CHECK IN: Impressive, cool and airy reception with amazing carved woodwork and floor tiling. Greeted by the charismatic doorman, Youssef in his long flowing robe. Refreshing towel and drink (made from local fruit - mbuya) Efficient check in.
ROOM: Prime sea-facing room (22) on the first floor. A good sized room with shuttered windows and door, full of character, elegant and comfortable and reflecting Arab/Indian influence. Ample storage space and mirrors. The queen sized bed is elegantly draped with a mosquito net. Good, quiet air conditioning. Excellent sleep quality overall. Marble bathroom with a walk in shower, good quality towels and toiletries. Exceptionally clean and the room is decked with jasmines in the evening. The BEST feature of the room is its L shaped balcony with seating in two areas and a hammock. One side overlooks the Zanzibar Channel with its daily traffic of dhows and fishing boats and the side balcony has partial views of the sea and views of the sunken gardens. Stunning views of sunset! TIP: For people with mobility problems the ground floor rooms would be more suitable as there are no lifts. For the very best of sea views and total 'privacy' book one of the two rooms above Room 22 on the second floor.
RESTAURANT: The main comfortable and well designed restaurant with great sea views serves good quality food. Breakfast experience was a sheer pleasure. A variety of fresh exotic fruits, juices, cereals, breads, pastries, cooked meals, eggs etc are on offer.The Serena is one of the few hotels to offer Zanzibari breakfast dishes such as madafu (palm coconut juice), breads such as vitumbua (made from rice flour and coconut), mandazi, mbaazi (pigeon peas in coconut sauce), plantain and cassava dishes (sweet and savoury), millet porridge, spiced succulent octopus and chicken livers. Many guests missed out on this culinary experience because they were 'unsure'. The hotel should try to promote this experience by explaining what the dishes are.
Snacks are served all day by the pool side and in the coffee shop. A tad overpriced by local standards.
Room service was excellent. Hot, freshly made food, well presented and on time.
There is an exclusive seafood restaurant. Reservation is necessary. This is a roof top restaurant with about 5 tables al fresco. A set menu costs 50 dollars a head and an average bottle of wine (mainly South African) about 30 dollars. Contrary to the good reviews we had a very poor experience of dining here. There isn't much of an ambiance - except for cool sea breeze and the sound of the sea. Service was pleasant but rushed. The food was a great disappointment with the exception of the appetizer (a choice of 5). The prawns (3) in paprika were tasty and the homebaked foccacia was good. Second course included either lobster bisque or Thai soup - average. For the main course (a choice of 7 ) we opted for the lobster thermidor - over cooked and over salted. This was served with oversalted spinach and rice - our dishes went back to the kitchen, unfinished...A platter of 5 cheeses was also returned - the cheese was off and looked most unappealing. Dessert (a choice of 7)continued to disappoint. My creme caramel with caramelised banana was a joke! A layer of half cooked local banana was covered with a thin layer of the creme caramel. The caramelised banana was a local banana doused in maple syrup. My partner's tiramisu was not consumed. We did not stay for the tea/coffee. Our concerns were lodged at reception. The next day we had a complimentary bottle of wine and a platter of tropical fruits. Much appreciated. Perhaps our dining experience was not typical - chef having a bad day?
On Friday night there is a swahili dinner al fresco with a live band near the pool. A good experience and an enjoyable dining experience.
FACILITIES: The Serena makes excellent use of all the space and the Arab/Indian influence in the architecture and furnishings and arefacts is a constant reminder of one's presence in Zanzibar. The gardens are restful and there are hideaways and swings etc. The pool is inviting. Shisha lounge near the sunken gardens. Games room including local game of strategy, Bao. Spa and massage parlour. The gift shop is reasonably priced, especially the baskets which are of good quality. Postcards are reasonably priced although the range is limited. Wifi is 3 dollars for an hour. Business centre has 3 computers. During our stay there was usually a power cut at 7 in the evening and the generators came on but the server was down! Best to avoid this time of the evening to go on the internet.....
Three times a week between 6.30 and 8.00 a group of musicians and singers perform taarab music al fresco. This is an experience not to be missed and a CD of the concert is available in the gift shop.
Our special thanks to ALL staff from groundsmen to management for their professionalism, for being non intrusive and courteous, for being helpful and always welcoming us with a smile. Special thanks to Youssef, Charles (front desk manager), Sharifa, Agnes and Miriam.
The Serena is in Stonetown and we found the area very safe at night. It is patrolled regularly by a team of reassuring security guards and the area is well lit for an amble into Forodhani Gardens etc. An ideal base for local sightseeing and far afield.....
If you have no mobility problems book the prime sea facing rooms on the second floor. Cool in the m...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.