Review: Protea Hotel Samrand in Midrand, South Africa

s part of its investment and growth in Africa — and as a result of Marriott International, Incorporated nearly doubling its number of hotel rooms in Africa with its acquisition of the brands and operations of Protea Hotels Group as announced in November of 2013 — you can now earn, redeem and enjoy full elite level status benefits of the Marriott Rewards frequent guest loyalty program at 26 of those participating Protea Hotel properties, Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! and African Pride Hotel properties in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in South Africa effective as of February 23, 2015; with dozens of other Protea hotel properties slated to join later this year.

Ric Garrido of Loyalty Traveler gives detailed information in this article of which hotel properties have already joined the Marriott Rewards frequent guest loyalty program and which ones will join later this year; as well as their assigned categories and point redemption amounts.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

While in South Africa, I decided to stay at the Protea Hotel Samrand in Midrand. I was already registered for the MegaBonus promotion and the price seemed right; so I booked a room.

Checking In: No Record of Reservation

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The lobby area of the Protea Hotel Samrand is on the left; while the entrance gate for vehicles is on the right. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I arrived at the hotel to check in; but the person at the front desk informed me that there was no record of my reservation — despite the fact that it was booked at the official Internet web site of Marriott and that I had received a confirmation of my reservation via e-mail message.

What am I — back in Lesotho again?!?

Fortunately, it was early in the afternoon and not at 1:30 in the morning — and I was not locked out; and there was someone to assist me — so there was plenty of time to sort out the details.

Try as they might, they had no record of my reservation; so they eventually had to create a new reservation for me. I was hoping that this would not jeopardize my earning Marriott Rewards frequent guest loyalty program points nor ruin my participation in the promotion.

Once the new reservation was created, I was checked in; but due to not having a record of my reservation, the process of checking in was cumbersome, time-consuming and inconvenient — especially as I had just driven in for several hours from Mozambique; and I was tired.

The Room

I checked into the room assigned to me. Photographs of it appear below.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This bed was clean and comfortable. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is the workspace area, with a coffee station located behind the flat-screen television. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

These are the complimentary offerings of the coffee station. I do not drink coffee or tea; so this was useless to me. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This photograph shows the odd shape of the room. The green door is the front door, which leads to the outside. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

These are the amenities offered in the bathroom. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is the shower area. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is the closet, which contains a safe, a spare pillow, and some shelving. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

These are the items which were found on top of the safe inside of the closet. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is the view outside of my room. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is also the view outside of my room. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Too Much Noise From Neighboring Guests

As nighttime arrived and I was preparing to go to sleep early as a result of being exhausted from driving, I started to hear lots of noise — and it went on for hours.

I was hoping that it would stop. I really was not in the mood to first change rooms.

After an abbreviated sleep overnight, the noise resumed early in the morning.

After having approached the front desk bleary-eyed, I was asked how was my stay.

“There was a lot of noise well into the night and early this morning from neighboring rooms,” I replied.

“Oh, that is probably from all of the kids who are staying here through the weekend.”

Kids?!?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This sign posted in the lobby of the hotel explained the reason for all of the noise I had to endure, preventing me from getting a true good night’s sleep. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Well, they were not singing or creating music of any kind through their noise — I can assure you of that…

…but why in the world would anyone at the front desk assign a guest to a room near a bunch of noisy kids? Where is the logic in that?!? The whole point of staying at a hotel in the first place is to get some rest — right?

“I was planning on driving to Botswana; but I do not believe I had enough sleep to drive there safely,” I said.

An Arrangement of Compromise

One of the women behind the front desk apologized and asked if I could stay another night — this time for 500 rand.

My first thought was that if this happened at a Hampton Inn in the United States, my stay would have been free of charge due to the Hampton Inn Guarantee: “If you’re not satisfied, we don’t expect you to pay.”

As I have been reminded so many times during my trip, I have to remember that I am in Africa. Yes, I am.

I rarely invoke guarantees or attempt to receive compensation; but 500 rand is not much of a discount as compensation for my inconvenience. I did get them to include breakfast — on which they had to check with their supervisor before accepting the new terms. They were also going to assign to me a room as far away from the noise as possible, which in my opinion is what they should have done in the first place. Fine. I accepted.

However, the new room was not ready yet for occupancy. Not a problem — I will just leave for a while and return to my new room. Unfortunately, I was stuck in traffic while I was out and returned to the hotel property with a different crew behind the front desk, who had no record of my new reservation nor of the room rate agreement which was reached earlier that day.

In other words, a new reservation needed to be assigned to me yet again; and they were going to charge me the going rate.

The woman behind the front desk went to get her manager, who came out and also knew nothing about the prior arrangement. He originally was not going to honor that arrangement — until I told the entire story to him…

…and I was starting to get aggravated. I wanted to sleep in a quiet room. Still, I remained patient and polite; and the deal of a room rate of 500 rand including breakfast was honored for that second night.

He started saying something about his staff not doing their jobs serving their guests properly and that he would let them know about that. The staff actually was quite nice to me and tried to be accommodating to me — I really did not want to see them get in trouble. It was not their fault that the reservation was not in the system, as the changeover to the Marriott Rewards frequent guest loyalty program only occurred approximately a week earlier. The technology probably was still not ready yet.

Ant Infestation

Anyway, I was given the key to the new room. It was indeed in a quiet area of the property. I opened the door and walked into the room — only to see a swarm of ants all over the desk area in front of the television.

“The room is infested with ants,” I said to the woman behind the front desk after trudging back from the hotel room. A look of incredulousness washed over her face before she “cut” me a new plastic key card for a room three doors down. A maintenance worker accompanied me to the new room to ensure that it was acceptable; and he visited the other room to confirm that it was indeed infested with ants.

I knew I was not crazy — at least, not pertaining to this situation.

After getting situated in the third room assigned to me during my stay, I booted up the laptop computer — only to find that I could not access the Internet.

I once again trudged back to the front desk, where I was given a code for Internet access…

Stains on the Bed Sheet

…and just as I was preparing to go to sleep, I whipped open the blanket and cover sheet — only to find stains in the bed sheet:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Just to the right of the center of the photograph are the stains I found in the bed sheet. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is a closer look of those stains I found on the bed sheet in the bed in the third room in which I was assigned. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

There was a narrow area at the edge of the bed where no stains were present. I was too tired to pursue this latest find; so I resigned myself to sleeping on the narrow area at the edge of the bed, building a “border” of sorts with the pillows I was not using so that I do not accidentally roll over to that side of the bed. Most likely, the bed sheet was clean but the stains cannot be taken out — but who knows?

The next morning, I alerted the woman behind the front desk about the stains in the bed sheet. She offered nothing; but did hope that I had a good night’s sleep.

Here are photographs of the views from the third room to which I was assigned:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

…and here is the exterior of the building in which that room is located, as there are several buildings on the property which comprise the hotel:

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

If you are suffering from the freezing cold caused by the winter blues as you are reading this, take solace in knowing that fall is coming to South Africa. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Breakfast

When my bill was finally settled, I went into the restaurant to have breakfast.

The breakfast buffet was not good at all: canned fruit, fatty bacon, chewy breads and pastries; and in some areas, small flies were hovering over the food. Eggs can be prepared to my liking; but I chose not to do that. I ate a few items with some orange juice and got out of there quickly.

The orange juice and the hash brown potato circles were good, though — but not nearly worth paying for breakfast.

Conclusion

I personally would not consider staying at the Protea Hotel Samrand again due to my experiences — and that is an absolute shame. Had it not been for all of the noise by the kids staying at this hotel property, I would have been quite content with my stay: the bed was clean and comfortable; the shower was spacious, clean and modern; the workspace was ample where I did not need to use an adapter to plug in my laptop computer; and the amenities were a nice touch. There is a private outdoor pool area with a small swimming pool if you need to take a dip.

Unfortunately, one problem led to another, which led to another, which again led to another — all of which really could have been prevented with minimal effort.

This hotel property is located in an industrial area not too far from the international airport which serves the greater Johannesburg metropolitan area; but there is no shuttle service to or from the airport. There is convenient access to the N1 electronic toll road — but if you do not have a car available to you; if you do not like exterior access to your room; or if a view from your room is important to you, do not consider staying here.

Free access to the Internet is available to all guests; but you are limited to 500 megabytes — which means nothing if you do not plan on downloading or uploading anything. The speed was ample for my purposes; but I had to log back onto the Wi-Fi system several times, which was irritating.

Both nights — including a “tourism levy” of ten percent on the room rate — cost me almost $100.00 total. Without the problems and flaws, this would have been a great deal.

Protea Hotel Samrand
Samrand, Sterling Street, Midrand, Gauteng
South Africa
Telephone +27 (12) 657 0110
E-mail reservations@phsamrand.co.za

All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Review: Protea Hotel Samrand in Midrand, South Africa”

  1. TopGunner says:

    Brian, Sorry to hear about your experience. I don’t know what the ambition was for this trip and this last stay. However, as someone who has done SA and a lot of Africa, you are better off doing Guest Houses aka. bed and breakfasts. You get better service, value and experience than the hotels. I know points can be alluring, but the Guest House industry in SA is top notch and avoids these kind of experiences, the hotels have such a market power relative to their guests that even the 5 star hotels are general a wast of money, everything is strictly managed.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I appreciate the thoughts, TopGunner.

      The lodging options were of a wide variety on this trip in southern Africa — from lodges to hotels of international chains. One primary criteria was cost and another was value, as I have stayed at a number of independent lodging options.

      Once Katse Lodge in Lesotho was sorted out, it is a place I would recommend if only for the spectacular views; but the staff treated me well also.

      I intend to post more lodging reviews in future articles.

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