We were terribly disappointed with our experiences at the Polana. We stayed 4 nights so we feel we had fair basis on which to judge, not just a bad night or day. We also had spent a week in January at a wonderful 4 star hotel, a Sofitel, in Flic-en-Flac Mauritius, and were looking forward to an even better experience at the highly recommended Polana.
Transfers from airport. Even though transfers confirmed the Polana did not have person at airport with our name to meet us. After looking around for a while we found Polana driver with name board for someone else. We convinced him that we were expected and were taken to minibus. The people he had been sent to collect never pitched up. My guess is that someone messed up the names.
Reception areas were pretty good and what I expected from a grand old 5 star hotel. Well maintained, all first class, nice mix of new and old.
Our room, a standard double, was very poor. Very basic, tired worn furniture 60’s or 70’s style, despite description of room on web nothing African nor colonial. Really, I have stayed in better 2 star hotel rooms. TV supposedly 14 channels – well that’s what the channel card lying next to the TV claimed. About 5 at most worked, sometimes as little as 2, channels even shifted. Fridge did not work at all. When we pointed it out there was a slight improvement the next day – the freezer section now got slightly cold but fridge section still dysfunctional. On last morning, freezer froze solid, and fridge now very cold. Tea/coffee/water supplies. Sometimes we got supplies, sometimes we did not, some supplies replaced, others not. We had to ask repeatedly. On first night it was very cold and there were no additional blankets in cupboard. So I phoned housekeeping and asked that two be sent up. One arrived, so I asked for another. Part of problem was that airconditioning worked very well, too well. This could be a recommendation if you are visiting Maputo in Jan, but not at end April. And there were no individual controls to switch off or vary the temperature. Bathroom atrocious for 5 star hotel. Bath with shower curtain. All in need of refurbishment. Bathroom supplies erratic. No shampoo on arrival, two days later we got. No facecloths on arrival, 3 days later we got. I have had better bathrooms in 2 star hotels. On plus side towels were replaced up to twice a day and Orlando, night turndown service, very friendly and hardworking. You may be thinking that better rooms would have been different. We spoke to an Australian couple, staying in a superior double, who shared our opinions. Their experiences virtually mirrored ours – only improvement was that their bathroom was a little better. And when we checked out we passed an open suite so popped in for a quick look around. Very much more spacious, additional pieces of furniture, but décor as tired and dated as ours. There is also another part of the hotel pas the hotel and with better seaviews. We popped in to this part, looked around, and peeped in an empty room. This part is much more modern, has definitely African décor and is light years ahead of the main section of the Polana. During our stay we also picked up a reference that the Polana rooms were going to be refurbished from mid/late 2008. Nice, but too late for us, too late for you if you plan to stay there soon, and way too late for a 5 star hotel. In my experience of luxury hotels, refurbishment is regular and frequent, and is planned even before the décor and finishes start looking a little tired, not 15 years afterwards.
Bar service was slow, very slow. At most there were twelve people in the room, normally about six, but one practically had to beg to get a cocktail menu or wine list or the bill. Barmen did not approach us to find out what we wanted, nor did they come back to us so we could order another round. We got the impression that barmen would not address women as my wife was virtually ignored by barmen, and Australian woman said she sat by the pool one day for 5 hours, when her husband was away for the day on business, without any barman or waiter approaching her to find out if she wished to place an order. Also, very few female hotel employees. Of the people we saw, perhaps 5% were female – one on reception and a few of the breakfast waitresses.. This could be a cultural thing, but surely it has no place in a 5 star hotel catering for international guests. Barmen/waiters were surly – we tried hard with one and eventually got him to smile but when we saw him again 10 minutes later he had reverted to surliness.
Coffee shop – same old, same old. Surly waiters, difficult to get service, generally had to call a waiter to get menu, drinks replenished, the bill. There were never any enquiries about whether we were happy with drinks, cake, snacks, or light meals. The cakes on offer were nothing like the photo on website or brochure. On the plus side, the prawn salad is excellent. Only 4 ingredients but nevertheless excellent.
Breakfast buffet – same old, same old. Service very poor, plates not cleared, slow with offer of tea or coffee,replacement cutlery not supplied. After a while, we got tired of asking and just helped ourselves from surrounding empty tables – easier, quicker, but not what one would expect. Nothing offered nor explained. After first two days we noticed an omelette station outside on a patio, and also saw that other guests requested eggs other than scrambled. But nothing offered nor explained. On plus side, the breakfast buffet food was very good. All food quality topnotch and range was impressive.
Dinner – as a result of poor breakfast experience we never bothered to try restaurant for dinner and ate out instead at various restaurants. That suited us and I think it may have suited the Polana as well. Our overall experience of the hotel was that no staff wanted to serve their guests and would have been happiest if they had no guests at all as guests were clearly an inconvenience best avoided. Now this was not our experience elsewhere in Mozambique so I presume Polana has trained their staff this way.
Pool service non existent. Waiters very rarely wandered past on the fringes trying to ignore eye contact with guests and gestures from guests. One had to either accost a waiter, blocking their way, or shout and wave like a mad thing, to get acknowledgement. Refer again, in bar service para above, to experience of Australian woman. Used towels not cleared away and replenished. Manners and guest contact of security staff around pool was truly bizarre. When we walked from the hotel towards the pool there was this chap in a uniform who blocked our way and demanded to know where we were going. The first few times we were a bit put out and surprised so actually replied. On later days we, and other guests, got increasingly annoyed with his attitude and some of the replies, which cannot be repeated here, were foul inventive and, in retrospect, amusing but were totally wasted on the Gestapo guard. Part of the problem was language which I accept but this guard is in urgent need of some training in how to deal with and talk to guests.
One day we booked a day tour through the hotel and were advised to request a packed breakfast. We did so and were told very specifically what would be in the pack – sandwiches, a pastry, fruit juice, and a piece of fruit. Actual pack bore little resemblance to what we had been told. Not that important but another example of the hotel not knowing what they were doing, and/or not caring.
Transfers to airport. Not leaving anything to chance, we confirmed transfers on penultimate day at Guest Relations. We were assured that our transfers had been booked for 2pm the next day. At 11am on the next day we checked out and by chance, asked some insignificant question about the transfers. Big surprise – the Polona did not have us listed for transfer to the airport. By this time nothing surprised us – we shrugged our shoulders, rebooked the transfers, and thanked our lucky stars that we had discovered the lapse in plenty of time.
Speaking to various other guests, I have to say that their experiences were similar and all shared our views. One American lady said that the Holiday Inn was better situated and its rooms were far superior, service levels much better, but its public areas not as grand as the Polana. This we did not need to hear as our travel agent had offered us the Polana or the Holiday Inn. I also saw billboards for other 4 star hotels and cannot believe that they could have been any worse than the Polana. My advice, stay clear of the Polana until
- after the refurbishment has been completed (this should result in major improvement even if they only get 75% of it right)
- you hear that service has been improved immeasurably
In my opinion, it would be very difficult to do worse. Stay anywhere else. I was going to send this directly to Polana management but then decided on Trip Advisor as I have in the past relied on them for hotel reviews. Unfortunately in this case we booked our trip hurriedly without careful research – If I had referred to Trip Advisor before our booking I would have seen that many of our complaints are confirmed by other reviews.
Apologies for the wordy review - hope it is of benefit to you!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The “Grand Dame” of Africa, as the Polana Serena Hotel is widely known, is a must-see historical landmark when talking about the city of Maputo. The elegance and splendour of its façade are the living memory of bygone colonial times; its luxurious interiors whisper stories of the many generations who spent nights protected by the hotel’s majestic walls, kings and queens, ambassadors and presidents, princesses and common travellers; its gardens, perfect and romantic lookouts offer a breathtaking view over the Indian Ocean.Built in 1922 in the heart of Maputo, one of the most exclusive residential areas, the Polana Serena Hotel belongs to the elite of the most famous hotels in the world. The splendor of its colonial lines blend tradition and art, making your stay an unforgettable journey through the past, looking to the future. Faithfull to the Serena Group philosophy of integrating architecture with cultural heritage, the Polana Serena Hotel offers a mix of elegance, grandeur and ethnicity, in a space equipped with the most modern solutions, luxurious facilities and excellent service. ... more less
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