I had initially enquired about availability for 3 nights at The Sylvia Hotel and had been given a price by Kyle for a ‘Double Queen Room & Single’ at €269 for the first night and $219 for the other 2 nights. Kyle had said that all these rooms are “city/courtyard facing”.
Two days later, I confirmed the reservation but was told by Chantelle that the price was now $279 a night for all three nights. I informed Chantelle of the previous quote and she said she would honour it. Chantelle said that she would put in a request to put us on a high floor as I had heard that noise was an issue on the lower floors. We were informed that the first night of our stay coincided with the Celebration of Lights Fireworks Festival. So far, so good.
Prior to arriving in Vancouver, we had been traveling around the USA and Canada for about 3 weeks. Our previous stop was Whistler and my wife commented, after leaving Whistler, that we had been very lucky with accommodation – everywhere had surpassed our expectation (from Log Cabins, suites, apartments, hotels, B&Bs, guest houses). I replied jokingly that she had put the kiss of death on our next place – The Sylvia.
When we arrived, we parked our car outside the side door and took our luggage in. Check in was uneventful and the lobby area was fine. There was no porter, and no offer to help with our luggage, so we got a luggage cart and loaded up ourselves.
However, it was when we arrived at our room (on the second floor) that the problems really started. The first thing we noticed was that the room was very shabby (not shabby chic, just plain shabby), poorly furnished, poorly decorated, and the bathroom was tiny. However, we could have just about put up with this until we looked out of the two windows. Instead of the promised “city/courtyard facing” room, we had a view of a flat roof and a wall. The management, in fairness, had obviously done their best to make the view more attractive by leaving a ladder on the flat roof (see photos). It crossed my mind that Chantelle put us in this room because we had queried the quote when booking.
My wife went down to reception to ask if we could swap rooms. She was told firmly that the hotel was fully booked. I then went down with my wife. Chantelle was on the desk. She again reiterated that the hotel was fully booked. We asked why we had been given a room with a view of a wall when we were told that it would be “city/courtyard facing”. Chantelle said that it was courtyard facing. We asked her to accompany us up to the room to show us the courtyard. She replied, incredulously and without any hint of irony, that the courtyard was behind the wall. We asked to speak to the manager but he was apparently not in the building.
We went back to our room completely deflated. Two minutes later we received a call from Chantelle to let us know that another room had miraculously become available. She said she would send a porter up with the new keys for us so that we could have a look. She finished by condescendingly asking us if we would be happy with the new room. We replied that we would have to see it first.
When the porter arrived, he looked into our room, saw our cases still on the luggage cart, and asked us angrily what it was doing in our room. We replied that we had not taken the luggage off as we were hoping to move room. He replied that he had been looking for the luggage cart and that we should not have kept it. I asked if this was the only cart they had in the whole hotel. He said no but that someone else had taken the other one. Absolutely bizarre.
Eventually the porter took us to our new room. It was on the fourth floor and the same layout/ tired condition as the previous room. This one also hadn’t been vacuumed as my children found a hairclip and tablet on the floor (luckily they were not younger as they might have mistook the tablet for a sweet). However, we just thought we would put up with it as it was only 3 nights.
We then decided to go out for a drink. On the way down, we passed reception again and I handed in the hairclip and pill. We were told the manager was in his office if we wanted to see him. I went in and he just looked at me without saying a word. I thought this was odd but went on to describe our woes about the first room. He obviously was not aware that we had moved rooms as he said, in a patronising tone, that he could move the ladder if that what was bothering us. I was taken aback with this arrogance. I said that I had taken pictures out of the room and would post them on Trip Advisor so that other people could see what type of rooms The Sylvia offered. He leaned back in his chair, chest out, a smile on his face, and said “be my guest”. He then said he thought we should check out as we were obviously not happy. I said OK as long as he finds us alternative accommodation. He said he would, gave me his card, and told me to ring him. I said that it should be him contacting us after being given the worst room (we presume) in the hotel. He replied that he would leave details at reception when we returned from our drink.
On our return, there was nothing at reception. I requested to see the manager and duly asked him what what he had come up with. He obviously hadn’t bothered and just shrugged his shoulders. By this time I was livid. He said he was going to charge us for the first night’s stay regardless of whether we left or not. He then shrugged his shoulders again. In mockery, I did the same at which point he burst out laughing and shouted that I was embarrassing my children. My kids subsequently asked why he was referring to them and were very scared and upset by his actions.
We went back to our room and decided to just enjoy the night and check out the next morning. The fireworks were brilliant. That night I used my laptop to find alternative accommodation for our remaining two nights in Vancouver. I found a fantastic B&B with a Rose Garden Suite in the middle of town. We checked out of The Sylvia with smiles on our faces. The B&B was beautiful with fantastic hosts. Even with breakfast included, it was still cheaper than the grotty room in The Sylvia.
Having read some of the manager’s replies to disgruntled customers on Trip Advisor, he is plainly not good at taking criticism. His cut and pasted responses constantly blame the customer by implying that maybe the hotel ‘just wasn’t for them’. In reality, you would really have to have very, very low expectations for this hotel ‘to be for you'. He reiterates that the hotel is a heritage site as if that makes everything alright.
We love old hotels. We don’t mind peeling wallpaper and cracked mirrors as long as the place has character, great service, and is clean. The Sylvia has none of these attributes and really is the worst place I have ever stayed in. Even the furniture, carpets, and beds are just plain cheap.
It really is a shame, as this could be a fantastic hotel. The exterior is elegant but is let down by a serious lack of investment on the inside. I would love to see it bought by someone who would restore it to its former glory. It doesn’t even have to be five star luxury for it to potentially be a gem. Oh, and completely new staff would be required as the arrogance and unprofessional behaviour of the current personnel is prevalent from the top down.
This is my first review of our trip. To show that I am not a serial complainer or being vexatious, I will add reviews over the coming weeks extolling the virtues of every other place we stayed.
If you are due a visit to Vancouver, I urge you not to stay at The Sylvia. It nearly ruined our holiday, don’t let it ruin yours.
PS - A note to the manager - In light of the circumstances, I recorded our conversations. Just in case you try to dispute any of this review.
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