Really, really wanted to like this hotel & will start with the positives. Breakfasts were pretty tasty. Some staff were very friendly & tried very hard to please. The lobby/rooms have some nice touches. There was a fashion show at the hotel to draw attention to Soweto clothing designers that was fun to watch & some of the designers were quite talented. Prior to arrival, the communication & booking went smoothly. However, upon arrival, the many communications problems started which we've never had in our extensive travels.
This is the start of South Africa's winter; it gets quite cold when the sun goes down. Our room had no heat. When we asked to switch rooms, the receptionist said the heat was broken in all rooms & gave us 2 extra blankets. We slept in our pants & winter jackets & it was miserable. We tried to check out the next day & move to a Melrose hotel, but the manager profusely apologized & to our surprise said the receptionist was mistaken - the heat wasn't out in all the rooms. She then had us transfer rooms to one with heat.
We had the hotel book a Soweto bicycle tour. We paid cash at the bike tour place, but upon check-out, I noticed a charge for the tour on our bill. I told the receptionist we paid cash & asked that it be removed (R970, or >$120 USD). It took > 1/2 hr to sort out & was settled when I picked through housekeeping trash to find our receipt to provide proof of payment. Given the no heat situation of the previous night, we may have found an earlier, easier compromise. We are partly at fault for not asking in advance. In Cape Town, our hotel arranged some tours & we paid cash to our guides.
The day before checkout, I told the receptionist that we wanted to visit the Apartheid Museum before flying back to the US. A previous cab driver said the museum would watch baggage & so I asked if this was true or if we should leave our baggage at the hotel, then catch cabs to/from the hotel/museum before heading to the airport. She said she would arrange transportation but I saw on our bill at checkout that to essentially watch our luggage during our museum visit would essentially cost >R900 (>$110 USD). I asked to cancel the service as it made more sense to cab it to/from the museum (can't imagine it would be more than R200 max for the round trip), but was told it was too late, arrangements had already been made. This may have been prevented with advance communication.
Other small points - each is minor in itself but added up:
1) B/c the hotel website said they have ATM/banking facilities, we thought we didn't have to take out much cash in advance. However, the receptionist said there was no ATM & ATMs aren't exactly easily or safely accessible in Soweto.
2) There is a hefty wi-fi charge - R40-50 ($5-$6USD) for an hour of access. To purchase 24 hrs of wi-fi access would have been, well, a lot. We have travelled a lot & wi-fi is normally complementary or at a minimal charge.
3) We stayed at a 4-star hotel in Cape Town earlier in our trip & it was a lot nicer - do the ratings standards differ throughout SA? Some walls had big cracks in them, the baths had some pretty large dents & there seemed to be limited hrs for hot water in both rooms we were in.
4) The food situation could be odd. The restaurant was out of coffee both mornings in the carafe. When I went to make toast, there was no outlet that the toaster could be plugged into. Also, the room service dinner menu we got was a small piece of notebook paper that the waitress had written on. Funny, actually!
I'd done research into staying in Soweto vs. other areas, so I knew what area we'd be staying in. We wanted to support tourism in Soweto. I've stayed in places Africa ranging from hostels to luxury hotels & am aware that 4-star hotels in SA are not the same as 4-star Western hotels.
Really like the concept of a higher-end hotel in Soweto, but it seems to me that the hotel is confused on whether it wants to cater to business travelers, tourists or both. If that's the case, I hope it figures it out soon & improves on overall customer service & communication. We can still see its potential.
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