The Meliá Hotel, Zanzibar - A Short Weekend in Paradise
My travel group had a weekend scheduled in Zanzibar at the Park Hyatt, Zanzibar. I was excited! The hotel looked amazing and was in the heart of Stone Town.
However, our plans were thwarted when at the last minute the President of Tanzania and the King of Mozambique decided they wanted the hotel for the weekend, thus pushing out all those who had rooms booked. Seriously, no lie.
We were travelling with a group of 25, and when the hotel could not find a nearby hotel to take our large group, we were put up in an all-inclusive resort at the fancier north side of Zanzibar! A disgrace for Tanzanian taxpayers, but a bit of a win for us.
We were put up in the The Meliá Hotel, Zanzibar. If you've read my previous Zanzibar blogpost, you'll know that the north side of the island is known for fancy pools and pristine beaches. I was pumped!
After about an hour's long bumpy ride through the island, we had made it! It was late, we settled in and were excited to see Zanzibar in the daylight.
The Hotel Facilities
The hotel is beautiful! Some of its features include:
- An infinity pool that overlooks the ocean
- A number of restaurants with delicious food (especially yummy seafood caught metres away by the locals)
- A decent cocktail and wine selection (avoid the Piña Colada though!)
- Reasonably priced laundry services
- A full service spa (that I did not get to experience)
- Free classes during the day, such as yoga, water aerobics and Swahili lessons
Each room is equipped with both an indoor and outdoor shower and a nice soaker tub.
However, they seem to have put so much effort into a fancy bathing experience that the toilet seemed to be an afterthought and is built into this tiny stall, where there is barely enough room to sneeze. It was quite bizarre.
Each room has a balcony, which is nice for sitting out on in the evening or drying your swimsuit!
The main complaint that most people had was the hardness of the bed. It was probably the hardest bed that I have ever slept in, which I actually don't mind. But most others did find it quite uncomfortable.
The beach was the main attraction! The hotel has a private stretch of beach about 1-2 km away. At first I was disappointed that it wasn't on the property, but I quickly changed my mind!
A free shuttle comes every 10-20 minutes to drive you to the beach. Walking might seem like a great idea. But in the sweltering heat, I opted for the shuttle.
It's the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in person. It's beautiful, untouched and has the warmest water in which I have ever swam. I spent hours floating in the Indian Ocean, hoping there were no sharks nearby.
I came to enjoy that it wasn't on the main property. It was a little more secluded, less busy than I expected and a great change of scenery.
There is a great restaurant on the beach. Try the pizza, they have real pizza ovens!
The hotel is honestly almost worth it for that beach.
*Hot tip: If you can, arrive in the morning, the tide will be far, far out and it makes for great pics! When the tide arrives in the afternoon, swimming is great!
The Service Expectation
This is where the hotel falls flat.
I want to take a second to explain why I'm judging this hotel so harshly. When you travel, you need to be aware and accepting of the customs in the country you're visiting. So that means if you're in a place where attitudes are more relaxed, you can expect service to be more relaxed and vice versa.
If I visit a boutique hotel or a local chain, I expect and welcome to have service reflect those norms. For example, if I visit a boutique hotel in the Caribbean or Africa, I might expect service to be slow, the staff to be a little more relaxed than I'm used to, but the service to be extremely friendly and welcoming. If I were travelling in Western Europe, I might expect things to be efficient, policies to be a little more rigid and staff to be polite. (Of course, these are sweeping generalizations, but you get the idea.)
I also understand that things may not work as an efficient machine, in the same way you may expect at a major western hotel.
The Service Received
The Meliá is a Spanish luxury hotel chain. From the moment we stepped in the door the Spanish managers were catering to us, talking about how their property was the premier luxury hotel brand on the island and talking up how luxury and service were their top priority. The expectation was set, and reinforced many times by the management staff.
I personally had so many issues with the level of service at the hotel, that did not match what the managers were promising. And at the end of the day, the staff themselves were lovely, it appeared to come down to a break in training.
Issues that did not reflect a western luxury brand:
- Spa Service - I had pulled a muscle in my neck, and was in a bit of pain. I tried for two days before we arrived to make a massage appointment, and was constantly told that there was no need to book me in, because they were never busy. So, on the morning of my only day there, I went to the spa, and surprise, they were fully booked! After refusing to book me earlier! A lovely colleague gave me a few pretty intense neck massages and I feel much better now!
- Laundry Service - My laundry was lost. Thankfully they eventually found it.
- Room issues - Several things in my room were broken, that I absolutely needed (shower and safe). And after a few calls where they told me they did indeed go to my room and fix it, I finally had to spend much of my only day at the resort sorting out the issues.
- When I tried to have lunch, the staff kept changing the opening time of the restaurant. At first, they told me it was 11:30 am, then when I arrived at 11:30, they said 12. Then at 12, they told me 12:30.
These are all minor-ish issues that I would have taken in stride at many hotels. But, when you charge *$500 CAD + per night and use western luxury as your main selling feature, you need to deliver.
* I did not pay $500 CAD for this room. As I previously mentioned, I was placed here after a booking mixup
Would I stay here again? Maybe, but not for $500 CAD/night.
Champagnes on the Luximetre:
*The Luximetre is FooteOuttheDoor's 5 point scale to measure the degree of luxury felt by the hotel guest