This review is based on 3 factors:
1. Experience: my 20+ years global travel ranging from 5+ star hotels to B&Bs and backpackers;
2. Expectations of service and quality based on price paid (relative to other nearby options); and
3. Type of Stay: 5 days in a 2 bedroom beachfront Presidential Pool Villa Suite as a family of 5 (2A+3C) @ approximately $US1,000 p/n.
I have rated Sala Samui as "Average" based primarily on the (1) lack of 5-star service, (2) lack of value relative to other room types in the resort, and (3) quality of in-room fixtures/fittings.
1. Prior to arriving we requested a small birthday cake be provided in our room on arrival for our daughter since we had travelled from Europe and missed most of the day between time zones. The hotel provided a great meringue with candles as well as a bottle of sparkling wine for us which was very much appreciated.
2. Hotel pools were relaxing and inviting; especially considering we had our own large villa pool.
3. Security and grounds staff were always very friendly; providing warm "Sawadee ka/krub" greetings every time we passed them.
4. Sala restaurant is in a great open location and had a comfortable mediterranean furnishings. Jimme and Amanda from the Sala restaurant were very friendly and service oriented.
5. Wireless internet worked without issues during our stay (which is surprisingly not that common in the region).
1. Service from most staff (reception, restaurant and bar) was definitely not 5-star (note exceptions in points 3 and 4 above). Most staff seemed indifferent, were not personable and were did not seem interested in providing 5-star service. I find this more common in 3 and 4 star hotels that have less trained/empowered/happy staff.
2. No differentiated serviced based on premium room type. This was a big issue to me as there is only one Presidential Pool Villa Suite in the resort and it costs nearly double the next lower room type. In most 5-star resorts, guests staying in "Club" or "Premium" rooms are usually subtlety acknowledged, whether it be a simple "welcome back to breakfast this morning Mr ABC, would you like your Cappuccino again this morning?" or a personal greeting from the GM or duty GM offering any assistance during the stay. I would not expect any of these gestures if staying in a standard room. These are the small things that make a 5-star guest feel special which differentiates from 3 and 4 star resorts. It equally makes guests paying 2-3 times more for a room that extra bit special in the hotel.
3. There seemed to be too much furniture in the bedrooms which meant we constantly bumped into desks etc when going from the bedroom to the feature bathrooms. Other reviews seem to echo this comment. This could be easily fixed by removing the desk at the bedhead.
4. Restaurant staff (during dinner) did not know the menu or could not recommend dishes or wines. On several occasions I asked staff what they could recommend and they consistently looked at me blankly, read the menu in some detail, and quoted randomly one of the items on the menu.
5. Room fixtures and fittings need servicing. Push-down/up plugs in feature baths did not work on several occasions (even after advising housekeeping); Plumbing in one of the toilets was blocked for the duration of stay (even after advising housekeeping... who advised us not to use toilet paper... fair enough as we were in Asia and they did have a bidet hose.... however there were also 4 rolls of toilet paper next to the toilet which I am not sure what it was for if we weren't supposed to use it.).
6. Happy hour pricing policy was trivial and annoying. From 2-3pm and 5-7pm each day the resort widely promotes "2 for 1" happy hour pricing on all drinks (excluding wines and premium cocktails). This is limited to two identically drinks so when we requested one milkshake and one smoothy we were told they had to be the same drink. Equally, when we ordered a cocktail at 250 baht and another and 280 baht (30 baht = $US1 difference) we were told we would have to pay the full price for both as they were not identically drinks. I offered to pay the higher 280 baht price however was told I could not. This policy is trivial and annoying when you are paying good money for a room. Happy hour is not about the money saved; it is a gesture of appreciation to guests and also aimed at getting guests out and spending at the hotel not elsewhere.
7. Lot's of mosquito's: although the resort supplied mosquito coils in rooms, there was a persistent abundance of the annoying creatures (even for an Australian). We have stayed in other Koh Samui, Koh Phagnan and Koh Tao resorts at the same time of year and never experienced this number of mosquito's.
Overall: I can not recommend the Sala Samui Presidential Pool Villa Suite if you are expecting a true 5-star experience. My expectations may have been different if I was staying in a Garden Pool Villa at approximately $US300 per night; however this would not have addressed the lack of 5-star service issues mentioned above.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.