If I Have to Work Through the Weekend, at Least Give me a View to Remember

I attended my first Leadership Retreat 2 weekends ago. I wasn’t excited about working through the weekend but the hotel made up for it. I wasn’t expecting much since I was one of only a few who was booked for a single occupancy. My job took care of everything, including transportation via van, room, breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and snack.

We stayed at the Hotel Villa Caletas in Puntarenas Province, Jaco Costa Rica. The hotel is situated high in the mountains and has a private beach. Unfortunately, since I was there for work, I didn’t have time to go check out the beach. The room, however, was amazing and had the most magnificent views of the tropics and water in the distance. Just check out this video of the view…

The view from my room

The room was pretty big too, inclusive of a King size bed, 2 jacuzzi’s (1 on the balcony and the other in the bathroom), plenty of closet space and a changing room.

The bedroom is so bright
Changing Room
Bathroom with jacuzzi and view
Balcony that extends the entire length of the room including a jacuzzi

The hotel grounds aren’t bad either, inclusive of an infinity pool, amphitheater, spa, restaurant, bar and more.

Half of the infinity pool
Macaws in the tree

The actual Leadership retreat was ok but I enjoyed the resort and plan to return leisurely. With the exception of the slow food service, the workers were all very nice and the golf cart was always available to transport you around the resort.

An awesome view, from my balcony, of Lightening striking over the Pacific Ocean

A Review of my Stay at Al Messila Resort and Spa Doha

Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

It is winter break over here in Doha for teachers and children and in light of Covid-19, I’m sure it does not come as a surprise that I opted out of traveling. I did, however, choose to do a short staycation to see different walls than the ones in my flat. My friend Jennifer and I decided to book a room at Al Messila Resort.

Al Messila is located in the Al Rayyan area of Doha. It’s nestled right off Doha expressway and across the street from the U.S. Embassy. We got a great rate as Qatar Foundation employees and I had heard good things about the resort. Jenn and I were really looking forward to some rest and relaxation.

Although the front desk consists of a few podium desks behind plexi/glass shields, the lobby is beautiful. The high ceiling is grand and the chandeliers majestic. There are several areas to sit surrounded by gold and beige decor. Your bags are checked by security and your temperature and etheraz apps are checked upon entry.

Although we requested two beds, the confirmation did say 1 King (which I should have checked prior) and changing to 2 beds would include at least an hour wait. We didn’t feel like adding an additional hour to our already rather late check in time of 4pm. Since we have traveled together before and are pretty good friends, we decided to share the bed.

We stayed in a deluxe room which was very spacious. I really appreciated the 6 piece bathroom including a separate shower and tub behind the same glass door within the bathroom, the rain shower head and double vanity. The room had a rather long hallway from the door to the bedroom, a wall mounted television, coffee maker, mugs, tea, King bed with 4 rather flat pillows, a table, 2 chairs and a chaise. Our room had a balcony facing the front of the hotel and highway. Next time, I’ll be sure to request a different view. The room was very clean with the exception of a nectarine which was under a chair on our balcony, upon check-in, and remained there throughout the duration of our stay. There were stains on our carpet and the bed was not very comfortable. In fact, my side felt very slept on and I had to move closer to the center of the bed to feel like I wasn’t sleeping on a slope. The Wifi was free though and it worked well. I am awarding the room 3 stars, for the great wifi, space, and wonderful bathroom; unfortunately, 2 stars were sacrificed due the bed, carpet stains and forgotten nectarine.

The hotel grounds are beautiful, with lots of greenery and a large pool. There is a pool bar as well and all of the bartenders and pool staff are nice. Happy hour starts late around 7pm. The cigar lounge was clean and Daniel makes very good drinks. The star of the resort, though, is the Spa. As a hotel guest we were able to enjoy the spa amenities free of charge. You can even catch a golf cart over to the spa. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you can still access the spa for 15o QR. Jennifer and I spent about 2 hours at the spa going from room to room. We took part in the hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam rooms, relaxation beds and rooms and even pole dancing and trampoline jumping in a pool. During our spa visit, we only saw 3 other guest, so we basically had it to ourselves. You can pay for other services as well, like facials and massages. I really wanted to experience a Turkish Hamam but due to covid, those weren’t on offer. Al Messila gets 4 stars for amenities. The only reason I deducted a star is because of the lack of dining options which unfortunately hits this resort in 2 areas. Let’s talk food and service.

Let’s get right to the point, in this large beautiful hotel, why is there only 1 restaurant? Firstly, breakfast was not included (*correction, breakfast was included, we were not charged) but the buffet is very reasonably priced at only 38 QR and even though breakfast is buffet style, you can not go up and get your own food, precautions put into place due to Covid. This is fine, however, no one informed us about this even after we were sat at a table and left alone for some time. Eventually we called someone over and they explained that everything would be bought over to our table. They were informed about my vegan and Jennifer’s vegetarian diet prior. It took a while to receive our food but I was able to ask for specifics like potato wedges and sauteed veggies. A menu of what’s available would have been helpful, saved time and cut down on waste. Nevertheless we walked away full and satisfied. For lunch we ate outdoors. The chef prepared some vegetable dumplings and french fries for me. The dumplings and several sauces were tasty. That was on our first full day. But the second day was a disaster. We made breakfast reservations for between 9:30-10 and arrived around 9:45. We were told to wait in the lobby as there was already a queue of people waiting. No one took our names down or gave us a number to be called. We waited about 30 minutes before Jennifer said something to the host and we were finally seated. The host seemed to have no idea about our reservation. The restaurant was getting hammered hard and it showed. We requested to just order specific items from the buffet so that everything did not have to be bought over. I ordered simple potatoes and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, Jennifer ordered avocado toast, and eggs benedict but forgot to tell them no meat, and they obviously forgot our dietary restrictions. They bought over eggs benedict on turkey and a side of meat. She re-ordered and I waited, and waited and waited. Then her fixed order came minus the toast, and I waited and waited. Then she finished and I still sat waiting. We pulled over someone who appeared to be a manager and told him the problem, that we were leaving and I was not paying, as I didn’t eat anything other than a piece of fruit. By this time, I am very upset. He apologized and insisted bringing over the food anyway. A few minutes later, he bought over a plate of mushrooms, sliced avocado and pre-packaged hash browns. The sight of this plate made me angry. It was not what I had ordered. It was not avocado toast. It was not cooked potatoes and the mushrooms were cold. By this time I am furious with the service and I didn’t hesitate in letting the hostess know. There were many complaining guest that day. The service and the food was awful. Knowing that it is winter break, people are not traveling outside of Doha like they used to, due to Covid, this hotel restaurant should have been better prepared. I left out of that restaurant very HANGRY and ready to leave the hotel altogether. I am awarding the restaurant/food and service, 2 stars due to everything mentioned. When I travel, food is high on my priority list especially because of the way I eat. If the food is not right, I usually don’t return.

Things worth mentioning: On our check in day, we received fruit and truffles delivered to our room. This was a nice touch. Later that evening, tea was also delivered. Unfortunately for every good thing, something not so good happened. For instance, after we enjoyed in-room dining on the first night, we called for the tray and dishes to be collected but no one ever came to get them and the room started to smell. On day 2, we saw housekeeping in the hall when we left our room but they never cleaned our room. We had to call down to have our room serviced.

welcome snack

Final thoughts and message to the manager of the Al Messila: This review is based on my experience alone. Everything is true. I travel a lot and write many reviews. Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

  1. Provide a menu for the breakfast buffet so that people can make choices
  2. Have a vegan menu available. The world is changing; more and more people are going green
  3. Prepare for busier seasons with more experienced staff and write down reservations
  4. Don’t bring people cold food- ever, unless it is supposed to be cold and make sure that everyone at the table gets their food
  5. Keep customers informed. A customer should not have to call downstairs to find out why their room was not serviced
  6. Ensure that room service collects in-room dining dishes or at least checks with the guest within an hour
  7. Flip mattresses
  8. Remove the nectarine off the balcony of room 3012 and get rid of the carpet stains
  9. Move up the check-in time. Half the day is gone at 4pm and with a noon check-out time that isn’t even a 24 hour stay.

Al Messila receives 3 stars from me- Beautiful but below basic in food and service.

***Update: After contacting the hotel manager, Mr. Mallah, he arranged for me to return to try out Al Mesilla restaurant again. There were some major changes made and the brunch is very good. They had a whole section dedicated to just vegans. And it made me wonder, if that will always be there or was that just for me. The service was much, much better. The drinks were good too and so was the food. After this new visit and changes, I may be inclined to stay there again. I appreciate that the manager invited me back to have a better experience. I kind of wish he had covered a night’s stay along with the restaurant visit.

A Review of The Spa at the Warwick Doha

Today was my first time using the Spa at the Warwick hotel. I usually start with a 5 * rating and then delete and add stars according to my experience.

When I entered the hotel, I was instantly overtaken by the smell of smoke. I felt like I was in a casino in America before they added smoke rooms. For someone with Asthma, I automatically made up my mind that I would never stay here. Minus 1*. (not the spa’s fault but still a part of the hotel)

When I arrived to the 7th floor which is where the spa is located, there was no-one there to greet me. I had a 5:00 appointment and I was on-time and there was no-one there. So I took a seat and waited. Five minutes later, a gentlemen arrived and walked passed me on his mobile phone and just nodded. Less than a minute later he walked back passed again and I asked him if anybody was working. He told me that he was calling someone. (He must have been someone in charge) Someone did come about a minute later, handed me paperwork to fill out and confirmed my appointment. Seven minutes later I was in room. This is unacceptable- Minus 2 **

My masseuse was very nice. She said she was from Thailand and apologized that she did not check back at the desk at 5 to see if her appointment had arrived. (valid but why is there no hostess or receptionist on duty).

After being taken to my room, she (my masseuse) had to set up because she was late. So while I tried to undress she was busy lighting candles and had to go and get me disposable underwear because there was none in the cabinet. Minus 1* star

My massage was nice– 90 minute full body massage. She adjusted the temperature when I was feeling cold. I asked her to write her name down so I would remember it. Plus 1* star for the nice massage.

The price was great and I used the entertainer app, so I get one free massage to use another day. Plus 1*.

After the massage I went back to the front to pay and complete a survey. Several male customers were there talking too loud for a spa but whatever. My masseuse neglected to write her name down for me for which she probably forgot. No stars taken away for that.

All together 3 stars for this spa. I will be back for my free massage but I wasn’t impressed by the service or the smoky hotel. Do better Warwick.

**My review is based on my experience and mine alone**

**Update: I recently revisited this Spa for my free massage and I must say I was impressed by the improvement in service. There were 2 receptionist on duty when my girlfriend and I arrived. We were warmly greeted with a beverage, a warm towel to freshen up and our masseuse’s names. The lemongrass smell was so intoxicating that I bought some of the oil. Our rooms were ready and again the massage was awesome. When our massage was over, we were given tea and a survey.  This time the Warwick received 5 stars from me. They really listened to their customer reviews and up’d their game. They have a new special for February, massage and chocolate Wrap, I will be back for mine and I’ll be back monthly from now on!

Go Bananas!

On the weekend of 11/11/17, my husband and I celebrated our 6th year wedding anniversary.  I surprised him with a trip to Banana Island!  Yes, that is the real name of the island.  Take a look at this video:

It’s actually a resort by Anantara, just a 25 minute catamaran ferry ride away from Doha, Qatar or a private helicopter ride.  It’s a luxury, dry (alcohol free- out of respect for the local Islamic culture) resort.  The resort features 2 & 3 bedroom villas with private swimming pools and 1 bedroom hotel rooms.  It also offers over-water bungalows. We stayed in the hotel since it was just us.

I’m trying hard to stick to my commitment of saving versus traveling but last year was our 5th anniversary and we spent it on two different continents so I wanted this one to be special.  Is a weekend on banana Island expensive?  Yes, but still cheaper than paying for a flight, hotel and food someplace away from Qatar and wasting time on a plane ride for a quick getaway.  I called Darryl on the phone three hours before I left from work and instructed him to pack for a weekend.  It wasn’t until we were on the Corniche, being dropped off by our good friends Jennifer and JD, that he realized where we were going.

You check in to the resort while still in Qatar and as soon as you enter this small building, you’re treated with royalty.  The banana island check-in is located near the MIA on the Corniche.  As soon as we walked under the arch, someone greeted us and took our bags.  We were offered dates and water.  Ten minutes later we boarded the ferry.  In less than thirty minutes we arrived to the sounds of beating drums.  Our preferences were reviewed and we were escorted to our room. Our bags met us shortly there after.

The room was huge, featuring a full bathroom including a large rain shower head, dual sink vanities an attached sitting area and closet.  The bedroom had a sitting area, mini bar, small refrigerator, Keurig machine, king-size bed, and a large spa tub in front of the balcony overlooking the ocean.  We turned on the t.v. to check the channels and was surprised by the Boss surround sound that followed into the bathroom.

20171109_184913-1.jpg

20171109_184923-1.jpg

20171109_184940.jpg

20171109_184951.jpg

20171109_185011.jpg

20171109_185019.jpg

20171109_185049.jpg

The island is beautiful.  It has several restaurants, a public pool, large play area for the kids, surrounded by beach of course, golf carts that will take you around with one call, a cinema, bowling and more.  I was actually surprised by how cold the beach water was, but we still enjoyed it.

20171110_132448.jpg

20171110_054217.jpg

20171110_095350.jpg

20171110_053821.jpg

What about the food? Well, they did not disappoint.  You know if the food is good, than you got me.  They were very aware of my vegan diet and at each restaurant the Manager came over to greet me and consult with me about what I wanted to eat so that they could prepare it fresh for me.  He even asked what I would want the next day, so that they could prepare it.  I mean top shelve service, even down to room service.

20171110_090200.jpg

There were only 3 things, I had a problem with: no villas for single couples, no alcohol, and the pillows, where your head sunk right to the bed.  So take your pillow and the other thing with you (if you know where I am coming from) and enjoy a 5 star vacation 25 minutes away from Doha.

20171109_185248.jpg

20171109_185528.jpg

20171111_092945.jpg

%d bloggers like this: