The last accommodation to review for my recent Australian holidays is Fraser Place Melbourne at 19 Exploration Lane. Being part of the chain of Fraser Hospitality, I thought it was an apartment to look forward to. Furthermore, online reviews on hotel booking websites and Tripadvisor all seemed above average too. Thus that somehow set my expectations before I arrived at the apartment.
It did not start off too well from the time I reached Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD via the SkyBus shuttle from the airport. As I reached the city on a Saturday evening, complimentary hotel shuttle by SkyBus was closed for the day so I had to take a cab to Fraser Place. The cabby did not know where was Fraser Place even after telling him the exact address and that it was near Marriott Hotel. He even asked if I could drop off at Marriott and walk to the apartment myself. 😦 Besides he seemed to have difficulty locating the apartment after using GPS and I wondered how many detours he made before we reached Fraser Place….
Upon arrival, I was surprised to see such a small front desk attended by 2 Asian staff, both did not speak English fluently in my opinion. I had to repeat myself a few times during the check-in process to make sure they understood me. They were not as customer oriented and helpful as those I encountered in Tasmania. Finally I got my room, apparently a free upgrade to a Studio Executive King apartment in the wing further from the front desk. By right I should be feeling happy about the free upgrade, but I wasn’t, as the back wing seems to be much quieter for my comfort. Worse, I got a corner room far away from the elevator! Here’s how the Studio Executive King apartment looked like:
I guess if I came with family or a few friends, I would be glad that I got this free upgraded big room. But the only thing I was happy with was the complimentary L’Occitane bath products in the toilet and a washing machine with complimentary washing powder in the kitchenette. There were also a lot of unknown sounds coming from outside and above my apartment which made me uneasy. The remote control for the TV also didn’t work well and I kept having problem switching channels and even turning it on and off! In addition, I usually sleep with the toilet light on in the room when I am overseas. However in this apartment it was very difficult to fall asleep with the toilet light on as the light was very strong, but if I turn off all 3 light switches in the apartment it would be too dark for my comfort. So I couldn’t sleep well at all for my first night.
The next morning I requested to change back to my original booking which was a Studio Deluxe King room. Seemed like the front desk was understaffed, they could not seem to cope with the number of guests checking out so they left me waiting for more than an hour before they could return my call! Finally they acceded to my request, but I bet they thought I was weird to want a smaller apartment. As my new room was not ready yet, I went down to the front desk to check out first and park my luggage before going out. Gosh, it was still a pretty chaotic scene at 11+am at the lobby. (Check-out time is 10am here.)
When I returned in the afternoon to my new apartment, it looked so much cosier for me! The apartment was also located in the front wing so the elevator to go up was just beside the front desk. Here’s how my Studio Deluxe King apartment looked like:
This looked more like a spacious hotel room that I am comfortable with, with the work desk next to the king bed and the LCD TV mounted in front of the bed, and kitchenette next to it (as seen in the top 2 photos above). The toilet cum shower is smaller but who cares? It is still a decent size and the view from my balcony on the bottom right photo is slightly better too as there isn’t any high-rise buildings to block the view. Fortunately the L’Occitane bath products remained haha. However just found it weird that there is no clock or alarm in the room at all. I thought this is a basic amenity of all hotels/ serviced apartments? -_-“
But not all’s well with this room too. The light above my bed kept flickering and it took them 1 day to rectify the problem because there was no maintenance staff on duty on Sundays. Fortunately in this room there were more switches for lights than for the Executive apartment, so lighting was still manageable. There were also 3 switches for lights in the toilet itself so I only kept the dimmest toilet light on when I slept. I could sleep so much better in this room! 😛
Room aside, as mentioned above, the service of the front desk staff were not great, even other hotel staff I met during my stay at the hotel were not worth commending too. All the staff I met in the doorway or elevator stared right through me without a smile or basic greeting, as if I were transparent. I think only 2 front desk staff were polite and helpful, 1 of them was Laura, a French national, and the other was a guy I couldn’t remember his name but he looked Australian. I felt that I was given “second-class citizen treatment” by most staff, especially when there was another caucasian near me trying to get help from the hotel staff.
The location of the apartment in a small quiet lane off Little Lonsdale Street also meant that tour operators, cabs and even the SkyBus were unable to pick me right in front of Fraser Place. I was always dropped off at Marriott Hotel, round the corner along Exhibition Street. When it gets dark (in autumn, it gets really dark after 5pm…), it was a bit scary to walk to and fro the apartment. Below is a photo of the Fraser Place Melbourne building from the entrance in the day, in a small lane amidst 2 other buildings:
So if you ask me whether I would gladly return to Fraser Place should I visit Melbourne next time, sorry this place is not for me because I do not find it value for money. It especially pales in comparison to my 2 earlier hotels at Launceston and Hobart.