We stayed at this Lemon Tree property for 2N/3D at the end of March 2015. Right off the bat, the staff were extremely courteous and accommodating by making sure our room was ready despite our early arrival. The surprise was the complimentary upgrade to a Superior Lakeview Room – we had already got an excellent deal, and this was a perfect beginning!
The building itself is beautiful – charming Kerala-style architecture with lots of greenery. The location is lovely – by the banks of the Vembanad Lake river (Cherthala side). One of the highlights is the infinity pool – the view of the lake from the side of the pool is amazing, you can watch a few locals go fishing in the evening (without either party intruding on the other’s space or privacy). The first view you get of the lake and the pool as you make your way up to the rooms on the top floor is simply breath-taking: there’s a square doorway that frames the sight of the two water bodies perfectly.
The other highlight of our stay was the courteousness, efficiency and politeness of the staff. Never intrusive, never annoying, always helpful, always smiling. I didn’t see a single sour face. Especially helpful was Soumya, at the front desk, who made sure the check-in formalities were painless. She expertly (and very genuinely) explained the facility and package details as part of the check-in process. The staff at the Citrus Cafe were also very welcoming and helpful, pointing out which dishes might interest us since we wanted to stick to the local cuisine. Although I must point out that the local seafood menu is quite limited, and only the main stewards are able to converse comfortably in English. Even basic requests for an extra piece of lime (for some lemon tea) or a repeat order of a glass of lemonade had to be made twice if one of the stewards weren’t in the room. Nevertheless, the menu was able to just about hold our attention for a short trip. The breakfast buffet was nice, with lots of fruit and a balance of an English and south Indian breakfast dishes. The food was always fresh and appealing.
In terms of facilities, Lemon Tree Vembanad has an expansive DVD collection as well as two bookshelves filled with novels. There’s of course the infinity pool that I’ve spoken about earlier, and also a spot designated for fishing (rods are available, and the fish ‘bait’ (atta) is available on request. I saw a couple of fellow guests try their luck, but I think only the staff gets it right! The big attraction is the huge, imposing ‘floating villa’ (houseboat) available for about Rs.22,000 for a night (which I think is overpriced, considering the area is full of houseboats available for far cheaper). I would have rather liked to rent the hotel’s own houseboat for a few hours (or to have dinner aboard) but that option doesn’t exist. They can, however, arrange a ‘shikaara’ (compressed version of a houseboat without the kitchen and bedroom facility) ride for either 1 hour (to the island visible from the hotel) or 3 hours (to Kumarakom and the backwaters). We opted for the 3 hour ride, which was enjoyable even in the afternoon (the heat is not a problem because of the water body + thatched roof). The shikaara operator took us to a lake-side establishment that serves some nice local cuisine including beef, ‘small lobsters’ and Black Pearl fish.
My only disappointment was with the upkeep of some parts of the hotel. For instance, the area is home to a vast number of pigeons and if you look down to the swimming pool from your lake view room, its hard to miss the big pile of pigeon droppings collected on the window pane. The pool rules state that one must take a shower before entering the pool, but I discovered that both the showers in the ladies’ changing room were out-of-order. Neither were the men’s and ladies’ changing rooms labeled, so I first walked unsuspectingly into the wrong room! I was also disappointed to see that the mirror and shower fittings in the bathroom of our room required desperate attention — rust and blackening are not appealing. Also, as we were checking out, I noticed that a few guests had entered the pool in attire that was definitely NOT swimwear.
All in all, we had a pretty pleasant stay at Lemon Tree Vembanad but there’s certainly not much to do apart from just relax by the pool and unwind with a book. It’s great for a short, relaxing break (perhaps a weekend getaway), but I’m not sure it could hold my attention for longer.
Thank you to the staff though, for being so hospitable.