For my second hotel in Lisbon as part of my Iberian Explorer trip, I selected the Ibis Styles Embaixador Lisbon. My first hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Ave Liberdade, was sold out on the last night of my planned stay, I was tempted by an Accor LeClub promotion and based on many good experiences with ibis hotels in the past, I ignored the mixed reviews for this ibis styles. Read on, why I came to regret that decision…
Location: The ibis styles Embaixador is located three blocks to the East of the Marques Pombal circle, making it a short walk from the Holiday Inn and easy transfer. It’s a short walk to two metro lines, putting most places in downtown Lisbon and the major train stations within 10-15 minute by subway and the airport within 30 minutes. The ibis is located on a major through street with lots of traffic. Several bank branches and a grocery store are conveniently on the way to the metro station. Despite just being a few blocks from the Holiday Inn, this area is decidedly more downmarket, with crumbling facades across the street and a sex shop next door.
Service/Rewards: The service experience was very mixed. My first interaction with the front desk was disappointing. I arrived early and wasn’t expecting my room to be ready. I presented my Accor LeClub Platinum card and my request for a quiet room was met with a brusk “we are fully booked”. While I understand that a fully booked situation makes room assignments harder, I do expect a good hotel to make an effort to find a nice room for frequent guests. The bell boy was much friendlier and stored my luggage until the room was ready. When I returned, different front desk staff was more polite, recognized my status with a welcome drink – yet didn’t pay any more attention to my room request either: I was assigned a corner room facing the busy road, across from the elevators and a service door, making it one of the noisiest rooms in the property! Housekeeping did better and made up the room quickly and thoroughly each day. The breakfast staff was equally professional and friendly, refilling the breakfast buffet and clearing tables quickly, making for a pleasant experience. At check-out, the front desk asked about my stay and did apologize for the issues experienced.
Room: The room was an equally mixed experience: The first impression is positive, with a modern look in bright blue and white, just like in the internet photos. The bathroom is held in the same colors, with blue floors and white tiles, sink and deep soaking tub with partial glass wall. Unfortunately, the good first impression doesn’t survive close inspection. It appears that the rooms were renovated on a budget: the floors in the bed room and bath room look like painted-over linoleum, the furniture is very simple, IKEA’ish and the bed not very comfortable. There is an open closet, a bench for luggage and a desk and chair. You’ll also find a TV, mini-fridge and small safe (doesn’t fit laptop), but no coffee/tea facilities. The safe in my room missed a lock, so I went back to the front desk to inquire about it. The agent informed me that there is a 25Euro deposit and 2Euro charge per day. When he saw my face, he quickly changed his story to “free” before I could tell him what I thought about this. Charging for a safe that’s included in the room features is right up there on my list of pet peeves with taxi scams. To top it off, the safe was not screwed down, so anybody with access to the room could walk out with all valuables conveniently deposited in one small box…
As expected, noise was an issue. While the room has double-pane windows insulating it very well from street noise, the building itself is very old and has double-door elevators which cause a lot of noise. As bad are the old doors that don’t close on their own and have to be banged shut. Even the most considerate neighbor will wake you up.
But the worst part about the room was not the noise, but the fact that the bathroom remodel apparently did not include proper plumbing, leaving the room with a nasty sewer smell! While it helped a little to leave the windows open during the day, at night you had a choice between street noise and no air conditioning or cool and a sewer smell! I’m usually not very sensitive to smells or noise and had ignored bad online reviews pointing this out – now, I know better! If you have a nose, any nose, you will notice the smell!
The room had good internet speeds at 2.2 Mbps download. It was not very reliable though, with frequent disruptions and very slow uploads. It’ll be ok for some email or web browsing, but don’t expect to get any work done!
Restaurant/Amenities: The hotel has a small lobby lounge and bar, which I didn’t try out despite the welcome drink. The breakfast restaurant is on the 9th floor and has not been renovated, leaving it with pretty old furniture. The breakfast selection was very limited with a fruit salad, yoghurt, a small selection of toast, croissants and bread rolls, as well as ham, turkey and cheese. You’ll have filtered coffee and orange juice – and that’s all there is. The quality was decent, but overall, this breakfast was a far cry from what other ibis or ibis style properties offer and does not compare well to the Holiday Inn either.
The hotel does not offer a gym or pool, but there is a computer and printer for your use in the lobby.
Conclusion: While the location of the ibis styles is convenient and the rooms look just like in the web site photos, the good news ends there. It appears to be a recent hotel conversion (one of the dirty secrets of the hotel industry, read why here), with a skin deep renovation of an old hotel. Between the noise and the smells, this is not a hotel I’d recommend or would stay at again. The limited breakfast, unreliable internet and mixed service experience don’t help either. At $107/night during my stay, it’s just a few dollars less than the much better Holiday Inn Express and completely overpriced. That explains why the hotel seems to focus on tour groups who don’t read reviews before booking and probably pay a lot less… So, I’d suggest to give this ibis a pass and stay at the Holiday Inn Express Ave Liberdade or somewhere else…