Still Working Out the Kinks A review of Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa

We stayed at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort from June 26-28, 2006. We selected a Mon/Tues/Wed time frame on purpose, hoping that the hotel would be the least crowded on those days. We were right -- the hotel was at about 1/3 occupancy. Whether this was due to its only having opened three weeks earlier, who knows -- but it was wonderful not to have to battle crowds at the pool, long waits at check-in or at the restaurant, etc.

Our party included myself, my husband, our two teenage daughters & one teenage friend. Because we basically had 5 adult-size people, we were willing to pay more for more spacious accommodations. So, two months earlier, we had reserved a Junior Suite -- which according to the Hyatt website (at that time) offered a king-size bed in a separate bedroom & a queen-size sofa sleeper in the living/dining room. The website also said: "Most Junior Suites open to a double/double room, allowing 770 square feet of living space." So -- we figured that for the $370.00 website rate for a Junior Suite, we'd be getting four beds (including the sofa sleeper).

But when I called to confirm all the details the week prior to our visit, they told me that the double/double room is NOT part of the Junior Suite -- and that to get those two extra double beds, you must pay the $299 minimum rate for an extra room (on top of the $370.00 rate for the Junior Suite). Also, they said that the bed in the Junior Suite bedroom is NOT a king, but a queen. So we were in a quandary -- either we'd reserve a rollaway as an addition and make the best of crowded conditions, or bite the bullet and rent the extra room. But because I felt the website description had been very misleading, a hotel manager finally agreed to give us a deal -- he booked the extra double/double room for us at the $299.00 rate, but he also gave us the Junior Suite for that same rate. And, he threw in a 4:00 PM checkout time for both rooms on our departing day, so we felt satisfied with this compromise. (Especially since now the rate for a Junior Suite has gone up to $495.00 per night, according to the website.)

When we got to the Hyatt at 3:45 PM, we were told that the double/double room was ready, but the Junior Suite was not. This seemed odd, since (a) check-in time is supposed to be at 3:00 PM, and (b) it was a Monday -- and as I said earlier, the place was virtually empty. We put all our stuff in the double/double room, but it was after 5:00 PM when they finally finished cleaning the Junior Suite & gave us our keys.

A check-in caveat -- when you make your reservations, either by phone or online, what you won't know in advance is that when you get to the hotel, they tell you they charge a $15.00 per day "use fee!" They explain that this is for use of the pool, tennis courts, etc. Jeez Louise! That just seems so tacky & sly. Why not just build the stupid "use fee" into the regular rates? We really felt like this is a bait-and-switch tactic. Also, Internet users beware -- there is a $10 daily fee for using their high-speed service. With three laptops among the five of us, that was a whopping $30 per day for Internet. Again, at the rates the Hyatt charges, their Internet shoud be free.

Dining -- as the Dallas review on this site mentioned, the upscale restaurant (Stories) does not open until 7/18/06 -- so we settled for the Firewheel Cafe, which is similar to the main restaurant at the Hill Country Hyatt (only smaller). The glass-walled restaurant is light, airy & beautiful, but the service was spotty & the prices were ridiculously high. The dinner buffet, for instance, was $23.00/pp and offered only four mediocre entrees, a salad bar with very few topping choices and a dessert selection that actually was pretty ample. My husband & I ordered the house white wine, which was still priced at $8.00 per glass. It is served in a tiny 2-ounce decanter that, when poured into a wine glass, laughably offers less than two inches of liquid. Even our server was embarassed at the meager amount. The food -- both at breakfast and at dinner -- was very bland. Not bad, just bland -- very institutionalized fare that lacked spice, seasoning and snap. I guess they're trying to appeal to a broad sampling of palates; thus it's safer to lean toward the conservative end of flavor. Hopefully, Stories (when it opens) will offer more variety & more daring tastes. As an interim alternative, downtown Bastrop has several restaurants -- including a couple of fine-dining establishments -- but the town is a 20-minute drive from the resort, when you include the seven minutes or so that it takes you just to get from the hotel itself (on the impressive two-mile private entrance drive) out to Highway 71.

Pool Activities -- as we do at the Hill Country Hyatt, we spent most of the day by the pool. The Lazy River at Lost Pines is just as wonderful as the one at the HCH -- and it will be even more so after the brand-new foliage around it grows up to provide steady shade. A bonus (not featured at the HCH) is the two-story spiral water slide, manned at the top by a lifeguard. The kids loved this. I agree with the Dallas review that there aren't nearly enough poolside umbrellas to accommodate a capacity crowd...but fortunately, we had no problem getting umbrellas since at most, there were probably less than 50 people by the pool when we were there. Poolside food/beverage service was quick & courteous, and the food was actually just fine for outdoor lunch fare. (There's also an adult pool -- and unlike the HCH adult pool, this one adjoins the Lazy River so if you want to ditch the kiddos for awhile, you just duck under a discreet swim rope down a short waterway alley.) Overall, the "water park" (as they call it) is currently this resort's best feature -- at every level.

Horseback riding -- my daughter & her friend, who are both horse-owners, booked a trail ride for the second day we were there. Being advanced riders, they reserved the "Adventure Ride" -- which promises a 2-1/2-hour ride over all kinds of terrain, with all kinds of scenery. On those elements, the ride delivered. They also enjoyed the wrangler who accompanied them, and the horses they were given. The Renegade Trailhead (stable area) was still partly under construction when we were there, but it's very charming -- and the animals seem to be well cared-for. The only glitch here: The girls' ride did not last for the promised 2-1/2 hours; instead, it ended at just under two hours. This was because when they were out on the trail, they encountered several routes that were impassable, due to fallen trees -- and the wrangler (being new, I'm sure) probably couldn't figure out any other way to add extra time to the ride. While these circumstances were understandable (you can't control Nature, after all), compensation should have been made. The Adventure Ride is not cheap -- it's $125/pp -- so perhaps it would have been fitting to discount each of the rides to $100/pp. I was not made aware of the shortened ride until much later that same day, or I might have asked for a compromise while they were still at the stable. Advice: discuss these kinds of potential circumstances before you go out on the trail.

The Spa -- I didn't go, but my husband had a very satisfactory 60-minute, deep-tissue massage for a very reasonable price of $110.00. He said the spa is very state-of-the-art, with full-scale offerings and a friendly, professional staff. His only criticism was that there was no drinking fountain or water cooler to be seen anywhere. When he mentioned this to the staff, they said they usually have bottled water available in obvious spots for guests -- and they were chagrined that no one had replenished the supply on that day. A minor flaw, anyway.

Night Life -- there currently are two bars at the Hyatt Lost Pines. One is a cozy, quiet one with a library-like atmosphere (I forget the name of it), and the other one is called Sheller's -- similar to its counterpart at the HC Hyatt (casual, loud, big, etc.). Only problem is, the smaller bar closes at 11:00 PM -- and Sheller's closes at midnight. Not that we're late-night party animals, but like many parents, my husband & I wanted to wait until the kids were asleep before we went downstairs for a nightcap, so it was moderately late by the time we did that. At 11:30 PM, Sheller's was announcing last call. While were we there, two businessmen who had just taken the long drive in from Austin's airport arrived (at 11:45 PM) and were flabbergasted to learn that they would barely have time to grab one quick drink before the whole place shut down. A positive note: sitting outside on some of the hotel's many rocking chairs and gazing at the stars while sipping a cool beverage is a lovely way to end an evening.

Overall -- we would definitely go back to the LPH, escpecially because it's an hour closer to Austin than the HCH, and certainly much less of a "zoo" (at least on the opening month, early-week time that we went). The hotel itself just feels smaller and more intimate than the HCT, and the surrounding scenery is gorgeous. In cooler weather, we'd love to go back and take advantage of their miles of hiking trails among the towering pines, and along the nearby Colorado River. The personnel run the gamut -- from "locals" who are struggling to submerge their small-town mannerisms & morph into smooth-talking hospitality professionals; to a few downright hostile types (they probably won't last long); to the majority, who -- experienced in the hotel industry or not -- were genuinely trying to make the guests happy. But as the reviewer from Dallas said, they first need to work out the kinks. Hopefully, that will happen soon.

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Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa
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