Thursday, December 13, 2018

My Trip to Victoria | Fairmont Empress Hotel: Review

Disclaimer: This accommodation was offered at a discounted media rate.
My Trip to Victoria | Fairmont Empress Hotel: Review
Named for Queen Victoria and overlooking the Victoria harbor since 1908, Fairmont Empress is one of the most iconic hotels in Canada. Designed with a Châteauesque style by the same architect who also designed the BC Parliament and the Vancouver Art Gallery, The Empress has long been a national historic site that's a must-visit destination for travelers worldwide. During my short vacation to Victoria earlier this month, I had the pleasure of staying at the hotel for a couple of nights so I wanted to share with you my experience. To read all about my stay, click......
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Hotel Lobby
Fairmont Empress | Lobby
Location:
Sitting right along the Inner Harbour, Fairmont Empress is on the edge of Downtown Victoria, just walks away from the BC Parliament and the Royal BC Museum. As the area is very walkable, it doesn't take more than 20 minutes to reach the other edge of Downtown Victoria. So in terms of location, the hotel is not much more or no less convenient than any other hotels in Downtown.

Lobby:
All dressed up for the holiday season, the spacious lobby glistened with Christmas lights and ornaments but the centerpiece is undoubtly the ginormous chandelier made with more than 250,000 hand-cut crystals suspended in the shape of delicate flower petals. Each iridescent crystal shines brilliantly under the overhead lights and they change color as you walk around the room. I rarely recommend visiting a place just to check out a piece of decor but if you were visiting Victoria, you have to drop by The Empress lobby just for this chandelier!
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Hotel Lobby
Fairmont Empress | Twill Flowers Chandelier
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Harbour View Deluxe Room
Fairmont Empress | Harbour View Deluxe Room | Queen-Sized Bed
Accommodation:
For this trip, we stayed in a Harbour View Deluxe Room on the seventh floor. Interestingly, because the room is located within one of the turrets, we needed to take two sets of elevators to reach it. Although cumbersome, the extra trek did make the room feel special and exclusive. And because it was far away from the main elevators, the corridor outside received minimal foot traffic and was therefore nice and quiet. Unfortunately, there were massive constructions going on right in front of the hotel where our windows were facing. This not only cluttered our view of the harbor but also welcomed us each morning with a symphony of jackhammer clangs.
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Harbour View Deluxe Room
Fairmont Empress | Harbour View Deluxe Room | Sitting Area
With one queen bed, a small vanity, and a nice sitting area, the Harbour View Deluxe Room was generously sized to fit up to four people (a row-away bed is available upon request). Although the hotel was recently renovated in July 2017, our room still retained a quaint, old-fashioned look, in contrast to online images of the updated rooms that have a sleeker, modern design. All the furniture were made of solid dark wood and the bed, dresser, mirror, and vanity featured intricately carved patterns. I personally prefer a more modern decor when it comes to hotel rooms but the classic, ornate vibe here fits the overall Empress theme.
Aside from the inconvenient absence of a nightstand by one side of the bed and the abysmally weak pillows that flattened upon contact, everything in the sleeping and sitting area met my standards. There were a small Keurig and electric kettle available for use, along with a collection of single-brew coffee pods and Fairmont's own Lot 35 tea selection.
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Harbour View Deluxe Room
Fairmont Empress | Harbour View Deluxe Room | Sitting Area
The bathroom appeared more modern in comparison to the rest of the room, but it too had its shortcomings. The shower had a weak water pressure and it lacked an extendable shower head. Additionally, the tub was quite shallow so if you are the type of person that like to take baths on vacations, you would be sorely disappointed. More importantly, however, the bathroom did not have a working fan. Although there was what appears to be a ventilation grille on the ceiling above the toilet, there was no control switch and the fan never turned on. We actually ended up having to turn on the ceiling fan in the living area and open the windows to the cold whenever we needed to use the toilet. On a positive note, the Le Labo toiletries, the 100% cotton robes, and soft slippers did make up for a few things.
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Harbour View Deluxe Room
Fairmont Empress | Harbour View Deluxe Room | Bathroom
Now as this was a room facing the harbor, it only makes sense that I comment on the view. As you can see below, the Victoria harbor is fairly small and the particular stretch that was visible from our window was unfortunately cluttered by shipment contraptions and seaplane docks. I suppose the ongoing construction on the roads and nearby buildings doesn't help but as someone who has always been in awe of the Downtown Vancouver harbor, this one left me wanting more. Therefore, if you normally reside in a seaside town or city, it may not be worth paying more for a harbor view room.
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Harbour View Deluxe Room
Fairmont Empress | Harbour View Deluxe Room | Harbor View
Amenities:
Whenever staying at hotels, my boyfriend and I always take the opportunity to visit the pool and thankfully, Fairmont Empress had a surprisingly nice one. Although nowhere near Olympic-sized, it's much bigger than your typical hotel pool and there was even a separate wading pool for toddlers to splash around in. A whirlpool was tucked away in the corner for those that want to really relax and rewind and saunas can be found in the individual change rooms. As early December is off-season, the pool was empty both times I went swimming so I got a nice and private experience. A well-equipped gym was also located within the Fairmont Empress Health Club so if you want some terrestrial exercise, that is available as well.
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Pool
Fairmont Empress | Pool
Although listed as one of the hotel amenities, Wi-Fi at the Empress was not free. There was public Wi-Fi in the lobby but if you want to watch Netflix or catch up on emails in your room, you are expected to pay. In a day and age where you can find free Wi-Fi at pretty much any restaurant, cafe, or shopping mall, it's pretty shocking that Wi-Fi came at a cost here. Heck, I can't even remember the last time I stayed at a hotel that charged for Wi-Fi! I mean, you can easily argue that anyone who can afford to stay at The Empress can also afford $15 a day for internet but at the same time, when you are paying $300+ for a room, free Wi-Fi should come as a given. Fairmont does have a loyalty program that you can join for free that grants free Wi-Fi access but the fine print is that you must have stayed with them for at least ten nights in the past.
Fairmont Empress Hotel Review | Pool
Fairmont Empress | Whirlpool
Services:
Maybe because it was off-season and that our room was two elevators away from the lobby, we actually had minimal interactions with the hotel staff. Nevertheless, what few encounters we did have were all positive. The nightly turn-down service was very much appreciated and the check-in and check-out process were pleasant and efficient. Although not technically a part of our hotel experience, we did have Tea at The Empress (read about it here) and service we received there was excellent as well.

Overall, the Fairmont Empress is a classic and elegant hotel with a lot of history behind its doors. The in-room amenities mostly met my standards but improvements can definitely be made with the bathroom fixtures. Additionally, the lack of free Wi-Fi may a dealbreaker for some but the beautiful pool and lobby chandelier made my stay quite memorable.

About Fairmont Empress:
Located at 721 Government St, Victoria, British Columbia, Fairmont Empress is a four-star hotel and a national historic landmark. To learn more or book a stay, visit Fairmont Empress website.
Share:
© 2013-2019 The Happy Sloths | Blog Design by pipdig | Artwork by Darya D