Travel Reviews

The worst hotel room ever!

The Cambridge Hotel – Riley St, Surry Hills, Sydney.

It’s not just the room either – The pool is minging!! 🤮

Coming to Sydney was really important to me, there is a lot of family history and emotional links here to my late brother which make it more of a pilgrimage than a holiday!

It was also here in Sydney almost 8yrs ago to the day that I discovered I was pregnant with my son, and having an Australian father too this trip is bringing him to his second homeland for the first time.

I wanted every part of this trip to be really special, but his first night here on Australian soil especially. Sadly that wasn’t to be having been placed in the most disgusting room I have ever experienced in my life at the Cambridge Hotel. (Room 0311)

I always research my accommodation pretty well and the Cambridge Hotel generally had fairly good reviews on trip adviser, So hence I was both surprised and disappointed with such a bad start to our stay here.

Firstly I should add that the staff here who we have had dealings with are LOVELY, I appreciate that any problems with the hotel are not generally their fault but they are the ones who have to deal with the guest complaints. The owners however should be ashamed of themselves.

We arrived around 11pm after a long flight from Singapore and were checked in by a lovely Italian gentleman who I believe was the duty manager. No sooner had he checked us in than the fire alarms went off and so he told us not to go to our rooms but to wait in reception which we duly did.

However I was then very surprised to hear him make an intercom announcement telling guests to stay in their rooms! Now I appreciate that he would have only be acting on the training he has been given but in a 15 storey hotel I was shocked that an immediate evacuation did not take place. I have twice been evacuated from hotels in the U.K. in the middle of the night, one also being a high rise building and all guests were evacuated calmly and quickly despite being a false alarm on both occasions.

This was also a false alarm but had it been a real fire, in the time it would have taken to find it and THEN evacuate guests the size and intensity of the fire could have been a lot worse and the consequences unthinkable. Surely worldwide lessons should have been learnt from such instructions being given to residents of the Grenfell Tower disaster in London in 2017??

Anyway, with the fire alarms finally silenced and fire brigade given the all clear we were finally able to get to our room. We had been told it was a poolside room which initially I was delighted with as my son loves to swim so be able to step out the door to the pool would have generally been ideal.

As soon as we got into the room though I noticed a horrible damp, musky smell. I wanted to change rooms straight away but we were exhausted and had just lugged all of our bags up to the room (no offer to help from reception/concierge!) and I couldn’t face moving them again that night, so I opened the small windows and headed to bed.

Just a couple of hours later I woke up again and was overwhelmed by the stench, it wasn’t the fresh chlorine smell you sometimes get around pools but more of a stagnant water, sewage type of smell. It was making me feel physically sick. Still exhausted though I rummaged through my case, sprayed some perfume on my pillow and buried my face in it in the hope of masking the smell and getting back to sleep.

On waking again the next morning, it was daylight and gave me the chance to see how filthy and disgusting the room was, there was even faeces on the wall by the toilet roll, ground in dirt around the door handle, paint flaking off in the bath and sink and rusty dirty shower pipes.

There was even mould growing on the curtains…

It was most definitely time to go and see the manager and ask for either a change of rooms or a full refund so that we would book elsewhere.

On my way out of the room I got my first chance to look at the pool in daylight and it was truly shocking – Not too surprisingly that we never saw one person using it, there is no way I would put either myself or my child in it.

The pool is not fit for use or purpose, it is disgusting. The first two photos below are ones I have taken (23/02/19) of how the pool actually is, and the second ones are as the hotel are falsely advertising it;

On initially reporting our findings to the duty manager he simply said “I will make sure it is properly cleaned today” – errr not good enough, I either want a refund so I can book elsewhere or another room. I was just in the process of explaining just how intoxicating and nauseating the smell was when my son threw up without warning all over the reception floor!!! Not great timing but at least proved first hand that whatever was causing the smell was also making us physically ill. I may be over worrying but I now have serious concerns about us both being exposed to legionaries disease.

The manager refused to refund us but told us that despite the hotel being fully booked (it’s Mardi-gras week in Sydney this week) he would find us another room, but it wouldn’t be until later in the day when other guests had checked out. We quickly went back to the room, packed up our stuff and left the hotel to venture out for some fresh air.

True to his word the manager did find us a good room, his words “one of the best in the hotel”. This room is a million miles better than the initial one – so how can a hotel have such differing quality of standards between rooms??? We now have a 10th floor room, almost twice the size of the first one, with a lovely view out over the city. The bathroom is clean and modern and we have no complaints at all with the room. (1006)

Our 2nd upgraded room with lovely views over the city

The issue does still remain with the swimming pool though – it was one of the reasons we booked here so within our two week stay we could have ‘pool days’ as we have done with our previous hotels and having just stayed at hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore this is beyond disappointing, especially for a young child and when we don’t want to be out having to spend money every single day. I believe the state of the pool and the fumes it is giving off are a health hazard and I will in due course find the appropriate local authority to report it too.

In the meantime I have passed all the information and photos to Cancelon who were the agents I booked with. They have also contacted the hotel on my behalf and also been refused a refund by the manager here.

At least I know we can sleep safely in a nice room for now and not be breathing the toxic air which we were exposed to on the first night.

In the meantime – would I recommend this hotel to others…..MOST DEFINITELY NOT


After posting this initial blog and having spent 3/14 nights at the hotel I was contacted by the general manager of the hotel who I have to say was delightful. He agreed with all of the points I had made and didn’t try to make any kind of excuses. He informed me that room 0311 had not be quarantined out of use and had chemists going in to investigate.

He also agreed that the state of the pool was totally unacceptable. As a result he offered to refund us in full whenever we check out which I feel is a very reasonable and acceptable offer.

Had this offer been made when we originally asked for it after the first night I would have most definitely checked out on the spot.

However we are 3 nights into our stay now and have unpacked in the new room and Cameron is settled. I have a wedding ceremony to conduct on Bondi Beach tomorrow so I can’t move then and thinking after the first night we were being held to ransom here I booked 4 nights out of the city for a long weekend and where Cameron can enjoy another hotel with a nice pool. It therefore seems little point in packing everything up twice to move on.

The management and staff here have been truly lovely and I don’t feel they could have personally done any more than they have done to try and help is. I do hope though that the owners of the hotel take note and make some serious improvement to both the pool and the affected room/s.

Guests happiness and satisfaction is one thing, but when their health is put at risk it takes it to a whole new level, especially when a 7 yr old child gets sick due to the appalling lack of hygiene.


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