Nestled between the borders of the West Bank, Jordan, and Israel is the earth’s lowest point on dry land (over 400 meters below sea level) — the Dead Sea. The lake continues to awe from the biblical times up to the present. Moreover, the Dead Sea is mineral-rich and has a warm climate which allows its guests to bask in its healing properties and fresh air.
KEMPINSKI HOTEL ISHTAR DEAD SEA
The allure of the Dead Sea has breathed life into the countries around it, proven by the influx of visitors (comprised of both locals and foreigners) that want to experience it every year. One of the hotels serving this visitor population is Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, which sits rights on the shoreline of the lake, dubbed as the Dead Sea Road. Visitors can drive for 70km from the Queen Alia International Airport to get to the hotel. Upon arrival, guests are welcomed to a resort rich in architecture that is tribute to the imagined Hanging Gardens of Babylon, characterised by three enclaves set amidst olive and palm gardens dotted with lagoons, waterfalls and pools.
ROOMS AND SUITES
Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea rooms are categorized in five different types, namely the Superior Room, Ishtar Superior Room, Ishtar Deluxe Room, Ishtar Panoramic Room and Ishtar Terrace Room.
There are also five types of Exclusive Suites, namely the Junior Suite, Executive Suite, Ishtar Suite, Ishtar Spa Maisonette and Ishtar Jacuzzi Suite.
The Luxurious Suites include the Royal Ishtar Villas and Penthouse.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea has seven restaurants and bars which feature diverse cuisines for the different palates that it’s catering to. It features three bars: 1) Sumerian Bar, which offers wines, apéritifs, tea and coffee, and pastry on a Babylonian-themed terrace; 2) and Kish Bar, which serves signature cocktails that can be enjoyed overlooking the pools and garden; and 3) Isin Bar which provides light meal, snack, a selection of tea and coffee, and the finest spirits. The hotel also has four restaurants: 1) The Obelisk Restaurant, which offers both international and local dishes features interpretations of Jordanian recipes like the Mansaf (the country’s national dish that dates back to 1,200 A.D.) that can be enjoyed on an outdoor seating area near the Dead Sea; 2) Akkad Pool Grill, which has family-friendly lunch menus as well as signature cocktails and hand-churned ice cream that can be enjoyed while at the Infinity Pool; 3) Ashur Pizza and Grill Italian Restaurant, which (true to its name) features Italian gourmet cuisine and wines and is located at the lower Infinity Pool edge; 4) and The Codes, which is the hotel’s restaurant for Thai and Asian Fusion dishes that can be enjoyed either indoor or outdoor overlooking the Dead Sea.
The 10,000 sqm Ishtar Spa by Resense features 20 treatment rooms (14 indoor and 6 indoor), a Moroccan hammam, outdoor and indoor jacuzzis, sauna and steam rooms, a Watsu pool, hydro pool and (of course) natural Dead Sea water pools. Guests are also treated to Bespoke Spa Collections which are available after consultation, as well as yoga and meditation sessions.
Guests can enjoy Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea’s facilities, which are comprised of an updated fitness club, a concierge, services for meetings and banquets, and a kids club.
Resort Location: 10
The resort’s location is terrific. We can easily go to the Dead Sea area, because the property is right on it. It is also proximate to the airport and some tourist spots that are historically important. The major spots we’ve visited include the Baptism Site of Jesus, which is 13.9km away from the hotel, the Ma’in Hot Springs which is 13.1 km away, and the Mount Nebo, which is one of the most revered sites in Jordan as it is the place where the Prophet Moses was buried, is 14.4 km away. The city center, Amman, is 60 km away and can be reached with a 45-minute drive from the hotel.
Aesthetic Design: 9.0
We were fascinated by the hotel’s architecture which was inspired by the traditional Babylonian design. The gardens are lined with ancient Jordan Valley olive trees. In fact, one of them is more than 700 years old! The Ishtar area has a beautiful architecture and charming design. It is perfectly in tune with the hotel’s theme. The main building looks practical and casual though. It feels a bit dull and has the impersonal vibe of a business hotel.
Rock Licker contacted the pre-arrival concierge via email to arrange for our transportation, which is a Mercedes E-class for our return transfer and a medium-sized car for a separate drive around Jordan. While this was a simple request, it took six emails before the concierge understood what a return transfer was. On top of that, the rental car that was initially given to us was too old and full of scratches. Take note that we booked the car with full insurance, and it was clearly stated in our email that we were requesting for a brand new car. The good thing is that Alaa Farrah, the Chief Concierge and a Les Clef d’Ors member, was there to rectify the problem and help us in a lot of things. Additionally, both the pick-up and drop-off drivers also did a good job in setting the tone for our arrival and departure.
Our check-in was done quickly and efficiently. The front desk staff can speak very good English and explained to us all pertinent information useful for our stay. He seemed to be genuinely good-natured. He wore an authentic smile on his face and interacted with us with a pleasant attitude.
The bellman who assisted us handled our luggage with care and was quick to deliver them to our suite. We are slightly disappointed with the welcome staff as they failed to give us the welcome towels and drinks. We stayed in the hotel for about a week and saw that the other guests received the welcome items. At one point when we were at the lobby, we saw some used welcome towels and glasses left by the guests that the lobby staff have not been removed yet.
Junior Suite #3314: 7.0
We booked a Junior Suite, which was located at the third floor of the main building. We were welcomed by a large living space, a generous outdoor sitting area, and a spacious toilet and bathroom. There were some things that made us unhappy though, like the room’s uncomfortable bed, noisy air-conditioning unit, poor soundproofing and the suite’s gloomy design. If you’re not traveling for business, we suggest that you book a suite located on the Ishtar area. Aside from having a more pleasant atmosphere, it’s closer to the restaurants and the recreational facilities. It helps to check if there is an ongoing construction/renovation project in the Ishtar area. When we were there, a construction team was building a new swimming pool and by the time we were checking in, the guest next to us was complaining (she said her suite is in the Ishtar area) about the noise from the construction works.
Food and Beverage: 8.5
The Codes Thai Restaurant: This is where we had our dinner on our first night. The quality of the food was good, everything taste delicious, all the dishes were served at appropriate temperature. The restaurant ambiance at night was lovely, but the service was sort of a letdown. One server gave us the serving fork instead of the table fork. We felt that another server needs to be reminded of some etiquette; he kept answering us with “no problem”, instead of using appropriate words like “yes” or “certainly”. When we asked for our guest check, the same server gave us a pen with no ink. I just want to emphasize that no more than five tables were occupied during that said dinner. It’s easy to say that it was not really a busy evening and we think that the staff-and-guest ratio was not an issue. Even if it is busy, these are some of the most basic things that should not be neglected. On the other hand, we had an enjoyable breakfast here the day before we checked out. Although the spread was lesser in quantity, surprisingly, the staff here seemed to be more attentive and pleasant in the morning.
Obelisk Restaurant: This restaurant is quite a walk from our suite but Rock Licker wanted us to have our breakfast here everyday because it has a bigger spread and better views of the swimming pools, garden and the Dead Sea. You’ll also see a lot of birds and hear their songs if you’re seated by the terrace. This was a very busy restaurant in the morning, but the team was able to handle the load very well. We observed that the manager and the supervisor were very hands-on and showed genuine care for their guests.
Sumerian Bar: We highly recommend visiting this! The menu was good, the light meals were fabulous, and the staff were brilliant. The location of the bar (on the rooftop) is also amazing especially when the weather is nice. What added to our enjoyment was the highlight of the night — belly dancing and the live music. It is a very entertaining place both for in-house and non in-house guests and is surely worth visiting.
Akkad Pool and Bar: While we did enjoy the food and drinks, we found that the service was just decent. The location exudes a relaxed laid-back atmosphere design-wise, but we hoped it was organised more tastefully without compromising the willingness-to-please vibe. The monoblock chairs look old, and in fact, when we were there, some of them already have cracks. We saw lots of flies too when we were having our late lunch in the restaurant.
In-Room Dining: The food in the in-room dining menu were very well-selected, the lady who took our order on the phone was polite and efficient, the food that we ordered were delivered promptly, served hot not warm and oh so yummy!
Leisure Facilities: 9.0
Without a doubt, the hotel has one of the best leisure facilities in Jordan with nine swimming pools which include the infinity pool, kids’ pool, and lazy river pool. While we enjoyed the swimming pools, we couldn’t help but notice how either grayed or browned some of the sheets were for poolside beds. Moving on, we found out that Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea’s luxury spa is the biggest in the Middle East. The hotel also has a tennis court and a fitness center. Of course, it also boasts a “natural wonder of the world” - the Dead Sea. We enjoyed all the swimming pools and every other day, we were at the Dead Sea covering our body with muds, taking selfies and just laughing like crazy.
The Resense Spa: 7.0
The Resense Spa has a whole building dedicated to it, which is filled with complete spa facilities and amenities. We spent half of the day enjoying its hydro-facilities which include the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, whirlpool, Dead Sea pools, sauna, steam room, showers, Tepidarium heated lounges, and the largest hydro-pool in the Dead Sea. However, the dipping pool looked like it needed some maintenance as some of the edges were already rusty. All the staff at the hydro-facilities worked really hard to keep the area clean and safe for all the guests. I saw the staff wiping the wet floors diligently every now and then to maintain the cleanliness and to prevent the guests from slipping. The guy at the reception was always friendly and ready to respond to guests needs and requests. In the evening, we went to have a couples massage treatment called The Duo. The treatment was done in a couples massage room which has a minimalist design is fully-equipped and well-organized. Rock Licker said his massage was faultless. Unfortunately, mine was not. The masseuse who was assigned to me that time had rough skin on her fingers; it was painful whenever she glided her hands on my skin. I was not able to sleep, because I wasn’t very comfortable during the session. I even noticed the asymmetrical counts of thumb pressing on my left feet and my right feet. Overall, the massage was inconsistent, because some things done to one side of my body were skipped on the other. When we were done with the massage, the masseuse who did my massage escorted us to the Relaxing Area and gave us hot tea and nuts. She briefly engaged with us and there we found out that she’s one the senior masseuses. Before we left the building, we reported everything to the Spa Director who gracefully received our feedback and talked about how they can improve their services.
In general, the hotel was clean. We just want to suggest that the lobby staff be prompt at removing the used welcome towels and tiny glasses that were left by the guests who just checked in. We also think that the monoblock chairs at Akkad Pool should be replaced since they already look old and most of them have cracks. Additionally, the nasty flies and the mosquitoes should be controlled at all times.
Customer Service: 6.0
We like that the hotel incorporated the concept of having a “Lady in Red”, which is Kempinski’s iconic symbol. According to the hotel, she is an extended arm of the General Manager. She welcomes, meets, and farewells hotel guests; she is also responsible for communicating with all guests and providing highest quality service standards. In Kempinski Ishtar, there’s not just a Lady in Red, there’s also a Gentleman in Red! During our stay in the hotel, the Gentleman in Red was the one who handled our complaints. To be fair to him, we think he really tried his best to make us happy. But isn’t it happier if there is nothing to complain about at all? The score of “6.0” is not for the “Gentleman in Red” but mostly for the faulty hotel service.
We observed that the hotel, which already has hosted a lot of high- profile VIPs, makes guests’ security and safety their top priority. We felt safe during our entire stay. The procedures and protocols are in place and organized, so we’d like to give props to that.
Client Profile: 10
Aside from locals and Arabs, we also saw a lot of Germans, a group of Thai, some Russians and Americans during our stay in the hotel.
Drawing from our experience as (happy) luxury travellers, Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea had some of the best facilities for their guests. There were some ups and downs but staying in the hotel was overall a commendable experience. There were some setbacks in our experience with the staff, such as our moments in the spa and one of the restaurants. While we understand that the management is dedicated at providing the best possible trainings to their staff, in our honest opinion, they have to ensure that everything that the staff have learned in their trainings will be put into practice and will be implemented successfully. Another thing, we think the hotel should consider investing in high-quality and eager expat employees in order to enhance its profile as part of an international luxury hotel chain. The advantages always outweighs the inherent challenges of having diverse management.