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See the Sea at Southsea
Holiday Inn (Portsmouth)
Member Name: SWSt
Holiday Inn (Portsmouth)
Advantages: Very centrally located, surprisingly large room
Disadvantages: Expensive and below par food and drink
Having suffered a number of fairly basic (and disappointing) Travelodge stays over the last couple of years, I decided to give that other big chain - Holiday Inn - a try.
The Holiday Inn, Southsea (not to be confused with the Holiday Inn Express, also in Portsmouth!) is very easy to get to. Located around a mile from Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour Stations, you can easily get to it from pretty much anywhere in the country using public transport. The road system also seems very good, and I would imagine it is easy enough to find if you arrive by car.
Whatever you are visiting Portsmouth for, the Holiday Inn, Southsea is well-placed. Less than 5 minutes' walk from the seafront and Southsea Castle (built by Henry VIII) it is ideal for walks and some sightseeing. The historic Maritime Area (home to HMS Victory and the Mary Rose) is an easy walk of about a mile along the pleasant and historic seafront. Alternatively, if you are using Portsmouth as a stopping off point on the way across to the Isle of Wight, then both the hovercraft and ferry ports are less than five minutes' drive - ideal if you have an early morning ferry to catch.
It has to be said, first impressions are not that great. The hotel is a rather anonymous looking multi-storey concrete building that looks like pretty much any other chain hotel. It's not an eyesore, just somewhat non-descript and generic. Nor is this confined to the outside. The bland, generic glass-fronted entrance leads into a bland, generic Reception area, kitted out in the usual inoffensive, and yes, bland and generic blue carpet.
Check-in is available from 2pm, which is fairly standard, whilst the checkout time is 12 noon, which is always nice since you don't have to be up at the crack of dawn to empty your room. The check-in process was also pretty speedy and efficient, although the welcome wasn't the most effusive I've ever had! There were the usual details to check on a computer and pointless form to fill in, but it was relatively painless and only took a couple of minutes.
Going up to my room was as reliable bland as first impressions suggested. A VERY small lift took me up to the relevant floor reasonably quickly, although I did find with the lift that it got rather uncomfortable if more than about four people got in at any one time. The stairs (which I normally use in preference to lifts) were also rather hidden away and badly signed - I only found them after I'd used the lift a few times. Still, at least the lift was free of the usual awful muzak!
Entering the room led to rather more favourable impressions than had been build up to date. True, there was a slightly shabby looking brown carpet, which didn't do a great deal for the overall lightness of the room, but the room itself was surprisingly large and well-furnished.
Immediately to the right as you entered was a small room containing the bath, shower and toilet. Straight away, that gave the Holiday Inn an extra point, since I hate rooms which only have a shower. Whilst the bathroom was fairly basic, it was a reasonable enough size, although the tiled floor did get rather slippery if you spilt water on it. The bath also seemed only to be about three quarters of the usual size, so no cosy double baths if that's what you're planning!
The main room had a surprising amount of furniture and was far better furnished than some of my recent Travelodge experiences. Furniture included a desk with a TV, a comfortable chair for the desk, a small round occasional table, an armchair, two small cabinets, a small wardrobe space and, of course, a double bed. That sounds like it should make the room very cramped, but in fact, the room was actually quite spacious. The only real problem I experienced was when sitting at the desk, since the clearance space between the chair and the bed was very small, making getting in and out of the chair slightly tricky. This chair was also rather uncomfortable after a while, so I tended not to use it, preferring to sit on my bed instead.
My room was also very pleasant and airy with a nice view overlooking some green spaces and, in the distance, the sea. The large (and openable) window made the room very light and airy and not too hot. Since the hotel was set back from the road, it was also pretty quiet... although that changed at night when some of the local youths appeared to be using the road along the seafront as a racing track, filling the night air was filled with screeching tyres and loud music.
Unlike Travelodge, Holiday Inn still provides those nice little freebies: a small bottle of shampoo and bubble bath in the bathroom; coffee and tea supplies ,replenished each day and so on. I know these are only little things and are already factored into your bill, but what can I say: I'm easily bought!
Internet access is available within the hotel, although of course, you have to pay extra for this and it's not cheap. The pricing structure was rather baffling and seemed to involve a payment for initial access (extra if you choose wireless) and then another payment for the actual access. As far as I could tell, it would cost around £25 to get internet access for a fairly limited time, which is about 4 times more than I pay for an entire month at home. Needless to say I didn't bother trying to get online!
As ever with hotels, food and drink prices were ridiculously high, and the food was nothing special,. Soft drinks were about standard - a pint of lime and lemonade cost me £2.70, which is not too bad; however a colleague had to pay £9.50 for a double gin and tonic, and wine was around £6 a glass. The food was similarly ridiculously priced. Most starters or light snacks were around the £7 mark, with main courses typically costing around £15. Neither the quality nor the quantity of the food justified this. Indeed, on the only night I dined in the hotel, the food was rather disappointing. Both my starter and my main course (soup and beef stroganoff) were far too salty for my taste and I really struggled to finish them.
Other plus points included a pleasant room in which the conference (a relatively small affair) was held. The only downside to this room was that the air conditioning was rather temperamental - when it was switched on, the room became freezing cold after around 30 minutes; switching it off meant you were in danger of boiling to death! IT support was also a bit lacking, as our organisers experienced problems with the data projector and the hotel staff seemed unable to resolve it (although, in fairness, this was on a Sunday, so perhaps support is better on more traditional work days.)
The hotel also has a swimming pool, which is available to all guests at the hotel for no extra charge. I didn't use this myself, so can't comment on it directly, but colleagues who did were certainly happy with the facilities it provided.
In terms of the overall price for my stay, I'm not absolutely sure how the costs worked out. I was attending a conference, so it was a package deal for the hotel, meals, entertainment and conference. The total cost for the conference for a two night stay with breakfast and lunch on both days, plus an evening meal on the first night was £300. As a general guide, the prices quoted on the Holiday Inn website for standard visitors are around £100 per room, per night. Whilst this might sound quite expensive, at least for once you get some pretty decent facilities. I've certainly stayed in some hotels which have cost as much as this and been far inferior.
Overall, the Holiday Inn Southsea provided a pleasant and central place to stay in the city. First impressions might not be that great, but look past that and it definitely offers a better option than the Travelodges I have stayed in recently. If I can persuade my employer, Holiday Inn will definitely be my chain of choice from now on!
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Summary: Definitely worth considering
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