travel date: 9thSept2008
reviewer : 'Drill' from Somerset UK
Travel agent: Mercury Direct
Booking via web site and clarification telephone call
We have just returned from 2 weeks in the Royal Palms beach hotel in Kalutara, Sri Lanka on an 'All In' basis.
Plane journey's were very long and tiring, I recommend to pay the extra and go direct, we went via DOHA. Qatar airways were really good I can only complain that the plane from DOHA to Columbo was an older Airbus A300, not enough entertainment options, all other flights were great and to and from DOHA to Heathrow were on Airbus A330's and were very good with individual LCD monitors and a wide selection of DVD's to choose from and free drinks, free flight socks, blindfold, earphones, earplugs, etc., a menu for meals, attentive cabin crew, etc
On booking, we asked for a taxi to pick us up from the airport and take us to the hotel.
We arrived at the hotel behind the minibus after a 2 1/2 hour transfer. Not a relaxing introduction to Sri-Lanka ;-(
The expected tip was probably 1000 SR but we measily only tipped 400SR (not knowing what was acceptable) Don't forget he has been paid to collect you by Mercury anyway.
Reception : Impressive and air-conned.
Hurricane Bar: attached to a large lounge with capable seating and tables available but is NOT Air conditioned and is lacking in atmosphere. Contains a small stagelet ,a full size snooker table and pool table and is where the 'entertainment' happens.
Our Room :
was excellent - beautiful, clean and had good facilities all rooms have a balcony and an ocean view. 'Over the bath' shower was powerful and easy to obtain the required temperature. Linen and 'mosquito prevention' services were excellent and laundry service available at a charge. tea, coffee and bottled water available FOC but Mini bar was expensive and not part of the AI.
we asked for a double bed through Mercury and got a king size there waiting for us.
Attentive however not up to European professionalism standards, e.g. reaching across you at the dinner table to pick up cutlery or an unsed plate, clearing your table whilst you were still chewing, etc
Tipping is worth it for the lad who does the sun loungers (provides a towel and a cushion) and if you want to sit on the same ones each day he can arrange it. There was no problem finding empty sunloungers what ever the time although you might need his help at peak times.
Tipping is also worth it for the lad(s) who does your room although we saw no discernable difference in either their performance or friendlyness if you didn't.
Our TV was a Sony LCD, but I don't think that was the norm. Sattellite was good although didn't have a real uk news channel (i.e. no BBC world news service!) we did have 2 English sport and 1 English film and the National Geographic channels to choose from.
Radio was poor, one channel only and the speaker was in the bathroom, ok for singing in the shower!
At dinner there was sometimes a live group playing in the dining hall and that was a nice touch. Generally English background music played in the dining hall at other times.
Evening entertainment was very poor! There was always a live act playing music and on 2 occasions during the 2 weeks we had a local event. One was basically a set of belly dancers (called a ballet) and the other was a snake handler and charmer.
Both were ok.
Remember! you are totally reliant onthe hotel for evening entertainment and night life, there is nothing outside ! The only other option is a nightclub at the hotel called 'below zero'. Unfortunately it was not part of the All inclusive and I know no-one who went there. If it was ever on, it was very well soundproofed, we never heard a thing.
Overall - the entertainment was very poor.
overall it was pretty good. we didn't have any problems with tummy troublesand knew no-one that did. You must expect a good proportion of Sri-Lankan style dishes that are quite spicy, but nothing above a 'Madras' hot dish. They do cater quite well if you don't like the spicy options, with salad (safe to eat) and soup and non spicy hot dishes dependent on what cuisine they are concentrating on that meal time (deisplayed on the events board in the reception and again on entering the eating hall).
They had an a la carte restaurant in a separate building called the 'orient'. They also had an a small a carte grill, however they weren't part of the AI package and not even one visit per week of either were aloud!! We used the grill once and it was good but didn't go to the 'orient' so I can't comment.
The dining room was good and there was a patio area through one of the external exit doors that they frequently used to provide grills and barb-b-q's for mainly breakfast and dinner.
The pool was superb, clean well maintained and interesting, with bubble massage and jacuzzi areas
Beach boys can be very annoying and if given the slightest encouragement, won't leave you alone until you give them some money. They offer trips at 'knock down' prices but to be honest I wouldn't risk it. One of the problems is the insurance and the way they drive(Sri-Lankans in general) you may need it! Each to their own.
The beach and sea is a big let down.
The red flag flies continually and we never saw a lifeguard although they have a specific post for one.
The beach is yellow and black sand and to walk along the beach shows just how dirty it really is and fending off beach boys all in all it isn't pleasant. South (Galle) has much better sandy beaches and swim friendly sea.
Assuming you try the trips offered by the agent at the hotel, they are pretty good and ranged from £30-£200 each. We went on a 2 day trip to Kandy that included an overnight stay (AI) in a better 5* hotel (our opinion). The trip cost £127 and was cram packed, including the Elephant orphanage, tea factory, spice gardens, jewel factory (Sapphires are the specialist stone in sri-Lanka), 2 buddhist temples, a sri-lankan houswifes' life, Mask factory, botanical gardens, Sigiriya rock, etc.
Another trip (8:00-17:00)worth looking at was to Galle (£30) A turtle hatchery is on the way and a Dutch forte with lots of beautiful beaches and sea. Also worth asking to see the stick fishermen just along the coast from galle. You can even have a go yourself! (they ask for 3000SR I gave them 1000). (see photo)
A trip to Kalutara set us back 800(total) Sri-Lankan rupees (SR)(£4.50) and you get a Tuc-Tuc trip there and back with a tour guide thrown in. You can get it cheaper and his price was 400 SR but we were impressed and tipped him well.
Here the culture shock hits you but we found it facinating and if you want any Pharmaceuticals they are incredibly cheap. Most things are available 'over-the-counter'.
The area doesn't have a problem with malaria and we didn't have a problem with mosquitoes, but take some deet incase you venture anywhere where they are more prevalent or it happens to be the rainy season (differs between coasts). We only had one short down pour (and that's what it was!) in our 2 weeks but the previous week had 4 days continual rain, so be prepared.
We never felt threatened, even though the military was in evidence whenever you ventured out, gun toting soldiers at checkpoints whenever you travelled but we were never stopped by any.
However, whilst we were there a bus was blown up in Columbo!
It is recommended that all tourists avoid the public transprot i.e. buses and trains.
We would have loved to try one but decided against it and you mustn't be afraid to 'mix with the masses' at very close quarters.
Crime is generally not a problem in Sri-Lanka.
The people are wonderful.
True they want money but are pleasant even if you don't give them any, they are very understanding. Recommend you don't give to 'sweet looking' kids that run up holding their hands out and talking selanese at you. If you do, word gets around!
In general, the high season is Dec to April.
Many Germans, some Russians and many UK tourists.
Wildlife is great, even in the grouds of the hotel. We had some resident fruit bats in the tree just outside our balcony, they were fascinating and a lot bigger than we had imagined. The occasional snake that slithers between the sun beds are harmless but again fascinating.
If you are a nervous passenger, wear a blindfold! They have virtually the same rules of the road as the UK but it is generally accepted that no-one follows them.
They rely totally on their horn and the brakes!
They generally have seat belts fitted so I suggest you use them.
I know these things are subjective but I have been truthful and as comprehensive as I have time for.
Hope you find it useful.
Any queries, contact me, I will try to help.
best regards and enjoy your holiday
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- Also Known As:
- Royal Palms Beach Kalutara
- Hotel Royal Palms Beach
- Royal Palms Beach Hotel Sri Lanka/Kalutara