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Priceline sent me to the Arora International, Gatwick. Which was nice!
Arora International Hotel (Gatwick)
Member Name: andymcf
Arora International Hotel (Gatwick)
Date: 06/07/04, updated on 06/07/04 (941 review reads)
Advantages: Comfortable, Spotlessly clean, Good bargains to be had
Disadvantages: Location, Faces very stiff competition in its marketplace
I was looking for a weekend away; it's been a busy week at work, and it was the weekend before my birthday. A change of scene was needed, so I delved into the Priceline website searching for anywhere - and I mean anywhere - that would provide a change of scene. Quite what possessed me, after several failed searches, to select "London Airport Hotels - Gatwick", I don't know, but I did. Before you could say "Now I don't believe you wanted to do that", I found myself booked into the Arora International hotel, Gatwick airport. I suppose I'd gone for the Gatwick option, knowing that there are actually some really nice hotels in the area (Le Méridien, Hilton, a couple of Copthornes, to name a few), yet this hotel was a new one on me. Still - £50 for a room for two (and baby Josh) in a four star hotel is not bad value (and a great saving on the rack-rate), and I'm prepared to try anything once. Without letting too many cats out of the proverbial bag, I have to say that I'd actually happily try this place more than once.
That, at any rate, explains why, yet again, I'm writing about an airport hotel in what is, let's face it, far from being an ideal holiday destination. Thanks, Priceline!
This hotel faces stiff competition in several ways. Whilst Le Méridien and the Hilton are both on site at the terminals and offer incredibly easy access to your departing or arriving flights - as well as all the facilities that the airport has to offer - this hotel is actually situated in Crawley, which is about four miles from the airport. It's situated right next to Crawley rail station, two stops and a £2.20 single (£2.90 return) ten-minute train ride from the airport, but it has already lost out in terms of convenience. So it's going to have to really stand on its own two feet if it's going to compete, and the only way I can see it doing so is on price. Enter Priceline - you can clearly get good deals he
re. But then, the same is true at the terminal hotels.
We arrived late in the afternoon and experienced some difficulties finding the place. Not major ones, but it's not as straightforward as, say, Le Méridien. It's right next to Crawley station, so is easy if arriving by train - and even has private access from the railway platform. Arriving by car required a little more guile, but we got there. Eventually. We parked the car in the spacious underground car park and headed up the stairs to reception.
The hotel is newly built and whilst there have been attempts to jazz up the architecture, it's still fairly bland, although water sculptures and fountains are pleasing to the eye. Step through the automated fake-revolving door, and you're in the front lobby. In front of you are three glass lifts. To your right is a shop selling all the sorts of things you wouldn't expect to find in a hotel (especially foodstuffs that might reduce the risk of relying on room service when the hunger pangs strike), and on your left is reception.
We checked in quickly and efficiently; there was no queue, and the receptionist was helpful and friendly, issuing a keycard for the room and an instruction sheet on how to best enjoy the hotel. Slightly unusual, as was the absence of welcome literature in our room.
Behind the lifts and reception area is a large atrium area (oh, bliss!), with a bar, deli and Starbucks, all decorated in a mixture of whites and warm beige colours with interesting furniture, such as chairs sculpted into the shape of a human hand. The lifts are enclosed in glass and, en route to the first floor, we could watch the quiet activity in the atrium below us. I think it's a five storey hotel; our journey aloft stopped at the first floor and we were delivered very close to our room, number 152.
I'd been led to believe that this was a hotel with American-sized rooms, but wasn't particularly stricke
n by the amount of space. Go to Brussels if you want space - but it was certainly adequate and definitely not cramped. The usual design was in order - entry hall, with bathroom on the right, leading to the inner sanctum, dominated by what proved to be a supremely comfortable large double bed.
In the entry hall, is a slot into which you insert your key card. This activates the lights. I've encountered this system before and I think it's quite a good idea - unless (as was the case tonight) they only give you one key card. If one of you (guess who) gets the urge to pay a visit to the bar, the person remaining in the room must sit in darkness. "You could always knock on the door and let Amanda use the lights" I hear you say. True. However, hotel security is such that you can only ascend in the lifts if you first swipe your key card in a slot. In other words, if anybody is not in the room, a key card is required. Amanda was actually happy to sit with the lights off and the TV on - it helped to get baby Josh to sleep - but the arrangement wasn't ideal. I guess that a second card could have been requested, but why should we have had to? Minor niggle - and I've only got two about this hotel!
The room was decorated in warm beige colours and the bed had a striking blue duvet on it. It proved to be extraordinarily comfortable and the pillows were to die for. Complemented by very effective black-out curtains, a good night's sleep was eventually had by all.
There was plenty of storage space, an interactive TV with a decent selection of channels and a comfortable armchair and table. Again, why there was only one chair in a double room is beyond me, but hoteliers can be a strange breed!
I was a little surprised by the lack of the usual hotel welcome guide in the room. I put this down to the fact that there's nothing to do in Crawley. I may be wrong. What nearly surprised me even more - even to heart-attack l
evels - was the lack of a trouser press. But there it was, nestling in a little cupboard, along with an iron, ironing board and tea / coffee making facilities - except that the kettle didn't actually work - the other minor niggle, which was only discovered the next morning.
The bathroom was superb and, like the room itself, was spotlessly clean. The bath was spacious and comfortable and there was a stand-alone power shower. Decorated with granite-effect furnishings and clean white tiles, one wall was adorned with a huge mirror that, miraculously, didn't steam up either when the bath or the shower was used. Toiletries were of a good standard, too.
All in all, the accommodation was of a very high standard, even if the view from the window was (as you might expect) nothing to write home about.
As the climax of the Holland / Sweden quarter-final of the Euro 2004 football tournament approached, I felt the urge to complete my duties as reviewer and make a trip to the bar. There are two, as it happens. The atrium bar is peaceful and geared up more to serving cocktails and shorts. Finding myself more in rowdy football-watching mood, I was drawn to "Morgan's Pub" - a friendly place to enjoy a few beers and watch Sweden get knocked out of the tournament on a large screen projector TV. My first beer was bought during a late "Happy Hour" and was ridiculously cheap. The second was at normal price and still didn't break the bank.
I returned to the room and enjoyed a thoroughly pleasant sleep - the bed really was comfortable.
We needed a reasonably early getaway, and booked a wake-up call through the TV. It worked and it wasn't long before we were on our way.
Check-out was a breeze and the staff were very friendly. I handed my car park ticket over for validation and was charged £5. I was told that the car park barrier was actually out of order, however, and that I could simply drive
out of the car park. Well if I'd known that..... "At least you won't be leaving with a guilty conscience" said Sarah, the smiling receptionist. "You watch me", I said, as I called across the reception to Amanda, checking that she'd packed the hotel's fluffy bathrobe into the suitcase.
This hotel does not provide fluffy bathrobes. Honest! My conscience is clear.
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