I note there have been plenty of positive reviews of the Kahala Hotel and Resort. I would like to offer a different perspective.
First thing to consider is that this is a very expensive property. Rooms cost more than $750 a night in peak season, breakfast not included.
Second is that demand is so strong for Hawaiian hotels - 2012 will an all-time record year for visitations - that the hotels in Waikiki/Honoloulu don't have to try for business, it just walks through the door.
The knock-on effect is that some staff, especially at the Kahala's front desk, are good at saying "Aloha" and "Mahalo" but out of their depth when there's a genuine issue.
I would argue that they are blind to the basic needs and expectations of customers, such as that you'll get the room you have paid for.
In our case that was a garden view room with two double beds.
Check-in was from 3pm but our family of four - including two teenagers - was not given a room key until 40 minutes later.
No staff member approached us during this time to offer hospitality of any kind - drinks, snacks whatever. In Asia, at this kind of rate, we would have been fawned over.
Anyway, I got the key and checked out the room which had a double king bed and nothing else in it.
In other words it was not the room we had booked.
I returned to the front desk and dealt with another receptionist, told her brusquely we had the wrong room, please fix it.
She is a little taken aback and informs me that there is no guarantee at the Kahala you will get the room you have booked.
She says it's not a firm booking we have made but a "request" for two double beds in the same room.
I check the fine print and she is right. Two double beds is classified as a "service request".
There is no guarantee we will get what we paid $2,290.64 over three nights for.
We made the booking and paid 75% in August, the balance in October.
No-one from the property has contacted during this time to advise that the room we had booked, requested or whatever would not be available.
So, our expectation was that it would be.
Anyway, I get angry, we've been waiting forever, paid $750 a night for truly awful service, drop the f-bomb as in just "f_______ fix it" and walk away.
We wait another 20 or 30 minutes, again no one offers any kind of hospitality, until my wife approaches the front desk and told "great news, we have a room for you".
I take a look and there are two large single beds, a chaise lounge and a rollaway bed to accommodate our family.
Again, not what we had asked for - or so we thought. At least give us another rollaway bed and get rid of the chaise, which had no bedding.
We are later informed that we have in fact been given two double beds. Huh? They look so small. We measure and find they are 1.4m wide, big enough for a couple of honeymooning midgets but not much else.
I've just checked with Wikipedia and the official US double bed measurement is 1.9m - 500mm larger than what the Kahala is calling a double bed.
But I digress. We are still upset at the lack of hospitality we have received and ask for breakfast to be included and instead get into an argument with the receptionist who does nothing at all to defuse the situation. Instead, she further inflames matters by blaming us.
At no stage over the preceding 90 minutes has any staff acknowledged that a series of errors from the hotel has brought us to this point.
We have been offered zero hospitality. Somehow they think it is all our fault.
The customer service director is brought in one assumes to calm matters. Instead she adds fuel to the fire. Another staff member joins in and adds another voice to the argument, the hotel's voice of course.
By now the volume is up. Loud but not shouting. Again, I repeat, no effort has been made to defuse the situation.
In fact, the customer service director says something like "ok that's it, I am calling security" with the implied threat we are getting kicked out of the hotel.
For what? Sticking up for ourselves? Raising our voices in an argument that is 90% down to the Kahala not fulfilling its obligations - not one of them - as an elite hotel charging $750 a night.
Who knows. The fact is that Honolulu./Waikiki is totally told out. It is two days before New Year's Eve and there is literally nowhere for us to go. Somehow we get the keys back, go to the room and try to calm down.
My wife, who worked as a flight attendant at Qantas for 14 years, is incredibly upset. The staff have been doing nothing but sticking up for themselves and their mistakes, then call security to sort it out.
I later speak with the front desk manager who was aware of the fracas at the time it was happening but did nothing to intervene. I ask him why did this occur and he once again offers the hotel's perspective, which is essentially that nothing is guaranteed.
He does not acknowledge the lack of hospitality we received while waiting for the room ("we only say check-in is after 3pm, not at 3pm"), and also attempts to justify offering us a king room with a single bed for four people, the basic error that led to everything else.
I ask him to make my wife happy. He sends up a bottle of domestic sparkling wine and a note that offers no apology just the message: "We hope you are feeling better".
He offers also breakfast as token but, not as it turns out, for all of us. Just two people from our family of four get breakfast on the house, everyone else must pay.
As for the hotel and infrastructure, it's quite nice but nothing special.
Great location, small pool, crowded, decent beach. Guests - lot of Japanese and a mix of other nationalities.
Breakfast buffet is average, the food at Plumeria good, as is the wine list.
For these reasons I will give the property two stars. If this was only on service, the Kahala would get nothing.
In summary, front desk staff are poorly trained and have no idea of genuine hospitality or how to deal with a guest with a justifiable complaint.
A bit of customer service 101 would have nipped this whole thing in the bud.
Of course, that did not happen.
In fact it was the customer service director who called security rather than making her guests feel special.
It's so ridiculous, you just have to laugh.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Kahala Hotel & Resort is Hawaii's reigning luxury resort, set on a secluded beach just ten minutes from the world class shopping and entertainment of Waikiki. This legendary hideaway resort in Honolulu's plush Kahala district is a favorite with presidents, international royalty and celebrities. From the moment you arrive, you will know that you are truly somewhere special. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Kahala Hotel Honolulu
- The Kahala Hotel And Resort
- Kahala Resort Honolulu
- Kahala Hotel Honolulu
- Mandarin Oriental Oahu
- Kahala Hotel & Resort
- Kahala Mandarin Oriental
- The Kahala Hotel & Resort Hawaii/Honolulu