I might have been the guest from hell.
Within five minutes of checking into the 2-week-old, $375 million Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port of Spain, I was back at the front desk to request a room change.
It was 10:30 p.m. I'd left New Jersey at dawn, endured a layover in San Juan, arrived at Trinidad's Piarco Airport and then suffered through an hour-long, bumper-to-bumper ride to the capital city.
The hotel, a gleaming, 22-story skyscraper overlooking the calm Gulf of Paria, is a stone, steel and glass architectural reflection of its business-oriented location.
Its three-story lobby overlooked and opened onto a promenade along the water. Two hotel staff in spotless beige uniforms that echoed the hotel's color scheme greeted me with champagne and cordial welcomes.
Check-in was fast and efficient. Room 617 was spotless, well-appointed and equipped with a flat-screen TV, Internet, high-end toiletries, lights on dimmers and a large workspace.
However, the windows were hermetically sealed, and there was no balcony. I balked.
My requirement when I stay in a Caribbean hotel is simple: fresh air. I need to be able to feel it and smell it and step out into it.
Hyatt's 428 rooms included 10 suites and 32 rooms with balconies.
In mid-February, occupancy hovered around 20%. The hotel had just opened, the official ribbon-cutting still weeks away.
The staff at the front desk listened, conferred and agreed. Indeed, there was an available room with a balcony. I would be its first occupant.
A housekeeping crew was sent to Room 601.
"We just want to make sure everything is perfect," said Homer Samuel, team leader, guest services.
While I waited, he took me to the outdoor terrace of the Waterfront restaurant and instructed the bartender to pour me a glass of Canvas wine, Hyatt's own brand produced by Mondavi.
Six floors up in Room 601, electricians checked the lightbulbs and maids fluffed the pillows.
The room was worth the wait.
The balcony, spacious enough to accommodate two chairs and a table, overlooked the fourth-floor infinity pool, sundeck and pool bar. The windows, which did open, offered a gulf view.
The room also offered WiFi and wired Internet for a fee, a stocked mini-bar, bamboo floors, a large bathroom with ample shelf space and the now-requisite rainhead shower, a coffeemaker and an array of electronics.
I turned off the air conditioning, opened the windows, donned a Hyatt robe and sat out on the balcony watching the lights of the fishing boats on the water. Later I climbed into the Hyatt Grand Bed.
As the first major full-service hotel to open in Trinidad since the Trinidad Hilton debuted in Port of Spain in 1962, the Hyatt Regency is geared to the business, event and convention market.
The property serves as the linchpin for the Port of Spain International Waterfront Center, a massive complex near the cruise ship pier in the heart of the city.
"This is a business hotel. We do not have a beach, we are not targeting the leisure markets and we already have several important conventions booked, including the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference May 6 to 8," said Russell George, general manager.
Until now, Trinidad has had a small inventory of accommodations to satisfy the corporate and meetings markets, he said.
Prior to the Hyatt debut, there were seven full-service hotels in Port of Spain, offering a total of 968 rooms, including the Hilton, Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and the new Carlton-Savannah.
"The Hyatt opening increased the room inventory by 50% and added a new element to the accommodations mix, one that will help showcase Port of Spain's role as a business center focused on oil, gas and business," George said.
Charlaine Montano, director of sales and marketing, echoed his sentiments.
"This property will become the top choice for visitors to Port of Spain who require accommodations, small board meetings, large conferences, group bookings, social functions or a weekend retreat," Montano said.
The conference space at the Hyatt is the largest in Trinidad.
"We're going after large conferences now," Montano said. "Trinidad couldn't do that before the Hyatt came."
The Hyatt offers translation booths; 48,000 square feet of meetings space, including a 16,000-square-foot Regency Ballroom; a 10,000-square-foot, multipurpose exhibit room; 12 breakout rooms; and two boardrooms and can handle up to 1,400 people banquet-style.
But management recognized that business travelers were not about business "all the time," George noted.
The 9,000-square-foot Spa Esencia will take up part of that slack with six treatment suites and a full menu of services using elements indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago.
Rounding out the amenities are a fitness center; the Waterfront restaurant; a lobby bar and lounge; the Cinnamon Cafe, which opens at 5:30 a.m.; and the private Regency Club, with concierge services, continental breakfast and hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.
The Hyatt, flanked by two high-rise office towers still under construction, is installing a small park next to the hotel called the Little Savannah.
Eventually, the hotel's promenade facing the gulf will be extended to the cruise pier and will be flanked by shops, restaurants and cafes.
Although the destination's main business market is Houston, with its high concentration of oil companies, the market mix is well served with nonstop flights from Atlanta, New York, Miami and Newark.
Because Hyatt's focus is the business market, George said that involvement with tour operators and packages "is limited."
The hotel does have a tour desk and can arrange excursions to attractions in Trinidad as well as quick getaways to neighboring Tobago, a 15-minute flight or a two-hour ferry ride to the northeast.
Hyatt currently has a property in Aruba, will debut its Curacao hotel in 2009 and is looking at other sites in the Caribbean, such as St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].
For more about Trinidad, see "In Trinidad, locals work to show off island's playful side."