Before and after our cruise, we stayed in London. For five days before our cruise, and one day after, we toured London from our base camp at the Marriott London County Hall hotel. Here are my experiences.
The hotel’s primary hit factor is it’s location, just across the Westminster Bridge from the Houses of Parliament, literally at the base of the London Eye, near shopping and tourist locations and two tube stops. Very convenient. Some rooms have a view of the Thames or Houses of Parliament, including the infamous clock tower that houses Big Ben. So as you’re looking through our pictures, when you see shots of those sites, they’re usually either from our room or right outside our hotel.
Location was also a problem, somewhat, because for-hire drivers (except Black Taxi drivers, who are pros) seem to have a hard time finding the entrance, on the left right across the bridge. Twice, our driver from Heathrow drove right by it and had to go around. He finally dropped us off at the back of the hotel, and we had to drag our luggage around to the front ourselves.
Check-in was difficult. Both families in our party reserved two rooms each, and at both check-ins, the hotel didn’t have all of our rooms ready on time. In both cases, they said housekeeping wasn’t done with the rooms. It seems like they could benefit from hiring more housekeepers, since that’s the excuse they gave both times.
The lobby was actually very nice, there was plenty of room to sit while waiting for people to join you. Their concierge service was outstanding, always suggesting the best route or the best place to eat for our crowd. Likewise the luggage service (bellhops, porters, whatever you want to call them) were also great, and had a great time talking to our kids whenever we passed through the lobby.
The room locations were sometimes difficult – quite a long walk to some rooms, while others (closer to the elevators) were easy to get to. All the rooms were large and comfortable. Everything was clean and shiny, and I didn’t notice anything not working.
As I’ve said in previous blog posts, we book hotels based largely on the availability of a pool for our kids. We find that when traveling, having the kids jump in the pool is a great way to wind them down, and tire them out a bit before bedtime. This hotel has a pool, but it’s family hours – when kids can be in the pool – are very restrictive: 9 AM to 7 PM. This doesn’t exactly leave much time for a dip after dinner, before bedtime. You pretty much have to use the pool before you go to dinner, or it’s too late. And they are very aggressive about enforcing those hours. At the pool check-in desk, they explained that they have external subscribers who want to use the pool for laps with no kids. In my book, that makes it all the worst – as a hotel guest, I expect my requirements to be met before “outside subscribers.” Based on the pool limitations alone, I would probably look at other hotels in the area if and when I go back to London.
We ate at their dining room, and at the adjoining bar, a couple of times. We’re usually in a hurry for breakfast, and they have a breakfast buffet which helps speed things up. The confusing part was, they charged different rates for their “continental buffet” and their “hot buffet”, and you weren’t sure which one you wanted until you saw both. The pub food was great, very tasty and pretty good service.
Check-out was weird. I had two rooms, both on the same credit card, and both with the same Marriott Rewards card applied to them. On both stays, one room got an “express check out” bill under the door on the last morning, and the other didn’t. And the bill, in both cases, was just for one room. So I had to go to the desk in order to get a bill for both rooms.
There’s actually too much to say about what’s nearby… in the same building as the hotel, you have several restaurants, a film museum, and aquarium, and a huge arcade (Dave & Busters style). Nearby is, of course, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, two tube stops, the Thames, a riverwalk type of arcade with lots of restaurants, a skate park, and river tours. You can definitely stay busy here.
All in all, I’d give the hotel four out of five stars, with a perfect score wanting better treatment of families at the pool.