Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Street View of Aqaba

Along King Hussein St (Corniche), which runs more or less north-south along the coast through the centre of the town, and follows the Gulf of Aqaba around to the west as far as Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and to the south as far as Saudi Arabia.

At central Aqaba


Blogger Greg said...

There are two sides to every story and the good and the bad, so let’s start with the good. Aqaba is a 13th century Red Sea resort in Jordan which was in ancient times, the main port for shipments from the Red Sea to the Far East, known by the names of Aila, Ailana, Elana, Ailath, Elath, Ayla and Wayla.
For relaxation, water sports, and winter warmth, Aqaba is warm, sunny and inviting, fringed with palm trees, lapped by the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, cooled by a steady northerly breeze, and ringed by mountains that change in color with the change of the hours. Snorkeling, water skiing, wind surfing, para-sailing, fishing and a variety of other water sports, including unsurpassed scuba diving are just some of the popular activities to enjoy. I recommend Sea Quest Diving the only 5 Star IDC centre in Aqaba, Gill and her team are great fun, the diving is easy and its the secrets these waters hold that makes Aqaba unique, for further down the coast are a dazzling undersea world of some of the most spectacular coral reefs to be found anywhere in the world. Often over many hundreds of meters wide, the reef is made up of many delicately hued corals among which live a myriad of brilliantly colored fish.
Of special interest among the ancient and medieval archaeological sites are the early Islamic city called Ayla, the Aqaba Fort, built by the Mamluk Sultan Qansweh El-Ghuri at the beginning of the 16th century, which was originally a Crusader Castle, and a very fine museum at the historical residence of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, great grandfather of King Abdullah II, containing a collection of artifacts from accross in the region, including fragments of lusterware from Samaria, Chinese ceramics, Umayyad Islamic archaeological finds, and pottery and coins. Other places of interest are the site of the oldest church in the world and the Aquarium.
Whatever the visitor's interest, a wide range of hotels provide excellent accommodation, facilities for all water sports, and restaurants that cater to the most selective tastes. A stroll through this traditional town will reveal the presence of some excellent fish restaurants and craftsmen are to be found at work filling small bottles with colored sand in intricate geometric designs.

Now we come to the bad side of this story. The newest hotel opening in Aqaba is the Radisson SAS resort in Tala Bay, opened in May, 2008 and given a 5 star rating. Granted the hotel has a great beach front location, but it really does stop at that.

The Rezidor Group of which the Radisson SAS (sorry Blu as its now called) chain is part of has a core service philosophy of “Yes I Can”, they say its more then a slogan “its a way of life for all employees” in its hotel, but when it comes to the Tala Bay resort its more a case of “No We Can’t”

If you ever wanted to go off a hotel chain then I really do suggest you stay at the Radisson Tala Bay, its an experience I grant you, but not of the relaxing kind. Never I have come across a hotel who’s attitude is “your only a guest and know thy place”. It stems from the GM down, who quaintly smiled as me, my friends and other guests went to complain upon checking out.

The hotel was recommended by some friends who live next door in the luxury Tala Bay gated community development. This weekend was a big one, everyone taking a long weekend in Jordan to celebrate Labour Day and the fact there was a dance party happening next door on the beach, bringing with it the hip, 30 something’s from Amman and the great and good of Jordan with cash to burn, which would make you think that a hotel that was open for a year would be equipped to handle the onslaught of Jordan’s “cool crowd” Think again it was if the management just hit the off button on the staff and said “there’s no service at the Inn this weekend”

If you wanted ice you had to book it 24 hours in advance as it took that long to get it, after calling and expecting Yes I Can, it was No You Can’t I am busy, we then resorted to going to reception and only after several very long minutes of explanation it did arrive three hours after ordering it!!!

We paid for Deluxe Rooms and were given Standard Rooms, which had been cleared of all the “high-quality amenities and coffee and tea-making facilities” (the website blurb), my room was the only one with these and I have to admit it came with really nice beach flip flops, big fluffy towels, a cappuccino machine and soft drinks in the mini bar, the rest of the rooms had nothing and I mean nothing. My friends rooms looked like then had been looted of anything of value. When quizzed the staff told us “we used to offer it but the management told us to take them out of the rooms to save money”

But that’s only one issue with the rooms at the resort one of my friends was given a room with a significant sewage problem, it stank of a road side convenience and other had a deposit left in its bathroom and crumbs in the bed. Did we manage to attract the attention of anyone from the hotel? yes, wow the service philosophy is working only after calling the One Touch service and hanging on the line of thirty minutes to no avail (they must of had a rush on ice bookings), we then called the emergency number on the phone again no one picked up, they must have been helping the One Touch people get ice. Finally after hunting down a manager from reception, firstly to be told there are no managers in the hotel and after much debate we did find one to help solve the problem and did they? yes they did, by spraying cans of air fresher in the room.

So after a long drive I longed for a decent meal, three of us headed to one of the three eateries in the resort, only to find the only one open was the buffet, the rest were closed for private events, so it’s back to “No You Can’t.” We choose the Ala Carte menu and I don’t know where the chef was trained, but I can assure you not in any 5 star hotel, I have every stayed in, more like 5 skull and cross bones and his culinary ability only stretched to things with tinned pineapple in it. Which was the main content along with about 10 diced green and red peppers in my chicken salad, my friends went for a mixed grill, the meat looked like it had be wrestled from the jaws of a rabid dog and chicken and cold chips was just as bad.

We did call over the waiter who had all the charm of Dr Crippen and just stared blankly at me like he had been given a large does of Valium to help him get though the day of dealing with us “guests” Eventually the head waiter came over and I told him, I had sent the food back and was not going to pay for it and that the next day I would like to speak to Mr. Costa the F & B manager (who never materialized), one would assume he was fending off the other 300 guest’s complaints. So we headed off to the reception bar for a drink to find they only thing we could have was a beer, as the bar didn’t have anything to mix a vodka with, not even a juice. Yes I Can, No You Can’t.

The next day the pool it took the chief lifeguard, the towel guy and 45 minutes to find someone who would serve me a bottle of water, which wasn’t water when it arrived it was a soft drink, by then I had lost the will to live and we all decided to eat out in town at one of the many great restaurants as none of us could face another night of the chefs culinary misadventures. A must try is the Yacht Club or the Steak House Grill at the Intercontinental.

And so to the morning, why is getting a cup of hot water a problem to put a tea bag in? At the Radisson Tala Bay it’s a huge problem, it was like asking some of the local staff if they wouldn’t mind assisting me in robbing a bank. To my rescue came one of the Asian staff who were nothing but charming and efficient, not only did she bring me the hot water in fact she even made my tea…hooray “Yes I Can” in full swing. When our friends arrived at reception they told us the room service team, just knocked and entered the room and asked “when are you leaving”. Now there are subtle hints to get guests out of their rooms, but never anything as blatant as this, maybe the room service team hadn’t been given their daily dose of Valium!

It was time to have a late lunch with our friends in Tala Bay and head home, we all went to check out, after speaking to the GM and his assistant, we just simply said “No I Can’t” and won’t pay this bill as the hotel doesn’t warrant 5 stars, nor was the service 5 stars, so we agreed that we would only pay 50% of the bill, I personally didn’t want to pay a dime, but much to my amusement, I watched as guest after guest arrived to complain about the service, what did the GM do? He just stood there and smiled, he even acknowledged they had a sewage problem, but for the Radisson Tala Bay, profit comes, before guests, they would rather guests endure the stench of human excrement or rooms that haven’t been cleaned, no beds made, then actually give the” guests” what they pay for.

The final slap in the face came, when one of our friends left a toothbrush and bag back in the room, after 20 minutes of debate with the reception team, maybe the “guests” of Radisson Tala Bay should consider the wider debate Yes I Can (chaired by Kurt Ritter) V No You Can’t (the former guests of Radisson Tala Bay)

He walked back into the same room and low and behold the room fully restored to its former glory with you guessed it all the luxury amenities as promised in the marketing blurb. Which leads us to the conclusion the Radisson has a policy that when ever there is an event in Aqaba it will empty the rooms, quicker then a looter in the LA riots to save us “guests” from enjoying what we paid for and if this is the case, who the hell does the Radisson SAS think it is?. Tala Bay is a luxury development and the resort (which technically it is, but even that’s debatable) it needs the local uber cool and rich to support it, not treat them like something it stood in on the beach. The sad thing is that, this hotel will survive providing two star, three at max service, due to the number of tourists that head there and at the end of the day Peter the hotel GM never has to see their faces again.

Here is my little suggestion, when you stay in a hotel; you enter into a contract with them to provide room and service to the agreed standard. If you don’t get that, then you are within your rights to refuse to pay. So you know what you need to do, should you be misfortunate to stay in the resort , just call Peter the GM only pay for what you received…go on “Yes You Can” and I am sure as eggs are eggs he will smile quaintly and say “No You Can’t”

5/06/2009 05:19:00 PM  

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