“ Address: West Quay Road, Southampton, Hampshire, SO15 1AG / Tel: 02380 633033 „
After a few very stressful weeks at work, a weekend break seemed like just the thing. So having already previously noticed this particular hotel, I was pleased to find on their website that they had a special deal running, 2 nights (standard double room) B&B with dinner on the first night for £189. Sound good? I thought so. Also I saw on another site that it was rated 5*, but I must point out that I didn't see where this rating had come from. Still, the deal sounded great so I went for it.
I was a little worried to receive a call a couple of days before our arrival, offering a room upgrade, which, in my opinion should not be necessary. I didn't really have time to respond.
We arrived at the place by train, and actually it would have been easy enough to just walk from the station to the hotel, but we tried the free bus which left us at the seafront. On our arrival, I had to admit that the building did not look nearly as 'grand' as it had in the photographs, but also it looked a little confusing to navigate and I think we entered from the wrong side! We finally found reception, and check in was fairly friendly, but again we were offered a room upgrade and to be honest this annoyed me. The price was no cheaper than on the website, so if I had wanted the deluxe version surely I would have just booked that at the time? Also it made me wonder what could possibly be wrong with the standard room, which would surely be up to the same good standard as most large hotel brands.
I had hoped we'd get a room at a reasonable height so that we'd get a bit of a view. We were put on the first floor, and when we got into the room, I could see straight away that our window had simply a view of the roof part of the building and we could really see nothing. Except some sellotape thrown out there.
The decor was very old fashioned, although not a painful sight. The television was a big fat 90's telly and the so-called 'Satellite' television advertised simply meant that we got a couple of news channels on top of the basic 5 (oh, and Nickelodeon). No ice was supplied, but there was a minibar, which you can ask to have filled. However, we put some of our own cold items in, and found the next day they were warm. We tried all the settings and finally asked reception about it, and they told us 'it doesn't cool the drinks but just keeps them at the temperature they were put in' and as it also did not even do this I am glad we didn't ask to have it filled! The cupboard had a small amount of hanging space, fine for our stay but not recommended for longer than 3 days. It was also used to store an ironing board, iron and hairdryer.
The bathroom was very cramped and there was barely space to move in the shower, without constantly bumping into things. I would say however, that everything was very clean and well stocked with the usual conditioning shampoo, shower gel and moisturiser, plus some cleansing pads for your make-up.
Complimentary Internet access was advertised, but note that wireless is only available in the lobby area and the Internet can only be used via an ethernet cable at the desk. It took a long time to get it properly connecting (wiring problems I guess), but the Internet itself was not slow. I was told I would not have to log in, but on one occasion for some strange reason I suddenly had to enter all my personal details before I could acess the Internet, so this might well be the case normally.
Lighting was pretty standard and there were two chairs and a very small coffee table. In all, the room looked more like it belonged in a 3-star hotel.
We had hoped to make the most of the leisure facilities but actually only ended up visiting them once on the first night, reasons for which will follow later. First we went to have a look and find out where they were and what was needed. A key per person is useful as it can be used as your locker key, to save you bringing money. We just took a few things in a bag and decided to shower properly back in the rooms. There was only one private changing cubicle, and this always annoys me. The lockers were reasonable and had hangers as well, but the rooms were small and bench space not great. There were a couple of toilet cubicles,.and a few shower cubicles. I also noticed there was a swimming costume drier, which is handy and some plastic bags for costumes/laundry. I rushed through, though, because some teenagers were being very rude and taking photographs in there, and it appeared that no one was going to stop them.
I think the pool was smaller than 15 metres, though I could be wrong, but because it was mostly shallow and had steps etc. It made it difficult to avoid that same gang of girls that were now photographing in the pool (in spite of the presence of young families) and people splashing. The jacuzzi was ok, and at one point there were 8 of us squashed in (I suppose that was one way to keep away from the girls!). Unfortunately the experience, which I had hoped would relax us ready for our break actually made us feel very stressed and yet more disappointed with our trip so far. We didn't use the other facilities but noticed there was a sauna and steam room. I didn't look at the gym at all, although I would have liked to give them a try.
Outside the changing rooms is a little waiting area with seats and a tea/coffee machine. I made use of this but the hot water came out fast and steamy and I had to jump back to avoid getting burnt. Also it was extremely messy. Not exactly out of reach of children, I would advise any parent to keep a very close eye on young ones around this. Cold drinks are probably preferable to most people, and there were cold water machines available in the leisure area.
At least we had our dinner to look forward to, right?
Dinner (As Included)
So as planned, we got ready in the room and headed down to dinner. The entrance seemed very posh and although friendly, a little intimidating, so we were relieved to be quickly seated. It was explained that we had an allowance of £28 each and would pay any excess plus drinks. There was a set menu pricing £23 for two courses and £28 for three, plus a standard menu, from which we were allowed to mix and match. I found choosing a bit of a struggle, as the few fish dishes that appealed would have sent me over that budget and there was very little in the way of vegetarian courses. My partner went for the steak meal, with prawns for starters. I finally went for a vegetable crumble and soup for starter. The bread for the soup came very early so I didn't realise that was what it was meant for and we shared most of it straight away. The starters tasted good, but we did have to wait an awfully long time for each course. My partner enjoyed his main, but I, in spite of feeling so hungry, struggled with mine. I could barely find the vegetables in the crumble, save for a little string of leek or onion and a couple of pieces of potato, all I could taste was flour, oil and hazelnuts. The combination left me feeling stuffed. I didn't like the thought of not using my full £28 allowance, but in hindsight perhaps I should have left it at that. I struggled with a chocolate tart, which the boyfriend finally helped me finish, whilst also having his own white chocolate delice with sorbet. The desserts were good so it was a shame I could not enjoy them more. When we signed off the bill, it strangely came to over £63, and it turned out that we were charged £5.81 for service. We weren't so bothered as the waiting staff had been extremely polite and helpful.
In the evening we took a nice long walk around the city, but when we returned and settled in for bed, after a couple of hours I started to feel very ill. I guess dinner simply did not agree with me. I felt very sick but managed to force myself to relax and tried to sleep it off. However, by seven the next morning I felt just as bad, and finally succumbed to my stomach's desperate urges and hurled dinner in the bathroom. I was very violently sick and this meant the bathroom was a mess. I felt terrible, but at the same time I knew that it was dinner that had made me sick, and dinner was all I brought up. I cleaned what I could before getting onto the phone to housekeeping. At first, and I don't blame them, I guess they must have thought I'd had a cheap dodgy meal somewhere or had gotten myself drunk and sick, so they told me there would be a charge as their housemaids are not paid to clean up people's vomit. However, when I explained about our restaurant meal and my suspicions that it had made me sick, she was prepared to waive the charge and advised me to call the guest relations manager. Unfortunately he was not so understanding, but even before I had the chance to explain why I had called, not to make a complaint but just for the charge to be waived, he became defensive and curt. I would have to go to the local hospital for them to take a sample and prove that it was food poisoning, although I'm not sure that would have been the reason I was sick anyway! I think the food was simply far too oily, and the cleaner that attended told us that guests have mentioned finding the food too greasy in the past. I was far too ill to go wondering around the city trying to find the hospital and waiting around there for hours - not exactly how we'd planned to spend our weekend getaway. I was also very hurt and offended by the manager's attitude, fortunately not matched by housekeeping, who kindly agreed to waive their charge as we had cleaned the bathroom pretty well ourselves and it wasn't too bad.
I struggled to have just a chamomile tea at breakfast and dry toast, which mostly got wasted. The rest of the food looked pretty standard, with the usual cooked breakfast, cereals, breads and fruit. I had a yoghurt on the second morning and a bit of cereal with skimmed milk. The muffins and croissants looked large and generous and most of the food was in good supply, so overall it was probably a very satisfying breakfast, if you could eat it.
We didn't have to check out of the hotel until before 1pm, so we rested and got ourselves packed. It was certainly good to have a bit more time to rest, but more so because we were in no mood to do anything after the terrible weekend we had had. We both felt totally deflated. When we went to check out, it was the same receptionist who had checked us in. She asked us if we had had a good stay, and I guess neither of us were in the mood to enter into a discussion about whether or not this was a good hotel, so our reply was an exhausted and depressed 'yeah, thanks'; a blatant lie.
What annoyed me even more was discovering that by booking this deal I have subscribed to their offers and the first one sent was for a deal of £20 a night less for the same deal we had just had less the dinner. And since dinner had ruined our break we could have done without it!
Leaving the building we laughed with irony at the AA 4* rating that the hotel had displayed by their front doors. In a way I was glad because my partner was seeing this as his first ever stay in a 5* hotel, and now we could argue that it was not a 5* all along anyway. Certainly though, I feel we wasted our precious £189, money we don't have to throw away in this recession.
Perhaps our experience was a one-off, but I still think that people considering staying at a place like this, when it really isn't cheap should know. Things like this should not happen at all in a hotel claiming to be grand, especially not if aiming to be a 4 or 5* hotel. If you are setting aside a big amount of money for a special little getaway, then I might just advise you think very carefully about where you go!