You don’t get to stay in one of the world’s most historic luxury hotels every day, and I loved every minute of it. Was it flawless? Not exactly, but I’d still go back in a heartbeat.
This was my first time in Mumbai and I had just one day to either explore the city or totally relax in the lap of luxury; I chose the latter. Guilty as charged. As a result, I didn't get to compare my neighbourhood to the rest of the city, but there's no doubt that the Taj goes to great lengths to ensure their guests don't see or feel the grime and chaos any large Indian city is plagued by. The hotel is located right by the water, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the famous Gateway of India. On site are a number of high-end designer shops, and if you feel like venturing out, you'll find Mumbai's best shops, boutiques, and tourist sites. In short, the location is perfect.
The hotel today has two wings; the Tower and Palace wing. The Tower wing is priced so that the hotel can be accessible to a wider range of clients, travelling with different budgets. It’s still not cheap, but it means you get a mix of international celebrities, diplomats and high-end globe-trotters (predominantly from the Middle East) staying in the Palace Wing, but also lots of middle-class English families with kids running around the hotel, staying in the Tower Wing.
Style and Character
The facade is one of the most impressive I've seen, and the interior doesn't disappoint either. The modern lobby is warm and inviting, and the same goes for the Palace Wing lobby, which is smaller and more intimate. The hotel feels very palatial but at the same time very inviting and homey, which surprised me (in the best possible way).
Overall the service was very good, but there were a few minor issues that I encountered. Check in for the Palace Wing is separate from the main lobby and I was escorted there by a receptionist upon arrival, who then sort of disappeared, leaving me standing in front of another receptionist who was on the phone and didn't look up once. I eventually took a seat and waited about 10-15 minutes while they sorted out finding a room for me, even though I arrived at 7pm, well after standard check-in time. No drinks or refreshments were offered during this time, and it was all just a bit confusing.
Rooms and Suites
I stayed in a Palace Luxury Grande Room, in the Palace Wing, overlooking the pool. The room was well sized and comfortable and the style was classic Indian, with warm colours and a lot of wood, which I like. To be honest, it didn't blow me away as it was quite standard, but the bed was extremely comfortable and I have no complaints whatsoever. The bathroom had a huge tub and great amenities, but no standalone shower.
Food and Drink
I wasn’t feeling so great when I arrived on Friday evening (I know, travelling to India with a bad stomach isn’t the best way to start) so needed to find something light to order. The In-Room Dining menu had a “healthy option” so at the advice of the person who answered the phone I ordered steamed fish, green vegetables and rice and it was perfect. I skipped breakfast the next day in the main restaurant and had a late brunch by the pool instead. It was overall ok, but the service was a little slow and the soft boiled-eggs were a bit under-cooked. Otherwise, the setting of Aquarius was lovely – in the garden, by the pool, with overhead fans to try and beat the heat. Before leaving that day I was treated to High Tea at the famous Sea Lounge which includes a variety of Indian street food accompanied by some very British desserts. I loved it.
Features, Wellness, and Amenities
Unfortunately I didn't have the chance to visit the spa, but I did spend an extremely relaxing morning lounging by the pool and enjoyed every minute. A couple of things that are important to keep in mind: firstly, it's not a large pool area, so i'd get there early if you're staying over a weekend and want to grab a sunbed, and secondly, no food is allowed by the pool, just drinks.
The beauty of India is that you can stay very well without spending a fortune, and this is exactly the case here. For great service, food, amenities and facilities, you don't need to break the bank and can enjoy the best of Indian luxury hospitality.
I'd return, no doubt about it.