Recently, I have stayed at two Protea hotels in Zambia, and I would like to contribute a bit as this is a newer brand to Marriott Family, and not many reviews have written.
In general, we all know that Marriott properties in NA are not as nice as those Asian properties, but they still bear with ridiculous high category ratings. It is because regardless how old property is, there are standards one Marriott branded property has to qualify. It seems to me that those Protea properties are like distant cousins of the Marriott brand, and they have a long way to go to achieve whatever other properties are at today!
One last note before we official begins: there are no free lounge/breakfast benefits for Gold/Platinum Elite member, and their breakfast buffet price is higher (K210) than a dinner that feeds an adult male (K150). I only had one Breakfast during my three-day stay in Zambia, but they are way better than Le Meridian Pyramid Cairo, at least it is nicely presented, the staff was friendly, and they have chicken gizzard for breakfast!
African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel in Johannesburg
Before I set my foot on Africa soil, I had to contact this property for adding my buddy’s name to the reservation. I have done this a billion times in my life, and I thought it is just matter of a phone call. And I want to mention; this property is a cat 3, not a Cat 1 or 2. The phone was first picked up by a lady with a cold, unhappy voice; maybe it was too early or too late in Africa? Then I was transferred to the reservation department, a humble sounded gentleman, Mr. Mothibe, picked up the phone. I told him my request for adding a name to the hotel booking, and I was shocked about what he asked me to do to add a name.
“Sir, you need to send your passport and your friend’s passport to me, so I can verify it is you to request to add your friend’s name to this reservation.”
I was like, “WHAT?”, But I know it won’t go anywhere. So I came up this proposal: “How about you send an email to the address listed on the reservation, so if I am who I suppose am, I can reply your email with my friend’s name? ”
Mr. Mothibe paused for about ten seconds, and said “ Yes, I think that is a good idea! ”
My inner voice was like, “HORRAY!”
I did not end up going to this property due to a visa issue ( Thanks to South Africa High Commission in Ottawa, and I promise I will never set my foot in your embassy again), but I think my buddy got a nice upgrade at this property. I will hunt him down to write me a review of this hotel later if possible.
Protea Hotel in Livingstone
Overall, the hotel staff and the facility is okay, but I do not think it is at the same level as other brands I have stayed in the past. I love their staff a lot, as they are passionate about their job and care about what you have to say, except the lady who runs the Activity Centre, which apparently is a different company and almost messed up my next trip. Here are few things happened during my stay:
1. I noticed there is a stain of dried chocolate stain on my bed quilt. The reason I know it is chocolate is, I tried to clean myself first, since it is not blood stain, and I am in Africa so that I can handle this! So I can smile chocolate while I was cleaning it. Though I failed the cleaning process, and I had to ask the hotel staff to give me a new quilt. I also have a photo of after cleaning.
2. For the two properties, I have stayed, there has same wifi password, and the wifi was not only slow but super unstable. At this property, I think I have entered the password for a million times during my two-day stay. If your device went to sleep mode, or if you happen to be in a different location of the hotel, it will ask you to re-enter your password. So now I can remember the password by heart, but I won’t write about it:)
3. I have scheduled an airport transfer during the OFFICE HOURS of the activity centre, and I told the lady about my room number and my last name. I have also inquired about the price for airport transfer. Then the next morning, the CAR DID NOT SHOW UP! Fortunately, the front desk gentleman arranged a cab for me quickly. While I was waiting, I saw that lady, and asked her nicely, where is my cab. She looked at me as if she has no idea who I was. Maybe they need basic memory test to work at a hotel? Oh, the drama did not end there, when I reached the airport, I paid the driver with negotiated fare from hotel plus 15% tip. The driver looked at me offended and said that I have to pay K200 because this is the official price. I refused and explained to him, the hotel told me it was K130, and I gave you K20 as a tip, and if you are not happy about it, please talk to the hotel, maybe you will get additional K70, so you make K20 extra. He did not insist asking me for the K50, but this was when people say, “Bad taste in the mouth?”
Protea Hotel Lusaka Tower
This property is a four-star hotel that only opened three years ago. I saw the images of this hotel on the website and thought it looked modern and elegant. I was picked up by the hotel staff at the airport, and I had a good conversation with the pickup staff, so I thought this hotel should be better right? In fact, the room and the bathroom are spacious. I was upgraded to a club level room too.
1. Despite all the pleasant conversations on the shuttle van, the hotel shuttle dropped me at the adjacent older property. It is no problem to walk for 2 minutes with my carry-on luggage, but what if it was a big family with multiple checked pieces of baggage? I am sure the hotel will help them to carry, but again, it is just the beginning of everything.
2. If I could bear entering WIFI password million of times at Livingstone property, fluctuating Internet connection is something I cannot cope. So I called the reception desk and asked them to solve this issue. Then the problem-solving process starts Step 1, a front desk man came up to my room and requested me to show him what is going on with my devices, and luckily I was able to explain to him the increase and the decrease of the wifi signal on my devices. He told me that he has already informed the IT manager, and will send him up now. (“so you thought I was bluffing?”). Step 2, gentlemen with glasses and very IT looking came to my room and asked me to demonstrate the problem again. I guess my day job being an interaction designer, who deals a lot of technologies and demoing helped my case here. I was able to explain to him what happened and why this could happen. The IT manager also looked at his diagnostic device and agreed with my complaint. So he said that he would send someone up to give me an independent WIFI tower so I could have a stable connection. Step 3, the first reception guy came up with a cellular-based WIFI router/tower, and he helped me to set up near the window. The Internet is finally stable, although the connection is still very slow (that I can bear with).
3. The slipper incident, I think from now on, wherever I go, I will prepare my slipper. This four-star hotel does not provide it nor bathrobe (not a thing that I would typically request, but just to see what were the other things they don’t offer). Ironically, the 3-star Protea Livingstone provided me with a pair of slipper upon my request. I just really hope that the star rating can take account of whether a hotel provides slippers. For my stay at Lusaka Tower, I just had to assume the carpet is clean.
4. As I mentioned earlier, the dinner in Zambia is quite affordable even in a four-star hotel. The most expensive steak dish at this hotel is about 20 us dollars or so. So I decided to try it. The restaurant at this property offers free salad bowel if you order any main dish, and I thought that’s something worth mentioning, but then:
a. The server does not have adequate English skills to recognize someone with a Chinese accent. Since I was ordering steak, so I ordered a bottle of red wine, and I was pointing at the Red Wine menu page while I was ordering. However, the server brought me a bottle of white.
b. I ordered a medium rare (do not do it in Africa) steak, and it was like opening a pandora box. After some wait, I got my steak, and I started to proceed. After one bite, I realized the steak WAS NOT COOKED to even 10%. You can see the fat was still in white, and the meat was dead cold inside. So I called up the server and cut a piece so he can touch it to see my point. They agreed to give me a new one with mild apologies. I am normally a tolerant person, so I did not make a fuss about it. My second steak came to me after 20 some minutes, and it was way smaller than the first one. At this point, I just want to get done with it, so no complain was filed. Even though they cooked this one, but I still do not think this is medium rare, or the meat has some issues. I can barely chew any of them, and I was only able to go through half of the steak, and most of the pieces were spit out. I have to say this; this is the worst steak I have ever had in my entire life, no matter it was on the ground of int he air, in a nice restaurant or a fast-food chain. The cheque came by with no reflection of their mistake, but I will just take this to Marriott Customer Service later. I did take a photo of the second steak, but it is so gross to post it here, but it is available upon reader’s request. I am glad I am not sick at this point, but I will see my doctor once I got back to home.
I do not think I will stay at any of those Proteas shortly, and I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars in Africa to stay in those inspiring properties neither. So I may not visit Africa for a very long time.