A 5 star hotel should include certain things: a lobby is one of these. Down comforters, feather pillows, a window is nice, an iPod docking station, a coffee maker or kettle are things we Americans expect as standard. in a well knows british or American chain, no matter where you are in the world, certain things like these can be counted on, thank God! In Italy, especially in Venice, you can pretty much go ahead and deduct one star from the rating off the bat and kiss these things goodbye. If you book a 5 star hotel and are expecting The Four Seasons (as you should be!) you might be in for a rude awakening when you see what 5 stars gets you. I was prepared to find a few things missing at the Bauer “5 star hotel.” What happened was something I truly wasn’t prepared for: In all of my travels, and that means a LOT, I’ve never experienced the ‘bait and switch.’ I’ve read reviews about it happening, of course, but I guess didn’t think it would happen to me since I only book 4 and 5 star hotels who I would expect to be concerned about their reputations.
Planning this trip to Italy was the most intensive research I’ve done so far. It’s a long trip and I wanted to sample many hotels in different areas of Venice to see what they are like and what is the best place to stay so that I can advise my clients on how they can maximize their pleasure from a stay in Venice. Our first hotel was a gorgeous little gem with perfectly plastered walls and incredible attention to detail. It was a 4 star but exquisite in that the accommodation felt luxurious. What a fabulous bed! It was off the beaten path- as in a twenty to thirty min walk to the sights. Nothing in Venice is really very far and there is great public transportation (Vaporetto boats or Alilaguna) which make getting around easy for the non-walkers. It rains a lot here so on those days the boats make more sense. The second hotel we visited was a 5 star on the island of Guidecca called the Hilton Molino Stuckey, which I will do a separate post about, but in short, the service was what you’d expect from a 5 star, the bed and bedding wonderful, the room gorgeous w exposed beams and a huge Murano chandelier. Each room had a great big window, and whether the view was magnificent or just “nice,” there was plenty of fresh air. There was also an attitude of wanting to please the customer. I Loved being there for two days, but looked forward to our third hotel The Bauer, also called Hotel L’Bauer, because the location was right in the center of things, and I wanted to see if that was better than taking the boat across the canal.
The Bauer Could be great, it’s a two min walk from St Marks square which is the ultimate tourist destination here in Venice.
(The square has a million cafes, and at night each has a band, so it’s common to see people sitting and drinking wine or a Bellini -champs w peach…invented here in Venice at a bar called Harry’s- or even dancing to the music. V romantic!)
When we arrived at the Bauer and walked in, the lobby was impressive. I had booked this hotel on Hotwire as a “secret deal” (where you choose the location and star level and book a non-refundable room in a hotel- which is revealed after the booking is complete. It’s kind of like gambling for me except you either win or win big 🙂 The room was being sold on the same dates as I booked it for for about 150-200 more than I paid and I was pleased with the hotel selected and the savings. I was feeling optimistic, like this might be another great experience, and then we were showed to our room….it was OUTSIDE the hotel…in what they call an annex. A building that is next door, no lobby, unassuming entrance, contains several rooms. Not 5 star whatsoever. About 3 star. More like a bed and breakfast set up than anything. Some people love this sort of thing, but I’ve always been a big hotel kinda girl. I love the occasional boutique as well. It was neither. The room wasn’t terrible, to be fair, and it had a nice marble bathroom (though Every hotel in Venice has this) and the antique furniture was charming. Wifi wasn’t even possible to get outside of the main hotel!! Imagine staying in this room, in another building, and having to walk across and sit in the main hotel lobby, where you could pay 20 euros to get wifi. It just wasn’t anything resembling even a 4 star accommodation. Then I sat on the bed: disgraceful! What’s the most important thing in a hotel room? The bed of course. This one was somehow hard and springy at the same time. The kind of bed you’d find in a pet friendly timeshare, seriously. We asked to be moved to the hotel we had booked and not this Casanova place and were told by Elena at the front desk that it could be done for an additional 450 euros per night. I was like, What?!? Excuse me?!? I showed them our reservation which said nothing about that other hotel and Elena argued and said: anything booked through a third party would automatically get Casanova and not the Bauer. Crazy to think they could get away with using the Bauer star rating and reputation to book 3 star accommodations! Elena the desk clerk said that a room in the Bauer was 900 euros per night and she was offering it to us for half price already. Of course we checked this online later and found that 450 euros or less was the going rate for this night. Her next offer was to give it to us for a supplement of 300 euros a night. Insane. That would mean we were paying over 600 euros per night. Finally she came back with her ‘last’ offer of 100 euros additional per night. We asked to speak to the manager. He gave us a long and drawn out explanation of how it wasn’t their fault. Unfortunately we had been sitting there waiting to talk to him long enough to have found reviews dating as far back as two years ago talking about the same thing happening.
If they can get away with it, they will do it.
They kept mentioning that ere are 5 Bauer properties, though all of their literature mentions only four, and you guessed it, the Casanova is not one of them.
We absolutely believe that many less-seasoned travelers just don’t know any better and think they are staying at the Bauer when they are actually staying as Casanova- the ‘red-headed stepchild’ of the Bauer chain, it’s dirty little secret. If you walk out of your room and you aren’t going downstairs to a lobby…be aware that this is not the experience you paid for (unless the hotel advertises as such!) Many cruisers come through who will only be in Venice for a day or two, people who haven’t been to Italy or Europe and who just think that this is a different way of doing things rather than realizing its a scam. Taking advantage of people who don’t know better is not acceptable.
Long story short, well I guess it’s too late for that, but I am incensed, we ended up in a room in the main hotel. No additional charge. We were offered two drink passes for our time wasted. The stress of having to negotiate for a room you already paid for detracted from any pleasure we would have had if we had just been shown to the room we booked in the forst place. I honestly think that if we hadn’t been persistent and talked about our reviews and hotel blog they would have kept us in the other place. Advice: never put up w being in a room other than the one you’ve booked. Do not back down. Do remind them of how powerful tripadvisor ratings are.
So, what do I think of this room? Meh. The decor is lovely with fabric covered walls and gold ornate ceiling molding. There is a bathtub shared w the shower. The wash closet in the 3 star was actually prettier and had a separate bath. The bed: again TERRIBLE!!! We asked for a topper and they brought a cheap egg crate type deal, which barely helped. Memory foam ones could help these beds, well Really they need New beds. Pillows are flat and what you’d expect in a two star hotel, and, the comforter is not down but some sort of cheap fiber-fill. The art on the walls is sort of tacky. If I’d paid full price for this dingy and poorly lit room, which completely lacks sunlight (Depressing!,) even with the location and knowing that Venice prices are exorbitant, I would be extremely ticked. As I said, the least a 5 star hotel should have is a good bed- hopefully a great bed!
The soaps and other toiletries in the bathroom come w a little card that brags about how they are made in a women’s prison. This really cracked us up – made in a women’s prison! If you’ve ever watched ‘Orange is the new Black,’ you’ll appreciate why I wouldn’t connect “hygienic” with women’s prison. Another way to cut costs?
The breakfast buffet was again, disappointing. The meat selections were of poor quality and smoked salmon, a breakfast buffet staple, was missing. When I was going to take a package of pre-wrapped toasts to feed the seagulls I was rudely stopped and told it wasn’t allowed by Milos. Ok…? Then when I started writing about the experience and perhaps he saw this he came over and said to take them. So which is it? If its no big. Deal why say something in the first place? This sort of no then yes thing happened last night also when we called the front desk for matches. “No, you can’t light a candle in the room,” then a knock on the door with matches. Weird and incongruent. The view at the breakfast area, which sits on the grand canal and is part of their sister hotel was lovely with a view of countless gondolas, some working and some waiting for action. The seagulls fought for food and landed on the canvas awning above us so that we could see their outlines and even the detail of their sheer webbed feet. There is so much possibility for greatness here, so why doesn’t the hotelier, Francesca Possati -a dirty-blond who looks more English than anything, and has her pictures in every piece of hotel literature- operate the hotel with a sense of pride and class? Perhaps they are broke?
PS. The hotelier, Francesca, should come to the US for her next facelift. The neck would not be ignored. Again, the devil is in the details 😉