My first time at a hotel after lockdown was surprisingly reassuring. Everything was sanitised, contactless and fret-free
Knowing a few high risk people, I have been extremely cautious whenever I leave the house. I always wear a face covering in stores and only socialise with friends outdoors. So when it came to staying at a hotel, I was anxious (to say the least) at the thought of staying somewhere overnight.
Reading about new hotel guidelines, like glass dividers and contactless encounters, I thought a hotel stay would be a sterile, uncomfortable experience. But I was relieved to find it was the exact opposite. The new guidelines were surprisingly comforting and helped put me at ease. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I needed a staycation until I was actually on one.
"Guests could enjoy an entire hotel stay without coming into contact with anyone."
When I arrived at The Shelbourne, I instantly noticed the new, post-lockdown installations. A one way entrance and exit system was clearly marked, a tall, plexiglass divider separated guests from receptionists at the check in desk and all staff were wearing a sleek, black face mask as part of their uniform.
I quickly received my sanitised key card and signed my stay agreement with a disinfected pen, which was handed to me on a plate (they really did think of everything). And, I realised that with a bit of luck, guests could enjoy an entire hotel stay without coming into contact with anyone.
A contactless experience
“You can opt for a completely contactless experience,” the receptionist explained. “By downloading our app, you can check in and out through that. You can even use your phone as a mobile key card.”
My room was crisply clean, with minimal cushions and provided supplies. There was a face mask, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes neatly laid out for me—a welcome array for any traveller who understandably forgets to pack precautionary products for her stay.
I was offered two optional add ons for my stay: a self-spa night (where Elemis skincare products are provided along with a step-by-step guide on how to use them for a glowing facial) or a movie night (includes a movie on demand, piled high nachos, sweets and a bottle of wine delivered to your door).
Self-pampering: A post-lockdown must
The first offer is fantastic for an evening of self-pampering. I drew myself a bubble bath and soaked my social stresses away. The exfoliating sea lavender and samphire salt scrub and cream was a dream for my neglected, dry skin. I set up my Elemis regimen tubside and followed the steps, indulging in the aromatic distraction. It was the first time I had focused on such frivolity since the pandemic, and I decided to embrace it.
My days had been monotonously plagued by routine: working 9am to 5pm at the kitchen table, taking an evening walk, cooking dinner and tediously cleaning up. It felt almost sinful to be looked after at the hotel, especially when dining out.
Getting dolled up for dinner was a rare treat. I shoved my ‘quarantine 15’ into a pair of spanx, threw on a midi dress and heels and luxuriously applied a shade of ruby red lipstick. To be honest, I was a bit shocked to see myself dressed up, a feeling I think was paralleled by my partner who had grown used to my oversized tee and leggings attire.
'Hands on' vs 'hands off' dining
We dined in the Saddle Room, lined with golden booths and tables adorned with white linens, each spaced at least two metres apart. Here, we were offered two service styles: hands on or hands off.
“All dining staff sanitise their hands frequently and thoroughly clean tables between reservations. Hands on is the traditional style, where we place the plates in front of you and collect them,” the waiter explained through his black mask. I found myself guffawing at how archaic ‘traditional’ sounded, as if this wasn’t the way we had been dining our whole lives until a few short months ago.
“For the hands off option,” he continued, “we bring a tray with your food and leave it tableside, where you can serve yourself and place empty dishes on when finished. This is the contactless experience.”
Feeling we deserved some long awaited luxury, we opted for hands on. With an hour and 45 minute limit for each reservation, the experience felt safe and comfortable, especially since the friendly servers kept a social but practical distance throughout the night.
Refreshed and recharged
We returned to our room to find robes and slippers carefully laid out by the bed, chocolates and water on our bedside lockers and soft lights with drawn curtains—the turn down service seemed as if magical elves catered to our relaxing evening.
In fact, everything about my stay felt virtually contactless. When we ordered breakfast the following morning, a hotel employee knocked on the door and left our tray so he didn’t have to enter the room. Even when I asked for toothpaste (I had forgotten to bring it along), housekeeping left the toothbrush kit on a plate by the door and stepped back while I collected it. The staff were patient, accommodating and made my stay pleasantly relaxing.
My staycation was just for one night, but I didn’t realise how positively it would affect my state of mind. One day later, as I am back at home writing this from my worn out sofa, I feel refreshed and recharged, with new inspiration and a small sense of hope. Hope that as things reopen, we can enjoy leisure in a new light. And I plan to ride this optimistic wave from my post-lockdown stay as long as possible.
The one night Shelbourne Escape package including breakfast and car parking is from €299 for two people sharing.
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