GRT Nature Trails, Kodaikanal

Haven’t been writing reviews of hotels lately, but this specific stay prompted me to write again, just to record my experience of a mismatch between expectation and reality. This is going to be a long one, read on if it interests you.

Booked a room in GRT Nature Trails in Kodaikanal for 24th December 2016, just for one night, after checking a few reviews on TripAdvisor. Booking was done through Travelguru. We decided on this trip in less than 30 minutes, so had just enough time to browse through a few reviews, very briefly. I knew this property was 6 KM away from the lake. I have a car, shouldn’t be much of a problem was what I thought. One quick glance at their website, and didn’t bother checking more details, after all its GRT, so should be pretty good was what I concluded!
Good things first –
The place was scenic, well-maintained, clean and neat. Lots of greenery and flowers, pleasing to the eye. Food was pretty good, if not great! Service could be better though. Indoor games room was quite good. There was a parking valet available at all times, that was convenient. That’s it with the nice things!
Now coming to the not-so-pleasant things, rather, disappointing stuff –
– The approach couldn’t be any worse! The last 1 KM or a more, right after the Sterling ‘By the Valley’ property, was really bad! The road was bumpy, very narrow, dark and quite inconvenient to say the least.
– It was almost 1600hrs on Saturday when we reached the place. The check-in was comfortable, we were served a welcome drink. One of the room attendants took our luggage and headed to the room and we followed him. I should say that it was quite a climb!! I was really surprised as to how inconvenient it could get. Kids were quite tired after the long journey, and so were we. Finally managed to climb all the steps and reach. The room attendant opened one of the rooms in the first block, only to see that it was occupied by someone else. Thankfully, noone seemed to be inside at that time. After the initial confusion, he went all the way and came back with the key to a different room in the next block, #112. This time, we were lucky, this room wasn’t occupied. This was perhaps the farthest room from the reception.
– The room itself was quite small. The first thing that the kids looked for was the minibar, it wasn’t there! I think this is pretty basic to have it in places like these.  Their website claims all rooms have a minibar.
– Wifi in the room was a joke! Barely managed to connect, only in one corner of the room, and it immediately disconnected. The signal strength was very very weak, definitely not enough to claim that you have wifi.
– The balcony didn’t have any view, and this is NOT a complaint, I’m just mentioning it. I had no idea from the travelguru website about what each room type was, I only booked what was available. Only later on understood that they have Timber chalet, Valley View and Rock Cabin categories, fair enough.
– After spending a couple of hours at the lake, came back to the property. Kids were having a good time playing indoor games while I wanted to have a couple of beers and to my dismay, I hear from them that the have NO license for a Bar !!! Excuse Me?!?!?! I very clearly remember reading on their website that they had a bar, but they assured me that they didn’t! This is literally cheating the customer with a false promise and I was quite pissed off, a pleasant evening ruined!
– Since we were 2 adults and two children, I asked for an extra bed at the time of booking and the final amount included that too. I was expecting a decent foldable cot with a comfortable matress as provided by most of the hotels, even the most basic ones. I was surprised that they just brought a matress and put it on the floor. It wasn’t very thick either, so all night I didn’t quite feel warm at all. Thanked my stars that the room had parquet flooring, else would have frozen. Anyways, had to adjust with what was available. I’m not blaming this matress specifically, but since it wasn’t very warm all night, my cough aggravated and got worse. One of the guests in the opposite room, #110 I think, in fact rang my bell at 5:30AM, and asked me if I was okay, and if I needed some medicine for the cough. I would like to believe that it was a genuine concern and not a sarcastic way of putting across that they were being disturbed. Since he was well-dressed at that time, looked like he was either going to the Church or was coming back from there on Christmas morning. So I would like to believe that it was a genuine concern. Such was the sleep experience! Just mentioning, If you think I am not used to cold weather and I am just ranting, I have lived in Oslo, Norway for about 4 years, and travel at least a couple of times each year for a few weeks. I have seen and lived in -25 degrees Celcius, and I am not new to cold weather.
– New morning and new beginnings is what I hoped for, but it wasn’t meant to be! The supposed to be ‘hot’ water in the bathroom was barely warm. Even lukewarm sounded like an exaggeration. I called them twice and complained about not getting hot water for bath. They assured me they will check and revert. They never called back, and when I did, I could hear two people talk on the other side that everything was working. He tried to teach me on the phone how to operate a hot water tap, and I had to give him a piece of my mind and then he agreed to send someone to look at it. A room attendant came and checked and agreed that it was not hot, but only lukewarm. It must have been 8 degrees outside and kids struggled to have a bath, finally we all did, and got ready for breakfast! Felt so sorry for giving my children such a pathetic experience.
Seriously, for the heck of it, I did count the steps from reception to the room, there were about 72 in the lawn, plus one floor up, and then a few more. Easily 100+ steps to climb to head to your room. I’m 39 years old, so it was sort of okay. Not everyone who comes here is as fit as Usain Bolt rite? I felt there should have been a bit more of consideration here for the guests, especially old people!
This is how things unfolded one by one, and after all this, without mincing words, I have to state that this has been one of my very pathetic stays, very unexpected from a brand like GRT! This review is meant to be a heads-up to others, it’s just an account of my experience. Many others could have had an awesome time here, and I’m not denying that at all !
As I said earlier, you can see how scenic the place looks from my pics 🙂

Update as on 05/01/2017
Someone from the management responded to my review on Tripadvisor. At least it sounded genuine unlike the standard 4-liner template responses!  I really appreciate it though they have conveniently ignored my question – Why is there no BAR when your website says so??  Does it not amount to cheating?

Peer_GRT, General Manager at GRT Nature Trails – Kodaikanal, responded to this review
Dear Mr Shreedhaaran,
At the outset, we sincerely thank you for considering GRT Nature Trails Kodaikanal for your second visit and the confidence reposed on us. We stand committed in assuring you that every effort shall be made to continue to live up to your expectation.I would like to continue this mail on an apologetic note with regards to your recent stay experience.

To compliment the landscape and the nature of the hill our rooms are situated above gradient, nevertheless we have shuttle services from the reception / restaurant we would also be installing lift in the near future.

There are few inadvertent errors on the part our team, in some area the soft skills and finesse based training found to be missing. It is our priority. I assure you that such lapses would not be repeated. It is our priority to be hospitable to all our guests, we have carefully made a note on the feedback shared by you and the areas for improvement. I agree, it is imperative and our priority to train our staff towards the guest sensitivity and their quality of soft skills.

Please do let us know your next visit, I personally ensure that you will have a sweet memory of Kodaikanal and GRT Nature Trails.

Looking forward to serving you.

Warm regards,