Why you should avoid brand new hotels – lessons from Hilton’s Hotel Reichshof, Hamburg

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On Sunday, I ran a review of the Hotel Reichshof in Hamburg, the first European member of Hilton’s new ‘Curio Collection’ of independent hotels.

The Hotel Reichshof itself, as you can see from the pictures in Sunday’s article, is very impressive and a great piece of art deco restoration.  The problems came with the operational side.  When you are putting together a new hotel, there is always pressure to open before you are fully ready – and that often leads to issues.

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This is the first room I had at the Hotel Reichshof.  This was a Hilton Gold upgrade from their entry level room which I had booked using ‘cash and points’:

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As you can see, it looks very pleasant.  The twin duvets on the bed is standard for a German hotel.  Except:

the telephone did not work

the air conditioning system appeared to work but did not actually emit any cool air!

the coffee machine was an obscure Braun model using a type of pod I had never seen before.  Needless to say, no instructions were provided.  It turned out that the pods had to be used upside down which was far from clear.

no turndown service ever appeared

no newspaper was provided in the morning

the internet reception was appalling.  Not only was the signal bad (my iPhone and iPad struggled to connect at all, my laptop was OK) but the verification system does not work.  You type in your name and room number but get rejected.  The hotel KNEW this did not work but failed to tell me.  As soon as I went back down to reception to complain, they printed off a conference code which did work.  At the stroke of midnight, this code stopped working (I was still up working on HFP) and I had to go back to reception to get a new one.

I was also less than excited to see Holiday Inn Express-style toiletries, with a bottle of ‘all in one’ shower gel and shampoo bolted to the wall.  My wife would never let such stuff near her hair.

The failure of the aircon meant I needed to switch rooms – Germany has been exceptionally hot this Summer.  I got moved across to this junior suite:

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Again, it looks good although there was no view (the room looked onto some internal back walls).  My original room overlooked the street.

However, let’s take a closer look at the desk ….

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Yes, it has no chair!  A suite, with a desk, with essentially a footstool underneath it!!  Who thought that was a good idea?  Luckily, I still had the key to my old room!  I carried the footstool down to the old room, let myself in, put it under the desk, wheeled out the chair and pushed it down the corridor to my new suite!

I can’t help thinking that this should not have been necessary.

The aircon did work in the suite but the internet was no better.

Breakfast the next morning was equally random.  The hotel had just opened and there were few guests.  The hotel had a choice – put out a full breakfast to show guests what you are offering, or put out a reduced spread on the basis that only a few rooms are occupied.  They went for the latter.  That was a mistake in my view.

(Admittedly, due to my Hilton Gold status, I didn’t pay for breakfast.  I am guessing that non-status guests were not getting it at a discount however.)

They also need to work on their English language newspaper selection:

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The sports section of USA Today does NOT really cut it with the modern business traveller, in my view …

To top it all, when I checked out, they attempted to charge me double because I had switched rooms!

I really wanted to like the Hotel Reichshof.  I’m sure, in six months, it will be a decent hotel and I would happily go again.  However, at the moment, it is a bit of a shambles.  If you are paying cash, as opposed to a redemption, then you will have a less chaotic stay elsewhere.

You can find out more about the hotel, and book, on this page of the Hilton website.

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

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  1. Bit of a Fawlty Towers experience for sure – hopefully some HHonors points for your trouble? If not then HHonors CS will I’m sure be happy to oblige. As you say some teething issues are to be expected but this seemed too chaotic.

  2. Your review is not the same place I stayed in. I was there for one night last Thursday, July 31st. I was a paid guest and as a HH Diamond I was given an upgrade. I also travel 365 days a year and I live mostly in Hiltons and IHG when I am desperate. Really desperate.

    I could not praise the hotel enough. The staff are clearly a happy team. Reception were so friendly and welcoming. The dining and breakfast were superb. Breakfast left nothing to the imagination, they had it all and it was served in a stylish and very classy manner.

    The overall appearance of the hotel was outstanding.

    The room was large and spacious. I agree with you on the bed. Even though I booked a double I got too single beds pushed together. The a-c was excellent and worked without a hitch. The internet I was on, as a Diamond I guess, was very high-speed, I was given a voucher at check in. It was probably the best wi-fi I have had in Europe. ( I’m now in China, don’t ever come here, you’d really have something to whinge about when it comes to internet speed )

    The phone worked, although if you pushed the Guest Services button, no, it didn’t work. So I simply got off my First World ass and went down stairs and asked kindly ( without complaining ) and was in a very friendly way apologised too and given #152 to dial. Easy.

    I will agree on the HIE style shampoos etc. I hate that. Just get shampoo, conditioner and soap and the room is a very high standard for me. The bathroom linens as you would expect were brand new, huge, fluffy and fresh. Wonderful. I’m surprised though I didn’t read in your review how they were so new the fluff was still on them. Didn’t that irritate you?

    As for the lack of english language newspapers, why should they? Although I know when I was in Mother England last year I regretted the lack of German language newspapers. It works both ways mate. And imagine trying to get a foreign newspaper in USA. Yet for some reason, you English and Americans seem to think the rest of the world should have English just for you. As i mentioned earlier, you’d really have something to whinge about here in Chengdu and Wanzhou when it comes to newspapers. The china Daily, that’s it.

    Overall I was excited to be staying at my first Curio before I arrived and I was very pleased after I left. I thought it was outstanding. So much so, that I intend booking it again for 4 nights when I am back in Hamburg at the end of August.

    No hotel is ever perfect. But neither am I. What about yourself?

    • Reassuring to hear of a good experience (so it’s just consistency they need to work on), not sure Rob deserved quite such an aggressive reply though? 😉

      • +1 while another datapoint is always welcome, there was no need for such an aggressive tone.

        • +1

          Seems like someone isn’t happen English is the World’s default language 🙁
          itvseemed a more than honest review and if anything highlights a difference between diamond and gold, which there should be.
          As for the teething problems, well if they want a more glowing review they should give him a complimentary night.
          I once had a terrible trip at the Waldorf Astoria New York, many years ago, with family.
          It was so bad they offered us 50% off the bill, which was great, however I also managed to get them to give us 2 free nights as I would never have stayed again.
          We did use the 2 free nights, a few years later, and paid for 2 nights. It was a completely different hotel, in terms of service as in fantastic, which we would never have found out about if they hadn’t have given us the complimentary nights.

      • You’ll always get some self-absorbed posters who think that if it wasn’t an issue to them then no other mere mortal has the right to consider it an issue. The fact that they can’t manage to be polite, even during discourse in which everyone else is managing it, says everything you need to know.

    • You seem to have taken the criticism personally

  3. London Flyer says:

    Purely my personal opinion, but to me this feels like Raffles utilising the readership of this list to score a free night or compensation.

    Do not get me wrong some of the gripes may be valid and compensation may be due but why do I need to read this, what value does this give to the reader?

    Head for Points has been a huge asset to me over the years and I recommend the site to everyone I know. But posts like this I find pointless.

    • General Mayhem says:

      Where is there any suggestion of Rob trying to ‘score’ a free night?

    • I have zero need for 12k Hilton points or Euro 47! I have enough loyalty points for free nights until the day I die, I think ….!

    • The_Real_A says:

      Considering some of the experiences I have had with poor service in hotels around the world (i have never stayed here), I think the more reports in the public domain the better. I just hope someone has linked Hilton press office and the Hotel GM to this article.

    • I think you will find that when Rob asked the readers at the start of the year (I think) reviews of his travels was a popular request.

      • The_Real_A says:

        I enjoy them…

        • Yes, I do as well. Unlike Loyalty Lobby they aren’t all rants, in fact very few of them are and they focus on the service and quality rather than the issues.

          In this review there were a catalogue of small issues not just one. We have all encountered small issues in hotels or on flights etc but there comes a point in proceedings when enough is enough.

          The information is also spot on – New hotels or ones that are going through a reflag are best to be avoided. I have the scars from the Holiday Inns at Darlington, Dumfries and London West to prove it as well. London West was particularly bad as they were adding another floor to the building.

      • Ironically, I only review a small percentage, usually places I stay alone. On family trips, my kids usually trash the room before I can photograph it and I never use the full range of facilities (my kids are not suitable for fine dining restaurants!). You won’t see our beach hotel from last week on here, nor the Park Hyatt in Hamburg from last week. I didn’t cover Chewton Glen when we were there in the Spring, or Four Seasons Hampshire. I didn’t write about Capella in Singapore or Dar Al Masyaf in Dubai. And that is just 2015!

        I am the Hyatt in Dusseldorf this week, on my own, so I will cover that.

    • I’d suggest by way of a comparison you have a look at LoyaltyLobby, most of the actual journalistic articles, as opposed to listing airilne and hotel promos, seem to consist of moaning about all sorts of things which frankly are a waste of time. They even have ‘Whine Wednesdays’ and ‘Compensation Clinic’. One of the video reviews shows the author making a very bitter complaint/attack to the young hotel staff in China for failing to bring something to his room.

      • I agree. Loyalty Lobby’s compensation clinic is good when a reader has emailed in about an issue they have had, however when it is John and Sebastian’s own experiences it is absurd at times.

        If the two of them weren’t bloggers on a well known site they would probably have been made persona non-grata a while back for some of the nonsense they seek compensation for.

  4. Irons1980 says:

    I think the review is a little unfair because these problems to be honest you get in all hotels, not just new ones, and are very minor by comparison – particularly the point about the newspapers (lucky to get an English one at all, tbh. Very, very few hotels – essentially only deluxe 5* hotels offer a turn-down service.

    But, Rob and the site are great – everyone’s allowed an off day, or a slightly mis-judged article now and again without suffering vitriol!

  5. The majority of posts are irrelevant to me personally, so I don’t read them.
    But I am very grateful for the nuggets which have enabled me to get trips and stays which I could only dream about otherwise.
    I am very happy for Rob to get anything he can out of it.

    • No doubt Rob is fully capable of negotiating a free night without having to resort to posting this article, that will not have been his motivation here. I can understand why he was frustrated by the myriad of issues, I would have been too and if he wants to share his experience with his readership, that’s fair enough too.
      Due to a not dissimilar experience at an Accor London property a few months ago, we have a free night coming up that gives that property a chance to redeem itself.

    • Ha. You think it takes a blog to complain and get compensation in hiltons? I had a polite conversation with the manager of a hilton I checked out of last week with regard to building works on my floor starting at 8am on a saturday and the exec lounge being unavailable and one of my nights was refunded quicksharp. I didnt even book direct….

  6. Richmond says:

    I stayed in newly opened Marriott in Florida and service was very good. They had minor problem with smoke alarm in one of the rooms but it definitely didn’t spoil my stay. I guess Hilton/Curio wasn’t prepared as well as Marriott.
    In case of Hamburg there are some nice hotels and I will give Curio a miss as it’s not located in very convenient area.

  7. The first opening in Europe of a new brand within the Hilton group (a loyalty scheme of which a great many of us are members I should imagine), in a location which plenty of us might feasibly visit. I would say that is a perfectly valid topic to cover based on the readership of the site and I personally am grateful for this sort of coverage.

    It must be a challenge to cater to all tastes and there are lots of articles that don’t appeal to me purely because they apply to membership schemes I’m not involved in, which doesn’t offend or bother me at all.

    Keep the reviews coming, they always make for an interesting read.

  8. I’m a huge fan of the site and I was interested to read the review. While I thought it generally sounded okay, it did veer towards the pathetic ‘Whine Wednesdays’ articles on Loyalty Lobby, which are the most pointless things on any frequent traveller flight. I don’t think complaining about a lack of English-language papers in a German hotel is valid – yes, English is the world language, but that doesn’t mean we can EXPECT there to be newspapers for us. Surely you could have called reception to bring along a chair rather than doing it yourself. Surely you could have called reception for an internet code instead of having down yourself after midnight. Was a turndown service advertised as being standard? And come on, all pod coffee machines are relatively easy to use – there is generally only one way to put the pods in, so a bit of trial and error is all that is required.

    Having said that, I don’t think Rob deserves the aggression that some of the posters have displayed, but I can see where they are coming from. Hopefully, Rob’s reviews will be a bit more reasonable (by which I don’t mean that he has to praise everything) in future and not go down the Loyalty Lobby road.

    Personally, my main problem with the Reichshof would be the price and location – why would anybody in their right mind want to spend 150 euros (think that’s what Rob said was the ‘special’ opening price last week) on a hotel near the station? If you need the convenience of the proximity to the station because you have a late/early train, then presumably you just need a place to sleep, in which the Ibis down the road towards the lake is equally convenient and about a third of the price. On the other hand, if you have more time and so want a bit more luxury, then head into the centre and try the Renaissance or something like that.

    • Erm…the phone was broken…

      • Not in the suite, I assume.

        • Yes it was.

        • The phone didn’t work in the room AND in the junior suite?? Wow!

        • None of the phones worked for internal calls. Not sure about external.

          No phones, no functioning internet, reduced breakfast, faulty aircon, faulty billing, rooms not fully furnished … there wasn’t much left that did work. I forgot to mention that my room keys also didn’t work first time and had to be redone.

          I’m not entirely sure where some people would start to complain, because clearly the list above is seen as pefectly acceptable by many.

        • mister.c. says:

          SURELY you didn’t get something wrong Brian dear boy.

  9. Really good review – thanks rob. I’m not sure I agree that rob’s angling for a free stay out of this – I think the article was just to warn that it’s often best to let new hotels iron out the kinks before you go and commit a fair chunk of points/cash – when you could stay a month or two later and have a wholly different experience.

    • Bingo!

      You should also read this article in conjunction with the Sunday one, which was very positive.

      I don’t see how any review which ends ‘I would happily go back but not just yet’ can be seen as hugely critical!

      It is just critical in the context of HFP. In general, I do not use airlines or hotels which are not well regarded which is why HFP reviews are generally positive (and why this one appears more critical than it actually is).

  10. I think all robs trying to stay is that beware of new hotels around soft openings.
    You may encounter a few issues which may be resolved in a few months time .
    If you think robs review is a bit OTT ,
    You may want to like at a little site called tripadvisor …

    • Danksy says:

      I agree 😛 Caveat Emptor – with new hotels, been there before with a refurbished Thistle a few years back.

  11. I’m 99% confident it’s those all-in-one shower gel contraptions that are causing my hair loss, that’s for sure… 🙂

    • I agree and this is a different Danny

      • Worzel says:

        Danny and Danny, thanks for this, I’ll be using the the stuff from shoulders down in future! 🙂 .

        • Danksy says:

          Worzel – Do you have a body hair problem? 😛

        • Worzel says:

          Yes Danksy, like you, it grows in the wrong places. Although, at the moment there are sufficient waves on my bonce-that said the beach is encroaching 🙂 .

  12. czechoslovakia says:

    Thanks for the review Rob. I for one agree, be it a Hilton, Best Western, Marriott, or even inexpensive HIE, a “chain” hotel, has to keep certain basics right. A work desk NEEDs a chair. A phone NEEDs to work. A/C NEEDs to work. Internet NEEDs to work. If not, there`s no point them being there! In which case, the hotel can`t claim to be X star hotel, regardless of how much or little the customer pays.

  13. Wow, there are some idiots in the comments today – Brian, LondonFlyer, Robbo.

    If you’ve been a follower of Raffles and this site for even a couple of months, you’d have realised he posts great, informative, unbiased articles. There’s absolutely no way he’s angling for free nights, as like he says, he’s got all the free nights he could possibly need.

    You seem to have missed the point of this article completely, that in brand new hotels, there’s a much higher chance of encountering problems.

    I for one, am grateful for these honest, unbiased reviews – whether positive or negative. Rob doesn’t deserve the aggressive tones and general rubbish that gets thrown his way from people like Brian, LondonFlyer, and Robbo. If you’re just going to whinge and moan, and not post anything constructive, best to go elsewhere.

    • And there seems to be some massive chips on shoulders about English language newspapers. Come on. In this day and age, it’s not much to ask to have a range of papers from different countries.

    • London Flyer says:

      Ian H,

      Calling people idiots shows your level of intelligence. Are you generally a brown nose?

      My comment was simply an opinion that I found the article to be pointless and perhaps motivated with a hidden agenda. If that was not the case, then I am glad that to be so.

      I have been a daily reader of Raffles posts and will continue to do so.

      I find it bizarre and amusing how some critical feedback causes such offence.

  14. Nick Burch says:

    Was the problematic coffee machine one with pods in a half-donut shape? I’ve found those in quite a few hotels in Germany, some with instructions that help me use them, some without which leave me annoyed for several minutes until I can remember the trick. The one time I complained about the lack of instructions, the hotel staff seemed surprised as they thought everyone knew how to use that style as it was so common!

    What’s common in one culture (eg single duvets on a double bed) is often forgotten to be utterly baffling in others. A small town german guesthouse I’d let off with that, a shiny new Hilton family hotel less so…

    • Yes, that’s the one – the Braun machines.

      I never actually complained about the duvets – I was simply pointing it out for any readers who may have found the picture odd. I have a German wife, I am fully experience in the ways of German hotel bedding!

      • Nick Burch says:

        Sorry, badly written, I wasn’t complaining about duvets either, just giving it as an example of something cultural that can baffle a first time visitor from abroad, but not the hotel. The coffee machine I do complain about!

        Saunas in German hotels is another one – bathing suits optional / required / forbidden is something as a guest you want to be able to check from your room, before you head down. Never in the guest information, often not even mentioned at the sauna, at least not in English/French/Spanish. Foreign guests are the most likely to get this wrong, but the rules on that seem to be only in German, if posted at all…

  15. Lady London says:

    Fawlty Towers.

    In my early days of staying in hotels pre-internet, I had quite a few hotels where lots of these things would happen sometimes all at once.

    All I can say is thank heavens we have the internet now to guide people who are just starting out on new types of travel experiences. Thanks for sharing Rob.

    On the plus side I’ve stayed at a few hotels over the years that were soft launching and often the rates are exceedingly low, with perhaps only a restaurant not open yet or some other amenity not quite ready. But generally a soft launch is well worth looking at due to price and IME most things you need, actually working. Rob’s post just points out the occasional flip side. Thanks Rob.

  16. Well I’ve certainly enjoyed the ‘drama’ of this topic, keeps the site interesting )

  17. heydudes says:

    There’s not actually anything very aggressive in Robbo’s post (other than the not-very-idiomatic English).

    Last line leaves something to be desired but he is after all a German defending a great German hotel.

    • Yep, it’s no more aggressive than some of the responses to it! People on here should relax – it’s Rob’s blog so he can write what he wants, and a review is always going to be subjective anyway. Equally, other readers defending him need to realise that a) he can look after himself, b) it’s a blog with a comments section, so comments are expected and why should they all be complimentary? and c) it’s a professional blog which, because it’s good, is widely-read and provides Rob with the means to lead a luxury lifestyle and helps give him enough points to stay in hotels for free for the rest of his life, as he puts it. Some readers seem to think that he’s doing it all as a favour for us and so therefore any criticism is sacrilege. Gentlemen, it’s his JOB and he gets well-paid for it, and rightly so.

      • London Flyer says:

        Well said Brian! Absolutely first class post.

        I continue to be hugely appreciative of the content Raffles posts but should I wish to give feedback + or -, then I would like to without being called an idiot by other posters or for Raffles to go on the defensive. All seems rather pathetic.

        On numerous occasions I have followed the sponsored links which I assume award the site financially. Do I really need to justify my level of devotion to Ian H?

        Perhaps a confidential feedback option could be created to avoid causing offence to the sycophants of the world?

  18. Anthony Dunn says:

    Oh dear, this review almost echoes my last experience at the Beyangol Hotel in Ulaanbaatar with the addition of having my bed literally collapse beneath me. But the Mongolians fix things with such charm, it’s hard to get too annoyed!

  19. M Dabbagh says:

    Regarding the inefficient Air Conditioning system. It appears that this is a common in Hamburg. I just completed a seamy 8 night stay at the Marriott Hamburg in one of their Jr Suiets (the highest room category). The AC didn’t seem to function and no one bothered about and front desk have the excuse of “the weather usually cold in summer”. There wa not even attempt to fix it (they probably know it’s not going to work) or even have the ceurteousy to follow up to check if it alright. I have written to them about it after my stay and got the typical “Thank you for pointing that out!”
    I truly believe it’s an under investment (machine upgrade is over due) or energy efficiency setting of the AC.

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