Review: Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Filed Under: Hotels, Travel

I only had about a 14 hour layover in Vancouver, though decided to spend it in the city. Vancouver is probably my favorite city in North America, and really does feel like a mini Hong Kong (which is one of my favorite places in the world).

I decided to book the Fairmont Waterfront for my one night stay in Vancouver. It’s the cheaper of the two Fairmonts in Vancouver, and the rate for the one night was ~$185USD. Since I booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, it included the following benefits:

  • Noon check-in upon arrival, when available
  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • 4pm late checkout
  • US$100 food and beverage credit to be used during your stay


So that seemed like a good enough deal, between the complimentary breakfast, $100 food & beverage credit, and late check-out (which would be useful given that my flight out of Vancouver was only departing in the evening).

My Cathay Pacific flight from New York was delayed, so by the time I made it to the hotel it was 3AM. By the way, there’s nothing more interesting than driving through downtown Vancouver at 2:45AM on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. It was like human Frogger, based on the number of drunk people running across the street.

The Fairmont is located right on the water (as you’d expect based on the name), and almost looks a bit like an office building on the outside.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver exterior

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver exterior

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver signage

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver entrance

The lobby feels “grand” though not especially modern, and almost reminded me a bit of the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong (not in terms of the design specifically, but the overall feel).

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver lobby

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver lobby

Check-in was located inside the lobby to the right.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver lobby

The associate checking me in was friendly and had me checked in quickly, which was appreciated given what time it was. She provided me with a piece of paper detailing the benefits of booking through Fine Hotels & Resorts, explained the hours the restaurant is open, location of the gym, etc. She also informed me that I had been upgraded to a corner king room.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts

I took the elevator up to the 18th floor, where my room was located.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver hallway

The hotel is kind of shaped like a triangle, and my room, 1816, was located at the far end of one of the “sides.”

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver room entrance

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver room entrance

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver floorplan

The room featured a massive “L” shaped entryway.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver entryway

Once you “turned” left there was a closet on the left and the bathroom to the right.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver entryway

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver entryway

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room closet

The room itself was a nice size and fairly modern. It featured a king size bed, and then by the window a chair with ottoman and a desk.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room

The TV was located on the opposite end of the room from the desk and could swivel, so could easily be viewed from both bed and the desk.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room

The desk was accompanied by a fairly comfortable rolling chair, and I was also happy to see that the desk had a couple of easily accessible plugs and other electronics outlets.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room desk

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room desk outlets

The bathroom was quite nice, and featured a sink, toilet, and shower/tub combo (I was kind of hoping there would be a tub, but there was no such luck).

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room bathroom

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room shower

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room toilet

The toiletries were Le Labo Rose 31 branded — nice, especially when you look at the retail cost of their toiletries.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room toiletries

Since this was a corner room, it boasted views of both the surrounding city and the harbor.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room view

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Corner King Room view

On the whole I found the room to be reasonably nice. I do think it was in the same league as a nice Westin or Hyatt and not really a league above, but then again given the price point that’s kind of what I’d expect (the Fairmont Pacific Rim has higher rates and also seems to be a bit nicer).

One of the nice things about Fairmont is that just for joining their President’s Club program you receive complimentary internet. However, I found the internet to be really slow, though for $11.20CAD I could upgrade to “premium business internet,” so I did that. The internet still wasn’t especially fast, but at least it was usable.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver internet upgrade charge

In terms of the hotel’s other facilities, there’s a fairly nice (and basic) fitness center. I didn’t have the chance to use it, unfortunately.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver gym

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver gym

Outside of the gym was the pool, which is open daily from 5:30AM till midnight. I’m sure it would be nice in summer, though aside from that Vancouver isn’t an ideal city for an outdoor pool.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver pool

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver pool

The pool did boast nice views of the harbor and surrounding buildings.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver pool

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver view from the pool

There was also a deck with some greenery on the same level as the pool — not sure what purpose that served, exactly.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver deck near the pool

Then right next to the gym was a hot tub.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver whirlpool

Even though I only got to the hotel at 3AM I ended up waking up at 7AM, since I had gotten a good amount of sleep on my Cathay Pacific flight. So I had breakfast at ARC Restaurant, which is connected to the lobby.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant

At the entrance I was asked for my room number, at which point a “ticket” was printed out and I was brought to my table. Interestingly I was addressed by name throughout breakfast, both by the hostess and the server.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant

The server explained to me that American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts breakfast included the continental buffet, though for a cost of $9.50 I could upgrade to the hot buffet. This wouldn’t just include what was available at the buffet, but also scrambled eggs or an omelet.

I had a $100 food & beverage credit so could have used that towards the buffet upgrade, though I wasn’t especially hungry and just stuck to the continental buffet.

For reference, the breakfast menu read as follows:


To drink I had an orange juice and non-fat cappuccino.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant cappuccino and juice

The continental breakfast buffet was quite good. There was juice, cereal, fruit, cheese, meat, lox, bagels, toast, pastries, etc.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

The hot buffet consisted of eight hot dishes, and I have to say they all looked very good. So if hungry I’d recommend the full buffet.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast buffet

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant breakfast

I had to leave the hotel at around 3PM to catch my flight back to Seattle, so decided to have lunch at ARC Restaurant as well, since I had a $100 food & beverage credit to spend.

The lunch menu read as follows:


I ordered the dungeness crab roll, which was delicious.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver ARC Restaurant lunch

I ended up “wasting” the rest of my food & beverage credit, but I figured stuffing myself with even more food wouldn’t really be “maximizing” either. It does make me wonder what we should really be valuing food and beverage credits at.

Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver bottom line

I had a nice (but far too short) stay at the Fairmont Waterfront. The location is great, the hotel is nice, all the employees I interacted with were friendly, and for the price point it’s tough to beat. That’s especially true when booking through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, given the extra perks you get.

That being said, Fairmont as a brand still puzzles me somewhat, since I don’t quite get what they’re positioning themselves as. Are they supposed to be comparable to a Hyatt Regency or Westin, or are they a grade above? If a grade above, are we talking Shangri-La, or which brand are they trying to compete with? Like most chains, they do seem to have some okay properties and some awesome properties, though I just don’t quite where they’re positioning themselves in the market.

As I’m in the process of moving into hotels full time I’d like to check out some more of their properties in the near future and get a better feel for the brand. I’ll be returning to Vancouver soon, and will try the Fairmont Pacific Rim for comparison’s sake.

  1. Interesting post and hotel review. I think, something worth keeping in mind, is that the $100 F&B credits may be more able to be used by folks who travel with (a) another person or two and/or (b) who stay for more than one night. Which, usually doesn’t describe you …

  2. I was under the impression AmEx was moving toward a full breakfast benefit with their FHR program so I was surprised you were only offered a continental buffet. What is your information on this?

  3. If the buffet came with juice, cereal, fruit, cheese, meat, lox, bagels, toast, pastries, etc. that seems like a fairly substantial breakfast. With the F&B credit it seems to work best with two people as that can cover Breakfast for three days easily.

  4. @ JetAway — There are some hotels that go above and beyond, but I haven’t heard of the official policy changing from offering continental breakfast.

  5. @Lucky-The FHR booking website refers to “Daily Breakfast” as a benefit whereas awhile back it referred to “Continental Breakfast.” Along these lines, I’ve been receiving full breakfasts at all of my FHR bookings over the last year. If you receive any clarification from AmEx on this we would certainly appreciate hearing about it.

  6. @ JetAway — The benefit hasn’t changed, they’re just marketing it slightly differently since lots of hotels were going above and beyond. In my experience non-US/Canadian properties almost always offer full hot breakfast, while US/Canadian hotels mostly offer continental breakfast. But it’s totally at the hotel’s discretion, so nothing American Express can clarify.

  7. @Lucky-Thanks for the info. I guess I was under the impression AmEx had changed the terms of their contract with the FHR properties.

  8. Slight nitpick, but there are 3 Fairmonts in Vancouver — Pacific Rim, Waterfront, and just “the Fairmont Hotel”. There’s also a fairmont in the airport, although the last two are not FHR.

    Loved the report, would like to see more of your views on Fairmont as a brand in the future 🙂

  9. I actually stayed at the Waterfront shortly before you did, Lucky, and used AmEx FHR to do so. For breakfast, I got the option to order off the breakfast menu (up to $20) instead of getting the cold buffet or paying to upgrade to the hot buffet. I thought that was a much better deal. Not sure if they really advertise that, though. Great review!

  10. @ KHJack — Now that I live in hotels full time I have several hotel reviews coming up, and then have another major trip coming up in early May — stay tuned!

  11. Lucky, you should have used the leftover credit to order additional food to takeout for afternoon or early dinner. That would be maximizing the F B credit.

  12. @ Lucky – since Fairmont Platinum can be obtained in 10 stays (or 30 nights), it seems like you can earn that without too much problem as long as FHR rates count (their T&C don’t mention it specifically). Platinum members get 1000 mile credit to with airline partners.

  13. I would kill to see you review the Fairmont properties at Lake Louise and Banff. (Not literally, though — hopefully the AA twitter team isn’t reading this!)

  14. @Lucky,

    If you want to check out an awesome Fairmont Hotel check out the Fairmont Jaipur or Montreux. And yes I agree some Fairmont’s are just stunning i.e Fairmont Quebec City, Lake Louise, Banff, Jasper, Montebello etc. However others are just average: Vancouver Airport, Vancouver Waterfront, Chicago

  15. Hi Lucky

    Intrigued by one minor point. You said that the rate was $185 yet the rate on the welcome card says $204. Did they misprint?

  16. Could you please fix your website? There seems to be something wrong with its formatting in Chrome. None of the other boardingarea websites seem to be affected.

  17. Do you have to use the F&B credit all yourself, or could you “treat” a family or someone to lunch to use up the F&B credit so it didn’t go to waste?

  18. Just buy a really nice double scotch at $70ish and you’re good to go. That’s what I do at least.

  19. I actually LOVED LOVED LOVED the Fairmont pacific rim, which is like one block away from your fairmont… It can get kinda crazy during the weekends with all the ferraris and the bentleys parked in the front…

  20. Ben, there are some amazingly beautiful Fairmont properties in Canada. These were originally Canadian Pacific Railway hotels until CP bought Fairmont and rebranded all the Canadian properties. All of the old railway properties are quite grand.

    Banff Springs (the first-built CP Hotels property), Château Lake Louise, and Château Frontenac (most photographed hotel in the World) come to mind as must-sees/stays.

  21. The restaurant across the hotel is very good, Miku, check it out next time you are around 🙂

  22. @ Laurel — As long as it’s charged to your room anyone could be using the credit, basically.

  23. @Matt – There are actually four Fairmont hotels in Vancouver- Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Waterfront, Pacific Rim and Fairmont Vancouver Airport.

  24. Nice review of Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver. Next time you’re in Vancouver, please send me an email. Would be great to show you around if you had the time.

    Can’t believe you wasted the $100 food and beverage credit though. You ought to have ordered some drinks to run it dry.

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