Himself and Yours Truly recently spent the night in a Comfort Inn located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We were headed for a day's outing along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we planned to make our way there by cutting through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in order to catch the parkway at its southern end. We chose a Comfort Inn because they generally provide the courtesy, comfort, and cleanliness our aging bodies crave. We find that Comfort Inn generally means affordable quality, and I admit to allowing past experience and expectations to make me lazy. Clearly, I didn't ask enough questions when I called for reservations.
Comfort Inn on the River has a great location--close to downtown Gatlinburg with all its attractions and right on banks of the Little Pigeon River. The hotel is located on a narrow strip of land between the river and the highway. Standing on the room's small balcony, one cannot help but enjoy the sight and sound of a small mountain river as its waters rush past. From the room itself, however, it's the traffic on the highway that one hears. It's almost as if the designers decided to soundproof the hotel against the sounds of the river while allowing the noise of traffic to pass unmuffled.
Of greater concern than the noise was the grunge found lurking in the corners of the bathroom. I've come to realize that there are two basic types of hotel rooms: those in which housekeeping has kept the corners and edges of bathroom floors clear of buildup and grunge, and those in which the grout between the tiles (especially at the corners and edges of the room) are characterized by the unsightly buildup that casts doubt on the general cleanliness of the whole establishment. Comfort Inn on the River belongs to the latter category--not disgustingly filthy, mind, but also clearly not inclined toward indulging those of us who regard grunge with a sense of suspicion and foreboding.
That said, the beds seemed clean--as did the toilet and basin--though we spied a touch of mold around the tub. (Folks, there is just no excuse for mold, not when chlorine-based cleaners can solve the problem cheaply and easily.) The beds seemed to have been upgraded to meet the latest standards, and they were reasonably comfortable. (Nonetheless, sleep was interrupted precisely at midnight, when the bedside alarm clock unexpectedly sounded. I suppose I should have checked to disable old settings.) Amenities included a microwave, mini fridge, coffee station, and hair dryer. The television was large, but not a flat screen, and the cable package included HBO and a reasonable variety of free-access channels.
The complimentary continental breakfast was ordinary but sufficient. It included such choices as cereal, waffles, boiled eggs, pastries, toast, juice, coffee, and tea. The breakfast room was simply but pleasantly decorated and overlooked the river. Service was managed by a member of staff who conducted her duties while making personal phone calls in a voice loud enough to confirm that the calls really were personal. There was the sense that hotel guests were interfering with her private life, which in my opinion is a serious lapse of professionalism and courtesy.
Check-in was cheerfully and efficiently handled by the night manager, and check-out was conducted between personal phone calls by the same woman who managed the breakfast service. Note that there are no ground-level rooms in this hotel. The building is designed to accommodate parking and provide access to hotel services on the ground level. Guestrooms located on the second, third, and fourth levels are accessed by both elevator and stairwells. All corridors between rooms consist of exposed walkways.
Would we stay here again? Not happily. The hotel has great potential and reasonable amenities. In terms of cleanliness and professionalism, however, this hotel simply does not meet the standards we've come to expect from Comfort hotels. Lessons learned from this experience will encourage me to ask more questions during the reservations process--questions about soundproofing and whether the hotel has earned recent recognitions through its corporate structure (always a good sign that quality will be high). Final lesson learned: check the alarm to make sure the alarm feature is set to 'off'.