This is our fourth consecutive year we have attended an annual Israel Folk Dancing weekend at the Leonardo Club Hotel, Dead Sea. The weekend is run by a third party with the hotel as the venue.
In previous years I have noted that on each visit the fabric of the hotel is more and more in dire need of attention; simply put the hotel is tired, neglected, shabby.
Having been closed for several months due to the COVID19 pandemic, I had anticipated that management would have utilized the time for painting, sprucing the hotel up, rejuvenating the worn-out and decaying elements of the hotel’s fabric. Other than the hotel’s gym, which was in urgent need of a makeover, during my stay, Wednesday thru Saturday, I saw no visible signs of rejuvenation. Roaming extensively around the hotel while my partner was dancing, I can report that the physical condition of the hotel is worse than last year. In other words, the downtime has not been used to the hotel’s advantage.
The following are just a few examples of why I rate this hotel so poorly:
Although the check-in procedure itself was relatively smooth, the attitude of the front desk team left a lot to be desired in the way of guest interaction. It would also have been nice if the male front desk wore clean pressed shirts, rather than giving the impression that they had slept in their shirts.
The check-out on Saturday afternoon was ridiculous. Although two members of staff were working, one kept disappearing into the back office, leaving just one person. Management has to know that check-out is a busy time and that sufficient staff has to be on duty. It’s not rocket science.
I booked an upgraded room on an upper floor. This resulted in being assigned room 737. At first glance, the room appeared to be satisfactory. Further inspection however showed an altogether different picture.
I have in the past mentioned the fact that for more than 50 years I worked, was involved in, and associated with the hospitality, leisure, travel, and conference market. My endeavors enable me to function in the US and Canada, the UK and Europe, the Far East, and of course Israel.
One of my early mentors, 50 years ago was the owner/manager of a successful provincial hotel. Part of his daily routine was to inspect at random several rooms once housekeeping had completed their duties and the rooms had been inspected and signed off by a housekeeping supervisor.
The bathroom was always first. The gentleman would remove his shores and suit jacket, step into the bath, and lay down. From this angle, he was able to see clearly if the corners of the bathroom were clean, to see under the hand sink and around the toilet stand. Next, he would, with the seat down, sit on the toilet and repeat the same exercise.
In the bedroom, he liked to take a couple of coins, drop them on the floor and watch them roll. Then on his hands and knees to retrieve the coins, he would inspect under the bed, under any rugs and furniture, check the wall corners to ensure they were clean.
I adopted his routine with the bathroom of room 737. While the floor was clean, there was a build-up of dirt in wall corners which included hairs. Due to the hard water, a build-up of stone had developed around the hand sink tap where it met the sink surround. This could also be seen around the toilet flush.
Using his trick I checked out the bedroom. While the bed almost reaches the floor, it was clear that there was a build-up of dust. Likewise, under the slip rug – the floors are hardwood. And, like the bathroom, there was a build-up of dust/dirt including what looked like small, dead insects in the various corners of the room.
The balcony was clean, save for the same corner issue. However, I did receive a shock when I spied the wall niche to the right of the balcony. As can be seen from the photo below, previous guests had used the niche as a trash bin.
The balcony of room 737 offers a wonderful vista of the Dead Sea. Regretfully it was not always possible to make use of the facility due to cigarette smoke drifting from other balconies, which bothered me.
The bed is comfortable, not so the extremely soft pillows. I appreciate that this is a personal whim. And, a pair of earplugs would be useful given the non-stop, brain-deading music played by the hotel pool which drifts up to the room – both balcony and room itself – and this with the balcony door closed. The balcony door, by the way, could be closed but not locked as it was broken. Maybe it is an age thing, but I fail to understand how “boom, boom” music played at full blast can be relaxing? Certainly, if you are inclined to an afternoon nap, forget it. Hence the earplugs suggestion.
A final note regarding the bathroom. While the bath is lined with a non-slip surface, this does not fully protect against slipping, as I found out. Getting into the bath to shower is straightforward given the need to step up to enter the bath. Getting out of the bath following a shower is somewhat harder as the step down is cumbersome and users are prone to slipping. To steady yourself you need to either hang on the wall-mounted trowel rail or the water splash glass partition. Given that the latter is held in place in just two places and is not stable, the towel rack is the handhold of choice.
The water pressure in the hand sink was acceptable as was the pressure in the overhead shower and bath tap. However, the handheld showerhead appeared to be blocked with stone, due to the hard water resulting in a less than favorable water pressure. The shower mixer button that allows the user to switch between the various shower options, while working took considerable jigging to stay in place. And, in both the hand sink and bath, the water did not drain away quickly suggesting a partial blockage in the waste pipes.
Leonardo Club Hotel, like many hotels I have come across in Israel, still maintain bathrooms with a bath. I am not sure what percentage of people have baths these days, a shower is by far more convenient. It is therefore a wonder that hotels do not switch out baths for shower units? While there would be no meaningful difference in water consumption between a shower in the bath and a purpose build shower, safety-wise, the difference is significate.
While all the above is tenuous and should not be an issue, my biggest problem was with the hotel’s dining room, which resembled something out of Dante's Inferno or the ‘bedlam’ of the 18th century Bethlem Asylum. The clamor, pushing, shoving, and overall ambiance is enough to take away your appetite. It’s as if the guests had not seen food before, had not eaten in days.
The dining room tables are packed tightly together to allow maximum seating, which makes getting up from your table an excise in itself. A couple of times I had the person behind me push their chair back, which in turn jolted in, which if you have a fork in your mouth leads to an unpleasant experience, and of course, no apology is made by the other party.
I care nothing for the kosher dietary regulations concerning food. I do however care greatly about health and hygiene matters as they pertain to food and food service. For example. One of the dining room team, who I thought was, due to her head covering a religious Ethiopian, later I felt that maybe she is a Muslim woman who adheres to the practice of covering her hair. Either way, the lady in question, whose job is to wipe down the tables before relaying them, dropped with cloth on the floor. To my amazement, rather than trash the cloth, she simply picked it up, shook it out, and continued to wipe down the tables and table mats. When I quietly and discreetly challenged her, the response was a curt, rude “who cares”.
The hotel produces meals of an industrial standard. Yes, I will concede that the displays look good and given that we eat first with our eyes, are enticing. The quality however leaves much to be desired, and the lowering of standards is notable from prior years.
Overall it would seem that dishes are either bland, bordering on tasteless, or fiery hot. Without blowing my own trumpet, I am an experienced chef/cook, whatever tag someone wishes to bestow on me, and I do fully appreciate the challenge of preparing meals for a diverse audience.
It is of course easy to lay the blame on the hotel team regarding the haphazard cleaning, poor building maintenance, and below-par food preparation.
If the hotel team lacks training, guidance, and supervision, the fault lays squarely with the hotel management and the management of the Fattal Hotel Group for not providing clear and targeted QA goals.
I was trained in the ways of hotel management being out and about their property, visible to guests and staff alike, and challenging their team to go the extra mile, not sitting behind a computer in an office.
Suffice to say that I will not be returning to the hotel unless there are drastic changes.