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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Article: Clarion Hotel Review



Think of one big hotel brand in the Nordics that has international standards. It is very hard to find a Nordic hotel brand in the same category as InterContinental Hotel Group, Ritz Carlton Group, Marriott Group, Starwood Hotel Group, Hilton Group or Accor Hotel Group. Almost all hotel chains in the Nordics are either super boring, sad cheap hotel brands or old and dusty. There are some small boutique hotel chains that have put down an effort that stands out but you cannot compare these hotels with the big league of international hotel groups.

Well I was rather wrong, there is one brand that stands out and that tries to place themselves on the top league of international standards and have many possibilities to roll it out to an international market (currently only operating in the Nordics today). The brand I am writing about is: Nordic Choice Hotel Group. Under the brand there are several levels; Clarion, Quality, Comfort and some independent hotels such as At Six (previous review). However the sad thing is that it is part of a much larger hotel group calls Choice Hotels which is an US company. To my knowledge Nordic Choice Hotels makes their hotels much better in standard and service than the mohter company. This means that the owner Petter Stordalen has purchased the rights to only use the brand Choice to operate in the Nordics. I just had to check this out.

All in all Nordic Choice Hotel Group has the rumor to have the best brand in the Nordics when it comes to hotels so me and my family decided to take one week of this year holiday to review 3 Clarion hotels around Sweden.

The hotels that we stayed at were:

Clarion Malmö Live, Malmö Sweden
Clarion Grand Hotel, Helsingborg Sweden
Clarion Sign, Stockholm Sweden

These are the reviews:


Clarion Malmö Live

This hotel has everything that a business traveler or a family oriented holiday needs. The hotel is made with true international standards with large open spaces, great conference section and a superb congress hall. The gym is fantastic and I enjoyed the breakfast very much. The staff is very professional and friendly and they have a roof top skybar and restaurant on the 25th floor overlooking Denmark and the city of Malmö.
Our family got a great family suite with two rooms and a great view over Malmö. The height of the ceiling was fantastic although some detailed cleaning could be improved as in most hotels these days.
We highly recommend this hotel for food and beverage, drinks, the room quality are good and staff is great.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5


Clarion Grand Hotel

The city of Helsingborg is an expanding and a very fun small town in the south of Sweden. When we arrived to this hotel you could feel the pulse of many and that this hotel most likely is fully booked. The service and staff is friendly and very helpful which is the strong point of this hotel. The rooms are designed with a classical ambiance since its location and property. The restaurant Kitchen and Table that follows all Clarion Hotels are good in standard and we enjoyed it as we always do. However the cocktails in this hotel is not in good standards. If you were to compare the drinks with Malmö Live, Clarion Grand Hotel is far behind in quality and execution. The bartender even asked me if the cocktail was to satisfaction and I told them to take a course in Malmö Live because this was not the same standard and I did not get any response. If you are at a restaurant and the food tastes bad or the meat is not prepared properly the chef sends out a new one. I think it goes the same way when it comes to cocktails and drinks, or am I wrong?
The breakfast was of ok standard but I would say that Malmö Live still delivers better. I ordered omelets for me and my wife and we got it served burnet to sh*t. I kid you not it was toasted. I told the waiter and she just laughed and walked away.



Overall the hotel was good but the food and beverage is a bad number at this hotel.

Final Grade: 2,5 out of 5


Clarion Sign, Stockholm Sweden

As always Stockholm delivers and we loved this congress/hotel/spa experience. It is fantastic for kids to have a roof top pool to play in and a great spa for massage and relax. The restaurants is great and the service is superb. We loved the breakfast and brunch at this hotel since they have a lot of programs for kids and family.

The rooms are a bit boring and the interior in the rest of the hotel is a bit outdated however this is not an issue since the staff is great. But if you are to compare with Malmö Live which is our favorite the grade has to be lower.

Final Grade 3,5 out of 5


Written by Alexander Yü
















Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Hotel Review: Hotel At Six, Stockholm, Sweden



According to the hotel:
Brunkebergstorg, Stockholm. A 19th century haven for socialites. And that’s where it all begins. A rebirth. A reimagining. A hotel to be seen. En vogue elegance in a new home. Where contemporary art meets design. Where dining revels in breathtaking views. Where sleep is nurtured by comfort. Where spacious comes as standard. Where detail intrigues with a twist. Where surprise is no surprise. 
The place, At Six. Sleep. Dine. Mingle. Surprise.
Welcome inside.

The first thing that comes to our attention is the amazing feeling of details. The hotel creates an atmosphere that embodies your senses and innovates your mind. It gives you a sensation to experience design, art and food in one and you can feel the touch of Petter Stordalen in many aspects of this hotel. This is a newly opened design and luxury hotel by Nordic Choice Group.

We stayed at a junior suite for one night and tried to maximize all facilities. The only location we could not use was the gym that was still under construction.

Room
The junior suite on the highest floor was superb. Although the room felt more like a large executive room than a junior suite did not matter. The room had a fantastic view over Stockholm and the city hall from a fantastic balcony that stretches all over the room.
The details in the interior design was superb. Everything from the bed to selected furnitures such as the green marble working desk to the bathroom articles was done with precision and finesse. We loved the details that even the copper floor drain had the logo of the hotel.
In the room the minibar selection is not the standard wine and alcohol. It is local produced juices, sodas and other beverages. It also offers a full bar function with a shaker, high end crystal glasses, martini glasses and snacks. I love the fact that they also had “Happy Socks” and “Bed and Boxers” products you could purchase in room.

Food
Breakfast was fantastic with a great selection of the classics and more modern and fresh complements such as freshly made ginger/apple juice. A remark is that coffee that is not standard brewery costs extra, that is something I would expect in a high end hotel. If I would like to have a Cappuccino or a Latte then I think an high end hotel like At Six should offer it complementary (if you compare with other 5 star or similar hotels around the world).
The hotel offers three evening restaurants; TAK, Dining Room and Blanche & Hierta. TAK is a fantastic Swedish and Japanese fusion restaurant on top of the hotel with an amazing 1000 sqm terrace. The amazing Chef Frida Ronge is a dynamic and creative chef that amazes us with great satisfaction.
The Dining Room offers an all-day dining experience and the food is superb. The Chef is Andreas Askling and provides food that looks like art and taste divine in your palate. One critique is that they charge you for stilled water and did not mention it was bottled. In my belief is that when the water is as fantastic as it is in the Nordics, people will expect it to be complementary and not charged, especially when the service is not mentioning the fact.
Blanche & Hierta was not fully functioned and could not offer more than a wine bar at the moment.

Service
The staff at this hotel is very service minded. They offer you guided tours and display and information about the art and design in this hotel. The restaurant is fantastic and the in room service offers great service that you would expect in this kind of hotel. You never feel that you are asking too much when it comes to service or demands which is a great sign.

Gym
We could not use the gym however the staff offered to try their next door hotel gym instead until the gym finished its construction. We skipped this part however one very nice feature is that the hotel have a “no clothes, no excuse” policy. This is the first hotel that I have visited were they offer high end training clothes from J.Lindeberg, for free, to train if you happen to forget your training gear.

We enjoyed this hotel in many aspects and I must say that the rooms are fantastic. We loved the service and the detailed design in this facility and would definitely recommend this to our network.


Final Grade: 4,5 out of 5



Written by Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü















Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Hotel Review: Gran Ventana Beach Resort, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic



According to the hotel website: The Best All-Inclusive Puerto Plata Destination Playa Dorada, a gated oceanfront community on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, is home to Gran Ventana Beach Resort, one of the country’s friendliest, most welcoming hotels. Located directly on the beach, our Puerto Plata beach resort boasts three pools, a kids club and an airy, cool and fresh lobby. We also offer a superb, all-inclusive value for families, couples and group vacations.

We at Western Taste had the pleasure to try this hotel and all its facilities for 2 weeks.

Room
We had 2 rooms to review. One beach front Superior Room and one beach front Suite.
Both rooms was functional and had everything you needed and would expect in a 4 star hotel. The interior in the rooms was rather old fashioned and the quality in furniture and decor was rather old. The bathroom in both rooms was old with shower without handle function which is never seen anymore in modern hotels. It would be much better with a rainfall shower and updated bathroom interiors. We also had problems in our suite with warm water function that did not work for almost half of the time during our stay. Both rooms had great balconies overlooking the ocean. The suite had a better view since it was higher up and totally private without insight.

Food & Beverage
I am sorry to say that the food is not impressive. Some of the restaurants delivered with good standards however it was not a fine dining experience or an innovative food and beverage selection. The wine list was very short and exactly the same in all three of the restaurants. They offered an Italian, Ocean Grill, Caribbean Cuisine and an all-day dining buffet restaurant. The starters and the main courses was ok however it seems as if the style of cooking had stopped since the 90s and not changed. I miss the lack of seafood innovation with fresh fish, grilled prawns or other interesting aspects that could be infused in this hotel. The dessert in all the restaurants was very bad, especially the Italian and the Caribbean. All of the desserts was made in beforehand and not to order which means it stood for a long period of time in the heat and tasted very bad such as the crème brulee which was just a piece of dough in the end.

Service
This is one of the strong points of this hotel. The service was excellent with dedicated workers that tried to take care of all guest with best intentions. Everyone is very friendly and after a few days you basically know every restaurant worker, beach service, cleaning or reception staff by name.

Beach
Amazing beach that stretches for miles. The water is clean and goes a long way out. The beach is very large which means children can play very easily and if you are part of the VIP members service the staff brings you food and beverage to your sunbed/chair. Some sales people are a bit to close and askes to many questions but it is still ok.

Pool Area
The pool is large and has a swim up pool bar. The drinks in the pool bar is ok but not the best. It would be more interesting to go for fresh fruit juices and cocktails as well.
One constant noise of music is pumping in the pool area which is rather annoying and I feel sorry for the people living with balconies towards the pool area.
One very strange aspect is that they have a kid’s pool without sun protection. This means that no children can play in this pool when the sun is gazing in this area. This is something the hotel needs to change asap for kids safety and sun protection. We actually asked and noted this to the hotels Instagram site and the answer we got was that they did not have a kid’s pool which is even stranger since their in room information says clearly: KIDS POOL.






Kids Area
There are a few playgrounds however they are not that good and very limited. The kids access is also rather difficult. There is no easy access for instance to the Vintage Club and the Carribean restaurant which is the bar area for VIPs. There is a large staircase all the way up and if your family has a tram with you it needs to be carried most of the time. This is also something that must be very difficult for handicap or dissabled people.

All in all the hotel was enjoyable. The staff and the beach provided a great experience. Without these factors the hotel is rather old, poor in food and beverage, no real spa and a very smal dirty gym. The rooms are outdated with old bathrooms. The food is ok however also the kitchen staff needs modernization and use its local produce in a much more efficient and innovative way.
We came during spring break period and during our stay we had a party group of teenagers that had a great time partying. We recommend that you book a room with an ocean view away from to pool area during spring time and you will most likely be fine.

I would have loved to see a beach live BBQ with a number of selected seafood, fish and other delights of the ocean. This could be done in the evening at the beach site with ana amazing view and experience. 
Also imagine a fresh juicebar that is opened 24/7 that can serve you cocktails with local fruits and freshly squeezed juices and smoothies.


Final Grade: 3 out of 5

Review by: Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü