A home away from home. Most hotels will claim this with much pride. But do many of them live up to it? Not really. I’ve spent close to a decade-and-a-half as a hotel reviewer and I might have come across a handful of properties that do enough to ensure one feels like they’re at home. The most common experience has been of hotels trying too hard — often distancing the guest by the unfamiliar — taking the ‘homeliness’ too far. Or they go the other way, and don’t try at all, and do silly things like charging you an insane amount for a welcome cup of coffee at check-in! There’s a fine line, a balance of sorts that hotels need to work towards and when you come across such an experience – it’s often pure bliss.

That’s exactly what I felt at Citadines, OMR – Chennai, during a recent stay at the property. Being one of the few properties that were open during the whole five-month COVID-19 lockdown, the management and staff at Citadines were probably the most equipped to deal with the global pandemic. From regular checks to innovative ways to maintain social distancing and everything else in between, the property was COVID-19 ready and how!

The checks begin as you enter the property. Your temperature is checked and you are asked to use a sanitizer from the many sanitizer stands all across the property. Your luggage is sanitized and you are encouraged to wear a mask at all times in public (when out of your room). The check-in is conducted with as much social distancing as possible and then you are led to your room. As the lockdown has reduced the number of visitors – the hallways aren’t crowded and most rooms are pretty isolated from the other. I hardly noticed anyone passing me on my passage to the room.

In the room you are welcomed with a sanitizing kit, consisting of sanitizer wipes and a small bottle of hand sanitizer (both of which can be replenished at any time). The team has also designed an innovative activity chart with recommendations of free mobile apps and web-based activities that guests can access during the lockdown, when bored. Posters are displayed in the guest rooms (on the fridge) and in common areas and feature QR codes of sites to online language classes, trivia games, yoga sessions etc. One just needs to scan the QR code provided on the poster and the access is immediate.

What stands out at Citadines is the option of cooking in your own room. All rooms are equipped with fully functioning kitchenettes and the hotel is more than willing to help you access groceries. During the lockdown, the guest services team began providing grocery shopping services to help guests stay indoors and stay protected. Guests shared their grocery lists with the team and one of the property’s staff would purchase the items and deliver it to the guests’ rooms. There is also the option of ordering from the in-room dining menu — which I did, throughout my stay.

Considering this review to be a work-from-my-room one, as there wasn’t much else to do during a lockdown, I asked the management if there were any preparations made for a work-from-hotel kind of situation. To my surprise there was. The property had designed private flexible work solutions where guests can continue working remotely by renting one or two-bedroom apartments (suite-sized) for day use and enjoy their home-office space with customised workstations with an en-suite kitchenette and other services including in-room dining options, complimentary hot beverages like tea and coffee, high speed WiFi access and business-support services. This seemed perfect and I actually checked out one of these ‘work in residence’ rooms and was wowed by the whole idea and the amazing services.

My stay at the property lasted for a good 72hours and even though I was mostly isolated in my room, the time flew by. The food was brilliant to say the least and nutritious — perfect for times like these. The swimming pool was off-access, but private access to the gym could be made possible if requested for. What I really did enjoy was my long walks across the length of the property — inside and outside. My isolation was only broken by much-welcomed daily health checks. A team arrived at your doorstep and checked your temperature and heart-beat rate, every day — something that was very reassuring to me.

This stay seemed like the perfect getaway for a work holiday — when you need your own quiet time and space to get things done. I finally managed to get a few chapters of my book completed, accompanied by constant refills of delicious masala tea courtesy the amazing in-room dining. And when I was slightly bored from all the writing — all I needed to do was step out into my personal balcony and take in some fresh air or head out for a walk — mask et al.

If you need a break from your city life or are at OMR for business reasons, I would highly recommend a stay at Citadines. These guys take treating you like ‘family’ very seriously and it is no exaggeration when they claim it to be a ‘home away
from home.’

P.S. The team at Citadines OMR Chennai arranged for a mobile ATM to be parked at the property for a day, for the benefit of their guests during the lockdown. Although ATMs in the city continued to operate, the mobile ATM helped guests stay within the safety of the property and avoid violating the lockdown rules. Now that’s what I call putting your guests’ needs first.

As the lockdown is lifted this month, things might go back to normal and Citadines might function as it did prior to the lockdown. What remains with me, however, is that the property was able to manage an unprecedented situation like the lockdowns; and I believe their performance goes a long way to show you how well they would perform during normalcy!