Our trip to stay in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Colchester had been booked for over a year and after some initial trepidation of leaving the children in their sister’s care for a weekend we were very excited about having a child-free weekend for Hubby’s best friends wedding – something we had not had for well over two years.
We had a nightmare journey to Essex. Our satnav reported a journey of just under three hours but it took us five and a half thanks to roadworks on the M3 and Friday traffic on the M25, so when we finally arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Colchester it was a very welcome sight.
The resort is idyllically set in 320 acres of Essex countryside however located just 15 minutes from the A12. The website tells us that it has 194 refurbished rooms and conference rooms of all sizes and the extensive facilities they have to offer include an indoor swimming pool, outdoor tennis courts, covered driving ranges and a UEFA certified football pitch, so we were excited to see what it had to offer.
First impressions of this four star hotel were very positive. Neatly manicured lawns and huge pots of flowers decorated the outside area, leading into the grand entrance hall complete with comfortable seating area, a grand piano and large glass balcony’s overhead. As we checked in we spotted some of the wedding party who informed us they were having drinks in the bar and to meet them once we had dropped off our cases.
As we collected our keys we were advised that we were staying in The Village which turned out to be a series of smaller buildings outside the main hotel which are designed to allow friends and family to stay close together during their stay while remaining close to all of the resort’s facilities.
From the outside the buildings looked nice and as we arrived it was clear that there was a large party staying here who were intent on partying hard with loud music and dancing. We were not too bothered by this apparent noise as we planned to drop off our bags and head back into the main building to meet the wedding party and have a bite to eat.
The room itself was a lot smaller than the pictures on the website but appeared neat and tidy, if a little shabby in places. There was everything you would expect from a modern hotel room with a large widescreen television, small table and chairs with complimentary water, tea and coffee making facilities, a wardrobe with safe and a large bathroom with a bath and walk-in shower.
The one thing that let the room down was the bathroom. On the first glimpse it looked modern and clean but on further inspection it was grubby and tired and dead flies littered the windowsill, bath and shower – certainly not the refurbished rooms the website promised.
A bit disappointed by what we had seen, we headed back to meet our friends only this time through the grounds, which were just as impressive at the rear of the hotel as they were at the front and there were some friendly ducks wandering around the guests too.
We headed for Bar Lacu, a Manhattan-Style bar with comfy, relaxes seating. The bar offers a selection of classic chilled cocktails, specialist beers, wines, and spirits as well as a small menu, but we decided to book a table in the Brasserie for later that evening for our food. Most of the men opted to drink beer but I decided on a nice chilled Pimms to relax and enjoy after our epic drive.
By the time we got to the restaurant we were all starving. It was safe to say it was packed and there were large of groups of people eating including a hen party and other celebrations. We were advised that the a la carte menu meals would take around 45 minutes to arrive due to the number of people dining so we all opted for the buffet.
The food on offer included Leek & Potato soup, Pork Curry, Jerk Chicken, Fish, Salads, Charcuterie meats and salads and I lost count of the number of helpings everyone had. The Profiteroles won the top dessert choice too – they were amazing. The buffet cost £24.95 each and as it contained starters, main course and dessert I though it was a very reasonable price.
After another brief stop at the bar we headed back to our room as Hubby had an early start the next day with Usher duties. The party was still continuing next door as we arrived but thankfully our room was reasonably sound proofed as long as we kept the door to the patio shut, which wasn’t ideal as the room was hot and stuffy. Unlike the rooms in the main hotel The Village does not have air conditioning which was a real disappointment. We did however find a noisy tower fan in the wardrobe which provided some relief from the heat.
I would like to say that we got a decent nights sleep, but some other guests banging, shouting and singing until the early hours put pay to that and every time someone ran a tap or flushed the toilet the pipes whooshed and wheezed for a good two or three minutes afterwards.
Hubby left early the next morning to go for a Turkish Shave with the groom and other wedding party leaving me alone in the room. Once I had cleared the bath from flies I did manage a relaxing bath. I did try to book a treatment at the spa but they were already fully booked so I made the decision to catch up with some work on my laptop.
The website promises complimentary high-speed wireless Internet throughout the hotel and in your room but it was certainly not high-speed but slow and clunky – almost impossible to get any work done at all. That coupled with the party that had re-started next door at 8.30am was not conducive to a relaxing stay and made sitting outside on the patio table and chairs impossible.
The small patio area was also filthy with cigarette butts littered everywhere and a table that looked like it had been used as an ashtray.
Hubby arrived back later than expected and we missed the 11am cut off for breakfast so we headed to the Sports Bar to get something to eat, ordering a sausage sandwich and drink each which cost £15. I have never known such an unorganised place to eat and despite not being busy it took 40 minutes to finally get our food which was quite frankly disgusting, but it was too late to complain as we had just 20 minutes to get ready and get back to reception to meet the wedding party.
We managed to get changed in record time, although hit another snag in our room – no nets on the windows so had to close the curtains and no iron to give hubby’s shirt a quick freshen up, but we made it.
The wedding was being held at another venue and we returned to the hotel at 12.30am still buzzing from a wonderful day. Everyone wanted to continue the party and Bar Lacu was now closed so our only option was to try the nightclub Pulse which is situated onsite.
Pulse nightclub is basically a conference room with some added lights and had distinctly no atmosphere to it at all and the worst DJ I have ever heard, so we headed back upstairs with our drinks and sat around chatting in the lobby for an hour or so before heading to bed.
The bed had been made by housekeeping and the tea bags replaced that I had used in the morning, but both teacups and water glasses were still dirty and had not been replaced or washed up and the bins had not been emptied. Thankfully it was a quieter night although the loud music from next door started by 8am again.
The following morning we finally got to try the breakfast which was held in the Brasserie where we had our buffet two nights previously. There was a good selection of fruits, cereal, pastries available as well as a full cooked english breakfast option which was delicious.
Talking to the other members of our party it seems that our experiences were very different. The wedding party was split up and none of us were together. We had all booked quoting the Bride and Grooms names yet both ushers and the Groom’s parents were in the Village and the Best Man and other guests were in the main hotel.
Everyone who stayed in The Village had similar issues to us, yet those in the main hotel had a much more comfortable stay with air conditioning, large quiet and more comfortable rooms yet paid the same.
We were looking forward to a weekend away without the children and apart from the amazing wedding of our very dear friends, we were so disappointed by the accommodation in this 4-star rated hotel.
Our accommodation cost £130 per night including breakfast.