Fancy staying in a ski chalet style hotel packed to the rim with cruise passengers? The Doubletree in Southampton will certainly be your ship-mate if so.
This is another from the UK Hilton portfolio that used to be a Hilton and has transitioned to the less brand standard rigid Doubletree by Hilton. In doing so they have spruced the place up a little, cast-away the pool and spa area and given the restaurant a pretty fancy make over.
The purpose of this stay was to visit the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, incidentally really worth a day trip, and for a little bit of sea air. The location of this hotel – outside of the city centre – was perfect and also had a huge amount of free parking. Those who are on an pre-cruise stay will either need to arrange a cruise company booked coach transfer or a taxi to the port. There is no public transport to this hotel.
A warm reception by the front desk team, with the promise of an upgrade to a junior suite and no charge for our four legged friend who was also on our weekend break. The hotel is built into a hill, so the hotel is quite corridor heavy and quite difficult to navigate.
Once we found our room and settled in, we went for a walk in the grounds, which are extremely steep but it does make you feel like you are in an alpine lodge with the forest and the exterior architecture.
The room was your standard 2000’s Hilton, but everything was in great condition and worked well, including the flat screen TV. No snow here, even on the TV. The bed was large and comfortable, with the standard Hilton linen – a very nice place to be indeed. A fridge with two bottles of water and a well stocked tea tray were also present.
The bathroom was newly refurbished and had a shower over the tub. It does suffer from one of those infinity style shower heads which just have the effect of the feeling of being spat at vigorously rather than cleaned under a monsoon of water. Your Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries were also present in the bathroom to make you feel squeaky lemony clean – shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel and a bar of soap.
It was a beautiful day outside, and everyone was trying to make the most of it. Other than a small terrace outside the restaurant the only outdoor area is just outside the front doors. It’s a shame they don’t have a bigger area, but this is due to the incline of the plot.
We settled for bar snacks and a few drinks inside the bar. This has been uplifted from the dark, rich woods of Hilton’s yesteryear and has a nice airy feel. Behind the bar was one bar tender who was also responsible for answering the phone with room service orders. This led to a total service failure. Once ordered the bottle of Prosecco took around 30mins to arrive, the food another 45mins and a second bottle ordered never arrived. That said we did have a pleasant evening people watching the cruisers get rather displeased with the level of service with the puppy sleeping under the table and the food was of a good standard.
The second bottle of Prosecco did remain on the bill for checkout the next morning, but a good hearty breakfast on the terrace had mentally prepared me for that moment.
The restaurant is a really nice place to be, again spruced up from the Hilton of the past, they have a nice baby grand in the centre of the room and the buffet is behind a partition to keep the ambiance in the night and din of kitchen operation in the morning.
Everything was well stocked, my poached eggs arrived quickly and the quality of the produce was more than acceptable. It didn’t have any show-stopping items of note, but as a Diamond I was appreciative of having hot and cold options included. The usual choccie mini muffin rounded off and excellent fill.
The quiet breakfast room had lulled me into a false sense of security as I walked into the lobby to check out; the cruisers were everywhere. It was like an airport waiting lounge as coach loads were awaiting the captains orders to be piped aboard. Whilst there was the express check out option, I wanted to check the 2nd bottle of Prosecco had been credited and no Hhonors line was present. About a 20minute wait to check out, the bottle was credited in minutes and the dog loaded into the car very swiftly.
With the Ageas Bowl Hilton just minutes away, I would be hard pushed to find a reason to return here. A rather vanilla stay, but an ideal spot to wait for your cruise if it’s included in your fare. A longing plea to reopen the pool and gym area though, it looks so sad boarded up.
Top Tip: Cruise passengers tend to take their breakfast very early, if you can wait until around 9.45-10am the breakfast experience will be much more calm