It's one of the region's most complained about hotels on TripAdvisor- but is Manchester's Britannia Hotel really all that bad? Manchester Evening News feature writer Dianne Bourne reports back on her stay...

I'm not quite sure where to start with my visit to Manchester's Britannia Hotel.

With the ONE HOUR queue to check in?

With the bedroom without a window, stuffy and sweltering with an ageing air con that I couldn't get to work?

Or perhaps with the eye-watering £299 price for it all?

Not forgetting, of course, the people who kindly woke me at 2.30am by screaming in the hotel corridors at the injustice of it all?

The Britannia Hotel, Portland Street, Manchester

It's not hard to see how The Britannia on Portland Street has become one of the most complained about hotels in Manchester on TripAdvisor right now, with a mammoth 1,871 "terrible" one star rated reviews from disgruntled customers.

READ MORE: New restaurants and bars opening in Manchester in October

So why did I stay here? Well, I needed somewhere to bed down in Manchester on a Saturday night, which is getting to be a very expensive business now the night time economy has surged back to life.

With a raft of major events happening in the city centre on that Saturday (October 9), and the Manchester Marathon taking place on the Sunday, hotel room rates were at a premium when I booked via booking.com.

Thanks to the hotel world's fluctuating price system - based on supply and demand - a budget room at the Britannia that would usually cost you a reasonable enough £45 mid-week, surges to £299 at peak times like Saturdays and when big football matches and gigs are taking place.

And that windowless room was the cheapest option I could find on booking.com in central Manchester. For £299.

The windowless bedroom - at a rate of £299 for our stay

That room rate didn't include breakfast (an extra £7.50 if you book at check-in) nor, it turns out, did it even include free WiFi - costing £7 for 24 hours worth. So that bumps the cost of my one night stay up to £315.

When I needed to book this room back in September, I was actually staggered by what I saw with room rates across the city.

The Britannia, a staple for the economy-minded tourist, usually offers its base-rate standard rooms with no windows around the £45 mark - if it's a particularly quiet weekday you might even get one for £30.

But on weekends and big events days of late, that figure is sky-rocketing. For the exact same room.

Elsewhere in the city on October 9, I would be looking at paying £450 to stay at the Jury's Inn, or £500 directly opposite the Britannia at the Mercure Piccadilly Hotel, while the rate was £533 at the Hilton Deansgate or an eye-watering £750 for a double room at the five star Hotel Gotham.

Just to give you an idea of the crazy fluctuation in prices, the windowless double room option at the Britannia was priced at £169 on booking.com to stay on Saturday October 16, but for a Tuesday night stay on October 26, went right down to £41.

I asked booking.com and Britannia Hotels for comment about the rollercoaster pricing.

Booking.com replied to say that "our accommodation partners are in complete control of the rates they choose to list with us and that includes price increases and fluctuations."

Britannia has not responded.

Rooms are advertised "from £45" outside the Britannia - but our reporter paid £299 for a windowless double on a busy Saturday night

The full statement from Booking.com says: "At Booking.com, our absolute priority is to provide our customers with a smooth and easy experience when searching for and booking their next trip - and always for a great price.

"It’s important to note that our accommodation partners are in complete control of the rates they choose to list with us and that includes price increases and fluctuations.

"As with many other industries it is not uncommon for prices to respond to external factors and in travel that can include the level of demand, whether that’s due to a sporting event, the time of the year and location.

"We know value is particularly important at the moment and that's why we continue to offer a range of discounts, flash sales and money back incentives, as well as the broadest selection of accommodation for all budgets.”

So, anyway, when I got my booking information through for the Britannia I was surprised to see that check-in was from 4pm - which seemed a little late - but I figured that would still give me time to get ready ahead of the event I was attending at 6pm.

The queue for check-in was back out of the front door

I arrived at bang on 4pm at the Britannia, and my heart sank when I saw a queue already forming outside of the grand double doors for check-in.

Waiting around does allow you to appreciate the grandeur of this 19th century building - the sweeping staircase and huge chandelier on entrance really are impressive, while Graeco-Roman style statues dot the alcoves and windows around the lobby.

However I became sick of the sight of the Roman Gods after staring at them for a FULL HOUR while waiting to get to the front of the queue.

It was just unfathomably slow, even with what appeared to be a full complement of five staff checking people in.

The Britannia has an impressive entrance with chandeliers and a sweeping staircase

People suffering alongside me in the queue couldn't quite believe it either, with groans of "I've never seen anything like it" from many, although a sort of Dunkirk spirit of camaraderie emerged as we all stood listlessly waiting for our turn.

I got chatting to some nice people next to me in the queue - when I overheard them talking about how much they had paid for their room.

And then they all got to have a good laugh when I told them how much I was paying.

Because it turns out I was being well and truly ripped off with the £299 charge - the two women from Scotland revealed they'd booked their double room (WITH a window) for £170 just three days before their stay (they showed me their confirmation on their phone to prove it).

A couple originally from South America revealed they were paying £185 for their double.

To say I felt ripped off at this stage would be an understatement.

When I told them all my room was £299 with NO WINDOW I honestly think they thought I was joking.

"Ah, you will be in the penthouse for that price", they said.

"No no, it's a room with no window," I tried to explain, but still they laughed.

Finally, finally when I got to the check-in desk, there was no apology or explanation for the delay, just the request for my name.

"Does it always take this long?" I asked. And he reckoned it was just because it was a busy Saturday night in Manchester.

Although when I later looked on TripAdvisor I can see there have been numerous complaints about the hour-long check-ins for weeks now.

Statues adorn the lobby at the Britannia

I felt annoyed that it gave me less than an hour to get myself showered and ready to get to my event.

But I felt even more annoyed on behalf of some shirtless males I encountered in the corridors as I made my way to my room.

They were very apologetic about their state of undress and the contents of their luggage all over the floor, but explained to me they needed to get changed quickly as they were already late for an event and just couldn't wait any longer in the ridiculous queue for check-in.

It's just not on to pay for a hotel room and then not even be able to get into it, is it?

I arrived at my room, having noted that room numbers on the doors were in a font that might best be described as "Prisoner Cell Block H".

Cell Block H?

Once inside my ground floor bedroom, the first thing that struck me was the wave of heat.

Yes, I knew there was no window when I booked, but I had foolishly thought this would be in some way compensated by a modern form of air conditioning system.

No such luck.

An ancient looking grid was high on the wall, with a silver switch control panel that was not exactly screaming "digital age" at me.

The air con control panel

While a little blue light flickered on the temperature setting, no such light was emerging from the fan switch. I tried and tried but nothing happened.

Naturally, my first thought was to ring reception, but, funnily enough, given the fact there was still a queue out of the door at check in, there was no answer. And there was no way in hell I was going back out to queue for another hour to speak to someone.

Aside from the heat, the room itself was pretty basic with old-fashioned dark furniture, and plain magnolia walls punctuated by two dirty round marks above the bedhead.

But the bedding all looked clean and the bed itself felt comfy.

Dianne in the room at the Britannia

The TV remote was wrapped in a film with a "sanitised" sticker on it, and coffee and teas were also wrapped in a bag next to the kettle and cups to keep them clean.

Above the skirting board appeared to be the power mains switches with the warning sign "Danger 240 volts" above it, which I found a little unsettling.

The bathroom also looked to be clean, although when I touched pretty much anything in the shower it fell off in my hands - the soap dispenser, the shower power control and temperature ring.

I mean, I was able to put them straight back on again so they all still functioned ok, but not exactly the Ritz levels of quality is it?

Electric switches in the windowless bedroom

I was getting so hot now in the room that I thought I'd best just get cleaned up and changed as quickly as I could to get out into some fresh air.

When I returned to the hotel after attending my event, there was at least a blessing that the temperature had dropped outside by a few degrees so the heat of the bedroom was not quite as unbearable - although my flannel pyjamas were certainly not required for the sleep.

Well, I say sleep. I was rudely awakened just after 2am by loud banging and crashing in the corridor, and a chap who sounded rather upset, presumably, having finally managed to check in to his room.

He was shouting: "I f***ing paid £100... for THIS?".

Which I might have had some sympathy for, had I not forked out £299... for THIS.

I settled back to sleep, only to be woken again around an hour later at 3.30am by what sounded like a crowd disturbance on the street outside - not having a window I was unable to check what exactly it was that was happening.

All that said, the bed was comfy and after the noisy interruptions it was a comfortable sleep.

Waking at 8am I headed off to reception to complain about the heat of the room and the air conditioning not working.

The man at the front desk said immediately "would you like a plug-in fan?" which gave me the impression I was not the first person to make this complaint.

"No, it's not worth it now" I said. But I made the point they might want their hotel technical team to take a look at it so the next person doesn't have to suffer in there.

The entrance to Jenny's Restaurant

Heading down to Jenny's Restaurant in the basement for my buffet breakfast was perhaps the highlight of my stay.

Fine dining it ain't, but the good old-fashioned all-you-can-eat fry up buffet was plentiful if you were after a cooked breakfast - and there was quite a pile of fresh fruit too.

I mean, don't get me wrong, the sausage was like a salty fat stick and the mushrooms looked like they'd long ceased their status as "vegetable", but it gets major brownie points for hosting what for me is the holy grail of hotel breakfasts - limitless fried bread.

All the fried bread you can eat

However, I could not forgive the god-awful coffee which tasted unlike any hot liquid I think I've ever drunk before. Perhaps I picked the wrong jug of badly-brewed stuff, but I was not going to go and try another.

Mercifully, there was no queuing for check out, as you just popped your room key in a box on your way out.

And, seeing the lobby empty, you can appreciate what a grand old building this really is, and what potential it could have here in Manchester with a bit of TLC and refurbishment.

Wish you were here? Postcards of the Britannia Hotel

I couldn't help but notice the one thing definitely not in short supply at the Britannia was racks and racks stuffed with postcards of the grand old building, all around the reception, should you wish to send a reminder to a loved one of your stay.

Wish you were here? Erm, not so much no.

We have asked Britannia Hotels for comment about the pricing scale for rooms, and the issues raised at my stay with check-in and the air conditioning, but there was no reply at the time of publishing.

My overall take away from this stay is just the sheer rip off of the pricing.

The windowless room is not the worst hotel room I've ever stayed in here in Manchester ( you can read about my night at The Merchants her e) but it's the one I felt most ripped off in.

If you get this style of room at a budget price, then it offers reasonable accommodation if you just need somewhere to bed down for a few hours and shower (if you can stand the heat and are prepared for a queue to check in).

But for the £299 paid for my visit, I'd have been better off booking a taxi to get me home - heck I could probably have got a chauffeur-driven limo for that price.

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