Saturday, August 18, 2012

What I like in hotels (reviews)

The family have been stoping to Dubai on our way home for some well deserved Summer holidays. We have been in the fabulous city for 3 days now and so far we are liking our stay. I have not seen much but everything was like I expected and more. But I will come back to that on later posts in my other blog.
Today, I would like to talk about hotels. I traveled enough in my life and stayed in enough hotels to know what I look for and like in them. In Dubai, we are staying in a hotel called Corp Executives. The hubby booked it based on the Emirates airlines recommendations. The Corp is nice enough. We have an apartement with a kitchen, a spacious living room and spacious bedroom. My only problem is that it is not a 4 stars like it is pretended to be. For starters the bed is not big enough for 4 people. We would have prefered two different beds. Besides the location is not great. The area is underconstruction (but to be fair most areas in Dubai look like they are under construction) therefore the view from our room are some dusty roads and constuction sites. However, there are severals restaurants, supermarkers and even the Mall of Emirates at walking distance so we cannot really complain. What I like about the hotel is the kitchen, and the pool. The kitchen is equipped with a stove, a microwwave, a toaster, a coffee and tea maker. It also has a washing machine so I can wash the kids clothes right in the room. The pool is very nice and not deep so even my younguns can play there at ease. Plus the layout is very loungy and comfortable. It also have wi-fi which is not the case inside the rooms (weird?). I would give the Corp a rating of 6 out of 10.
If you want to know why I would give a 10 to a hotel, read further.

Great location:
A good hotel needs to be at walking distance to all the attractions and touristic sites available to the city you are visiting. If you have kids under 6, you do not want to travel a long time to get to fun places. And since it is not in all places in the world that the transport system is functionning properly, you want to avoid being stuck in traffic, stranted on the side of the road or a taxi driver with a bad attitude. Furthermore, good restaurants and supermarkets should be available nearby. If the hotel is somewhere far from everything, they should at least offer a shuttle service to the city and back free of charge. Some hotels I have stayed in offered a shuttle service in the 3 miles radius, some other would literally take you downtown.

Great for kids:
Back when I was without kids, I did not mind if my hotel was crappy, as I would spend most of my time out discovering the country, and coming back in the hotel at night only to sleep. But things change with kids; you cannot stay out all day. You have to respect their needs which means that you will have to go back in the room for them to rest from time to time. Therefore the room needs to be roomy; have enough space for them to run around without disturbing the adults. The beds need to be spacious enough, preferably two beds. And it would be wonderful if the hotel could offer an extra cot free of charge for the baby. The bathroom needs to be clean, and have running hot water. Once I stayed in a hotel without hot water and let us just say that the kids hated it.  I like to have the option of a bathtub so I can run bubble bath for them (which I do not do back at home). Plus the bath should be covered enough so to avoid water spills on the floor. The hotel needs to have other amenities that are attractive to the kids such as a kids club. But even if they do not, a small playground, and a shallow pool shall do.

What I need in the room:
Your room in the hotel is the most important part of your stay. And if you do not like it, it can jeopardize your stay altogether. As far as I am concerned there are things that I absolutely need in a room. For instance, I need a clock. People often underestimate the importance of a clock in a room. My house has a clock in all rooms (except the bathroom). I hate to wake up in the middle of the night in a hotel and not knowing what time (or day- jetlag anyone?) it is. I do not have a hand watch so often times when the hotel did not have a clock, I had to go get my computer in my suitcase or call the desk to know what time it was.
Moreover, having access to the Internet is vital. In this day and age, a hotel without proper Internet cannot survive. With people constently on the social medias, there is a need for Internet and wireless at best. Who wants to stay in a hotel where you can have the Internet only when you are in the lobby?
A TV with relevant channel is also a must. By relevant I mean CNN or BBC, a good movie channel and Disney channel cannot hurt. I mean I have nothing against local TV but most of the time it is in a language that I cannot understand. So give me the basics. Plus add a chanel list to the room so I don't have to zap for hours to find what I am looking for.
Don't you hate it when you are four to stay in a room and they only give you two towels. What is up with that? I need towels, lots of towels. Most hotels will ask guests to reuse wet towels for environmental reasons, but really it is just for them to save money. So spare me from that and give me as much towels as I need, at least one for each person staying in the room per day. 

A great breakfast buffet:
Although I find this to be a bit bad now, I truly enjoy a breakfast buffet with a variety of delicacies both international and local in a hotel. With a breakfast buffet, you eat so well that you do not need a lunch. You can save money. However, breakfast buffet feast make you lazy because you are so full after eating you do not want to move. Then you also miss the chance to try the local food for lunch as you are too bloated to eat. Yet, for me a stay at a hotel would not be complete without a good breakfast buffet.

Great service:
Your stay is even more enjoyable when you are in a hotel where the service is great. The staff go out of their way to make you comfortable without expecting a tip. They play with the kids, provide you with assistance, information and extra attention. They should make you want to come back .

The hotels I stayed in and liked:

Berjaya Tioman (back in 2001)
I stayed there during the low season so there was practically nobody. But the place was nice and they provided enough activities for the tourists such as snorkelling and island hopping. The hubby and I just enjoyed the pool, and the breakfast buffet. We did a bit of snorkelling as well. 

Berjaya Langkawi (back in 2003)
I went there with my girl. The hotel is nice but what we liked the most my girl and I was the spa and massage services. We booked twice and both times we enjoyed it so much. After my first spa, I felt rejuvenated, and so relax. Most days of your stay, we would just lounge by the pool reading books from the hotel library or playing games like scrabble borrowed from the desk. There was also a nightclub in the hotel but we did not get to try it because the region was mourning the recent death of its king.

Sirkeci Konak Turkey  (back in January 2011)
The staff there was so nice. After my husband asked where he could buy the apple tea we tried at the hotel for tea time, they offered us a new box. They always put extra delicacies in  the room. They were prompt to serve us or answer to our inquiries. Plus the room was fabulous. It had a jacuzzi in the bathtub where I indulged in a bubbly relaxing bath. And the hotel was just so beautiful. The lobby and lounge was decorated in this beautiful Turkesh tapestry, lamps and tiles. Plus the hotel was at walking distance from all the attractions. In our short stay we walked everywhere.

Ming Garden Kota Kinabalu Malaysia (in January 2012)
The hotel just opened when we stayed there. Therefore I am not sure that with time, it will stay great. However I really enjoyed our stay there. It was located from walking distances to the hub of the city so we walked everywhere (unless we had loads to carry). The staff was extra welcoming and even overbearing some time. I like that they were always smiling and greeting us. We felt like Kings. The breakfast buffet was to die for with even Sushi, although I was not going to Malaysia to eat sushi. So I indulged in usual breakfast and local treats. The room was not that spacious but had two comfortable twin beds and nice bathroom. I deplored the lack of bathtub but the shower room was interesting enough. Anyway, I like my stay there but as the hubby said we need to go back in two years time to see if the hotel stayed the same to review it properly.

Arwana Langkawi
There is really nothing special about this hotel. It is in the middle of nowhere and you need a taxi to go to eat out or for shopping. But the staff was extra nice. They serve the kids and entertain them giving us parents free time to enjoy breakfast. And the pool was so kids friendly with water jets coming out of Mushroom shaped things and even two different slides. Moreover I really enjoy their esplanades that was perfect for Sunset stroll.

The hotels I never want to go back to

Likas Square Apartment Hotel Kota Kinabalu
That thing was a dump in the middle of nowhere. The appartment was big enough with 4 bedrooms and two bathrooms, huge living room and kitchen. But the paint on the walls was peeling off (my kids played with that), there was no hot water. For me space is everything so I did not mind that too much. Plus it had an ok pool the kids could enjoy. But really the fact that the hotel was far from everything really did it for me. Even to go out and eat we had to take a cab.

Berrengis Kota Kinabalu
Let us put it that way, the only thing I liked about the hotel was the local restaurant across the street from it. They call it a resort but it was really a dump in front of a beach that was not all that. There are only two nice places in that dump: the hotel lobby that is super luxurious with decorated walls, huge flat screen TV and flower arrangements, and the pool with its slides. Our room was dingy, and damp. It was also tiny, there was barely enough room to move. The bathroom had hot water but it was just wet and humid all the time. The staff really tried and they were really nice. But I hope to never go back...

There are some other dingy hotels I stayed in the past, but they really do not count because I cannot call them hotels. Most of my travelling happened in South East Asia, Australia and America. South East Asia is just starting with the hotel business therefore they have a lot to learn about hospitality and service. They are trying though reason why you can find great hotels in the region and not so great ones. The thing you should do before booking there is read the reviews but also chat with your friends who have been there. I am really happy that Internet can help me get an idea of a hotel before arriving there. Sometimes it is dubious but most of the time it is right on point.

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