I’m writing this in a coffee shop shop in the village, having just checked out from the Principal in Manchester.
Principal are a predominately UK group of hotels that IHG recently purchased, meaning that you can earn and burn points with them. That’s the key reason that I booked, in order to tick off some of my options for the IHG 1st quarter promotion, free nights faster.
I’d booked a regular room for £171, excluding breakfast, which is at the higher end for what you will pay in Manchester when there isn’t an event on. If the football or there’s something at the Arena, then rates can be far higher.
It’s located in an old Victorian insurance building, very similar to the aLoft in Liverpool, which I’m a big fan of. It’s a huge building and has mostly been done up very nicely, but somewhat quirkily, and not necessarily in a charming way.
Checking in, the lobby looked very smart – there was a bit of a wait, but the formalities were done efficiently and I was told that I’d been upgraded to a Deluxe room, 180.
Finding it was the first challenge. The signposting was confusing and the ordering of the room numbers didn’t seem to be in sequence either.
On the way in the hallway, was a set of dirty sheets and towels just dumped in the corner. In the other corner, there was a Henry vacuum cleaner. The dirty linens had eventually been removed, but Henry remained there for the duration of my stay.
Immediately upon entering my room I was greeted with a mini hallway and staircase. This led up to the room itself, which was actually really nice. It was a big space, with a large king bed.
There was a non-functional portmanteau at the end of the bed.
The work desk was a little on the low side to properly work from and there was a large leather stool with it, rather than a proper chair.
However there were two nice leather arm chairs in the room, but orientated as to face the wall, rather than into the room itself.
At the end of the room was a large wardrobe, containing a fridge and everything else you’d expect in a hotel wardrobe.
Somewhat oddly, and almost creepily, there was a small gap to the side leading to a door that seemed locked shut, with no means of opening it, and no door handle.
Even more oddly, looking at the fire evacuation plan for the room, that appeared to be the fire exit.
I’m going to send the hotel management a link to this review, because if it’s not the fire exit, then the signs need to be updated, and if it is, then it was impossible to get out. Either way, the hotel has a health and safety issue.
The bathroom itself was nice, having a rainfall shower with fantastic water pressure, and Elemis amenities. However it’s a shame that it’s a regular bath to hop in and out of as I would have preferred a dedicated shower.
A nice touch was the “tuck box” on the desk with some sweeties and crisps.
The bed itself was ok, with decent linen, but perhaps a little firm for my tastes – whilst I got a good sleep, it wasn’t as great a hotel bed as I was hoping for.
That might have been down to the other key issue – the air conditioning / heating unit was broken. It just spat out cool air, and there was a warning triangle on the unit. At about 18.00 I called down to ask them to fix it as it was getting chilly in the room. A rather flustered lady said that they would fix it. By 20.00, no-one had come to the room, so on my way to the bar, I stopped by the front desk and explained the situation.
When I did get back to the room after dinner and a couple of drinks, I walked into a stiflingly hot room – rather than fix the broken unit, they’d set up two storage heaters of which there was no way of controlling the temperature to a consistent level.
The hotel has a huge bar and restaurant area. So before dinner we decided to get a drink there. There’s a huge public area there, with a bunch of seating options, conservatory style area, and the bit I was in, called the Winter Garden with a pool table and some table football games as well. Apparently this bit was the only part with no waiter service (this was after flagging a waitress who said she’d just finished, and walked on).
When I did eventually find someone, I ordered a couple of gin and tonics which were described in the menu as having orange zest and a cinnamon stick. They came with a slice of orange. And cost £13 each. At least the tonic water was Fever Tree.
I paid an extra £15.95 for breakfast as it wasn’t included. This consisted of access to a pretty basic buffet and tea and coffee. There was no option to have eggs cooked to order, or an omelette for example.
I was pleased that espresso was seemingly included, but overall the breakfast seemed very basic and quite cheap for a hotel seemingly trying to be more upscale.
I really wanted to like the Principal. The building is fantastic – true Victorian grandeur. But for the price they are charging, I felt there were just too many service failings. And these were big service failings. Heating in a hotel room is something pretty basic. Dirty towels and linens littering the floor are also unacceptable. Poor service in the bar. Finally the Health and Safety issue in the room with the fire exit being inaccessible is inexcusable. In hindsight, I should have asked to have been moved immediately, but only spotted it late in the evening after I’d got back from dinner, and just wanted to get some sleep.
I think the hotel is simply too large for what they’re trying to do. The staff don’t have the training, experience or simply care enough about the guests to execute on the vision.
Save your money and go to the Holiday Inn Express down the road. Even at half the rate, I don’t think I’d be back here. Which is a shame.