Friday, December 26, 2014

An Honest Review: Written by my husband

I don’t think I’ve ever left a hotel review. There was a bed and breakfast that we loved in San Francisco and I really meant to leave a review, but never got around to it. I’m not really a reviewer. But I have to tell you my story.
We planned a road trip from Denver to Massachusetts and back. We planned to leave on a Friday afternoon, drive midway through NE, then stop to rest and swim. Our kids are pool rats. The biggest fights we’ve ever been in as a family have been about getting kids to leave a pool. They will swim indefinitely, if allowed to. So we set about looking for a place with a good pool and a free breakfast. Swim and rest. That was the plan.
We were overly optimistic about our departure time from Denver and got on the road later than we wanted to, getting in to the hotel around 8:15pm. It didn’t start great. I went to check in and was greeted, not by a friendly desk agent, but by a sign saying the desk agent had stepped away momentarily. Those moments strung together into about 5-10 minutes, which may seem petty in retrospect, but when after being cooped up in the car for 5 hours, the kids were ready to jump into the pool fully clothed if need be.
Finally a nice man appeared and checked me into my room. The room was unremarkable. Clean in general, but entirely forgettable. Not a seedy motel, but certainly not a 2.5 star hotel, as listed. Time for the pool. Here’s where this turns in to the most fascinating hotel stay we’ve ever had.
We couldn’t find it at first. The hotel was fairly large and it was right in the middle. A nice lady pointed us in the right direction and the kids took off, ready to swim the night away. We opened the door to the pool area and stopped. Literally, just stopped. I was just so confused. 
When you think of hotel pools, you normally think of a nice little pool area with a hot tub, empty except for maybe those little families, like ours, trying to exhaust their kids while traveling. Not here. Apparently, there’s not a whole lot to do on a Friday night in Kearney, and this pool area has a bar, the Tiki hut you see in the pictures.
Before, I go on, let’s talk about the pictures. Forget everything you see on any website. The hotel looks absolutely nothing like the pictures. Find websites like TripAdvisor that post user pictures. We may try to post some ourselves. If you saw this hotel online and thought, “Wow, that looks like a nice pool. I bet my kids will enjoy that.” Stop. Just don’t.
So, after our initial shock at seeing literally over a hundred people filling a hotel pool area, drinking beer and cocktails, going in and out of rooms on either side, we finally ventured further in to see the pool. We walked past the group of college girls partying around a table. Walked through the families doing the winterized version of a backyard barbecue, with food on tables outside their rooms and open room doors for kids to run in and out. We walked past the middle aged men leaning against the pool area fence watching the little kids swim away. Not their kids mind you. They just seemed interested in watching any kids.
In spite of all this, we had come there to swim and we couldn’t crush our kids dreams right then and there. So we wended our way through the 20-somethings doing the cornhusker version of clubbing, found the gate to the pool, and stepped into the most poorly lit, dank, dark, horror-movie cliche pool I have ever witnessed first hand. If you’re reading this on our blog, you probably saw the picture Chas posted. She actually had to use an app to brighten it up because she couldn’t take a picture with her iPhone. My daughter dropped her goggles in the pool, and after fifteen minutes of searching, we gave up trying to find them. In five feet of water. Perhaps the dim lighting was meant to hide the quality of the pool water, though the front desk agent said later that they had just recently addressed the issue of pool water quality. Good to know.
The kids swam tentatively for a while. We watched them from chairs poolside, because THERE IS NO HOT TUB. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been looking at several hotels and they’re all starting to run together. Just wanted to clear that up definitively for you.
After splashing for about 20 minutes, our younger two kids asked to go back to the room. They actually asked to leave a pool after only 20 minutes of swimming. The older twins were troopers and lasted another 20 minutes, though 15 of those were spent looking for goggles.
Back at the room, the kids showered and then my wife did her best to avoid electrocution by the loose outlet the hair dryer was plugged into. She tried to turn on cartoons, but the TV was set to the wrong input by default and only showed snowy fuzz. Being the IT expert, I got it working eventually, but when we turned it off and back on, we found we had to go through the whole rigamarole again.
The beds were firm, but not stiff. The pillows soft and the sheets clean. A heater kept us warm by turning on every half hour, with a noise best described as small town airport.
We were worried about the breakfast. At this point we considered forgoing their breakfast altogether and just getting something on the road. We decided to try it, and thankfully didn’t miss out on one of the only redeeming aspects of this hotel. Lots of breakfast choices, including the standard continental fare, waffle bar, cereals, juices, and milk. But they also had an omelette chef and a hot buffet with french toast, scrambled eggs, sausages, biscuits, and gravy. The omelette chef was incredibly nice and spoke to me in Spanish, which everyone assumes I speak. My son now thinks that people in NE speak Spanish. 
After breakfast, I spoke to the front desk agent as reasonably and calmly as I could. I laid out our myriad complaints and said we felt the room just wasn’t worth what we paid for it. Our needs and expectations were simple—rest, pool, breakfast—and we felt we had only gotten one of those. After negotiating with her and the website we booked on, she did the right thing and refunded most of our money. She also offered us a free upgrade on our next stay. I think we’ll pass.

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