Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Slips in Service as Sheraton Samui Shapes Up

Saved by Service Recovery for Staggering Slip-up

As well as several smaller situations

Visited May 2015

View of the hotel pool and beach

Koh Samui is one of the resort islands in the Gulf of Thailand, arguably the most visited in that region, definitely contributed by the presence of an airport on the island itself.

For this trip, I flew via Silkair Business from Singapore to Koh Samui by redeeming my precious  Kirsflyer miles. The paid rates were going for SGD$800+ per person for economy!

The Silkair Business is definitely a regional product and way inferior to Singapore Airlines itself.

There was no inflight entertainment, unless you got your own device (a laptop or an iPad) to login the system for a few outdated movies and TV shows. The selection is so bad that I've decided to leave it out of this review. Trust me, it's bad. #firstworldproblems

The cabin crew is lovely as usual and we reached Koh Samui uneventfully.

 After landing, the Business Class passengers were allowed to board the first vehicle to the immigration while the rest has to wait.

The immigration queue is a nightmare, one of the worst in my experience so far.
Thankfully, we were allowed a premium counter which felt like a normal queue (about 10 people) in other airports in terms of speed and number of people.

The normal queue snaking all the way off the right side

Meanwhile, I was so glad I made the choice for Business which probably saved me an hour waiting for immigration clearance.

The airport is very small and there was only 1 belt for the luggage.

As you can see, there is still luggage on the left likely from the previous flight waiting for the owners stuck at immigration.

Taxis are near impossible in Koh Samui unless booked in advance. Therefore it is essential to go to the counter to ask for one. The prices to each location is listed on the stand as seen in the pictures.

After consulting the list, we confirmed the exact price to Sheraton Samui and soon we were on our way!

The hotel is near the oldest and best beach and was a re-brand from Imperial Samui. Thus the location is rather good and yet close to the airport.

Near Sheraton Samui is her sister luxury hotel, Vana Belle with nightly rates at about 5 times more.

Finally we reached the resort, which frankly isn't quite as impressive, but I convinced myself to relax and see how things go.

The lobby looked quite plain and we quickly walked up towards the front desk on the right.

Not luxurious, but not shabby either was my thought.

At this point, we were asked to go to the air-conditioned lounge to rest and then the staff would check us in at the lounge instead of the front desk.

That's nice...

And then even better when we were served a coconut each.

One of the coconuts wasn't very good actually as I now recall.

While waiting, I took a couple of pictures of the lounge and the lobby...



Lights around the central column of the lounge

Right at the end of the lounge, I can see the magnificent ocean just steps away...

 For those who like pools instead, one of the hotel pools is located right below the lounge.

Finally, the staff returned to us with the keys to our room and escorted us to the driveway.

The hotel as mentioned is on a slope and is quite big, so we were driven to our room a short distance away.

We were upgraded to a junior suite which was quite pleasant indeed. The junior suite is a long rectangle as seen on the plan.

The Junior Suite

The long shape actually made it look smaller than expected but for the price (about SGD$200 with breakfast) I thought it was ok.

Koh Samui is a resort island as well (like Bora Bora , Santorini and Maldives ) so high rates are not unexpected at all.

The balcony had a 'Jacuzzi' which I never did use but the view was not too bad.

Now I see more....

A lot of lush greenery and coconut trees (which Samui exports a lot of as I was reading on Wikipedia).

But now as I type this review, I see more things in the pictures I have taken.
The last picture above shows quite a lot of unfinished work and exposed pipes!

The room was still beautiful and comfortable nevertheless.

The colour scheme was a little off in my opinion, the blue carpet clashed with the yellow and earthly tones of the room.

However, the bathroom takes the top honours with the bright gaudy orange! The size was great and I simply love large bathrooms.

The recent trend of 'exhibitionism' in hotel rooms was evidently considered with a door opening into the room from the side of the tub.

The usual 'Shine' toiletries were used in this Sheraton.

One more picture, for the tech people, of the power outlet right at the side of the bed to charge the devices.

Walking around the Resort

After a nice rest in the room, I set out to explore the resort. As the re-branding was rather recent, I was expecting some teething problems and hoping for the best.

Therefore, I was not surprised to see some construction going on.

The more beautiful parts of the resort include the ponds and the fish, as well as the repainted buildings.

The Beach and the Ocean-side Pool

The beach and the pool next to it, I would say, are the redeeming features of the hotel.

The pool looks gorgeous in pictures but is actually quite shallow and not suitable to swim in.

The sand is fine and comfortable to walk on and the water was really clear.

When I returned to the room, a welcome gift was on the table. Unfortunately, I didn't like it very much.

Other places in the resort include the several restaurants and the spa, as well as the gym.
The most crowded one among these is the Blue Monkey by the beach.


To my dismay, this is the part where things started falling apart.

Food is one of Thailand's highlights, but this was not the case at Sheraton Samui.

The range of food was acceptable but there were certainly issues.

First, the food didn't taste or look really good. That's alright I was thinking, since the rate was fine.

Eggs were fine

Then there was this seafood dish with only squid and vegetables. (but labelled as mixed seafood)

While one can't tell from pictures, the breakfast cereals were soft and no longer crunchy.

Other Issues

The water temperature in the shower was erratic. Ranging from cold to very hot without turning the control. I did experience some skin damage from that.

The follow-up on service recovery after the stay was a little slow, but I decline to elaborate.

Towels that look like this should be taken out of service in my opinion.


The Worst Problem during the Stay

 The resort has a paid shuttle to the town centre where one, just one, shopping centre exists.

The hotel would send the shuttle at an agreed time to pick the guests back from the town centre.

All was well going out from the hotel.

At the pickup time, we were at the location informed and the shuttle did not arrive.

So we waited.

And the shuttle came about 10 mins late. Across the busy bi-directional road. We waved at the driver who turned off the engine and came down from the vehicle. He went for a very quick smoke behind the shuttle.

He finished and then started the engine without looking around.

Somehow, this didn't feel right and we attempted to cross the busy road.
Right then, he just drove off leaving us waving like lunatics.

Since the road was bi-directional, we thought he would make a turn back.
After 15mins, that didn't happen.

It was about 20 mins to the next scheduled time, but the shuttle would only come if other guests had booked it. So we took a chance and waited for another 20 mins. And it was futile.

We got a cab back eventually and saw the driver in the lobby.
Subjectively, he looked very unhappy, but my mood was bad so that's a factor.

Immediately we complained to the front desk who said a manager would get back to us.

The next day, after the breakfast which did not alleviate my mood, we spoke to the manager who told us the shuttle to the airport would be free as well the the shuttle the night before.

That was fair if the only issue was the shuttle. The poor food quality and my minor skin burn came to my mind and I asked the manager if free transport alone is acceptable.

Subsequently, the hotel got back to me a few weeks later with satisfactory compensation.

In Conclusion

I hope what I had experienced are just teething problems and the construction would complete soon.

The hotel has a lot of potential, that is, the location is great and the room is good. Food quality needs a major overhaul and certainly service which is much harder to improve.

Happy And Healthy Travels to all!


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