I took the overnight flight (SQ285) from Singapore to Auckland and even though I was previously booked in Premium Economy, I took the opportunity to upgrade my flight to a Business Class seat instead - seriously your body will thank you for that! Do note that you will not be able to upgrade your seat in Premium Economy to Business if it is booked in Fare Class P from 20 January 2018! The flight itself was fairly predictable but I did manage to get plenty of sleep (with some help from a sleeping aid) so I got to Auckland rather fresh and awake.
If you are thinking about taking an Uber from the airport, the trip to Hilton Auckland should cost around NZD 50. I have previously booked the lead-in category room (Hilton Guestroom) at a discount and even though I still hold my Hilton Honors Diamond Status, I was not prepared for an upgrade at all since the hotel was fully booked and I actually had two rooms to my name. In fact, I was not even confident of an early check-in as the hotel has been full prior to my arrival. However, upon arriving at the hotel, I was quickly acknowledged as a Hilton Honors Diamond member and was informed that both my rooms have been upgraded to the next category - Deluxe Harbour View Room. While the Hilton Auckland does not have an Executive Lounge, the property has gone above and beyond what is required to give out drink vouchers - two per night per room - which you can then redeem in the Bellini Bar for a drink (alcoholic or otherwise).
Personally, I have been rather excited to stay at the Hilton Auckland after visiting back in 2015 (when I was staying at the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour) for a business conference. Hotels in Auckland are generally quite expensive when you visit in November and I am not too sure why - perhaps because there are not many internationally-branded properties or maybe because that month is just a peak-period for businesses. It is not uncommon to see room rates fluctuating between NZD 400-500 per night during November for the cheapest room available so make sure you plan early if you want to take advantage of the lower rates.
My Deluxe Harbour View Room was located on Level 6 of the Hilton Auckland and it was located mid-way of the right corridor (rooms located on the furthest end of this side typically have a better view). The first thing you will see as you come into the room is the bathroom and I am glad that there is a massive bathtub - more on the bathroom later!
The Deluxe Harbour View rooms here at the Hilton Auckland overlook the Auckland Harbour and each room has a private balcony where you will find a table and two chairs that you can sit on to enjoy that magnificent view. While the room is only 30sqm in size (which is not exactly huge), it had everything I needed for a good stay (even though a Nespresso machine would have made it even better). The sliding doors to the balcony can be closed and locked but if you prefer to enjoy some fresh air (seriously, the air in New Zealand is ridiculously clean), you can simply leave it slightly ajar.
The rooms here at the Hilton Auckland are fully air-conditioned and there is even a heater setting for the colder months in Auckland. While it doesn't get too cold in winter, temperatures may sometimes dip to 5 or 6 degree Celsius in July and August. There is also a small sofa seat located by the balcony's doors for you to enjoy some TV or reading while gazing out to that view.
The work desks here in Hilton Auckland's rooms are slightly small and they have been criticised as being 'non functional'. While I did find them to be on the smaller side, I did not really have much issues working from them since I only needed my laptop and a mouse. WiFi was fortunately provided free of charge since I was a Hilton Honors Diamond member but I do believe you get it for free as well if you book directly with the property (but do double-check!).
Looking out the harbour is incredible and I dare say that the Hilton Auckland has one of the best views in the city for now (even though the Park Hyatt Auckland would probably have an interesting one as well). Some of the rooms over at the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour have a nice view as well but the Hilton Auckland is in a much better location if you intend to head into the city often. From time to time, you will be able to see a massive cruise ship docking outside your balcony and even though this may obstruct the view slightly, remember you actually have a 180-degree view of the surrounding so no issue at all (at least not for me). The noise insulation also seemed to work pretty well and I did not hear any ambient noise when the balcony doors are fully shut.
The bed in the Deluxe Harbour View room that I have stayed in was fluffy and comfortable - while it did provide a good night's sleep, I would have preferred a slightly firmer bed. This is a personal preference and it is in no way an indication of the quality of the mattress used. One thing to note about the Hilton Auckland is that single and double occupancy rates are different but Hilton Honors elite members do get the "2nd Guest stays free" benefit even at the lowest tier - just make sure you email the hotel and ask them to amend the reservation or add your guests name accordingly. Since I was staying in my room on my own, there was no drama there but I did notice that the hotel amended my reservation to make it for two when I was checking-in.
Most of the lights (apart from the bathroom) can be controlled by the bedside and even though power outlets can be found on the side, they are not universal so make sure you do bring a power adapter. Alternatively, there is one located in the room which you can utilise during your stay - just make sure you do not take it back home with you as you will be charged. What I did like however was the existence of USB charging ports. There is also a digital clock by the bedside table but if you really need a morning call, dialing '0' on your phone to set it up is probably a safer option.
Complimentary water is provided in the room and even though they were strangely not replenished in the morning when my room is being made up, they are distributed during the evening turndown service. I am not too sure whether these bottled waters are the standard or were they given to me because of my elite status (since water in Hilton-branded properties are usually in-house branded) but they were the same ones that I have gotten on my flight back from Auckland to Singapore in Business Class.
Teabags and instant coffee are provided in the room on a complimentary basis but gone are the days where freeze-dried coffee packets are acceptable. I would love to see the addition of a decent coffee machine in these rooms since the property is positioned as a luxury waterfront hotel. If it is your first time in New Zealand, you will probably be surprised to see drinking chocolate in your room (these are also provided free of charge) - I can assure you that is nothing out of the ordinary as the kiwis love their hot chocolate (also available in Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, Rydges Auckland, The Langham Auckland and the Crowne Plaza Auckland which I have previously stayed in before).
Complimentary cookies are replenished in your room each day (as long as you eat them) and they vary from ANZAC Cookies (which I love!) to slightly-disgusting Ginger Snaps (once again, personal preference). The selection of teabags in the room is quite extensive and you can find both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties so that's definitely a plus.
Having stayed in a few five-star properties in Auckland, I have come to realise that the bathrooms here are really not fancy at all - practicality seems to be the first thing all properties consider. The bathroom here in my Deluxe Harbour View room at the Hilton Auckland comes with a bathtub as well as a separate shower area which was actually slightly small.
Even though I did receive the regular Peter Thomas Roth bath amenities on the first night, I started receiving Crabtree & Evelyn-branded ones on subsequent nights. In fact, I was initially a little confused since they only replaced the body wash with the newer brand but not the shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. It wasn't until sometime in December that I realised that Hilton was actually changing their bath amenities from Peter Thomas Roth (which is also utilised in Hilton Garden Inn properties) to Crabtree & Evelyn.
While Hilton Honors Diamond members do get guaranteed lounge access when it is available, the Hilton Auckland does not actually have an executive lounge. With that being said, the property has gone above and beyond what is required by providing Diamond members with complimentary drink vouchers that they can utilise during their stay - two vouchers per night. Each drink voucher entitles the member to one complimentary drink from the Hilton Honors Menu (which is condensed version of the main drink menu) at the Bellini Bar and even though it is date and time-stamped, the staff have been very flexible with redemption - you can redeem them outside of the stipulated timings unofficially too.
Bellini Bar is located next to the check-in area of the Hilton Auckland and it has stunning views of the harbour. There is even a fireplace that you can sit around on colder months and it offers artisan small plates on top of cocktails, wines and beer.
After getting back from a conference one week day, I got back to my room only to find that it has not been made up - I left the door hanger out when I left the hotel at 7:00AM but when I got back at 4:00PM it was still not done. I believe one of the housekeeping staff probably misunderstood the "make up room" sign for the "do not disturb" sign since they are practically the same colour but there is nothing more annoying (to me) than returning to a room with the towels on the floor after spending the entire day out. As such, I dialed '0' on my phone and requested for someone to make up my room before heading down to Bellini Bar for a much-deserved drink.
The drink vouchers given to me can be redeemed for a bottle of beer, a pint of beer (draught), a glass of red or white as well as classic drinks like a gin and tonic. I opted for a white initially since I was in New Zealand (and most would argue that the whites are comparatively more famous here) but I decided to go with a good old gin and tonic after. Some peanuts and crackers were also provided but if you are looking for a little nibble, the bar snacks actually look quite good and they are reasonably priced.
I got back to my bedroom after about an hour to find that my room has been completely made up. The towels have all been replaced, my bed is done up properly and everything that needed to be replenished was all done properly. In fact, I noticed some Guylian chocolate by my bed - this is also something that I have encountered quite commonly in Auckland. I hung out in my room for a bit before deciding that it was time to get dinner in the city.
If you are lazy and do not want to head out of the hotel for meals, FISH Restaurant located in the Hilton Auckland actually serves very good food. I really enjoyed my Fish and Chips as well as Lobster Mac and Cheese from there - charge it to your room and earn more Hilton Honors points! Apparently, the seafood is so fresh that Head Chef Fraser Shenton actually receives produce information via text before the boats actually reach the shores of New Zealand. The night view of the Auckland city from the balcony is also quite charming and despite November inching towards the start of Summer, the weather was actually still quite chilly when I visited.
Breakfast is served at FISH Restaurant and if you are a Hilton Honors Diamond member, you will get to enjoy the full buffet breakfast as well as a choice of egg (e.g. scrambled, poached or omelette) every morning. The restaurant is located on level two of the hotel and you can take the lift down or simply take a short flight of stairs up from the main lobby area.
Since I wanted to take some photos of the area and my food, I actually got up extra early - I always feel a little out of place with my camera when I am in a Western city. One of the perks of getting up early is that you actually get the whole restaurant to yourself (even if it is just for a little while). I picked a table by the side of the window for an amazing view of the harbour (the same one I have from my bedroom) but it does get rather sunny when the sun comes up since it faces East.
If you live in Singapore or South-east Asia, you will probably be disappointed with the spread here at Hilton Auckland because we are spoiled back home with extensive buffet spreads (even for breakfast!). The breakfast spread here at Hilton Auckland has a good selection of healthy items like salads, cereals (though whether or not it is healthy is debatable) as well as danishes and pastries. On top of that, you will also be able to select from a small selection of hot food items like eggs, sausages, bacon and hash browns. One important thing to take note here is this - barista-style coffee (e.g. flat white) is not complimentary. Brewed coffee and tea is free but if you want a piccolo latte, a long black or anything espresso-based, there will be a fee of NZD 5 per cup. With that being said, the coffee is truly cafe-standards and it is well worth whatever I paid for.
If you are looking for a recommendation, I would advise giving the Smoked Salmon Omelette a try - it is delicious and the serving is generous (besides, you get this free if you are a Hilton Honors Diamond member).
The swimming pool of the Hilton Auckland is relatively small but it is the only pool in the world with a underwater viewing point of the Waitemata Harbour. I did not actually use the pool at all during my stay since I actually got a couple of rainy days in Auckland but it seems like a nice spot in the summer to work on your tan.
There are a number of things I would like to see improved at the Hilton Auckland (e.g. a proper coffee machine) but with all things considered, I have actually had a really enjoyable stay here. The property is situated 300m out to sea and it features the only suites in Auckland with a complete harbour view - the Bow Suites have a unique pointed shape which is shaped like the bow of a ship. I really like the nautical-themed interiors of the hotel and how incredible the view is. More importantly, the staff have been extremely friendly during my stay and the food is excellent. While I can't say for certain whether I will stay at the Hilton Auckland again this year (since the rates are so high in November and I will be losing my Hilton Honors Diamond status soon), I dare say that I will definitely be revisiting it in the near future.