Review: Villa Honegg, Honegg

Villa Honegg

Villa Honegg, Honegg
Room type:
Master Suite
Duration:
21st > 23rd August, 2017
Booked with:
 BESVISOR

Villa Honegg is the rarest of 5 star properties – one that mastered the use of social media to go viral.  I remember when going viral meant you had a disease soon to be named after you and the end of the world was coming.  Now it’s even applicable to hotels, but with Villa Honegg it is hardly surprisingly.  Just look at it. It would not be a shock if the hotel was built with social media in mind –  restaurants certainly already do. Yet as with all things designed to reflect just a mere few seconds in time, it cannot sustain the entire image.  My photos cannot do justice to what a spectacular view you will experience, but neither can they clarify how overhyped this hotel is.

The hotel is nothing more than a glorified Instagram shoot. It is a swimming pool with rooms attached. It is the sign of the downsides to social media; the hype, the belief of it being real, the fake smiles and the perfect life. It is not the place to be seen, but the place where you will be seen, whether you want to or not. Worst of all, it is 4 miles from Park Hotel Vitznau, but millions of miles apart in every other area.

Pre-sales

Our Travel Agent received a welcome similar to a shark turning up at a baby shower party.  They were prepared to offer nothing, including even the desire to have a double duvet, instead of their standard single duvets.  Never before have I come across a hotel that only has single duvets, but sometimes I get confused and occasionally forget if the Nazi’s won the war.  I guess they did.  Park Hotel Vitznau weren’t great pre-sales either, so maybe you just cannot find people in this area that can manage to use a computer without posting photos?

Getting there

Due to visiting Alpina Gstaad afterwards, we avoided the usual taxis/trains and rented a car to attempt the 80 minute journey from Zurich Airport, through the  Swiss roads that at times begin to simulate a rollercoaster, before arriving near Lake Lucerne.  We climbed the steep roads to find Villa Honegg perched above the lake….looking nothing at all like a villa; in fact, it has as much in common with a villa as I do with a Red Cross volunteer.  I suppose once-upon-a-time it was indeed a villa, but back in that era you most likely had people come out to greet you on arrival too.  Not here.  After we finished scratching our heads on where to park, we decided just to dump the car near the entrance and hope they would deal with it – which they did.  The normal check-in procedures followed, but just like Vitznau, they too did not ask for a credit card.

Nature gives zero shits about your bank balance.

Setting

Close to 1000m above sea level and with spectacular views of the turquoise waters over Lake Lucerne, Villa Honegg is sold on the dream that will greet you with the view.  It really does not disappoint.  The sound of cowbells and views of greenery, mountains and lakes – there is no mistaking which country you’re in.

Stay List`

They delivered on their promise; their promise to offer nothing.  I suppose it should be commended that they stuck to their principles, although they let themselves down by actually stocking beer in my dads minibar, as I requested.  So he who was on a freebie gets something, yet all we received was the emperors latest robe.  On arrival the amenities included some nuts, fruit, 2 bottles of water and the most uncomfortable pillows I’ve ever used.  When asking reception to make some changes to the room setup they promptly did it, which made their decision to ignore it so peculiar.  Yet one thing remained: the pillows.  No matter how many times we tried to remove them, there they were, totally like that creepy uncle we all had during our childhood.

Rooms

Villa Honegg had a lot going for it.  If it were a Hilton.

Even though we were upgraded to their top room, the Master Suite, and any normal human being would be grateful for it, I was not, for defying normality and manners are my superpowers.  The penthouse reflects the hotel; it is just not high-end enough.  Luxury, this is not.  Whilst I was experiencing the giddiness of being upgraded to their penthouse, the joy was shorter lived than a campaign to prevent ALS, when we opened the door and saw what was on offer.  It was more a junior suite than a name worthy of a penthouse, with the living room and bedroom being in the same room.  It is specified as 93sqm, but I can only assume they are including the balconies, The Upside Down from Stranger Things and a lot of their imagination when measuring this, as I have stayed in far smaller suites than felt more spacious.

The room looks fine, but it felt so generic that there was nothing within it that felt luxurious, or even that well thought through.  The lack of any plugs anywhere; the awful position of the TV – in front of the sofa, not bed, but you have no views anywhere from you bed, and even if you did and they did this to keep the views, why did housekeeping decide to close all the blinds in the middle of the day?  The Hermes toiletries definitely fit in, for that’s a good photo opportunity there.

A place only the dead can sleep

Outside you will find tiny balconies that for unknown reasons are even smaller than the deluxe room my father stayed in next door, and about 20x smaller than the large balconies available to the rooms on the first floor.  The balcony was so small that it proved to be useless, with no cover from the sun and only some uncomfortable seats to occupy your melancholy.  I would recommend to get a first floor room, but as long as the sound of self-obsessed screaming girls is not an issue to you.  The positives are to be found in the free minibar (which surprisingly did not stock selfie sticks) and once again those spectacular views, even if you cannot see them from your bed.  On the balcony you can gaze longingly at Park Hotel Vitznau, as you can make it out on the horizon.

Bathroom
Bath

The security is quite tight, with a key needed to get access to each floor, then naturally your own room key to get access to your own room.  This is likely due to the requirement to need a key to gain access to the spa, and each floor has a separate elevator that takes you directly down.  For the Master Suite, you open your door and the elevator is right in front of you.  Handy for us, as our impeded brains could handle such easy instructions, on the back off having such little sleep.  I cannot recall being somewhere where we slept so badly, from a combination of their pillows, duvets, room temperature and turndown service not closing blinds properly.

Master Suite living room
Master Suite living room

Amenities

  • Restaurant with outside terrace and indoor seating
  • Gym
  • Indoor pool
  • Outdoor pool (34C)
  • Sauna, steam room and plunge pool

Spa

You were not there when I first saw the pool, but you can imagine it as a high-pitched squark of delight.  That was until I saw the number of people present.  There is a fine line between genius and insanity; between luxury and accessibility, and Villa Honegg decided to cross it whilst clasping tin cups over their ears and screaming nursery rhymes backwards.  Sanity and I rarely cross paths when it comes to hotel bookings.

Insanity is turning up at Villa Honegg pool at 6am and finding its actually empty.

Honegg seems to want to take full advantage of its view and not care what the consequences are, as long as the outcome is profit. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as people are fully aware of what they are getting into prior to arrival. This review feels the only honest thing online, as I’m probably the only person who has ever actually paid to stay there, rather than receiving it as a complimentary package in return for some Instagram love.

So let me be kind:  the outdoor pool has everything I would want; perfect (34C) temperature, water jets galore, and breathtaking views.  There is little here on first look that I would not describe as perfect.  You add to that a large number of outdoor loungers with the same views, an indoor pool and unisex sauna, steam room and plunge pool, all of which is open from 6am to 10pm, and you would think I’m a happy bunny.

Yet this is once again the difference between 5 star and 5 star luxury.

5 star luxury would ensure you do not have constantly soaking wet floors in the spa, with towels everywhere and no one tidying up.  They would ensure that if you do offer free, bottled water (still, sparkling and raspberry flavour) and fruit, that it would get refiled at some point during the day.  They would offer pool side service.  They would work to ensure that the frequent stream of flies does not manage to make its way into the spa every day.  They would not have a pool that feels like a public pool, as almost all the guests – including babies – are in there throughout the day, and then, still offer day passes to people to come in and add to it.

Mum, I took a photo at Villa Honegg without people being in the pool! Mum! Look, mum!

Yet without a doubt the worst problem are the guests.  There were more cameras and people in the pool than a porn shoot. The hotel has created a culture where it’s perfectly acceptable to spend hours taking photos of yourselves.  I’ve seen spas before ask not to take any photos at all, I’ve seen others just not mention it, but I’ve never seen one before ask you to be considerate when you do take your 832 photos of yourself and other guests.

This hotel must be the creator of vanity – it exists only for millennials (of which I am one) to come along and show everyone how amazing they are.  At 9:30 at night, all the pool had was some College trust funds taking more and more photos of themselves.  If you came by at 4pm, you could have witnessed the exact same behaviour.

Indoor pool

Activities

There are some beautiful guided walks available that will take you around the cliff edges and offer incredible views over Lake Lucerne.  Whilst not in the hotels guide, I would recommend taking all your belongings with you so you can leave and never come back.

They cut down trees, yet won’t cut the Villa Honegg guests. Explain that one to me.

Food

With every guest in the pool trying to become the next Kardashian, you would think the restaurant must be quiet?  No, try again. Even that manages to become overcrowded. Who these people are, I don’t know, as no one would surely come all this way to eat this garbage?

I could not imagine that during almost anytime after 1pm it would be a struggle to get a seat outside.  Only when the temperature dropped and out came the complimentary outdoor pimp coats – sadly required even in August – was a seat forthcoming.

The food menu was so poor that my dad ended up eating chips and only chips for lunch and dinner. This is a man who grew up as one of twelve siblings (Irish Catholics, in case you were wondering), where I imagine dinner times were similar to Battle Royale. Fussy, he is not. Not once did we have a starter, and only once did we have anything other than a burger and chips.  Hats off though, it was a nice burger.

Breakfast is included and served until 2pm, which I have never seen before.  When you sit down, they bring across 3 small (and I mean small) plates of cheeses, meats and fruit.  If you hate strawberries more than tumours, you will be delighted at their portion sizes.

The service really fell apart too.  Another first for me was receiving a main course before finishing a starter; orders either delivered to the wrong tables or items being forgotten; asking for a lemonade and being asked if I wanted an orange juice or grapefruit; and having to make my own hot chocolate with the chocolate powder provided, as I guess no one in the kitchen was qualified enough to do it.

Then there’s the flies. Flies everywhere. In the spa. In your room. In the restaurant. Flies appearing in the drinks, only to receive non-plussed looks from the waiters. Flies do love faeces, so I can see why they would descend upon Villa Honegg.

The food selection at Villa Honegg is amongst the worst I’ve ever had in any luxury property.

Service

Then we come to the service. Well, I think there was some. You have a GM who is truly uncomfortable talking to anyone; a person that comes around and runs away as quick as possible at the moment you engage in conversation. We were thinking it was just us, but got to observe him doing it to multiple other tables too.  If you’re not comfortable talking to guests, just don’t do it.  Don’t come around and insult us by walking away the moment we open our mouths.  It was so bad, it was like a piece of performance art.

Housekeeping, as mentioned above, deciding to go batshit crazy on us, by not closing curtains or shutters at night, then doing it in the morning service.  Every meal delivered with the waiters bringing wrong items or giving them to the wrong person; requesting some changes from reception being like a brick wall talking to a brick wall.

To repeat: it’s 5 star, but not luxury. It’s the appearance of it with waiters in sharp suits, but the reality is of poor, ignorant service from a W-esq setting of coolness.  The average age of the guests was less than my underwear.

I cannot help but feel this is just another hotel destroyed by Instagram.  Which nicely brings me onto my theory.  There are two purposes to Villa Honegg: vanity for the Kardashian peeps (I wouldn’t be surprised if they even turned up) and the Swiss national fly convention, where people rejoice about what great creatures flies are.  The website even has the sound of flies buzzing around, so we cannot pretend they did not warn us.

I appreciate staffing may be difficult here, but then the same for Vitznau and they just about cope.

Sunrise

Departure

There is nothing luxurious about Villa Honegg, other than the view. 1 night is enough, if you truly care for that one, lasting photo that your friends and family will enjoy for 15 seconds of fame. Just bring a packed lunch, as I sure was glad to arrive at Alpina Gstaad and actually eat something of substance after 2 days of living on the Swiss Super Size Me diet.

Worth Knowing

Unlike many of the fantastic Swiss hotels, this is not owned by a Swiss family.  It was purchased by a Qatari family and completely revamped.  The Swiss always see their properties as a project of love, that will almost certainly never turn a profit.  That is definitely not my view of Villa Honegg.  My experience with Qatari investments to date, based on The Connaught, Park Hyatt Mallorca and now Villa Honegg is looking spectacular is more important than delivering a spectacular experience.  The investment goes into the hard product and costs are cut everywhere else.

Villa Honegg pool

The Good

  • You are so close to Park Hotel Vitznau that at any moment you can leave.

The Bad

  • The guests.  If you removed the Chinese this resort wouldn’t be so bad.  And the Americans.  And the English.  Irish.  Germans.  Italians.  Swiss.  French.  Czech.   Go real niche and only allow North Koreans in and it may become luxurious again.

The Luxurious

  • The views.  Come for the view, stay for the…..nope, I’ve got nothing.

Conclusion

This year alone, I have been back to 3 hotels that deeply let me down, but I was prepared to give them another chance.  So many resorts have taught me the difference a stay can have depending on going at the “right time”.  Amanpulo is a prime example whereby you are paying more over Christmas, yet it is the only time of year the resort is at capacity, so therefore you are paying more for less service.  In the case of Villa Honegg, there is no doubt it would be far better if it were quiet, but it would still not feel luxury – it would still be an ok hotel with a near-perfect pool.

Villa Honegg is not a hotel, but an exception view truly.  Maybe the best I’ve ever had.  But if that is what you care about and nothing else, don’t waste £500/d on a sub-par product (if you can even book the cheapest room, the reality is you’ll be paying £1000+), instead just go for the day into the spa, selfie stick at the ready.

Before the Irony Police come and get me for having a review filled with photos of a place that I criticise for everyone taking photos, I will, of course, try and justify it in the name of attempting photography.  The majority of photos you see in this review I got up at 4am to take.  It is a place that is worth photographing, that no one can doubt, but the way the guests do this is unparalleled by anything I have ever seen.  If every guest in the pool has their camera on them, what is the purpose of it?  Relaxing is going to be tough to find amongst the madness, especially when their spa and staff make it clear that this is fine.

It is my generation that I now sneer at. How did it come to this? I do not know what Honegg means in Swiss German, but I would guess roughly it means narcissist. It is the narcissists wet dream. I am surprised they don’t have a gift shop selling only selfie sticks for their guests, or the massive groups that randomly turned up to also have their pictures taken. All you will experience during your relaxation is the sound of every person clamouring around to take 753 different pictures of them in slightly different poses.  “Now post like a mountain lion!  No, I said a mountain lion, that’s more an Africa golden cat!  Try again and do it with more passion”.

Passion is what this place could do with.  From the owners, the GM and the staff.  So maybe the youngsters are right.

You’ve seen it. There’s now no need for you to go.

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