Fawlty Towers in real life, a stay at the Crowne Plaza Belgrade

The Crowne Plaza Belgrade is located in the ‘new’ part of Belgrade, Novi Beograd, across the Sava River from the city centre. While it is located in the building complex of the Sava Centar exhibition and conference centre and ideally suited if you are attending an event there it is not as suitably located when you are there on a tourist visit to see the sights of the city and the centre.

The building itself is magnificent in a 1970’s modern style with a huge and light flooded lobby, with a pool and fitness area at one end of the building and all guestrooms on the top levels. It used to be the Belgrade InterContinental when it opened but during the events of the 1990’s the standards deteroriated very much and they lost their InterContinental license, after it limped on as an independent hotel for a few years it was completely refurbished into the current Crowne Plaza styling in 2012.

The Room

The room itself was a prime example of how a contemporary Crowne Plaza room should be like, using the typical colour palette in the decorations. We had a twin bedded room with two comfortable beds, a small desk and a sofa chair along the window and of course the usual storage space and coffee and tea making facilities. However there was only one bathrobe for the room and we also only received turndown service for one bed and one goodnight chocolate.

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The bathroom was also in a modern style with a bathtub and shower combination and plenty of towels and the usual soaps and amenities provided.

The Club lounge

As we booked a club room, we had access to the Club lounge, a wonderful spacious area on the first floor at the opposite end of the building from the pool area. It had beautiful wraparound windows from floor to ceiling giving some excellent views of the surroundings. The lounge also boasted a number of different seating options and styles. The food area was also clean and had a large surface to offer all sorts of food. The breakfast we had there was outstanding with a very big offering (for a Crowne Plaza lounge). However both evenings we were not allowed to enter the club lounge despite out club reservations as it was rented out to an external company having a private event in the lounge. Upon check-in we were not informed about this by the check-in desk (because they probably where not aware of it either), neither was there a letter informing us about this in our room or an email send to us explaining it and informing us about the alternative arrangement beforehand (Something which was handled much better at Radisson Blu Sofia). As we approached the lounge in the evening to have something to drink and eat after a busy day walking around Belgrade, we were prohibited from entering the lounge by one of the hotel managers citing “it is rented out to an important customer” and pointing us to an area in the corridor on the ground floor where they set up a make-shift replacement buffet. Even though the food and drinks where excellent and the club lounge manager tried to make up for the inconvenience in the best way she could (she definably was one of the best staff members the hotel had, she really deserves praise for all the work she did cleaning up the mess left behind by upper management) we still felt insulted by the manager making us feel as we did not count as customers.

The pool and fitness area

The hotel pool must be one of the biggest inside hotel pools I have ever experienced, with lots of natural light entering through the huge windows and plenty of loungers available along the sides. The gym area was upstairs overlooking the pool and offered a number of different machines to use for your work-out. The only glitch we experienced was the fact that you were obliged to wear your bathrobe when you wanted to go to the pool and receive a towel, only we only had one bathrobe in our room and because we were staying with two persons it is quite hard to fit together in one bathrobe. Timothy solved this by grabbing a small towel from the fitness area, but this is not really an acceptable situation.

The conclusion of my stay in Crowne Plaza is not quite positive. Even though the hotel has a fantastic hard product, using design and materials almost unmatched by any other Crowne Plaza hotel and it probably is one of the top hotels in Belgrade, its soft product is seriously lacking. Even though we did not have any major problems (which are often easier to solve, like the broken down air-conditioning in Crowne Plaza Hamburg) the number of small issues appearing during our stay left us with a very sour taste and a disappointed feeling upon check-out. The room that was clearly only cleaned and stocked for one person, even though it was a twin bedded room occupied by two persons. The lounge that was most of the time unavailable for us, even though we paid for it, and this was never explained to us in a satisfactory way nor did we receive any apologies for the inconvenience this might cause us beforehand. The issue at the pool when we only had one bathrobe in the room. It clearly illustrated that while most of the staff in direct contact to the customers did their best to their job in their best way possible, there was no communication in between the different positions and departments. Also clear was that upper management lost their touch with customer care and what hospitality is all about, giving us the feeling that we were not important as a guest instead of making us feel at home. When upon check-out we told the staff we were disappointed with our stay they did arrange a meeting with the hotel manager, who did profusely apologize for what happened during our stay but also explained that he was away for a few days working in a different hotel so he had no idea what happened when he was away. We received a bag with some drinks and fruits to make up for the inconvenience caused, which was a nice touch.

If you ever go to Belgrade, which really is worth a visit because it is a beautiful town with a lot more to see than you might think, you definably should go and go before the hordes of tourists discover this gem. But I would advise to book a hotel in the city centre, closer to everything, and avoid the Crowne Plaza as it is not worth it to go out of your way for.

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