I allowed the impressive revolving doors of the PARKROYAL Darling Harbour to usher me into a lobby that engendered feelings of tranquility and peace; a noticeable change from the hectic pace of Sydney's CBD. I glanced towards the individual check-in desks and receptionist Rosdee caught my eye; his welcoming smile beckoned my approach.
The 4.5-star PARKROYAL hotel, which is on the doorstep of the entertainment precinct of Darling Harbour and sits only three blocks behind the Sydney Town Hall and as such caters to both the leisure and business clients, has recently enjoyed a significant multi-million dollar refurbishment - of which the lobby is the jewel in a royal crown.
As Executive Assistant Manager, Paul Seaman was part of the team responsible for guiding the refurbishment process.
"We wanted to embrace the Sydney look and feel, and the Sydney landscape. The PARKROYAL brand is not about being uniform, so every PARKROYAL you go to throughout Asia and Australia is not a cookie-cutter 'McDonalds' brand but rather each property symbolises the individual heritage, the local background and unique themes of the destination," said Paul.
"The Singaporean properties reflect the Singapore lifestyle and similarly here we wanted to reflect the lifestyle of Australia - it's that openness, the sandstone, the Oceania feel, the Pacific tones. So you'll note these fresh blues and greens in the colour palette. When you walk into the lobby you have this beautiful curved wall behind the reception desks, you have the light coming down from the atrium and we've replicated that natural light through a special lighting effect across the lobby's back wall."
Paul and I, together with Rhona Stewart, Area Director Leisure Sales, walked from the lobby and into the lemongrass-scented lifts. As we climbed, Rhona explained that the PARKROYAL brand is based around the concept of a trusted local companion. The lift doors opened and Paul proudly pointed out the dark wood panelling.
"Here you have the wood that inspires a feeling of warmth - before our patrons walk away from the lifts and into a feeling of light and airiness. This design element is repeated throughout the property including the rooms. The rooms are about creating a sanctuary in an urban context," said Paul.
Indeed, this juxtaposition between the soothing warmth hues and bright open spaces are utilised to spectacular success. I stayed in the Club Darling Harbour View room on the ninth floor. The room's entry vestibule has been redesigned with muted tones that serve to draw the eye towards the brightness of the room and, of course, onto the incredible views of Darling Harbour through the generous windows. All of the 340 rooms, except those on level 10 which were only recently added, have been refurbished.
While the team at the PARKROYAL have much to trumpet with the success of the refurbishments, this month also marks another significant milestone in the property's history - in line with other PARKROYAL hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Singapore on Beach Road; the Darling Harbour property has joined the exclusive myTime club.
The myTime concept was developed in 2011, when Flight Centre approached selected hotels that were willing to provide extra services at no additional cost to guests who booked their accommodation through Flight Centre. The first properties to jump on board were located in Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Aruba. Four resorts in Tropical North Queensland became myTime properties in November last year and the PARKROYAL is the first hotel in Sydney to be branded accordingly.
"myTime, Flight Centre and Infinity are key partners and working with them is a no-brainer for us. It's a win win for everyone. They are a fantastic partner and we have a fantastic product; so it fits perfectly together," said Rhona.
"Besides the room itself, if you book through Flight Centre and the myTime program, you receive additional recognition as a preferred client staying with us. Patrons will walk through the hotel's entry door and immediately see the myTime signage. Their key will also be branded myTime to identify them as a preferred guest to all staff during their stay. On arrival the receptionist will give them a drink voucher, to enjoy a beverage at the bar at their leisure."
myTime guests also receive a courtesy call during their stay from the Manager or Executive Assistant Manager to remind guests of the various inclusions and to make sure they're enjoying their stay. Complimentary internet access is available and everyone receives a 10 per cent discount on room service.
Rhona also drew my attention to the fact that myTime patrons who stay for seven nights in a Suite or Club Level room receive a $100 hotel credit to use during their stay.
In many respects, it is worth splurging on a Club Level room as you then have access to the dedicated Club Lounge - the PARKROYAL is the only 4.5-star property in Sydney with an exclusive Club Lounge. This space is the perfect antidote from an action-packed day of sightseeing or to prepare for a business meeting. The mood is therapeutic and relaxing; on hand is a barman who is happy to serve your preferred beverage. Alternatively, you can sit back in the comfy couches and watch television or read the newspaper.
A hot and cold buffet breakfast is prepared daily in the Club Lounge that includes freshly-delivered Danish pastries, croissants and muffins along with a pancake making machine. I personally found it difficult to drag myself away from the Club Lounge even though I wanted to explore the city of Sydney. The attendant on duty, Apple, was attentive without being over-bearing and was more than happy to guide me towards the gluten-free options on the buffet.
However, after prolonging the inevitable long enough, I took the lift back to reality and asked the helpful concierge, Daniel, for his recommendations for the perfect day in Sydney.
"I think you should walk down to the Rocks - it's pretty awesome down there. The QVB has beautiful shopping, it's an original building that's over 100 years old. You could cut through there on the way down to the Rocks or across to Pitt Street, the heart of Sydney's shopping. Alternatively, you could walk through the Botanic Gardens and down to Mrs Macquarie's Chair, which has an incredible view of the Opera House and the Bridge behind it. You could also go up to the Tower; Sydney has one of the best harbours in the world and from the top of the tower is where you will get the best views. On a clear day you can see across to the Blue Mountains," said Daniel.
"And for your entertainment tonight, I recommend seeing Opera Australia's production of La Boheme at the Sydney Opera House. I've seen it and I highly recommend the performance to all our guests. If you like, I'm happy to arrange the tickets for you."
It seems that I have a have a full day of sightseeing ahead of me, while Daniel arranges my evening's activities.