Over the summer, Rotana Hotels gave away thousands of free room nights. If you spent over Dhs 700 on a meal then you got a scratch card that revealed where your free night would be. We won a night at Al Bustan Rotana which is near Dubai Airport and were really looking forward to it. Granted, we'd just come back from holiday, but after all the holiday laundry we needed another bit of R&R! Sadly our hopes for a restful, fun weekend were smashed from the moment we arrived.
Upon check-in we were given a letter explaining that the pool was closed for cleaning for 5 days. If a guest is booked in a hotel at the weekend for one night then it is safe to assume that guest is not coming on business and will be wanting to lie by the pool, don't you think? We only made the reservation a few days prior to check-in so I would have expected the reservations team to have been informed about the pool so they could inform potential guests. Failing that, the manager should have been checking the bookings in the system and calling guests at least the day before their arrival to advise that the pool would be closed. It is just not acceptable from a (supposedly) 5 star hotel to have such a lack of guest care.
We were informed that we could use the free shuttle bus to go to the Towers Rotana and use their pool but that we couldn't move our free night to the Towers since each hotel only had a specific allocation of free nights. Of course each hotel would have an allocation but I am 100% sure that a lot of the free stay's wouldn't be used and that they could have let us stay at the Towers if they had really been of a mind to provide the best level of guest service possible. We had the choice to cancel the weekend or accept the less than ideal circumstances, so we decided to stay. The room was quite large, with ample wardrobe space and a fair-sized bathroom - the bright yellow gold taps in the bathroom weren't to my taste though and the lack of a power shower was a shame. A plate of chocolates and dates was delivered to us as an apology for the pool, a nice touch.
After we'd checked-in and dumped our bags in the room, we got the minibus to the Towers. The Towers Rotana's pool area is on the roof of their multi-storey car park behind the hotel. The Shangri-la Hotel has the same set up but they have a bridge from the hotel across to the pool so you don't feel that you are sitting on top of a car park. Towers Rotana does not and exiting the hotel, walking over to the car park and then going into the car park to get the lift to the roof doesn't give you that 'Wow, this is the life' sort of feeling. The pool itself is small but adequate. However, the loungers were old-style metal ones and each one had a pool menu attached to it with a very rusty metal chain. Nice look! The fact that there was no real greenery planted to provide shade or to create a garden feel also meant that the whole area was baking hot - even at 43 degrees it is possible to create an illusion of a cool oasis with a little bit of landscaping.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that the pool restaurant was open but less pleasantly surprised to find that the solo waiter had to go all the way to the main hotel in order to pick up orders and drinks! We opted to go over to the hotel for lunch since we figured whatever we ordered by the pool would be cold by the time it had made the trip across to us. Flavours on Two was offering an a la carte lunch with about 20 things on the menu, of which the waitress knew absolutely nothing about - she didn't even know what the soup of the day was! That is a management fault, not the staff member, since a restaurant manager should train all his/her staff on the menu and at least inform them of the daily specials. We had chicken wings and an avocado salad - all fine but nothing outstanding.
That night we ate dinner at the Rodeo Grill; a fairly small steak restaurant with an open kitchen down one side. When we arrived the restaurant was fairly empty but by the time we left there were quite a number of tables. Our soup starters were both excellent - lobster & crab bisque for me and chicken chowder for Simon. The bisque had the full flavour of lobster without being 'fishy' and the chowder was the perfect consistency with lots of shredded chicken. I opted for a Rodeo Grill special steak with potato wedges and vegetables. Now, to my mind potato wedges should be roasted but these had not only been fried but they had been fried in oil that hadn't been hot enough so instead of being sealed immediately, they had absorbed a lot of the oil...not the most pleasant. The vegetables were al dente and there was a nice varied selection, however my steak had quite a meaty flavour to it. Yes, I realise that steak is meat (!) but steak shouldn't have a strong flavour - I find it gets that flavour when it's been frozen and then defrosted and cooked. Simon couldn't fault his Fillet Neptune which ws served with asparagus and hollandaise sauce so at least he had a great meal.
After all that, did we have a good night's sleep? Sadly not! The bed was extremely hard and it felt almost like lying on a plank of wood. The bedsheet was also not cotton and, in Simon's words, it was 'noisy' so that every time we moved the sheet crackled, plus as it wasn't pure cotton it wasn't breathable and so Simon found it quite hot and uncomfortable. To add final insult to injury, we went down for breakfast to find what looked like a great buffet. On closer inspection though, there was no pork bacon (what 5 star Dubai hotel doesn't offer pork?) and the 'hot' food I put on my plate was all cold, it made me wonder how long the food had been sat out on the buffet since the hotel didn't seem to be very busy. I sent it all back and asked if I could have the breakfast steak that I'd seen on the room service menu. Expecting a minute steak with hash browns, mushrooms and tomatos, I was gobsmacked to receive a proper big steak - a bit much for breakfast but at only Dhs 44 it was excellent value.
So all in all, we did wish we'd just stayed at home, spent the day at our own pool and walked over to the Courtyard Marriott for dinner at Cucina. You don't know if you don't try though. I really could not recommend the Bustan Rotana at all and am amazed that they have 'Leading Hotel of the World' membership - perhaps that's something you can just pay for though as opposed to being independently assessed and awarded? Better luck next time...