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More of a Damp Squib Than a Splash!
Splash Landings Hotel (Alton Towers)
Member Name: anonymili
Splash Landings Hotel (Alton Towers)
Date: 13/09/07, updated on 16/01/08 (4174 review reads)
Advantages: Good restaurant
Disadvantages: Themed a bit too much for children and staff could have been more efficient
As the Alton Towers hotel was fully booked already (or so we were advised by the bookings team) we decided to opt for the Splash Landings hotel instead. I had originally tried to book an earlier date and had communicated with the "Leisure Events Coordinator" (LEC) via email who I had not found very forthcoming with information. When I confirmed the date that we actually wanted I was advised that the Splash Landings hotel was fully booked on that date. I was a bit suspicious of this as when I tried to book the rooms online it was allowing me to book the rooms - so I advised this to the LEC who suddenly found that there had been some cancellations. I also then found out that the person I was dealing with had been standing in for someone else so I guess their haphazardness might have been due to it "not being their job"! I don't like this attitude at all, if you are standing in for someone you should do the job as well as they do or not at all. I was already feeling a bit wary about what to expect. I literally had to ask questions about everything rather than this information being volunteered to me in the first place which is what one would expect when you contact a company about a group booking.
Initially there were supposed to be 25 of us staying at the hotel, having dinner there and 24 of us going to the Theme Park the following day. I am fairly certain we were not given the best deal by booking through the LEC - we were quoted £23 a head for Theme Park entry, the normal price is £32 a head it seems but there are deals all over the internet for £16 a head (or rather 2 for 1 deals). The LEC insisted we were getting the best deal by booking through them as they specifically dealt with group bookings. Booking online through the site did actually seem to give you a better room rate but it wouldn't allow me to book 13 rooms online so I had no alternative but to use the LEC. Our rooms worked out to be about £142 per room for 2 people sharing and £135 per room for single occupancy. All rooms slept 4 people but we didn't want to put 3 or 4 people into a room and just as well as it would have been rather cramped. On looking around at descriptions of the hotel, it seems that when you book the hotel you're supposed to get free entry to the park included with your stay. This is something I will be taking up with the LEC, as I feel I was given false information.
With our rooms we also booked dinner at the Flambo's Exotic Feast restaurant which was £18.95 a head for a buffet type meal (normal price £20 a head). We had no idea what to expect when making the booking as it wasn't really advised to us what was on offer. I had to email specifically to ask if vegetarians were catered for as well as requesting if there was food suitable for those with dairy allergies.
ARRIVAL AND CHECK IN
Prior to arrival I submitted a list of who was going to be sharing with whom and when we arrived, our rooms were all ready for us - everyone had a little card to complete with their signature and asked if they wanted to charge anything to their room and if so, they would need to leave a credit card imprint. The check in process was easy and quick and the reception staff were very friendly and efficient. An envelope had been left at reception for my attention with the tickets to the Theme Park for the following day. Apart from the tickets there were no priority passes for us which should have been included with the tickets, we had to specifically request these in the morning when checking out.
Although the majority of our group checked in after well after 7p.m. when we arrived from London via coach; one of our colleagues had flown in to Manchester in the morning and was allowed to check in at around 10a.m. which had been pre-arranged, which is something the hotel is currently trying out. Check in times are normally from 3p.m. onwards and check out time is 10a.m.
THE HOTEL, ROOMS, BAR & RESTAURANT
On arrival there were a welcome message for us on the electronic display as you enter the hotel welcoming our group but it was a rotating message so most of our group didn't even see it and after a 4.5 hour journey we didn't want to hang around just to see a welcome message. We took the word of our other colleagues who had actually seen it. As we walked into the reception area, some of my colleagues laughed and asked me if I'd booked us into the kid's section. That's honestly what it looked like with big childish looking objects all over the place - I know the place was supposed to be Caribbean themed but it did look and feel like we'd entered a rather large children's play area.
The rooms have a credit card type key which you have to insert in the door before you can gain entry to your room. My card took 4 attempts to work. You can't rush these things you know! You have to really slowly insert the card for it to activate and let you in the room. A bit frustrating when you just want to get into your room! As I walked into the room I gulped in dismay. As well as the bedspreads being in your face "Caribbean styled" and brightly coloured the carpet was matching too. I felt like I was walking on a bed of starfish and crabs and it did somewhat creep me out! The rooms are definitely designed with kids in mind! My room had a double bed (which seemed a bit smaller than a regular double bed) and a pair of bunk beds and from what my colleagues told me all of their rooms were the same too. There was no waste paper bin in my bedroom anywhere, nor was there a remote control for me to change the channel or turn the TV on and off. I could only get one channel which was BBC1 and even that I couldn't watch as it kept giving me an error message every 5 minutes saying there was no signal. The only way to get the channel back was to turn the TV off and back on again manually which was a pain as I wanted to hear the news whilst having a quick shower before going to meet my colleagues for dinner. The bathroom was quite small, but clean. There were 2 glasses and 4 bath towels, 2 hand towels and a bath mat as well as shampoo, shower gel and bath foam. The shampoo was a large bottle of Original Source which was very nice and the shower gel was a trial size Imperial Leather foaming gel which would not have been sufficient if the room had been occupied by 4 people. There was a full sized hand wash by the sink too.
I found the lighting to be severely lacking in the room but didn't bother complaining about this or the TV or the lack of a dustbin to the staff as I was planning to spend the evening at dinner with my colleagues after which we were going to drink in the bar. The bedroom was basically just for sleeping, we were going to be checking out straight after breakfast in the morning.
A nice added touch to the rooms was that they had left 2 takeaway Alton Towers bags in each room which came in very handy as I had not thought about it prior to arriving but my small handbag would not have been enough for me to carry around the bits I needed during the day such as camera, phone, spare shoes, etc.
The bar had a children's cabaret on when we went there at about 7.45pm. There were a handful of toddlers watching the "pirate" which we all found rather boring. I actually thought the pirate looked a bit scary and was surprised the children weren't hiding behind their parents. He was very loud - so much so that we all went with our drinks straight into the beer garden which was handy for me (being the only smoker). It was a pleasant evening so we were comfortable sitting outside having a relaxing drinking before going down to the Flambo's Exotic Feast restaurant where we had 5 tables reserved for our group. The buffet dinner had cost us £18.95 a head which was prepaid and we just had to put our drinks during dinner on a separate credit card.
I have to admit the buffet dinner was way more than we had expected. It really was quite an "exotic feast" as they describe on the board leading to the restaurant. I found the staff at the entrance to the reception to be perfectly polite and efficient but the waiting staff who took our drinks orders were severely lacking in manners and efficiency. They took an absolute age to bring our first round of drinks to us and I had ordered a £2.45 unlimited soft drink refill - this took about 20 minutes for them to even bring over the empty cup for this for me and and my other colleague next to me who'd ordered this. They managed to even bring the cocktails and all other drinks before they could just give us an empty paper cup to pour ourselves a drink from the self-service drinks machine.
As for what was available to eat, I'll try to give a rundown of what was on offer:
Salad bar with mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, black and green olives, salmon, prawns, cottage cheese, etc.
Broccoli soup or Heinz tomato soup with bread rolls and margarine.
Full carvery with various meats and roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding
Beef burgers and buns
Chow mein, crispy duck and pancakes, thai green chicken curry, egg fried rice, lasagne, prawn crackers, spring rolls, etc.
Chocolate fountain, marshmallows, Turkish delight, fruit salad, selection of ice creams, melon, grapes, cheesecake, etc.
I have to say that the food was pretty good (although the Thai and Chinese dishes lacked a certain something - less flavoursome than from an authentic Thai or Chinese chef); I tried a good mix of the different foods on offer and along with my colleagues we must have had a sample of everything that was on offer. We could not fault one single one of the items on offer and I don't think even one of us left the restaurant without a full and happy stomach! The biggest letdown during dinner was how long it took to get a waitresses attention. They were fast enough coming over to the table to whip the plates away literally as soon as you put your fork down (in some cases a bit too fast as I was quite happy to re-use my plate for the courses) but when it came to trying to get someone's attention to order a drink it was as if they made a point of not looking at anyone directly or even in the direction of guests which most of us found very frustrating, especially those who just wanted a bottle of water.
I found the restaurant (catering) staff to be rather miserable too. One of my colleagues said to the man serving ice cream that there were no bowls left for the ice cream or dessert and he snapped at him to ask one of the restaurant staff. I was rather stunned at his rudeness. He didn't even crack a smile when he asked me how many scoops I wanted - as I said "I guess it's a bit cheeky to ask for 25 scoops so I'll just have 2 please!" He barely even looked at me let alone anything else as he scooped his ice cream into my bowl with a bit too much precision!
On finishing dinner we retired to the bar of Splash Landings hotel for a couple of hours (Ma Garritas). We were very pleased the children's cabaret had long since finished so we were able to have drinks in relative peace with non-intrusive music being played into the beer garden where we decided to settle again. Some of my colleagues wandered over to the Alton Towers Hotel bar next door as there was a live band playing but by the time I wandered over there to have a look, the band had long since finished and my colleagues were all sitting outside in the rather more luxurious gardens of the Towers Hotel.
I wandered back to Splash Landings feeling rather sad that we had drawn the short straw when it came to hotels. The Alton Towers Hotel definitely seemed more up our street and even more so when I returned to my room at shortly after midnight and saw half a dozen teenaged girls in underwear running around giggling in and out of rooms surrounding mine. I needn't have worried as once I was inside my room I didn't hear any more noise - this could have been down to good sound-proofing or the fact that I glared at the girls screaming with laughter as they went into the room opposite mine.
I'm not sure why I didn't have a good night's sleep; the double bed I slept in was really very comfortable. The room had a stand up fan provided which I turned on and left on all night. Tea, coffee and biscuits were provided in the room. In the dressing table drawers was a hairdryer from Superdrug and there was the standard Bible in the bedside table.
As well as the Flambo's restaurant there is food available in the Ma Garrita's bar where a "Nite Bite" menu is available for late night snackers.
Breakfast is a eat as much as you like buffet affair and included in the room price - again like the evening meal - breakfast was grand affair with items such as fruit, cereal, muffins, bread and toaster, jams, marmalade, fruit, bacon, eggs, sausages, friend tomatoes, tea, coffee, orange juice, apple juice and milk. You could help yourself to as much as you liked but as most of us had had rather a large dinner we didn't fill up too much on breakfast. Some of my colleagues were planning to go on every ride possible at the Theme Park so didn't want to risk breakfast coming out on the more exciting rides!
Breakfast is available from 7.30 until 10a.m. Best to give yourself at least 20 minutes for breakfast though if you like to fill up!
CHECK OUT/PORTER SERVICE
Checking out was very easy, although we had to wait a while as they arranged our priority passes which hadn't been included in the envelope of tickets left at reception for me. This took a bit of time and it was very nice that we were able to leave our overnight bags with the porter for the day as it would have been a right royal pain to have to carry them around all day - although I had checked about this when making the booking. Everyone who left a bag was asked for their surname and initial and given a ticket with a unique number on it.
When we returned to the hotel at 4pm to collect our bags there was no confusion and it was all dealt with rather efficiently.
RATING OF VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE HOTEL
Booking process: 6 out of 10
Appearance of hotel: 5 out of 10 (if you have kids you might rate it higher)
Standard of rooms: 5 out of 10 (again if you have kids you might rate it higher)
Reception: 8 out of 10 for friendliness and efficiency
Restaurant: 10 out of 10 for food (dinner and breakfast), 5 out of 10 for staff efficiency
Bar: 6 out of 10, pricey, friendly, childish (I know, a bit strange for a BAR)!
Cariba Creek Waterpark: can't rate as we didn't use but this seemed to be something that would only appeal to young children
Overall rating 7 out of 10, I wouldn't choose to stay here again, although I can see why it would be attractive to families with kids. The majority of other guests staying here seemed to be families with small toddlers (no school aged children as we made sure we booked our trip for after the kids had gone back to school) and teens aged 16 plus. We accounted for the children going back to school but didn't account for the noisy kids who are yet to go back to 6th form or university! Not meaning to sound old and boring - our group had a mix of people from early their 20s to early 40s.
A BIT MORE ABOUT THE HOTEL
The Splash Landings hotel opened in summer of 2003 and it is Europe's first waterpark hotel. It is owned by the Tussauds groups and it is the second Alton Towers hotel. It is advertised as a "tranquil Caribbean village built around the Caribbean water park "Cariba Creek" the best place to see what's going on in Cariba Creek is certainly from inside the hotel! With huge glass windows and with a beach theme the hotel offers you a very rewarding look over the water park". I certainly didn't find our experience there to be tranquil - it was anything but. They specifically say that they don't accommodate all male or all female groups, so if you're planning to go on a single sex outing, please check before you book.
The waterpark in the hotel is called Cariba Creek and looking at it from all angles, it just looked like something that would appeal to children rather than adults. It covers about 40,000 sq ft and has been in operation since June 2003. It takes a million gallons of water to fill the place and it seems like it would appeal to family minded people rather than those into the thrill seeking aspect of roller coasters - although I can't guarantee that there are no thrills to be had in Cariba Creek!
The hotel has a small shop which stocks souvenirs and essential swimming gear as well as games rooms equipped with pool table and various arcade games.
The address for the hotel is: AltonTowers, Alton, Staffordshire, ST10 4DB and their phone number is 08705 204060 (another thing that annoys me is these companies having 0870 numbers which means you get charged at national rate to call them)!
All in all I would say that I just about recommend the hotel but if you're just having 2 people per room it works out to be quite expensive. On the other hand if you book 4 to a room it would be rather crowded as the rooms are quite small and there'd definitely be a queue for the bathroom in the morning!
I would also add that as well as being child friendly the hotel is also very well laid out for disabled access all round.
n.b. Also published on ciao.co.uk under the same username
Summary: Recommended? Definitely - if you have small children