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13 Dec 2013

"Mystery guest" in the hotel Minsk

Hotel Minsk is definetely one of the most popular hotels in Minsk. Indeed, being located near Independence Square and close to all "places to be" in Minsk this hotel is favoured by many foreign visitors. But is it staying there worth money the hotel charges its customers. This review will help to find out.

Three, four or even five “stars” are important criteria for affluent foreigners choosing a place to stay in Minsk. When settling into a “star” hotel, they expect high-level service, and whether it will speak up to their expectations will greatly influence their first impression about the capital and Belarusians’ hospitality. Populat Belarusian web portal launched a series of articles about our opinion on Minsk hotels claiming to have supreme service. Here The Minsk Herald presented you a translated version of their experience. So, Onliner guys say.

Acting as “secret guests”, we stayed in “Garni”, “Yubileiny”, “Crowne Plaza”, “Victoria”, “Europe”, “Minsk” and recently-opened “President-Hotel”. We took standard single rooms, ordered breakfast and dinner into the rooms and tried to keep staff as busy as possible carrying out our requests. Starting today, each Tuesday we will publish reports on our stays.

Recently the number of hotels in Minsk has increased dramatically, some of them were built from scratch, while the others were renovated, and their proclaimed star rating went up. “Minsk” hotel is one of the examples of such rebirth.

Located in the heart of the capital, this hotel has been treated as a city’s landmark since its inception in 1959. In 2001-2002 the building was reconstructed, and the Standardization, metrology, and certification committee of the Council of Ministers, jointly with the Ministry for sport and tourism awarded the hotel with 4 stars. By the way, it was the first one to get such an honour. Now let us see whether Hotel "Minsk" still speaks up to its status after more than 10 years.
The cost of staying at a standard single room is 1.649.971 rubles, which also covers an open-buffet breakfast. Those who want to order meal into the room will have to pay 10% of its cost for delivery.

Booking a room was quite easy. Once I have introduced myself and left my phone number, I received the booking confirmation and number. Despite the fact that the hall of the hotel was bustling, check-in went smoothly and quickly. All the documents were prepared in just 10 minutes, and the staff member suggested choosing a room for either smokers or non-smokers. Electronic room key was accompanied by the Wi-Fi password. As a matter of fact, Internet connection speed was absolutely fine.

My first impression of the accommodation was mixed: the room was small, while the furnishing was noticeably old. Air conditioner installed over there functioned well and wasn’t noisy.

An electric kettle, cups and glasses, a bottle of mineral water and still water, teabags and coffee were standing on one of the bedside tables – everything covered by the cost of staying in the room.

The view out of the window was fantastic. At present “Minsk” is the only hotel giving its guests an opportunity to sit and drink coffee while looking at the Main Post Office and vivid life at the Nezavisimosti Avenue. 2 cups of Americano and a bottle of mineral water delivered into the room within 8 minutes cost 25 thousand rubles.

There is also a home-produced LCD TV broadcasting 40 channels with a small remote control in the room. While Belarusian and international channels function more than great, the quality of others leaves much to be desired.

After having a closer look at the furniture, I noticed that it was extremely old. The bedside table smeared with cup stains was an eyesore to me. Fiberboard bed angle was partially broken. Moreover, I noticed coffee stains on a wall. Socket behind the table was missing.
Scorch marks on the carpet and the bedcover caught my attention, too.

One of the bedside table’s boxes contained the Bible and a sewing kit.

The bathroom at a glance is equipped in a due way: a separate phone, full set of towels, shampoo, shower gel and body lotion bottles decorated with the hotel logo, a one-off shower cap and soap.

Having scrutinized the soapbox, I found a hair the previous customer had left.

Another service obligatory for all hotels of such level is a safe in each room. Indeed, there is a safe; however, those clients who want to leave their belongings in it will be greatly disappointed. The locking mechanism is out of order and has no batteries. I believe that checking whether batteries are installed is hotel staff’s duty, not guests’ one.

There is also a mini bar with an unpretentious stock. You can order glassware at the reception. Apart from drinks, chocolate and nuts, the fridge was also accompanies by a bottle screw and a bottle opener.

It’s dinner time. After a short consultation with a staff member, I ordered chicken with almond and soy sprouts, and a Shopska salad. Dinner was served in 20 minutes for 130 thousand rubles. The meal was delicious.

Now it’s time to go to sleep. You can set an alarm clock by simply dialing certain combination of figures on the phone. At the midnight city center life started to show its worst side. Taxi drivers scolded to each other next to the front door, while drunk guests and by-passers discussed their plans for the upcoming way loudly and emotionally. I had to keep my window closed during the night, luckily, the air conditioner functioned well.

I should say that I was pleased with the staff serving me at the hotel. At 2 am I asked for a headache pill and received a whole set of medicines to choose from. Moreover, the lady from the staff was sincerely enthusiastic about helping me out. All requests were carried out quickly. Both maids and waiters, when receiving payments, gave me correct change, anyway, none of them refused to get tips.

In the morning I decided to do some ironing. An iron and an ironing board were brought to my room at short notice. The maid who brought me the pill in the night inquired whether I felt better. Unfortunately, I still didn’t manage to iron my clothes – the problem was either with the iron or the socket. Also, I ordered breakfast, which was delivered within 10 minutes. According to the waiter, delivery of a breakfast prepaid during the check-in is free, which is certainly a great advantage.

To sum it up, I should admit that, to my mind, despite extremely lucrative location in the city, the “Minsk” hotel does not deserve the proclaimed “4-stars” status. I do understand that the building has not been redecorated for quite a long time; however, it is obvious that such issues as a non-functioning safe, dirty walls, broken sockets and burnt bedcovers could be resolved with minimal efforts. Moreover, leaving hairs in the soapbox is intolerable. In this particular case the city’s landmark has room for improvements.

A "secret guest" from