x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Hotel Insider: No-fuss facilities at Centro Sharjah

This is the kind of place that strikes the delicate balance between stylishness and affordability, attracting businessmen, tourists and local diners.

The rooms are practical and reserved, as would be expected. Courtesy Rotana
The rooms are practical and reserved, as would be expected. Courtesy Rotana

The welcome

As my taxi approaches Rotana's Centro Sharjah, I feel like I'm being taken all the way to the main terminal of Sharjah's International Airport. But at the last minute we duck down a quiet slip road on the airport's perimeter. On arrival, mine is the only taxi at the main entrance and I'm momentarily surprised by the lack of doormen. It's only when I get to reception that my actual welcome begins, but the greeting is warm and check-in is efficient.

The neighbourhood

If you are sensible enough to avoid Sharjah's legendary traffic jams, it only takes about 15 minutes to get from the hotel from the city centre. The 306-room hotel sits between the apron of the airport and the motorway. Given its unpromising location, I'm surprised by the total absence of traffic or aircraft noise once I'm inside. Easily accessed from the nearby Emirates Road, the hotel is ideally located for people with business at the nearby University City or for tourists who want to explore Dubai but find themselves without the budget or the room to stay in the city itself.

The room

My first floor Classic Studio room comes with a view of the sizeable pool. The interior is just as you would expect from a business hotel: dark, masculine and reserved. It's well equipped with a 32-inch LCD TV, tea and coffee making facilities, iron and ironing board. There's a queen-sized bed, coffee table and seating area, generous desk, separate kitchenette with fridge and microwave, and a two-seat breakfast counter. The space is well designed, but I'm alone and I wonder if it wouldn't feel a little cramped if I had to cope with another person and their luggage.

Generally, the hotel succeeds in striking a delicate balance between stylishness and affordability but my bathroom is a disappointment, despite its walk-in shower, and at the beginning and end of each day the room's harsh lighting, bland colour scheme and utilitarian finish conspire to make me feel as awkward and unwelcome as possible.

My other major gripe is that the hotel's Wi-Fi internet connection is chargeable, something I find bewildering given the hotel was originally designed for the business market.

The service

Friendly, informed and efficient. There's a lack of subservience that may come as a shock to those used to the usual five star pandering, but anything else here would be inappropriate.

The scene

Pleasantly brisk each morning but subdued in the evening. The hotel is busy and there's an unexpected mixture of package tourists, business types and young Emirati couples from local neighbourhoods who come to the hotel for a quiet evening meal. Unsurprisingly for a hotel owned by Air Arabia, there's also a smattering of flight crew.

The food

Comes in the form of C.Taste, an all-day dining restaurant that offers a familiar but not disappointing buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and C.Deli, a rather curious 24-hour convenience store that sells light meals, hot and cold drinks, pastries, sandwiches, sweets, newspapers and other travellers kit. C.Deli is also the source of room service, so if you do order food for your room don't be surprised when it arrives in a bag, not on a tray.

Loved

The hotel's calmness and lack of pretension. There may be no glitz here, but there's also no drama. A regular shuttle and chauffeur service means that there's never any reason to feel stranded.

Hated

For the ageing, light-sensitive or plain weary, the bathroom lighting is something to avoid, as are the views out over the neighbouring airport's featureless hinterland.

The verdict

The hotel was designed for business people and flight crews, but it's competitive pricing, well-considered facilities and friendly, efficient service are proving just as attractive to the canny leisure traveller.

The bottom line

A Classic Room with a queen-sized bed costs from Dh300 per night, including taxes. The Rotana Centro Sharjah (www.rotana.com; 06 508 8000).