As last leg in our recent tour of the Czech Republic, we stayed the night of 2012.09.13/14 at the iconic Imperial Hotel in Karlovy Vary.
As can be inferred from earlier TripAdvisor reviews on this hotel, guests, mostly Russian, usually stay here for several days or weeks of thermal treatments. I didn't use the spa services so my review limits itself to the accommodation and other hotel services.
The Imperial is a magnificent hotel (see photo 12). After having stayed during the previous two weeks at some other 4-star Czech hotels with a quality level way below the Imperial's, I cannot understand why this hotel hasn't got 5 stars.
We hired suite 566 with full-board at high season rates.
The suite itself were the best lodgings we enjoyed in Czech. It included a hall, two large, elegantly decorated rooms (photos 4, 6) with two queen-size beds each (more than we three needed), with each a large balcony (continuous with adjacent rooms' balconies) offering unsurpassable views over the hotel's main façade (photo 10) and the town of Karlovy Vary (photo 5), and two bathrooms (photo 9). It goes without saying that the suite featured all necessary facilities.
We arrived hungry and when lunch time was almost over. However, we had to fill in our registration cards before accessing Restaurant Prague for a buffet lunch. At the restaurant's check-in desk I was greeted directly in Russian instead of Czech, which is understandable since nearly all customers were of that nationality and which helps me brush up my Russian. The waitress was most helpful and nice. The food was varied and tasty, specially the beef tongue. We drank a bottle of Bohemian sekt for a very reasonable price.
Upon finishing lunch we were told that we had been upgraded to have supper at the à la carte Paris Restaurant. Notwithstanding, in the evening there was a considerable confusion from the side of the Paris' staff as to our right to dine there and what we had right to eat. After initially refusing us, they then allowed us in after a call. The waitress presented us with a menu with only two dishes, of which one was not available, but at the same time she told us, or so I understood her Czech, that we could pick anything from the buffet. We were astonished that the supposedly high-end Paris functioned as a buffet restaurant, just like the Prague. No wonder that there were few commensals, all of them Russian. I limited myself to the single menu dish, chicken rice, to avoid problems. My mother and wife made me envious by eating whatever they wanted and telling me it was delicious. Again to avoid problems, we ordered the menu's only dessert, a large portion of very tasty sorbet. I asked to pay for the drinks and to my surprise the waiter brought me a bill for the whole meal. At this point I got angry. I explained to him in my poor Czech as best as I could that I had pre-paid for full-board and didn't intend to pay dinner twice. After some discussion among the staff, he brought me back a bill for the drinks only, with his excuses.
Having read in the hotel infos that free internet is available in the rooms and needing to do some travel planning, I tried to connect wirelessly. It didn't work. I called reception. The receptionist knew little about internet connections and just said that pictures on the TV-screen explained everything. I found three rudimentary images in one of the TV menus from which I could only deduce that the connection was by cable. I looked for the USB-cable but couldn't find it. So I called the receptionist again. She sent us a man up to the room, which in the middle of the night intruded a bit in our privacy. He didn't know even how to start solving the problem but declared solemnly "Je nemožné připojit k internetu na pokojích." (It's impossible to connect to internet in the rooms), inviting us to go down and use the computer at the reception. Doing the travel planning in family conference in the middle of the night, it was inconvenient for the whole family to move to the reception. Then, after the man had left and when I had almost given up, I found it. The room-maid had hidden the USB-cable's support pad behind the TV-set in such a way that it looked part of the set and with the plug pushed back into the pad's opening so it was practically invisible (photo 1). In photo 2 I tip the hotel how to place the cable so future guests can immediately see it and know what to do. Thereafter the connection worked in our room, of course.
Next morning we had to leave at 6:45 a.m.. Breakfast opened at 7:30. Already on arrival I asked for some buns and a bottle of juice please to be brought to us in the evening. The only answer I got was a gruff: "If you aren't there at 7:30 you'll miss breakfast.". In the evening I insisted arguing that I had paid for breakfast and was asking very little. We then got boiled ham, cheese, bread and juice.
There were other glitches like we could get our welcome drink first at 21 hours (more of a good-bye drink!), or the parking warden was reluctant to let me park in an invalid lot although I had a parking badge and a wheel-chair badge. I want to be lenient with Hotel Imperial's shortcomings, wishing to believe that they are mostly due to the hotel being geared to travel agency group arrangements and not atuned to guests who order specific packages on their own. The staff was generally polite and accommodating, even if they didn't always meet our needs.
The suite costed 490 €. Full-board for three was 90 €, a ridiculously low price. Nové Lázně in Mariánské Lázně offers a better quality/price ratio (read my review on that resort).
Besides the spa cures, the Imperial Hotel is worth an acquaintance just for its history, architecture, comfortable accommodation and the beauty of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) and its surroundings.