. I went back to my room and found the sandwich and some great fried plantains.

Food generally was pretty good on property, and not just the plantains. Before things got underway on Friday I had lunch with Pizza in Motion down at the hotel’s restaurant by the water Oystercatchers. It’s a walk, down towards the Casitas, which have their own pool. The tuna was good.

Up by the hotel was a the main, lovely pool area, although my favorite feature isn’t pictured — the bar there that was a great place to hang out between and after weekend events. The pool is beside a small lake and lovely lush grass as well.

All in all it was a great venue and a lovely property that I hadn’t been to before. If I had any complaint it was with the bath amenities. I’m not a huge fan of June Jacobs that they use at Grand Hyatts, though many people are. But it was the inconsistency in amenities that somewhat vexed me — no bath gel, the lotion bottle wasn’t new (a bit was missing) when I checked in which was fine since I wasn’t going to use it anyway, and only on the last day of my stay was I given additional amenities (mouth wash, toothpaste). I didn’t expect the toothpaste since it seems to no longer be offered automatically rather than on request at Hyatts, but it just seemed strange to be given it one day at the end of the stay.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Agreed. The rooms were up to par for Hyatt and I loved mine. Staff was gracious, as always at Hyatt. Location terrific as normal at Hyatt. Can you tell I love Hyatt? At any rate, I hope you will consider another FTU at this location. It really couldn’t be better for many reasons.

  2. I’m curious. What’s offered at the FTU that can’t be replaced by due diligence on blogs and forums?

  3. Hotel and outside areas were nice – a relaxing, tropical feel to FTU this time. I enjoyed the conference.

  4. @David – some people learn best in writing, others one-on-one or in group settings, some people are visual and others learn more hearing speakers. And there’s great interaction with other frequent flyers, over meals and in the bar or by the pool. I can say the overwhelming majority of folks seem to enjoy themselves, different people often for different reasons.

    @Scott – thanks for commenting, clearly opinions vary.

  5. The hotel was very nice, but I heard LOTS of people complaining about the construction (it didn’t bother me).

  6. @David and Scott some validity to your thinking……I went to McLean as I was learning about the bloggers on BA…… go again it would have to be down the street from my house……and it taught me who is full of themselves and who I actually follow religiously and who is a tweener………but there was NOTHING presented that is different from the blogs if you pay attention…..finally it showed me who had the attention to detail skills that are so necessary to not waste a bunch of time on wild goose chases after poor instructions…………

  7. @David – I had a great time at the FTU and thought it was a worthwhile event! I met Marshall Jackson at the pool bar and consider him a new friend. We had a great conversation and a few laughs. You can’t get that reading a blog.

  8. Gary, I appreciate all the work that you and the many volunteers put into the event. It was fun and I learned a few things. However…

    To call it, “a fantastic venue for FTU” just isn’t accurate. While all the items you listed in the post are reasonably accurate, those are mostly ancillary to the event. If we focus on the event, (1) the hotel lobby was in the middle of renovations, had limited seating, and reeked of fresh paint; (2) the meeting rooms were extremely cold; (3) there were multiple, recurring problems with sound systems; (4) the smallest of the presentation rooms was very small, which is odd, because the rooms upstairs where lunch was served were much larger; (5) some (a minority) of the presenters clearly had little or no experience speaking to a group and weren’t very well prepared.

    Am I glad I went? Was it worth it? Would I recommend it? The answer to all is yes. But you’ll break your arm if you keep patting yourself on the back with titles like this one.

  9. Scott, great observation…I guess the presentations themselves were not the main course. I am also wondering, does the Hyatt always have those decent sized shrimp in the Club Lounge or was this because a group of travel bloggers were in town…just wondering.

    I can guess who had the better presentations, I use Gary’s and Ben’s links when I apply for credit cards because they present well thought out and researched posts most of the time (unlike Delta Points who is the Seinfeld of blogs…posts about nothing).

  10. @IdahoSt perhaps you might want to check out Frequent Miler the original March Madness guru who details the strategy step by step with photos no less………
    And the thing about the food was that although it was bad/not great/splitting hairs it was all you can eat…………….

  11. @Dom – I share my honest thoughts about hotels, good and bad, when I write about them. Plenty of bad hotels out there. This one didn’t do anything special for me, beyond standard loyalty program benefits. I was not, for instance, in a suite even.

  12. @Scott – this wasn’t meant as a review of FTU but of the hotel. The sound system actually wasn’t the hotel’s, they didn’t have anything to do with it, and I look forward to more feedback on the presenters but again nothing much related to the hotel. My allergies are such that I often don’t smell as well what others might, so apologies that I missed the smell of paint (and just glad I wasn’t allergic to it!). I found the space lovely, and found the temperature comfortable, am sorry to hear that you disagree.

  13. “The sound system actually wasn’t the hotel’s”

    So the hotel bears no responsibility in hiring competent vendors to serve their meetings & events?

  14. @Jill – in this case, no, because it wasn’t a local vendor’s sound system either. Sound wasn’t contracted through the hotel. Fault lies entirely with the event organizers.

  15. Gary, how in the world do you juggle a full time job with travel, home life, the blog and all it entails, as well as all your non-job trips? Do you have a clone or some time machine we don’t know about?

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