Yeah, I know I’ve gotten a bit behind with this trip, but travel and travel planning keeps getting in the way. I need to find a way to use plane time productively to write blogs. That said, on to a review of the hotel I stayed at on my second trip to Dakar, and the second half of my first trip. It seemed to be a consensus that this was “the” place to stay in Dakar, although some people seemed to prefer the Terrou-Bi instead because it was “just as nice, but less pretentious.” Well, as I just mentioned I came back here for my second trip, so you can guess I was pretty pleased with it.
One other random cool thing, and this had nothing in particular to do with the hotel – but I do think it speaks to the quality of it – is the guests. One morning in the hotel, absolutely by chance, who did I run into but Canadian PM Stephen Harper! He was there with his entourage on the way to DR Congo for le sommet de la francophie, so either it was the best place in town or it was the only place they considered secure enough. Considering the distinct lack of visible security (compared to a U.S. Presidential visit, for example) it was pretty amazing.
Had a standard city view room the first trip, and a “business” oceanview on the second trip. Main difference, other than the obvious view was that the business room had a bit bigger desk as well as having a Nespresso machine. That was a huge help in the mornings, since I don’t get moving in the morning without coffee, and having that so easy was a huge plus. They were also willing to restock the capsules as often as you wanted during the day, so big win there. Air Conditioning worked much much better than the Terranga, and overall I was pretty happy with it. Housekeeping wasn’t perfect – seemed most days they’d miss one small thing (maybe towels one day, refilling bath gels the next, etc) but a quick call and things were fixed. Overall, the room was leaps and bounds above the Terranga. Most importantly, it was cool, quiet, clean, and safe, with a rather comfortable bed and a nice (albeit a bit weak) rain shower.
Oh, and the view from my room in the morning was absolutely terrible on the second trip! ;-) Well, there was a construction pit at the end for the large expansion to the hotel that is underway, but the noise never occurred in the morning/evening so it didn’t bother me.
In general, I found the staff quite friendly, and service in general was a notch above the Terranga. Much more often when I made a request of the staff (pool towel, more coffee at breakfast, Nespresso capsules, etc) it actually showed up in a reasonable amount of time without having to ask again. I can’t really say the staff were any friendlier than the Terranga, but that’s mostly because I found the staff at both lots of fun – and willing to engage in conversation. I’d read online that service at the Radisson was a bit aloof and unhelpful, but I can’t say I ever encountered that once in the 25+ nights I stayed there.
This is where the Radisson really shined, at least for me. In the evenings, when it cooled off a bit, my office was within walking distance, as was the Sea Plaza shopping mall. The best part of the Sea Plaza Mall was the Casino grocery store, which had everything you could possibly want in one place. It was modern, clean, well-stocked, and ended up saving me lots of money during the time I was there. Having it a 3-5 minute walk from the hotel was absolutely fantastic! Plus, being right on the water, the view out the ocean view rooms was fantastic.
The taxi drivers were a bit annoying at the Terranga, but the ones at the Radisson have scamming down to a science. My office was about a 10 minute walk, and most of the drivers parked outside the Radisson would quote 3,000 CFA for the ride….hailing a taxi on the street, it was easy to get for 500 CFA. Some of the drivers parked at the hotel would accept slightly less, but most were more than content to wait for the occasional guest for whom limited french or an expense account would cause them to give in. That said, hailing taxis was very easy, and fares to the downtown area near the Terranga could be had for between 1,500 and 2,000 CFA with a bit of negotiating. The Radisson also provided complimentary transfers to the airport when I checked out both times, in a nice new Mercedes. Sure beats a beat-up local taxi!
Didn’t have breakfast at the hotel during my first stay, since it wasn’t included with the room, and if I remember right was around 12,000 CFA or so. The second time, it was included, so I stopped down most mornings. Plentiful coffee, omelettes and eggs made to order, viennoiseries ranging from delicious pain au chocolate to pain au raisin and several other breakfast breads, smoked fish and meats, boiled eggs, you get the idea. It wasn’t the largest buffet I’ve ever seen, but there was a very good selection and enough to make anyone happy. If you wanted to have a healthy breakfast you definitely could, or if you wanted to gorge on eggs and bacon it was there.
Restaurants / Bars:
First off, the pool bar during the day….service was quite slow, and I often would have to ask two or three times for a beer, but they eventually came. Never got lunch at the pool bar so can’t comment on that, but it was the same menu as the dinner menu so I’ll comment on that later. That said, I did see lots of people eating small lunches or pizzas there, and they looked pretty good. Their attempt at a margarita was a little sad, but that said whatever was in this concoction of fresh lime juice and random alcohol was pretty tasty!
The pool bar at night was where I ended up doing dinner most evenings. There were tables set up out in the open nearish the pool, as well as some others that were semi-enclosed in tents. The tends didn’t really do much other than possibly protect from rain (which it never did) and it was definitely cool enough in the evening to eat al fresco. Tried several things on the menu, but most evenings ended up with either chicken or lamb kabobs. The lamb was definitely much better, as the chicken was pretty dry most times I tried it. They also did a really good moroccan style appetizer plate which was pretty tasty. The best appetizer, however, was definitely the “Pepe Soup.” A local Senegalese fish soup, it had large chunks of fish in a spicy broth – it was delicious especially when I got a cold. Cleared the sinuses and was super tasty on top of it…and the staff genuinely seemed thrilled that I liked it so much! For dessert, there was a molten chocolate cake on the menu, but it claimed 20+ minutes to prepare, so I never did get to try it. There were, however, over 10 ice cream flavours to choose from!
Pool / Gym / Facilities:
The gym was located in the shopping mall next door, and I never did make it over there to use it, so unfortunately can’t comment. However, the pool was absolutely fantastic. It was an infinity pool facing the atlantic, and had absolutely amazing views. Completely clean every time I saw it, never terribly full, and I was always able to get a chair when I wanted one. There was also a small local crafts gift shop in the hotel, but unfortunately I never checked it out. There was also a concierge who had a sign that they could arrange tours and such, but I never checked.
A complete win over the Terranga in pretty much every way possible. There’s no doubt that when I return to Dakar this will be my first choice. Cleaner, cooler, better restaurants, better rooms, better location – it wins in pretty much every way possible. It would almost be easy to forget you’re in a developing country when staying here the standards are so high. That said, it comes with a price tag. I didn’t see web prices under 115,000 CFA when I was there, although the Terranga was pushing 105,000 for much, much lower quality in my book.