The Intercontinental Hotel Group is a world-wide business with numerous hotels catering for millions of guests each year. In my experience, the personal touch can be lost when dealing with such an enormous enterprise.
Would this be the case here, on what was my first visit to a Crowne Plaza Hotel?
Seven miles from Aberdeen city centre, the oblong, six-storey modern hotel block which greeted us on our approach did nothing to dispel the pre-conception, though the exterior was smartly painted and well maintained.
It was with some feeling of trepidation and a certain air of resignation that we checked in, and to make matters worse, this was a property situated right in the airport at Aberdeen.
It is a five minute foot journey under a covered walkway (follow the car-hire signs).
Expectations were not high.
Being at the hub of the North Sea Oil industry, the majority of visitors to this airport are business people and workers for the said industry.
The hotels which cater for them must therefore be business-friendly. Thus, the hotel has its own and separate conference centre with its own entrance, leading to ten meeting and event rooms.
Every business requirement is catered for, including an Executive Boardroom.
As tourist guests, we entered by the main entrance and were greeted by a friendly and helpful receptionist. The gloom dispelled quickly.
Early and late check-in/check-out facilities are available on request. Free Wi-Fi is available for guests such as myself.
The internal decor was modern with something of a Scandinavian feel, in muted silver blues, greens and stone colours. An impressive start.
Our room was a Club Room with decor in greys, blacks and browns, very stylish and well equipped. I made good use of the Krups Nespresso machine in the room whilst assorted teas, coffees and hot chocolate making facilities were also present. There were complimentary bottles of water too.
A nice touch was the pack of This Works Aromatherapy ‘deep calm’ pillow spray and a pulse point frankincense and eucalyptus oil roller to aid restful sleep. A business desk with power points, a wall-mounted flat-screen television, easy chair with footstool and a king sized bed completed the inventory. This was a spacious and welcoming room. The comfortable pillows and mattress afforded a wonderful, dead-to-the-world night’s sleep, the stuff of which dreams are made.
The view, as you may expect from an airport hotel, was of … er the airport. As Aberdeen airport is also the busiest heliport in the world there is always something interesting to see. The incredible insulation means that noise is simply not a problem. It is barely audible and should not detract from thoughts of booking this hotel.
There was a large, sleek, en-suite bathroom with a large monsoon shower and a separate double-ended bath. Eco-boutique toiletries and fluffy towels added to the luxury.
Exploring the hotel, I was pleased to find a modern, well-equipped gym and fitness room. The air-conditioning kept sweat to a minimum (apart from my lack of real effort – those Christmas calories are still with me).
Meals were taken in the Offshore Bar and Grill, a modern restaurant which incorporated a bar lounge to one side. We chose the Table d’Hote evening menu, three courses with four choices from each course.
It was here that the personal touch began to disintegrate, sadly.
Service was inconsistent and haphazard throughout, somewhat confirming my earlier thoughts. It was not as if the restaurant was busy, being around a quarter full.
There was a long delay from being seated to being attended to by a waiter, and this only after he had been reminded by the restaurant manager. Unusually, we were asked to order all three courses at once. The waiter had to be reminded twice to bring a jug of water for the table. When it did eventually come, it was without sliced lemons, unlike ones at other tables. I ordered beef cheek as a main, but almost ten minutes after ordering, I was told that this had sold out. The waiter should have known this.
The food itself, like the curate’s egg, was good in parts. The ham hock terrine starter was meaty, lovely and pink with a piquant piccalilli, though the accompanying salad was tired. We had to ask for butter for the toasted rye bread. The butter came almost frozen in small packs.
For mains, the hake was declared delicious, whilst my second choice of chicken breast was tasty and generous with an intense bacon and mushroom jus to compliment the bubble and squeak cake.
The waitress was unable to identify ANY of the four ‘Scottish Cheeses’ on my cheeseboard, though she did offer to find out. The grapes which came with it were sour and ‘end of bunch’ quality. I would have passed them by myself, had they been in a shop.
My partner’s sticky toffee pudding and custard was fine, if microwaved. The waiter then removed her plate as soon as her spoon was put down and before I was even halfway through my own dessert.
The service issues were, I suppose, minor points, but should not have happened and were irritating. Some room for improvement here then.
Breakfast, by contrast, was an altogether better experience with friendly, sociable staff. This was a buffet style, with everything you could wish or hope for, whether fresh, cold, continental or the full cooked breakfast experience. This was all good quality with plenty of choice.
Recreationally, I found that a huge and varied list of activities and adventure sports could be accessed via Reception. This was something I did not expect to find and it is obvious that staff are making efforts to attract leisure visitors.
Visitor attractions nearby include the Scottish Dolphin Centre, the Glen Garioch Whisky Distillery, the Aberdeen Satrosphere Science Centre (aimed at younger children with an interest in space), Balmoral and Braemar Castles, amongst many others.
I can highly recommend Mains of Drum, one of the best garden centres in the U.K, according to the Garden Centre Association. I have rarely seen display plants, shrubs and flowers so well cared for. The upstairs restaurant is tremendous. Go for the Portobello mushrooms filled with smoked haddock and cheese sauce topped with a poached egg. The accompanying salad was an example for Crowne Plaza to follow. One of the best lunches I have had anywhere.
Wild dolphins may be seen daily at the harbour in Aberdeen Bay, close to the sandy beach.
No sour grapes here.
For more details visit “Crowne Plaza Aberdeen Airport”:http://www.cpaberdeen.com/.