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Travel Disappointments From 2012

By Andrew Harper

The Hideaway Report | January 23, 2013

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Inevitably, along with pleasure and excitement came frustration and disenchantment. The following highly rated hotels stand out as my most forgettable of 2012.

Ocatilla (Arizona Biltmore)

Phoenix — At first glance, our bright and spacious Club Deluxe in the Arizona Biltmore’s hotel-within-a-hotel looked delightful. Contemplating a bath, however, I found that the tub had not been cleaned properly. Elsewhere, mildew dark- ened some of the shower’s grout, and the wooden rack under the countertop exhibited water stains. Water rings also marred the small dining table by the bedroom wall, which itself displayed scuffs and smudges. Problems continued in the Executive Lounge, where couches faced a blaring television, and the dining area resembled that of a midrange airport hotel. Perfunctory service failed to alleviate the complete lack of ambience.

The Tides Inn

Irvington — This Virgnia resort ranked among the Top 500 Hotels of 2012, according to a major U.S. travel magazine. If that’s true, the state of world hostelry is dire indeed. When we entered our Vista Suite With Balcony, the first thing I noticed was a series of brown stains on the sheer drapes. After finding faux-wood laminate peeling off the furniture and rust on the bathtub’s grab bar, we decided to switch to a suite without a balcony in the main building. But here, mold had colonized the grout in the shower stall, and a large “K” done in blue crayon decorated the shade of a floor lamp. I stayed in cleaner properties during my youth hostel days.

The Darling

Sydney — After being hyped in the mainstream travel press, this cold and over- decorated hotel — the lobby looks like a discotheque — was a real letdown. Staff are poorly trained, and our exorbitantly priced junior suite had only a sliver of a view of Sydney Harbour. It quickly became apparent that the target audience is Asian high rollers flying in to game at the adjacent casino.

Jetwing Vil Uyana

Sri Lanka — Set amid wetlands irresistible to birdlife, Jetwing Vil Uyana enjoys an idyllic location. Wild peacocks stroll along the gravel pathways, herons stride through the shallows, and white-throated kingfishers lend a dazzling splash of turquoise, crimson and bronze to the scene.

First impressions of my duplex Forest Dwelling were extremely positive, but it soon became apparent that a ground-floor ornamental pond was a breeding center for mosquitoes. And although the rustic-chic design was atmospheric, it was also poorly lit. Looking around, I began to notice a lack of maintenance: One of the lights in the bedroom needed a new bulb; and in the minibar, the mineral water had been consumed and replaced with tap water. I also discovered the heralded Wi-Fi connection to be exasperatingly unreliable. The conception of my suite was admirable; the reality proved distinctly less impressive.

Perhaps because of Sri Lanka’s long civil war — during which few foreigners visited the country — the staff seemed unfamiliar with the required international standards. Overall, they were somnolent, lackadaisical and disengaged. With a different general manager, this place could be enchanting. For now, it is merely the best that is available.

Inevitably, along with pleasure and excitement came frustration and disenchantment. The following highly rated hotels stand out as my most forgettable of 2012.

Ocatilla (Arizona Biltmore)

Phoenix — At first glance, our bright and spacious Club Deluxe in the Arizona Biltmore’s hotel-within-a-hotel looked delightful. Contemplating a bath, however, I found that the tub had not been cleaned properly. Elsewhere, mildew dark- ened some of the shower’s grout, and the wooden rack under the countertop exhibited water stains. Water rings also marred the small dining table by the bedroom wall, which itself displayed scuffs and smudges. Problems continued in the Executive Lounge, where couches faced a blaring television, and the dining area resembled that of a midrange airport hotel. Perfunctory service failed to alleviate the complete lack of ambience.

The Tides Inn

Irvington — This Virgnia resort ranked among the Top 500 Hotels of 2012, according to a major U.S. travel magazine. If that’s true, the state of world hostelry is dire indeed. When we entered our Vista Suite With Balcony, the first thing I noticed was a series of brown stains on the sheer drapes. After finding faux-wood laminate peeling off the furniture and rust on the bathtub’s grab bar, we decided to switch to a suite without a balcony in the main building. But here, mold had colonized the grout in the shower stall, and a large “K” done in blue crayon decorated the shade of a floor lamp. I stayed in cleaner properties during my youth hostel days.

The Darling

Sydney — After being hyped in the mainstream travel press, this cold and over- decorated hotel — the lobby looks like a discotheque — was a real letdown. Staff are poorly trained, and our exorbitantly priced junior suite had only a sliver of a view of Sydney Harbour. It quickly became apparent that the target audience is Asian high rollers flying in to game at the adjacent casino.

Jetwing Vil Uyana

Sri Lanka — Set amid wetlands irresistible to birdlife, Jetwing Vil Uyana enjoys an idyllic location. Wild peacocks stroll along the gravel pathways, herons stride through the shallows, and white-throated kingfishers lend a dazzling splash of turquoise, crimson and bronze to the scene.

First impressions of my duplex Forest Dwelling were extremely positive, but it soon became apparent that a ground-floor ornamental pond was a breeding center for mosquitoes. And although the rustic-chic design was atmospheric, it was also poorly lit. Looking around, I began to notice a lack of maintenance: One of the lights in the bedroom needed a new bulb; and in the minibar, the mineral water had been consumed and replaced with tap water. I also discovered the heralded Wi-Fi connection to be exasperatingly unreliable. The conception of my suite was admirable; the reality proved distinctly less impressive.

Perhaps because of Sri Lanka’s long civil war — during which few foreigners visited the country — the staff seemed unfamiliar with the required international standards. Overall, they were somnolent, lackadaisical and disengaged. With a different general manager, this place could be enchanting. For now, it is merely the best that is available.

 Sneak Peek

This article appeared in The Hideaway Report, a monthly newsletters exclusively for members.

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Andrew Harper Photo Our editors write under the Andrew Harper byline so they can travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who they are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.

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