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by Paula Hardy, The Daily Telegraph, September 2, 2016
Zanzibar Serena Hotel, Stone Town’s vintage luxury hotel, is perfectly situated at the tip of the Shangani Peninsula. Unusually for this compact town it offers a waterfront pool, 52 rooms and a rooftop restaurant from where you can see the dhows coming into port.
Located on the waterfront right on the edge of historic Stone Town, meaning the hotel can be accessed by car on Kelele Square. From here it’s a five-minute walk to the Portuguese Fort and the Forodhani Gardens and a 10 to 15-minute walk to most other sites. Airport transfers can be arranged on request.
Style & character 6/100
Part of the multinational Serena Hotels chain, this historic hotel is nevertheless fairly small in scale. Housed in two historic structures – the old Telecoms building and the Chinese Doctor’s House – it forms part of the sea wall offering ocean views from the central swimming pool, the bar and the rooftop restaurant.
The buildings retain historic features and the décor is a mix of Swahili, Arab and colonial styles with shuttered windows and tiled terracotta floors dotted with white-cushioned lounge chairs. Even the staff look like they’ve stepped out of another era, gliding around in traditional white kanzu’s and embroidered skull caps.
Service & facilities 6/100
Extremely rare for Stone Town is the large swimming pool. In addition, there’s a waterfront bar, a rooftop restaurant, a café, souvenir shop, conference centre and beauty salon. Island excursions, dhow trips, walking tours in Stone Town and island hopping can be booked at the travel desk. There’s a 24-hour concierge and room service is also available. While staff here are well trained, service (particularly room service) is slow and a bit lacklustre.
There are a total of 51 rooms across the first and second floor. They consist of 41 standard rooms, six larger prime rooms with private balconies and four suites with sea views and separate sitting areas. All of them are decorated in faux Swahili style with carved beds draped in mosquito nets, kilim rugs and brass lamps and lanterns that shine atmospherically at night. Air-conditioning, TV, minibars and safes come as standard. Bathrooms feature modern appliances, albeit slightly dated in style.
Food & drink 5/100
The first floor Baharia Restaurant has uninterrupted sea views. It serves a breakfast buffet and a continental evening menu featuring fresh fish, traditional curries and rice dishes. The buffet, while generous, is rather sub-standard and the food overall is over-priced. Poolside snacks are the worst offenders, making it preferable to eat out at one of the other waterfront restaurants a few minutes' walk away.
Value for money 6/100
Double rooms from US$260 (£200) in low season; and from US$300 (£231) in high season. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
There are ground-floor rooms but wheelchair users will need personal assistance as they aren’t specially adapted.
While there are no specific childcare facilities, this is a good option for families in Stone Town given the pool and the hotel’s spacious, lateral design. Food and meal times can be adjusted to suit, extra beds can be fitted in standard rooms and babysitting is available on request.
This article was written by Paula Hardy from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.