My review of the Park Inn hotel, Southend on Sea

This is my review of the Park Inn Palace, Southend on Sea, hotel.

I have never stayed in a Park Inn before.  I have ‘stayed’ in a Park Inn, on a mattress run for the purposes of accruing 50,000 Club Carlson bonus points (and you may soon be doing the same if you take part in the new ‘Free Friday’ promotion) but I’ve never spent more than 20 minutes in the room.

We were invited to a barbeque in Southend on Saturday.  Finding decent quality, sensibly priced accommodation in a seaside town for a Saturday night in late June was never going to be fun.  The Park Inn Palace seemed to fit the bill.

Park Inn is a three star brand owned by Rezidor, who also operate Radisson Blu and Park Plaza.  If you needed to rank these brands, I would put Park Plaza up against Crowne Plaza, Radisson Blu against Hilton and Park Inn against Holiday Inn Express.

The Park Inn by Radisson Palace Southend on Sea, to give it its full name, looked fine:

For a start, I could book it using my existing Club Carlson points, topped up via an American Express Membership Rewards transfer.  No cash required!  (As I wrote here, Club Carlson is arguably the best value Amex Membership Rewards redemption.)

Secondly, the location was great

Thirdly, whilst I was pretty sure they had some poor rooms, I hoped my Club Carlson Gold card (free via my American Express Platinum card) would get me something pleasant

Lastly, it is a conversion of a massive Edwardian seaside hotel (The Palace) and, like many people, I have a soft spot for those.  There is a plaque in the lobby commemorating a stay by Laurel & Hardy back in 1932!  Going even further back, here is a BBC clip showing it as a hospital during World War I.

The Park Inn Southend hotel home page is here.

Southend Park Inn Palace hotel review

We had two standard rooms at 38,000 Club Carlson points each.

The cash rate was £166 when I checked last week, although it may have been a little less at the time we booked.  This works out at 0.43p per Club Carlson point which is excellent value.

If I had booked entirely via a conversion of Amex Membership Rewards points at 1:3, I would have received an impressive 1.3p per American Express point.

At this point, I have a confession to make.

I really wasn’t expecting much from the Park Inn Southend hotel, even though I had seen decent reports.  I was already thinking about how I could write a Fawlty Towers-style review on how it lived up to all of the cliches of British seaside hotels.

But it didn’t.  We really liked it.

Here is the view from our balcony, which was on the third floor.  It is probably the best sea view I have ever had from a UK hotel, although that isn’t saying much!

My kids have been around a bit, but they have never been more enthusiastic about a hotel room than when they saw that we had a balcony overlooking the sea and a massive fun fair and the longest pier in the world:

Park Inn Southend review balcony

Here is the room itself.  This is a twin bedded room because we did a ‘1 adult 1 child per room’ set-up – you might find the twin beds a little close together in other scenarios but it was fine for us:

Park Inn Palace hotel Southend review bedroom

… with a decent desk:

Park Inn Palace hotel Southend review desk

… and an acceptable bathroom with a shower:

Park Inn Southend on Sea review bathroom

The Park Inn Southend was all perfectly fine.  There was honestly nothing to complain about.  Not everything was perfect – the aircon was noisy, for example, but not needed anyway – but for the star level I was very happy.

There was also minimal external noise, despite the funfair, due to good double glazing and the fact that the Southend Saturday night pub route does not seem to take people past the hotel.  The fun fair closes at 10pm on a Saturday anyway:

Park Inn Southend review balcony at night

My Club Carlson Gold benefits kick in

I have Gold status in Club Carlson due to my American Express Platinum card.

It isn’t entirely clear what I received at the Park Inn in Southend due to my status and what is ‘normal’.  However:

both of our rooms were upgraded from ‘car park view side’ to ‘sea view side’ (reward nights do not seem to be bookable in sea view rooms) 

whilst there were dispensers with ‘3 in 1’ shampoo / shower gel / conditioner in the bathrooms, we were also given individual bottles of Dove-branded products

we got a free chocolate brownie, Bakewell tart and bottle of water in each room

There would also have been a 15% discount on food in the restaurant if we had used it.

The public areas of the Park Inn Southend were equally attractive.  Here is the rather funky hotel lobby:

Park Inn Palace hotel Southend on Sea review lobby

Here is the bar area:

Park Inn Southend review bar

Here is the restaurant / breakfast room – this is an ‘official’ hotel picture:

Park Inn Southend hotel restaurant review

Someone has put real thought into this hotel.  The imaginative way that the buffet had been laid out and presented was the sort of thing I would have expected in a five-star hotel, not a three-star.  It was miles away from the Holiday Inn Express approach to a breakfast buffet.

You need to time your breakfast, though, as they don’t have enough tables to cover the flow at peak times on peak days.  Staff were very efficient at cleaning tables and resetting them as people left, although they were a little slower at refilling buffet items.

Irrespective of the view from your room, you will get a great view over the pier, fun fair and sea / estuary from the glass-walled dining and bar area.

Looking at the photos at the top of the page, you might think that the Park Inn Southend is huge.  It isn’t.  The modern floors on the roof are apartments and not part of the hotel.  The building also contains a casino which is totally separate.  The hotel only has 137 rooms so it isn’t too busy.

Conclusion

The Park Inn hotel in Southend is one of those hotels that had always interested me – I have been using a photo of it to illustrate articles on Park Inn every since HFP started – and it was great to finally review it properly.

I was genuinely impressed by what I found, and Park Inn has done a great job given the 3-star level it is aimed at.  Southend on Sea is only a 45 minute train ride from Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street, West Ham, Limehouse, Upminster or Barking and, if the sun is out, it isn’t a bad place for a day out if you have kids.   With a train every 10 minutes or so, you don’t get the overcrowding that you find on Brighton services on Summer weekends.

The Park Inn Palace, Southend website is here if you want to find out more.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. rob winds says:

    Hi a very interesting read, but your “free Friday promotion” link does not lead anywhere I’m afraid to say.

    • It will now, because the article went up later than this one. I assume no-one is reading at 3am.

  2. Waribai says:

    Yes, we sometimes forget how children can be perfectly happy with the ‘unglamorous’ holidays. So far this year we’ve been to Koh Samui, Tokyo, Davos, Marbella, Crete and then last weekend ……camping on the North Downs. Honestly, it was the camping that brought out the most excitement! Not that I want to do it all the time!

    • ankomonkey says:

      Indeed. We’ve stayed at quite a few higher-end hotels with my kids over the years. My 7 year old still claims a 3 or 4 star hotel at Disneyland Paris as her favourite hotel ever – because it had bunk beds.

      • We had bunk beds when we went skiing last year and the kids were similarly enthralled, mainly the older one because she got to go on top.

    • The majority of adults are also perfectly happy with “unglamourous” holidays.

    • We stayed at a Haven site in Dorset a couple of years ago. My son said it was the best holiday ever, better than Disney World!

  3. Now go back and next time surprise the kids by checking out a flight from SEN the next morning! Flybe (stobart franchise) avios redemption?

  4. In the past few months we’ve taken our 3 1/2 year old to Brussels Sofitel Europe in club Europe, fairmont Abu Dhabi on Qatar biz, and Conrad algarve economy. Usually staying at Sofitel Heathrow the night before as we live in the east mids.

    What impresses him most is the ‘robot’ trains at Heathrow as he calls them or Pods to me and you just to show him a great view of the runway!!! He could happily spend a day running up and down the free pod to the car park!!!!!!!! Kids……

    • Doug M says:

      Kids! I’m in my late 50’s and the first time I used the pods I went to and fro a couple of times, very enjoyable. You have to learn to love the little things.

    • We want to do a video on the pods for the site but Heathrow is being obstructive!

      • Why? Please try rob if for my son and his ‘robot’ train obsession!

        It’s that bad we even considered a night at the Sofitel in the sale not to fly anywhere the day after just to please him.

        I’ve said before on HfP though rob make sure you go and review conrad algarve especially breakfast it’s fantastic!!!! For the readers of course….

    • Aspirational Flyer says:

      I love the pods too and I’m 31! I may or may not have made a couple of additional trips between the car park and T5 on my way back from Rome….!

    • Russell Gowers says:

      I bloody love the magic robot pods. I choose that parking over more convenient and/or cheaper options just so I can sit in one and make “BRUM BRUM” noises. I’m 31.

      • I’m now genuinely nervous to get to 31!!! 🙂

      • Genghis says:

        🙂 I’m 31 and can be like a little boy too sometimes, sitting at the front of the DLR, the pods etc. Looking forward to my Barra flight to land on the beach…

        • RussellH says:

          Sitting at the front of the DLR – absolutely. Something that is missing from most modern trains. Even better was taking a 101 diesel railcar over the Forth Bridge, sitting behind the driver and having an identical view to him (it always was a him in those days).

        • It’s always been on my list with the ‘robot train’ boy what’s your flying schedule like? We live in east mids area

        • When Ma lived in Walthamstow, sitting at the front of the DLR was one of her favourite things to do when I went down to visit. Shame she’s moved now that the Emirates Airline is right next to the DLR station.

    • If I’m staying at a hotel for an early T5 flight, I often get there earlier than necessary to take a round trip on the pod.

  5. c2c from Fenchurch Street to Southend Central is vastly superior to Southern as its one of the best train operators in the UK!

    • Considering that c2c has a single route with 2 branches, and is completely isolated from the rest of the GB rail network except for the diversionary route to Stratford, it would be hard to operate this badly. Although Govia probably would mess it up.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      The train service is comfortable and reliable and Southend is a nice little airport. The only worry is that the last train to London is around 11pm, so it might be difficult to get back to London if an evening flight is delayed. This hasn’t happened to me, although I did find myself worrying about the possibility when waiting for a late flight in France once.

      • Lady London says:

        If you get stuck at SEN then I recommend the HIX at the airport. Very well run hotel.

        Don’t ever try to commute towards London from Southend in anything like the morning rush hour though.

  6. Rich84 says:

    So glad you and the kids liked it. Southend (and Essex) has had such bad press over the years but I worked there a while ago although I didn’t live there and found it be much nicer than people made out. More recently we have used the airport several times and it’s great, easy to park and not a vast shopping complex.

  7. Machatter says:

    I stayed at this hotel last year after doing some work in the casino and totally agree with everything Rob has written. I did eat in the restaurant and both service and food were very good. Views, as mentioned, are great.

  8. Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

    “The Park Inn by Radisson Palace, to give it its full name, looked fine”

    Love it! I can’t help but read that in a slightly weary, sarcastic tone!

    Nice review. I’ve never been interested in British seaside trips. I guess they still have their draw!

    • Sprout7 says:

      Tut tut Rob, it appears you haven’t included the correct name of the hotel in an article for two days in a row!! 🙂

      • I’ve recently read that a certain Mr Trump once looked at this hotel from the window of his private jet as he flew overhead so I will not be staying here for political reasons…;)

  9. I live in Southend. I’m afraid whoever told you it takes 45 minutes on the train from Liverpool St was telling porkie pies – it’s a little over an hour on a good day.

    Still, the town does pretty well on a sunny day! The Cliffs Pavilion is a pleasant 20 minute stroll along the cliff gardens from the Park Inn, so it’s handy for a stay after a gig/show. If you’d been there in spring you could have re-lived your cherry blossom experiences from Japan – there’s masses of the stuff!

    • 45 minutes from West Ham on the fast trains which don’t go via Grays.

      • Liverpool St isn’t West Ham, though, is it? As a commuter I *wish* it only took 45 minutes! It was nearly an hour and a half this morning.

  10. William Avery says:

    From a design viewpoint – that looks like a huge waste of a stunning building but I’m hoping it was the only option. Depressed with the interior looks like it could be plonked on the side of a motorway somewhere rather than the Southend prom.

    • They could have done more with the original features inside – there is very little there – but the balconies etc are all intact as you can see. I also get a feeling a lot will have been junked during its previous incarnations. It was derelict for a while, was a hospital in both wars etc. There was some Government money behind the conversion which may explain why Park Inn can afford to operate it, because they are not on the hook for the full capital cost of the rebuild.

      • tbf – I haven’t seen the full scope including lobby etc so can’t qualify comment. Imagine costs to retain original features/convert to a luxury hotel (which would presumably have limited occupation) would be stratospheric. also surprised they didn’t convert to luxury flats so intrigued by the local politics. Just weird to see that decor in that environment. Govt money explains a lot.

  11. I think that all looks rather jolly!

  12. Is the casino attached to the hotel open?

    Company I used to work for won the licence for it just as I was leaving and it was to be attached to this hotel iirc.

  13. Machatter says:

    It’s definitely open!

  14. Mark Priest says:

    I’ve lived in Essex all my life and actually spent a good few of my DJ years as one of the residents of TOTS2000 or Talk Of The South as it was later known.

    Lots of great memories.

  15. Felix Flyer says:

    The theme park is Adventure Island which is a clubcard redemption and worth it in my view. Very little queuing at times and my nine year old loved it. Their evening tickets are also good value.

    • Yes, I saw someone using Clubcard vouchers – I got a bit annoyed as I could have used some of my own!

    • Adventure Island also achived the Guinness World Record in 2010 for the most naked people on a rollercoaster!