A few years ago Timothy stayed at the InterContinental London – The o2 and had an absolutely fantastic experience. As I was looking for a nice place to stay to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday he immediately recommended the hotel for us to stay at. Combined with my experiences at other InterContinental hotels I expected to be in for a treat.
Upon arrival during storm Eunice it was really hard for us to find the correct entrance. First we passed by the revolving doors of the Arora Ballroom, which looked like the main entrance to the hotel, but where all closed. Upon looking a bit around we saw a sign pointing towards a scaffolding covered area with “Hotel Reception” on it.
Of course we went into the scaffolded area to indeed find another revolving door that entered into the lobby, which was unfortunately locked. Only here we found a small paper telling us that due to storm Eunice we would have to enter through a small door at the entrance of the Arora Ballroom.
So back we went, tried every little door we could find and of course it was the very last one that opened. While we can understand that this was a measure of security because of the storm, it would have been nice to see an arrow indicating from the outside that we had to enter through that small door, avoiding us to lose time finding the correct entrance.
When we finally reached the reception desk we were immediately assisted by the friendly clerk. He did the check-in formalities, exactly what was needed nothing extra. I had already alerted the hotel of my boyfriend’s birthday during our stay through the stay preferences on the hotel app and subtly dropped it at check-in again that he was the birthday boy, the clerk responded by wishing him a very happy birthday, but that was it there was nothing on the room not even a small card, in my opinion a small gesture and in this case a missed opportunity.
At check-in we also didn’t get an upgrade which the hotel should give due to being a perk of my InterContinental Ambassador membership. Now maybe there was a good reason for this, maybe the higher categories of rooms where all fully booked, but no mention or explanation of this at check-in.
We also didn’t receive any information about the Club-Lounge despite us booking a room with club lounge access. I had to specifically enquire about this after which the clerk just handed us a paper with all the information on it.
Our room was located on the 8th floor and was a King Club Room as booked, featuring a nice view over the river and Canary Wharf at the opposite side of the Thames. The bed was comfortable with power plugs at both sides of the bed and USB ports at one side. There was a lounge chair near the window and a big desk at the opposite wall of the bed.
In the entrance there was a big closet with sufficient space to store your stuff. The minibar was fully stocked but locked. They also had a cheap looking coffee pod machine as well as a separate kettle for hot water and tea and hot cocoa. Unlike some other UK hotels they didn’t provided cookies with the tea and coffee facilities. Both a bottle of still and sparkling water where provided complimentary.
The bathroom itself had a nice design with plenty of storage space for your renovation kits. Both a good sized bathtub and a wonderful rain shower where provided. The towels and bathrobes where nice, soft and thick. The amenities provided where the standard small bottles of Agraria products, typical for InterContinental.
As we arrived quite late, by 22:00, due to a delay of the Eurostar because of the stormy conditions caused by Eunice.
We felt quite peckish and decided to order some room service. Initially we didn’t find any room service menu nor an online link with the room service menu. So I figured I’d try the TV, while I got the red LED to start blinking it never produced any imagine, neither by using the remote or the buttons on the TV itself. So the TV was broken. I decided to call to room service to enquire about where to get a room service menu, they told me that it was on the TV which I told them was broken, eventually they said they would bring up a room service menu to the room.
After a 15 minutes wait a room service menu still hadn’t arrived so I decided to go back down to reception, the clerk manning the desk there now was very friendly, as he didn’t have a menu at check-in he went to search for one somewhere else and brought it very swiftly. He also noted down that there was a problem with the TV and passed it on to Maintenance to fix it. He also kindly offered to move us to a different room, which I should have accepted looking in hindsight, but at the time I was tired and didn’t feel like packing up and moving any more.
By the time I got to the room, the other room service menu also got there. We finally ordered some pizza and fries, which where delicious but still took 45 minutes to arrive.
The next morning we had breakfast at the Market Brasserie, as the Club-Lounge was closed in the mornings all guests were invited to have breakfast at the main buffet. The restaurant had a beautiful river view, as we were among the first to arrive for breakfast in the morning we managed to snag the beautiful corner table.
The buffet offered every item you would expect from a hotel of this level and you could order some made to order dishes like eggs benedict or an omelette. While most food items where excellent, the eggs benedict where not on the same level, the muffin taste burnt and I had better tasting Hollandaise sauces before. The staff working in the restaurant was super friendly though and made sure we had everything we wished for, the hotel should be really proud of them!
After a visit to the city we arrived back in time for our afternoon tea, as the club lounge is only opened on Friday and Saturday we immediately went there as it was a Saturday.
When we tried scanning the keys to unlock the door to club-lounge it refused to open the door. So down to reception we went, there they saw that the agent checking us in the night before forgot to activate the club-lounge on our keycards. They fixed the issue and we were able to enter the club-lounge. Due to the limited amount of windows it was somewhat dark and depressing. The offer of food and drinks was acceptable, we had both a nice afternoon tea and evening canapes. They could have offered a bit of a wiser offer, especially on juices and soft drinks.
Having filled our bellies with afternoon tea we went for a relaxing swim in the hotel spa. You first had to check-in yourself on a touch screen display, and don’t forget to check out when you exited. The swimming pool was nice and big, the relaxation pool was heavenly with nice hot water and a series of different massage options. Unfortunately on the 2nd day there was a problem with the water heater and the relaxation pool was freezing cold. The staff was aware and they were fixing it.
In the evening there was the option of having a turn-down service, but you had to call to reserve it. Of course I wanted to see how good it would be, so I reserved it. At first they weren’t sure if it would be possible, but when we got back in the evening they did pass by. They nicely replaced my used towel but forgot to replace Sam’s towel on the second night and they didn’t stock up the shower gel on the third night despite it running out. So on the third night we went down to reception to ask whether we could have some more shower gel, as it is useful to smell and feel clean in the morning. As they didn’t have any at reception they said they would send some right up to our room, we are still waiting for it to arrive up to this day. We never saw any, we checked out the next day without having had shower gel to shower, another disappointment.
For the most optimal price I had booked our 3-night stay in two separate reservations. The first two nights where booked using my Ambassador weekend Certificate while the third night was on a separate advance booking.
For the first two nights we didn’t get the “guaranteed” Ambassador Room upgrade. When we first checked-in they also couldn’t do so for the three nights and told us to go back on Sunday morning for the last night. When we arrived at check-in Sunday morning we were told our room wasn’t ready yet as we now finally would get an upgrade for the final night. Of course I was pleased to finally get my “guaranteed” upgrade and also maybe finally have a working TV, because after multiple times mentioning this to staff members they always profusely apologised but never seemed to do anything with it. But as the room still had to be cleaned and we wanted to go out into the city they said they would move our bags to the new room and we should just grab our new keys when we got back at the hotel.
Past 13:00 we arrived back at the hotel and went to the reception to swap our keys. So far so good, luckily Sam had the reflection of asking about whether our bags where already moved to our new room, considering how smooth everything else in the hotel went. Of course they forgot to do that, they then luckily quickly scrambled in getting it fixed and our bags where up to our new room just a few minutes after we arrived there.
The new room was a junior suite. It actually didn’t differ very much to a normal room. It was just a bit bigger with a pull-out sofabed added. The desk however was smaller. The coffee maker was also a Nespresso machine rather than the bulky pod machine in the normal room.
The bathroom was also the same size but featured a couple bath instead of a single person bath. In the bathroom they forgot to provide to small towels that where provided in the normal room. Odd for such a thing to happen in a suite.
As we were already Sunday by now the club-lounge was closed but Club-Lounge guests where provided with an alternative for afternoon tea and canapes in a corner of the Market Brasserie restaurant. This was actually a nicer setup than the club-lounge as there were more windows and a nicer décor. The food and beverage offering was similar to the club-lounge so no complaints there. I actually have to compliment the hotel on providing this solution rather than closing the club-lounge completely like in Lyon or Berlin.
In the end it wasn’t a bad stay or a bad hotel, but too many small things went wrong to make it a good stay.
I wanted to have a nice surprise for my Boyfriends’ birthday, a nice first time for him in London but having to visit the reception desk multiple times per day to get small things fixed did not leave a good impression. I’m rather keen on travelling to InterContinental hotels as they usually provided good hotels and excellent service, but this I missed very dearly on this occasion.
It felt more like a good Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza but not up to the standards I’m used to for an InterContinental. Most likely I won’t book again at this property as it is located outside of the centre and for a mediocre service I’d rather have a more centrally located hotel. Maybe next time I’ll go back to the Kimpton, which I have fond memories of.
Is the InterContinental – the o2 doomed? Certainly not, the hotel has a lot in it for being outstanding, they just have to streamline their service again to avoid hiccups as much as possible.