Posts in the “Sofitel” category...

A Guide To Lastminute ‘Top Secret ®’ Hotels – And 10% Off Promo Code

by Continental Club on March 14, 2014  |  3 comments • Tagged as: , , , , , , , , ,

Lastminute NewThe concept of so-called ‘opaque’ hotel bookings – ones where the guest chooses a star rating and rough location, but doesn’t know the precise name of the hotel being offered – has been around for more than a few years now. The internet has undoubtedly fuelled growth in the genre, though ‘mystery tours’ have been popular since charabancs started chugging off into the unknown.

Travel website lastminute.com promotes their version of the ‘opaque’ booking through its Top Secret ® Hotels offers; the unidentified hotels appear in the lists of properties returned in a standard hotel search.

lastminute.com advertise that they list ‘four and five star hotels in 250 locations for up to 35% less than you’d pay anywhere else‘. Is the balance between certainty and saving stacked in the guest’s favour or not, though?

There’ll probably never be a definitive answer – indeed the opacity of the offer means that all the parties on the supply-side are completely in control of what they make available, at what price and described in ways that they’re free to amend at any time.

However, to encourage guests to give Top Secret ® Hotels a try, lastminute.com has introduced a promotional code offering 10% off this specific booking method. There are 4,000 opportunities to use the code, and bookings must be made by 23:59 on 31st March 2014.

This code continues to work into July 2014; we don’t have a new expiry date, so do continue trying to use it! Code now reported to be invalid.

To check availability and to book with the discount, visit lastminute.com/hotels and enter the code ‘trialtopsecret‘ (all lower case) when prompted.

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Hotel Loyalty Programme Promotions Q1 2013

by Continental Club on January 15, 2013  |  Leave a comment

Most of the major global hotel brands have now launched their bonus promotions for the first three or four months of 2012. So, here’s the Continental Club guide to five of the biggest promotions and how to register for them. Remember, membership of these programmes is free and you can sign up for the promotions as soon as you become a member – or even at the same time as you become one.

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Sofitel Terminal Five – Update

by Continental Club on May 28, 2009  |  Leave a comment

At the very moment that BA1337 was scheduled to touch-down from Newcastle, I’d already made it off the aircraft, through the baggage hall (hand luggage only), past Arrivals, along the link to the Sofitel, checked in, been upgraded and found my room. To quote the short-lived campaign that British Airways hoped to be able to run beyond their new terminal’s opening in 2008, I just flowed through. It’s a great shame, therefore, that the majority of the travelling public are still of the opinion that the building resembles a refugee camp of fractious passengers, an opinion that BA have done little to successfully change. Indeed, their one attempt – the curious T5 is Working effort – probably did more harm than good.

The late evening arrival, coupled with an early onward departure to Zurich the next morning, made the Sofitel once again and for the third time, the obvious overnight choice of accommodation. Nine months on from my first visit, it would be interesting to see if and how standards had been maintained.

The initial signs were good; a warm welcome at the end of the link from the terminal, followed by a friendly and efficient check-in. As that was happening, the ‘phone beeped with a slightly curious inbound message, which proved to be a Bluetoothed entreaty to shell out for pay-to-view films once checked in. Presumably, the hotel expects most guests to queue for attention at the desk, and this will not interrupt the check-in process. As it was, I ignored it until later, but I can see how it might annoy the staff in their attempt to expedite matters as quickly as possible. It wasn’t even very useful information – there are, I’m sure, far more helpful snippets that this technology could be employed to impart.

The upgrade to a Superior Room from the booked Classic Room was advised but the catalyst for it not really explained, so I have no idea if it was a loyalty reward or an operational necessity. The basic specifications of the room are identical to those of the entry-level accommodation, and very nice they are too. The only obvious difference is the addition of 2 square metres (13sqft) of floor space. Do, I beg of you, calm your excitement.

The beds and linens are supremely comfortable, as is the Stressless-style easy chair. The TV is large and has a slick user-interface but, and I don’t think I’d noticed this before, not one of the radio channel pre-sets is for any station broadcasting classical or relaxing music. Instead, every single option was for talk or some kind of pop – hardly the stuff to reflect the calm, zen-like style of the hotel as a whole. Odd.

The selection of magazines included British Airways’ in-flight publication HighLife, in a sensible bit of cross-promotion.

There were a couple of other things to note, relevant to the passing of time since opening and that first visit in August 2008. Firstly, the toiletries have been downgraded from the former Hermes selection, to the distinctly unspectacular Gilchrist annd Soames.

The bathroom was also showing slight signs of wear and tear which, given the great attention-to-detail shown in the initial design, such as low-level night-lighting, was disappointing.

Probably worst of the faults was that the air conditioning panel was inoperative, although the temperature of the room was itself perfectly fine. I mentioned it on checkout and was surprised that not even an apology was offered; merely a business-like acknowledgment.

The rate included breakfast but, unhelpfully, the restaurant doesn’t open until 6am. Contrast this with, say, the Crowne Plaza at Manchester Airport which kicks off at 4am. Room service is little better, with the earliest service at 5.30am. With an 07:10 take-off, room service was ordered in the hope that it would be prompt.

Which it was, and what a spread. In fact, it really was a crying shame that the hotel’s inability to serve it at a sensible time meant that I could do little but rush a rapid sampling of each of the components before dashing back towards the terminal building. Superb in both quality, quantity and presentation, though disappointing also that Sofitel loads on a further penal charge for taking the room service option that their lack of restaurant opening renders necessary.

Final result for the Sofitel Terminal 5: 8/10. It’s still a great airport hotel with super staff and an excellent room service breakfast, but cost-cutting and a lack of attention to detail in maintenance and housekeeping standards showed through. Recommended, but with slight reservations that didn’t exist 7 and 9 months ago.

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Sofitel Terminal Five

by Continental Club on September 2, 2008  |  Leave a comment

Leaving aside the choice of a French hotelier to operate the only on-site accommodations at Britain’s flag carrier’s home terminal, I was rather looking forward to my first ever experience of a Sofitel property. Expectations were set fairly high following positive reports from New York, Chicago and a number of other outposts of the chain, but moderated by the fact that this was still an airport hotel and had only very recently opened. The previous week’s Marriott experience had been fine, although never has a hotel’s interior differed so markedly from its exterior. Outside – aluminium-clad modernity. Inside – traditional Marriott wood and brass. Strange.

Signposting from Arrivals North wasn’t too bad and we were swiftly heading up in the lift to the Sofitel link bridge, the entrance to which signals quite a significant change of atmosphere. Though still distinctly modern, the stark industrial efficiency of the generic T5 environment gives way to an altogether warmer, relaxed and comfortable if bland ambience. I may be mistaken, but I was certain that I could detect a spa-like aroma being introduced through the aircon as we walked the polished, tiled then richly carpeted floor, sloping gently down away from the terminal building. The only oddity being the strange undulation underfoot, which is particularly noticeable when wheeling a trolley and clearly a function of the construction, as tiles had been cut to accommodate the humps and dips.

At the end of the corridor is a set of doors and a porter’s post, from which we were greeted by a cheery ‘Bon Soir’ and a helpful guide to head down in the lift and then turn right to Reception. However, as we had to wait a few seconds for a lift, the porter left his station and took over the trolley. He invited us to take the escalator and he would deal with the luggage. Thanking him, we took his advice and descended to a lobby which was reasonably busy with checking-in guests – almost all of whom were BA crew. The porter arrived with the bags and parked them up, before disappearing behind the desk while I queued. The next thing I knew, our sainted porter had commandeered a vacant PC and beckoned me forward, around the crews, to complete our check-in. He wasn’t the slickest as it clearly wasn’t his usual role, but he got it right and was very friendly and professional, so full marks to Sofitel for training and empowering their staff to ‘own’ a guest’s needs.

Returning to MCC and the luggage, I found that a bellhop had transferred our bags to a hotel trolley and was waiting to show us to our room. En-route, he pointed out the restaurant and bar, told us a little about the hotel and its facilities and was, all-in-all, another superb ambassador for Sofitel. If only they could have given him a suit that fitted properly….

The twin room was a steal at £95+VAT, and the only extra that we would add to the bill was £15 for Internet access. Although not hugely spacious, with extra inches over those needed for a double bed being taken up by the two singles, the room was nicely furnished and very quiet. There was a Stressless recliner, a good workspace and a sizeable flat panel TV.

The media console on the wall is not unique to Sofitel but is very useful nonetheless. In fact, the only aspect of the room which wasn’t particularly well thought-out was the hole in the panel behind and beneath the TV which exposed messy wiring when viewing from the beds. The beds themselves are worthy of note though, supremely comfortable and trimmed with high thread-count linen of silken feel.

The bathroom, though clearly a pre-fabricated job, was also well-appointed and benefited from a separate wet-room style shower. Fixtures and fittings looked top-notch and worked flawlessly. Amenities are by Hermes and of high quality, although the quantities and range were not exactly generous. Still, the bathroom shows what can be done in a compact space and with factory construction – and therefore what a missed opportunity the T5 lounge offerings are.

And so to bed early to prepare for a sprightly start in the morning, and the anticipation of a long day of First Class fun.

Checkout the following morning was swift and painless, with luggage assistance offered but declined. With the Concorde Club Room in prospect, there was no need to dine at the hotel, so I’m afraid that the menus, service and prices went untested. Suffice to say that the restaurant looked very quiet, if stylish.

Verdict for the Sofitel T5: 9/10. Given the rate paid and the fact that the levels of service were clearly worthy of full-price, I would be delighted to stay there again and also give other Sofitels a try. Certainly the best Airport hotel I’ve ever stayed in – from a selection of not that many – but I’d suggest losing the footstool from the Stressless to free up at least a little floor space.

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