Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Hotel Star Rating System

Following the issues I had on my last holiday with my hotel being changed at the last minute to an inferior establishment I have been looking into the star rating system.

And it is confusing to say the least.

There is no set or approved system which has every country's buy in.

The European Hotelstars Union is used by over 20 European countries and it makes for interesting reading.  Some of the most ridiculous items are needed to hit a grade.  For example, one of the 3* requirements is a three piece suite in reception.  Really?  Does that actually add anything?  Does it add more than a set of individual chairs would?

For a 5*, a hotel needs to provide shower gels/shampoo in bottles, rather than sachets.  Yes, they look better, but does is make any difference?

Briefly, the requirements are

  • 100% of the rooms with shower/WC or bath tub/WC
  • Daily room cleaning
  • 100% of the rooms with colour-TV together with remote control
  • Table and chair
  • Soap or body wash
  • Reception service
  • Facsimile at the reception
  • Publicly available telephone for guests
  • Extended breakfast
  • Beverage offer in the hotel
  • Deposit possibility


All of the above, plus
  • Breakfast buffet
  • Reading light next to the bed
  • Bath essence or shower gel
  • Bath towels
  • Linen shelves
  • Offer of sanitary products (e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving kit)
  • Acceptance of Credit Cards


    All of the above, plus
    • Reception opened 14 hours, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside, bilingual staff (e.g. German/English)
    • Three piece suite at the reception, luggage service
    • Beverage offer in the room
    • Telephone in the room
    • Internet access in the room or in the public area
    • Heating facility in the bathroom, hair-dryer, cleansing tissue
    • Dressing mirror, place to put the luggage/suitcase
    • Sewing kit, shoe polish utensils, laundry and ironing service
    • Additional pillow and additional blanket on demand
    • Systematic complaint management system


    All of the above, plus
    • Reception opened 18 hours, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside
    • Lobby with seats and beverage service
    • Breakfast buffet or breakfast menu card via room service
    • Minibar or 24 hours beverages via room service
    • Upholstered chair/couch with side table
    • Bath robe and slippers on demand
    • Cosmetic products (e.g. shower cap, nail file, cotton swabs), vanity mirror, tray of a large scale in the bathroom
    • Internet access and internet terminal
    • "À la carte"-restaurant

    and 5*

    All of rhe above, plus
    • Reception opened 24 hours, multilingual staff
    • Doorman-service or valet parking
    • Concierge, page boy
    • Spacious reception hall with several seats and beverage service
    • Personalized greeting for each guest with fresh flowers or a present in the room
    • Minibar and food and beverage offer via room service during 24 hours
    • Personal care products in bottles
    • Internet-PC in the room
    • Safe in the room
    • Ironing service (return within 1 hour), shoe polish service
    • Turndown service in the evening
    • Mystery guesting

    So, a star rating will not guarantee the quality of the hotel, or the standard of decor, fixtures or services provided, just that they provide the items require to reach the standards.  The best way to select a hotel is by recommendation, or if your travel to the area regularly, check out the hotels yourself for your next booking.

    Sunday, 22 June 2014

    Hotel Santa Monica, Calella de la Costa

    The Hotel Santa Monica in Calella is not the most attractive of hotels.

    Nor does it have the best views in town.

    Nestled between the main Calella road, wasteland used as council storage and a Youth Hostel it really does not sell itself.

    Check in is from 12pm, I arrived quite a while after this as I was still at Barcelona El Prat airport at 11.30am and then had to walk from the coach drop off point, however checks still had to be made as to whether my room was ready.  If check in is from a certain time, then the room SHOULD be ready at that time.

    My passport was held onto, something that I have not experienced in many years.

    I am not sure what the hotel was trying to achieve with the decor, I kept expecting HAL (from 2001:A Space Odyssey) to speak to me.

    Despite the futuristic type decor, the hotel still uses keys rather than key cards.  Also, every hotel that I have stayed in supplies a lock and anonymous key type contraption for the in-room safes, again the Santa Monica supplies a key with a big room number key tag.  I know that some of the holiday makers take the tags off as they do not want to advertise their room number incase they lost their keys.

    The black key type thing works the electricity in the room, this was not explained to me and I spent a good 5 minutes when I made it to the room, the lifts are quite slow, trying to work out how to put the lights on, I had to prop the door open with my suitcase.

    The room felt quite small, the twin beds were made up separately but had to be pushed together to fit into the room.

    There was limited clothes storage too, I was on my own and ended up putting some things in the cupboard under the television, so two in a room would really struggle for space.

    The bathroom was a good size, no bidet though, and the towels were stored over the toilet, generally hand towels are by the sink and bath towels over the bath at the opposite end to the shower.

    The shower was strange too, the head was on a pivot, so too much pressure and it shot up and just sprayed the opposite room, so if you wanted a bit of pressure in your shower you had to hold the head down and wash with one hand, the other option being that you had a very weak shower.

    The room definitely needed some TLC.

    The balcony was not swept until the day before I was due to leave, presumably ready for the next guests.  The shower curtain was also changed.

    There is a tv in the room, but there are no English language channels, most hotels offer at least BBC News 24 or CNN.

    Wifi is available but has to be paid for.

    The hotel offers room only, bed and breakfast, half board, full board and all inclusive.  The restaurant is laid out in military type straight lines with tables joined together in groups of 2 or 3.  Each meal time you have to show your dining card to the greeter, you are then given your table number and a hand waved in the general direction of the table.

    Although it clearly stated 1 person on my dining card, I had to confirm that the table was for one every time.  Being a single traveller meant that I filled gaps in the seating, being stuck in the middle of groups and families made for uncomfortable eating so despite paying for half board I only suffered through breakfast choosing to eat elsewhere for dinner.

    There was entertainment in the bar every night, with children's shows starting at 8.30 and adults at 10pm.  And it was loud!  Luckily it could not be heard on my floor which was 4 floors above.

    There were events during the day for both children and adults too, all of these, apart from the ones centred on the swimming pool, were held underneath my balcony, so no siesta then.

    The swimming pool was a decent size, though the strange shape made lap swimming pretty hard, and there were plenty of sun beds and chairs around the pool and outside bar.  I do not know what time the pool opened as when I left to go to the beach, generally around 10am, it was still being cleaned.

    Most of the staff were pleasant, including the lovely Scottish lady who was on reception one day, the only person letting the team down was the restaurant seater.

    Saturday, 14 June 2014

    Hotel Changed

    Just a quick post to update on my latest trip.

    This is the hotel I booked and paid for 9 weeks ago, the Maritim

    And this is the hotel I have been moved to with less than 24 hours notice, the Santa Monica

    I would like to point out that I did not book with, but they were the easiest to screenshot.

    Ignore the dates as I could not find availability for today for both, but you can see the difference in price.

    Saturday, 7 June 2014

    Holiday for Yoda it is - A Guest Post

    Recently I was invited on holiday, it was my first trip to Spain.

    It was still dark when we arrived at the coach station.  Yes, I know I am a Jedi Master, but I am on holiday.

    Check in went smoothly, no excess baggage charges to pay.

    Apparently it is a tradition that you have to have a pint at the airport, regardless of the time of departure, so full English with a Bulmers all round.

    I bumped into some old friends (and enemies) whilst we were waiting to be called to the gate.

    Eventually we made it on to the plane.

    We caught the train from the airport to resort, I hope the view improves.

    We finally arrived at the apartment.

    Then it was time to hit the bars.

    We had a few drinks

    Met some friendly ladies.

    And gentlemen.

    Got a bit lost on the way to the toilet.

    Played Bingo.  Didn't win.

    Sang karaoke.

    Off to Barcelona

    Hard Rock Cafe!  Expensive.

     Time for the beach.

     Don't want to get burnt.

     Getting a bit hot now so off to the beach bar.  Mojito!  It's green, like me!

     It's very strong.

     Some people just want to sleep.

     A final look at the beach.

     And then time to go home.

    Tuesday, 3 June 2014

    Gegants i Capgrossos (Giants and Bigheads)

    Many Catalan festivals include costumed figures known as gegants i capgrossos (gigantes y cabezudos in Spanish).  The main feature of these figures is their giant papier maché head.  

    The giants are hollow figures several metres tall, the body is built around a wooden a-frame which sits on the wearer's shoulders.  The frame is hidden by cloth, and the arms have no structural element to allow them to swing in the air, the hands and head are made from papier-mache.

    Every group in the parade will have a couple of giants who will dance to the sounds of the accompanying band.  Their entourage will try and get the spectators to join in.  Some groups will hand out sweets too.

    There will be at least a couple of the giants who will have a recognisable link to the town, such as a founder or well known person.

    Each year, a city in Catalonia is selected to be the City of Giants, in 2013 it was Calella.

    On the 11th May 2013, the Giants all congregated along the walkway next to the beach in Calella for a celebration.  Some looked professionally made, some, particularly the smaller Cabezudos were clearly home made, generally by a school or a children's club, the children themselves carried these and they looked so proud.




    The next day, Sunday, was the main parade

    It wove around Calella, lots of noise, lots of colour, lots of sweaty people appearing from beneath the giants, there were plenty of stops to allow people to rest or swap over.

    It was a fantastic sight and I would love to see it again.

    The city for 2014 is Cervera.