So I went to Islamabad for a work-related meeting twice this year – July and October (spent my birthday there) – and stayed at the luxurious and expensive Serena Islamabad Hotel. Stayed there because frankly, it was our only option as one of the ‘most secure hotels’ in Islamabad, according to our database, due to the fact that Pakistan is still considered as a high alert country for our organization. So, with no other choices, our meeting was held there.
Room rates include complimentary airport transfers for a no-fuss arrangement. Cars were really clean, drivers were polite and had good driving skills and they even offered bottled water once you settled inside.
Architecture wise, the hotel is really grand, immensely huge and lavish. It took me a few minutes towalk from one end to the other. High ceilings with chandeliers, engraved wood, and a lobby of marble flooring would meet you when you get inside.
The rooms – I was able to try both the Deluxe and Executive – was very spacious and really nice looking with the usual comfy bed and fluffy pillows, flat screen TV, huge windows overlooking the gated complex with guard watch towers (haha) and wooden tables. The comfort room had two sinks (for Exec), a tub and of course, shower area.
Complimentary breakfast was at the ground floor. The venue was really nice and big. Food selection was standard, though of course no bacon (Muslim country) and it would have been better if they had more fruit options.
Business Center was really nice and huge. Best part is that checked in guests can use it – net, printing, photocopy etc – free of charge.
But in terms of service, which for me is much more important, generally, I really wasn’t satisfied. I’m not even going to talk about the meetings itself (so much horror stories) but will focus more on my personal experience. To start off, check in took forever! Haha! An exaggeration, yes, so I’ll translate: check-in took more time than it should have. There was no urgency in their staff! Even the international staff I came in with said “Their service is always terrible” as he has already been to Serena more than twice.
Room service was terrible. Took them a while to attend to my requests. Half of the time, they didn’t even replenish my drinks (by the way, all of their non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary). Complimentary nga, but they don’t automatically refill your fridge, so I had to call and remind them to do so. Generally speaking, they really moved slow. Can you believe it would take no less than 10 minutes for them to give me some hot coffee? Not to mention, I had to follow-up twice. This is not just based on my own experience as some – if not all – of my colleagues had a similar experience, even my boss!
Remember I said this hotel boasted of being the most secure in Islamabad? Well, someone stole our tarpaulin with our event meeting details and the hotel staff couldn’t even find it! No CCTVs or guards or whatsoever. How secure is that? And more importantly, why would anyone steal a tarpaulin with our event details and logo? It makes no sense. Hilarious.
As a side kwento, Pakistan and India are not on good terms (like historically) and once, I heard a hotel staff call me Ms India, which may be a reason why they are taking so long to attend to my needs (because they think I’m Indian and they don’t like me). I’m not a diva and I don’t even have special requests but would it hurt to walk briskly when I have a request related to our meeting?
On the other end, they love China (again, historically) so my Chinese boss experienced ‘good service.’ Some Pakistanis even asked to have their photo taken with him! Fascinating.
So glad that we shall no longer have events there for the rest of the year and for at least the next 10 years. Hopefully, I’d be in another project, if not better company, by then.