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“A Royal Let Down”

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The Fairmont Empress
Ranked #21 of 49 Hotels in Victoria
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersGold level
Reviewed July 17, 2007

My husband and our two small kids (age 3 and 14 mos.) stayed here in late June 2007. Since I started visiting Victoria when I was about 10 years old, I've dreamed about staying at the Empress. As a child, teen, and young adult, I would walk through the public areas of the hotel and marvel at the grandeur. When we decided to book a night at the Empress to kick start our week-long family vacation in BC, I was excited to finally stay there. What a let down. We only stayed one night, fortunately.

The lobby was separate from the public areas of the hotel. This is done for practical reasons, I suppose, but the lobby could be any 3-star hotel; not a Fairmont, and not the Empress. The staff was fine, but nothing special (except for the very friendly and helpful doorman who sent us on our way--with some ice-cold bottled water for our road trip). The room was small, which I expected for an old building, but much shabbier than I think is acceptable for the rates charged and for being a member of the Fairmont family. The room was non-smoking, but the bathroom smelled of cigarette smoke (presumably because of the smoking room next door). The refrigerator was virtually non-functioning and we were unable to properly store our 14-month-old's milk, which is a necessity for a family traveling with young kids. The fridge was also improperly installed and would actually fall out of the wardrobe it was set inside when you would pull on the fridge door to open it. The only cleanliness problem I noted was the the kids' wading pool looked like it wasn't being cleaned often enough.

I will not stay at the Empress again unless it gets a much-needed room renovation.

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled with family
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3  Thank ha_tamale
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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3,487 - 3,493 of 3,803 reviews

Reviewed July 2, 2007

As a travel industry employee for Vancouver Island/Victoria, I book my clients in the Fairmont Empress a lot. As a way to familiarize myself with the historic property, the Empress Sales team brought me to their hotel for a 1-night stay to experience all that the hotel has to offer.

The hotel is gorgeous - it has a historic mystique about it. I found my stay to be an average one... the rooms aren't anything to brag about. Here's an overview:

Pro's:
-Magnificent Lobby
-Staff: generally helpful and sincere
-Food: Dinner in the Empress Room is great
-Tea: a MUST-do experience in the tea lobby
-Location: the most centralized in Victoria

Con's:
-This is a big hotel with complex layouts/floorplans
-Rooms: I had a deluxe which was sufficient in size but was very dated - typical mediocre hotel furnishings
-In-Room Equipment: (old coffeemaker, leaky iron, very small tv, etc.)
-Bathroom: Small and typical
-View: Rooms with 'city views' are dissappointing (i.e. views into someone's apartment etc. - they can see in your room).

Overall:
This is a nice old hotel with 'lots of character. It is a good spot to stay if you get a good deal on a room - paying full price would be unjustifiable given the facilities. At least having tea or a meal here is recommended. The spa is also new and seems very nice.

  • Stayed: July 2007, traveled on business
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7  Thank Resort_Employee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 5, 2007

Just returned from a four night stay at the Fairmont Empress.
Mixed feelings, very expensive ($1100.00 for 4 nights) for a harborview deluxe double. The room measured 11X15 with two double beds, 2 chairs, and a desk area. The bathroom was 5X6
This was very uncomfortable for a four night stay. There were no drawers to unpack, although a closet with 10 hangers and a shelf to place things. The television was also minature- 15 inch 90's vintage RCA. On the upside, great beds and bedding, spotlessly clean- attentive housekeeping. The Empress is in a great location to explore downtown Victoria and great restaurants
abound everywhere. The weather last weekend was perfect and we will return to Vancouver Island, doubt I'd stay at the Fairmont again. The other thing that is way out of line is the $25.00 per day self park charges at the hotel. This property just is not on par with other Fairmont Hotels!!
Smith-Roberts, Tucson, AZ

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled as a couple
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7  Thank KRSTucson_Az
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 4, 2007

Stayed at the Empress on business June 4th. Got a decent corporate rate that compared favourably with area hotels in the summer months. Parking is a bit much at $25.00 either self park or valet. Rooms are small, I was offered the Concierge level for $80.00 more, may take that next time. Did not get a view room, but was not a requirement. The bar has a great curry buffet for $28.00 and the room would be great on a winter's night. I would stay here again if I were touring the area with the family.

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled on business
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2  Thank derstone
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 3, 2007

Stayed in the empress for 2 nights. Hotel was in a good location - smap bang in middle of downtown. Building on the outside looks impressive and beautiful but inside was not up to the Fairmont standard.

Expect small rooms that are old. Front desk was not very helpful - depending on who you speak to.... Twice we were ignored eye contact,

Restaurants was terrible. Not much variety in food and wasn't very tasty at all.

Windows in rooms are very dirty - obviously not cleaned at all.

Would not stay here again for the price.

Victoria is a lovely city. There is a Titanic exhibition at the BC Musuem which is quite good. 5 mins walk from hotel.

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled with family
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1  Thank giraffez
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 28, 2007

We had a 2 night stay at the Fairmont Empress as part of a Scenic Tour to Canada and Alaska in April 2007. We enjoyed the Fairmont immensely. The location on the waterfront was superb, the service was sensational, our rooms were great and the furnishings and decor of the hotel were amazing. We had a great time exploring the hotel - it is huge. Meals were great and we didn't find anything that wasn't top of the range. We would not hesitate in recommending the Fairmont Empress to anyone.

  • Stayed: April 2007
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Thank janieNambourQld
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 28, 2007

My husband, mother-in-law and I recently traveled to Victoria for the Memorial Day long weekend. Victoria was nice, but pretty small. By far, the best thing about Victoria is the people! I found the people of Victoria to be patient and kind.

Check the weather before you go. I imagined warm days and found myself wearing sweaters and gloves at night. Apparently, spring was set to arrive the day we left for the States.

My recommendations:

1. If location is a big concern, then stay at a place like the Empress. The Inner Harbour is so small that just about any Inner Harbour hotel is close to everything. The Empress, however, is just that much closer to downtown than the Hotel Grand Pacific, where we were originally staying.

2. If you want a balcony, then a place like the Hotel Grand might be better.

3. If you stay at the Empress, pay a little extra for a water view. We did not have a view and I think a view would have been nice.

4. If you are traveling to Victoria through Seattle, you might want to consider traveling by seaplane (Kenmore Air). I was so scared to get in the seaplane. We only traveled by seaplane because the Clipper ferry was booked during the times we wanted to go. Now, I am so happy to have traveled by seaplane. The trip is a fun and safe 45 minutes. You land right in the Inner Harbour. Quite an experience. I do want to add that I don't think I would travel by seaplane if the day was really stormy. I don't think the company will fly if the day is not so great, anyway. By the way, I heard that the ferries can be a bit of a bumpy ride in general. That, I did not know until getting to Canada.

5. If you are looking for cheaper options, the Days Inn (adjacent to the Hotel Grand) looked fun and nice. You can get a water view at that hotel.

6. If you are coming via Clipper ferry, I believe the dock is just across the street from the Days Inn and Hotel Grand.

7. We flew out of Victoria via the Victoria International Airport. I recommend that as well. The airport is small,accessible, clean and felt safe.

8. Have dinner on a weekend night at the Irish Times. It is a fun place for people of ALL ages to hang out and have a beer. The food was surprisingly good.

9. If you like beach volleyball, there is this neat place called The Sticky Wicket, which has an outdoor beach volleyball court upstairs. If you are traveling with a group, you might want to reserve that space in advance.

10. If you are staying in Victoria longer than a couple of days, you might want to rent a car to see beyond the Inner Harbour. We did take a tour bus out to Butchart Gardens, which is nice. That said, someone who likes to get up and go, might get a little bored with the Inner Harbour after a couple of days. I think National Rental Car is right in downtown.

11. If you like a before dinner cocktail, hang out at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress. You can sit and enjoy a nice drink on a comfy sofa or chair. There is also high tea at the Empress, which seemed fine.

12. Overall, the Empress was a fine place to stay. I would not consider it 5 stars, however. The lobby is unassuming; however, room service was good, high tea looked nice and the Bengal Lounge was relaxing. The room was fine. Sure, it's not modern, but it was fine. I've stayed in plenty of generic Marriott's and Sheraton's, that a bit of history felt good. The bed was really comfortable. The porter stand is well staffed and very responsive. There is also a pool and a gym, neither of which I used. You could easily go for a nice run outside.
Plus, the location cannot be beat.

I hope you find this entry helpful. Enjoy Victoria, especially its people.

  • Stayed: May 2007, traveled with family
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13  Thank MissFitzy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Fairmont Empress

Address: 721 Government Street, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 1W5, Canada
Phone Number:
Location: Canada > British Columbia > Vancouver Island > Victoria Capital Regional District > Victoria
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#2 Green Hotel in Victoria
#6 Spa Hotel in Victoria
#9 Luxury Hotel in Victoria
#13 Business Hotel in Victoria
#16 Romantic Hotel in Victoria
#17 Family Hotel in Victoria
Price Range: $261 - $573 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — The Fairmont Empress 4*
Number of rooms: 477
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Regarded as a Condé Nast Readers' Choice and Gold List hotel, and honoured with the Travel + Leisure distinction as a top Canadian hotel, the Fairmont Empress graces Victoria's sparkling Inner Harbour with an iconic presence. The Fairmont Empress, Victoria B.C.’s most iconic hotel, has just unveiled a $60 million dollar restoration.This luxury hotel offers 464 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites, and expansive meeting and wedding space adjacent to the conference centre. Located on the picturesque West Coast of Canada, this is the ideal location to explore all the natural beauty of Vancouver Island. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria
Fairmont Hotel Victoria
Fairmont Hotel Empress
Empress Hotel Victoria
Fairmont Victoria
Victoria Fairmont
Fairmont Empress Hotel

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