Not another Review!!

Not another review! What makes this different? Well, for starters, the person(s) reviewing stuff here are people who grew up in a world thats far removed from "the Reviews on Gruyere cheese and Asparagus..." In other words,
1. We love Amul butter - the salted yummy thing better than all the 'sophisticated' imported butter in the world!
2. We love the gooey, drippy sweetness of Indian sweets
3. We have, at some point in our lives, ate spoonfulls of Milkmaid conensed milk - right out of the can
4. We understand food and wine pairing (Courtesy the persistent lecturers in Hotel mgmt college), but would rather have chilled beer or the exotic looking potent cocktail with our spicy chicken tikkas or fish fries
5. Prefer to use words like 'delicate' for silks and 'sharp' for tools... NOT food!
6 Are dying find product which make lives easier for working mothers, wives, girlfriends or considerate (also read that as hen pecked) husbands and boyfriends!

So go on... pour your heart out about stuff you liked or hated!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ronil Beach Resort Goa - A review

The organization I work with has presence in over 150 locations in the country, which means there are often sudden SOS travel plans that are required to be done. The presence of an uber-efficient admin department ensures that the tickets miraculously get booked, accommodation and cabs are waiting to receive you, and much of the heartburn associated with official travel is taken care of.

One such split second travel plan was made to Goa. (consider my plight - I reach Goa after a murderous 3 hour flight from Delhi, rush in and out of meetings, and virtually drag myself into bed - only to rush out of Goa the next day - its GOA we're talking about people - and I didn't even seen the damn beaches!!).

Anyway, the closest hotel to the unit I was supposed to visit was a place misleadingly called 'Ronil Beach Resort' - I say misleading, because the beach is nowhere to be seen, and it was hardly a 'resort'. As I have said many times over, the product is important; but much more important is what you do with the product - the service.

In my usual style - the review, ladies and gents:

  • Location : this is Goa we're talking about. Throw a pebble into the air and it will land on a hotel or a home stay. So I would much rather go to a place that has a beach within walking distance. And a place that has access to many other food joints - especially seafood! This resort is located a little away from the beach, and is also a tad difficult to locate if your driver is not a local guy. Also, if you do not have a car, going to any other food joint is impossible, and you are pretty much at the mercy of the hotel chefs (more on that later).

  • Rooms : Well, lets just say that the first room that was given to me, I was aghast, and after a few screaming friendly threats, I was shown another room, in a similarly sad state, but cleaner. The place looked like the owner was just milking the resort without actually investing anything back. Once upon a time the resort would have been a pretty place, with rooms and balconies that overlooked the pool. But today, it needs renovation, and prayers.

  • Service : After 11 pm and before 7.30 am, don't expect your phone calls to the reception to be picked up. And God forbid if you need an early breakfast - in the words of the service staff, "The breakfast starts at 7.30 am. And 7.30 means 7.30." (complete with crossed arms and grumpy face). A sucker for trouble, I decide to see if "7.30 means 7.30..." And guess what - 7.45 am and the chef walks in whistling a tune, hands in his pocket, unaware of the smoke coming out of my ears. I grabbed a knife and stabbed him on his paunch spread some marmalde on a slice of bread (I had a long day ahead, you know! And one shouldn't take out anger on the food....) and then stomped out of the restaurant, and checked out immediately! At the reception, I thought I'd pour my woes out to the grandfatherly Front Office Executive, and he simply said, "Whatever you want to say, you can write in this remarks book." Yeah right! As if the report would reach the right person! In fact, as if the 'right person' cared!!

  • Facilities : The pool was clean. The washroom was clean. (in need for maintenance, but clean). Don't expect fluffy towels and feather soft beds - these are worn out too. Clean, yes. No toiletries to boast of. Luckily I carry my own.... the ones kept in the washroom were not in any sense of the word, appealing.
Verdict : For a rack rate of over Rs. 3500 for a standard room, which can go up to Rs 7000 in season time (October to Feb), this is a place I'd not be venturing into if someone held a gun to my head!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The final verdict of the Resort

Sometimes the trick to an excellent customer service experience is to lower expectations, and then prove the expectation wrong. The only problem with this strategy is that there may be a huge dent on the goodwill of the organization.

Case in point : remember the dude with the crazy telephone etiquette in an earlier post about a resort?

Well some amount of coaxing and lets-see-how-bad-could-it-be kind of spirit (which I suspect is largely due to the fact that G and I just had to get out of Delhi before we shot each other) made us take that daring trip last weekend. And voila! here is the report - as I experienced it.

Ramnagar, a quaint city in Uttarakhand (famous as the railhead for Corbet) is a few hours by train (we started at 10.40 pm from Delhi, and we reached at 5.00 am). At Ramnagar station, we had our cab waiting for our resort in Corbet (10 kms away), as was promised to us while booking. (The first hint of a smile on G's face told me this was good!). The cab was neat, clean, and working perfectly fine, and the driver was a well mannered fellow. (G had started humming by now).

We reached the Club Mahindra Corbet Resort in the wee hours of the morning, and was greeted by a tired looking, but smiling receptionist, who was not in the least like the guy we encountered on the phone. G's look said 'Really? Is this the same place?'

We were checked in pronto, and were even given a choice of room. We were two families - four adults and four kids (between ages 9 and 5). The excitement of the swings and the slides placed strategically in a garden took the sleep out of their eyes, and we had no complaints about waiting for a few minutes while the bell desk collected our baggage.

Location : After checking in, we walked a few minutes, after which we could hear the unmistakable sound of water flowing. All of us looked at each other (much like Christopher Columbus might have done so when he saw shore) with a glint that said "River!"..... The resort is located right on the banks of the Kosi river, and our room was right over the gurgling river. Ofcourse, there was barbed wire fencing (with a warning from the management not to venture into the river) that took care of any curious toddler going right into the river. Over the next two days (and nights) the river was a constant awe-inspiring view.

view from room

Room : Classy, contemporary, and spacious. Straight lines, wood, stone and glass everywhere. Huge bay windows in both the bedroom and the living space. A kitchenette with microwave, toaster, kettle, tea / coffee supplies, crockery, cutlery, bowls and other nick-knacks such as peeler, knife, bottle opener etc. Everything one could possibly need. Clean linen, super-soft beds (five star classification requires a certain mattress thickness - this was adhered to), and a no-nonsense, clean bathroom. Minimal toiletries, but then these days most of us prefer to carry our brands with us - so this is only a small minus. Superb shower head though. (in the words of my luxury-crazed 5 year old - "Feels like someone is giving you a massage")

Of course, after a few minutes of taking in the beauty of the place, we all crashed right into bed, waking up barely to be able to make a quick trip to local sightseeing points.

The swimming pool is splendid. Sparkling clean; and pretty soon you know why - The lifeguard keeps an eagle eye on the people venturing into the pool - whether they have showered or not, whether the ladies with long hair are wearing a shower cap (I was forced to wear one too, which I did so sulking, till G told me how this rule would have kept the pool hair-free and more hygienic).

But the guy crossed the line when he walked up to my 5 year old and told him he had to wear 'huggies' if he wanted to enter the pool. When I looked at him incredulously, he promptly proceeded to explain to me what 'huggies' was. This caused a few irritable minutes of pool-side action (where I challenged the guard to get me a diaper for 5 year olds, and a lot of other unpleasant things) after which the Entertainment Manager (yup! they have a designation like that) apologised and told me to just ensure the kid had his trip to the bathroom before he entered the pool. Again, erring on the side of caution for hygiene never killed anyone, eh?

The pool
Late afternoons are for activities. There was water zorbing, Burma bridge, spider web, table tennis, pool table, caroms, and for the more active ones - some village game (this time it was 'seven tiles')

The evenings are lively in the resort. Every night they have a different cultural activity. We were there for two nights, on the first night we had a DJ and a sweet chap teaching the kids how to dance with easy steps. My little one dancing is a sight I would laugh to, years later too. Of course, how could Mommies be far behind? The second night was a Kumaoni night, showcasing the kumaoni dance and music. This too, ended with all the guests attempting the Ghadwali dance style. And a competition for the kids.

The kids lined up for a competition - the dude in yellow shoes and the girl in white behind him are mine!

Food : There are buffets for the members, and a-la-carte dining for the others.There is also a riverside open grill, which smells great. Food was mostly okay, with the exception of breakfast. Breakfast was a surprise - I haven't had such an authentic South Indian breakfast outside of the region of its origin!

Service :
Every evening, the kids couldn't wait to get back into the rooms - reason? The housekeeping staff would have made lovely elephants with the towels on the beds. The housekeeping staff were the best - quiet, efficient and very observant. Needless to say, our rooms were cleaned thoroughly each day.

Elephants waiting for a hug!

Similarly, the Restaurant and Room Service staff would go out of their way ensure you get what you want. There is also a little grocery shop within the resort, which stocks bread, soft drinks, cup-a-noodles etc. so that you can have prepare a quick snack in your room. (all this at MRP). A special mention for the chef, who thoughtfully sent us packed sandwiches for our journey back - which was a life saver for a bunch of hungry kids in the back of an Innova.

In short, this trip was like a knock on my head, reminding me never, never to judge a book by its cover - in this case, a resort by the first chap who picked up your call!

Trip Highlight : Full moon shining on the river, lush green grass at your feet, kids asleep after exhausting themselves, G and I holding hands.