My first stay as a Hilton Diamond member is…

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Over the weekend I wrote a post asking how you Hilton Diamond members approach suite upgrades. I’m not the most loyal Hilton guest, but have tried out Diamond status thanks to credit card spend on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, and while the rules on suite upgrades are clearly published with Hyatt and Starwood (the two chains I’m primarily loyal too), Hilton isn’t quite as straightforward. Their policy is simply that suite upgrades “may be offered” to Diamond members by the hotel. Based on the comments on that post it seems like for the most part Diamond members don’t proactively get upgraded to suites, but with a bit of begging they’ll sometimes get suite upgrades.

I’m staying at the Hilton Budapest Castle District right now, and booked one night on points and one night with cash, so I had two separate reservations. I actually only locked in the reservation a day before my arrival, and didn’t inform the hotel I had two reservations, so figured I’d have some explaining to do at check-in to have the reservations linked.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I arrived at the hotel at around 7PM.

I decided to head straight up to the club lounge for check-in, and the agent there couldn’t have been nicer. She pointed out that they noticed I had two reservations and took the liberty of linking them and blocking off the same room for me both nights. She also said that they noticed I was a new Hilton Diamond member, and thanked me for my “loyalty” (hah hah), and said they had upgraded me to a top floor suite with great views of the Danube. She then explained internet was free, the club lounge hours, and that I could choose to have breakfast in either the restaurant or club lounge.

She further proactively offered recommendations for what to see in Budapest, and said I could come back to see her any time if I wanted more suggestions.

Then waiting for me in my room was a small arrival amenity, consisting of some chocolate and fruit.

I was simply shocked. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a proactive and friendly check-in experience in my life. Ever.

As far as the room goes, it was huge and the views were amazing. This is an older hotel in the castle district and I realized it wasn’t renovated going in, so it was furnished as I had expected. If a cruise ship and 1986 had a baby, this hotel would be it, down to the towel art.

But the views…. the views… have you ever seen anything like that? Definitely ranks in the top five views I’ve ever had from a hotel room.

If all my Hilton stays were like this I’d probably just be loyal to them, given how many properties they have.

But I’m guessing this can just be chalked up to beginner’s luck, and it’ll be the last suite upgrade I see from them…

Now if you guys will excuse me, it’s almost dinner time and I’m hungary. Not that you guys have a stake in this, but any food tips? Whatever you think, just don’t give me too much of a ribbing, please.

Filed Under: Credit Cards, Hilton
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  1. I’ve always had decent luck with Hilton, even as a gold. I think out of all my stays I’ve been upgraded to a suite a handful of times (as gold) and almost always to the EL floor. Definitely not expected and I never really ask. Good to see they treated you well!

  2. Welcome to Budapest… yes, it one of the most stunning hotel views anywhere… you gotta try afternoon deserts and tea, I think each day at 3pm… simpley delicious…

  3. This is typically Hilton Budapest, they are stunning in recognition of status and pro-active consumer friendly decisions.

    Do yourself the favor and see if Tibor is still working the Lounge, he is one of the most fantastic lounge personell I had the pleasure to meet in all of Europes Exe Lounges.

  4. Hilton has a much different attitude towards their diamonds outside the US than inside. As a Diamond last year, I stayed nearly 50 nights at various properties and never saw a suite upgrade. I stayed over 80 nights the year prior and never saw one either.

    As far as I’m concerned, they are a myth in the US.

  5. Awesome views! I do have a question for you and everyone else I guess. Are the styles of the furnishings that important when getting a room? To me, as long as it’s clean, in good shape, I don’t care if my chair looks like it’s from another century.

    As someone in the industry, I constantly see requirements to spend money on changing things that provide no actual benefit to the guest, while useful upgrades go by the wayside. “Sorry sir, I know our internet is slow, but please enjoy the our new tiled entryway into your room. That’s 6 feet less of carpet you have to walk on!”

    It just seems a lot of money goes into making things pretty. Function over form I say.

  6. Seriously, if you’re actually looking for a good restaurat that is pretty cheap, Szent Jupát Restaurant and Pub is alot of fun and not too far from Buda Castle. I have to say Budapest is really a great city and Széchenyi Baths are so impressive!

  7. I’ll second ShaneInTulsa’s sentiments regarding domestic vs. international elite recognition. HHonors Diamonds are a dime a dozen in the U.S., but I believe they’re far rarer internationally (with the possible exception of London). Hence the increased suite upgrades, better stocked lounges, full American breakfast (as opposed to lame continental), welcome amenities, etc.

  8. I know you are running a business and are keeping your blog fresh. But do not quite understand spending $40k with Citi to get Hilton Diamond, with the gutting of their program and when Gold still gets you breakfast and internet comped (and i tend to lean toward Seth’s view that it really isn’t “free”).

    I suppose if i was a salesman going from Hampton to Hampton it might be fine, or on some corporate expense account staying at Conrads on someone else’s dime. But certainly not something to go out of your way for in my view or encourage others to do.

    That 40k in spend gets me 50k Starpoints as an airline transfer, or a bunch of C&P stays at some really nice Cat 2 and 3 properties in Asia. Hell, i think it just about gets you 2 nights free at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

  9. Do you actually want food tips? If you like falafel, I’d recommend Hummus Bar. It was one of my favorite places to go when I lived in Budapest several years ago (specifically, the location near Nyugati Palyaudvar). Seriously some of the best falafel that I’ve had, even compared to places like L’as du falafel in Paris.

    At some point, you also have to try langos (pronounced lawn-gauche), which you can find in many touristy places. Can’t get much better than deep-fried dough covered in stuff.

  10. Was about to have a last minute getaway to Budapest this weekend. Too bad I couldn’t make the trip

  11. What a great experience and how much did it cost Hilton to give you the kind of service that they did. Smart.

    Reminds me of my stay at the Hyatt in Mainz last weekend. I managed to snag a LH F trip about a week out and booked two nights at the Hyatt in Mainz. I originally had booked two separate nights as it was cheaper to book night one (at the lower rate) and night two at a slightly higher rate.

    I emailed the Hyatt ahead of time and asked if they could forward the email to the concierge as I wanted to know about a dinner cruise.

    Within a couple of hours, they had emailed me back letting me know the information about the Rhine cruises, and also told me they noticed I had two reservations and had blocked me in a single room so I wouldn’t have to move and a beautiful river view to boot as I was Hyatt diamond. Again how much does it cost a chain to provide this kind of service levels? Sure brings a lot of goodwill to the guest.

  12. @ Gerrit — Had heard about Tibor, though he wasn’t working. Petra and the rest of the club staff were AMAZING, though.

  13. @ tony — Ultimately I’d rather have friendly service and fast wifi than a modern room, though I do still definitely prefer modern furnishings compared to this furniture, which looks 20 years past its prime. This hotel actually has Park Hyatt level service, so the only thing holding it back is just how aged the hotel looks.

    Agree, though, the furnishings aren’t the most important part of a hotel, though I think this place could use an update.

  14. @ Carl — Frankly I started working towards the $40K spend before the devaluation was announced, so was at the halfway point when the devaluation was announced. At that point I figured it was worth completing the spend to get Diamond, if for no other reason than to review it and share with you guys whether I find it worthwhile or not.

    For what it’s worth, say you can easily (without having to really work hard to “manufacture” spend) buy credit card spend at 1.9 cents each, which you can do by paying taxes through, for example. That means you’re spending $760, and for that you get 120,000 HHonors points (which I value at $480, a free weekend night certificate (which I value at $200+), and Diamond status. At that point you’re basically spending $80 for Diamond status, and at that cost it seemed worthwhile if for no other reason than to report back on my experiences.

  15. @ Edward — Thanks for the tips! Sadly leaving in the morning, so will have to try them next time.

  16. Beginner’s luck indeed Ben (and very happy for you). In my 6 years as a Diamond not once was I upgraded and, in one case, downgraded. Have been happy to be at the Gold level (thanks to you introducing me to the Citi Hilton card) where my expectations are, well, I don’t have any and so am never disappointed.

  17. Give Café Kor in Budapest a try. It’s a wonderful restaurant that I think you will really enjoy!

    Cafe Kor, Budapest
    17 Sas Utca, Budapest 1051

  18. With the point devaluation this is the last year I am going for diamond. I decided to stay at the Hilton Orlando and I was upgraded to 3000 sq ft presidential suite from the lowest category. The check in was great and staff has been very friendly. This has been an uncommon experience for me at hilton properties. I move to the WA orlando tomorrow and have been pre upgraded to suite as well.

  19. BTW I am glad to see you were upgraded to an amazing suite as well. Maybe Hilton is trying to up their game.

  20. I’ve been upgraded a few times as a HH Gold. Was upgraded to the Presidential suite at the Newark Hilton (got in at close to midnight, left the next morning at 8am, so not much of a chance to enjoy it – I figure it was the only room left, lol) and a couple of times to a junior suite at the Millenium Hilton in NYC. Not a big deal, though, honestly.

    It’s been ages since I’ve been able to access any club/lounge floor as a Gold, though. Always had lounge access as a Marriott Gold.

  21. Be sure to check out the Ruszwurm Coffee and Pastry shop for a wonderful treat, it is very close to the Hilton. The place is small and gets crowded but worth the wait. Please try the famous “krémes” custard pastry, I highly recommend it as it is my favorite. Just up the street from the pastry shop and next to the Hilton is the historical Matthias Church (Mátyas Templom) which is a must-see.

  22. Enjoy – it’s a brilliant hotel with friendly staff and well located. I second the recommendation re Gundel restaurant! And yes, as outside the US we don’t have easy credit card status we tend to get better elite recognition – is a bit annoying when you visit the States with status earned the hard way though and get lounges with no free drinks and poor breakfasts!

  23. My wife and I stayed at the Hilton Budapest there in the King Duna Suite in July 2002. That was one of the most romantic hotel settings we had with the views of the Fisherman’s Bastion and classical music playing on the patio.

    The cost was 18,000 or 21,000 points per night.

  24. Well Ben, they don’t call you ‘Lucky’ for nothing!

    I would second Gundel restaurant and Chicken Paprika is really good. But also on a more affordable level try Matyas Pince, which dates from 1904.

    And if you are into coffee & pastries, YOU HAVE TO go to Gerbeaud.

  25. Budapest is a gorgeous city. Go see the wine museum at the castle (and see the castle). Last time I was there I stayed at the IC and even on a PB stay I got a 1 bedroom suite upgrade with a bottle of red wine as a welcome gift. Not bad for 5K PC points!

    Oh and you don’t happen to have any plans to swing by Krakow, do you? 🙂

  26. I know Budapest is supposed to really take care of Golds and Diamonds but really, a suite on your first Diamond stay? Do the rest of us Diamonds a favor please and don’t mention the awesome suites you’ll inevitably score in the US. Almost a decade as Diamond and I’m still waiting for my first suite upgrade where I don’t have to lie about a special occasion in order to get an upgrade.

  27. I was diamond for couple of years. I don’t think I’ve ever received a suite upgrade.

    Probably had like 10 stays after I turned Diamond… Never offered, never received when asked.

    These were all in USA, Washington DC area.

  28. Just give me a comfortable bed, a nice comforter, a good work surface and comfortable chair, decent Wi-Fi and an outlet that isn’t under the bed and I’m good. Fancy furniture of any sort isn’t necessary. Nice but not necessary.

  29. Looks great, but Lucky, you’re staying on the WRONG SIDE of the river! Pest, always, Pest! 🙂

  30. I have always loved the proactive service of Hilton at international properties. Not a lot of suite upgrade, but definitely attentive and proactive service.

  31. All my stays this year were suite upgrades at HGI and Hilton. All my stays were in the U.S.I am Diamond and have noticed this trend more and more in the last year although I was usually treated well in receiving upgrades previous to this time period.
    I noticed next weekends stay has already been upgraded to a whirlpool suite. I reserved the cheapest rate in the house.

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