Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Israel Trip Report Part 7 – Grand Beach Tel Aviv Hotel Review

Trip Report – Israel 2011
  1. United #1273: Orange County, CA (SNA) to Newark, NJ (EWR)
  2. United #90: Newark, NJ (EWR) to Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV)
  3. Tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem
  4. Tour of Caesarea, Rosh Hanikra, and Acre
  5. Tour of Petra
  6. Tel Aviv
  7. Grand Beach Hotel Review
  8. United #91:  Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV) to Newark, NJ (EWR)
  9. United #311:  Newark, NJ (EWR) to Denver, CO (DEN)
  10. United #403:  Denver, CO (DEN) to Orange County, CA (SNA)

Part 7 – Grand Beach Tel Aviv Hotel Review

When originally looking for a hotel in Tel Aviv I was surprised at how expensive many of the options were, in particular, my go to choice of a Hilton Brand.  My HiltonHonors points were not an option as those will be used for an upcoming trip to Australia in April.  That left me with navigating through the options on Expedia to find a decent option.  The majority of the hotels are located along the beach between the old city and Sde Dov airport.  For the price including free wifi, the Grand Beach Tel Aviv seemed like the best option available. 

The cost to get to the hotel from Ben Gurion International Airport was about 130 NIS and took about 35 minutes.  The exterior aesthetics of the hotel leave much to be desired.  The design instantly says 50’s/60’s hotel tower construction with few welcoming elements.  The hotel lobby is covered with stone and marble and lacks warmth.  The only soft components in the lobby include some round ottoman style chairs and a rug.  A café area is up 5 steps with some views towards the beach across a vacant property. 

Check-in was quick after providing my reservation and passport.  The staff made copies of my passport and handed me a card key for a room on the 10th floor.  The hotel has a total of 12 floors with a restaurant on the second floor and a pool on the 12th.  Given the rain forecast for most of my staff, the pool was not looking like an enjoyable option. 

My room on the 10th floor was a good size.  It was larger than what I’m used to in Europe but smaller than most standard US hotels.  A small workstation with a fridge in the pedestal and chair were against the wall with a soft lounge chair in the room that looked like it was from the 70’s.  I try to avoid soft hotel room furniture if I can.  Perhaps it’s just paranoia but I don’t feel like those every get cleaned properly to prevent whatever a previous guest had from getting onto me.  A six-drawer dressing was below a flat screen TV. 

10th Floor Room

The bed was a very hard queen size mattress.  Thankfully, only two pillows were provided which is one more than I need.  I just don’t get why a bed would need more pillows than that yet most of the hotels I stay at have four to six there waiting for me.  In the end I move them off the bed and onto the dresser or a table and do my best to keep them off the floor, but I can’t imagine that every guest in the hotel provides the same courtesy.  Who knows what may transfer over from the floor to the pillow?  Another hotel pet peeve of mine is the minimal bedding some hotels have.  Often it will just be a light comforter on the bed that serves as sheet, blanket, and bedspread as was the case and the Grand Beach.  In my mind, this is one area that more is better.  I often find it difficult to sleep with the weight or heat of the all-purpose comforter as opposed to a lighter sheet which means my sleep isn’t the best.  The other issue I had with the hotel was that the initial comforter on the bed had a few small stains on it that looked like blood.  Thankfully they changed it out after a call to the front desk. 

The closet was behind two sliding mirrored doors, or so I thought.  Only one of the doors actually moved, the other remained stationary as a wall was directly behind it.  The closet contained a safe and a few more drawers below.  The items missing from what I expected were an iron and ironing board which seems to be a common occurrence.  I’m one to always unpack my clothes and get my shirts all ironed and ready so I don’t have to worry about it the rest of the week.  It’s not a major gripe, I just like the convenience of having right there.

The bathroom was on the smaller side, but still larger than European standards.  The products provided (hand soap, body wash, shampoo) were good and were replaced each morning no matter how little I used of each.  The bath towels were thin and rough.  They were not the most comfortable to be used but were effective.  My biggest complaints in the bathroom were related to the shower/tub.  One the shower head, which no longer is usable was crusted over with a bit of lime and rust.  The faucet instead was connected to one of those hand held spray units with a holder than was no higher than 3’ off the floor.  It’s just not my preference to use one of those hand units – I feel like I am doing the work rather than the water.  The divider between the shower/tub and the bathroom, however, was the main issue.  Lately while traveling internationally the hotels I have stayed in seem to prefer the partial glass divider which has a pivot point where it hits the wall.  Typically these panels are 2’-6” to 3’ which only partially block the water spray especially with a handheld unit which means water ends up all over the bathroom floor.  I understand that this type of divider provides a classier look than a shower curtain but costs less than a full glass partition.  For me, the value of the better look or the cost savings are not worth it.  Or, I could just be inept at showering. 

One day after returning from a tour I walked in to find that the sink faucet was leaking and had flooded the trashcan below and then spilled out and covered about half of the bathroom floor.  I think the faucet lever was left on just slightly causing the water to leak out as it didn’t happen again the whole time I was there.  I used all but one of my towels to soak up the water and the following day the cleaning staff shorted me a couple towels which were provided after a call to the front desk. 

The walls in the hotel are very thin.  I was able to hear conversations in the hallway and in the next room easily.  Kids were running down the hall at night and renovations to the elevator were underway.  It was not the quietest hotel.  When I first checked-in it was quiet but that was at the start of the Sabbath and most of the city and people shut down.  It wasn’t until Sabbath ended Saturday night that I realized the noise level in and out of the hotel that I could hear from my room.  I didn’t even realize the first day that the hotel was on the flight path for Sde Dov airport since no commercial flights are scheduled Friday night into Saturday.  When I did start hearing the planes I was surprised.  Given that I am an airplane geek this noise wasn’t as bad as the rest. 

The View

Overall, while I found issues with the room and amenities provided, the staff and service provided were great.  Staff promptly responded to requests and answered questions in a friendly manner.  The free wireless internet was a little slow from the room but I was able to post blogs, answer emails, and update Facebook without much frustration. 

Will I stay here again?  No.  Would I recommend this hotel?  Maybe.  It depends on what you look for in hotels.  For me, I tend to place a higher value on the items I took issue with and would be willing to pay more to avoid them.  For others, the price may be the overriding prerogative and this hotel may be perfect.  It was the most affordable option I found with typically expensive amenities like breakfast and wifi included in the cost.  The location in the city worked for me, and the staff were great.   

Gotta Love the Classy Ziploc Bag

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