VANCOUVER, BC: The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

My first Fairmont experience was in 1973 when I stayed at the historic Mayo Hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was then part of the Fairmont family, and I have visited several Fairmont properties in Canada and the U.S. in the years since. It was therefore with great expectations and anticipation that I booked a room at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for part of our recent trip through British Columbia.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver that exists today was built beginning in 1929 and was completed in 1939. The lines of its green roof have become an iconic symbol in downtown Vancouver, though taller buildings built around it later in the 20th century have supplanted them as part of the city’s greater skyline.

Room 1249

What has not been supplanted is the excellent service proffered. While I had not stayed at the hotel until our most recent trip, I had visited several times, enjoying nibbles at the restaurant, a drink in the lobby bar, browsing the shops in its arcade, and taking our German shepherd to rub noses with the hotel’s mascots, two Yellow Labs named Beau and Mavis.

This visit, we spent two nights at the hotel and found the service to be everything we expected. From the valet who greeted us upon arrival and helped us with our bags and our pooch’s things to Jamie, the front desk clerk who checked us in to Deb, the concierge who cares for Beau, to the bartenders and cocktail servers to the housekeeping personnel in the hall, everyone was friendly, helpful, prompt and professional.

The hotel’s renovation is ongoing, meaning some temporary inconveniences including circuitous routings to the front desk, temporary relocation of restaurants, pool and spa temporarily closed. But staff members were on hand at virtually every turn, ready to assist with whatever was needed.

In-room work station

Because the standard King room we’d requested was not yet available, we were upgraded to a Deluxe King on the 12th floor, a floor on which renovation had already been completed. A dog bed provided by the Fairmont, along with bowls and doggie treats, arrived as we were unpacking. A request for an extra blanket was also met within minutes.

The walls of the renovated room are adorned with molding and painted in a neutral palette. The patterned carpet includes elegant dark brown designs on a beige background. The furnishing are of a design reflective of the original period and include camel-colored easy chairs and a king bed. The room also has a desk/workstation with plenty of USB ports and A/C outlets to charge our traveling electronics, a flat-screen TV, Keurig coffee machine and hot pot for tea, an in-room safe, iron and ironing board, a mini-bar, high-end amenities in the bath, and a hair dryer.

While many of the fixtures, including the TV and the ChargePort located on the nightstand, are distinctly modern, Fairmont is generally keeping the style and design true to the hotel’s original period and has not changed the layout of the rooms or otherwise stripped them of their character and charm.

High-end amenities

At any historic property, there are things that some guests will find charming while others will consider negatives. At the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, the walls are less sound-resistant than those in newer properties and sounds from the halls seep into the guest rooms. The pipes creak when guests in adjacent rooms use the plumbing. And, true to the original period, bathrooms are small. They offer a combined tub and shower instead of separate facilities, and counter space is at a premium.

Offsetting the coziness of the bath, the main area of our room was quite generous. It measured 16.5 feet by 19.5 feet, or more than 320 square feet, not including the bath and hallway; plenty of room to work, stretch out, or just relax.

Most of the prices at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver were quite reasonable, considering both its luxurious surroundings and its location. For example, the pet fee is $25 per night, and parking – whether self-parking or valet – is $39 per night, considerably lower that I’d anticipated for the heart of downtown in a major metropolis.

Renovated bath

Experienced travelers understand that, at any resort and most hotels, there will be a premium for convenience, whether that is the convenience of dining at the hotel or grabbing a snack or beverage from the mini-bar instead of eating or shopping off-property. However, I thought prices for alcoholic beverages pushed the limits of the “convenience premium.”

Prices for alcohol and tobacco carry a significant "sin tax" in Canada and are therefore quite a bit higher than the U.S. already; prices at the hotel are higher still. For those who choose to indulge, a stop at a retail liquor store rather than buying by the glass could prove easier on the budget or the expense account.

With that single caveat, I’d highly recommend the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for anyone who loves historic properties and who likes to be welcomed and treated like a valued guest rather than simply a customer.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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