How Rotana made our blacklist

Disturbing stay

Disturbing stay

I’m 36 weeks pregnant so this two-night stay at The Cove Rotana in Ras Al Khaimah on their Ramadan special rates was booked to be our last dedicated weekend together as a couple. We were very excited.

After a two-hour drive from Dubai (in hectic Thursday afternoon pre-Iftar traffic) we arrived at the Cove at almost 6pm and proceeded to check in. I went to the bathroom while my husband started. I arrived back and asked if we’d been given the complimentary upgrade as per our reservation. She knew nothing about it and said we’d been given a classic room. I said we’d paid for a premium room but our rate included an upgrade from that and showed her our printed booking information.

She called reservations to check our booking (despite us having all details on our printout that we put in front of her) and many minutes later she said she’d give us a villa. We thanked her.

She asked if we needed non-smoking, I said we did, as that was what was booked. She said she didn’t have any but said she’d find something.

At that point, a colleague came up to her and said she needed her. She went with her associate and a male colleague, Bhakta, took over. He asked questions we had already answered. We said it was poor customer service for the woman to abandon us just as we are finishing, and said that she should see it through. She returned, but took our ID to scan and left him to it. He just stood there.

She finally returned and proceeded to finalize our check-in. After the problem with the complimentary upgrade not being recognised I went through the list of other items that were supposed to be included in the rate. She acted very put out and said of course we had a 30% discount on f&b and of course we had free internet, she would give us a code.

Free internet included, but not without a fight

Free internet included, but not without a fight

Still searching for a villa, she said she’d give us a premium villa. We thanked her.
Finally, Bhakta, pointed at something over her shoulder and told her to “just give them that one”. They gave us our key, told us the pool was closed for renovation, as was the main restaurant, but we could swim at the pool bar if we wanted, and dine at the cafe. At this point we barely even registered. She had neglected to give us our internet code.

We loaded ourselves into the golf cart and were driven down to the villa they’d given us. I immediately noticed it was a smoking room. My husband wondered if maybe it was just stuffy, when I pointed at the ashtray on the table. I also noticed that this premium villa had no soft furnishings, was all echoes and plaster, and had pictures that weren’t straight.

My husband called reception and asked them to fix it. They asked us to wait as they were serving others and he said that we would like this resolved now as we had already spent a long time at reception ourselves, were hungry and now just wanted to be in our room. He waited on the line to be allocated a new room and he asked them to said send a driver with the new room key to meet us where we were, to save me another bumpy ride back up the hill to reception and back.

After waiting in the smoky room for 20 minutes for our new key to be delivered, I was feeling sick from the stench. My husband had tried to straighten the picture but it stubbornly remained askew. We asked the driver to call and find out what the delay was. He could not reach reception. No one would answer. We took the golfcart ride back up to the hotel lobby and I stormed in demanding to know where our room key was.

Bhakta, the one who had said “just give them that one” (the smoking room) refused to serve us and told us to get to the back of the queue. I was not happy and did not move.

This is when the star of this tale, Iyad the manager made his grand entrance and told us to sit down. I said I didn’t want to sit here, I’d been trying to check in for an hour and I wanted to lie down in our room. He said he couldn’t help us if we didn’t sit. I said I didn’t want his help, I just wanted to know the room number from the desk who already had our details, so we could meet the driver who had taken our key there.

Iyad, in his creative genius, said his only option was to cancel our reservation and walked off. This is how he chose to deal with a tired, upset, hungry and obviously 8 months pregnant couple who had driven two hours to get there; who had spent another hour trying to sort out a reservation that had been stuffed up twice already; and who had been shuttled up and down the hill in a golfcart to a smoking room that had been allocated to them even though they’d been told they were being given a non-smoking room. The man is not a diplomat. Let’s say it did not smooth the situation.

I stormed after him, shouting that he would do no such thing, that he would honour our transaction and provide the service we had paid for.

He said he couldn’t while I was upset. I urged him to just give us our room number if he was concerned that I was upset. He said he couldn’t if he didn’t know what it was. I said that is why I wanted the front desk to deal with it, as they had all our details, to save us wasting further time recounting them.

He repeated that all he could do was cancel our room and said we hadn’t even given him our name. I asked why he had not asked for our information instead of threatening to kick us out. I gave him the reservation details I’d had in my hand and been waving at him the entire time, that he’d never taken from me and demanded he give us the number of our room.

He typed away and perceptively informed us that we’d already been given a new room and the key had already been sent. Our patience had been completely sapped. I repeated that all we wanted was the number of this room so we could go there.

He said “this room is also a smoking room, is that ok?” I said “no, of course it’s not ok!” We reserved a non-smoking room, and that is what we want to be provided.

He reverted to his default position, “all I can do is cancel your reservation” with the added flourish of, “you can call the police if you’re not happy”

I told him that is not all he could do, he could provide the service we had paid for and told him to find us a room.

He typed some more and said he had nothing at that level, and I said he’d have to give us a room at a different level then. He said it would take a further one to two hours so he would give us a standard room to wait in in the mean time. I asked if there was any food in the room. He said there was standard mini bar, chips and chocolate, and I said we would wait in the cafe.

He looked at me and sneered and with another textbook line of customer service gold he said, “All this because we gave you a smoking room? I’ve been nothing but polite and all you can do is shout”.

I said no, that is not all. We had arrived and our reservation was not recorded correctly. We had patiently explained the differences to the check in desk who had spent some time confirming these on the phone to Rotana’s central reservations department and were finally making progress when after about 15 minutes the woman we’d been dealing with abandoned our check in and handed over to a colleague who started asking us basic questions all over again. Then we’d been given two rooms that did not satisfy the reservation criteria, we’d been driven all around the property and left waiting when no one answered our calls, and then made to explain the situation again to someone who, rather than help, said the only option was a cancellation, implying we should turn around and drive home for another two hours. Finally, I said, “your attitude is anything but polite, it is rude, abrasive, unhelpful and after this last question, downright cheeky. Is there any wonder we are irate?”

We waited in their cafe and my husband received a call around 45 minutes later saying our room was available. When he went to reception Iyad regaled him with a bizarre lecture on how we cannot request a room that is non-smoking, because they have no control on what guests do in the room. He said “requesting a non-smoking room is just a wish, like wishing for a two-bedroom villa instead of a single”. Why on earth do Rotana offer the option on their reservation website? Why on earth do check in staff confirm the request? Another gem from the mouth of Iyad.

All sun and little terrace

All sun and little terrace

We finally arrived in the room and there was no food in the mini bar as he’d promised. We ordered room service. We had still not been given an internet code so ordered this too. We were told there was no internet in the room. They finally offered a LAN cable however. (It’s 2014 and you offer a rate that includes ‘free internet’, how can you not offer wifi?). The room was as beige as could be. Again, all hard surfaces, minimal comfort or decor. There were two white plastic chairs on the sun terrace which we’d discover in the morning was all sun, very little terrace.

Our food arrived, sans internet code. The food was fine. You can’t imagine they’d do much wrong with fish and chips and a chicken burger.

Another driver came with an internet code, and the login details said there was a 120aed charge. We said we could not agree to the charge, that he should speak to reception and fix it. The driver took the code away and said he could not leave it with us. Again we had to argue with three people that the rate included free internet and we finally got a code delivered.

Chamber of echoes

Chamber of echoes

We had tried to watch a film on television but the speakers on the TV were blown, so even at full volume Matt Damon was incomprehensible. I went upstairs to see if the bedroom TV was any better. It was.

At 9:30pm, the doorbell rang again. Turndown service. I asked my husband to accept the chocolates and let them go. There were no chocolates. They only turned the bed down and replaced towels. We’d not used towels and I’d managed to lift the corner of the duvet myself so their extravagant offer at that time of night was completely redundant.

We watched some television and went to sleep. I woke at 2:30am with the horrific combination of sore dry eyes and throat from the blustery air conditioning, but still sweaty because it wasn’t actually cooling the room.

I went downstairs to sleep on the sofa. My husband emerged and shouted off the balcony “everything’s better at home!” and we agreed we’d leave first thing in the morning, and not stay the extra day and night. We discussed the fact that we would forfeit our second night, but as my husband put it, that would be money well spent to get out of there.

The five-minute flood

The five-minute flood

Ingenious double-ended shower head

Ingenious double-ended shower head

Showering was interesting, more water came out the base of the shower head than the top, and the bathroom immediately flooded because the shower drain was blocked. By the time both of us had had 5 minute rinses, even the external drain in the bathroom was struggling.

When we were ready to leave we ordered a buggy to take us up the hill. It didn’t arrive and we had to reorder it 30 minutes later. We had the delight of dealing with Bhakta to checkout but had already decided that other than correcting any billing issues, we would not discuss any issues. Of course, we again had to get the internet charge removed because they’d added that to the bill. Bhakta then asked us to wait a few minutes while he checked if he could refund us the second night’s accommodation. We thanked him.

As we were waiting, a manager approached us, asking if he could help. I said last night his assistance would’ve been greatly appreciated but at this stage it was not worth our time to explain the extent of our experiences. We said Bhakta was in the process if trying to obtain a refund for us on our second night, so if he could secure that we would be grateful. He did immediately and I think our stay would’ve been entirely different had he been on duty when we checked in, rather than when we checked out.

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