Sydney is a popular holiday destination and also a busy hub for people visiting for work.
Business Insider recently stayed at the Ovolo hotel at Woolloomooloo Wharf to see how it fares as a overnight stopover.
There are many up-market hotels to choose from in Sydney, and Ovolo’s point of difference is its all-inclusive package, which means you’re treated to the latest tech, amenities and fun features, all free of charge.
That’s everything from the breakfast, to the mini bar, WiFi — with no download limits and no restriction on the number of devices used — and even happy hour is all covered when you stay with the Ovolo.
This redefined approach to hospitality is the principle founder and CEO, Girish Jhunjhnuwala has built his business on since opening his first hotel in Hong Kong in 2002.
“We’ve been on a mission to redefine modern hospitality by creating new and intuitive concepts that deliver from the customers’ point of view,” says Jhunjhnuwala.
“It’s an honour to now own and operate two of the most iconic landmarks in the great city of Sydney. What we hope for is that Australians and world travelers alike will take the chance to experience what defines the Ovolo touch.”
Room prices start at $279 per night for a standard room, while the penthouse — which has its own dance floor and flat screen on the ceiling so that you can watch it while lying in the hammock below — costs $1,500 a night.
I stayed in a mid-range “Cityvoo King” room at $359 per night.
Here’s what my stay was like.
So, here we are. The entrance to the new Ovolo Woolloomooloo hotel which opened its doors in December.
Super close to the city, I was able to take a 5-10 minute taxi from central Sydney. It's so close that if I had opted for a wheelie bag I would have walked through the picturesque Botanic Gardens that line Sydney Harbour.
I previously stayed at the hotel, when it was BLUE, operated by Taj Hotels. It's good to see that the dark lobby has been spruced up with some contemporary fairy lights, while still keeping the historical features of the old wharf, which used to operate as an export port for wool for most of the 20th century.
When renovating the heritage-listed 100-room hotel, the designers wanted to juxtapose the new and the old without compromising the wharf's unique architecture. 'We transformed the vast, central space into a laneway featuring a series of pavilions and an avenue of trees,' said Matthew Sheargold, the project leader at the time. It certainly makes for a stunning first impression.
After climbing the stairs, or taking the adjacent elevators, you're welcomed by friendly, upbeat staff at reception.
Once I received my keys, and a run-down of the hotel's facilities, I make my way upstairs. It's very quiet in the halls. If I hadn't seen people downstairs I would have thought there weren't any guests.
Here we are, 416. The interior design feels youthful and vibrant, a refreshing escape from the city. This signage is even a little 'New York-esque'.
This is familiar. I'm pretty sure this glass feature in the bathroom hasn't been updated since the hotel changed hands.
Decent-sized showers are always a win. There's nothing worse than stepping into a bathtub or being cramped when washing your hair.
Ahh, this makes sense now. I though it was strange that they renovated the room but not the bathroom.
Also, scales are something I definitely don't want to see if I'm on holidays, or am too busy to deal with when I'm on a business trip.
With lots to choose from, including apple cider, Peroni or a chilled sav blanc, don't worry if you get a little carried away. It's restocked daily, so you can enjoy it all again tomorrow.
When you've polished off the mini bar, and need something to relax with before bed, the bar is also stocked with a plentiful range of T2 herbal teas, as well as milk and coffee.
Moving on, loving the decor. Simple, yet impactful, and it makes the room feel even more spacious -- and it's a very generous size to begin with.
And watch out, because if you're lucky you'll spot a celeb who lives at the residential apartments next door, or owns a boat moored out the front, or as they dine at one of the popular restaurants underneath.
The delightful extras don't stop there. This is the Ovolo loot bag. In the words of one of the staffers: 'Because we love the F-word. Free.'
Along with these knick-knacks which are already in the bag, the hotel encourages you to loot your hotel room -- and the mini bar -- taking all the extras on offer.
The entertainment system goes beyond the basic pay-TV offering. Guests are also treated with Apple TV. If you want to listen to some music, why not pair your phone to those super-duper-looking speakers.
But another feature captured my full attention. After spending a good 15 minutes looking for the hotel brochures of information, and the room service menu, I noticed this neat looking tablet which is a replacement to the standard hotel guide.
Forget the stained, dog-eared papers, the tablet has everything you need to know during your stay, including room service, local restaurants, weather updates, nearby sights, hotel information, and more. I literally had all I needed at the touch of a button.
Oh no. It looks like the bathroom isn't the only part of the hotel that is still waiting for a fit out. No pool or gym!
Time to check out the free happy hour which runs from 5-7pm. Waiting for the lift, I check out the other rooms. Loving the edgey style of this place.
It's around 6pm and there's already quite a lot of people down here relaxing at the Lo Lounge, which is open 24-hours a day. FYI, it's a Thursday night.
Straight to the bar, there's whites, reds, a sparkling, beers and spirits available. The bartender suggested this Yarra Valley pinot gris. It was light, crisp and a delightful way to start the evening.
Now, if there's one thing I love more than a chilled wine to kick back in the evening with, it's nibblies. And these guys have you covered.
All complimentary, and more than enough, the spread included a variety of bar favourites such as guacamole, pizza, canapes and french fries.
More people have arrived at the bar. You'll notice many are on their phones. There's free WiFi throughout the hotel, and during happy hour guests can link their phones into the bar's entertainment system and play music of their choice. Don't know how thrilled I'd be if there was a death metal fan down here this evening.
And while the space is great for meeting people over a drink, there are quiet areas too. Where you can read a book...
I had planned on going to one of the restaurants downstairs but they were booked out until 9.30pm, and I'm pretty knackered. So I've ordered a classic burger off the room service menu. Most mains were priced at around $30-40.
Now, I woke up early and was feeling pretty guilty about my calorie splurge last night. So considering I knew I was pretty close to the Botanic Gardens, I thought a run would be nice...
If you get a chance to take this route as the sun rises, I would highly recommend it. It's truly breath-taking.
From the hotel to Mrs Macquarie's Chair is an easy 1.5km. Running there and back will only take you around 20 minutes.
Shower and changed, I head down to breakfast. It's a seat yourself, serve yourself system. I was a bit confused when a person in plain clothes ushered me into the area though. Maybe no uniforms is part of the relaxed feel of the place.
There's a European-style breakfast of cereal, bircher muesli, pastries, boiled eggs, baked beans, cold meats and more. When I asked if they offered non-dairy milk products for my cereal they had plenty to choose from including almond, coconut and soy milk.
Or why not a fresh juice to start the day? Meanwhile a downer was that you had to make your own coffee from a machine. A barista on hand would have topped off the experience.
But if buffet is not your style, or you're in a rush and need to grab something, there's also an in-house bakery.
All in all my stay at the Ovolvo was a fun, restful experience. Not having to worry about what my bill was going to be at the end of my stay was huge relief. For those like me, however, who want to keep with their daily routine during their short stay, a functioning pool and gym is a necessity. But as the management of the hotel said, 'perfection takes time'. I guess I'll just have to come back again once the renos are done!
The writer was a guest of the Ovolo Woolloomooloo.
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