Today (March 21, 2016): Top 10: luxury hotels that disappointed me.
My luxury travel blog is all about inspiring you, and recommending the best places to stay around the globe. However, from time to time, a holiday at a luxury hotel can turn into a disappointing event, whether it be because of a service problem, a poor decor, bad food, or exorbitant prices that are not in line with the experience offered. Indeed, there is no excuse for a hotel that costs more than – let’s say – 500 USD per night to be anything other than brilliant, especially when that hotel belongs to the portfolio of one of the world’s most luxurious hotel brands. I hereby share with you my 10 most disappointing hotel experiences at famous luxury hotels that did not live up to their reputation and that I wished I had not given my money to.
There is more information below the slideshow. Did you ever stay at a luxury hotel that disappointed you? Leave it in the comments below.
Sunset Key Cottages, a Luxury Collection Resort, enjoys a spectacular location on gorgeous Sunset Key, a secluded 27-acre island seven minutes by launch from Key West, the gateway to the Islands of Caribbean. It’s one of Florida’s most expensive and exclusive hotels. The private island setting of the resort is terrific indeed, and the on-site restaurant offers mouth-watering dishes, but apart from that, the resort has a very mediocre decor that is more reminiscent of a motel than an exclusive enclave, and above all, during my stay, there was an absolute lack of service. For example, upon arrival at the island (with the resort’s private boat), there were no staff members present to welcome guests and I was confused about where to go for check-in. At the beach, service was non-existing for the two consecutive days that I was there. At a given point, I wanted to order lunch, and finally after one hour a waiter appeared but he told me that he had just finished his duty and could not take orders anymore. The worst part was that for the two days I was there, the room was not cleaned and the beds were never made up (despite multiple calls to the housekeeping staff). Totally unacceptable for a hotel of this caliber, but apologies were never offered, not even at check-out. If you are holidaying in the Florida Keys, your best choice is Little Palm Island, which I liked a lot and did not regret spending my money on.
- Hotel website: Sunset Key Cottages, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Amanruya is an über-luxurious resort located in a picturesque bay of the Bodrum Peninsula. Named after the Sanskrit word for peace, ‘aman’, and the Turkish word for dream, Amanruya belongs to the portfolio of Aman, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand. It’s probably the only Aman resort that I did not like that much because of its suboptimal and somewhat puzzling location. The resort is set on a hill with pine trees and foliage sprouting up everywhere, blocking the view of the Mediterranean Sea and making you feel disconnected from the maritime environment. It is a mystery to me why the resort was not built closer to the sea since there is plenty of space along the shore that is not used. In addition, because of its hillside location and orientation towards the east, the resort is in the shade several hours before sunset; it does not have a real beach (although it promotes to have one); and from time to time, wasps can be a real problem and ruin the outdoor experience. Usually, Aman Resorts occupy the very best spot in the area where they are built, but that’s not the case in Bodrum, where Amanruya’s location is inferior to that of its high-end competitors Mandarin Oriental Bodrum and Jumeirah Palace Bodrum.
Longitude 131° is one of Australia’s most unusual lodges. It is located in the spirited heart and red centre of the country, commanding spectacular views of the outback icon Uluru and World Heritage listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. However, the lodge has one major problem: it is exuberantly overpriced for what you get. The management takes advantage of the lure of Uluru and the lack of luxury competitors in the area to charge insane rates. If Uluru is on your bucket list – and frankly, it should be – then “bite the bullet” and pay the price but be aware that you are not getting 1000 AUD per night per person (!!) worth of value. Things that I did not like: excursions are done in group, the tented pavilions are fine (but not luxurious), the tiny pool is uninviting, and the main restaurant serves delicious food but feels soulless. The good news is that the lodge is set to be renovated, with upgrading the pool and adding balconies to tents.
Near landmark museums, the Opéra Garner, and the famous shops and dining of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, W Paris Opéra bills itself as one of the best hotels in the French capital, amplifying the colorful culture of Paris with its dynamic spark. And while there are several good things to be said about the hotel (such as the super central location, the great staff, and the young vibe), there’s no denying that hotel has one major shortcoming: the hotel spaces are very cramped, and even feel claustrophobic. The lobby has the ambiance of a closet, the gym area is too small, and the supertiny rooms seem designed for hobbits. Because of my SPG status, I was upgraded to a so-called “spectacular room” during my stay, which was still very tiny so I cannot imagine how small the lower category rooms must be. In addition, I was there during a rare Parisian heat wave and the air conditioning did not work nor was it fixed during my stay, despite me contacting the staff multiple times (which made the whole experience quite miserable). Despite being a very loyal SPG customer, I will not return to the W Paris Opéra anytime soon.
- Hotel website: W Paris Opéra
San Clemente Palace Venice is one of Venice’s most famous hotels. The retreat sits on its own private island in the heart of the Venice lagoon, just minutes away from Piazza San Marco by one of the hotels iconic complimentary boats. The upscale hotel offers 6 hectares of majestic gardens, a private 15th century church ideal for celebrations, and 189 spacious suites and rooms. But no matter how beautiful the hotel is from the outside, its interiors are a huge disappointment (even downright creepy). The hotel buildings are massive, with a complex labyrinth of very long, intimidating hallways that could easily feature as the background of a horror movie (especially at night). The place does not feel intimate nor inviting, and rather intimidates its guests. In addition, room furniture is very old-fashioned and far from classy. Last year, the hotel shifted management in just a few months time, which is never a good sign: it was a St Regis hotel for a couple of months, before it was taken over by Kempinski. I visited the place when the hotel was still managed by St Regis, and frankly, the hotel was a shame to the brand because the interiors and design of San Clemente Palace are not in line with the ultraluxurious character of St Regis’ other properties (so it does not surprise me that they dumped it a few months after the opening). I can only hope that Kempinksi will hire a design team and refurbish the rooms to turn this place into an amazing 5-star hotel (as it has the potential to be one).
- Hotel website: San Clemente Palace Kempinski
- Review: to read my review of San Clemente Palace, click here.
One&Only Le Saint Géran basks on the golden peninsula of Belle Mare on Mauritius’ northeast coast, surrounded by 60 acres of tropical gardens and thousands of swaying coconut trees. The location is quite stunning and the terraced and balconied rooms all face out privately to the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The famous hotel, which opened in 1975, has a reputation for being one of the pioneers of luxury travel in the Indian Ocean and has long been the jewel in Mauritius’ crown. However, while its design was cutting edge in the last century, the resort’s room and communal areas are now in desperate need of facelift, especially since the resort continues charging its guests the island’s most expensive room rates based on its outdated reputation. Although the One&Only Le saint Geran used to be the Grand Dame of Mauritius, there are now far better and more luxurious accommodations to be found on the island of Mauritius, such as the St Regis Mauritius and the Four Seasons Resort at Anahita. Unfortunately, IMHO, this One&Only resort in no way measure up to all the other brilliant One&Only resorts, and I can only hope that the One&Only Hotel Group will soon start a refurbishment of this otherwise excellent resort.
- Hotel website: One&Only Le Saint Géran
Park Hyatt Shanghai is a sophisticated, 5-star luxury hotel located in the heart of Shanghai’s Pudong business district. Occupying floors 79 to 93 of the Shanghai World Financial Center, it is the world’s second highest hotel (behind the The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong). Soaring above this Chinese metropolis, guests can take in sweeping views of the city skyline and Huangpu River from any of the 174 luxury rooms & suites. Unfortunately, I fell sick during my stay (influenza-like symptoms). Nothing too bad but very inconvenient nonetheless. While this was not the fault of the hotel of course, their ‘attitude’ during the last day of my stay disappointed me. Check-out time was noon, but my flight departed only in the evening at 11 pm. All I wanted to do was sleep and rest while waiting for my longhaul flight back home, so I requested a late check-out. I was denied this possibility (unless I booked a new night), despite the fact that the receptionist could observe that I was not faking my symptoms and that the occupancy rate that day was only 65% (which I later learned from the hotel staff). So, I went to the pool, and had some sleep on the loungers there for the remainder of the day (which was quite embarrassing). I understand that hotels cannot always offer late check-outs because of organisational reasons or because their occupancy rate does not allow them to do so, but in this case, I think they should have done it, simply because the room was available anyhow and because I was feeling very sick. But the staff made no effort to understand my needs and the hotel’s poor customer service left a very bad taste in my mouth.
- Hotel website: Park Hyatt Shanghai
- Review: to read my review of the Park Hyatt Shanghai, click here.
Tucked away in a quiet side street, Mandarin Oriental Munich offers an enticing mix of Oriental style, German charm and internationally renowned service. Bust despite being Munich’s most luxurious property, I was confronted with a double disappointment during my stay. Initially, I had booked a stay in September 2014, but when I was on my way to the airport to catch my flight to Munich, I was contacted over the phone by the hotel’s management to inform me that the hotel was overbooked, and that I could not be accommodated at the hotel that night. They offered me an alternate hotel, which I declined (since the whole purpose of my trip to Munich was to stay at the Mandarin Oriental), after which they refunded my (prepaid) hotel stay and offered me a 2 night voucher for a future trip. A few months later, I decided to give the hotel a second chance (using my voucher) but this time the luxury experience was ruined by the fact that the hotel was undergoing a major renovation: the grand lobby, restaurants and rooftop were all closed, while they moved the reception and breakfast area to a couple of joined guestrooms. I was clueless as to why I was not informed about this when I made the booking, sine the hotel staff was well aware at that time of the upcoming renovation works. It takes many good impressions to undo a bad first impression, but unfortunately, the hotel did not succeed to turn around my initial disappointing experience with them, despite the fact that I am (still) a huge fan and supporter of the Mandarin Oriental brand. IMHO, during a renovation of this magnitude in a property of a world-known luxury hotel brand, it would be more appropriate to close the hotel or substantially lower the room rates. Having said that, last autumn, the renovations of the hotel were completed and guests are now able to experience the newly designed lobby, bar as well as the brand new Matsuhisa Munich restaurant by renowned Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.
- Hotel website: Mandarin Oriental Munich
- Review: to read my review of the Mandarin Oriental Munich, click here.
Rockwater Secret Cove Resort on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is one of the region’s most unique lodges. Nestled in the rainforest above a gorgeous cove, the lodge has several luxurious (and very expensive) tenthouse suites, some of them coming with an open view of the Pacific Ocean. These are perfect for a romantic getaway, one would think, however, that was not the case during my stay when a wedding party was held at the lodge. The guests of the nearby tenthouse were continuing the party on their terrace after midnight, which made me wake up of course. Not the fault of the hotel (rather the fault of the rude guests), but the hotel should have interrupted this unacceptable behavior immediately. However, despite multiple calls to the lobby – in which the concierge assured us that they would send someone over to stop the guest’s behavior – the party was still going on more than two hours later. A luxury lodge in this kind of spectacular natural setting should have a zero policy when it comes to noise disturbance after 10 pm since the guests stay here to relax and enjoy the silence. It bothered me that the hotel never sent someone over to the partying guests as they pretended they would do (they only phoned twice, as I could hear that very well). It bothered me even more that when making the booking, the staff assured me that I would spend a very quiet time at the lodge since no event was taking place (as a matter of fact, several Tripadvisor reviews complained about excessive noise from wedding parties at the lodge, hence why informed upfront whether a party was planned at the lodge during my dates of visit). At check-out, I was offered a 50% reduction of the room rate, which was a nice gesture but did not undo the bad experience.
- Hotel website: Rockwater Secret Cove Resort
The $3.5 billion casino resort Baha Mar in the Bahamas, the largest hospitality project ever in the Caribbean, was supposed to revivify the economy of the island nation, and to include the 1,000-room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, the 707-room Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, the 300-room SLS Lux at Baha Mar and the 200-room ultra luxe Rosewood at Baha Mar. Instead, Baha Mar missed all of its scheduled opening dates last year and is now embroiled in a bankruptcy battle because of a standoff between the resort and its Chinese construction company. As a consequence, many travel plans were interrupted, including my own since I had booked a stay at the Rosewood a few months after the resort was supposed to open. Although I was informed in time about the fact that the hotel was not going to be able honor my reservation, the communication with the resort afterwards was abominable. I was advised to postpone my stay but by the time I tried to schedule my new stay (a few weeks later), the email and phone numbers of the resort had disappeared and it took Rosewood more than 4 months to properly address the issues I encountered (again, not something you would expect from one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands). However, my experience pales in comparison to the story of a bride and groom who were scheduled to have their wedding at Baha Mar last June and were unable to get a refund for the wedding party as well as for the travel expenses for their 100 guests.