Let me start by saying my family has been going to Fairmont hotels for a long time. Summer and winter. We love Quebec City in the winter as it is, the family Christmas “North Pole”( especially le Petit Champlain: the neighborhood just below the hotel which is usually decorated like a Christmas village and has a roaming Santa Clause in the small narrow village streets) and we consider the Chateau on the cliff as the representative of all Xmas has to offer, which also offers a Santa in the lobby. I have had previous good and bad experiences at this hotel but in all fairness the transition has created a bad environment for all. I believe after the renovations were completed that the hotel, staff and service would represent a new beginning with old world values. Even after all the marketing, internal and external publications about this major facelift to the building, the renovations are not completed, the service has not improved, the food is not better, and its room management is less than acceptable. The hotel is represented by its service personal and quality of product. But if the rooms aren’t clean or safe, the food isn’t good, the selections are not family friendly , the waiters are arrogant and ignore the needs of its customers( especially with children as the parents commonly need some help), the pool has intoxicating chlorine levels, please remind me why I pay for a 4 star hotel and 2 star service?
Culture of Bad Attitudes
But somehow 7 months after its formal completion of an extensive renovation, the place appears disorganized; lacking quality control to such an extent that it appears the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. There are no excuses for such a “change” in quality simply from a renovation, unless the management has changed, for cost benefits, and replaced the qualified older personnel with inexperienced people. Fairmont needed to do a facelift to stay “on top” but it has also lost alot of its quality and service. There were so many issues we noticed, that based on these issues this would not be qualified as a 4 star. From a marketing point of view the management has promoted this renovation as a “ Rebirth of an Icon”, yet from a service point of view it appears there is an attitude problem among the service personal. The staffs at this hotel are either poorly trained, unmotivated, incompetent, or simply spoiled and lazy. The hotel may have had a facelift, but the changes have created an environment that is not family friendly. These changes have erased years off the Chateau Frontenac, but it has also erased years of good will service and quality control from its existence and has left a staff which appears amateurish at best, and wouldn’t know the definition of quality control if they were asked . There is a popular automobile commercial having a movie star driving a car saying” You have to move forward, in order to move backwards”. In the hotels case, these changes have shown that sometimes you have to lose something valuable before you can appreciate it. There appears a culture of apathy among some of the staff ( surely not all) as we only stayed 3 days. What are the chances we run into this culture of apathy, and bad attitude in 3 days? You be the judge.
Front Desk and Room Experience; Safety and Health Hazard?
Our first experience starts off with the doorman. As we drive up we expect to be greeted by courteous and supportive personnel, as we do have multiple heavy bags travelling with children. The arrival was not busy, so I expected some immediate help. Let’s just say I took all by bags out myself, placed them on the sidewalk, and by the time the family was out of the car did finally someone come to help us. Vacationing with a baby can be challenging, but I expect from a “4 star” hotel some help at the front door. I parked my car. Remember it was not busy.
The front desk is as always courteous and polite. We reserved a room 2+ months ago and also got notified on the week before the trip that there were multiple cancellations due to the anticipated storm,so our request for a room near the pool can be expected. Good news. The nice bell hop shows us to the room on the 6th floor, but immediately realizes that the front desk has sent us to the other end of the hotel, very far from the pool( but yes it’s on the 6th floor). This is not want we wanted or was informed we would have for the stay. Surprisingly, the room was not heated acceptably as informed by the bell hop, and he determines the heater is not working. He immediately contacts the front desk and they have no suggestions. He then says” follow me, I know where there are rooms available and close to the pool “ . He brings us to the 5th floor and shows us not one room but two rooms ready and available, very close to the pool ( the pool also has an entry on the 5th floor FYI front desk).I asked why this room hasn’t been renovated? His reply sarcastically was that” The hotel ran out of money”. I was very appreciative of his participation in our room selection and tipped him very well. The room had a nice view of the park and river...fine .My question is how does a bell hop know which rooms are available and the front desk not? ( “Left hand...right hand problem”) We then unpack in the room and the bell hop courteously shows us the heater system ( old radiator forced air heater below the window ), turns on the heat and leaves the room. We leave for the afternoon, and come back later and the room is still “cold”. I call the front desk, advise them accordingly and they send a technician immediately ( arrives quickly). He advises us that the heater needs to be reset, it’s a simple task, he resets it an off he goes. We leave for dinner, and arrive later that night and notice the blower fan is on, the room is fresh but assume all is well and we go to sleep. We wake up and the room is cold. I call the front desk again the next morning. Now my toddler has a cough, some difficulty breathing, and my wife and I have a cough......cold night. The front desk sends another technician, and I advise him that I have tinkered with the heater buttons as instructed by the previous technician, the blower blows out heat for 1 minute, then it seems that some sort of a compressor shuts off and we get fan forced cool air. He immediately removes the radiator covering, and takes out a 8” X 20” air filter, caked with soot ,grim and hair about 3/4 inch thick. Disgusting. The technician is totally embarrassed ,then leaves the room trying to hide the filter from us and comes back with a new filter. He advises us that the filter has never been changed in a long time, and the density of soot and grime was so thick, it prevented air going to the heater system, and the heater compressor would overheat and then shut off immediately as a safety precaution. It should have been checked and no one has done that. So from a room point of view we were in a room with a potential fire hazard, fan forced dirt and allergens in the air, poor ventilation enough to cause my 20 month toddler to have respiratory issues combined with our own respiratory complaints. If the basics of a room like a removable air filter is not changed periodically how does one know the room is cleaned periodically? Simply because the room is tidied up and re-organized doesn’t imply the room is “cleaned “By day 2, we realized that the room is designed as a handicap room. The front door has a peep hole at normal height and at child height. Non renovated with the old style, old carpets, closets very small with the clothes bar at child height and a very large bathroom door ( allowing a wheel chair access). Now I am beginning to wonder how clean is this room? The ergonomic layout of the bathroom is poor. The sink is too high for someone in a wheel chair, the bathroom mirror (only the old wall type) is too far for anyone to use from a wheelchair( I had a hard time using the mirror-it’s also too far for children or adults)( no dress mirror or make up mirror in room) and the real joke is the toilet. The seat is so high that a person who is 5’ 10” has his toes dangling to touch the floor. The end result is I develop a serious hamstring injury in my left leg which prevents any real future enjoyment of the room. By the way, FYI this was not very family friendly designed room. The ice machine was also broken on this floor and adjacent two floors, resulting in the front desk having to be called again. There was also a flood in front of the door of the ice room. This room may have been ready for use, but it demonstrated a lack of quality control or proper inspection, a lack attention to detail( not a family friendly room), safety hazard,( overheating compressor ) and a health hazard( contaminated filter with very thick grime that appears has never been changed). In fact this room demonstrates how a sick building syndrome develops in the ventilation system.
The Restaurant Sam & Food Experience
I reserved two nights at the Newly Renovated Sam restaurant. The ergonomics of the table and chairs next to the windows ( where everyone wants prefers to sit for the view) is a joke. The seat is actually a velour covered bench for two, in metal with a bar type back rest and very unsupportive of anyone eating dinner( see picture below).The seat is far too deep to have proper support( 20-24” in seating depth), for fine dining and are very heavy to move , and can’t be adapted properly under the table. The tables must be a mistake, they are at a level so low, it looks like my toddlers play table. So during dinner I had to bend over to eat my meal.
The menu was another story. It was immediately obvious to me that I saw nothing of interest in the main meals. The selection was limited and not fairly appetizing. The menu was obviously not child friendly ( a recurring theme in this hotel) or at least no child menu was presented to us ( you expect such if you travel with kids)and I had realized that this was not going to be a enjoyable as I have been led to believe from all the advertising. My wife had ordered “fish and chips”. Really? This is the best they have to offer? To say the least the fries that came with the meal were uncooked. When I offered to try them, I realized” these fries are still white and uncooked”, so they were left aside. Realizing there was nothing that interested me on the menu, I asked the waiter what was “ the special of the evening”? He went back to the kitchen to inquire ( “you don’t know the special by memory??”)He returned to advise me it was chicken..........really...chicken.........wow........a small piece of stuffed chicken. The size of an appetizer. Very small portion. I also ordered as a side to my meal, the lobster salad. I was excited to see what these chefs could do with that option. A wilted, heavily mayonaised salad with very small amount of lobster. This amount of lobster would be the equivalent of 1/3 of a lobster bun. Grossly inadequate for a slad costing $22++. The desserts were limited to 4 choices, all not very appealing.( while the neighboring Champlain restaurant has a great dessert selection- how can that be?) Generic food, not worthy of this great hotel and high cost. In summary as the hotel markets these two new chefs as representative of the future of the culinary direction of this hotel on one hand, the reality appears as two bickering side order cooks who can’t figure out a representative menu capable of satisfying even the basic clients and their children. On a wide scale, the restaurant can’t even get the basics under control :uncomfortable seating and eating arrangements, bad culinary selection and execution( uncooked fries, disproportioned salads, family friendly they are not, ..chicken as the special???) One thing was pleasing, the newly introduced Chateau Frontenac Beer...amazing taste, highly recommended. Some advice Louis-Andre, know your menu. I miss the Cafe de la Terrase. We ate fast, left the restaurant and immediately cancelled my reservations for the next night. We then ate outside the hotel for the other times. Not a good reflection on this hotel or its”facelift”.
The Restaurant Champlain and its Buffet Breakfast
The buffet breakfasts have been our prime motivation for coming to the Chateau Frontenac. These were originally done in the Cafe De La Terrase, but then moved to the chic Champlain restaurant. I missed the Cafe de la Terrase as it is a much brighter room than the Champlain and has better flow with an available chef in front of you at your beckon call, great with kids with allergies and for customizing meals. Breakfast food is very simple and easy to prepare. Food is equally good yet on our both days at this buffet we ran into two waiters who, to say the least were lazy, inefficient. They( Claude and John-Yves) ignored our table even when 3 plates, 3 napkins, 5 glasses piled up at one end. Trivia question: How many times does a waiter have to pass your table before he picks up anything? Answer 4. In fact on the fourth pass by I raised my voice and told him in French that its getting disgusting to eat here, do you mind???? Helping us here. Clearly they were not motivated to work on a Sunday Brunch( most popular day.)At that point he( Claude) only cleans half of it, then sends John-Yves to pick up our cappuccino order. Wow. My wife then goes in the back area of the restaurant and catches these two waiters laughing on the side. When the bill comes, they charge me for an extra coffee and once I address it with Claude , he tells me, “ there is a two coffee maximum”........really at a buffet??? He then goes to remove the coffee charge, I pay ( my mistake is that I should not have given a tip) and I leave. There it is. I come here for the food, environment of being well treated, and the courtesy of the people providing it......all absent. I left humiliated by the fact I had to tell a waiter what to do!! FYI: Your staff are doing more damage to your reputation than the facelift can correct. FYI :management: 1-the ergonomics of the chairs in the Champlain next to the windows are horrible. Why don’t you ask anybody who eats there. 2- The Champlain was not designed as a buffet restaurant , it has poor flow for both clients and waiters. They seem to run around in circles with no order. The lighting is dim and designed for evening dinners. 3- No chef is visibly present to aid or customize your meal. 4- You have serious staff issues. I don’t see a reason why someone would return to eat here at this price and inconvenience.
FYI :Chateau Management, the pool is heavily chlorinated . This should have been changed to a salt water pool in your overall renovation budget, if you want to keep up with the other hotels. On our last day, the chlorine levels were so high, we couldn’t stay in the pool area. It is also well know that exposure to chlorine at these levels can cause additional respiratory illnesses, and were concerned for the toddler’s health. In view of the respiratory complications we had with the room, we decided to leave the hotel as soon as possible on our last day .
Changes are good for the most part ,but if they are done to hide weaknesses, or are done without correction of long standing problems, maybe it would be wise for the management to step back and take another look. Lack of quality control, employee instruction or evaluations, safety and health considerations, efficiency and culinary satisfaction all appear to show up on a 3 day visit. No doubt the hotel needed an improvement and updating, but not at the cost of losing the main aspects that make the Chateau Frontenac great. Artistic licences aside, in some circles the modern look of the this grand hotel, simply doesn’t look or feel right. PS You need to update and improve,rooms but the restaurants have been compromised at multiple levels. The new rooms are beautiful( no bathtub for children) I think you have created a hotel bubble crisis. Overinflated histories and days of great service you are depending on , overriding the true value of the services provided. The hotel will always be grand due to its history, but the mechanics of its internal working will create the implosion. The Hyatt Regency also suffered such delusions in Quebec and they have closed.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Standing high on a bluff overlooking the mighty St. Lawrence River, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is not merely a hotel located in the heart of Old Québec - it is the heart of it. At Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, guests are guaranteed a memorable and inspiring stay in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with easy walking access to all of the wonderful sites and experiences that Old Québec has to offer. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel Quebec City
- Fairmont Hotel Quebec City
- Fairmont Quebec City
- Quebec City Fairmont
- Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Quebec/Quebec City