“ Address: St. Helen's Parade / Southsea / PO4 0RN / England / Tel: 023 9273 1281 „
I have stayed at a number of Best Western Hotels either on my own for business or with the rest of the family. I have a loyalty card with the company so naturally when we needed to find an overnight location to break up our travels to the West Country from Sussex we looked for a Best Western hotel. An additional advantage of the chain is that many of the hotels accept dogs which means we can travel with our Golden Retriever.
Booking was easy and we determined that the hotel had a dog friendly policy from the Best Western icon keys. Of course all of this was done online through the main company web portal. We booked a double room for my wife and I, then a twin for the our two children (aged 15 and 9).
The hotel is advertised as being in Portsmouth, but it is actually in Southsea and the quickest road link gives the distance at almost 3 miles or 10 minute drive. The hotel overlooks the Southsea pier and has an impressive facade.
The Best Western description for the Royal Beach Hotel, does comment that parking is limited to 60 spaces. I think this figure is optimistic and requires everyone to park perfectly, they don't. Additionally the route into the rear car-park has very low headroom. I don't think a 4x4 would get in, we just made it through in a normal estate with low-profile roofrack. Other parking in the area is very hit and miss and you could end up having a long walk from your car to the hotel.
Walking into the hotel is either through a narrow corridor up some steps from the rear car-park or through the main entrance at the front which has a long metallic ramp. The ramp is quite wide so even able bodied people tend to use it to enter and exit the reception. On entering you quickly realise that in its day this was probably quite a majestic hotel but it is now very dated, tired and dull.
Checking-in was pretty pain free and we didn't have to queue. The receptionist was friendly, efficient and polite.
Our rooms were on the first floor. A small, old housekeeping lift can be used with a bit of a track from reception. It would appear the main customer lift is being updated. At least we assumed this was the reason for the chipboard hoarding covering up the area where we would expect the main lift to be located.The internal decor for the halls is old, tired and needing significant modernisation. Carpets are well trodden and grimy, doors are ill fitting and functional rather than attractive. Lighting is very poor and gives the halls a cold unappealing feeling.
It was at this point we realised our double room was a significant distance from our childrens. To be fair although we made the bookings together we had not requested adjoining rooms, but with the occupants obviously part of the same family it would have made sense. After returning to reception to request closer rooms the receptionist was very helpful and managed to swap our room for the adjoining room to our children (they had walk through doors which is another reason we were uncomfortable with the original arrangements).Both rooms were again consistent with the rest of the hotel, decor was from the 70's and furniture looked like cheap second-hand rejects. Doors were missing to the wardrobe. Bathrooms were clean as normal cleaning would allow but the bath / shower was showing signs of mould due to the age of the tiles, fittings, grout and sealant.
In the morning on our way down to breakfast we were greeted with a strong smell of fibre glass resin. Not sure where it was coming from but we had seen a maintenance man the day before so assumed it was some work going on somewhere (surprising as it was Saturday morning). On the walk downstairs we went passed a sofa which someone had written "clean me" in the dust that had obviously being building up for days if not weeks.
We didn't eat in the restaurant for the evening meal nor did we use the hotel bar. However, we did go down for breakfast in the morning. On arrival we had a shortish wait before what appeared to be the only member of staff in the restaurant came across to greet us. She said we hadn't booked breakfast and I said we had changed our mind and could it be added to the bill. She seemed surprised but showed us to a table. The restaurant was between a third and a half full, a number of tables need to be cleared from previous occupants. Although we shown to our table we were not asked if we wanted tea or coffee, nor was the room layout explained. We took it upon ourselves to discover the juices and food. The orange juice dispenser had completely run out and there were no glasses to be found anywhere. A couple of other people were looking bermused before we managed to track down the same lady who still appeared to be the only one in the room. She handed out a couple of wine glasses which I made do with. I only have cereal so found a bowl and a small selection of cereals, there didn't appear to be a bin so a number of empty packets were on the table.My wife went with the children to investigate the hot buffet. On returning it was evident from her that the selection was small and a number of items had run out. We decided not to try and track down the only member of staff but just get on and finish so we could checkout and leave. Although magically at this point two further members of staff appeared. I manged to get the attention of one of them and ask for some coffee. The young lady seemed surprised that we hadn't been offered tea or coffee earlier and was apologetic. Unfortunately the coffee then took a further five minutes to appear, we'd almost given up and walked out.
Checkout process was at least fairly painless and we took the time to fill out a comments form, both for the effort the original receptionist went to and our overall experience.
After our weeks holiday we returned to discover a letter from the hotel from the general manager. I can only say the general tone was aggresive and dismissive. No mention was made of our compliments only the points we had raised around breakfast (well actually he was talking about dinner as the comment form mentioned evening dinner but we had crossed this out and described breakfast.)
Then after another week I was asked to complete an online survey about our stay. I again took the time to complete the survey and then added further comments at the end. Amazingly a week letter and another letter from the general manager, again the tone was aggresive and challenged what we had experienced. If your customer takes the time to give you feedback good, or bad about their experience and impressions you don't then attack them for doing so. As it stands we have written a letter to the Operations Director of Best Western.
The hotel has a lovely facade but don't be fooled. Inside the hotel is very dated, the decoration is from the 70's and the whole interior needs a huge investment to make the inside as good as the outside. Our experience of service was mixed: the receptionist was very helpful but the restaurant was awful. If the hotel is in the early stages of being updated (this may explain the dust and dirt) then it shouldn't be charging normal high prices. We paid almost £180 for the two rooms (excluding breakfast) which was above what we normally would pay but this was supposed to the start to our holiday. Compare this with a family room in a Premier Inn and we'd have got better service and experience. Don't stay at this hotel.
NB - the above review is also on Ciao under by ID Sussex_Paul