NYC - The Plaza - What's up?

Old May 26th, 1999, 04:25 PM
Dave Rubinton
Posts: n/a
NYC - The Plaza - What's up?

Does anyone know the code for breaking through "reservations speak" and getting a straight deal for a room??? I've been going back and forth over plans for an anniversary weekend for several weeks now and don't feel that I'm speaking the same language. Any help would be appreciated.
Old May 27th, 1999, 06:26 AM
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Dave; What is it that you specifically want to know about hotel speak? As an ex-travel agent I might be able to help. However, your best bet is to contact either Quikbook ( or Express Reservations ( These two hotel consolidators book more hotel rooms in NYC than anyone. They get the best prices on almost every NY hotel - including the Plaza. I've used them many times. They are simple reservation services. There is no fee for their help, your reservation is booked directly with the hotel and there is no cancellation fee. Their reservation agents have personally visited the hotels and are very knowledgable. They can give you specific info on rooms, location, neighborhoods, etc. They can also cut through the hotel speak for you. If I can help further, drop me an email.
Old May 27th, 1999, 01:42 PM
Posts: n/a
One thing that often helps is asking them if they have any weekend specials. Many in NYC do because they are busier during the week with business travellers, and on weekends aren't so fully booked and want to boost their occupancy rate. Then, when they quote you the rate, ask them what that includes (they may throw in breakfast, parking, whatever). Then, ask them if that is their best rate.
Also, ask them if they offer any discounts. You would be surprised how many hotels (even high-end) offer discounts for members of certain groups (AAA, AARP, military, government, etc.).
I am attaching below a recent New York Times Travel section article reviewing the Plaza and the Waldorf-Astoria, because it may give you an idea of what rate to expect and also gives you one reviewer's opinion of his room. (See the section at the end regarding the writer's own experience in making the reservation and getting the best rate.) Hope this is helpful. Good luck.

May 16, 1999
Hotels Larger Than Life

At two of New York's grand hotels, the Plaza and the
Waldorf, what do you get for $300 (more or less)? Coffered
ceilings, vintage murals and plenty of marble, for a start

Those glorious words "grand hotel" call to mind another era, more
gracious and less hurried than our own, and surroundings,
constructed at least decades ago, of heroic scale and a certain
sumptuousness. The lobby should be enormous and shamelessly
decorative, with crystal chandeliers suspended from an impossibly high
ceiling and plenty of fat sofas for watching a parade of visitors from
around the world. The surfaces that aren't gilded are covered with marble
or carved wood. Rooms are spacious, reminiscent of a time when people
chose to live in hotels. And the uniformed staff, never far from sight, can
produce a heavy silver pot of coffee or a full-dress dinner in a twinkling.

Keeping in step with the times
can be difficult for an old hotel,
however, and not every grande
dame is as grande as it once
was. Recently I decided to see
how two of Manhattan's oldest
and grandest are faring. I
chose the Plaza, which opened
in 1907, and the
Waldorf-Astoria, which
opened at its current, second
location in 1931, and booked a
room at the lower end of the
range for each hotel -- $325 for
a double room at the Plaza (including Continental breakfast) and $309 for a
suite at the Waldorf.

The Plaza

It's almost impossible to imagine the Plaza without the Palm Court, the
flamboyant lobby tearoom that opened when Theodore Roosevelt was
President. On a late Saturday night during my stay, I went downstairs
for dessert. Though I had a magazine, the tables are deliberately arranged
for people-watching, and the floor show was amusing. As waiters hovered
around two Diana Vreeland look-alikes, a wizened violinist went from table
to table playing requests -- a little Gershwin here, some Rodgers &
Hammerstein there. My apple cake was so-so, but the coffee was
excellent, and the wedding cake of a room sparkled. As the music soared,
I imagined myself in a lacy white gown and a huge cartwheel hat, sipping
Champagne around 1910.

The Plaza is a curiosity as grand New York hotels go. One moment you're
whisked into a fantasy past by the architecture and ambience. The next,
you can feel as if you're in an airport, albeit one lighted by chandeliers.
When I checked in that afternoon, the hotel seemed frenetic and was so
crowded I had to fight my way to the elevator.

Throngs of conventioneers, guests and gawkers milled about in the lobbies
and halls, snapping pictures and yelling into cell phones. A long line led to
the women's rest room. And since there's no place to sit in the lobbies or
hallways, the weariest, or boldest, had plopped themselves on a carpeted

Yet whatever mood it happens to beam your way, the 807-room Plaza is
an impressive piece of real estate, with a blue-chip location overlooking
Fifth Avenue and Central Park. From the outside, the 18-story French
Renaissance limestone building looks like a chateau. (The hotel became a
National Historic Landmark in 1986.) And the interior will dazzle anyone
who admires coffered ceilings, walls and walls of exquisite white marble
and gilding on almost everything.

Parts of the Plaza have been renovated over the past few years, and the
hotel, operated by Fairmont Hotel Management, looks good. My favorite
addition is the elegant lobby carpeting in muted blues that replaced the
flashy blood-red and gold carpets. The Everett Shinn murals of Central
Park in the clubby, and very popular, Oak Bar are as spectacular as ever.
The impish portrait of Eloise, the Plaza's perennially 6-year-old guest,
always draws a small crowd not far from the candy shop. And the
two-year-old fitness center on the 17th floor, small but smartly equipped
with cardio machines and weight equipment, is wittily adorned with big
gold-framed mirrors. Guests can use it free of charge.

A minor annoyance is the hotel's tireless
self-promotion. Almost every piece of
literature I saw includes the litany of former
guests (Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
Marlene Dietrich and Frank Lloyd Wright, to
name a few). And should you wish to take
home a piece of the Plaza, the gift shop,
taking a cue from neighbors like Planet
Hollywood, brims to the rafters with
monogrammed souvenirs -- sheets, towels,
golf shirts, baby clothes, Christmas tree

I was happy to retreat to my "classic room,"
as the reservation agent described it. Room
1057 was quiet and airy but of moderate size,
with a king-size bed, a comfortable club chair
with matching ottoman and a sleek wooden
desk; the fax machine was hidden discreetly
in a drawer. The large picture window,
which unfortunately overlooked a boring glass building on 58th Street, was
framed by graceful mint-green curtains that matched the bedspread.
Everything looked clean and fresh; the moldings were as crisp as pleats,
and the white paint on the woodwork looked like fresh cream. The crystal
chandelier was so pretty I almost left it on all night.

Although the bathroom was extremely small, it looked new and stylish, with
black and white floor tiles and immaculate white tiles marching up the
walls. A beautifully framed mirror hung above the pedestal sink. And the
shower felt like a water cannon.

Service veered between competence and indifference for the most part. I
had to call to have my bed turned down. And my Sunday morning wake-up
call was appalling -- it came two hours early, at 7 A.M. instead of 9.

But my room service breakfast arrived promptly. Artfully arranged on a
pale pink tablecloth sat a silver basket filled with toast and brioche, fresh
squeezed grapefruit juice in a silver, ice-filled cooler, a big pot of coffee,
and corned beef hash with a very firm poached egg, as I requested. The
breakfast was expensive: the bill was $47.92, though I paid only $9.47 after
the hotel deducted the cost of the continental breakfast for two that was
included in the room rate. But it was delicious, and the perfect
accompaniment to an old black-and-white Barbara Stanwyck movie I
watched, wrapped in my big white hotel bathrobe. I lingered past
check-out time and stayed until the final credits rolled.

The Waldorf-Astoria

s the Waldorf-Astoria a hotel or a city? As I roamed through acres of
thickly carpeted lobby, nearly the entire length of a block, I realized you
could hole up in this 42-story building for days and never do the same thing
twice. The hotel has four restaurants, six bars and a mall of boutiques,
where you can shop for antiques, rare books, cell phones or sweatshirts.
You can go blond at Kenneth's Hair Salon, work out all day in the gym, or
try to count the tiles of the recently restored allegorical mosaic floor in the
Park Avenue lobby. (There are 148,000.) Then you can sink into a sofa in
the magnificent main lobby and gaze up -- way up -- at the reliefs of stags
and naiads frolicking on the gilded ceiling.

There's nothing cozy about the Waldorf, but it's comfortable, and it
certainly is grand. It's so big, in fact, it's actually two hotels in one -- the
1,120-room Waldorf-Astoria and the more plush 118-room Waldorf
Towers, where every President has stayed since Herbert Hoover.

But its size and scale mean you rarely feel crowded, even when a
convention spills out of a ballroom or guests with big suitcases pile into the
lobby. And because nearly every inch of its vast public space is decorative,
there's usually an amusing detail, color or shape to hold your attention.

To walk into the main lobby in the center of
the hotel is to step into another sphere; the
people look familiar enough, dressed in the
usual mix of sweatshirts and business suits.
But the backdrop is the urbane Art Deco
world of Fred and Ginger. And the details
are beautifully maintained -- upholstered side
chairs that look like big seashells, massive
square black marble columns placed with
perfect symmetry, and big vases of potpourri
on the square, gilt-edged coffee tables.

The Park Avenue lobby is almost as big and
just as breathtaking, adorned with allegorical
murals by the French artist Louis Rigal, a
quartet of enormous silver urns guarding the
entries and what must be one of the biggest
crystal chandeliers in town. The centerpiece
is the hand-painted, and rather battered,
Steinway grand Cole Porter used when he
lived at the Waldorf Towers. And there are tables for cocktails or
afternoon tea.

I visited the 19th-floor fitness center in the early evening. It is attractive
and well equipped, with plenty of cardio and weight machines and a staff
of trainers. But it's costly: $14.70 for 24 hours or $24 for an entire stay. I
was happy to return to the lobbies, which seemed endlessly entertaining.
Big portraits of Conrad Hilton, who bought the hotel in 1971, and former
managers hang in the wood-paneled corridors, as if in a private club. And
there are places to sit in most nooks and crannies; an older man in a tuxedo
snored contentedly in a chair near the magazine shop. I finished the
evening with a very strong Cosmopolitan at Peacock Alley, the cocktail
lounge in the lobby. A banquet had just ended, and people in evening
clothes strode by.

After the Art Deco downstairs, my room, Suite 13V on the 13th floor,
seemed rather plain. Its two spacious rooms reminded me of pictures I had
seen of the Eisenhower White House. But it was huge, and very
comfortable. The walls were pale pink, the furniture traditional -- nice,
timeless wood pieces and upholstered chairs that could have been
purchased as easily in 1958 as 1998. I loved the graceful demilune tables
that flanked the front doors and the classic ceiling moldings in the sitting
room. Through the window overlooking 49th Street and Lexington Avenue,
I could see the Chrysler Building's pointy tower. The sitting room wasn't
overly polished -- an enormous fax machine sat on the marble-topped desk,
and an old switch plate was covered over with pink wallpaper. But it felt
homey, like an old Park Avenue apartment.

In the large bedroom, twin ottomans stood at the end of the king-size bed,
the perfect place to toss a white hotel bathrobe at the end of the day. A
pair of Louis XV style chairs were near the television armoire. And though
the white mini-refrigerator didn't fit the décor, there was a coffee maker
on top.

The only small area was the bathroom, a windowless rectangle with big,
creamy marble tiles covering the floor and walls. There was a scale under
the sink. But the room was lighted only by a dim fluorescent sconce above
the medicine cabinet, and it was too dark to read in the bathtub.

My $40.38 room-service breakfast arrived promptly and politely with a
newspaper, and was nicely presented: toast in a silver basket, jam in a
silver caddy, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice in a silver cooler, a big pot of
coffee and corned beef hash and two poached eggs on white Rosenthal
china. It was good, although the eggs weren't as firm as I'd requested, and
a teaspoon, embossed with the Waldorf logo, was dirty.

I stayed as long as I could, then paid a parting visit to the big bronze clock
in the main lobby. Built in 1893 for the Chicago World's Fair, it is adorned
with small sculptures of winged eagles, the Statue of Liberty, and reliefs of
seven famous Americans and Queen Victoria. The clock is massive,
historic, amusing and a bit eccentric, not unlike the Waldorf-Astoria.

From Beverly to Benjamin

New York's hotels are full these days, but like air fares, hotel rates can
change from day to day. I reserved my rooms at both the Plaza and the
Waldorf about two weeks before my stay. The lowest-priced room I could
get at The Plaza was small -- just 225 square feet -- with a queen-size bed
facing a courtyard for $380. That seemed expensive, so I called back
several days before my arrival and asked if there was anything cheaper.
Voilà: I was offered a 290-square-foot room on the courtyard with two
double beds for $325, including Continental breakfast. Since I was on a roll,
I decided to see if I could do even better when I checked in. After feverish
work at the computer, the reservations clerk smiled broadly. The room she
gave me -- 290 square feet with a king-size bed overlooking the street --
was exactly what I'd requested when I first made my reservation.

I had no such luck at the Waldorf, where the price for my suite stayed firm
at $309; however, I got a suite for less than my room at the Plaza. And I
learned that had I stayed on a weekend, I would have paid $299.

The Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10022; (212)
355-3000 or (800) 925-3673, fax (212) 872-7272. Double rooms in
the Waldorf-Astoria from $245, suites from $275; double rooms in the
Waldorf Towers from $375, suites from $635.

The Plaza, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, New York, N.Y.
10019; (212) 759-3000 or (800) 759-3000, fax (212) 546-5324.
Double rooms from $295, suites from $650.
Old May 28th, 1999, 04:59 AM
Posts: n/a
I've found that, with tourism at an all-time high, negotiating rates and packages has been difficult lately. Agree that it's a really good idea to keep trying, as rates and packages offered change with the "fill rate". Most like to fill their rooms any way they can on Thursdays for the weekend. There are lots of other wonderful hotels in NYC for celebrating your anniversary, though. Perhaps you should call around. Try the Peninsula.
Old May 28th, 1999, 03:13 PM
Posts: n/a
I stay in NY often, and everytime I check in somewhere, I ask if I can be upgraded. It usually works.

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