Crowne Plaza is the mid-market business hotel brand from IHG, owners of the better-known InterContinental and Holiday Inn brands.
But it's tricky to figure out which business traveller the Crowne Plaza brand is for, despite its "the place to meet" tagline.
Part of the problem is that a 2009 Holiday Inn brand and service revamp pushed that brand well into the "good for business travel" category, with upmarket touches like mattress pads and a choice of pillows.
I'd stayed at the excellent Crowne Plaza at Singapore's Changi Airport earlier in the year, and was interested to explore how a Crowne Plaza closer to home measured up.
With the upmarket business traveller heading for the firmly luxury InterContinental, and Holiday Inn nibbling at the mid-market business traveller, I stayed for a night at the Crowne Plaza at Coogee Beach in Sydney to figure out who exactly this hotel was supposed to attract.
Location & Impressions
The Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach sits just back from the seafront in Sydney's eastern suburb of Coogee. Express buses into Circular Quay depart from right next to the hotel, and more buses are a two-minute walk at the main Coogee bus interchange stop.
Painted in an innocuous beige with sea-green accents, and sitting on top of its own conference centre, the hotel feels a little dated outside and in. Access from the street is up a steep hill and through a vehicle drop-off point, or down some stairs through the seafront street level conference centre.
That conference centre with its nine meeting rooms is likely the reason you'd end up here unless you were trying to wangle a beachside stay in Sydney during a business trip and willing to take the location penalty of having to commute into the CBD for meetings.
Check-in was swift and pleasant, with cheerful and efficient staff. Unfortunately, the lifts and corridors to the rooms aren't efficient or especially cheerful.
I stayed in a King Ocean View room with balcony, which was spacious and newly redecorated. (During my stay, renovation was still under way, so check with the hotel for updates if you're planning to work from the room during the daytime, when construction noise may be an issue.)
The room esthetic was inoffensively beige and teal, with lots of blond, a wall of cool blue and a rather dingy dark beige patterend carpet. Nothing to complain about, but nothing to write home about either.
I was interested to discover that the bed wasn't as good as I'd found in recent Holiday Inns, which all have a mattress pad that makes a surprising amount of difference to comfort levels.
In such a large L-shaped room, the lack of sofa is somewhat odd, with two strange (and not especially comfortable) lounge chairs with ottoman footstools facing the large TV instead.
There's a bizarre table thing on wheels with a swing-up arm that I think might be intended for laptops, but without a power point at easy reach I could well be wrong. It's a clever concept, but fails in execution.
A large railed balcony with sea views is a great feature, although this particular room (on the southeast corner of the Crowne Plaza) had a fair part of the view facing other hotels.
The bathroom looked like it hadn't been renovated, with dated fittings and a shower-over-bath with no detachable shower wand, and the towels were a bit scratchy.
Toiletries were very disappointing, particularly after finding upmarket White Company products at the Singapore Changi Crowne Plaza earlier in the year.
The Crowne Plaza promises an "ergonomic workstation" in every room, but fails to deliver.
Instead, you get a desk with a lip on it that actually makes fitting a laptop onto it more difficult, The chair feels more like one you'd expect in a conference room where all you're doing is sitting there rather than a decent work option.
I ended up sitting with my laptop on my knees on the oddly shaped armchairs instead, with the power cable trailing from the desk across the room.
The Internet situation is dreadful, with the Reivernet system being an absolute rort. It's the same system that I found shamefully overpriced and buggy in the Holiday Inn at Sydney Airport.
But it's even more expensive: $29 instead of $27.50 for 200MB at "full" speed of just over 2Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up. After 200MB, all the pages you have loaded are redirected to the portal page and you have the choice of being stung for 10c per MB or an unusably slow connection, up to a maximum of 1GB.
And that's per device: so if you want to connect your work laptop and a personal tablet, smartphone or laptop you'll be gouged again.
For a hotel specifically aimed at business travellers, this rip-off Internet connection is simply unacceptable.
I ordered room service from the hotel's Bluesalt restaurant for dinner, which was reasonable but nothing exceptional.
Breakfast in the morning is downstairs in the same restaurant, with an above average breakfast buffet.
Extra marks for a great egg station with superb omelettes, but marks down for mostly absent staff who are the only way to get coffee, and fairly dismal coffee when it eventually arrived.
The Crowne Plaza's oceanfront location really came into its own here, where you have numerous options to relax.
My room's balcony and recliner chairs (though no cushions) were fantastic for sitting and chilling out in the sunshine, and there's a decent pool downstairs too. Coogee Beach is just across the road too.
The hotel's gym is small and only adequately outfitted, though, and can only really handle two people working out at the same time.
I was distinctly underwhelmed by my night at the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach, and it certainly didn't live up to its sister hotel at Singapore Airport.
With a dated hotel that really needs a makeover, rooms that don't really work for the business traveller and ridiculously overpriced Internet, it's hard to recommend it unless you're absolutely set on a beachside location.