Earlier this year we stayed at Soneva Gili, Maldives and became Soneva fans as the place and the service were second to none. Based on that experience we booked Soneva Kiri in Thailand, unfortunately the result was a major expectations gap and we departed with a dent in our belief in the Soneva brand.
This is where the gaps started – the website description of the check in process and the 8 seater plane turned out to be a less than efficient check in process and an 18 seater substitute plane with a terrible smell of aviation fuel (return flight was the correct plane - a huge difference). Next, upon arrival many of the things we wanted to do were not available due to off season (local fishing, waterfall lunch, boat transfer to Benz, etc) and no effort was made to discuss/offer alternatives. In addition to this the Den (kids club) facility was closed for renovations and instead offered in a different location. None of this was mentioned on check in which I find utterly unacceptable for a resort of this stature and price.
There is no doubt that the resort and the villas are beautiful and without question the highlight of Soneva Kiri. The villa was excellent with typical Soneva flair in the design touches, the beach is beautiful and of course the kids loved the ice cream and chocolate shop as well as the outdoor cinema. On our first night there were a lot of mosquitoes but to be fair you are in the middle of a tropical forest setting, on the other four nights of our stay the mosquito issue subsided significantly, so there must have been insect fogging taking place.
This is by far the most disappointing service level I have ever encountered vs expectations.
Firstly the positives, there are some staff at Soneva Kiri who really care – the in villa dining team, the outdoor cinema folks, the beach team are all excellent and I have the highest compliments for everything about Benz restaurant – excellent.
As for the rest, mediocre is the appropriate word – in villa cleaning was not thorough, breakfast team were in disarray most mornings (heaven help them when its busy), we made a reservation 2 days in advance to eat at The View (which has the name for a reason) only to be told there were no tables outside on the view and hence we had to sit inside – we were the only ones in there, everyone else got a table on the outdoor balcony, we would have happily moved our reservation a day if we had been warned but those kind of thoughts do not seem to matter at Soneva Kiri – food at the View was excellent. Another expectation gap was the advertised treepod dining – 4 people only (we were a party of 5), and it’s a set menu at around 600+USD per group of 4, since my kids didn’t want anything on the very adult menu I asked if the kids could order from the in room kids menu – I was told yes but still at 600+ USD – now that’s pricey kids food! For a resort marketing to families, a little more flexibility would have been in order.
Perhaps the single biggest disappointment was the way we were treated by our Guest Services representative (Soneva call these “Fridays”) – our Friday had absolutely no idea (or concern) about the needs of a family and did not take the time to ask either (strange since that’s her job). She avoided questions on activities, promised to get back to us on things but did not, and actively tried to put us off certain activities. At the end of the trip she started by asking us if we had left the resorts ipod “or not” (it came across as an absolute lack of trust – I was dumbfounded and very offended), she then asked us to make our own way to the jetty to catch the boat – we arrived at the time she had given us (in the rain) to be told we were too early and had to go back – our Friday was nowhere to be seen – when the other guests turned up it was interesting to see them with their Friday, being helped and escorted with a friendly goodbye. As we boarded the plane to leave our Friday did not even say goodbye, again I was shocked (especially given the usually very polite Thai culture) but I had had enough by then and just left.
I appreciated the assistant manager Alex apologizing for the poor stay as we left at the jetty, at least it was decent that someone openly acknowledged that this was not the image Soneva Kiri aspired to, I did appreciate that honesty and professionalism.
Without any doubt, Soneva Kiri is a beautiful place, but there are many beautiful places on this planet and for me, service is the differentiator – sadly Soneva Kiri fell way short of the expectations and benchmarks of other places we have stayed not least Soneva Gili which is simply outstanding in every way. To conclude, Soneva Kiri has a new General Manager, trust me it needs it, and hopefully some improvements will be coming – however for us its one huge hit and one huge miss with Soneva and frankly at these prices a 50% score is just not good enough. To be fair and balanced, Id say that based on other trip advisor reviews and what I know of Soneva, our poor experience was not normal and was a combination of poor Friday, visiting out of season, the Den being refurbished - all versus a high expectation I had based on price paid and the previous superb Soneva Gili experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Remote yet accessible, Soneva Kiri sits on Thailand's fourth largest but least populated island, Koh Kood, in the Gulf of Siam. Surrounded by lush, vibrant tropical vegetation and white beaches, fringed with palm trees, the resort has been tastefully and cleverly designed to complement the landscape and blends seamlessly into the outstanding natural beauty. Soneva Kiri epitomises the Soneva concept of 'intelligent luxury'. Only an hour's flight in the resort's private plane from Bangkok, it feels a million miles from the real world. The sense of tranquillity, seclusion and harmony with nature is second to none. Far away from the beaten track and well-trodden tourist attractions this is Thailand as it used to be thirty or even fifty years ago, genteel and untainted. And also just one hour by boat from the wonders of Cambodia. The 35 pool villa resort is perfect for groups or families, as it provides villas with up to 6 bedrooms. It also has a unique children's den in the form of a manta ray, and a newly launched Intrepid Explorer's Club for the children under 5 years old. It was recently awarded with The Smith Award "Best for Families" from Mr. & Mrs. Smith. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Soneva Kiri By 6 Senses
- Soneva Kiri By Six Senses Hotel Koh Kood