On a recent one-week trip to Israel, we were so on the go that there really wasn’t time to properly review any of the properties fairly.
However, there was more than enough time to have a great (or poor) impression of the hotels… and in that week, we managed to stay at 3 Tel Aviv hotels, 1 Jerusalem hotel, 1 Dead Sea “hotel”, and 1 Eilat “hotel”. You’ll see why the last two get the quotation marks.
Day One: In Tel Aviv, we stay at the very new “Brown TLV“. The taxi driver had a heck of a time finding the place, since it’s so new, but happily the ride from the airport is a fixed fare so I wasn’t paying for that time! When you arrive at the Brown TLV, there’s a nice lobby with coffee / light snacks and a few couches. I waited for one person to get checked in ahead of me and then I got my room. The pros of this hotel are the sleek designs, a nice location, friendly staff and modern rooms. The only con was that the rooms (I saw two) were definitely small. If sharing, it’s a bit “intimate”. Free Wifi.
Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend the Brown TLV in Tel Aviv.
Day Two: The Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem. Here, the location is really AMAZING. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to the old city and one block off a main strip in the new part of town (who expected a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf 2 blocks away??). The staff was so friendly and they even upgraded us (3 adults) into a suite that had three beds with more than enough room to spread out and relax. Free Wifi, great staff, and a great location made the Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem a winner. It’s also modern like the Brown TLV.
Day Three: Off to the Le Meridien Dead Sea for possibly the worst hotel experience ever. The property itself is fine. The pool area, though it closes way too early at 6pm, is very nice as is the workout facility. The rooms are adequate (I mean you are there for the Dead Sea anyway). But the overpriced and lackluster buffets (about $25 a person) are your only on-property option! It’s extortionate and your only real alternate option is the McDonald’s nearby.
The worst part is the staff though – which range from clueless (it took us three tries to find someone that could get us towels to bring to the Dead Sea) to the downright rude (like the woman that denied the late checkout guaranteed by my Starwood Gold program status and made me ultimately spend over 20 minutes fighting for what I was rightfully entitled to). All after a complete bungling of the check in where we were told we had a room with three beds only to get upstairs and find a king bed and a futon with no room for the third bed. Which required an argument to get moved – to a much smaller and older room.
If I was at the Dead Sea again, I might try the Isrotel Dead Sea which we visited for a meal and looked much nicer.
Days Four – Five: Back in Tel Aviv, this time at Eden House TLV, a B&B that is somewhere between Hotel and Hostel (there’s no included breakfast, by the way, so using B&B is a bit of a misnomer…). Again, due to our three bed requirement, we were put in a different kind of room – this one across the street from the main rooms. The pro there was we had our own apartment. The con was that the included WiFi didn’t make it across to the apartment, requiring trips across the street to stand by reception in the freezing cold and download mail. It was also implied that there was parking – however the parking was not included nor was the suggested lot even open when we arrived, forcing a stay at a very expensive lot for two nights.
Overall, though, the location was good and the price was more than right at just over $100 a night and would recommend Eden House TLV on a price vs. quality scale.
Days Six-Seven: Now we head down to Eilat – the Jersey Shore of Israel. The hotel we were in was picked for us and was prepaid, so we toughed it out, but I would never recommend, to anyone, friend or foe, the Leonardo Club. No Internet access in the rooms, wired or wireless (and the Internet room has long since been abandoned), old and outdated rooms, inedible food, the included drinks (did I mention it’s all inclusive) only at certain times that we could never figure out, and a spa down a deep, dark staircase where, perhaps happily, it turned out to be locked and closed. Oh, and it’s not even on or near the beach – in a beach town. In hindsight, the Hilton Queen of Sheba Eilat would have been the best choice, right on the boardwalk.
Day Eight: Back to Tel Aviv for the night, we booked the Cinema Hotel Tel Aviv. It was a really short sleep and leave stay, but the hotel (coincidentally owned by the same company that owns the Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem) was in a good location, with working free WiFi, and randomly, a jacuzzi and sauna as well as a roof deck. The room was fine based on the short amount of time there, though nothing fancy.
Hope that helps some of you heading to Israel!