Eveline Harvey enjoys a babymoon break in the heart of the city.
Location: The Stamford is right in the heart of Auckland's CBD, within a few minutes' stroll of Britomart, the Viaduct, SkyCity and Chancery Square.
Check-in experience: Superb. We were greeted on arrival by the lovely Aldana, who couldn't have been more helpful or efficient.
Room: One of the hotel's two spacious Raffles suites, on the 9th floor. All the Stamford's rooms are being refurbished this year in a $10 million upgrade and the results so far are impressive. We'd stayed about a year ago and, although it was a pleasant enough experience, both my husband and I felt the hotel was looking a little tired. What a difference a few months can make. The new muted colour palette helps accentuate the original New Zealand artworks that adorn the walls, but the hotel's heritage is also on display thanks to the retention of original wooden cabinetry and recovered headboards. Particularly striking is the use — throughout the hotel — of New Zealand botanical prints, sourced from the Alexander Turnbull Library.
I was a big fan of the louvred section in the corner of the main bedroom window which allows guests to let in fresh air. Using it means added street noise, but it's nice to have an option other than air conditioning.
An internal hallway leads to a cosy living area complete with a couch, two armchairs and a marble-topped coffee table and there's a small balcony, which offers a glimpse of the harbour in the distance. A display cabinet holds books with local links as well as an array of vases and sculptures. A gas fireplace and a TV — there are two in the suite — are incorporated into the display cabinet's base, and there's a small desk facing the window opposite if work beckons. In the far corner is a table for those who wish to dine in. A well-stacked mini-bar fridge and a coffee capsule machine are also on hand.
Exercise: The Stamford's state-of-the-art new recreation area occupies a piece of prime real estate on the 10th floor. It features specialist TechnoGym equipment, a dedicated flexibility training area and a 12m-long pool.
The bed: One of the best hotel beds I've ever experienced (and that's saying something when you're seven months pregnant). There was enough give in the mattress to allow a degree of sinking-in and the underlying material also ensured there was plenty of support.
Bathroom: Spacious and very nicely finished, with a large bath and adjoining shower cubicle. The wooden surround on the room-length mirror is one of the hotel's original features but everything else is spic and span modern. His-and-her basins are surrounded by plenty of benchtop vanity space and one of two toilets is through another door at the far end of the bathroom.
Toiletries: A lovely range from L'Occitane, and a well-stocked vanity kit.
Price: From $780 per night for the Raffles suites. The hotel's Superior rooms start at around $180.
Food: The hotel's Kabuki Teppanyaki Restaurant is wonderful but very popular, so be sure to make a reservation. We were impressed with the breakfast spread at the Knights on Albert Restaurant in the lobby, which has also been revamped in the past year. An extensive buffet of cooked and Continental options is augmented by more cafe-style dishes, which can be ordered from the kitchen. The Stamford's daily high teas are also hugely popular.
What's so good about this place? The central location, the very attentive staff and the fresh new rooms.
And the bad? If we were being extremely picky, perhaps the shower could've been a tad stronger.
Perfect for: A rejuvenating city break.
Would I return? Yes indeed. I'm still dreaming about that bed.