Sunday, May 20, 2018

How To Hotel

Over the last few days on our travels we’ve stayed in three hotels: the Travelodge in Chichester, the Park Inn at Heathrow, and most recently the Blubay Apartments in Gzira, Malta. Now, the first two of these establishments are run by chains in the UK, and the third has at least three sites in Gzira, and possibly more elsewhere in Malta. So you’d think they’d know something about how to run a hotel.


On checking in to the Travelodge, the receptionist told us his computer had just crashed and he was waiting for it to reboot. OK, probably not much he could do about it, but possibly there’s some way a back-up system could be in place? Who knows. Whilst waiting, I thought I’d like a glass of water, but there were no cups next to the dispenser in reception. “I’ll just go and get some” he said, and duly did, but how hard is it to notice when the last one is used?

Arrival in the room was uneventful (see below for why this is not a given), but there was a strange piece of machinery in the room. This was the DIY aircon unit. You had to (a) figure out that it was the aircon, (b) connect the extraction hose to a hole in the wall, (c) switch on. We didn’t get past (a), frankly.

Invest in wardrobes? Hell, no. We’ll just give you a cheap rail and some hangers.

Unlike every hotel in the world, ever, there’s no hairdryer in the room. You have to get one from reception.

The shower, however, was the main event. Firstly, a shower curtain. Who uses shower curtains in hotels these days? (But see below.) It was mouldy, and dripped all over the floor. This is a thing that happens in bathrooms, and most bathrooms in hotels are equipped to deal with this eventuality by the installation of a drain. This was clearly too high a cost for budget chain Travelodge, though. The bathroom remained a lake for the duration of our morning. Other features of the shower included a soap dispenser with no soap, but a cover which dropped off to reveal the filth inside.

Diseased interior of Travelodge "nope" dispenser.

Park Inn by Radisson, on the other hand, sounds like a far better standard than Crapelodge. One of a large number of hotels servicing Heathrow Airport, when I booked it on it promised “0.7 miles from Heathrow Airport”. This may be technically true if you count the chain-link fence along the runway as Heathrow Airport, but it is in fact a 20 minute bus ride to Terminal 5. Nevertheless, one expects a better standard from Radisson.


I’d prepaid the room, so the check-in process should have been quick and easy. Instead, they use it as a sales opportunity: “Would you like to upgrade to a room closer to the elevators?” “Would you like to book a table at our restaurant?” “Would you like…?” Shut the fuck up and let me get to my room, please. Turns out, the room was the first one next to the lift anyway, so that was purely an attempted money-extraction exercise.

Still, the room was OK, right? Again, the concept of wardrobes seemed beyond them, and the rail to hang your coats, trousers or jackets on was less than three feet from the floor, so the bottoms dragged on the carpet. Let’s have a look in the bathroom, shall we? Yes, it’s big and spacious – in fact, we’ve been given a disabled-friendly room, with emergency cords scattered liberally about the place, and space to swing several cats both in the room and the bathroom. But, once more, the dreaded shower curtain. The bathroom was a wet room, but at least it had a drain, so only half of it turned into a lake when I took a shower. Le sigh.

Five days later, and we’re checking in to Blubay apartment hotel in Gzira, Malta. We located the apartment easily enough, but it doesn’t have any parking. We were fortunate to find a spot on the waterfront, and walked five minutes to reception, to check in. First up, they hit you for a tourist tax of 1 per night -  a total of 7. I hand over my card. “Sorry, we don’t accept card payments for less than 10”. They might want to work on this – it’s not very “Welcome to my country!”, is it? We then brought the car round to the front of the hotel, to unload our bags. Whilst I drove back around the block to try and find another parking space, Nicola was led two streets away to a separate building, where our apartment was. So what, exactly, was the point of unloading the car at the hotel? We wheeled our suitcases along the narrow pavements, to find our apartment.

These apartments, apparently, are where they think they can fob people off with something they hadn’t advertised on their shiny new website. Firstly, one of the principal reasons I’d chosen Blubay was the pool…which was not in our building, but the one we’d first checked into. Two streets away, you’ll remember. Other things wrong with the apartment were:

Air con didn’t work
Air con remote had no back
No batteries in the tv remote
European plug on the toaster (Malta has British-style sockets)
Only one drinking glass
Only one seat for the café-style dining table
The saloon-style bathroom doors “locked” with an elastic hair band
No hook or rail in the shower - so you had to shower singlehandedly
Telephone didn’t work
Room access keys didn’t work
No seal on the fridge so it leaked water and frosted up
No cooking utensils

Note the hi-tech lock system.

Naturally, we brought all this to the attention of reception. I’d’ve called them, but the phone didn’t work! So we walked around, taking both remotes with us, and a written list of our issues. The receptionist said that they’d be able to fix most of these “tomorrow” but we said that we wanted to be in the building with the pool. We were then advised to turn up at reception at 11:00 the following morning and ask to be allocated a room in their building, "as a lot of people are checking out on Saturday".

We took the precaution of turning up at 10:30, in case everyone else in our building had the same idea (we’d bumped into an English couple in the lift and found we weren’t the only ones unhappy with the accommodation), and explained all this to a different receptionist, who, thankfully, took it all on board and promised us a room. We went back to pack up our stuff, which would be carried over by hotel staff, and enjoined to check in again after 2pm.

We took ourselves off to Bugibba for the day, and returned late afternoon, to check in. The room they’d allocated us looked like what they put on the website: about three times the floor space of what they’d fobbed us off with earlier, a modern bathroom with room to swing several cats, should we be so inclined, and access to the pool.

But, BLOODY HELL! Why can’t you do this in the first place?

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