Review: The Hilton Auckland & New Year’s Eve

It was the morning of New Year’s Eve when we arrived in Auckland. I won’t review the flight over to Auckland because it was exactly the same as the flight into Queenstown. All I can say is that it was a very smooth flight with some spectacular views of the Southern Lakes and Alps once again.

Introduction: Christmas in Hong Kong, and New Year in New Zealand
Cathay Pacific First & Business Class Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific Business Class (Reverse Herringbone) SFO-HKG
The Conrad Hong Kong – Harbor View Twin Room
The Intercontinental Hong Kong – Harbor View Room
The Sights and Sounds of Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge HKG Airport
Singapore Airlines Business Class HKG-SIN-AKL
Arrival in Queenstown & The Rees Queenstown Luxury Hotel Apartments
Queenstown Day 1: Milford Sound
Queenstown Day 2: Glenorchy
Queenstown Day 3: Crown Range Road & Wanaka
The Hilton Auckland & New Year’s Eve
Hobbiton, New Zealand
Emperor Lounge @ Auckland Airport (via Priority Pass)
The Park Hyatt Sydney – Opera View Deluxe King Room
Virgin Australia Business Class SYD-LAX
Virgin America Lounge – The Loft at LAX

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Hilton Auckland
147 Quay St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9-978 2000
Nightly Redemption Rate: 30k-60k points/night depending on season

It was again a pleasure to have a window seat on the right side of this Airbus A320 to Auckland.

View of the Southern Alps after a 180 degree turn after takeoff from Queenstown
View of Mount Cook about 15 minutes after takeoff from Queenstown

Our flight arrived on time into Auckland, and it took us less than 40 minutes to collect our bags, and the rental car. The drive to the Hilton in Downtown Auckland was an easy 35 minutes drive along Route 1. Our car didn’t have a GPS so we just used Google Maps on my T-Mobile data plan, which proved to be sufficient for the entire trip.

The Hilton Auckland is located along Queens Wharf right in front of or behind the   Auckland Sky Tower. Auckland tends to be a rather overpriced market for not so great hotel rooms. Most hotels are a bit dated and aren’t really great value given what you are getting. The situation was further exacerbated by the fact that it was New Year’s Eve, and as such room rates were well above the $700 per night mark. I took advantage of the American Express bonus for Hilton transfers at the time to top off my account and ended up redeeming 100,000 HHonors points/room for 2 nights.

Parking: Parking costs 45 NZD/day (~30 USD) with in and out privileges. There is no way to self park at this hotel. The rates in fact came as a relief after having paid almost three/four times the rate on a recent trip to New York City.

Check In: At the driveway of the hotel, we were met by the bellman who helped get our bags and escorted us to the check in desk. Check in was a swift process where we were quickly handed the keys and a letter explaining our benefits at the hotel as a HHonors Diamond member, which included free breakfast and a couple of drink vouchers. There is no executive lounge at this Hilton property as far as I know. I wasn’t offered an upgrade (the hotel appeared to be full) but I was thanked for being a loyal HHonors member.

I am assuming the process was so swift because I had already checked in online and chosen the best available rooms on offer the previous night. Hilton is definitely doing an exceptional job in this department.

The Room: 

Our room was just a simple twin bed guest room connected to an adjacent room with a King size bed in it. We very much appreciated there being connecting rooms since it was easy to check whether everyone was ready to head out or not.

The room had a balcony, which faced a side street and waterway in between the harbor and the sky tower. The downside to having the balcony was that as soon as we opened it, quite a few mosquitoes would creep into the room. I noticed that the cleaning service must have opened it earlier because there were a few already in the room. When I called in about the problem, the hotel sent up an attendant who proceeded to spray the entire room. We were fine with this since my mom and I were quite exhausted from the terrible cold we had.

I should say though that the balcony ended up being a fairly nice place to view the New Year’s Eve fireworks display and that the mosquitoes didn’t bother us again after the spraying was completed.

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Anyway getting back to the room, it was certainly a decent pair of rooms, but it wasn’t the best Hilton room either. For one, the carpet seemed to be a bit past its prime and some of the wooden finishes seemed to need a spot of paint.

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The bathroom in both rooms featured a stand in shower and a soaking tub. Water pressure and temperature were great throughout our stay. The vanity was stocked with Peter Thomas Bath Products, which are completely acceptable, but again nothing great.

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Lunch @ Urban Turban – The North Wharf, Auckland

We went to lunch at Urban Turban, which was a short (~10 min) walk from the hotel along the waterfront. It was a sunny day in Auckland and temperatures were in the 80s so it was definitely on the warm side. The area was full of people strolling around enjoying their day off and kids playing in the nearby fountains. It was well past 3pm when we arrived at the restaurant. The restaurant is one of the few spots for Indian food open all day and has both indoor and outdoor seating. We decided to sit inside on this occasion because of the heat.

We started off by ordering the Samosa Chaat, and an ice cold mango lassi, which were both more about style over substance. As you can see the presentation of the food, overall, was very well executed.

Samosa Chaat

After that my sister and I sort of lost our minds and ordered the not so great Margherita pizza. I guess I did this because I read a review recommending it, never again!

Margherita Pizza

For the main course, I ordered Paav Bhaaji, which is actually an appetizer on the menu. It wasn’t the best I’ve had, but definitely acceptable. And if you don’t like garlic, this isn’t the dish you want to order.

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Paav Bhaji (Veg Mash with Butterbread)

My parents went for the Kadhai Vegetable Curry, Rice, and Roti, which were nice enough, but nothing to write home about.  Again presentation made the food look better than it actually was.

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Kadhai Vegetable Curry, Steamed Rice, and Roti

Bottom Line: Overall, I would say the experience at this restaurant was a decent one. The restaurant hours (all day), location, views, and ambiance are the outstanding factors and one would be hard pressed to find a better place for Indian food in Central Auckland. The food, however, was all about style over substance in my experience. Other than the pizza, there was nothing particularly wrong about the food, but just not anything to write home about. On a monetary note, I found the prices to be very reasonable, especially when comparing similar restaurants in any other major world city. Lunch ended up costing $88, all in.

Would I return? Maybe if I was looking for a late relaxing lunch by the seaside. However, given the breadth of restaurants available, I would probably try another place before coming back.

Drinks @ The Bellini Bar

As I have mentioned before, reception offered 2 drink vouchers per room per night to order from the menu at Bellini bar. The bar actually has a separate menu for drinks offered to HHonors members with vouchers, which included a variety of beers, wines, soft drinks, and tea/coffee.  While my mother had tea, my dad and I tried a strawberry daiquiri. This was specially made for us by the bartender when we seemed to express no liking for anything served on the menu.

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I tried one sip of the daiquiri and I was done. It was quite sour and had the unhindered taste of alcohol. I do appreciate the gesture by the bartender, but call me not impressed by these alcoholic beverages.

Mt Eden – Sunset Expedition

After having drinks at the Bellini bar, we headed out to explore a bit of Auckland before sunset. This just involved aimlessly driving up and down the harbor bridge for a while because I kept missing the exit I was supposed to take to get to Mt Eden. Upon finally finding the proper exit, I was met with this view:

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I’ll post the location for this photo later, but it certainly looked like an ideal location to take long exposure pictures at night. Anyway we then finally proceeded to Mt Eden, a dormant volcano, which is actually the highest point in the city of Auckland. We got extremely lucky in grabbing the last parking spot facing the crater and the Auckland skyline.

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It was a really windy evening in Auckland so we just sat in our car and admired the sunset over the city. My mom who had gotten out of the car to go look at the other side of the parking lot recommended that I check out what was going on the other edge of the city.

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I of course had seen the above scene on my first round and wasn’t really impressed by the cloudy sunset.

But upon my mom’s insistence I went back to find this scene unfolding: DSC06422

Sauron had finally revealed himself! 

And then the lights of Mordor began to turn on, one by one.

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And then Middle Earth seemed to disappear and the scene finally looked like this:

DSC06446-1  It was almost as thought the journey was coming to an end. Time to go back home to the shire 🙂

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I took one last picture of the Auckland skyline as the last light of day faded. The last sunset of 2015 was now over and it was a truly marvelous one!

Bottom Line: Mt Eden is a must visit place in Auckland especially at the golden hours of dawn and dusk. The views of the entire city are unparalleled and the traveler is sometimes rewarded with sunsets like the ones above.

Dinner and Happy New Year!

It was well past 9 pm when we arrived back at the hotel. And to our utter surprise the streets if Auckland really weren’t that crowded. It seemed pretty quiet and peaceful as far as we could tell.

No one was really hungry since we had already eaten a decently big meal earlier so we just ordered some ice cream as dessert before we were off to bed. At around 11:45pm I woke up to watch the fireworks display from my balcony. We all gathered together on the balcony and watched as everyone counted down to 2016 along the harbor side and other room balconies. I could’ve walked down to the hotel pool area which had the best view of the Sky Tower, but chose not to out of pure laziness.

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And…… 2016 was finally here! My family wished each other a Happy New Year and went off to bed once again.

Breakfast @ FISH

The full buffet breakfast was included for us because of our Hilton Diamond Status (achieved earlier through a status match from SPG Platinum). The restaurant is located on the second floor of the hotel above the Bellini Bar. The buffet offers a good variety of breads, cereals, pastries, fruits, and made to order eggs. And was definitely of a decent quality for a light morning meal.

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The setting is fantastic for watching ships going through the harbor while eating breakfast and service was especially good this New Year’s morning. The staff seemed genuinely interested in chatting with guests and talked to us about how most of the guests were probably still sleeping from the night’s festivities.

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A variety of juices were available in the buffet, though they weren’t freshly squeezed as far as I could tell.

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There were a few fruit parfaits and yogurts also available  in the buffet, which I forgot to mention earlier.

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And finally there was a made to order omelette station at the far end of the breakfast buffet. It is however important to note the lack of hot dishes for vegetarians, which is the case at most hotels outside of Asia anyway.

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Bottom Line

The Hilton Auckland is probably the best hotel in Auckland in terms of being able to use your loyalty points and being recognized for elite status. The hotel’s central location along Auckland’s harbor is perfect for dining out or roaming the city. And tough the rooms weren’t the most modern, they certainly were clean and fresh. Based on what I have looked at on Tripadvisor, I would say you would be hard pressed to find a more modern room in Auckland with the ability to collect a major points currency. Furthermore, the free breakfast benefit and drink vouchers, offered to both Gold and Diamond members, were of great value. And though I only had breakfast once during our stay, I found it to be a pleasant experience. The staff was very attentive and the spread was decent enough to find something substantial to eat. This will certainly be my go to hotel in Auckland unless the Soffitel has some incredibly cheap rate going on. 

P.S: I highly recommend Movenpick Swiss Ice Cream, which is located just a block away. The Caramelita ice cream and other desserts there were simply awesome and brought back memories of Switzerland.

Tip for Saving Money: Hilton Gold status, which includes free breakfast, is rather easy to come by these days via credit card benefits from Citibank (Hilton Reserve Card), and AMEX (Platinum + Hilton Surpass).