Address: Ecke Eruera und Hinemaru Streets
It isn't very often that I'm idly playing around with one of my reviews and look to the bottom of the page to see a "Products you may be interested in" item and think "Oh yes, I've stayed at that particular luxury hotel, haven't I?". But that's what has just happened to me - my eye alighted on the Millennium Hotel, Rotorua and I noticed it had had no reviews yet. Splendid.
I went here on a group touring holiday last year. My friends keep pointing out to me that anyone who finds when they are taking part in conversations on holidays to New Zealand and has to specify which trip to New Zealand it was needs to seriously reconsider their green credentials. So yes, last year when I was holidaying with my mother, we stayed in luxury hotels like this; this year when I was travelling alone, I stayed in hostels.
This hotel is a green (eco-friendly) four and a half star deluxe hotel with 227 rooms of which a small number (eight according to their website) are wheelchair accessible. It's a bit of a hike around the building but lifts do go to every floor, which was just as well as we were up on the fourth floor!
Before I tell you about the hotel itself, I feel I should set the scene a little, so you get some idea of where in the world this hotel is. The Millennium Hotel, Rotorua is (as the name suggests) located in Rotorua, a medium sized city in the middle of New Zealand's North Island located on the shores of a large lake also called Rotorua. The hotel is in a very central location within the town, only a five minute walk away from the lake front and is also situated conveniently close to the Polynesian Spa. This part of town has very quiet roads - it's a bit of a cul de sac area and the main rat runs through town are quite a few blocks over. This makes it a peaceful neighbourhood which you would struggle to find unless you had been given specific driving instructions. Or, of course, if you were on a driven tour of New Zealand like we were - no tricky navigation for us, just door to door service.
One poorly kept secret that you might have heard already about Rotorua is that it stinks. I'm not saying for a moment that it's rubbish, nasty or boring or anything like that, just that the area is very geothermally active and has a rotten egg smell that pervades the air much of the time due to hydrogen sulphide gas emitted from the vents and springs. Some parts of the town are definitely worse than others - if you can see a plume of steam rising from a garden then that's usually a sign that there is a spring, vent or other similar feature there which will smell.
After a while, I stopped noticing the smell as much anyway. A chemist friend tells me that if you can smell rotten egg smell then it's not poisonous, it's only if you stop smelling it that it means it's reached toxic levels and you are about to die. However, I'm still here, not dead, (not undead either), which means that either I've destroyed my nose or you do just stop noticing the smell after a while. Either which way, the area immediately around the hotel was not too whiffy, but I wouldn't like to be there with car sickness or a hangover.
==The service on arrival==
When we arrived at the hotel, tired out from a long journey in a minibus, our tour hosts dropped us at the entrance and set off to park the minibus in the hotel's car park. In the meantime, we had to wait ten minutes or so to check in - not ideal, but could have been worse by a long shot. The problem was that there were just too few people on reception to deal with more than three or four people arriving at a time. But once we got to the front, the staff were very civil and polite. A little distant, perhaps, but I think they cater more towards the business market where the clientelle do not want to discuss their life story. So compared to the rest of the holiday, it was a bit of a break from the norm (the rest of the time the questions about where I was from seemed incessant).
Our rooms were ready and we were given some detailed instructions as to how to navigate the rabbit warren of corridors to get there as well as our electronic room key cards. We had to walk through several buildings (joined by covered walkways) and then take the lift, then follow some more corridors to our rooms.
The one downside of being part of a group booking was once we got up to the rooms and discovered that they had mixed up the rooms - my mother and I had ended up in a room with only one bed. But that was soon sorted out within the group without having to go back to reception. Which would have been an epic hike indeed!
When I was in New Zealand, I stayed in quite a few Millennium hotels. This one was much the same as the other ones. It was large, neat, tidy, well-appointed, had an excellent range of facilities ranging from a television, iron, ironing board, telephone, alarm clock to a kettle and variety of complementary teas and coffees. Plus, of course, air conditioning.
The small fridge in the room was amply stocked with chocolate and beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic at exorbitant prices that I'd never consider paying on account of how I'm a total cheapskate.
The en suite bathroom was large and came supplied with a standard set of toiletries that were the same as all the other Millennium hotels I'd stayed at - shampoo, conditioner, shower cap, shoeshine brush, soaps and more towels than you could ever use. If you had no qualms about that sort of thing, you could supply yourself with all the travel sized bottles that you could want for a lifetime and just refill them when you get home. No matter how many times people tell me "Oh they just bin those half-full little bottles, you may as well take them", I still think "No, that's terrible, I couldn't possibly take them, they're not mine! That would be wrong!". Anyway, you make up your own mind on that one. From the website, apparently the bathrooms are recently refurbished in marble and are fitted with baths now, which is quite a rarity in my experiences of New Zealand where showers are much more the norm.
What marked this room out as being one of the better rooms in the hotel was that it had a stunning view of the lake and a balcony. The grid-like nature of the rest of the town means that the other rooms must have had a very disappointing view of boring roads and identikit buildings. As we were on nearly the top floor, it means that our views were not affected by any of the other nearby buildings and could instead get a full view of the lake.
Breakfast here was absolutely top notch. Or should that be top nosh? Either which way, there was something for all tastes here. Most food in New Zealand is not ideal for vegetarians, and if (like me) you can't have dairy either, you may as well forget the idea of an interesting or varied dining experience. But breakfast bars in hotels are the one exception to this and I found that I could cope just fine with the inevitable salad for lunch and salad for dinner once I set my mind that breakfast was the main meal of the day.
They had a wide selection of cold foods (meats, cheeses, fruit, cereal, yoghurt and the like) as well as a good range of cooked foods (sausages, bacon, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, beans, hash browns, fried potato, scrambled eggs and many more things). They also would cook to order - I asked for some poached eggs and they didn't bat an eyelid but just brought them to my table when they were done together with our pots of breakfast tea. Add in the cakes and breads (bread, a toasting machine, muffins, bagels, croissants, pastries) and you may get some idea of how I managed to put on three kilos during this this holiday.
This was pretty typical of my breakfasting experience in New Zealand hotels in general actually - they really know how to make a good breakfast that sets you up for the day. But this breakfast bar was particularly pleasant as it was in a light airy room right next to the hotel's indoor pool.
As well as breakfast, which was included in the cost of our room, there is also a bar and restaurant available in the hotel with lunch options ranging from 14-26 NZD (about 7-10 pounds) and dinner from 17-65 NZD (about 8-30 pounds). We did not eat at this restaurant because we were enjoying a hangi meal over at Mitai Maori village instead.
Checking out was completely hassle-free. Since, like most hotels, the room keys were electronic swipe cards, all we had to do was give our room number and say that we were leaving and they verified we didn't have any outstanding bills to pay (no items from fridge, no phone calls) and that was that.
Sadly, on a whistle stop tour, there was little opportunity to sample all that the hotel had to offer in terms of its facilities. So we did not try the laundry, the spa, the fitness centre or the swimming pool through lack of time. Such a hard life, eh?
On this holiday, we had with us neither computer nor any time to use one, so I can't verify the computing facilities first hand. According to the website, there is broadband internet access in the rooms themselves, wifi in the public areas and there is a guest computer room for business use, though it does not specify how much each of these cost.
The hotel seems very geared up for business clientelle. As we were there on holiday, we did not make use of the conference rooms available in the hotel. However, they were there and could cater to between 6 and 350 guests should you so wish.
According to their website there are several facilities for children here - from mountain bike hire to child minding facilities. But in all honesty, I'd find it hard to imagine taking children here - it just seemed so corporate that I'd be afraid they'd break something expensive!
As mentioned elsewhere, the hotel was a network of interconnected buildings with a covered walkway between them. Surrounding the walkway was a central garden area, which was a pleasant surprise. Apparently this is also used for growing herbs for the restaurant.
When I was there, I was on a tour-type holiday so I did not have to worry about the cost of the room. I just had a play on their website, imagining that I was going to travel in February (I wish!) to find out some of the latest prices and offers. I see that the prices range from 99 pounds a night if you book online in advance to 198 pounds per night "rack rate" room only. I did find a link to a special offer which says that if you stay for three nights, rates drop to "from" 100 dollars a night (about 45 pounds).
Those people who know me know that my usual haunts are youth hostels, camp sites and staying on friends' sofas. If I hadn't been on a tour, there's no way in the world I would have spent this much at this hotel especially when I knew I wouldn't have time to make use of its facilities. I enjoyed it very much when I was there and I do see that the facilities are good and offer added value and that the hotel isn't overpriced for a luxury business hotel.
But the thing is that if I'm travelling alone then I usually figure that I can stay in a private en suite room in a hostel for a quarter of the price and just use my own soap and bath towel. When I'm travelling, I usually just use the room I'm staying in as a base from which to explore the local area rather than the point of my holiday and so I really don't need all those added extras. Of course, if I could get one of the 100 dollars a night deals, was travelling with a buddy, and I had the time then I'd be back here like a shot for a nice pamper break!
Just a block away from the hotel is the world-famous Polynesian Spa and staying at the hotel I was at got us a discount! I strongly recommend that you take a trip here if you get the opportunity. This spa is my idea of going bathing. Sitting in a hot mineral pool for hours, chatting to your friends. Just be sure to take off any metal before you get in as it will tarnish!
The hotel kindly lent us some additional towels for use in the spa. Which I thought was good service because the minerals in the water made the towels really nasty afterwards.
==My opinion of the place==
In short, it was everything that you could expect from a room in an upmarket hotel hotel and provided exactly the same items and experience as in all the other hotels in the same chain. In that regard, there is nothing at all to complain about - you get what you expect from a Millennium hotel and what you get is a good standard and suitable for business users.
So, why do I feel like there's something... missing to my stay? Ah yes. The ambience. The place had no soul to it. Everyone working there was extremely civil and polite and offered good service, but where was the good-natured banter that I experience on my hostel stays? Where was the evidence that I was in a hotel in New Zealand and not an identikit hotel in London or Manchester? Really, I felt I could have been anywhere and that I honestly could have written much of the details of this review on any of the Millennium hotels I was in on my stay.
I hope I have provided a balanced view of the hotel. I rate it as four stars for its facilities which were excellent, but they lost the final star because I found it so same-y and not really for the likes of me. I think it offered a good service and the cost of the room was appropriate for what you would expect to pay for a room in a hotel of that quality. It's just that I'd rather spend my money backpacking round hostels and camp sites - which is normally the only way that I get to visit such far-flung places.