GONE: Westin Camporeal Golf & Spa Resort, Portugal [Master Thread]
I booked a 2 night stay here at the end of August as a convenient stopover en route from Porto (Sheraton and Meridien) to the Algarve (Sheraton).
The resort opened on 1 August, and I was looking forward to a great stay : I figured that a month after opening the hotel should be getting into its stride and would be intent on impressing, and also the probability of a plat upgrade to a really nice room would be high.
A quick check on the website beforehand showed that the hotel was having a soft opening, and that the spa and indoor pool were not yet open, which I was happy to accept. I also e-mailed the hotel on 1 Aug, just to confirm they were indeed open.
The complex is about 25 miles North of Lisbon, a few minutes from exit 7 of the A8 toll-motorway, and set on the hillside in pleasant, though not spectacular, countryside. The hotel is beside a golf course, surrounded by many golf villas, which are all painted a rather violent orange colour, which IME sits uneasily in its surroundings.
We arrived at about 5:30pm after a long day driving & sightseeing, and parked outside reception, next to the contractors work huts. No-one came out to greet us and take our bags. Went inside and checked in, and were given the keys to a room on floor 2. The room was of reasonanble size, not huge, nicely presented with Heavanly Bath towels, and smelling faintly of sawdust. There was a rollaway already set up for Flyer Jnr, and 3 bottles of water. My keycard had a "you've been upgraded" sticker on it, but a quick look at the roomplan on the back of the door showed I had a regular room just like the others.
I was offered the plat amenity (local pastry and port) but they called me a few minutes later saying they hadn't got any, so I chose the points instead.
There was no interactive service on the TV, and no printed information on the hotels facilities in the room.
After a hard day we fancied a quick dip in the pool so I went back to the car and waited there for a couple of minutes before collaring a member of staff who happened to be walking past, who took the bags and disapperared. Went back to the room and waited 15 mins : still no bags so no swimwear, so instead we wandered down to the pool just to look around. By some architectural misfortune, the whole pool was in the shade of the hotel at this time of day and looked decidedly chilly and uninviting. The only guests were a solitary couple huddled at one end of the poolside in the only patch of sunlight still visible. At the other end of the pool a construction crew was building the pool bar, and the noise of the drilling and sawing was loud and continuous. At the other end of the pool we watched as a workman screwed the safety notice (4 weeks after opening.....) to the wall by the side of the small childrens pool.
A quick chat with the couple, both seasoned travellers, and a further wander around revealed the real picture : the hotel was almost empty, that they had stopped taking new bookings, that some guests had been relocated to the Marriott, that those who remained had a long list of serious complaints over the hotel and the service and were being offered half price discount on their bills. Floor 1 was a construction zone and the real reason for not getting a room upgrade was that the suites had not yet been completed. Floor 3 had a man which a huge noisy machine cleaning the carpets.
In fact at 6:15pm, we counted 5 different sets of construction work, all noisy, going on around us. All the noise ceased by about 6:45.
Now in "get me out of here" mode, we went back to the room, by which time the luggage had arrived. We considered watching the sunset sitting on the balcony, but there were no chairs or tables, just an empty space. Worse, the balcony railings were really cheap 'n nasty and bowed outwards if you leaned on the middle, and worse still, the end of the railings were fixed to the masonary with one single, very loose screw, which felt would have given way and collapsed under load. Not good for any guests, let alone those with children.
So time for a shower, which turned into a brief event as the drain was blocked and the shower tray overflowed into the bedroom. No soap dish either, so the shampoo bottle just had to float in the paddling pool.
Time for dinner. We went to the restaurant and found the door locked with no menu on display. Similarly the door to the "all day dining" room was locked. Back to the car for a drive a few nmiles up and down the road outside the gates to hopefully find somewhere to eat. Nothing. Back to the hotel and ended up in the clubhouse and had a reasonable Eur20 buffet, though service was rather haphazard, including a comedy moment when I needed a soup ladle and tried to find a member of staff : all 4 were huddled round the till wearing various expressions of puzzlement while they all prodded the touchscreen in turn. All the staff were genuinely trying hard with the service, but the seemed to be no experienced team leader in place to run the show and guide them.
There were only 4 tables occupied, all families, including one with a toddler who was left to flop around on a regular chair : seems like there were no highchairs. We ate on a terrance overlooking the golf course : rather nice until it got dark and the light : one 500Watt halogen security light, was switched on, which rather destoyed what ambience there was.
We decided over dinner that we had no desire whatsoever to stay a second night and would go to the Sheraton Algarve a day earlier : but could we get a room in peak season at 24 hours notice ? I called to the Plat concierge and was quoted Eur400 for the smallest room. Ouch. Fortunately I had enough points in my account for a redemption night and we booked this instead. Back to reception after dinner to tell them we were checking out early and lodge our concerns about the hotel and specifically the dangerous balcony railing. They were apologetic and offered a move to one of the golf suites, but by this time it was late and with a tired child in tow we declined and just went to bed, keeping the door to the balcony locked.
Next morning a reasonable breakfast was served in a rather dark room with tables too closely spaced : not that this was a problem as only 2 others were occupied. Service was again haphazard, the only staff member behind the omelette counter was totally engrossed in slicing up kiwi fruit and it seemed a shame to disturb him.
Time to check out : in the end I figured I got what I booked (a comfortable room and breakfast) so did not feel justified in asking for any reduction or compensation. Had I booked for a week, or had I had problems finding an alternative for the second night, then things would have been different.
What would other FTers have done, finding themselves in a hotel with an ambience of a ghost ship ?
Specifically, is there an industry standard for what guests should expect or have to tolerate for a "soft opening" ? Is it to refine the service, or a legitimate excuse to continue to build the hotel around your unfortunate guests ?
Westin : not impressed.
Edit to add : this stay contrasted with the other stays at the Sheraton Porto (excellent), le Meridien Porto (very good, and fantastic value thanks to Travelzoo) and the Sheraton Algarve (excellent, as usual)
We just stayed at this Westin last week, so I thought I'd update the above, very complete, report.
Check-in was smooth, and we also had a "you've been upgraded" sticker. Our room on floor 2 overlooked the hills so we didn't have to look at the horrid orange growth-like villas, and had a two armchair seating area by the desk and a tiny balcony (the kind one person can stand on). We arrived mid-afternoon and by the time we left to get dinner the air conditioning had brought the temperature down only slightly to 25°C. We had already had the engineer come up to look at it, so we went back to the front desk to complain. To make a long story short, the situation never improved despite the best efforts of the understanding front desk manager, and we changed rooms. The FD manager oversaw this for us and put all of our things in almost exactly the same place as they had been in the first room. The temperature got down to 21.5 in this second room. I can't imagine this air conditioning system being at all effective in the hot months. Our second room had only one armchair but did have a terrace that we couldn't really enjoy because – you guessed it – no furniture! Also it seemed like it would be too easy to slide the door shut behind you and not be able to get back in.
The pool goes into full shadow by around 6pm. This might be nice when it is very hot, but as noted in the original post, it's a bit strange. The pool itself is nice, very long and we had it almost to ourselves. The pool bar is finished, but there is some other construction continuing. The spa and indoor pool were not open yet.
Two restaurants (all day dining and the formal restaurant) plus the clubhouse are now open. We had dinner at the buffet, which wasn't bad at all, but the service was inexperienced and a bit clueless. The breakfast buffet was ok. There may have been an omelette chef when we were there but he must have perfected his invisibility cloak. They were finishing work on the bar, but served drinks in the lounge and on the terrace.
In general, it still felt like a practice session. There were very few guests and many of the staff were still trying to figure things out. For example, no one knew how to call a guest room from the lobby. When you followed the instructions (dial 0+room number or whatever), the receptionist's phone rang and she didn't pick up. The touchscreen systems in the restaurants are still objects of mystery and fascination. Some staff with weaker English had the habit of replying "ok" to a request and then disappearing, instead of getting someone who could help. We asked to see the menu of the formal restaurant before it opened for the evening and no one in the restaurant could find one. The more senior and more experienced staff members, however, were very professional and helpful and tried their best to make one happy.
A few complaints:
Stupid design problems: There are still no soap dishes in the showers. This seems dangerous to me and I'd think that people having to put the slippery soap on the wet shower floor is a recipe for disaster. Also, the spare roll of toilet paper is stored all the way on the other side of the bathroom.
(General design comment: what is it with this new fad for clear windows from the bathroom to the bedroom? The Westin had glassless "windows" covered with louvres. Am I the only one that finds this weird?)
The a/c was truly inadequate. Why are ceiling fans so rare?
There is still no information about the hotel in the rooms.
In the bar, the only water that was available was miniscule 25cl bottles that they charged a ludicrous €3 each for. Also a very loud compressor going on and off all night took away from the pleasure of drinks on the terrace.
Lack of consistency and quality control (our first room didn't have a bathmat, the second lacked robes).
It could be a very nice property once it gets its act together, but at the moment it certainly isn't worth the minimum €145 the SPG site quoted before we booked.
Note: I just tried to check that rate and it seems like the property is not accepting new bookings at this time.
I will be going to the Westin Campo Real in Portugal in May. The last time this property was discussed in a thread was in 2007, when it opened so I am looking for some more recent feedback and tips for the surrounding area, culinary and sightseeing.
I have to say I went there with mixed feelings after having read the opening threads, and the lack of posts thereafter. I was afraid that I had picked one of "those " hotels. WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!
Send this hotel to the Freddie's. Immaculate, clean, everything works, staff fall over backwards to help you out, irrespective of status.
Upgraded to Duplex suite. Large Master bedroom and Master Bathroom on the top floor, facing the golf course. LCD Flat screen tv, a bath that could have doubled as a swimming pool seperate walk in shower, full range of amenities.
Downstairs was the living room, with another lcd tv, a tabler with a couple of chairs, a large couch, another closet, and the half bathroom, with Toilet and walk in Shower. The couch could have been pulled out as a double bed.
In the rooms was a Nespresso machine with 6 complimentary Nespresso pots per day for use.
Challenging 18 Hole course. 6000 yards plays about 6600 due to its hilly nature. Buggies, electric trolleys, and pull carts available for hire. Greenfees €50 but well worth it. as the course is in immaculate condition.(double cut fairways etc.)
SPA - My wife has an extremely stressful job, and after a few days pampering, she was completely relaxed and energized... I think thats the highest compliment I can give a spa. I had a brief look, again, clean well designed relaxing harmonious atmosphere.
So was there anything wrong with the place? well actually there was. The food!
The Breakfast was in Buffet form. Nothing wrong with that. Freshly squeezed OJ fruit, cereals actually everything, but the egggs were cold every day! This was not only the scrambled eggs, but also the fried eggs. The restaurant as a whole was well staffed, they were polite, and worked hard, But I think the chef needs changing. We also tried the evening buffet, that was just sub standard for a Westin property. Then we tried a la carte, and again, something you expect from a diner in the boondocks but not from a 5 star property. On the day that I mentioned this to the front desk, the temperature settings on the dishwarmer was changed from 2 to 4, but only for that one time. The next day it was back to normal, cold.
But there is good news 2 villages away there is a fantastic restaurant, their road sign is opposite the entrance tot eh westin front gate, Quinta dos something(The restaurant is part of a vineyard). Very reasonably priced, main course rqanging from 12 to 18 Euros. The Duck is certainly a hit, as is the fish pasta, and the octopus. We ended up eating there twice.
A note of warning in portugal every restaurant puts bread, butter, cheese olives, cured ham etc on the table before you have even ordered. These are charged extra and can cost up to 10 euros for a tiny plate of cured ham. Best to tell the waitwer to take it away, unless you like eating all those starters.
All in all a fantastic holiday, which we enhanced each day after the golf with cultural and sightseeing tours. We had a hire car for those, and that is well worth it, especially the GPS.
Aside from the restaurant, I loved this place and would even with the restaurant issue recommend it highly