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Wednesday 4 November 2015

Putting a five-star hotel to the test during peak season

Large chain hotels can be at their very best, or worst, during peak periods. 

If management has planned well for 100% occupancy and staff know their roles then a big hotel during say, the Melbourne Cup week, can be energised with a really good vibe. Or there can be long queues to check-in, check-out and for breakfast if the groundwork has not been done properly. 

So it is a test when I check in to the Crown Metropol in between the Melbourne Cup crowd departing and the Oaks invitees arriving. 

The Crown Metropol is one of three hotels in Melbourne's Crown Casino complex; the others being the Crown Towers and Crown Promenade 

I've stayed here a few times before and found the rooms excellent. With dozens of restaurants within the complex and the Southbank just around the corner, it cannot be beaten when it comes to location. 

The rooms and suites come with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the city or Port Phillip Bay, plus flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, minibars, and tea and coffee-making equipment. 

Lofts and apartments have separate living/dining areas; apartments add whirlpool tubs in en suite bathrooms. Paid Wi-Fi is available (boo, hiss to that old-fashioned idea).

The hotel has a city-view lounge offering high tea and a bar, while other features include an indoor pool and (expensive) Isika spa, as well as meeting and event spaces. 

It is your standard five-star package with rooms starting from around $200 a night and then rising rapidly as you escalate through the options. There are six room styles in all. 

The verdict. Crown Metropol is hip, but not achingly so. A helpful dude offered to carry my bag. Check-in was fast, helpful and to the point. Wifi is free, and the lobby surprisingly quiet at 11pm after my delayed flight. 

The buffer breakfast at Mr Hive's Kitchen is spot on; a good selection and all fresh. My mushrooms were outstanding. 

Departing was just as easy; quick and efficient and my bag was stored while I went for a walk prior to my flight. Spot on. 

Just avoid the casino proper, particularly late at night. That precinct was full of angry-looking dudes who appeared to be aching for a fight. With no sign of the security that is so obvious during the day. Not cool. Not at all. 

And the Chinese food in the food court is also well worth avoiding (I know. I should have known better). Try room service instead.   

Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank 3006. (03) 9292 6211.

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