Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana, Abu Dhabi

IMG_1002I’ve been only once to this hotel, but I have to admit that it is worth blogging about.

Due to my work commitment, we have decided to conduct a meeting at Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan Hotel, a Rotana property in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

This hotel combines three living quarters in one place. I believe that the hotel is one-third of them, while the other buildings are private apartments, if I am correct to assume so.

The location of the hotel is opposite the Abu Dhabi Marina mall and the Emirates Palace hotel on the corniche.

The hotel is reputable for its family friendliness and the provided swimming pools for the kids and families to enjoy. Its nearness to the mall and the corniche is convenient in distance, yet I don’t recommend to cut it through walking since it involves going through traffic and packed streets, which is not safe and the distance is not convenient during summer heat.

As for the hotel, it has to be noted that it is a dry hotel, i.e. no alcohol is provided nor allowed on its premises. So, for all thirsty travelers, I would suggest to look somewhere else.

The lobby and the reception of the hotel is spacious and convenient. The reception and the hotel staff are courteous and available upon need.

I had one major issue with one of the reception desk staff, who provided me with the wrong information regarding using the local line for making an 800 number call within the UAE. I had assumed that it was chargeable by the hotel, but the desk receptionist insisted that it was free. I called twice to inquire about it and on both calls, the reply was that I can go ahead since this call, using the hotel line is free and no charges would be placed on my bill.

I went ahead and place my call on the 800 number to conduct a conference call for an hour with business partners in the states. Upon checking out the next day, I found out that I was charged with almost 75 AED for using the local line to conduct the same call. Upon discussing the same with the reception desk staff and clarifying the issue with the manager, I provided them with the name of the hotel staff who answered me and provided me with the wrong information. The charges were dropped but I think he didn’t get away with his fault!

This hotel is part of the Rotana Rewards program and I would suggest to join the said program to enjoy its rewards. I will review their hotel frequent guest program in an upcoming post!

I would like to emphasize on the size and comfort of this hotel through the following snaps of the deluxe room at this property.

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Crowne Plaza, Muscat

Due to business relations with our clients in Oman, we had to stay a couple of times in Muscat and Crowne Plaza was one of the few selections that would stand out among others. For a fact, hotel rates in Oman are highly exaggerated and don’t reflect the received services for such stay rates nor the quality of the venue.So, why Crowne Plaza? well because I’m a platinum Priority Club member and I would like to receive the benefits of possible upgrade, free amenity kits and extended check out time.  Well, it doesn’t work all the time with hotels operating under the IHG group, since I’ve read stories on frequent flyer forums where their high tier status didn’t earn them a thing and that’s according to local hotel management and discretion.

Well in case of Crowne Plaza Muscat, I was recognized for my tier and I have received a complimentary upgrade for club room, while reserving a standard room. Though there are no provided perks such as club lounge access, internet access or even free breakfast. Actually the hotel doesn’t even have a club floor lounge which is disappointing. Below the picture of the club floor room which is amazingly overlooking the pool and the beach.

As you can see, the room is spacious and has its own balcony, overlooking some beautiful images such as below

As a hotel policy, it is not allowed to smoke in the rooms. For solution to smokers, they have provided an ashtray in the balcony where you would have to smoke outside regardless of humidity and high temperature.

The only provided perks were a plate of fruits, a hot water kettle with instant coffee and tea and some complimentary water aside from the daily local newspapers.

I have to mention that the carpets of the hallways and the rooms need to be replaced as it’s truly worn out and smelly. The interior of the hallways is aged and need renewal. The hotel itself need to give itself a break for a while. As for food, their breakfast buffet is pretty good and packed with all kinds of selections which makes it up for any negative issues.

I would have to recommend that you would try their English pub food and drinks. The food there is good and the atmosphere is jolly, with some bingo/quiz games with lots of Aussies and English people hanging around.

For a change, I would recommend walking a bit from the hotel down the road to see the Qurom Street where the locals call it “the love street” where all youngsters and teens hang around to pick up girls and meet up. There’s a couple of coffee shops and some franchise restaurants. Walking around in a breezy weather at night and enjoying the nightlife scene would be a good choice for alternative if you don’t want to hang out at Crowne Plaza open area dedicated to its restaurants and pubs.

All in all, this is a decent business hotel but I would recommend some major improvements in renovation to be able to stay next time.

The Gulf Hotel, Bahrain

 

Believed to be the oldest hotel in Bahrain, The Gulf Hotel maintains its colossal shape over Al Adliya area in Bahrain. Arguably it could be labelled the biggest hotel in Bahrain in covered area, Gulf Hotel still maintains attraction to foreign and local visitors through its high variety of restaurants, nightlife, private parties, weddings, conventions and sports-related activities during summer.

I have stayed once before in Gulf Hotel in 2008 and I have stayed in its regular rooms, which are not yet renovated and I had a very negative feedback about it. The carpet was old, the furniture was dreadful and the TV was the old tube type. It was not a pleasant stay for me. I’ve decided to give Gulf Hotel a shot and try it again with my family on August 28th, 2011. I’ve decided to go for the executive rooms which are newly built and made are in the new tower. They cost more than the typical rooms, but are worth the money.

Here are some snaps of the room.

And what’s truly nice about this room is the bathroom and its huge tub.

Still, I have to put some of my personal remarks about Gulf Hotel. For start, their reception desk needs more staff and better training at dealing with patrons. There are usually two to three personnel and they’re always busy with something. The patrons lines do extend to a level that people start losing their patience. Their local staff are not well trained in the sense of respecting the patrons nor providing the most of their skills. I’ve been to hotel where hotel staff went out of their way to provide 110% of services and support. Gulf Hotel reception staff don’t seem to reach 90%.

Another issues is the price of services. The breakfast buffet rate per person is pretty steep. The internet is chargeable and it’s not that cheap either. I’ve seen many people go out and bring food from nearby restaurants due to the high prices of Gulf Hotel establishments.  I think the management should deeply look into this and revise their course of process.

Another issue is the after-sale services. I have stayed in Gulf hotel due to an offer on frequent flyer miles with many airlines. The offer was to get 500 miles per night and I was staying four nights, and this seemed very good offer indeed for me. I have made the reservation for that offer only with all confirmations and such and providing my FFP card. After a couple of weeks, and upon initiating communications from my side to them since they didn’t credit my stay to the FFP, they replied back to me that they’re only offering 500 miles and that’s the normal there. Even sending multiple emails to their management and their customer support with all the supporting documents, they wouldn’t budge down. Then , I had to go to World hotels, which had the original promo and Gulf Hotel is part of it. They were very supportive and credited me all the remaining balance after they took on Gulf hotel management on my behalf. I truly appreciated their gesture and their apologies for the mismanagement of how this issues was dealt with.

In general, this is a fairly good hotel to stay at only if you’re willing to stay in the costly executive rooms. Otherwise, go there for the nightlife and the restaurants.

 

Rotana Beach, Abu Dhabi

Back to business! Well, I have stayed in this hotel for numerous times and it prompts me to review it. I have patronized this establishment in the last two years due to my business trips to Abu Dhabi. The selection was for obvious reasons. The hotel is connected to Abu Dhabi Mall, one of the three big malls in the area. For a change, you can go window shopping, eating and to enjoy the available establishments at the mall. Also, Rotana Beach has some of the finest restaurants in the Abu Dhabi. I’ve always found this hotel full with patrons during daytime and evening as well. Of course, my favorite spot is Trader’s Vic where it is the main place for nightlife in the hotel. Good drinks, good food and good music, nothing more to ask for!

The staff is pretty friendly and accommodating to all needs. I have never faced any problems in Rotana Beach, except when it comes to being placed in the 7th floor and the Wi-Fi reception gets weaker to the point that you can’t connect to it. I have communicated that to the management and they positively replied that they would be looking into it and address it accordingly. Another comment was that Wi-Fi is still chargeable in Rotana Beach and other Rotana establishments and this is being common in Abu Dhabi and we have provided numerous feedback on this issue.

Please note that Rotana Beach has different configuration for accommodations, from its other establishments in the GCC region. Rotana Beach has (if I remember correctly) three towers and each has a specialized accommodation level. The pics below from the main the building where it overlooks the restaurants and main body. I’ve stayed once in another tower, where it holds the premium and larger rooms. The third tower hold the serviced apartments.

Here are pics from the regular classic room. The room size if pretty decent for business traveler, although I may note that it’s a bit clustered for me.

Another good thing in Rotana Beach is their Zen the Spa. I have tried it! It is located in the basement of the hotel and it has a very unique atmosphere, where a one can enjoy a good rub and relax after multiple meetings. I highly recommend giving it a shot! I may add that Rotana Hotel Chain in general has one of the finest room service menus. You have to try it once (go for the burgers and the Club sandwiches)! Aside from that, I can’t deny my passion for their vegetable soap bars which they supplement in their rooms. It smells and fells nice and smooth. I would always come back to Rotana Beach for their outstanding customer service and moderate prices, as well its location.

Mercure Grand Hotel Seef, Bahrain

 Mercure Grand Hotel Seef is one of couple of hotels that I could recommend for shopping fanatics when traveling to Bahrain. It’s placed in the strategic shopping region of Seef and within a walking distance to two shopping malls and a 5 minutes drive to the biggest mall in Bahrain, City Center. I’ve decided to give it a shot and try it since I was traveling with my family and I’ve heard that it has a good reputation for being family-friendly and keeping a low profile on the alcoholic consumables and the party scene. The drive-thru of the hotel is very very small and the dedicated parking area is limited. Yet you can find a parking in the area surrounding the hotel. for the bell-boy service, you can consider yourself lucky if you found someone around to carry your stuff.

At check-in, it was bit of chaotic since only two attendants were available, yet their attention and dedication to your needs was absent. They had a hard time attending to checking patrons and answering phone calls and issuing invoices. There’s a need for improvement in that field.

I have made my reservation through their official website, Accor Hotels, so that my frequent guest points would be accounted for and enjoy my tier benefits (I was Gold at that time). Yet, when checking-in and presenting my Gold card, no recognition was received from staff and no benefits were presented for welcoming a frequent guest of their franchise. It did let me down.

My reservation was of a deluxe room that had a living room and kitchenette. This is how it looks like. Now notice that it’s nicely decorated and it’s pretty welcoming. There is a dining table with around 4 seats and a fully-prepared kitchenette, mini-stove and a microwave. Yet, I didn’t enjoy the seats in the living room as they were very rough and hard to get used to. The king-sized bed was a bit smaller than the regular expected size and the pillows were a bit lean. The bathroom is very nice and I truly enjoyed the shower glass box with the rainforest type of shower head. The only let-down of the room was having the old CRT TV in the bedroom. The living room had an LCD (around 40 inches or so). We didn’t try their room service so I can’t have a say about that. The breakfast was average and no omelet chef was available on-site to prepare for us our choice of eggs. He didn’t bother to attend till someone complained and a staffer had to go and call in the chef. I found that not acceptable for a hotel of their class.

My only issue was getting someone in the reception desk to attend to your needs. They always seemed busy and out of breath. All in general, this is not a 5 star hotel, if it claims to. The price is pretty high for its class, yet the comfort you get is worth most of it. There’s a big margin for improvement in service and staff training to attend to the patrons’ needs. I haven’t received any email from Accor Hotels requesting my feedback regarding this stay or any previous stay and I do find that careless from them to seek your customer’s feedback. I would recommend it only for family with a craving for shopping.

Holiday Inn Riyadh – Izdihar, Saudi Arabia

Being dispatched to many places in the gulf region, I had to go on my own for the first time ever to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We’re talking about a huge city which I have never been to before and and I didn’t get to see it since my job mission was truly short. In order to have close access to the highway and of course a cheap rate, I’ve decided to stay in Holiday Inn Izdihar in Riyadh. Now, finding this place might be tricky. It’s on the highway, there are no major signs that point to it and you could miss it by an instant and have to turn around all the way for it again. My colleague took some good time to find this place and it didn’t show on any GPS navigation system.

Upon checking in, it’s to be noted that there are two buildings for this hotel which are separated through a public street!! If you are assigned a room in the other building, then you have to go and walk or drive to it which was pretty uncomfortable. I have expressed my concern at the reception desk and I was assured that my room was located where I was at and that was satisfying.  The lobby was fine although small and wouldn’t hold a lot of guests at the same time. I was assigned a ground floor room, but I don’t remember if there was a 2nd floor in the hotel!

Upon entry, I was greeted with this view of the room. The room was decent and the wireless internet service was free, which was truly appreciated. Due to the remote location of the hotel, I didn’t bother going out and checking the surroundings, although I have been told that there was a supermarket or a shopping center nearby. Otherwise, there’s nothing around to see or do. Of course since this is Saudi Arabia, you can forget the basic elements of nightlife. I would recommend giving the room service a shot, I’ve tried the club sandwich there and it was averagely good.

Of course, I have to mention that even though I’ve gotten a good room, the window view was truly awful. As soon as you open the drapes, you are hit with a garden wooden fence which goes over three meters high and you can’t see anything. That’s why I’ve decided to keep them closed! Another major issues is the power sockets and plugs. They only have the American type for wall sockets and it was very inconvenient for me. I had to go to the reception and ask for an adapter, which took them some time to allocate a one for me thankfully.

I would recommend the hotel only for business travelers and for any stays that don’t go more than a single night. The quality of the hotel fulfill the basic obligations and needs for the type of travelers I’ve mentioned earlier.

Le Méridien Airport Hotel, Dubai

This is another hotel which I have forgotten to post about. Fortunately, since there’s still time to 2011, let me layout this simple post about this hotel.

This hotel is part of Starwood Hotels franchise and associations. I have made my reservation through their official website since I was staying only for night in Dubai and this hotel is right across from DXB. I have noticed in Starwood website that this hotel doesn’t endorse nor award any star points for stays and it seemed weird to me at first. I have requested early check-in since I was arriving at around 7:30 AM from Manchester, UK on Emirates. Also, I have requested  a smoking room since I might need to enjoy a smoke or two after this long flight and the jet lag. The hotel management emailed me back a couple of times expressing inability to accommodate early check-ins since they were loaded on that day but they will try their best.

Upon arrival, I have noticed that there are two entrances to the hotel. The left side is dedicated to short-term stays and are assigned to Emirates travelers. They would be accommodated anytime of the day, according to the flight schedules. My friend who was set on that accommodation tried to extend an extra day but was turned day due to unavailability

I headed towards the right side entrance which is the main entrance of the hotel. After checking-in, I was requested to chill  for an undefined amount of time in the lounge till a room is prepared for my stay. I was truly unsatisfied with that. Other travelers faced the same situation and that eased the situation to myself.

After almost 45 to 50 minutes, I was assigned a special executive room and I was truly glad of this upgrade, since it was truly a pleasant room with two minor objections to it. Its windows were facing the  main entrance to the hotel, so no good view is available. And it was a non-smoking room.

The main reason why I have stayed in this hotel is because of its variety of choices in the nightlife scenes. There are about 4-5 clubs/bars plus sheehsa smoking section aside from 3-4 international cuisine restaurants. I would truly recommend paying the place a visit just for its nightlife and the swimming pool area. Although it’s located right by the airport and a bit far from the city center of Dubai, anyone interested in a one night adventure in Dubai should give this place a try.