“ Address: West Quay Road Western Esplanade / SO151 RA / Southampton / United Kingdom / Tel: (+44)2380/634463 „
I have been a big fan of Accor hotels and in particular the Ibis brand, for many years. When we visit France, which is never often enough for my liking, their hotels are the first ones we seek out, by virtue of their established quality and value for money.
Being a French company, it is understandable that their presence in the UK is not as extensive as it is in France but the number of their hotels is expanding, and not just under the Ibis brand but also under the others, such as Novotel, Mercure and Etap. In Southampton, where my daughter is temporarily based due to her attending Southampton University, Accor has three hotel brands on a single site close to the West Quay shopping mall and the new IKEA.
So far, when we have been visiting, we have stayed at the Ibis. Although we live less than an hour away, if we are celebrating an event at a local restaurant for instance, a drive home afterwards is probably not a good idea. The most recent stay though, gave some cause for concern that maybe standards are slipping a bit, at least at this hotel.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about drastic problems suddenly emerging. Our room on the third floor was as comfortable, well-maintained and spotlessly clean as ever; if there had been problems in this respect my reactions would have been considerably different. I'm certainly not prepared to put up with slovenly attention to maintaining bedrooms in a presentable and acceptable state. In that respect there can be no such criticism here.
Although different from hotel to hotel in the detail, in general Ibis hotel rooms adhere to a corporate standard of colour and style. Ibis does not believe in drawers or wardrobe doors it seems. Although there is adequate storage for your clothes, at least for a short stay, all this is on open shelves and hanging spaces. At least it is pretty clear that it would be difficult to leave anything behind by accident.
The bathrooms here are of a decent size and all seem to feature a bath with a proper shower over the end for those who, like me, prefer showers to baths. Perhaps the towels are not a big and fluffy as you get in the more luxurious brands of hotel but they do the job.
However, should you want to watch a bit of TV in your room, this is an area where this hotel falls down. An LCD flat screen TV is fixed to the wall at the end of the bed but it isn't a widescreen TV, just a standard old 4:3 type, so black bands top and bottom of the screen reduce the actual area devoted to the broadcast picture.
OK, so maybe we can put up with that. What is unacceptable, however, is the quality of the picture displayed. It always seems to be broken up, shadowy or snowy and, when you report this to Reception, they are forever blaming the weather affecting the aerial! This has been going on for as long as we have been using this hotel and still nothing is done about it! How much does it cost to fix an aerial? Not that the range of programmes available is that extensive anyway!
The floors in the hotel are served by a single lift and this jolts disturbingly when arriving at any floor! It's always been like this so, whether it's an unfixable problem is questionable. I'm sure it's not unsafe but I would just rather prefer a smooth ride!
Nevertheless, we got a good night's sleep, undisturbed by the traffic noise from the main dockside road although admittedly, we did have the windows shut! Awakening not too early in the morning we started the day with a cup of tea from the supplied in-room refreshment making facilities, before venturing down to breakfast.
Here, though, was the major disappointment of our visit. The breakfast area alongside the bar was full of tables covered with the detritus of previous guests, still not cleared away. If that wasn't bad enough, there was a general lack of clean cutlery and crockery and shortages of actual breakfast items as well. Copies of the morning's papers were left on deserted tables.
The problem seemed to be a complete lack of adequate numbers of employees to attend to ensuring that the breakfast area was kept clean, well supplied and available for guests. In fact, there seemed to be just one poor guy trying to do everything. Just trying to track him down was a problem. We resorted to trying to get Reception to get it sorted.
We have stayed here a few times and this was, admittedly, the first time that things were quite clearly not as they should be so I have to assume that, for whatever reason, the hotel was, during our visit, simply understaffed.
The last thing that annoyed me was, as we were leaving, we were charged £3 for overnight stay in the hotel's own private car park. This is the first time we have ever been charged for parking at this hotel and I really can't see any justification for it other than that they are adopting the "Ryanair" approach of charging for each and every extra! Luckily we weren't charged for using the loo!
As always, Accor like to get feedback on your visit and I received an email from an outside organisation inviting me to complete their survey. Unfortunately their website-based system was screwed up and so I resorted instead to writing directly to Accor itself. I sent them a detailed report on the problems we had found, not seriously expecting them to pay any attention but, to their credit, I got a reply very quickly, from their Customer Relations organisation.
Acknowledging our concerns and apologising for the inconvenience we had experienced, they offered us a free stay at the hotel when convenient to us, and promised to look into these issues and to address them. I like it when an organisation pays attention to criticism and takes it as an opportunity to improve itself rather than ignore or, worse, reject criticism out-of-hand with ridiculous excuses. It's for reasons like this that I continue to use Accor despite these relatively infrequent hiccough.
The stay, for the two of us, cost £65.90 for the two of us, including breakfast, which, in normal circumstances, I would consider good value for money.