Thursday, May 16, 2013

VANCOUVER, BC: Westin Bayshore

I’ve been visiting the Westin Bayshore ever since I moved to the Seattle area in 1983 and subsequently discovered the wonderland that is Vancouver, British Columbia. My wife and I returned to Vancouver and the Westin during a lovely April weekend.

Boat and floating homes on Coal Harbour
The Westin Bayshore is located on Coal Harbour, just west of the downtown core and just east of famous Stanley Park. One of the joys of returning to a favorite haunt time after time is experiencing those things that made it a favorite in the first place. In this case, that included the view across the harbour, easy access to the park, plenty of places to stroll, and an easy walk to the shopping, attractions, bars, and restaurants of nearby Robson Street.

One of the drawbacks (for travel writers, anyway) is that it’s difficult to find something new to say about an establishment you’ve visited time after time. So this trip, we decided to bring our German shepherd with us and report about whether the Westin Bayshore was truly “dog-friendly,” as they advertised, or merely “dog-tolerant.”

:Living area of junior suite
Staff was very gracious in welcoming the four-footed member of our party, fussing on our dog just enough so that we felt she was genuinely welcome. A member of the bell staff arrived at our room within minutes of our check-in and brought water and food bowls, a protective pad to keep them from slipping on the tile floor of the bathroom, a doggie bed, goodies, and a “pet clean-up kit.” I’ll leave the specifics to your imagination.

The Westin’s grounds include plenty of green space for exercising your pet (and using the aforementioned clean-up kit afterward). Its location on Vancouver’s seawall means lots of sidewalks and other places to walk, and Cardero Street that runs along the marina has many places to eat a full meal or just get a cup of coffee. Many places offer outdoor tables when the weather permits.

Our dog investigating the master bedroom
The Westin Bayshore includes a conference center that boasts 40 meeting spaces as well as what they bill as “the largest hotel ballroom in Western Canada.” Large conference centers often, though not always, mean lots of guests staying at the hotel as well. While the hotel’s lobby and meeting foyer are very generous, if you visit during a convention you (and your pooch) could wind up wending your way through large crowds.

Another drawback of visiting a property frequently is that return visits can also mean witnessing the establishment’s sometimes less-than-gracious aging.

The Westin Bayshore’s web page points out that its conference facility was rebuilt in 2001. That’s more than a decade ago. The guest rooms, too – while generally well maintained – are showing signs that it’s time for another refresh.

The bath, sans bathtub
Our junior suite, for example, had been rewired so that each light fixture – now equipped with energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs – was turned on individually instead of turning several lights on with the flick of a single wall switch. That makes sense from an energy conservation standpoint, but it also means a lot of blank switch plates on the walls where switches used to be, giving the feel of a project that hasn’t quite been finished.

The room’s decor, while apparently intended to be minimalist, crossed the line and became somewhat stark. A few more photographs or paintings would have softened the ambiance considerably.

Nonetheless, it was fairly well equipped, with a small fridge, flat screen TV, desk, sofa and chaise lounge in the living area along with a coffee maker and access to an outside balcony. The bedroom had a king-sized bed, dresser, TV, chair and ottoman, and the bath featured high-end amenities. As with many hotels, the bathroom had a walk-in shower but no bathtub.

The weakest link, as with many hotels at which I stay, is Internet access. Like far too many, the Westin Bayshore’s access was an anemic 1 Mbps as measured using www.speakeasy.com/speedtest. I recently upgraded service at my home to 50 Mbps, so the difference was dramatic.

Despite that shortcoming, and even though it has grown a bit long in the tooth, I still recommend the Westin Bayshore for its excellent staff and stellar location. Just be aware that it has seen better days. But then again, I’m confident it will again.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

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