Israel 2012: where we stayed

by | May 10, 2012 | International Travel, Travel

Prima Galil Tiberias, Tiberias

We choose the town of Tiberias because it was on Lake Kinneret (i.e. Sea of Galilee) and located between the various sights of Nazareth and Northern Galilee. The Prima Galil was a reasonably rated and priced hotel for the area. They do offer free wifi (strongest in the bar area) and include breakfast. Check-in was reasonably easy, and as we had with each Israeli hotel, they placed Eric’s parents next to our room without us even asking. There was no offer to assist with bags.

The layout of the hotel was a bit strange, with even-numbered floor elevators on the same level as the lobby, but odd numbered floors a half-flight of stairs above. The elevators for our odd-numbered floors were labeled for Shabbat, which meant it stopped at every floor (so observant folks wouldn’t have to push buttons) on our second day.

The hotel is a bit worn, especially the hallways. One of our doors had a large dent like it had been kicked, and there were scuff marks and other dings and dents. The beds were European-style, two mattresses put together, and reasonably comfortable. Our room looked out over the pool and the city:

Tiberias late afternoon
late afternoon view out of our room

Breakfast was a surprisingly good, with a wide area of dishes including vegetables, smoked fish, cheeses, several fresh breads, cereals, yogurt and a small omelet area (closed Sat morning due to Shabbat).

Thursday night we walked from the hotel to the restaurants along the lake shore, about a 10 min walk downhill. The walk back up was a decent exertion, and it would be something to consider for those with less mobility.

Though there are limited spots we found parking both nights around the hotel. Most guests seemed to be part of larger tour groups and arrived by bus.

Le Meridien Dead Sea, Ein Bokek

Le Meridian was chosen with much trepidation since several forums have declared it one of the worst Starwood hotels in the chain. However, the other hotels in the area were wither exorbitant or similarly ranked, and since we could get two rooms for free with a very small number of points (2k/night) we rolled the dice. Our stay was reasonably pleasant, but we would have been very disappointed had we paid the going rate for our stay.

Pulling up the hotel was rather strange as you must drive most of the way around the resort to get to the front entrance. Arriving on a Sat afternoon the parking lot and streets were packed with cars (later we found out that most were day trippers and gone that evening) which made it difficult to navigate to the reception. Once we got to the unloading zone there were no bell-hops to help with luggage. We unloaded things ourselves and went to reception desk fearing what we had read about the hotel was true… Thankfully, the clerk helping us was quite personable and checked us in but couldn’t give us a room for two hours. We knew we were early so we headed down the road to get some lunch. Bizarrely, the only luggage storage option (besides leaving everything in the car) was to place our bags in an unlocked storage closet near reception with no tags or liability. Very unusual for most hotels, let alone a Starwood property.

After killing some time we headed back and they had two rooms ready for us. Located on the 13th floor, Eric went straight to see the balcony.

our hotel room view
great views from our room

Wow! Besides a spacious balcony (with two small plastic chairs) the room itself was rather large, though a bit worn, as well as a very large bathroom with separate shower and bathtub. The furniture in Eric’s parent’s room just next door looked newer, so perhaps they are in the process of updating?

overlooking the hotel pools

We quickly changed and went down the Dead Sea beach after using our hotel-issued towel cards to get separate towels. To get there we had to walk through the lobby, around the hotel on the outside, and across the road. The beach itself had quieted since we originally arrived at the hotel, and there were plenty of plastic chairs and room for us. More to come on our Dead Sea experience in a separate post.

On our way back from the beach we attempted to use the hotel pools only to find staff closing the outdoor pools, and the door to another pool by the spa locked with a chain and padlock (which would be really bad in an emergency situation). We gave up at that point, but Eric’s parents eventually asked a staff person at the front desk who escorted them to the same door and was mystified by the lock. She argued with a few people and let them in. As far as we can tell some staff members were trying to call it an early day by locking people out?

After a long day of driving and exploring we were in the mood for a pre-dinner cocktail, so we stopped in the restaurant to ask about “Olive’s Bar” only to be told it was closed, but we could go to the lounge in the lobby. The lounge was filthy, with crumbs all over the carpet and debris on tables near the entrance. We found an area that was reasonably clean and placed an order with a waitress. Eric’s mom ordered a mojito that was clearly made with tequila; though tasty enough, it’s not what was on the menu. When Eric mentioned it the waitress insisted it was rum and that she had watched the bartender make it… perhaps, but something is seriously wrong with their rum then! The rest of us has a glass of the house wine, reasonably priced at around $4/glass.

There were other annoyances like a crushed cookie in the hallway near our room that was ignored all afternoon and evening, then vacuumed at 8a in the morning. The ice machine on our floor was out of ice so Leandra had to travel by elevator down a floor as the stairwells were blocked by spare mattresses. Overall, Le Meridian Dead Sea has a nice location and could be a good hotel, but they seem to have a lot of lazy employees. We’re glad our problems were minor and that we didn’t pay cash for our visit.

Harmony Hotel, Jerusalem

The Harmony Hotel is well regarded on travel forums for location, and we agree that it in a great spot in the city. Within a 10 minute walk we could be in the old city, and right outside the hotel were plenty of shops and restaurants. Finding the lobby can be confusing the first few times as there isn’t a dedicated entrance for the hotel; rather, you go to the 2nd floor of a building with an empty first floor. Various front desk staff were really helpful with directions and suggestions for restaurants, and were efficient making reservations for us.

This is a boutique hotel and the decor was suitably funky- lots of white and bright colors. Rooms were rather small, quite European-sized, but manageable. The bed was comfortable, and importantly, the room was quiet even though we were just a few floors above a busy pedestrian area. Free wifi was reasonably strong in the rooms and the lobby.

Breakfast is included with the room, and the buffet spread in the morning was tasty. Fresh bread, granola, yogurts, scrambled eggs, etc. Also a nice bonus is the happy hour from 5-7pm. Free red and white wine, tea and fruit juice with an assortment of breads, crudites and cookies.

We had a nice stay at the Harmony and would definitely consider a return in the future.

Tagged with: hotels | Israel | Israel 2012

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