An Unremarkable, Forgettable Experience
My wife and I visited Alanda Club Marbella from 21 through 28 December 2013. We chose the resort based on the Interval International designation of this being a “premier resort.” That designation states: Premier Resorts provide an outstanding vacation experience, with state of the art conveniences, and modern features and appointments. While we realize that many Trip Advisor reviews are very complimentary of this resort and give it high ratings, and we tend to be wary when we read negative reviews, we were extremely disappointed with our experience. We live in Europe and have traveled extensively, so this was not a “trip of a lifetime,” but rather one of a number of resorts we have experienced over the years.
Our frustration began when our GPS didn’t recognize the location, and after unknowingly driving by the resort off-ramp several times, we called the front desk to ascertain its location. While there were directions given from Malaga where our trip began on our reservations form, there was no mention of the exit number or off-ramp name. The directions stated that the highway led right to the resort, leading us to believe that the highway dead-ended at Alanda.
Once we arrived, we realized that our room (perhaps our room was the exception) did not meet Interval International’s “modern features and appointments” designation. Several appliances and most of the furniture looked as if was installed when the resort was built in the late 1980’s.
First, the positives. The resort sits less than 200 meters from the beach, and the property grounds are attractive and very well maintained. We also found that for the most part, the staff was very helpful. The resort, however, is on two parcels separated by a two-lane road, and we had to cross this road each day to get to the resort restaurant.
We stayed in apartment 31006. Upon entering our apartment, we realized that perhaps the “premier designation” is not for the accommodations, but only for the grounds. We found a serious mold problem in the master bathroom, as well as paint that was peeling from the ceiling. Several silverfish and various other insects had to be taken care of, and there was rust on the front of the refrigerator where the panels met the seams. Our kitchen drain often “gurgled,” as if there was water bubbling up from the drain. Wi-Fi was free, and for good reason. The service was spotty at best, and the last several days we couldn’t connect at all. When we did, it was slower than dial-up.
There was a 42.96 Euro electricity fee for our stay which we learned about after booking, but was not divulged by Interval International when we were looking at timeshares to exchange. There were not any light switches once you walked into the building from the parking garage, and you had to negotiate several steps in the dark before coming to a light switch. Lights in the garage and hallways only stayed on for several minutes, and were operated by switches and not motion detectors as in more contemporary buildings.
Bathrooms did not have heat vents from the central heating system, so we kept the heat lamp on in the evening to partially take away the chill. On several occasions, the elevator did not work, and even though this was reported to the front desk, the problem was never rectified. Whoever had used the washer in the unit we stayed in previously had run the washer without clothes, and then shut the washer off. When we couldn’t open the washer, we called the front desk. They sent a repair person to our unit, and he noticed that the washer still had water in it. He set the washer to drain (about 10 minutes), and he opened the door for us. After the washer was done with our clothes, the door once again didn’t open, and another call brought a manager. He wasn’t certain if he could get the door open until the next day when a repair person would be called, but we were insistent that he find a way to open the door so we could get our clothes out. He finally managed to get the door open, but we were reluctant to use the washer again, and so didn’t.
We signed on for the five breakfast plan, but there was never any variety, and food was the same every morning. Additionally, several birds lived in the dining area, which I felt was a health hazard, and as the dining room emptied, these birds would fly to and perch on serving utensils at the buffet. On the last day of our stay, which was also our fifth breakfast (the restaurant did not offer breakfast, even with a breakfast plan, on Christmas, and an early morning tour meant we missed out on breakfast that morning), the dining room staff person tried to get us to pay for an extra breakfast. Our meal card clearly indicated that we had breakfast on four mornings, and that final morning was the fifth. The waitperson marked the fifth breakfast then insisted that we pay for another breakfast. This was the same waitperson each morning. She finally relented after I told her I would produce our statement upon checkout, but the experience was very disappointing.
The unit had an alarm system, and the resort directory suggested that we set it when we were not in the unit, but unfortunately it didn’t work properly. While the main sliding glass door in the living area did have a lock, we learned one night that the two glass doors that opened from the master bedroom onto balconies did not have locks. We closed these each evening, and also lowered the rolladen blinds that covered the doors from the outside and offered extra security. A storm came up on Christmas Eve with very strong winds. When we awoke on Christmas Day, it was very cold in our bedroom. We pulled the curtains aside, and saw that the wind had blown through the closed rolladens, and pushed open the doors, even though they were closed and latched. The bedroom we stayed in (there were two “master bedrooms”) had mattresses that were extremely hard, and instead of a queen or king size bed, the resort had pushed two twin beds together and had placed a fitted sheet to make it appear that this indeed was a queen or king size bed.
Probably the “final straw” occurred when we signed up to take a trip to Tangier. We paid 72 Euros each (billed to our final statement), and showed up in the lobby at 6:30 AM for a 6:35 pick-up. We were told the bus driver was usually 5 to 10 minutes late. At 7:05, we were told that a taxi was on the way to pick us up and take us to the waiting bus at another hotel, as the bus driver failed to pick us up. The staff person at Alanda told us that the tour guide would pay for the taxi, but after the 40 Euro taxi ride, the tour guide insisted that we pay, and his company would reimburse us. Because we were distrustful about what would actually happen, and were told by the Alanda staff that the tour guide would pay, we refused. The tour guide relented, and he worked out payment with the taxi driver.
All in all, this was a very disappointing experience, and while we’ll probably return at some point to Marbella, it will not be to the Alanda Club Marbella.