My wife and I have stayed at a couple dozen Four Seasons hotels, with our favorites being Hong Kong, Carmelo (Uruguay), and Lisbon. In fact, we came to FS-Marrakech after having stayed at FS-Lisbon. This is the first time I've given "only" four stars to a Four Seasons, but I want to be clear that it is still my preferred place to stay in Marrakech. As a relatively new (less than two years?) resort it just has a bit of work to do - much of which comes from experience.
First, the good. Architecturally it is a spectacular place, perhaps a bit modern for some, but very well executed. Like many people we contemplated staying at a five star hotel right in the Medina, but we're glad we didn't. Even in a relaxing luxurious riad the intensity can be felt, and it always felt good to take that 5-10 minute cab ride back to the Four Seasons calm oasis. We had dinner one night at the La Maison Arabe, which is also a great hotel, but I think we'd still stay at the FS.
Other items of note: the breakfast spread is fantastic, probably better than most FS we've stayed at (except Hong Kong, which is a bit over the top!). My wife had a massage and reported it was fantastic. The pools are incredible. Drinks in the bar were very tasty and laundry was perfect.
So where can it improve? Even with the "areas for improvement" I was going to still give this FS five stars until an incident on the last night. We got back from the Medina exhausted (more on why below) and just wanted a drink and a very light dinner. We loved the bar and we knew the bar waiter was great, so we sat down and ordered a drink. As we wanted a bit more than just bar food, we asked if we could order a simple salad from the restaurant that's immediately downstairs from the bar. The waiter checked with his manager, who said no - we'd have to actually "go to the restaurant during the hours the restaurant was open." It's the first time we've been told "no" at a FS, and even the waiter seemed a bit embarrassed. At the FS in Costa Rica we loved sitting in the lounge listening to live music while sampling food from the various restaurants. So this was a bit stunning, disappointing, and in my opinion the "killer of the five star rating." Sorry. Is it really that hard, or against policy, to bring a salad up one flight of stairs?
Other areas for improvement: we had a bad taxi experience on the last night. The FS called us a taxi to go to the Medina, and when we got there the taxi pawned us off on someone else to walk us a block into the souks, who then basically tried to extort us for a large amount of money. Really ruined the experience for my wife. I know the FS can't be entirely responsible, but they should probably vet some drivers and use those predominantly.
On a related note we took the FS courtesy car (a beautiful Range Rover, also used for airport pickups!) into the Medina one night, and it was very crowded. The FS driver became very frustrated, and finally just pulled to a stop a couple blocks away, opened the doors, and just pointed for us to get out and walk. We had no idea really where we were.
We booked the FS half-day tour of the Medina, which was really good... until the tour guide did everything possible to take us to specific stores where he was obviously going to get a commission. He could have been a bit more discrete - just pointing out the better stores and asking (once!) if we'd like to go in.
We booked the FS full day excursion to the berber village, and this was also really good. Except that we had told the concierge that we were vegetarian, and this wasn't communicated to the guide. Since there's a very interesting cooking class (where you're also expected to eat), this became a problem. Also - be aware (as the FS didn't make it clear) that the road is EXTREMELY winding, and on cliff edges, so it can be unnerving or even cause car sickness in some.
The dinner menu at the only restaurant, was surprisingly limited - especially for vegetarians like ourselves. We basically decided after the first night that we'd have to eat elsewhere. Again, in Costa Rica, we ate in hotel restaurants for 10 out of 11 nights, and I don't think we had the same thing twice. The waiter at was excellent though, and did his best to accommodate us.
The breakfast selection was very good, and the waiters were good, but every morning there appeared to be some chaos (with ourselves and several others) regarding the bills. It wouldn't arrive, was wrong, etc. Just not as "effortless and invisible" as at other FS.
The only other item of note is that this FS is considerable noisier than others, due to the stone floors and hallways that echo quite a bit. It was annoying the first day, but we got used to it after that. And, like we say with pretty much every FS review, we really wish this FS would follow the lead of FS-Singapore and have a "couples floor" (or section) - does a nice job of keeping things quiet.
Much of the above I'm guessing is growing pains, and soon will be worked out. And as I said at the beginning, we would definitely stay here again before anyplace else in Marrakech. And we loved Marrakech!
Oh, one final note. Recognizing the local customs, we tried to be respectful in terms of dress. My wife wore a scarf and long pants every day, even in the hotel. We were a bit surprised and embarrassed with the scantily-clad tourists in the Medina. The hotel is one thing (although we tried there too), but the Medina and especially religious areas is another.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Marrakech refreshed: Located adjacent to the Menara Gardens, just a five minute drive from the exotic energy of the ancient Medina, Four Seasons offers a fresh Moroccan perspective: a calming resort-hotel with a light Moroccan touch. The inspiring retreat combines an impressive spa, landscaped pools, gardens and event space with a contemporary design that augments the sense of airy luminosity. Welcoming and uplifting, the hotel offers couples, families and groups a stylish oasis within an intriguing ancient city. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Four Seasons Resort Marrakech Hotel Marrakech
- 4 Seasons Resort Marrakech