Very recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Melbourne, Way Down Under, after securing an upgrade to business class on United flight 839, which made the 20+ hr trip to get there bearable. I was traveling with a colleague, who was attending the same meeting and staying at the same hotel as I was, so upon arrival we hopped into the same cab to the city. The first thing one would notice is that cabs are rather expensive in Melbourne. The ride from the airport to the city was about 20 min (it was a Saturday so that traffic was light), but it cost us more than 55 AUD, for which we paid 30AUD a piece or 61.33USD total. For comparison, a longer cab ride from JFK to anywhere in Manhattan would cost 45USD, flat. It would turn out that Melbourne is all around a more expensive city than NYC, so beware and plan accordingly! Our destination after leaving the airport was Melbourne’s South Wharf Promenade, which is a relatively new and dynamic business and dining area, and where our hotel, Hilton Melbourne South Wharf Hotel, was located. It provides direct access to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center (MCEC), the site of our conference, which is a very convenient arrangement since guests staying at the Hilton are able to walk directly to MCEC from within the hotel. Checking in and Elite Upgrades We arrived at Hilton Melbourne South Wharf Hotel early on a Saturday morning so that there was hardly anyone waiting to check in. My colleague, a HH Gold elite, went to check in first. After a few minutes, he turned around with a broad smile and gave me thumbs up: he had been upgraded to the Exec floor, meaning that he would have access to the Exec lounge. In the cab, I had told him that I would try to get upgraded to a suite because HH’s new rules made that a perk for Diamonds. It turned out that I did not even need to bother asking. After I gave my passport to the desk agent, he found my reservation and said, “Your colleague seemed pretty pleased with his upgrade, I think that you’ll also be pleased with yours because it looks like you got upgraded to one of our better corner suites on the 18th floor [the property has 19 floors]”. Yeah! However, because it was so early in the morning, he said that the guest who had occupied the suite the night before had just checked out and that it would take some time to get the suite ready for me. I said that was no problem as I could take the opportunity to go to the nearby convention center to register for my meeting and pick up the meeting material. He asked that I leave him my mobile phone number so that he could send me a text message once the room was ready. About an hour later, I got the text message saying that I could now move into my suite, which was as great as the agent had stated: a large seating room with a large flatscreen TV, a separate bedroom, a small closet for suitcases and for hanging garments, a small toilet and separate large bathroom, with a walk-in shower and a spa! The suite had a washing machine (or was it a dryer? It was unusual), a stove/oven, a microwave oven, and a full bar. It was located way up in a corner so that it offered breathtaking panoramic views of both the city and the Yarra River, which runs by the property. The Suite in Pictures: I believe that I got this suite upgrade without even asking because the hotel was fully booked with people attending the conference, who could not afford to book the expensive suites. Therefore, by upgrading me, a HH Diamond, to a suite that would likely have gone unoccupied, the property had freed the standard and more affordable room that I had booked for someone else to book. Something similar had happened to me in association with the very same conference when it was held in Hawaii and most participants had stayed at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Even though I was still "only" a HH Gold at the time, I was surprised to be upgraded to a Junior suite in the Diamond Tower, and the only explanation was that they wanted to free my more affordable standard room for another conference participant to book. The upgrade got them added goodwill from a top-tier elite, while at the same time allowing them to generate more revenue by freeing a more affordable room for booking – a win-win situation for everyone! I would hazard that, overall, Hilton Melbourne South Wharf is good for providing upgrades to Elites, but the fact that there was a large conference going on at the time is an unknown that might have made things easier. The Executive Lounge and Wining & Dining The Executive lounge on the property is located on the 4th floor, where the fitness and business centers are also located. The lounge is open for breakfast and remains open all day until 11 pm. It is very spacious, being one of the more spacious Exec lounges I have seen at a Hilton property. The offering for breakfast is limited, however. I would characterize it as just a bit more than standard continental breakfast offered at most Hiltons in the US. On the other hand, and like at most properties in nearby SE Asia, one can have a much more expansive breakfast by having it at ‘Nuevo 37’, a restaurant with typical Australian-flavored cuisine on the ground floor. Next to ‘Nuevo 37’ there is "Sotano Wine and Tapas”, where one can have wines, cocktails, and other spirits until 1:00 am. The Exec Lounge offers terminals for accessing the internet freely all day long, as well as a laser printer for printing things like boarding passes after checking in for a flight online. In most other respects, the lounge is standard. Its major plus is that it is spacious, with an outdoor terrace that overlooks the Yarra River. ..quite cool, actually. The Exec Lounge in Pictures: Service Although the property has a distinctly ‘western’ flavor, the quality of overall service provided by the hotel staff is distinctly ‘eastern’, and that means the service was super. I found nothing to criticize or complain about in my interactions with the hotel staff, which was invariably solicitous, attentive, responsive and very polite. Only a ‘difficult’ guest would ask for ‘better service’ than that which was provided. Miscellany The hotel is located right next to a big shopping center so that if shopping is your thing you could knock yourself out…literally, by the sticker price shock! Unless there is something that is typical of Down Under that one wishes to bring back, I would not recommend going on a shopping spree in Melbourne. Other parts of the city are easily accessible. ‘King Street’ is nearby and offers varied entertainments. The Etihad Stadium is within walking distance, as is a Casino and even a Crowne Plaza. Overall Rating I greatly enjoyed staying at the this property, especially after being upgraded to a suite; the service was super; the weather was just right for that time of the year (early May); proximity and direct access to the Convention Center was the icing on the cake. My overall rating/recommendation is, thus, PG: Please Go!