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Mercure Hull Royal Hotel (Kingston Upon Hull)

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      25.08.2011 07:55
      Very helpful



      Looking is better than staying

      Note - Although Dooyoo lists this as a Quality Hotel, it is in fact owned by the Mercure Group.

      In Britain some our finest architecture is connected with the railways; there are magnificent railway viaducts, vast arched roofs at stations and, of course, in many of our cities and bigger towns, the grand station hotel. Admittedly Hull's is not on a scale like London's St. Pancras hotel but it is an elegant and stylish building that has been given a massive makeover and a new lease of life.

      We made our reservation for a one night stay when the Accor, the parent group of Mercure who own the Royal Hotel in Hull, was offering half price rooms. We decided to book one night in the nearby IBIS and the other in the Mercure with the latter costing just over £40 for a double room on a Saturday night. Although we'd glanced at the location on a map, we hadn't realised that this is actually the old station hotel and so, when we arrived in Hull, we were a little concerned that we might be in for a noisy night. The hotel is directly adjacent to the station and there is an exit from the rear of the hotel, just at the back of the large lounge, that leads into the station.

      Location-wise you're also close to the main shopping area, the bus station and a ten minute walk from Hull's old town and the marina. There are restaurants nearby but the best area for restaurants is Princes Avenue which is a little further out of town; however, if you don't want to go too far from the hotel there are a few decent options in the area.

      We arrived around 10 am having just vacated our room at the IBIS; although we didn't expect to be checked in to our room at the Mercure, we hoped we'd be able to leave our bags until later on. The reception desk is just to the right of the main entrance and is quite dark and modest given that the ground floor is really quite striking and elegant, albeit it in a rather modern way. The receptionist greeted us with a lovely smile but when we said we had a reservation she immediately told us the room would not be ready until later; instead of us having to ask if we might leave our luggage it would have come across as more helpful and friendly if she'd have suggested this herself. Happily this was possible and we went off to do some sight-seeing, returning late afternoon to check in.

      We had booked and paid in full online but we were still asked, when checking in, whether we wished to have a credit card swiped "for extras"; we did not and this was perfectly acceptable. We were asked whether we had any equipment such as laptops we might want internet access for and I was forced to ask whether this was free or whether there's a charge; again it would have been better had the information that this was free of charge had been communicated in advance ("The hotel offers free wi-fi in the bedrooms, do you require the log-on details?") Anyway, we were given two tiny scraps of paper with the details required to use the wi-fi facility.

      The hotel is obviously popular for weddings receptions and other events; several rooms were in use at different times over the two days we were in the hotel. When we arrived in the hotel a wedding was in full swing and many of the guests were smoking around the entrance and congregating in the lobby and queuing at the bar. While these people are as much guests as anyone else in the hotel, I did feel a little like I was intruding on someone else's party; we might have had a drink in the lounge when we returned to the hotel after an evening out, but we didn't feel inclined to do so in the circumstances.

      In choosing to stay at the Royal Hotel we were adding our name to quite a list; Queen Victoria stayed here in 1854 but it was the Philip Larkin connection that made more of an impression on me; the Hull poet wrote about the hotel in his poem "Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel". (http://www.poetryconnection.net/poets/Philip_Larkin/4774)

      I'm willing to bet Victoria didn't get the room we were allocated. We were surprised to see how small it was. There was next to no room at the sides of the bed (in fact the person sleeping nearest the window had no space at all and had to enter and exit the bed from the bottom) and I wondered whether, at some point, the roof of the hotel had been removed in order to drop in our bed. The shape of the room did mean that there was a corridor of sorts from the door to the bed which helped to reduce some of the noise from the corridors, though I have to say there were lots of inconsiderate people staying in the hotel that night.

      There's no doubt that Mercure hotels offer a higher degree of comfort than the IBIS brand but our room here was much smaller than the one we'd had the previous night and a number of issues did crop up that made us conclude that the Mercure does not really warrant being twice the price of the IBIS. Our bed was covered with a blue runner at the bottom and there was a cushion in a yellow cover; both the cushion cover and the throw were horribly pilled (bobbly, that is) and looked old and tired. The net curtain at the window was no longer a sparkling white and was in fact almost mottled with grey and yellow patches in places. Empty packets had been left on the hospitality tray something that should have been picked up by housekeeping when the room was serviced. Horror of horrors there were numerous hairs in the bathtub and a layer of dust on the top of the headboard. All these things are admittedly pretty minor but heaped up together they gave an impression of sloppiness.

      Whereas our IBIS room had a walk in shower cubicle, this en suite had a shower over the bathtub which is an arrangement I generally prefer though on this occasion I found it an ordeal. It was impossible to operate the shower without the taps running too. The shower started at a reasonable temperature but red hot water from the taps started to fill the bottom of the bathtub I leaned forward to try to turn the taps off and got a face full of water for my efforts. Jumping from foot to foot I then tried to turn the shower head so that it was pointing towards the wall which might allow me to try again with the taps. After the application of some brute force the shower head moved but by this point the water in the bath was too hot to stand in so I had to open the shower screen and climb out at which point the shower head bounced back to its original position and started to soak the bathroom floor. I quickly laid the bathmat in a new position to soak up the water and climbed back into the tub; having heard a plethora of profanities befitting a seafaring city, Himself hurried into the bathroom, pulled open the shower screen and managed to turn off the taps while I adjusted the shower temperature. I felt like Pamela Sue Martin at the end of "The Poseidon Adventure"; it had been one hell of an ordeal.

      Whenever I arrive in my room at a Mercure hotel I do a little dance when I see the complimentary toiletries. They are nicely packaged and they never skimp; unfortunately the shower gel is like Harpic, an unappealing blue in colour and a consistency only slightly thicker than water. The hospitality tray, too, was well stocked and a note advised us that we could call reception and request fresh milk if we wanted it; we didn't see that until after we'd used some horrible little pots of UHT stuff, something that has the ability to make even the nicest coffee taste rank.

      Is it wrong to suggest that the bed was slightly too soft after complaining that the one in our room at the IBIS had been too hard? At least there were extra pillows and hand towels as well as bath towels, both of which had been lacking at the IBIS. Our room, though, was uncomfortably hot and although it had air conditioning, we found that the temperature kept jumping between hot and uncomfortable and draughty and cold.

      There's no denying that the public areas are impressive. The main hall of the hotel is now the central lounge and this is smart and stylish; I particularly loved the oversized lamp shades and the huge bronze pillars. The upholstery was colourful and comfortable and high quality. As well as the main lounge there's also a smaller room, reminiscent of a gentleman's club, with leather armchairs where you can watch a large television. Just at the end of the lounge there are two paid for internet terminals In the corner I could see into the restaurant which appeared to be very smart if a little dated. Elsewhere the corridors are light and airy and the carpets feel lovely and squishy underfoot. I did feel that our room was disappointing in comparison with the public areas.

      Given the size of the room I do feel that, at full price, it's a little over-priced. There wasn't really anything that I couldn't get at a smart B&B for £10-15 less and get breakfast into the bargain. The room was small, the internet was painfully slow and although the experience with the shower may sound funny, it wasn't much of a joke at the time. The price is about average for Mercure Hotels but in spite of the potential, the rooms fail to make the grade.

      Although I've complained about a handful of things I'd probably stay here again - next time Accor have a half price sale.


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