Kovalam Hotel Beach Resort… or Le Meridien Kovalam Beach – which one is it? Avoid them both!!!

All is not as it should be with Le Meridien Kovalam Beach and the holiday Hazel an I bought from Jewel in the Crown ….. The pre-departure letter I got from Jewel in the Crown (saying that although, unfortunately, the building work would not quite be complete by the time we arrived, what little there was left to be done would not inconvenience us and that only the jogging track wouldn’t be available, and offering an upgrade to half board by way of compensation) hasn’t turned out to be as accurate as it sounded….

In fact, I will go so far as to say that it was a load of rubbish.

The main Beach View block is still under construction, which includes the new reception, the flagship Frangipani restaurant and the large pool that makes up most of the double-page spread in the Jewel in the Crown brochure. The tennis courts are still being surfaced, and the famed Halcyon Castle, where Paul McCartney stayed, together with some of the hotel site, is the subject of legal wranglings as to its ownership between the Le Meridien Group and the previous/current (depending on which side you believe) owners, the State of Kerala.

Heaven knows where the jogging track might one day come into existence. In the week and a bit we’ve been here so far, the tennis courts have just about aquired a red sand surface, and there are pots or white paint waiting to be turned into lines. Not a net to be seen mind you.

And away from the Grove (the one bit that has been Le Meridien-ed, 15 minutes walk away, down by the beach) everything, but everything, remains branded as the Kovalam Hotel Beach Resort – from the coasters, to the serviettes to the feedback form….

….. and in the rooms: no hairdryers (unless you ask, in which case housekeeping have to go and borrow one from another guest), no fruitbowl, no complimentary bathroom bits and bobs. Yes we have a veranda area, but no chairs on which to sit to admire the sunset. The minibar holds a 1l bottle of water, and nothing else. House-keeping visits are haphazard, sometimes only coming once a day, in the form of the post-6pm “evening service”.

In our first week, we had wake up calls at various times between 5am and 7am, all intended for Air India staff staying in other Sea view rooms.

And the building work is carried out morning, noon and night. Tap tap tap of the hammers. Drone drone drone of the drill….. Whirr whirr whirr of the saw. Right outside our room, so that you wake up to it (unless you rise and shine before 8am on your relaxing beach holiday), have it accompanying you anytime you are in your room, watching on the TV, reading, having a shower, getting ready to go to dinner. On a couple of occasions, we’ve even had it serenade us as we try to get to sleep – at 10pm. And we’ve had workmen wandering past our balcony en route to tip some more building debris down the rocks that comprise part of our seaview.

At least the twin rooms we got did have a view of the sea…. on arrival the 2 couples who arrived when we did got rooms which required you to lean out of the balcony and crane hard right to catch sight of water. Even when you go down the the private beach and enjoy the more polished operation at BayWatch, you can see and hear the building works – not surprisingly as the beach view block is being built to have a view of the Baywatch beach.

And for so long as building works continue, the facilities up in the main part of the hotel will remain limited – the only available pool is small and rectangular with minimal shade and there is never anyone there to get the sun lounger mattresses out or to provide towels. Hazel went up to reception twice the other day to ask for someone to bring some. We gave up in the end and walked down the road to the beach.

It’s not just the buildings and facilities that are adrift from the holiday described on the Jewel in the Crown website and in their brochure. Generally the staff do not provide the polished service you would expect in a hotel that Jewel in the Crown rate as worthy of five crowns, and include in their ”Gold Collection’ designed especially for the discerning traveller.’

On arrival, there was no one from the management team on hand to explain about the building works and how they would affect our stay, or to explain how the half board upgrade would operate. In fact, our permitted dining arrangements seem to change on an almost daily basis – sometimes breakfast is a buffet, sometimes it is not; sometimes prawn and peanut and red peppers is included in half board, sometimes it is not.

Every time we go to Reception it is manned by the same young lady, even when things get hectic with the Air India crews arriving for their pre-booked rest-between-flights (rooms rarely ready, so the Receptionist always has a lot of phone calls to make and tired and irritated air crews to placate) at the same time as people want to access their safety deposit lockers, and to change money, and to pay bills.

Right now it’s not a Le Meridien hotel by any stretch of the imagination and I’m surprised Le Meriden have the gall to pretend that it is on their website. Perhaps they only let people stay at the Grove, and leave the building site suites to package tour prisoners and air crews.

But we’re surviving – although you don’t have much choice other than to draw upon the Dunkirk spirit while you’re here – and Kovalam Beach is a lovely place to catch up on your R&R, reading and swimming and generally do as much or as little as you like.

And to think about things to say in your letter of complaint…..

Hot and humid holidays at Kovalam Beach

Very hot and humid, in fact, with regular afternoon downpours, which we sometimes manage to get caught in down on the beach, and othertimes manage to be sitting on our balcony sipping nescafe and eating biscuits….

We’ve indulged in lots of lazing about on sun loungers in and out of the shade, and dips in the sea and/or the pool, and reading too – getting through a book a day (Hazel’s going to be borrowing from my Hay on Wye collection before the week is out) – and feasting on southern Indian food for breakfast and in the evenings.

Other than eating and reading, our main daily activity is watching 77 channels of TV, we’ve not done much else. Tomorrow however, we’re off on a day trip to Cape Cormorin, via temples and palaces – to see the three seas meet, which requires (horrors!) an 7am alarm call………….

A Kerala technicolour sunset

Kerala here we come!

Hazel and I are off to a fortnight of luxury at the Le Meridien Kovalem Beach in November!!! I booked today, and I can’t wait. It’s just the carrot I need to get me through the shitty BMS Portal project at work, and the Open University Project Management exam – both of which are due to crystallise mid-October.

We’re going with Jewel in the Crown holidays (they *really* need to sort out the website optimisation, it took me a lot of perseverance to find their website again so that I could book!), so it’s a convenient package of flights, transfers and B&B accommodation, in a deluxe hotel, the very same place where Janette and I enjoyed a couple of amazing yoga classes when we went to Kerala with Kuoni in 1996, not forgetting the massage and beauty treatment session we indulged in on our last morning. I won’t be getting my hair conditioned this time….

All that remains is to get a tourist visa from the Indian High Commission at Aldwych.