We were looking for a hotel and the Vasant Palace Hotel Mussoorie was recommended to us by a known travel agency, for a single night stay over the weekend and got a good rate for the Executive Rooms, considering the fact that it was just the start of the peak season rush. We reached Mussoorie in the afternoon and the hotel was easy to locate, as it was on the main Mussoorie Road. The location of the hotel is good, as it is on the approach road to Picture Palace and Mall Road is just a short walk from the hotel, roughly 300 to 400 meters away.
The building is typical of a hill station, built over the slope of the hill and on stilt pillars. From the main entrance, one has to drive down the slope to the lobby porch which is one level lower than the entrance gate. There is a small courtyard that can accommodate perhaps 5 to 6 cars, if squeezed close to each other and parked carefully. This is a good thing because vehicles are not allowed on to the Mall Road and there is virtually no parking in the Mall area, so it is convenient to park the car within the hotel compound and explore the Mall Road on foot, without having to worry about finding a parking spot in town. The fact that the Mall is not too far away helps.
Vasant Palace Hotel Mussoorie – A Review
The hotel lobby is actually located on what I presume to be the 5th floor level. There is a small reception counter and a small seating space. Nothing too big or fancy – just enough to make yourself comfortable if you are waiting in that area for something. Overall quite neat and clean. The check-in was smooth, though it took about 10 minutes, as they are still following a manual registration system where one has to fill a form by hand, along with making the appropriate entry in the register. The staff, however, is very friendly. We were generally talking to them during check-in and got to know that most of them were new, as the hotel has recently been taken over by a new management company a few months ago.
After the check-in we were escorted to our rooms which were allocated to us on the second floor. To get to the second floor, one has to climb down the stairs to the 4th floor level and the stairway descends directly into their restaurant area, which is also visible when you stand at the lobby level. The restaurant itself was not very big, with just a few tables laid inside and an open terrace deck outside. Through this area one passes into the corridor leading to the elevators and then rides the elevator down to level 2, where the rooms were located. I have been wondering how any physically handicapped guest would manage to negotiate their way down to the room, because to reach the elevator one first has to take the stairs down to level 4. I am not sure if they have any rooms available at the lobby level at all.
The rooms were very nice and spacious, of a size which is difficult to in a normal hotel. It is quite obvious that the hotel has recently been refurbished and the paint appeared fresh, on the furniture as well as the walls. The double beds were of a decent size and the sheets, pillows and quilts were clean. Both the rooms allocated to us had long balconies attached, which ran alongside the entire length of the room, with a glass door from each side of the room opening into the balcony. The outer unit of the air-conditioning was installed in the center of this balcony and a dish antenna was fixed to the grill outside. The view from the balconies was that of the hills below and also overlooked the Doon valley in the distance. Both rooms were done in a different style and theme. Nothing in the two rooms was identical, except the shape and size of the room. We later learnt that each of the executive rooms had a different interior theme.
We had booked our rooms on the Modified American Plan (MAP), which means that our tariff included breakfast and dinner, but no lunch. Anything over and above was payable extra, which is quite fair. Having arrived after a long and tiring drive from Delhi, we ordered for some readymade tea to be served to us in the room, rather than using the tea/coffee maker in the room to make our own. The tea which was served was excellent and refreshing. On inquiring, we were told that we could choose to have our meals in the room or the restaurant as per our convenience.
Overall quite nice, except for some issues that gradually came to light.
What became quite evident was that despite being very well behaved, helpful and polite, the staffs were raw and not trained in the hotel business, or not very experienced.
We tried to switch on the air-conditioners in both rooms but they were non-functional and just would not come to life. On inquiry, we were informed that they were not yet operational because the peak season had not yet commenced, but would soon be made operational. Hill station accommodations not being equipped with ceiling fans, we decided to open the room doors and windows, as the air outside was quite cool. Shortly after opening the doors, there was a noticeable drop in the room temperature and the room became comfortable.
Our comfort, however, was short-lived because no sooner had we settled down to enjoy the tea, a monkey appeared in the balcony suddenly, causing us a brief moment of panic as we rushed to close the room door which was ajar at that time. Just in the nick of time, we foiled the monkey’s bid to venture into the room. Whilst simians are fairly common in most hill stations, no one at the reception thought it appropriate to warn us to keep the doors closed, which is rather irresponsible on their part. And even more amazing is the fact (something we learnt later in the evening) that an air-pistol is kept handy on the reception counter just for the very purpose of chasing away monkeys, and they presume that guests will fend for themselves !
After the monkey decided that he could not find an entry into the room, he finally left us and disappeared into the nearby trees. Thankfully, the windows were double, with a net window on the inside to keep out mosquitoes and other intruders, so we opened the two glass windows and thankfully, the rooms were cool again.
The TV too did not function initially and they fixed the dish outside after we checked in.
The tap in the wash basin of one of the rooms allocated to us was leaking, causing water to collect on the floor. When we requested for the same to be repaired, we were informed that their plumber was away to Dehradun and would only be able to fix it the next morning, which would have been of no use to us, considering the fact that we were to check out next morning itself. They did, however, offer to change the room, but the room that they showed us appeared to be unprepared and there was dirty water in the bath tub, so we declined the change of room.
We left shortly after this to explore the Mall Road on foot and returned later in the night and sat down to enjoy some drinks. We were carrying our own liquor and just ordered some glasses and ice cubes. To my surprise, the ice cubes came with a bill – a service that is normally offered as a courtesy in most hotels. Not that the amount was big, but it was surprising, nevertheless.
When we decided to order dinner, we called the room service and they promptly dispatched a waiter to the room to help us with the order. As mentioned earlier, our booking was on MAP, i.e., inclusive of dinner. We were informed that we could only order from the choices listed in the special MAP menu (see picture) and the a-la-carte menu would not be applicable to us. When we inquired about the quantity of the serving, we were told that each portion was sufficient for two people. Since we were four people, we ordered two portions of chicken. The MAP menu offered us a choice of one daal out of the two listed choices. We would have preferred the Lahsooni Daal which was listed on the a-la-carte rather than the Daal Adraki, but the waiter politely informed us that a substitution was not possible in the MAP menu, which is a bit strange, considering the fact that the difference in prices between the two is only ten rupees on the a-la-carte menu. Nevertheless, we settled for what was being offered, along with two portions of a paneer dish. The only allowance that they did make was to serve us paranthas instead of rotis. We were advised that tandoori rotis could not be served as the tandoor was not operational. The Gulab Jamuns were quite disappointing though.
When the food was eventually served we were quite surprised to find that the quantity was too much, although we were informed that each portion would be sufficient only for two persons. The end result was that there was a lot of food left over which we returned untouched. To give them due credit, though, the food was well above average and we did enjoy it, so full marks to their cook for the quality. My advice to them would be to offer a food credit per room, to be adjusted against a-la-carte prices instead of a set MAP menu. This would solve the problem of inflexibility in substitution of a dish, as well as avoid unnecessary food wastage.
The beds were quite comfortable and we slept quite well. The room temperature was very comfortable and in fact we did need to use the provided quilt, so eventually the air-conditioning being non-functional did not matter. However, I am sure in peak summer they would need to be operational during the day at least.
Early next morning we were woken up by a full family of simians who came to visit the balcony and used it as their playground, but this time we did not panic as there was no way they could have found their way into the room, with the doors and net windows firmly closed. They did, however, leave quite a mess behind when they left, having used the balcony as an open toilet. Presumably, this was their way of showing their angst for not having been invited indoors !
We were in for another surprise shortly thereafter, when I decided to use the provided kettle to make some tea. Guess what – it did not work ! We called the service staff who eventually found that it had not even being plugged in, something that was not evident as the socket was hidden behind the writing desk. In any case, we had ordered readymade tea by then, and as was the case on the previous day, it was excellent and refreshing. One more thing that I discovered quite by accident – literally – was when I was trying to look for the socket, I sat on the chair provided with the writing table and the seat just slid off the chair’s frame ! It wasn’t even screwed into place. It seems that the renovations must have been hastily done in order to get the rooms operational in time for the season.
Breakfast on the next morning was again as per the MAP menu. We chose the Aloo Parathas, Poha and Poori Bhaji and tea. Full marks for quality and quantity though and we had no cause for any complaint. This time we opted to eat in the restaurant instead of the room. We even ventured out on the terrace for clicking some photographs once they assured us that no simians were likely to join us there.
One thing that is rather odd is that the checkout time for this hotel is 10 AM, which makes me wonder why this is so, because no one checks out this early in a hill station. Not that they asked us to check out at 10… just curious.
On the previous evening, before proceeding to the Mall Road, we had checked with the reception whether they accepted payment by credit card and if they had the swipe machine functional, to which we were replied in the affirmative, and accordingly, we did not draw any cash from the ATM. However, when we checked out, the PayTM machine just would not connect to the server, although we tried five different cards on it. Thankfully, the agency that had booked us (we were supposed to pay directly to the hotel) was well known to us as well as to the hotel management and it was agreed that we could pay to the agency upon our return to Delhi. So no embarrassing moments there, and full marks to the hotel team for their cooperation. Be advised, though, that they charge an extra 2.5% for payment by card, which is the PayTM transaction fee.
My overall verdict for Vasant Palace Hotel Mussoorie ? Well, to their credit, they try very hard to please and in terms of service attitude you just cannot fault them. However, the relative inexperience of the team is also evident as they did not fully check each room prior to the check-in. Full marks for cleanliness as well, though at times there was a foul smell in the corridors, which we were told was on account of some repair work being done by the municipal corporation in the sewer lines that ran just below the hotel. Hopefully this will be sorted out soon.
I am also reasonably confident that if they maintain the current service attitude, they will eventually get their act together, because what matters at the end of the day is how service oriented the hotel is. Will probably stay at the Vasant Palace Hotel Mussoorie again on the next visit. Hopefully by then the new management would have got the hang of things in the coming peak season and the teething issues would be over.
Rajiv Bajaj asserts his right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author. All copyright and pictures are the property of the author.