â Address: WachtstraÃe 27-29 / 28195 / Bremen â
~There's nothing like a warm welcome - and this was NOTHING like a warm welcome~
As the old dandruff shampoo adverts used to so wisely tell us, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. On that basis, I knew within the first two minutes of passing through the door of the Ramada Ubersee in Bremen that my review was not going to be a positive or flattering one. It was perhaps the way the receptionist smiled slyly and told me she didn't have a reservation in my name that started my 'antennae' twitching. I spelled out my name carefully and gave her my booking reference. She tapped away at her keyboard, looked down her perfect nose and shook her head again. It was only when I opened my computer, pulled up the confirmation and showed it to her on the screen with exactly the same details I'd already given her that she eventually found my reservation. That should have been the end of the matter but the "Ah yes, I do have a reservation" was swiftly followed with "But.....your room was only guaranteed until 4 o'clock and we are fully booked so we don't have a room for you".
It was ten thirty at night, there was snow on the ground and this idiot woman was telling me she'd given my room away. "Bremen is fully booked" she told me smugly. "I know" I replied, "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't". I suspect my retort was too subtle to deliver the intended offence.
I pointed out that the confirmation said "Cancellation Policy - 4 o'clock" and that meant that if I didn't want the room, I had to tell the hotel by four. It didn't mean they could cancel my booking if I turned up later. I also pointed out that the room was clearly guaranteed on my credit card. She looked at me with a face that suggested she was trying hard to fake pity. Against all my instincts to rip her head off and screech "You cannot be serious" in my best John McEnroe voice, I stayed calm and polite but forceful. Eventually she picked up the phone to call a colleague in fast German. During the call her face went from a picture of twisted delight at the thought of putting me out in the snow to the slightly sheepish recognition that she'd made a major boo boo. Her customer was right, she was wrong and some how this fully booked hotel magically found a spare room. There was indeed room at the inn.
~A room, at last!~
As I stomped off to the ridiculously tiny lift, the little demon sitting on my left shoulder was whispering "You are SO going to enjoy slagging off this hotel when you write your review". When the little angel on the other shoulder told me the receptionist probably had a terrible day and I should feel sorry for her, my demon karate-chopped her in the guts and he and I had a good chuckle. I had the manager's card and the receptionist's name. This woman was ready to put me on the street so my well of sympathy had totally run dry. Had I not known how things work, had I been a Japanese tourist too polite to make a fuss, she would have had me out sleeping under the nearby Kaiser Willem Bridge. The following day when I told colleagues what had happened, the majority admitted that if it had happened to them they wouldn't have known to stand their ground, and would probably have slunk off into the night with no idea where to go. A colleague who'd gone to the UK had turned up at a hotel near Liverpool the same night to find out he had no room (a mess up by the booking agent) and then said that the hotel staff spent ages ringing around to find him a room and to arrange transport to get him there. Miss Charming on the front desk of the Ramada offered me nothing.
As I mentioned there seemed to be just one lift and a small one at that. With a nominal capacity of eight passengers, but close to full with four customers and their bags, this single lift had to serve a six floor hotel. Thankfully I must have been coming and going at unpopular times as I didn't have any problems. When I got out of the lift and headed down the corridor to look for my room, I could smell a slight odour of old smoke. I thought that all German hotels were now non-smoking so that surprised me. My room had a non-smoking sign on the door but I put that down to nobody having bothered to refurbish the rooms in a very long time.
~Room for Improvement~
Whilst I was relieved to have a room I wasn't much impressed by the room itself. I cannot rule out that my impressions were deeply affected by the nonsense I'd had to go through to get a room at all so I'll try not to let my feelings get in the way of describing the room. It was a room which was entirely adequate but almost totally uninspiring. The first surprise was having a room with an old-fashioned lock and key rather than a card access system. My expectations were lowered when I saw the lock and realised it must be a long time since the room had been updated. Inside I found a room that was small for a double with barely enough room to get around the bed - two singles pushed together - without tripping over things. I was happy to spot a folding bag stand tucked behind the door and then realised that there was so little space that I struggled to find somewhere to put it without moving other things around.
The bed - thankfully - was very comfortable if a little on the soft side and the mini Toblerone bars on the pillows helped cheer me up a little.
The bathroom was small and black and white. It had a shower but no bath which was a shame but not a surprise. The shower head was very odd and seemed to produce a lot of air and not much water. It felt like being showered with fizzy water and I had the impression that it was some kind of water saving scheme to fizz the water. Aside from the shower - which was small and a bit oppressive - there was a sink and a toilet and a wall mounted hair dryer. The lighting in the bathroom was adequate.
~Anything else about the hotel?~
Since I had my booking on a room only basis, I didn't eat breakfast at the breakfast room on the third floor. Since I was angry at the way the hotel treated me, I was fairly determined to not give them any more money than I absolutely had to so I didn't use the restaurant either. I ate quite a few of the delicious boiled sweets on the front desk though! Take that Ramada! I can predict that everything about the place was probably as tired and in need of a lick of paint and some new carpets as my room but of course I can't be sure. I didn't want to know more about this awful place.
~Why (on earth) did I pick the Ramada?~
I stay often at the Ramada in Antwerp, Belgium. It's a hotel I'm rather fond of although it's improved a lot since they refurbished the rooms a year or two ago. It's now very lovely and I'm a member of the loyalty scheme which includes the Ramada chain. When I had learned that all three of the Bremen hotels I would normally stay in were fully booked, I had a choice of several hotels which were either stupidly expensive or in places I didn't know. There's not much point in saving money on the room and then having to pay for taxis because you don't know where you are. The Ramada was overpriced at Euro151 per night room only but was still better than the Hilton or the Swissotel but considerably more than I would normally pay. I chose the Ramada because I knew that I could take the tram to the hotel and to the office and that I could save on the breakfasts by picking something up on the way to work.
~You can't fault the location - just the hotel~
Despite all I disliked about this hotel, I cannot fault the location and I would recommend that anyone who wants to be in the heart of the old town should consider staying on this street - but not in the Ramada. Try the Hilton next door. The location is great. The market square with the UNESCO World Heritage Rathaus and the spectacular cathedral and dozens of gorgeous old buildings is just a minute's walk from the hotel. Directly behind the hotel is the Boetcherstrasse, one of my favourite little streets with a couple of art museums and the Staev, my favourite local beer hall and restaurant and home of some excellent flamkuchen. Head down the street in the other direction and the waterfront area known as the Schlacte is one minute away. Two or three minutes on foot will bring you to the historic Schnoor district and there are tram stops in both directions - Kaiser Wilhelm Brucke and Domsheide - within two minutes walk. Even the railway station is only 10-15 minutes away, the exact time depending on how fast you walk and whether you behave like a German and wait for all the pedestrian crossings to signal that you can cross.
To be fair to the Ramada the two receptionists I saw on the second day of my stay were super-polite and pleasant. One merrily looked up my room number for me when I couldn't find the card I'd been given and the other politely and cheerily took my money and checked me out. This could have been a three out of five experience but sadly, thanks to the horrible check-in, I cannot recommend the Ramada at all. I would not go back here if it was the only hotel in town with an available room.
I paid a ridiculous Euro151 per night room only.