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Descriptions of Views Don't Always Mean the Same Thing

January 13, 2002

Ever check into a pricey "ocean-view" room from which you could see the sea only by hanging precariously over the balcony railing? Or a "partial ocean-view" room with a window mostly overlooking the roof? Or a "city-view room" with fine vistas of a parking lot?

Never mind what's actually in the room; the degree to which you can see the water is mainly what decrees the price of a Hawaii hotel room, although even those classifications can be subjective. So unless you have already been to a hotel or resort and know precisely which room you want, you don't always get the view you hope you'll be paying for.

At the Royal Hawaiian I took a "historic ocean" room (brochure rate $575) instead of a "historic garden" room (brochure rate $420) because both were offered to me for the same price ($195). In the end, I wished I had chosen the "historic garden" because the view from my window in the "historic ocean" was mostly roof, while the garden room overlooked the pretty back lawn.

Designating room categories at the Hyatt Regency Maui is a little more scientific: Water makes up at least 20% of the view from "partial ocean-view" rooms. At least 50% of the view in an "ocean-view" room is water.

In Hawaii, less expensive rooms without ocean views usually are named for the feature they overlook: a golf course, mountainside, lagoon, terrace, garden or cityscape.

Still, the categories aren't hard and fast. A garden room I saw in the Alii Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki had a partial ocean view.

Here's how to get the room with the view you want:

* When you make a reservation, quiz the agent about what you'll see from the window or lanai of a room in the category you're discussing.

* Request the highest floor possible.

* When you check in, make sure the front-desk clerk knows that the view is important to you. Ask to inspect several options if possible.

* If you end up in a room without the view you expected, don't unpack. Return to the front desk and discuss the problem, calmly and rationally.

Most people are reluctant to complain. But remember, if you don't ask for something better, you won't get it.

--Susan Spano

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