on January 13, 2010
Finding a hotel in Prague is always a challenge - not because there are too few, rather because there's too much choice and it can be baffling if you don't know the city. I've been going to Prague since the early 1990s and have stayed in hotels ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous; some really grand (I particularly enjoyed sharing a fancy hotel near the castle with the Portuguese national football team!) and others barely better than a student hall of residence. The company I worked for held their Annual Business Meeting in Prague in February 2007 at the Radisson. Around 80 of us were there from Sunday through to Thursday morning.Location Location Location The Alcron is on Stepanska, a side street off Wenceslas Square. This is the so-called New Town area; new because it only dates back to the 14th Century. The location is very handy for the National Museum and Wenceslas Square in general. A 10-minute walk will take you to the Old Town Square and another 10 minutes or so from there to the Charles Bridge. Everything we wanted to see was within easy reach. Some people may prefer a hotel on the Old Town Square but for me, this location was just about ideal; close to everything without suffering the crowds and noise.An Art Deco Gem? The hotel was opened in 1932 and was allegedly a real favourite with the 'in crowd' of the so-called Jazz Era. The hotel expresses this today with an over abundance of cheesy Art Deco posters in all of the rooms and in the corridors as well as some very nice armchairs on the stairwells. Although the hotel makes much of this grand art deco heritage, I was very disappointed that the original features and style that I'd expected from reading the website were very few and far between. I've stayed in some excellent Art Deco hotels but this isn't one of them. If you didn't know it was supposed to be 1930s in origin, the successive renovations and redecoration really wouldn't have left enough clues to work it out. Indeed from the outside, there's nothing about this hotel that screams any history at all. I read somewhere - sadly I can't remember where now - that during the communist era, this was one of the hotels used by foreign visitors and was therefore covered in bugs and listening devices. It must have been quite an experience.The Rooms I stayed in a standard room on the 5th floor on the inside of the hotel overlooking the Crystal Ballroom. The room wasn't particularly large or grand for a 5-star, I would have expected something a bit more special. I had a double bed with lots of squishy cushions, two bedside tables, an armchair by the window with a coffee table, a work desk with a mirror over, a TV unit with mini-bar below and a unit for making tea and coffee. The wardrobe was a good size with a trouser press tucked inside and there was a mini-safe tucked into the TV unit. The bathroom was more spectacular than the room and done in an elegant Art Deco style; let's amend that to 'elegant but impractical'. I'm not much of a one for make up but the layout of the rounded sink in the corner and the subdued lighting made it almost impossible to get close enough to a well lit bit of the mirror for even a basic bit of lipstick application. The bath had a shower which was powerful and easy to control and the toiletries were plentiful and of good quality. The bathroom wasn't very big but had all that was needed. The hotel claims the bathrooms are marble but I have to reveal that it's just not true. The tiling is very good imitation but marble it ain't - I've spent so long in local tile centre over the past couple of years that I can spot a pattern that gives away the lack of authenticity. Shame on you Radisson!The Public Areas The reception area is large but quite dark. The reception desk is on the left-hand side and has plenty of staff; I didn't have to wait more than a couple of minutes checking in or checking out. On check-in they will want your passport details and a credit card swipe. Porter service is available but we didn't need it. Moving away from the reception and deeper into the hotel, the bar (called the Be Bop Bar) is on the right side on a raised floor. I didn't drink there a lot but my colleagues certainly gave it quite a hammering. The service was fine and they did a good range of cocktails. Near to the bar is the only public smoking area.Restaurants At the back of the hotel on the ground floor is the La Rotonde Restaurant where we had breakfast and lunch each day. The breakfast choice was enormous but getting a coffee seemed to be a challenge that out-witted me on the two times I tried. The lunches on offer each day were hot and cold buffets with a strong leaning towards raw fish which scared quite a lot of my colleagues. There was always a lot to choose from but the hot dishes were almost all heavy meat dishes and there was a lot of fried food. There's a second restaurant that has won quite a few awards but as it seats just 24 people we didn't ever get to see it.Other facilities There's a well equipped gym - or so I'm told. I was far too busy being sociable to find out. If that matters to you, check it out on the website where the pictures show lots and lots of instruments of torture. As far as I could tell there wasn't a pool.Conferences We had our meeting in the so-called Crystal Ballroom - I was tempted to think of it as the Crystal Ball Room since we were supposed to be looking to the future! We kicked off the meeting with dinner in the Ballroom on the Sunday night. This was a pretty awful buffet where most of the hot dishes were barely warm and the temperature control for the room seemed to consist of opening the window in the middle of the roof and letting the freezing air rush in.From Monday through to Wednesday, the room was laid out with desks in rows. The audiovisuals were all excellent and we were supplied with a variety of break-out rooms for the group work. They were at times a bit crowded and noisy but nothing went too badly wrong. In each break there was fresh coffee, and depending on the time of day, cakes, juices, fruit and rolls. Don't expect to go to Prague and lose weight. On the Wednesday evening we had a gala dinner with food that was excellent, despite our best efforts to totally confuse the serving staff by giving out awards between courses. Its a wonder they managed to keep the food hot. The dinner degenerated into loud music and drunken dancing and the music kept going until around 5.30 am when the hotel pulled the plug. They had actually stopped the music a lot earlier but someone from finance rigged his iPod up to the PA system for a few hours of extra music.Bear this in mind. If you want to book this hotel, check they aren't hosting a big event whilst you are there! My colleague who was on the organising committee was absolutely thrilled with the support she got from the hotel and would definitely recommend the Alcron for anyone considering hosting a large event.Free Internet At the time of our visit, the Alcron claimed to be the only hotel in Prague with free wireless internet. If you are travelling on business this really is a bit of a bonus as it could easily set you back £10-15 a night in many hotels.Prices I don't know what we paid per night for the hotel and if I did, it wouldn't help you much as we were on 24-hour delegate rates. Also Prague hotel prices are very seasonal and very variable so knowing what we paid wouldn't be very useful.Overall Impressions It was nice, the rooms were comfortable, the location was great and the food was plentiful. The hotel treated us well but it didn't really deliver on the 5-star rating - in short, the hotel itself just wasn't very memorable.
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