This is quite a detailed review and is actually the letter written to the lodge together with their "response"...you decide...
As a guest having taken my partner for his 50th birthday, we spent 3 nights at one of your lodges, I would like to share with you, our extremely disappointing experience at Clifftop Lodge recently. Being regular visitors to various game and country lodges in S.A., we are quite familiar with the levels of service that a guest at a five star rated lodge can expect.
We arrived expecting a very different lodge atmosphere to what we were greeted with, as the website does not look anything like the lodge does now, certainly not what we were expecting or had been looking forward to, in fact I could not help noticing some old deck chairs untidily stuffed in under the decking just on the right of the main entrance of the lodge when we walked in, hardly the picture we had in mind of this exclusive lodge. However, each one to their own, I guess it clearly appeals to some. On inspection of our room, we were greeted with even more disappointment and amazement. Being in winter, a cozy room with a fireplace was one of our must have's when we chose the lodge, clearly visible on your web-site, but is no longer present after the current makeover. A meager air conditioning unit on one wall, that was by no means able to heat the unit sufficiently was all the room had to offer in that department. It was with shock and amazement that we saw a toilet placed in the centre of the bathroom area, with not even a partition surrounding it, or the luxury of a door to supply a bit of dignity or privacy. But alas, too late, we were already there. We unpacked and after a long frustrating search for the safe mentioned in the brochure in the room, gave up and locked our valuables in one of our lockable suitcases. The waiter informed us that there were no safes in the rooms, as no-one there stole anything. This is a first for me, I have never stayed anywhere before that does not have a safe in the room for guests to protect their valuables, especially not at a five star exclusive lodge.
As it was a special birthday, I had arranged a cozy private dinner in the wine cellar. Hardly cozy it was to be, as the air conditioning unit down there did not work on warm air, so we ate with the heavy jackets on that we had on the game drive. We mentioned it to two of the staff members that visited us down there that evening, neither seemed too concerned, I wonder if it has been rectified, or if it was even reported to management or maintenance. On inspection of the wine list, we were shocked at the completely outlandish markups on the wines. We all expect to pay more for a bottle of wine at such an establishment, but R 355.00 for a bottle of Theuniskraal Riesling that costs R 32.99 at a local liquor store is a bit over the top.
Meal times were stressful to say the least. We inquired as to the times for breakfast and were informed that they served breakfast from 08H30, as we chose not to take the morning game drives. We duly arrived for breakfast at 08H30, only to find, that the tables were still in the process of being laid, there were no glasses for the fruit juices, or plates for the pastries or cereals etc. It took until 09H00 to manage to get coffee and butter on our table, by 09H10, we managed to get serviettes. There were also no jams available at all, after another request and long wait, we managed to get some orange marmalade in a bowl. By 09H30 we managed to secure a cooked breakfast, but on a cold plate, which spoiled an otherwise very pleasant meal. We tried a different approach the second morning, to try and avoid the frustration of the previous morning and arrived for breakfast at 09H00, well, as you can guess, it was not much better, and still took another 20 minutes to get coffee, and we had to ask for jam again for the croissants, which took another 15 minutes to get there, once again decanted into a large bowl. On three separate occasions at meal times, we returned crockery that was dirty, with either oily residue or greasy smudges on the plates and lipstick marks on the wine glasses. The food was fine, except that the food was always cold and the plates were never warmed, I never had a single meal there where something was not cold that should have been served hot. We were not the only guests that were annoyed, we shared our dinner area the last two nights with two other couples and we all shared the same views. In fact when guests complained about the service and delays in getting food and about the food being cold, the waiter reiterated that the chef said that he was very stressed, as he had a full camp (16 guests in total) and could not cope. When a guest complained about his garlic snail starter being cold, he was simply told that the chef said it was meant to be a cold starter. I have to give the waiters their due, they tried hard and they were taking all the flack for the kitchen's mismanagement. The staff were definitely not trained and were very inexperienced. Each night there was a fish as a main course choice and each night the fish was described as "Sole, a type of frozen fish, Alaskan Salmon, "also a type of frozen fish" and so it went. Our wine was never topped up ever, in fact, when we ordered it, it was brought to the table with the glasses, placed on the table and not even opened, let alone poured for tasting. Meals were sent back regularly, either to be heated or corrected. We sent back our fillet on one occasion, as it was done very rare in place of medium, it was returned about 10 minutes later, no better, just colder. It was also very uncomfortable trying to eat off a plate that was wobbly on the place mat, none of the plates have flat bottoms, or sit firmly on the solid wood place mats. On both occasions that we had dinner, the room was freezing, as the fire had not been lit in time for dinner, in fact on both occasions we ate there, I assisted and lit the fire while the waiter did his best to handle the other guests requirements. Although there was someone on duty each night to oversee the evening session, we never once had any interaction with the general manager, he was basically never seen and did not interact with the guests at all. In fact the guests on two occasion mentioned it to the person on duty, but nothing changed, they in fact asked that their discontent be relayed to the general manager about the food and service in general etc., but we still never saw the general manager's presence or had him address any of the guests concerns.
In general, we were extremely disappointed. The staff were very inexperienced and lacked management leadership, there was no-one taking control and no follow up, no one seemed to care, clearly a complete fall down on behalf of management. At establishments such as Clifftop, I am used to seeing management interacting with guests at all times, showing interest in guest satisfaction and continually correcting situations where necessary and assisting their staff at all times, this however does not happen at Clifftop. Would I recommend Clifftop to anyone else, or would I ever return ?, after our past experience, certainly not.
Kudos do however go out to Pierre, the head game ranger who was incredibly polite and knowledgeable, making the game drives a truly memorable occasion. Thank you, Pierre.
Thank you for your e-mail with regards to the problems you experienced and for your valuable comments regarding the service you experienced during their stay.
It is with regret that I learned that things did not go according to the standards that we pride ourselves on at Clifftop. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you for the inconvenience caused due to these issues.
I would also like to apologise for the delay in replying to you, but unfortunately I was travelling and I needed to get some feedback from our management at Clifftop.
I would like to use this opportunity to reply on some of your concerns.
The lodge has recently been refurbished by one of the country’s award winning interior decorators. However in saying that I can agree that it is very different and will appeal to some and not to other people. The fact that the website still had the old pictures on will be addressed ASAP with our website administrators.
I have taken note of your comments on the room heating and the safes and I will be addressing these issues with the shareholders, to ensure that we cater to the needs of our guests.
I am quite disappointed with the fact that we dropped the ball in terms of our food and beverage service. This is one area where we pride ourselves on, and it was very disappointing that I learned that things did not go as planned. I have also had discussions with our Chefs, and I assure you that we will address all your concerns to ensure that this does not happen again in future.
As mentioned I have had intense meetings with Wiets Cronje, Manager at Clifftop, and he and his whole team has taken your comments to heart and I am confident that the team will be able to address all your concerns.
I would also like to thank you for your positive comments on Pierre and I have conveyed this message to him.
Management appreciates all feedback from our guests, as this ensures that we may strive to anticipate your need and continually improve on service excellence.
Please accept this as an apology and a thank you for the time taken to bring these issues to our attention, we sincerely hope it hasn’t affected the essence of being here at Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Clifftop Exclusive Safari Lodge is an exquisite bushveld hideaway, a unique resort, where service is understood and luxury is elegantly understated. The setting is breath taking and provides a beautiful African backdrop for a world of easy going elegance.All 8 suites have a private deck with plunge pool,thatched sala and indoor and outdoor lounges. The en-suite bathrooms have both indoor and outdoor showers, separate bath and bath consumables. The suites are non-smoking and have air conditioning, direct dial telephones, hairdryers, hotel stationery, mini bars, room safes, electric blankets and tea/coffee making facilities. Private Wine Cellar dinners are available by prior arrangement.The Lodge is situated in the 36000ha malaria-free Welgevonden Game Reserve in the Waterberg Mountains, offering the Big 5. Gate entry fees are applicable and are charged per person per night.Halaal, Kosher and any other special meal requirements are catered for by prior arrangement. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Clifftop Hotel Vaalwater
- Clifftop Lodge South Africa/Welgevonden Game Reserve