When you think about service in the former Soviet Union, what usually comes to mind? A woman like the one featured in Wendy’s “Having No Choice” commercial taking issue with even the simplest request? I mention that because I am frankly surprised how often that assumption is made by people I interact with, even some who are relatively well-traveled. But times have indeed changed and the former Soviet Union, particularly Ukraine, is much more inviting than in the days of Perestroika. Case in point: my recent tremendous stay at the Hyatt Regency in Kiev, Ukraine.
First, you must realize that the Soviet Union was not homogenous. As one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, Kiev has a rich history dating back to the 5th Century–it was not until 1775 that Kiev was annexed by the Russian Empire. Although Russian influence grew during the next two centuries, Kiev and all of Ukraine remained distinctly Ukrainian and after the collapse of the USSR the nation labored to more closely align itself with Europe and the West than with Russia. All that to say, Kiev is a fascinating city with friendly people that warrants a visit. When you do go, treat yourself to the Hyatt Regency.
Unlike many of the Hyatt Regencies I have stayed at in the past, the personal interaction at the Hyatt Regency in Kiev truly left me impressed. It is not out of the ordinary to be checked in with a smile and warmly welcomed to a hotel, but this was the first Hyatt Regency I stayed at where I was escorted up to my room and more than just the perfunctory greetings were made. On the way up the my room, all the features of the hotel were explained, including the hotel’s famous Grill Asia Restaurant (where I enjoyed a delicious breakfast the following morning) and the three bars—Bar on 8, Lobby Lounge, and Brunello Bar. The hotel’s expansive fitness center and beautiful indoor pool, both located within Club Olympus on the hotel property and complimentary for hotel guests, were also highlighted.
I was upgraded from a King Room to a Deluxe King Room—a bit more spacious room that featured a larger picture window than a standard room. The room was nicely decorated and the view of the Pechersk Lavra from the window was stunning. The bathroom was large, sleek, and featured a rain head shower as well as a separate bathtub.
A bottle of Italian red wine, fresh fruit and some sweet treats were waiting for me—ah, the joys of Hyatt Diamond status. Sadly, the wine did not make it home safely, but the fruit and sweets were delicious and polished off before departure.
I was traveling with a colleague from work and we opted for the upgraded Deluxe King Room rather than a standard room with two single beds, so a rollaway bed was brought in. We flipped for it and I lost…
The hotel’s ideal location cannot be underscored. Minutes from beautiful cathedrals, restaurants, and shopping, the hotel is in a great part of Kiev. Even when we had to venture out a little further, like when I visited the Museum of the Great Patriotic War the following day, taxis were waiting and the efficient Metro system was just a short walk away.
Prior to dinner, we checked out the hotel’s Regency Club Lounge, located on the top floor just above the Bar on 8. There was enough food to make a meal out, though we just enjoyed a few snacks prior to dinner. The ladies working the lounge were exceedingly kind and quite beautiful—though there is no dearth of beautiful women in Ukraine. There were other guests in the lounge so I elected not to take pictures, but a delectable buffet featuring fruit and vegetables, nuts, crackers, cheese, seafood, and even some hot items was available, along with a wide selection of beverages.
We dined at a local restaurant recommended by the hotel that night that served up authentic Ukrainian food in a very traditional atmosphere. Following dinner, we returned to the Bar on 8 for a drink and for my friend to have a cigar (I just don’t do cigars…). The bar hostesses were gorgeous, perhaps hand-picked to encourage sales, but they were also incredibly nice. My favorite cocktail is a Mai Tai, and although it was not on the menu, the ladies whipped me up a very nice one. I followed that up with a delicious dessert of ice cream and strawberries, drizzled in whip cream and strawberry sauce. A perfect finale to what had been a fun day.
Breakfast at Asia Grill the following morning was not only impressive for its food, but for its great service. Once again, the ladies were beautiful, attentive, and gracefully kind. As you can see from the pictures below, the breakfast selection was extensive and featured top-quality ingredients, including remarkable omelets and granola. I am not a coffee drinker, but they had a Starbucks-esque brewing station in the restaurant and my colleague was very impressed with the coffee as well.
At check-out (where the agent who had checked me in the previous day remembered my name), we were warmly thanked for our business and accommodations were made to transport us back to the airport. The hotel’s credit card machine was not working, so I had to withdraw some additional cash from the ATM (the hotel also has an independent currency exchange and ATM on the premises), but it was not a problem—I am sure the agent could have simply copied down my credit card details if necessary.
One last item: I foolishly left my iPhone on the bed in the room. As I stepped onto my Lufthansa flight back to Frankfurt and reached for it to turn it off, I grimaced and pictured exactly where I left it. I was pleasantly surprised to already have an e-mail in my inbox when I reached Frankfurt that the hotel had my phone and would await my instructions on where to send it to. Impressive…
Kiev is a great city and the Hyatt Regency in Kiev is another wonderful property in the Hyatt family. Unless you are wed to Priority Club (there was an InterContinental hotel right down the street from the Hyatt), make it a point to stay with at the Hyatt when your travels take you to Ukraine.