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Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug – An Experience to Forget

While other five-star properties go the extra mile to make your holiday a truly memorable one, Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug doesn’t follow even the most basic rules of hospitality. The result is a disaster vacation

While other five-star properties go the extra mile to make your holiday a truly memorable one, Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug doesn’t follow even the most basic rules of hospitality. The result is a disaster vacation.

Occasions are timeless. And more often than not we are on the constant lookout for means to etch those events into eternity. To celebrate them in a way we would remember for times to come and smile about for the rest of our lives. Isn’t that what special occasions are meant for? My means was the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Alibaug. The occasion? Completion of 365 days with my husband.

Things go wrong and erring is human, fair enough. But when the water gets over your head, where do you finally draw the line?

A welcome of sorts
A ferry ride of about an hour will get you to Mandwa Port from where a prepaid taxi will take you to your destination. A slightly bumpy ride got us to Radisson which was tucked away in hushed and tiny lanes. After a swift check-in, we were led to our room. Entering our Executive Suite to rejoice the joyous occasion, dirty linen and a soiled bathroom was what greeted us, along with a jet-spray that was seconds away from creating a swimming pool. Confusion about whether we were actually in a suite at a five-star property was what beheld us for a couple of seconds.

Waking up from our confused stupor, I picked up the phone and politely pointed out the matter at hand. Shock and shame were the sentiments that the House Keeping Manager (assisted by his staff) was clearly expressing and apologising profusely. We left the room as they picked up the blood stained linen and cleaned the bathroom.

They say that sweet things always have a way of making right the wrong, but that was not the case here. Having pre-ordered a cake as a surprise for my husband, it was quite upsetting to note that not a soul had any idea about a ‘pre-ordered cake’. The front desk manager recommended a Rs 3000 ‘celebration package’ (including a cake, rose petals in the bathtub and swans made of towels) which seemed quite inexcusable, because as far as my knowledge goes, every resort welcomes honeymooners with these small add-ons any which way. So that was quite the end of my planned surprise for my husband, but the surprises from Radisson didn’t end here. This was just the beginning.

Food for thought
Paying heed to our gurgling tummies, and hoping food would cheer us up (like it always does), we headed down to check out the buffet. Our package was inclusive of all three meals, and having heard a great deal about the property and its delectable food, it only seemed befitting to grab the package. Being the first people to enter the buffet, one would hope that the food would be steaming hot and fresh, but that was not the case. All the excitement was killed because the food was ice cold. After a quick chat with the ‘in-charge’, we were told that this was not ‘usually’ the problem, and thus the reason was unknown, and he would check with the kitchen. Result of the polite complaining? Nothing! We made do with the cold food. Moving on from the food, we decided that a couple therapy session would do us some good. With the signals we got while making the reservation, we should have got the hint, but alas, not. The other guests ‘lounging’ at the reception desk were spiders and they call themselves the second best spa in India after Ananda. A single receptionist was juggling phone calls, walk-ins and enquiries, and with great difficulty we managed to make our booking.

Forgive me for coming back to the food, but it is an integral part of any holiday (foodies will absolutely agree)! Dinner was a mirror image of lunch as we again picked up cold food from the buffet, even from the ‘live’ counters of  khowsuey. After a humble and then a cranky request, my khowsuey was heated up and given to me. Highlight of the evening? The cake we cut placed on a beautifully decorated table of rose petals! Yes, the sweet nothings I was talking about earlier made it quite right!

The After effects
Taking a deep breath, we crossed our fingers and hoped that the bad was over, and the next day would be a new and hospitable beginning. Only if wishes came true… We ordered for a lemon ice tea at Aparanta (one of their restaurants where the lunch buffet was laid) and were immediately grossed out. The ice tea was garnished with a dead fly. Politely, we asked for a replacement which was, sadly enough, worse than the first as it had a fly as well as stones at the bottom of it (certified and confirmed by a Chef and other members of the Radisson team). Still maintaining our cool, I personally went to the live Chaat counter and placed an order for Aloo papdi chaat which had coal and stones in it (again certified by the team). I ordered for a strawberry smoothie and almost threw up because there were crushed rose petals with the bud and leaves along with a weird green liquid in the smoothie. How did lunch go? We were both left starving and absolutely drained! Is this a speciality that this five-star has come up with or has it magically become a road-side cafe while we weren’t watching?

By then, it was time for our spa which, honestly speaking, we were in no mood to attend. Being requested to be on time so that no other appointments were affected, it was quite annoying that we ourselves had to wait as the previous couple had not exited the couple therapy room yet. A string of surprises awaited us at the spa. We were informed that a female therapist was booked for my husband when I had clearly mentioned that we would let the receptionist know on the day of our spa whether a male or a female therapist would be attending to him. As our treatment started (with the application of a multani mitti scrub), we got talking to the therapists, and I was quite shocked to know that my therapist was actually a beautician who had been called in to fill the shoes of an absent colleague. I was quite impressed to note that she had been trained as a beautician as well as a therapist, but I was practically scratched out of my admiration as her nails kept scratching me during the treatment. In the end, I was not given any slippers, as a result of which I was trampling over the sticky scrub and felt dirty. My oil massage started with the therapist splattering the oil over my leg. Having reviewed the best luxury spas all over the globe, it is with great confidence and experience when I say that the spa procedures were not being followed. My husband on the adjoining bed, however, was treated with utmost care and tranquility.

Having filled forms and explained in detail about both our neck problems, it was sad to note that my neck was treated like it was detachable. To top it all, at the end of our session, we were informed that the steam was not working and were advised to use the common steam room (despite us mentioning during the reservation that we would like to take a steam post our session).

Last, but not the least, as a farewell gift, we were proudly handed a wrong bill which included a telephone call made to a local number and charges for the specialty fly-garnished ice tea!

Five-star, is it?
With the changing face of today’s Indian luxury hospitality sector, we shudder to think where the industry is heading. Parallel to this very thought, are the stunning experiences that five-stars in India promise, and nine out of ten times, live up to. Was this just a one-off or will it be repeated again? Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug ruined an absolutely special occasion for me in every possible way. The only brownie points are to the staff who make your day with a smile and a courteous hello. Radisson Alibaug, pull up your socks maybe?