Thursday, 8 March 2012

Beth's Big Adventure - the finale

Intercontinental Abu Dhabi
So, here I sit, back in Blighty after my wonderful adventure.  I'm all unpacked and the biggest challenge facing me right now is how to stay awake until bedtime.  I've set myself a target of not going to bed before 9pm - and if that sounds like I'm being a wuss, then here's the stats:  yesterday I got up at 3:30am UK time, I worked from 4:30am through to 2:00pm, I then walked around for a few hours before catching a flight at 7:30pm, then another at 10:30pm. I flew through the night, managing around 3 hours fitful sleep, and arrived in Manchester at 6:20am.  I zoomed through immigration to make the 7:00am train to Kirkham where I delivered another training course before heading home and wading through my emails.  Trust me, 9:00pm cannot come quickly enough!

Sheraton Bahrain
But I'm not complaining, oh no, it has been an absolutely amazing adventure, even the bits where I was tired and grouchy at the hotel in Oman.  (But seriously though, tiled floors?!).    It did get me thinking that maybe I should review the 4 hotels I stayed in, not from the perspective of the seasoned business traveller, but from the perspective of someone who could only ever possibly stay somewhere like that on a trip that someone else is paying for.  I think those of us in that category have rather different criteria.  So, here are my five categories that all 4 will be judged against:

1.  Bathroom nickables:  we all do it - but at some hotels it's just not worth doing.
2. Quality of pens:  A posh hotel with a dodgy pen is fur coat and no knickers.
3.  Snootiness of reception staff:  It's clear I don't belong in these places, but how did the staff react to that?
4.  Cool factor:  Does the hotel just have something seriously cool that will impress your friends?
5.  Number of building sites visible from hotel room.  This region is growing spectacularly quickly, but how much of that will you trip over?

Park Regis Dubai
The four hotels competing for top honours are:  The Park Regis Hotel Dubai, The Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi, The Sheraton Hotel Bahrain and The Ramada Hotel Muscat.

Category 1:  Bathroom nickables.  To be fair they all put on a good showing here but the award goes to the Intercontinental:  Not only did they offer decent shampoo and conditioner in very lovely bottles but their sewing kit beat the others hands down too - a hard plastic casing with 5 ready threaded needles; that baby will lurk in my handbag for many a year to come and will always be produced with a flourish and accompanied by the phrase "Oh this little thing?  I just picked it up from the Intercon last time I was there."  The Sheraton comes a very close second as their bathroom stash included a very cute little rubber duck but they lost out because a) I can't mend my skirt with a duck and b) I've seen one before at the Europa hotel in Belfast.

Some pens are mightier
than others.
Category 2:  Pens.  Well, this was an eye opener, and very hard fought between 3 of the hotels.First let's eliminate the Park Regis - a lovely hotel but a very cheap an nasty purple pen that wouldn't look out of place in Argos.  If a pen is to have a marketing value then it needs to be one I want to use and hence display your hotel name.  The nasty cheap purple plastic thing from the Park Regis (top in the pic) will never see the light of day in public again.  Joint runners up are the Sheraton and the Intercontinental as their pens were identical apart from a small leaf detail on the Sheraton pen.  Nice feel and would look good in the handbag.  The surprise winner in this category is the Ramada in Muscat because written in big red letters along the side of the pen are the words "Ramada, Muscat" so each time I use it both I, and anyone within about 6 feet, will know where I swiped it from.  Shallow?  Moi?

Pool & Dubai
Category 3:  Snootiness of Reception Staff.  I definitely noticed this most at the Intercontinental, they were perfectly polite and helpful but looked a little sniffy at my somewhat tatty holdall.  The Park Regis also lose out here too for failing to have a sense of humour and sticking a little too sycophantically to the "yes madam, no madam" routine.  Whilst the Ramada weren't all that snooty, they were rather disorganised and understaffed when I arrived and were completely unable to direct me to my room - which was hidden away the other side of the staff staircase, implying I wasn't posh enough for front of house rooms perhaps?  (You will tell me if I'm getting paranoid here won't you?).  Clear winners are the Sheraton in Bahrain - they actually chat to you like a normal person not a "customer", they enjoyed a good natured giggle with me over the Executive Suite incident AND they don't have a soulless check-in desk; instead you're greeted and checked in whilst sitting at lovely but informal desks and they take a genuine interest in you and your journey.  Or at least they appear to.  Maybe they're just the best actors?

The Intercontinental has
the domed roof.
Category 4:  Cool Factor.  Well there can only be one winner here, the Park Regis in Dubai.  A stunning rooftop pool 20 storeys high with a panoramic view of Dubai including the Burj. What can beat that?  The Sheraton came a close second though with its view of the World Trace Centre with the Intercontinental hot on their heels with their beach views.  Sadly the Ramada is a dim and distant 4th due to their pool being hidden deep in the bowls of the hotel.  Honestly though, in a country as stunning as Oman I think anyone caught using that pool should be immediately repatriated to their homeland for the crime of failing to fully appreciate their surroundings.

Category 5:  Proximity to building sites.  The Intercontinental was practically in a building site, the Sheraton had building work dominating the shore area in front of the hotel and the Park Regis afforded a stunning panoramic view of downtown Dubai which is, basically, one massive building site.  This leaves the Ramada, relatively construction free, but for how long?  Oman seems keen to play catch up with the rest of the region, but it would be a real shame if that wrecked the wonderful beauty of the place.  Does all progress have to come at a price?

So there we have it, a tongue in cheek round up of the posh hotels that were kind enough to take me in and look after me during the course of this week.  They really were all absolutely lovely and if you ever get the opportunity to visit the region, even on a schedule as crazy as mine was, then seize it with both hands.  I've only got an hour to go now before I can crash out and try and beat my body clock back into shape.  Wish me luck!