I just returned from a girlie weekend here for a friend's 40th birthday 27/28 April 2012. Overall we had a good stay, but you need to be lucky with your room as most of the group had very noisy rooms so didn't get much sleep, and will be claiming under the "good nights sleep guarantee". The location however was fantastic - 100yd from the "Lanes", and a big selection of shops, cafes, bars etc right on the doorstep.
The hotel wasn't very easy to find, but that is more down to Brighton's one way system, although perhaps the directions on the website could be a little more detailed as it was very easy to miss the turn to the road where the NCP is located. Once parked it was a very short walk (100yd) to the hotel entrance, which is located in a parade of shops (99p store, Subway, Greggs, Co-op), with the accommodation above the shops. The entrance lobby was clean and airy, with just x2 lifts and a staircase, and also seemed to be manned by security in an evening to keep undesirables out, which was very reassuring when we got back at 2am.
Reception and Restaurant etc were on the 1st floor, and again clean, tidy and relatively modern. Check-in was quick and easy, and we were soon on our way up to our rooms, which was the first downside. There were x2 lifts which held x8 people each, but for a x6 floor hotel this didn't seem to be enough as we were constantly waiting for lifts during our stay, and it seems that housekeeping were using the same lifts in a morning at peak check-out time which exacerbated the issue. We were on the 5th floor, so going up the stairs with cases etc wasn't really an option, but for most of the time coming/going we just used the stairs.
The floors all seemed to be well-divided up, with locked doors separating the room corridors from the lift lobby area, meaning you could only get onto your corridor using your key-card, which again was very reassuring for a group of females. Once on your corridor there were further fire doors splitting the rooms into groups of 4-5 rooms - this did seem to minimise noise travel along the corridors from other rooms, but did mean more banging doors late at night as people returned.
We all had family rooms which were a fantastic size and layout compared to some of the smaller family rooms I have stayed in at other hotels. The rooms did vary in size, but even the smallest was still very roomy. Each room had a double bed with a separate pull-out single bed underneath, which would easily have fitted in the middle of the room. There was then a separate single bed underneath the window. There was a set of open shelves and x8 hangers, and the standard desk unit with a tv, and tea/coffee making bits, and also a small coffee table, and upright table and and armchair...so plenty of seating for a few of you to get ready to go out together. We had plenty of towels/pillows provided, and extra tea/coffee were provided when asked. There was a half-size mirror above the desk, and then a full length wall mirror by the door...for that last minute preening on the way out! Bizarrely our room also had a door which seemed to go to an adjoining room...it was locked, and not an issue on the first night, but on the second night a loud group of girls were in the adjoining room and although we couldn't hear them out in the corridor, the adjoining door seemed much thinner and in our room we could hear every word!
All the bedrooms had x3 windows, but ours was a wider room so they were just spaced further apart. The windows turned out to be our major gripe with the hotel though...they were old-style metal frames with single glazing, and an opening restrictor to stop you throwing yourself out; with then a secondary glazing panel in front of that which slid from side/side to allow you to open the window. No amount of slamming could get the exterior windows to close properly, either because they were broken or the rubber seals were missing, or they are just old and knackered...not an issue when we checked in, but once the torrential rain started, and the wind got up, the windows made a constant high-pitched whistling noise...and I don't just mean a little niggly background noise...it made conversation hard at its worst, and sleep impossible. Irritatingly this didn't seem to be news to the duty manager when raised - he wasn't interested in coming up to witness the noise, so was obviously well-aware of it, and immediately offered to refund our last night's stay, which was something, but we would much rather have had a good night's sleep. More importantly, if they are aware of the issue then why have they not done something about it, or avoided using the rooms that are affected until resolved (although the hotel was possibly full during our stay as it was very busy). In our case the rooms at the back of the hotel (carpark side rather than sea/street side) seemed to be the worst affected, but that was probably more down to the wind direction during our stay, as the rooms on the opposite side seemed to be just as bad in terms of broken window fittings, and our room on the opposite side suffered from traffic noise as a result which again made sleep difficult.
The bedroom was also air-conditioned, which again needs some maintenance/repair. Some of the carpark side rooms were very cold in the night (could either be down to the air-con or the poor-fitting windows), and our room had a constant noise like a drill being used down in the street, even with the aircon off, so I can only imagine this was coming from the aircon unit in the room below us!
The bathroom was functional, but very tired and worn, and in need of both a refurb and a good clean! There was a toilet with a washstand surround above that was big enough for a wash-bag; a washbasin; a tiny heated towel rail; a mirror above the basin and a bath with a fixed shower above it. The bathroom floor was very stained, with dubious yellow build-up on the lino along the bath and skirting and behind the door. The washstand was stained and dirty, with what looked like toothpaste marks. The basin...eurgh...the overflow was gross and smelled of vomit...I simply used a glass of water to clean my teeth, but it wasn't nice! The bath tiles were mouldy along the grout, and the over-bath shower itself had a gym-style metal pipe with a fixed head, so whilst functional it wasn't the best for washing long hair etc. The towels provided were threadbare, worn and even torn in some cases...and as is typical for Premier Inns...the heated towel rail was only big enough to hold a hand towel anyway so we had to hang them over chairs in the room to dry. There was also no visible extraction in the bathrooms which may account for the damp mouldiness! All in all the bathroom is functional and basic which would be fine if it was at least clean...but if you are revamping them I would like a shower with a removable head; an extractor fan and a towel rail big enough to put my towel on. But in the meantime, a good scrub would suffice!
We only used the restaurant for breakfast one morning, purely because it was raining too hard to venture any further. It was standard Premier Inn fare and perfectly acceptable, but if you wanted something else there is a massive selection on the doorstep, from Subway or Greggs downstairs, to cafes or a bagel shop 100yd away, and everything the Lanes has to offer 150yd away.
Parking seems to come up a lot as a gripe, but we felt that it was reasonable given the location. Brighton is expensive, it is well publicised how much it will cost you to park (and you do get a 25% discount on the NCP rate), and if you want the convenience of parking so centrally then you can expect to pay for the privilege (£18.80 per night after discount). If the parking cost was included, then you would just be paying more for your rooms in the long-run, so if you don't want to pay then get the train, or all car-share to minimise the cost between a group.
My only other feedback would be the shambolic housekeeping. If check-out is not until midday, then don't send housekeeping out knocking on doors from 9:30am on a Sunday morning...and certainly not more than once...whilst getting ready I had a total of x3 knocks from housekeeping, and who knows how many more once we had gone out for breakfast. I could have put a do not disturb notice on the door, but I shouldn't need to before check-out time. If someone has already checked out then fine go up and clean their room, but leave the rest of us in peace until after midday...then if I am staying another night and want a lie-in then I will put my sign out! Please also co-ordinate housekeeping trolleys to keep them out of the lifts in a morning - surely you could store one per corridor/floor, and not need to have them whizzing up and down in the lifts all the time when we are trying to get our bags out for check-out?
In a summary a great location, just need to get their windows sorted, housekeeping co-ordinated, and their bathrooms cleaned/refurbished before I would return.
The higher the floor the less street noise you will get. The sea-view rooms are above a busy road, s...
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