New Kid on the block... 45 Park LaneBy Terence Ronson - Hospitality Professional, Technology Consultant, Public Speaker and Inventor
Good Afternoon Mr. Ronson we've been expecting you - was the unexpected yet pleasant greeting I received from the Doorman of the newly opened 45 Park Lane as I told him my name while handing over my luggage upon arrival at the Hotel.
Opened just three days ago on September 1st, 45 Park Lane is the latest addition to the Dorchester Collection and is appropriately located on the adjacent block to the original Dorchester Hotel - in Park Lane, London.
I have fond memories of the Dorchester where I spent one summer working in their Pastry department, while still at College during my earlier years training to be a Chef. At a pinch, you could say I'm an ex employee.
Although check-in time is officially 3pm, my wife and I were anxious to get settled into our accommodations, and so took a chance at arriving a tad early. We were nicely surprised when the Receptionist said we could be roomed, and graciously escorted us to the 3rd floor, where our room 4533 - was located directly opposite the elevator - hmm I thought as we arrived at the door. However, just before leaving the Lobby, our Host explained that their signature restaurant "CUT" by Wolfgang Puck - whom we had just missed as he was there for the opening - was having his first foray into Europe with this establishment - and suggesting we give it a try. I told her that we'd been to his premiere restaurant - Spago in LA - thanks to some friends of ours, so likely we would give this one a miss. She also pointed out that just up the stairs was what promised to be London's latest hangout - their Lounge Bar.
Incidentally, all rooms are numbered 45xx where 45 is the hotel name, and the next two digits relate to the floor and room number.
Just as our Host was about to open the door, a Housekeeper popped her head round the corner and said that the cleaner had not quite finished, and that the room would be another few minutes, politely suggesting we go away and come back.
So, ushered back into the elevator we proceeded to the Lobby and entertained with some complimentary drinks. I must say this unfortunate incident was well handled, and honestly speaking, I preferred to wait for the room to be fully ready, rather than go in, and as I often do - find faults.
The surroundings in which we waited were very pleasant. The Lobby is nicely appointed and has several interesting art deco objects intermixed with very comfy Connolly leather chairs that gave-off a wonderful new luxury car smell.
After about 10 minutes, a Host approached us and further apologized for the delay - saying they have a few tech issues with the room and need about another 20 minutes to fix them. We agreed that would not be an issue - although my intrigued peaked as to what they could be.
Finally the time came to go to the room, and we were once again escorted - this time making it though the door into the spacious and luxurious surroundings.
One of the first things of note apart from the Welcome Fruit amenity complete with a banana and some figs, and a huge wall mounted B&O TV, was the temperature of the room - which I personally found to be uncomfortably hot. Incorrectly believing that could quickly be addressed later, we proceeded with the check-in process and small tour of the room facilities.
As part of the rooming process, pointed out to us were the three Alcatel-Lucent touch screen phones - one on each side of the bed and another on the desk, and how one would use these to basically control all of the tech functionality in the room - A/C, curtains, lights. This was going to be fun I thought. Then I was shown where the Teleadapt connectivity panel was (not the cables), plus the safe and hair dryer. Also pointed out was the mini-bar and Nespresso machine - at which point we were asked if we would like to have a coffee - I declined the offer.
We thanked the Host for her assistance and she left, saying she could be contacted by phone if required. The luggage arrived quickly, and finally we were on our own. It was now time to analyze the room.
First thing first, was to try and cool the room down - and by using the Touch phone which is interfaced to the Control4 Room Control system and Lutron Lighting system, I adjusted the required temp to 20c from where it was being unbelievably indicated as 59c.
Next on my mental to-do list, was to walk through the room exploring the different facilities, while taking photos as a permanent record.
The first discovery was a most pleasant one - the mineral water and fruit juices in the minibar were supplied with the hotel's compliments. However, the Coconut water - my real favorite, was not. It's a pity that that wooden door attached to the front cover of the mini-bar would not close properly after opening. Never mind I thought, the Housekeeper will discover this during turn down service and fix it.
Next was the surprise of finding of an unsecured inspection panel covering the Room Control System - the brains controlling the room. This was a fascinating discovery and the photos will show you just how much investment was made into this complex system. And it was at this juncture where I had to ask my wife to take a look at this discovery and see for her self what I had found - not just the open door, but also the builder's rubble on the floor and left over cable shielding and various miscellaneous pieces of rubbish. Although it's not the first time for me to find such a mess at a newly opened hotel, I was quite surprised as the room was otherwise very clean. After all, they had already been open for a few days before we checked-in, the room was cleaned after being handed back by the Contractors, and then I understand there was a 2-week simulation period where the room should have also been used - I think, as well as snagged/critiqued and cleaned - anyway, more on that later.
Next up was the bathroom - complete with double vanity, separate WC with mobile phone shelf, Shower and nice sized bathtub. Pity we were not to have enough time to enjoy all of the facilities. The (Electric Mirror) Bathroom TV was a nice touch and the mood lighting worked well. Absent from the Vanity area of the bathroom was a hook where I could hang my wash bag - so I was forced to suspend it from the illuminated shaving/makeup mirror - not really a great option - just more out of desperation.
Thinking about working in the room, I then setup my notebook on the desk and connected it to the concealed power sockets - they did not work. I tried a couple of other devices, alas with same result, so I stretched my power cable to the connectivity panel embedded into the side unit under the TV - they worked. The power socket arrangement at the desk is interesting; there are two GB sockets, one US 125V socket and one European type connection. Oh yes, there is also a fax port. Do people still use fax?
For some reason I could not connect to the Wi-Fi - but was able to get online with the wired connection at the desk. So I just created my own Wi-Fi network by sharing the Ethernet connection from my MacBook Pro. The Hotel has a strange charging policy - 24hours = GBP19.50, but you can get a free 1-month connection with 192kbps (see screenshot), so I opted for the free one. No one explained the difference, or limitations. I was just happy to save the twenty quid.
The TV worked well - with quite a few FTG channels, and a fairly good selection of PPV movies and on-screen Internet - all of course chargeable through the iBahn etvi system.
It was now time to go out and meet some friends across town - so we went back to the Lobby and I reported three things at the Reception desk:
- Mini-bar door
- Desk power
I don't recall the lady apologizing when I mentioned these, just saying they would send an engineer - and we left.
Returning around 11pm, we stopped off for a quick nightcap in the 1st floor bar, and then headed up to the room. I noticed some of the Executive Management was also there taking a late supper. My wife was treated to a comp sip of locally distilled Vodka, which the Barman explained was made just round the corner. Nice touch, and the almonds were delicious.
Arriving at the room door, I inserted the key in to the lock only to have it rejected, I tried again - same problem so I tried the 2nd one - no luck. So we headed back down to Reception for a new key - lucky our room was by the lift, and it was only three floors to Reception, which was also situated just by the Lift on the Ground Floor. The lady receptionist said I must have placed them near my mobile phone or credit cards - which I had not, but even if I had done so - they should not have become unusable and she should not have chastised me for doing so. Oddly, as she was just about to cut the new keys, she asked me for my room number, although it was clearly written on the key cardholder I gave her. I guess she was just flustered...
So, back to the room we went, this time escorted by another Host just to make sure we could get in, and all was good.
By this time the room felt a bit cooler, but still warm. The room had been serviced and a small plate of chocolates left for us. I don't eat chocolates but my wife said they were nice - so that's ok.
A single bottle of water and glass was placed on one side of the bed, yet there were two of us - I guess we were meant to share....
The mini-bar door had been fixed, but when we opened it to get a bottle of cool water - the same issue happened with the door - meaning there must be a design defect.
Power had been restored to the sockets at the desk, as well as and the illuminated vanity mirror built into the desk, so an engineer had definitely been to the room - but he had not closed the floor inspection panel by the desk. I later noticed that some of the rubbish materials left by the inspection cabinet had been removed - some that is, not all.
Getting into bed, and figuring out how to control the lights and other services was very difficult. Often the buttons were non-responsive when depressed, and when they did work - the response time for the actual function to take place, was fairly delayed. One time, the desk unit auto re-booted with the process taking about three minutes to complete as it cycled through the six-stage process.
One of the things I could not work out, was how to just switch on the desk lamp, and no other light - allowing me to work during the night, while not disturbing my wife. I also could not figure out easily how from a totally darkened room, how to just switch on a low light to get to the bathroom. I guess I should have just used the reading light affixed to the side of the bed.
During the night, there were several odd sounds in the room - like clicks and beeps, which we think were emanating from the Emergency Broadcast speaker - but could not be sure. We both heard it, and remarked about it after waking in the morning.
Still trying to cool the room down, I played with the wall mounted control panel, only to discover that although the day and month were correct, the year showed 1972. Looking at the phone, which should have had the same information, the date and time were correct - how bizarre!
The Nespresso machine worked well, although my wife could not have her usual Green Tea in bed since there was no Kettle. She had to settle for plain water.
Taking a shower was very pleasant - although a little unusual. The water pressure was good, and oversized amenities nice - excuse us, but we took the excess with us. But what we both noticed was the very soft water and how it was difficult to know if you had actually removed all the soap - ones skin just felt so smooth. I guess we are just used to hard water in Asia.
All good things must come to an end, and it was time to check out - so we headed downstairs. I asked my wife to take a seat again in the nice comfy leather chairs while I handled the formalities. During the checkout process there appeared to be some problem printing a copy of my folio, and while that was taking place, I was approached by a lady standing in front of the Reception counter who graciously, yet embarrassingly (for me) introduced herself as Marie-Laure Akdag - Hotel Manager.
Somehow I guessed this was who she must be, and frankly hoped she would not want to have to long discussion due to the preceding experience of what had happened upstairs. Anyway, when she asked if we had enjoyed our stay I simply replied, "It was interesting", and did not go into detail. Of course, she could not have asked if we'd stayed there before, but did inquire if we would be returning, to which I replied, "That may be a possibility..." and we left it at that.
Date of stay - 3rd/4th September 2011
(c) Terence Ronson ISHC
Note: Due to various Government's controls of the Internet, some of the hyperlinks in this BLOG may not function.
Terence Ronson is the Managing Director of Pertlink Limited. Now residing in Manila after almost two decades in Hong Kong, Terence launched his diversified hospitality career as a chef, later holding various general management positions with well-known hotels in the UK and Asia. In the mid-80s he developed his penchant for technology, and in 2000 started Pertlink Ltd., (Hong Kong) a hospitality technology consultancy, becoming as well the Technology Editor for HOTELS Asia Pacific and authoring since then numerous industry-related articles. In 2001, CNN's eBizasia program featured him for his innovative work at Rosedale on the Park Hong Kong, the first cyber boutique Hotel. It was at that point he originated the first hotel app – HOTELINMYHAND. Terence also helped Langham Place Hong Kong win many accolades for its technology deployment as well as various other well-known hotels across Southeast Asia. In China, Terence was heavily involved in establishing and delivering the IT strategy for Jumeirah Himalayas (Shanghai), Puli (Shanghai), Sofitel Wanda (Beijing), and Guoman (Shanghai). He also participated in the development of the technology vision for Disney Shanghai and Tangula Luxury Train. Terence often chairs and speaks at global industry events and sits on various advisory boards, in addition to holding a Visiting Lecturer position at Hong Kong Polytechnic. He is a CHTP (Certified Hospitality Technology Professional) and runs an active hotel technology blog.Guestroom TechnologyEuropeUnited KingdomLondon