a room with a bed and a window
The Final Verdict
Check In
The Room

First world problems with two star fails.

Review scores are based on best possible score, versus other five star experiences.

If you were to compare a luxurious Four Seasons property to a Motel 8, there’s no doubt that the Four Seasons would almost certainly compare favourably on number of bell staff, restaurant quality, thread count and city views. What you wouldn’t expect is that-that would effectively be the end of it. On this stay, I can comfortably say that I’ve had more seamless experiences at roadside motels. Some travel experiences in life leave you chuckling, and not for the right reasons.

In the end, I have only myself to blame. I had ignored the numerous reviews on TripAdvisor and rumours amongst friends which hinted that this was in fact the very lowest quality Four seasons hotel in the entire FS system. I rarely trust the internet, but on this occasion, they were pretty much spot on. This place is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, albeit one which chose a great location to run around.

a bridge over water with palm trees and a city in the backgroundCheck In

Check in was largely a non factor, other than a pleasant surprise of a one category room upgrade. I had booked one category above standard, so it’s always fun when that secures yet another jump as well. I was told that the room wouldn’t be ready until after 3PM, and thanks to the Four Seasons truly enviable location that was just fine. I was quite happy to go sit on “The Rocks” for a bit, after a flight. A text message buzzed some time after 3PM and into the room it was. Had the world been wrong?

a room with a bed and couchesThe Room

Here’s where the really good stuff, and the not so great stuff starts. Room 909 offers plenty of space and a really stellar “partial” Opera House view, which I was ecstatic with. In fact, I took it upon myself to pop a photo on Instagram almost immediately.

I was happy, and I was impressed, at first glance.

The room was very clean, huge pillows, lots of neutral old world “beige” grandeur and marble all throughout the bath. It wasn’t going to offend anyone, that’s for sure. Unfortunately connectivity like USB ports and easily accessed power ports near the bed was a bit of a non starter, but perhaps for the cruise tourists who seem to frequent the spot (live and learn) that’s less of an issue.

a bed with a lamp and a phone on a tablePositive vibes were flowing and I was thinking that I might have finally found my Sydney hotel.

I was wrong.

a couch and a coffee table in a roomIssue One: The Internet

I very quickly found the internet in the room to be virtually unusable. I was getting far higher speeds on my 4G phone connection, and if I was to compare the “Enhanced” wifi of the Four Seasons to the free wifi I (and all others) experienced on my Qantas flight hours before, it would’ve been no contest. A plane hurdling through the skies with one little antenna offered a superior experience by knock out punch. The knockout being that it was actually usable.

This in itself really isn’t much to huff and puff about, even at a Four Seasons, but just wait.

I called down to the front desk and spoke with someone who seemed very polite and did apologise for the issues. I had nearly put the phone halfway back down, expecting the “we’ll get on it right away” when I heard “ok Mr. Ott, I’ll connect you with tech support”. Wait, hang on a minute?

I want to make sure I state this as clearly as I possibly can. At the 5 star Four Seasons hotel in Sydney, I was connected to tech support when my internet wasn’t working. If you’re thinking “well that’s standard”, you misunderstood.

I wasn’t connected to a person at the hotel. I was connected to the internet service provider of the hotel, who after 45 minutes on the phone lead me through the “can you turn it on and off again” routine. As politely as I could, I asked the lovely lady sitting in Maryland, USA to relay that I thought this 45 minutes spent on the phone together was amongst the wildest things that’s happened in a career of staying at hotels.

Eventually, sometime the next morning, the internet became usable, but with speeds no greater than 10MBPS, which is dreadful by modern standards. I’d hate to wonder what the standard internet was buzzing at…

a bed in a hotel roomIssue Two: The Keys

I’ve stayed in many of the world’s very finest hotels and also some of the most cold shower inspiring roadside motels during my days in the music industry. One thing they all typically had in common was that the room keys worked. During a five night stay at the Four Seasons in Sydney, I had to exchange my key no fewer than three times. There may have been a fourth encounter, but my memory can only officially count three.

This is where any gamblers out there might have actually found this as a positive. Every time I entered the hotel it was 50/50, or actually slightly less favourable odds that my key would work. I’d get in the lift, hold my key against the pad, press my room and I would go nowhere. I’d try a couple more times, go nowhere, and then report to the front desk. The first time it was “ish happens”. The second time was officially odd, and the third…. yeah.

At 9PM on my penultimate night three beers and pretzels arrived as an apology after I’d already dozed off. I don’t really drink beer or eat pretzels, but points for effort. Although, the only thing better than service recovery… f**king keys that open the door to your room.

a desk in a roomIssue Three: The Cleaning Dance

I had booked a rate inclusive of breakfast and chose to take ours in the Club Lounge every day on the top floor. It’s a beautiful space with great views and offers a nice reprieve from the buzzing city. The entire staff in the lounge were fantastic and definitely a highlight of the stay.

Anyway, point being…

Every morning I made my way up to the Club Lounge for a quick bite to eat and a cup of tea. Like clockwork, the lounge staff must phone housekeeping, because someone would dart into my room to clean. That’s appreciated, genuinely, but it took an absolute eternity.

After a 30-40 min breakfast I came down to my room to see a “we’re servicing” sign. I knocked, quickly asked how much longer to which the kind staff replied “about 30-40 mins”. This happened twice, when I really just wanted to change my clothes and head out for the day, so I found this song and dance just a bit much. After two days, I learned to keep the “do not disturb” sign on my door until I was out for the day.

The room was so well looked after every day that there’s absolutely no fault to dish out there, other than the fact that I felt as if I was sharing my room with the cleaning staff, based on the amount of time they spent in there in comparison to my own.

a city with a bridge and a body of waterThe Pool

I’ll be honest, I basically chose the Four Seasons over the nearby Shangri La based on the outdoor pool. I’ve stayed at the Park Hyatt which definitely has the best pool, but didn’t find it nearly as good as many claim it to be, so I was eager to expand my horizons.

The Four Seasons Pool is effectively on the ground floor, directly below a motorway with no view of the harbour despite it practically surrounding the hotel from all edges. You basically have the walls, and the pool.

What I found somewhat shocking, given the Four Seasons luxury market positioning was that there was no pool staff at all. No one to bring towels, replenish towels, take towels or keep any resemblance of order. It was fully self serve, fully a la carte and there was no real “poolside” drink or food service to speak of, minus some kind of shack outside of view of the pool deck.

Odd, at best.

The Gym

The Four Seasons Sydney gym was acceptable, and that’s all that can be said about that. It’s full of the machines your parents were taught to exercise on, which take up far too much space and offer very little benefit, but it does offer a few decent treadmills and free weights. When it was built, circa 20 years ago or so, I’d say it was solid. If you’re looking for a workout, I’d recommend the f45 training studios two blocks away, or a jog around the park.

a television on a stand in a hotel roomThe Club Lounge

Sitting atop the hotel at Level 32, the Four Seasons Sydney Club Lounge is a great place to take in the views of Sydney Harbour and unwind. The lounge staff was humming at a highly sophisticated level by any standard, memorising guest names and offering attentive service. Unfortunately, they weren’t also making the food.

The evening food and wine hour was a total non starter with hardly any diversity from day to day and a food quality that just really wasn’t worth eating. I never stayed for more than 20 minutes. The breakfast was a nice way to start and catered fairly to *most* needs, but there was just nothing “chefy” or clever about it, which is a shame in a country hailed for breakfast sophistication.

Three Stars For The Four Seasons

To the best of my understanding, the Four Seasons Sydney is undergoing a renovation and with all the hope in the world, I hope it will eventually be better than this. At the same time, it wasn’t entirely the building that let it down.

The most amusing bit of all was when the director of rooms, or someone with an equally important sounding title called while I was packing, with 40 mins left in the stay “to see if there was anything” they could do, and how my stay was. Obviously I wasn’t going to be eating, sleeping or anything else in the next 40 minutes, so I politely said no. Two or three days earlier, I would’ve requested a sit down just to walk me through how these things were at all standard for a hotel of this supposed caliber.

At the end of the day, these are first world problems, but at a five star hotel you expect no problems, just easy going sophistication. In short: if my room keys had worked and I could’ve enjoyed streaming Netflix, all the other little things wouldn’t have come to the surface. Two stars for the Four Seasons Sydney. Despite arguably the best location for exploring Sydney’s many neighbourhoods, I’ll look elsewhere next time.


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Interesting review. I wonder though if a few things could have been prevented. We always have the Do Not Disturb sign on until we’re ready to leave for the day to prevent exactly what happened to you. Was the key card an issue with your credit card de-magnetizing it? And as for the internet, I’ve had the same thing happen. I was transferred to the 3rd party vendor so that seems normal to me. I would legit have a complaint about the club level food and the lack of pool staffing.

  2. Can’t really disagree too much with anything you’ve said here – we also had some of the worst service I’ve ever had in the bar here. However considering what we paid (used Virtuoso for extra benefits) I felt like I got good value.

    One thing though- the restaurant breakfast was great, so I’d probably pick this over the club lounge by the sounds of it

  3. should’ve tucked into them full speed. Aussies need a bitching to, or else they just saunter their way through their jobs. this is across all sectors. They’re a lazy bunch and nothing but a lashing out at, will solve that.

  4. Oh come on, you tried to use hotel provided internet? Any experienced traveller knows that is a likely waste of time. And to try it in Australia is a completely bad idea

  5. Confused about Bevan’s comment… is that a thing? I don’t generally have an issue with hotel wifi… and you really shouldn’t, I mean that’s the point right?

    Curious though, did you bring the issues up during the stay? Like before the guy called at the very end? Any issues I’ve had at FS has been quickly resolved by a quick complaint.

    thanks for the heads up review

    1. Maybe tongue in cheek, I generally have no issues overseas at hotels. He’s spot on about Australia though, our internet speeds are poor, just use 4G (Optus and Telstra’s mobile networks are actually pretty good).

  6. I think i experienced much the same trip as you.. Was initially wowed by the room, disappointed but the ‘old relic’ of an external appearance. Delighted with the exec lounge staff, also had to get 4 keys (and for a TWO night stay). Housekeeping were amazing, even cleaned my sunglasses and left the microfibre cloth with a note… the jaded part of me wondered if this was to encourage a tip, but i was still blown away by the level of actual cleaning done in the room. Pool… yeah so near the motorway it was noisy all the time, but we did see pool attendants doing the whole towel thing. Would i stay again? Yeah if the deal was good, otherwise i’d Probably try somewhere else.

    PS agree the internet was shocking

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