Monday, 9 August 2010

Wellness Patince: Well Done

On a whim we decided to spend a long weekend at the Wellness Patince, a four-star hotel with thermal baths in the South of Slovakia at springs dating back to the Romans. We came back very satisfied with the experience and I have since recommended the wellness to several of my friends (and at least one went with her family).

The location
Patince is at least two hours from Bratislava travelling along the south of Slovakia and can be longer depending on traffic. There is a shorter route crossing though neighbouring Hungary but we did not feel like negotiating the highway toll system.

The area itself is pleasant, near an old thermal swimming pool although some of the older facilities around are run down.

We rented a small human-powered bicycle car from the Western Saloon (an establishment near but completely separate from the hotel) but returned it early as the nicer unit recommended by staff seemed close to falling apart. Similarly, the lunch at a nearby restaurant (two minutes walk from the hotel) was a disgrace (we did much, much better at Diva Kacica in Landor - Hajlas just outside of Komarno propper, a tastefully decorated pension with classy cuisine of the kind I feel should exist around Slovakia but rarely do).

The hotel is near a small lake with thermal water. It is a bit smelly (mineralised smell) and murky looking but pleasant enough. You can walk around the area and see the remnants of bygone glory (including an open air cinema and interesting looking cottages) of a Communist-era resort, which we liked.

The hotel
Wellness Patince is only a few years old. It is nice and quite simple though by no means an architectural masterpiece. The hotel connects to a large indoor wellness pool, a sauna world, outdoor pools and other facilities all open to the public and accessible to hotel guests without limit at no extra charge.

The staff were nice and everyone greeted guests as they walked by, which I had not been used to in Slovakia.

Our stay was the Summer Package and should have included several extras (free bike rental, free trip on the Wellness 1 from the Patince Marina, on the Danube some 2 km from the hotel). Noone made an effort to offer us these and we did not feel like demanding.

We had been told in advance part of our stay overlapped with a corporate event but this had no negative influence on our stay oru access to facilities at any time.

The hotel's own internet presence is poor - so much so in fact that I had to write them an email about this, pitching Pizza SEO's services.

Our room, a Classic room was a generous size and fit the three of us more comfortably than most double rooms would. There was extra floor space to play and desk and closet space to store our stuff.

The decor was tasteful enough (yellow and brown) with reasonable laminate flooring, quality windows.

Some construction details showed small structural problems - bits of the wall in room and hallway were stained, apparently near water pipes of bathrooms.

There was a large piece of spider web hanging from the ceiling in our room. The room cleaning was so unobtrusive as to appear unavailable and our room ended up not cleaned on several of the days though no doubt if we had asked the friendly cleaning staff would have quickly obliged.

The bathroom was not the most practical in terms of offering space to hang up three sets of towels. The water pressure had its moments but was ok through most of the stay.

We ate a half-pension at the unpretentious but good quality restaurant. The buffet breakfasts were more than satisfactory and dinners were always at least satisfactory. On one of the nights a grill on the terrace was in operation and those in the know (including people who seemed to be the owners) ate from the grill. Great chicken, veggies, fish (though I noticed at one point the lady used the same serving tweezers to place raw marinated meat on grill and serve finished grilled meat on plates).

Dinner started with a large board with finger food including smoked salmon, different ham and cheese canap├ęs, veggies, etc. There were two soups and four main dishes with additional options. Fruit and small cakes were for dessert.

The wait staff removed used dished very rapidly, sometimes too rapidly to my taste but everyone was polite, pleasant and friendly.

There was a good selection of wine, Slovak and foreign, served with grace.

The restaurant only served very limited options for lunch and we never took that but ate a few meals at the poolside wellness bar. This had a bit of a factory canteen decor and the food would also have suited factory workers - many items were deep-fried and the salads, the wellness 'option', were unspectacular.

Outside of the wellness a few stands offered simple food - some serving fish with chips or bread as fast food seemed appealing.

A lobby bar, in an unappealing room secluded from the actual lobby served specialty coffees with a very eager and willing bartender. The other bar, open late, was in the bowling alley downstairs.

The wellness
The pools were nice and clean and even at their fullest did not feel crowded. The large indoor pool allowed for a bit of swimming and the warm sitting pool was undemanding. The outdoor pools were alright too.

The sauna world was appealing and pleasant and the gym seemed well equipped (and never used).

The verdict
We thoroughly enjoyed our four nights and would not hesitate to go back. Having said this there were small aspects that disturbed me and would have liked an opportunity to be asked by a manager for my views and seeing these things fixed.

The wet walls do not seem sustainable. The cleaning service needs to be more efficient because the four stars bind: the room needs to be cleaned daily, ideally before lunch, we need towels changed (and would appreciate extra towels). The Wellness Bar could try to live up to its name a little more: having seen the cars in the parking lot I think there is a clientele that would appreciate this (sophisticated salads and sandwiches instead of french fries with fried meat).

Inevitably comparisons with Hotel Therma Dunajska Streda that we visited came up. The distance (since Dunajska Streda is about half the distance of Komarno) works in its favour, as does the price. The staff attitude is comparable across the two (and a big part of the good experience in both cases) and our room at the Therma was cleaned daily as it should have been.

But Therma is in the middle of an industrial zone in a former office building and feels very outdated with the ashtrays on landing you pass through going from the elevator to your room.

Wellness Patince is cleaner, nicer, more readable architecturally, with a larger pool, healthier food.

The weak web presence is a genuine shame - the product on offer deserves to be communicated better.

I am determined to go back to Patince, look forward to my stay already and I will also make an effort to tell them what could be better as a friend rather than a critic.