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A weekend at the Hilton

Posted: January 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

Just before Christmas, the Lady and I went to the Hilton Trinidad’s annual media brunch, which is held in the still lovely La Boucan Restaurant every December. I’ve gone to the brunch before with the Lady (who I think was featured in Talk of Trinidad wielding a large knife and fork and attacking some suckling pig with gusto while Ali Khan, Hilton’s charming general manager, looked on in wonder). It is usually fun and this year was no different. We got there very, very late but still managed to hear the awards Ali Khan and his staff gave out for media coverage over the past year. I also snagged some excellent sushi and ceviche and all the dessert on offer. Yum.

At the end of the awards, guests were invited to reach under their chairs to find freebies from the hotel–ranging from dinner to brunch and weekends for two. The Lady and I were alone at our table, thanks to being so late, and she found a voucher for the weekend for two. We immediately started plotting how we were going to take advantage of the gift.

Now, you need to know two things: one, I would share out the gifts I got as a journalist (almost always, anyway), in order to keep myself more or less honest; and two, I no longer work in the daily media so there is little chance of the Hilton getting me to give them good publicity except on this sadly neglected blog or my Facebook page. I thought about these things while the Lady was dancing with glee at winning her gift voucher and decided to let her accept it.

While I was a reporter I was privileged to travel for work many times. The publication of Trinidad Noir has also taken me to various destinations and my big sister’s kindness has, too. I’ve stayed in some really rubbish hotels but I’ve also stayed at some really nice ones: the Churchill in DC, the Kura Hulanda in Curacao, el Conquistador in Puerto Rico, for example. The Lady hasn’t been around as much as I in the hotel department but her aunty used to call the San Juan Ritz-Carlton her club, so there was a certain expectation in mind when she thought “hotel”.

I’ve stayed at relatively few hotels in Trinidad and Tobago, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Hilton. My stay at the Tobago Hilton some years ago was nondescript so I was keeping my hopes around “clean and comfortable”. I was pleasantly surprised to open the door of our room to find this:

Though we had a room behind the pool–more on that in a bit–and, therefore, no view, the room itself was delicious. The shower, which I didn’t take a picture of, featured one of those rain showerheads, and the La Source guest shampoo and bodywash were heavenly and luxurious. I was also pleasantly surprised at the sharp room service, because as we all know Trinidad’s customer service usually sucks big time. Jai, who brought us breakfast the first morning, was quick, friendly and helpful. And breakfast was grand–giant plates of fruit, toast, croissants, danish, muffins, a mushroom and sweet pepper omelette, scrambled eggs and more bacon than we ought to eat in a week.

Seeing that her main reason for wanting to come to the Hilton was to use the pool (room service was second on the list of things she wanted that weekend), the Lady jumped in Friday afternoon, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. I have to say the pool was the nadir of our stay: its filter seemed to be broken so workmen had to insert a portable one every day and once it spilled its contents back into the water during its extrication. Yuck. The whole area behind the pool is blocked off by a wooden paling because it is under renovation. To get to the lobby or pool guests on our wing had to walk through the whole hotel because the door on that wing is closed until the renovations are done. None of that deterred the Lady from having a good time but since I spent most of the weekend poolside on a lounger I had a lot of time to contemplate those unpleasant features.

Another low point was the service at breakfast on our last morning. Breakfast was served in the Poolside Restaurant and the food, served buffet-style, was tasty and unlimited–but the service was appalling. I had asked the rushed maitre d’ for a cup of tea since there was no waiter in evidence; he eventually had to serve me himself when I went looking for it, cup in hand. Only two waiters seemed to be on duty, even though there was a line of at least twenty people by the door when we left the packed dining room.

However, these considerations aside, the weekend was marvelous. I never knew there were such friendly CSRs in Trinidad as the ones at the front desk, and I was really pleased by how elegant and luxurious our standard room was. I’d recommend the hotel to anyone–as long as they don’t plan to do much swimming.