What would you expect from a spa day? Welcoming staff who appreciate that you’re there to relax and want to help you do so? A quiet relaxing area to empty your mind? Perhaps you’d expect a dimmed treatment room, candles burning with essential oils and music lulling you into sleep, with a masseuse willing you to do so? Before Christmas I booked in for a day spa in Celtic Spa, Newport and having had the treatment I’m wondering whether I should recommend it. For the last two years since running ‘100 Things To Do In Wales’ I’ve gone with the view that if I don’t have anything nice to say then I shouldn’t say it. Now I feel that I’m doing you a disservice by excluding the bad experiences. I want you to love Wales as much as I do which means I’m going to have to recommend the places which give the best experience.
Therefore, would I recommend a spa day at the Celtic Manor? No, I wouldn’t. There are plenty of good spas in Wales many of which are in Cardiff. Knowing that I would receive a better service at these other hotels I wouldn’t waste my quality time, or money, at Celtic Manor again so why would I recommend that you waste yours there.
The common theme throughout the hotel is the poor customer service and the feeling that customers are a hinderance rather than a necessity. Booking into the spa we were kept waiting whilst the staff had a chat, then with a solemn face the receptionist passed us a bundle of robes, slippers and a towel. She pointed in the direction of the ladies changing rooms and left my male partner to figure out where the men’s changing rooms were. As we were early we headed to the café on the same floor.
Food and Beverage
We were treated in much the same way in the café. I arrived at the counter and was told by the assistant that as she was about to make a call I’d have to wait. The items I ordered weren’t available so I had to buy something I didn’t want which was dry and uninspiring. The lunch included in the spa day package was in the same café. We were directed to the buffet table made up of cold salad and meats with a hot soup and were told to help ourselves. As I sat down the catering assistant who was clearing the tables dropped a knife and instead of putting down the plates and picking the knife up, she opted to kick the knife across the room towards the kitchen: classy. Despite the front of house staff doing a poor job the kitchen staff still provide a great service: the food was delicious. It looked appealing and tasted just as nice. Flavoured water was available. Alternative drinks were an extra charge.
With a mixture of Elemis products and spa mixed essential oils the treatment rooms smelt divine. The beds are heated and the blankets are soft. All these things add to the sense of luxury. Yet here I was with another miserable staff member. There are certain things a therapist can do to relax you – he/she can start with some deep breathing exercise to slow down your heart rate or hold the oil around your nose and ask you to breathe in the oils – this therapist just dove straight in. She didn’t make me feel relaxed: she left the room lights bright and when she leaned across me to massage my back her stomach whacked me in the face sending me into fits of giggles. She also only massaged one side, forgetting to balance my body by massaging the other side of my neck and arm. At the end I did comment that I felt misaligned and she roughly ran the stone over my neck with a huff of disdain. I was going to give her the benefit of the doubt thinking that perhaps she was new but she told me she’d been working there for years. There was no excuse for poor service.
The swimming pool, steam room and saunas are in an odd layout. There is a large swimming pool and jacuzzi in the main area with a sauna adjacent. For the steam room men and women are separated. Just outside each sexes’ changing room there is a mini jacuzzi sauna and steam room. I did ask the lifeguard where the plunge pool was (I’d seen on the Visit Wales website that there was a plunge pool here). Again, miserable face. There was no plunge pool and was informed if I wanted a plunge pool I could go in the kids pool. This is a hotel and it was the Christmas holidays but the hotel do operate an adults only schedule which works around the spa days which means that there aren’t any children splashing in the pool when you try to relax. If there was a relaxation room we weren’t told of one and I was disappointed that there wasn’t.
After paying £85 each for a spa day we also had to pay £7.20 for the privilege of parking in their car park. Bear in mind that this is a way out of town hotel with no means of public transport.
This five-star hotel needs to be downgraded to a three or four star. Or at least management need to start taking more notice of the customer feedback on Trip Advisor (I wasn’t the only one who commented on poor customer service in December). Celtic Manor is also one of the most expensive spa’s in Wales so considering it was also a poor experience I wouldn’t recommend.