Friday, January 13, 2006

Amazing design in Hamburg

Looking into room from futuristic bathroom
I’ve never stayed in a hotel before, where the toilet resembles nothing so much as the out door loo a cabin my parents once hired in Norway had.

They are called utedass – and are just a square box with a toilet seat fitted on. You don’t want to know what is in the box.

My room at Side hotel in Hamburg has a loo exactly like that – except it does flush.

This room is not for timid people slowly getting to know one another. The bathroom and the toilet have opaque sliding glass doors. Hard to soundproof glass ;)

Visually it’s stunning – I’m not impressed with the functionality of said toilet but everything else is amazing.

The water falls from the sky when you turn on the huge showerhead mounted in the ceiling over the bath.

The closets look like to fridges and everything is wood or muted earth tones.

Before booking I read some mixed reviews – about the staff not being warm and caring enough. I wonder if it’s the cultural divide between the US and Europe. The staff is perfectly nice and helpful, but they do not ask for your life story or expect to be your future friend.

I will definitely stay here again. The location is great too, and the breakfast buffet was an LC dream with lot’s of fish, ham, sausage and scrambled eggs cooked to perfection.

Now let me get started on the spa. Considering the price of square footage in any big city now a days, it’s to be commended that they have put in a pool of the size they have. It’s at least 15 meters long, which means it’s possible to get a good swim in. I’ve attempted this in smaller oval shaped hotel pools where I almost got seasick from constantly changing direction.

The pool area is like I imagine it’s like inside an Apple Ipod.

Über trendy, with bright blues, yellows and greens. There’s a whirlpool, a sauna and a steam bath close to the pool, also a small exercise room with thread mills and stuff like that.

Inside the marble walled steam bath tiny lights poking out of the natural holes and groves in the stone change color in a soothing pattern.

It’s quite simply a place to loose yourself in.

Bummer in Berlin

Lobby of SAS Radisson in Berlin

I found this review of the SAS Radisson hotel in Berlin on my computer, I do not remember exactly when I stayed there. Must have been something last year, and I forgot to post it:

I really wanted to like the Radisson SAS hotel Berlin, I chose it based on reviews and on the very nice looking photos on the website.

Hands down it’s a beautiful and stylish place. The concept of the huge fish tank in the lobby is stunning.

Being a Scandinavian myself I picked up none of that fake Scandinavian design vibe some hotels have.

My problem is the hotels service concept. I’m not naïve hotels must make money for their owners, but some places just get’s away with that in a more elegant way than Radisson SAS hotel Berlin.

Quiet simply this hotel has a very keen eye on what benefits them and their operation and not on what might benefit the guest’s needs.

When I checked in – single female traveler – I was given a room overlooking the enclosed shopping mall next to the hotel, directly above the gigantic fussball table. A neat idea, but obviously the young folks using it were not quiet.

I called the front desk and asked for a quiet room. No problem I was just asked to come down to the lobby and they would have a new key for me. The same women who checked me in met me halfway across the lobby with a new key. I was on the same floor and this new room – a standard room too – had the most exquisite view of the Berlin Dome.

Here’s my question, why would a hotel NOT give every single guest the best available room at the time of their check in. Why did I have to reject a boring room to get a great one in a very empty hotel? I’m not asking for upgrades just that hotels, like cinemas, give some thought to what their best rooms are and keep them filled.

Well, I checked my room out and liked the layout and connected to the free wireless internet. That is a great free perk for all.

My next idea was to check out the spa. I looked around for the robe and slippers that would make my visit a lot nicer. No slippers and robe – that’s for business rooms and above. This in a five star hotel, mind you.

I went down to the spa and got a nice thick towel and got in my suit and went for my swim. Again a very nice stylish look to that area. A bit small – tiny pool, tiny changing room but real estate prices are what they are so that’s ok.

At the end of my spa visit I took a quick shower and was surprised that there was no body lotion available. At this point we were five women in a very tiny room sharing two showers and so few square feet there was no room for modesty. Robes and slippers for all guest could have solved that problem instantly

Back in my room I check the toiletries, no body lotion there either. I believe this is another thing you have to be in a business room to get.

By bedtime I discovered that the only one side of the bed could operate the complex light system. A system mostly designed to make sure all lights are turned off when the guest leaves the room to save the hotel money. An ok concept, but please come up with an intuitive system.

The next morning I was barely awake when housekeeping banged on my door and burst into the room at 7.50. Less than 40 minutes later she was back just as I stepped out of the shower so we had a full confrontation. She then proceeded to inform me that I should have put the do not disturb sign on the door.

This is just not acceptable. I will accept housekeeping after 9 and I will always hang that sign out if I want to sleep later than 9.30. But two visits before 9 is just plain stupid.

So to sum up my displeasure: Radisson SAS hotel Berlin went out of the way to tell me that I was an inferior guest in the way of the smooth running of housekeeping.

Therefore I will go back to staying a Kempinski Bristol on Kürfurstendam. They have smaller rooms, they have a stupid system charging for the use of the internet and there are no architectural finess to the place. But they treat me like an honored guest at all times.