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The Essex, Vermont's Culinary Resort & Spa
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Reviewed September 3, 2010

Pros:
* Rooms are clean. The room didn't smell of animals (it's a pet friendly place) as I had feared.
* Bar/tavern had good but not excellent quality food. I would have expected more from a culinary resort.
* Staff were nice and friendly
* Saturday night bon fire with s'mores was awesome.
* Fitness room was small to modest in size but had very new and modern equipment. It was not very crowded at all (a plus!).

Cons:
* I signed up for the tennis club (5 hours of instruction) but it got canceled.....without notifying me! To be fair, I signed up for it on the weekend and the scheduling person wasn't going to be in until Monday. This is odd for a resort which offers tennis every day. There should be someone covering on the weekend. In any case, the front desk did notify and check with the pro and I was on for tennis on Monday. However, I arrived at the court and no one else was there. After 15 minutes, I went to the front desk to inquire and was notified that the class had been canceled that morning. They didn't' want to wake me up (before 9am when the class starts) to tell me. This seems very unprofessional to offer tennis every day, but then cancel out at the last minute because there aren't enough people signed up. I had specifically selected this resort for the tennis and was disappointed to find that they can cancel on me at any moment. They did offer to drive me to a nearby tennis facility, but this defeats the purpose of coming here in the first place. I cut my stay short and went to Top Notch Resort and Spa in Stowe (not too far away) and had a much better experience. That resort is more modern and has greater value for those interested in tennis.
* My wife's cooking class was also canceled the day of the class. She signed up for additional classes, but we didn't want to wait around for those to be canceled, so we left. They were gracious enough to refund us our money, but I felt our stay there was a waste of precious vacation time.
* I agree with other reviewers: The bed is too soft. I think the mattresses are too old and worn out.
* Wedding held on the resort makes it loud and not very relaxing. They need to relocate the wedding parties to a separate building away from the main lobby.
* The spa, gym, and indoor pool are not directly connected to the main building (you have to walk on a covered walkway outside). This could be an issue during the wintertime but wasn't an issue for us in August.
* Wireless connection was flaky and not very reliable even though our room was in the central building relatively close to the lobby.

The culinary institute has moved away from this place within the past year. I get a sense that it is a place on the decline (not enough people signed up for classes so they have to cancel). My suggestion for management: If you offer a class, don't cancel at the last minute because there are too few people signed up. You'll never get repeat business or build your business via word of mouth referrals in this way. It's ok to offer fewer classes, but commit to the ones that you do offer. It's not fair to guests to come all this way, stay in an expensive room, and then not be able to participate in classes (main draw of this place).

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank DLikesToTravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
JGVT, General Manager at The Essex, Vermont's Culinary Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded September 6, 2010

Dear DLikesToTravel,

Thank you for the review of your recent stay. I’m pleased you enjoyed a large portion of your visit and am disappointed we failed to meet all of your expectations. I want to clarify the “cons” you’ve outlined in your critique:

* With regard to events at The Essex (i.e. tennis instruction, culinary classes, spa, fly fishing, zip lining, rock climbing, hot air ballooning, etc…) – all require advanced reservations (ideally at least 24 hours in advance, but 12 hours minimally). Events are always held as long as at least one person is registered for the activity. In the event of your tennis lesson and wife’s culinary class – you attempted to reserve only hours before the actual start times; unfortunately, both had already been cancelled based on lack of registered attendees. As you know, we tried to have the tennis pro come in that morning to accommodate you, but the earliest he could arrive was afternoon. Again, we are very sorry for the inconvenience! In the future, I’d urge you to make reservations for events at least 24-hours in advance.

*I am sorry the bed did not meet your approval. The majority of our mattresses (all of which are only 1-3 years old) are on the softer side. However, this is by design and the vast majority of our guests rave about their comfort – and even ask for the brand and model of our mattresses. That being said, we do also offer firmer mattresses and can make that accommodation upon request.

*Finally, I’d like to offer some clarification regarding your comments on the Culinary Institute. With New England Culinary Institute’s downsizing and reorganization, it afforded us the opportunity to restructure our own operation and cater our business around guest experiences rather than student learning. This redesign allows us to focus on customer experiences and grow our culinary programming beyond where we ever could have gone under the constraints of an academic school environment…and our guests are thrilled! Cook Academy is filled with a robust calendar of culinary events that are consistently sold out. I’m sorry that you left with the perception that cooking classes are frequently cancelled. In fact, over the weekend you visited, we held SEVEN different culinary classes serving more than 60 resort patrons.

For those who read this response, I cannot stress enough the importance of advanced reservations. Activities at The Essex are in very high demand, and advanced reservations allow us to serve you best, making for a truly memorable vacation experience.

Sincerely,
Jim Glanville

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Reviewed August 25, 2010

My husband and I have been coming here for over seven years... it was the first place we ever got away to when we first started dating, and it has continued to be a special place for us ever since. It has grown and changed in so many good ways over the years, and the staff is always so professional and friendly.

On our most recent trip, we only stayed one night as we squeezed it in before our vacation to Montreal. We had a fabulous room, and really enjoyed using the outdoor pool, and of course our great dinner in the Tavern... the appetizer special that night was some sort of short rib ravioli... TO DIE FOR! The whole meal was fantastic, but seriously we both could have had the raviolis as an entree. And for breakfast we got room service (you have to make the most out of it if you are only there for one night!) which was incredible as well. They give you just the right portion to start the day, and are always spot on for the time they say they will have your breakfast to you by.

A neat thing about their room decor... the paint in the room is the same as the color the room number on the outside of the door. It took us a couple of trips to figure that out (we're not slow, we just didn't know any better at first). All of the rooms are so tastefully decorated, and clean, and never feel overwhelmed with the heavy hand of decorations like some properties do.

Our next trip is already booked for September (three nights this time, back to normal!) And we'll finally be trying out the spa (which is fairly new) as well as taking a cooking class I think... hmm, so many possibilities to enjoy!

For those who have not travelled to the area before, please keep The Essex in mind. It is close to Burlington, close to plenty of shopping (both outlets and other malls), great golf and other sports in the area, a movie theatre right down the road.. and hey, this is Vermont... it's beautiful! You won't regret choosing Essex... and you can take that from someone who has stayed 20ish times now!

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank lilahNH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 20, 2010

The Essex was the highlight of this summer's vacation! Comfortable, clean accomodations - delightful, courteous staff, terrific cuisine at Butlers as well as in the Tavern, and great amenities - all made our stay extremely enjoyable. Upon arrival in our room, there was a treat awaiting our dog :) A very personal touch! We were already looking forward to our next visit before we left and would highly recommend this facility!

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled on business
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1  Thank HappyCamper155004
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 20, 2010

I've done a number of tennis camps over the past few years. This is by far the best. The instruction is excellent. The pros really learn who you are as a player and give you concrete and doable strategies for improving your shots. The videotaping and analysis are especially helpful. Overall, Essex tennis program is a good value, for in addition to the excellent tennis, you get comfortable accommodations, good food, a brand new spa, and beautiful surroundings.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled solo
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1  Thank emru
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 19, 2010

While planning our vow renewals for our 25th wedding anniversary it was decided that myself, my daughter and daugher-in-law would spend the night before away from home. As this was a very important day for me, I spent numerous hours choosing the perfect hotel. The beautiful photos on your website helped me in my decision. Unfortunately, once walking into the room I was sincerely disappointed. I was expecting much more of a "spa" atmosphere but found instead just a plain motel room. My daughter's bed had ripped linens on the bed, the air conditioner was so incredibly loud that we had to shut it off, the bathroom needed painting, not enough towels and the $3.00 bottled water. Outside our room was a soda machine, which we found to be completely sold out at around 10:00pm. We called the front desk and, although they apologized for our inconvenience, the best that they could offer was for us to check other buildings for another machine. Went to the hottub at 10:30 but 3 smokers were sitting in the tub smoking.
After our ceremony my husband and I spent a few nights at a spa/resort in Stowe. What a difference in the service, the room and the amenities for close to the same price.
I certainly wouldn't turn down a refund.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled with friends
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Thank Beckyheath1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
JGVT, General Manager at The Essex, Vermont's Culinary Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded August 20, 2010

Dear Becky,

I’m so glad we were able to connect on the phone today. Thank you for bringing your issues directly to my attention.

After our conversation, I noticed you also had posted on TripAdvisor. As we discussed, it was unfortunate our concierge spoke to your daughter rather than you at check-in when calling (upon arrival) to see that your room was in order. Had she spoken to you instead, you could have articulated that you sought a “spa suite” rather than a standard room; it would have been our pleasure to accommodate your request. However, that being said, I appreciate your letting me know that the linens were worn in your room. We have addressed the condition of the AC unit (which is now operating correctly). Again, I apologize for these inconveniences!

I also appreciate your understanding regarding our influence over guest behavior at the hotel. While we are a 100% non-smoking facility, we cannot always successfully “police” the behavior of our patrons. Smoking is prohibited in our hot tub. I am very sorry these guests did not abide by our rules, nor did we observe / prevent them from doing so.

Finally, The Essex team of hospitality professionals is pleased you will be returning and look forward to that visit! Now that we better understand your expectations, we will certainly provide a more “spa-like” stay. See you soon!

Warm Regards,
Jim

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