This review is based on our stay at the Doubletree by Hilton in Golden Sands for 10 long days in July 2011. I should start by saying that we did not expect it to be a five star hotel. We tend to go to 4-star Bulgarian hotels most summers and just expected the service and perhaps the food (the breakfast at least) in this newly opened Doubletree to be a little bit above your average Bulgarian 4-star hotel. It wasn’t. It was below that standard.
Perhaps the worst disappointment was staff competence and attitude. To start with, on arrival we were sent to a room that was still being cleaned only to be told by the cleaner that we’d been sent to the wrong room. I was asked to go downstairs and had to listen to a discussion between staff members as to which our room was. I was then sent back by the reception desk staff who, instead of an apology, told me something on the lines of ‘yes, we’ve given you the correct room, sir, you can go back there. ‘Meanwhile my wife and daughter were standing in the corridor waiting for a room to be allocated to us. It could have been worse of course, because during my stay I saw a number of new arrivals waiting to check in well after 3 pm.
Check out turned out to be much worse than check in and it made me feel resentful and annoyed with myself for being so naïve as to expect a decent service just because a hotel had ‘Hilton’ in its name. On checking out I was presented with two bills – one for our hotel stay and another one for a lunch in the restaurant. That we didn’t expect – I had paid in full months before our holiday and we always paid in cash upon entering the restaurant. I explained that we’ve paid already to the reception desk lady, who then called the front desk manager. She did not appear to understand what I was telling her (I am Bulgarian and spoke with her in Bulgarian) and kept repeating that we have to pay. I repeating my explanation of how I’ve prepaid, which company with and when for a few times, she kept saying ‘you must pay’ and eventually called the hotel manager. I had to run through the story of my booking and payment again with him and also had to send him my email confirmations. He at least got the idea that by booking via a certain site I would have had to pay the full amount in advance. A half-hearted apology from the front desk manager followed, which I felt was far from sufficient. The whole discussion took about half an hour at the front desk, but felt like an eternity. Then I had to have another, shorter, debate about my restaurant bill. The front desk manager had to go to the restaurant and then returned to tell us that the restaurant agreed we didn’t have to pay anything, but it sounded as if they had done us a favour – no apology offered for messing up.
Hygiene and cleanliness
About three days after we arrived the three of us were down with a nasty bug keeping us shuffling between the room and the toilet. I have no idea whether that had to do with hotel and food hygiene but it clearly did occur long enough after our arrival to make me think there was high probability of that being the case.
Our room was not well cleaned; there was dust in the corners of the toilet and a spider web in a ceiling corner. Our toiletries were only replaced when requested. When available, though, they were of very good quality. The bath robes were often torn. The worst part, hygiene wise, was that the cleaning woman kept asking us every day if we wanted the room cleaned. She constantly complained about her workload and we had to ask her to clean certain parts of the room or bathroom she had been neglecting. I attribute this in equal parts to staff morale at that hotel and to personal qualities. We’ve never had such negative experience with cleaning ladies in Bulgarian seaside hotels before – they are miserably paid and overworked, but nevertheless most manage to do a great job.
Our room was on the 4th floor - the corridor always had the smell of old fried food – appalling.
The restaurant appeared clean and so did the outdoor swimming pool. The heated one inside the hotel looked dirty – we never used it.
Our room was very good in terms of size, furnishing and bed quality. It had a nice balcony and an amazing sea view. The air-conditioning was adequate.
Contrary to the advertised 24-hour availability of the gym, the two mornings I tried to use it before 8 am, before I got the bug, I couldn’t. The explanation was that there was a problem with the gym door. Yes, there was a problem with the gym door. The first morning I was instructed to push the door very hard after unlocking it to gain entry. I followed that advice on the second day to the effect that most of the door parts fell to the floor with a bang. Luckily, the glass stayed on and didn’t break into a thousand pieces. I reported that to the front desk manager and she promised to have someone deal with it as soon as possible. By the end of my stay the door had not been fixed and the woman working at the gym assured me that she had told everyone, including the owner who was staying at the hotel at the time, and no one had done anything.
Very good espresso and, reportedly (my daughter had a few), delicious fresh cakes! Nice sitting area outside the café.
Food – we had breakfast there every morning. The food was as bland as reported by other reviewers. There was a cook who could make you an omelette or just fried eggs. I recommend the latter. Never had a really tasty omelette there. How can you make an omelette that is not tasty is beyond me. The men doing the ‘show-cooking’ looked overheated and totally depressed. I did feel for them. Taste of coffee was a real low. These people were making significant savings whilst exploiting the Hilton brand. So much for your anticipated ‘Hilton’ breakfast.
We had lunch there two or three times. It was hit and miss.
“Private beach” – firstly, the law in Bulgaria does not allow private ownership of any beach, so this is a bit of a misnomer. Secondly, a few days before the end of our stay, just when we were able to leave the room again, we were told that there is no availability for the beach for the duration of our stay. The explanation was that there were issues around sharing the ‘private beach’ with another hotel – I suspect an unexpected surge of customers caused this. As a result we had to go elsewhere and the cost of renting parasols, etc. was almost two times higher.
The first sign that there was something not quite right was when three months before our stay I received an email from the hotel manager about how he was looking forward to my visit and promoting hotel facilities. The problem was that he had sent a bulk email to everyone who had made a booking by then and everyone could see my email address as I could see theirs. I really don’t think mishandling personal data should be tolerated and did not expect such behaviour from a Hilton staff member. He did send an apology after I wrote to him.
Just before going to this hotel we spent three nights at the Hilton Sofia – it was a proper Hilton hotel, so hopefully this hotel is an isolated case in the region. I think it is really damaging the Hilton brand, though.
I would definitely steer clear from that place. They are building a new Hilton next to it, but it is under the same ownership, which to me means that management and the attitude can’t be much different.
My only advice to you if still you want to go there – lower your expectations, forget about the brand name and you may find it not too disappointing.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.