On Friday, G, J and Me were invited to have a ‘sneak preview’ stay at the new Azteca Hotel at Chessington World of Adventures ahead of the official opening this Monday. The Azteca Hotel adds 69 new rooms across three floors, there are three styles of room available, the cheapest being the ‘Discovery Room’ (which is what we had), and for an additional £20-30 (ish), you can have the slightly more themed ‘Temple Treasure Room’ or a ‘Temple Summit Room’.
Prices are in line with places such as the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort Hotel and the Alton Towers Resort Hotels, a Friday night break in the Summer Holidays for one night Bed and Breakfast and 2 Days in the Theme Park is an eye watering £359 for a family of four. Move forward to mid-week in September, you’re look at prices starting at £239 for the same family. The price of two days in the park will cost a family of 4 £144 if you book online in advance, so this obviously puts the cost of a stay in the hotel around the £200 / £100 per night mark, depending on when you visit. It’s not cheap, but, you are paying slightly for ‘the experience’, let’s take a look at that.
The Azteca Hotel is essentially an extension to the existing ‘Safari Hotel’ they share the same entrance, and reception desk. This is probably down to planning constraints, but its a shame they aren’t separate in the way that the ‘Alton Towers Hotel’ and the ‘Splash Landings Hotel’ are.
You make your way round to the Azteca Hotel either via an external (covered) path, or across an internal ‘bridge’ as shown below. It’s pleasant enough, but again, is slightly disappointing that you’re making your way to an ‘extension’ rather than a Hotel in its own right.
As the weather was gorgeous, we opted for the external path, which leads you to the lift / stair lobby, and the patio area of the ‘Temple Bar’.
We were in a Discovery Room on the First Floor, the theming is fabulous, the walls adorned with a vinyl printed ‘Bamboo’ Structure with Monkeys climbing all over it. Vinyl printing seems to be ‘the thing’ for theming at the moment – it’s used similarly at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort Hotel and in the refurbished rooms at Alton Towers Resort Hotels. It looks fantastic, hopefully it will stand the test of time, and people / suitcases / house keeping trolleys dragging across it! The carpets are themed in a similar vein, all very colourful and stimulating for even the smallest of children. James flew down the corridor squealing with happiness, they’ve got it spot on.
Once in the room, immediately you have the ‘kids area’ – it’s fairly large, with a bunk bed and pull out bed underneath. I was hoping J could use the bottom bunk, and G go on top, but there aren’t any rails on the bottom bunk, so he had to go on the pull out mattress instead.
The kids have their own Samsung Smart TV, which is themed into a ‘flight case’, along with a ‘Safe’ at the bottom with a code for the kids to crack via some clues. (they have similar at LEGOLAND). It’s a fun idea, but, we couldn’t fathom the code at all, even the staff at reception were clueless of the code..
“You’ll just have to keep trying” said the reception woman “We don’t know what the code is”.
The thing is, if you get the code incorrect, the safe beeps at you for a minute or so.. Which is annoying when you’ve got an 11-year-old desperate to get in, and a 2-year-old who finds it hilarious making the safe beep. I was a bit frustrated the reception staff had no idea of the codes, and seemingly couldn’t be arsed to find out. You’re paying a premium, the staff and customer service should be premium too – although it wasn’t all bad – more on that in a bit.
Back to the room..
Walk past the kids area and you have the bathroom, again it’s themed with the vinyl print, the finish of the tiles by the sink was a bit lax, still covered in grout – something that should have been picked up in the snagging stage. The rest was up to a good standard, although it was lacking a bin, which meant J’s nappies had to ferment in the bedroom bin (gross), this is something that needs to be addressed.
Outside the bathroom are the Tea and Coffee facilities and a clothes hanging rail.
After that, you’re in to the ‘Grown Ups’ bit – it’s fantastically spacious, bright and airy, being a Discovery Room, the theming is, erm, not really there, it’s a bit bland compared to the rest of the room.
There’s a space next to the dressing table that I would guess normally house a cot should you need it, so realistically, you could squeeze a family of six into a room.
The TV on the wall looks a little lost – it must be around 24″ – whilst it’s a Samsung Smart TV and has lots of features, it really could be being a bit bigger at least 32″. I was sat on the bed watching TV as the kids slept and I found myself squinting away – for £350 a night, you expect a BIG telly. The adult bed was comfy, I had a fantastic nights sleep on it, G complained that her bed felt ‘weird’ and she was uncomfortable, the kids mattresses seem to be covered in a waterproof cover (understandably I guess) – but they didn’t look that comfy to me. James slept well (aside from rolling under the bottom bunk at 3am!).
Another bugbear is the lack of sockets next to the bed, you’ve a pair on one side of the bed, but not the other, and the clearance between the sockets and the top of the bedside unit might be too tight for some phone chargers. It’s ridiculous that in 2014, stuff like this isn’t really thought about.
Also, as I found at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort Hotel, the soundproofing is a bit rubbish, it’s a family hotel, little ones sleep and wake at all hours, they should be cramming acoustic dampening material in wherever possible. It’s not – it’s certainly not terrible, but it’s not the best either. Also I think the doors need a ‘soft close’ mechanism, the amount of times I heard doors slamming was bordering on annoying but it’s something that could be easily remedied.
These issues certainly aren’t the end of the world, BUT, for £350+ a night, you expect better.
So moving on to Eating and Drinking in the Hotel – The Azteca Hotel has the ‘Temple Bar and Restaurant’ to cover these. It’s a buffet style restaurant that serves both Breakfast and Dinner. If you’re not staying in the Hotel you are welcome to make use of it too. Prices for Breakfast are Adults: £12.95 and Children under 12: £6.50, and for Dinner the you’re looking at Adults: £19.45 – 12-15 Year olds: £15.45 – Under 12s: £9.45 – Under 3: £1.95. You’d get Merlin Annual Pass discount of these, but I think it’s a bit mean making Under 3’s pay – especially when in most of the other Merlin Restaurants they are free – and the £6 uplift for 12-15 Year olds is a bit weird.
The choice is pretty decent on the whole, there is lower section for children with a good selection for tiny taste-buds, no chips here – it’s all fairly healthy. The vegetarian and fish section seemed to have more fish than vegetarian food which was disappointing, and for vegetarian children the selection is even smaller.
On the whole I found the quality of the food to be excellent, and there was a large range of healthy, and not so healthy foods. Along with a selection of desserts that would satisfy the whole family. I think my only real criticism was the vegetarian sausages I ordered on request for breakfast were a bit ‘meh’.
The buffet includes drinks (not alcoholic) so you’ve got a good complement of fizzy drinks, orange and apple juice, water, tea and coffee – which will satisfy most people. If you fancy a tipple, there is a fine choice of alcohol and also children’s cocktails available too – G opted for a ‘Funky Monkey’ – it was lovely.
Also, the waiting staff in the Restaurant were lovely, our waitress who could obviously see I was alone with two children happily ‘kept an eye’ as I was dashing back and forth getting food and drinks. She even asked if I wanted her to take a picture of the three of us, which I thought was really kind.
The Temple Bar is the ‘watering hole’ of the Azteca Hotel, it’s not a bad size and, and has an outdoor patio area too – this appeared to be a Bar only, there wasn’t any signs of evening entertainment here (the ‘Ranger Club’ in the other hotel has that).
I can imagine it would be nice sitting outside having a drink on a Summer’s evening, I did manage to have one or two, but spent most of my time supervising J how was drawn to the waterfall. So drawn to it that he decided to throw his toy cars and bottle into it.
Thankfully the staff were extremely helpful and retrieved the bottle, sterilised it and refilled it for me which was great. On the whole, the staff, aside from the unhelpful reception woman, are impeccable, they are so smiley and friendly, and seem happy to strike up a conversation with the kids and grown ups. Nothing feels like too much bother, which is fantastic, and for the money you pay it’s to be expected.
On the whole my stay at the Azteca Hotel was very good, definitely not as polished as I’d hoped, but nothing that can’t really be sorted out either. The cost in my opinion, whilst in line with other Hotels in the Merlin portfolio, is expensive during peak season, there’s no denying. The bottom line is, I wouldn’t be able to afford to go at this time of year. Like Alton Towers I’d probably have to leave it till the closed season, or off peak to visit again, which is a shame, because, well either the park is closed, or the weather is rubbish. This doesn’t mean that it’s out of reach for everyone, and I imagine, it’ll be booked up very quickly once the word spreads.
If you’ve got the money, take a walk on the wild side and get a room at the Azteca Hotel, if not, wait until winter where the prices will drop and you’ll get to spend the night at decent family hotel, and no doubt have access to Chessington’s popular ‘Zoo Days’.