Having stayed at numerous InterContinental Hotels across different cities, there’s a certain degree of trust I place in IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), and a high expectation that stems from consistency, cleanliness, and a distinctively premium feel. However, I’ve never stayed at a Crowne Plaza– a brand also handled by IHG – so wasn’t exactly sure of what to expect when I walked into their Auckland property just before sundown for what was my very first day setting foot in the popular New Zealand city.
The lobby is fairly noisy at around 5pm, seeing that the relatively small check-in area flows into the hotel’s main food and drink offering, Aria Restaurant and Bar, a classy lounged area which is fronted by a small water feature and some oddly shaped plush couches. It looks inviting enough so I make a note to spend some time here after I grab the keycard for my King Deluxe Room and head on up to the 24th floor. It’s important to note that IHG Members (free to join) receive a free wi-fi allowance each day, and the connection is impressively fast.
The room is substantially spacious, with a large bedroom area that encompasses an exceedingly comfortable king-size, a grey lounge by the wall-to-wall glass window, a 42-inch TV fitted on the wall opposite the bed, and a generous glass desk with a flexible leather chair. This is indeed a larger than average hotel room, even if the fairly plain en-suite bathroom isn’t consistent with the “spacious” aesthetic.
A glaring view of the enormous Sky Tower can be seen from the wall-sized window. Renowned for being the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere, the tower is just an easy three-minute walk from the front of Crowne Plaza, meaning that the Level 50 Sky Lounge is readily accessible should you really want to take in the full breadth of Auckland city over a cocktail or some ice cream.
As compared to the InterContinental brand, the impression I get is that Crowne Plaza is IHG’s more business-focused chain, with a flexible selection of conference rooms, a fairly open gym and sauna, but no pool – one of the most popular features for the for-pleasure traveler. There’s also an air of efficiency about the way the hotel operates; service is diligent and attentive for example, especially at the aforementioned Aria Restaurant & Bar where the daily continental breakfast buffet is located.
Crowne Plaza have certainly used their space well to provide as may options as possible for breakfast. A large tub of New Zealand’s famous honey sits near the various breads and spreads, which are standing on a table opposite cereals, grains, fruits, muffins, and freshly baked pastries. There’s the option of getting the Chef to cook up some fresh omelettes, alongside the more standard selection of sausages, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, and bacon. It’s a comprehensive breakfast, not an overly impressive or memorable one, but generous enough to justify its worth to anyone feeling particularly hungry in the morning.
Location is one of the major reasons for a stay at Crowne Plaza. Just within a few minutes is one of the city’s best speciality steakhouses, the understated and charming Tony’s Lord Nelson (37 Victoria St W). You can tuck into one of the intimate booths here and take your pick from a massive selection of steaks, interpreted from styles around the world. Go for the Shaslick Royale ($38) if you’re really hungry, it’s a giant skewer of juicy fillet separated by bacon-wrapped oysters. Their other choices include the oyster-stuffed Carpetbag Steak, a Fillet Bearnaise with buttery tarragon sauce, and their best cut, a Fillet Provencal with classic claret and bone marrow sauce. There’s a whole heap of other dishes on offer here (think pastas, lamb brains, chowders, and seafood dishes) but you’re best off sticking with the steak.
Also nearby is Auckland MVP Federal Delicatessan (86 Federal Street), an old school Jewish-style deli that’s obviously modeled after New York’s famous Katz. They are open real late for takeaway, so it’s worth heading on out to grab one of their excellent Fed Greilled Truffle n Cheese ($10.50) sandwiches with gruyere, swiss, and cheese curds sprinkled with truffle salt, or their signature Pastrami n Swiss Melt ($8.50) with russian dressing and pickles, and then eating it in the hotel room should the in-room dining selection not be enough for you.
When sun rises, you can take a short 10 minute walk down to the wharf, heading there via Queen Street where the brunt of Auckland’s metro area is located. There’s also a massive Kathmandu just a block away from the hotel, especially valuable if you haven’t prepared yourself for Auckland’s often erratic weather.
You wouldn’t have to twist my arm to get me to stay a weekend at Crowne Plaza again. The location is perfect for a first-timer to Auckland, the room is large and very comfortable, and the service is noninvasive but still readily available whenever you need. It may not be as polished or impressive in design as an InterContinental, but Crowne Plaza delivers if one is looking for a straight-forward and convenient stay in the heart of Auckland city, one which is just upscale enough to meet the asking price.
Check-in is 24/7 and – and this is a credit to Auckland’s efficiency in general – there is a Skybus stop just near Sky Tower that’ll take you to directly to the airport for cheap ($16 each way) with no fuss. The Skybus runs 24/7 (timetable found HERE).
The King Deluxe Room at Crowne Plaza is set at around NZ$193.33 per night (an extra NZ$38.34 per day for breakfast for up to 2 people). For more information and bookings head to their website HERE.