What was once the jewelled hotel of the country, now stands a deteriorating complex with rooms that are losing its appeal and staff unable to cope professionally.
With tourism a steady decline in the country, Empire offers golden packages at cheap rates for locals to stay over the weekend or over a holiday period. There are hardly any tourists compared to the locals who fill the common areas wearing flip flops and sitting unceremoniously on every surface imaginable. You have to understand that I could appreciate that in 2 or 3 star hotels but not 6 stars the Empire claims to be. In my view if you pay incredulous rates, you would expect a level of class. But this is impossible if you are a Brunei national getting 75% off rack rates.
I booked a family of four stating clearly my children were 14 and 13. Therefore I expected staff to designate an appropriate room with appropriate beds. When we arrived after a 17 hour flight, I checked in and was warned that if I didn't like the room, then they are happy to change it! I was also told I couldn't change rooms until the day after because they were full. It was Christmas Day and therefore hotel was at full capacity with locals who paid 'mates rates'!
The staff did not do well to welcome us to the hotel. When we got to the room, lo and behold, we were given 2 queen size beds. After numerous phone calls and umpteen hours, we were offered 2 extra rollaway beds. The cheek of the receptionist to tell me they would do me a favour and not charge me. We'd just come off a long haul flight, were really tired and needed a good sleep. At the very least, we should have those rollaway beds for free! When I booked and stated my children's ages, I fully expect rollaway beds or at least 1 king size bed plus a queen.
The state of the room was less than you would expect of a 4 star. The lamps hanging off the wall had shades that had been stamped on and kicked around. The shower door was covered in months old, if not years old water marks and the bath had slight brown stains. The balcony was unswept and you wouldn't sit outside due to the lack of care of the area. It looked old and tired. There was a miserly amount of coffee, tea and milk and I had to make several requests to replenish. There were only toiletries enough for 2 of us to shower. There were only 2 bath towels and no hand towels. There were no room slippers either. The amount of times I had to call on our first night almost led me to tears.
Room service was horrid! Be wary of what is offered in black and white because you will get missing items. We ordered breakfast that included pastries and toast as is stated in the menu. However, the toast was missing and when we called to ask for it, we were told it was a choice. We couldn't have two slices of toast and a pastry, only one or the other. This is not clear in the menu and we argued the issue and finally they brought toast. 1 piece of broken toast! 1 piece, broken! It was incredulous! It was obvious , they were making a point! What a thing to argue about especially as I was paying a charge for room service.
Breakfast in the restaurant was varied and had a very good selection of Asian food. It was busy and therefore there weren't too many pleasantries from the staff.
Watched movies at the Empire cinema. Note to wear warm clothing because the air conditioning is blasting you from Brunei to the North Pole. The counter staff were so disinterested it was comical. After keeping me waiting at the counter, I had to interrupt their Facebook and texting to ask if could buy a ticket? I later had to ask three times for a buggy back to the main hotel? The looks of disgust they gave me was icing on the cake.
Have I got anything nice to say about this hotel? Have I got anything nice to say about the staff? No. No and I have stayed here 3 times before and it's lost it's soul. Having worked in the hotel industry previously myself, I am shocked at the lack of kindness, customer service and professionalism in most departments especially for a 6 star hotel? The hotel itself is beautiful to look at but once inside a room, it's a different story. Although i was told, the rooms were better in the main building but i'd have to fork out quite a bit more a night. We were in the Ocean View building.
Having been a local once, I am aware of the absence of respect and ignorance towards certain types of tourists and favouring top ranking locals and the odd star that walks through the hotel! Note a gallery of photographs dedicated to previous well appointed and famous guests that stayed at the hotel paid for by the sultanate. More fuss than necessary.
You must travel to Brunei if you are looking to seek a virgin rainforest, beautiful in its untouched nature. Take a long trip down the river to see monkeys in original habitat, see villages built on stilts and opulent mosques and palaces. But i would not recommend staying in the Empire. You will be paying over the odds for the same rooms locals are being offered (we're talking anything from £60 a night rate compared to our charge of £400 per night upwards!)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on the north eastern tip of Borneo on the doorstep of one of Asia's oldest rainforests, The Empire Hotel & Country Club is Brunei’s most prestigious beach resort offering unsurpassed 5-star luxury.This palatial resort hotel, which astounds visitors with its spectacular 12 storey marble and gold lobby, is set in its own private 180-hectare (445 acres) estate of manicured gardens and an 18-hole, floodlit Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and Country Club. Each of the hotel’s 522 opulently appointed guest rooms, suites and private villas has a view of the ocean, lagoon, gardens or golf course, while standard throughout the hotel are Imperial king-sized beds made with the finest linens, and over-sized marble bathrooms with walk-in shower, deep soaking tub with gold taps and luxury amenities. The Empire Hotel & Country Club also extends the kingdom’s regal hospitality with an impressive range of international restaurants, spa, world-class golf and sporting activities, and international meeting facilities for top level MICE gatherings, making it a resort ideal for family, romantic or business vacations. The Empire Hotel & Country Club is a member of WORLDHOTELS and recipient of numerous prestigious international awards. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Empire Hotel And Country Club
- Empire Hotel Brunei