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It’s a record-breaking day in Vancouver. With four cruise ships docked at the Canada Place and Ballantyne cruise terminals, there are some 19,000 people trying to get on or off one of those ships.
My destination, not an easy get on a day like today, is the Fairmont Waterfront, located just across the street from Canada Place. Eventually the sea of humanity parts and I find myself with just enough breathing room to edge my way inside the hotel, where I’m greeted by yet more eager cruise passengers.
Despite the hubbub, which looks more like a scene from the national convention of cruise passengers anonymous than a hotel lobby, the Fairmont guest services staff is unflappable. I’m greeted with a smile, even though I’ve arrived well before the official check-in time.
And although I’m far too early for an available room, the front desk agent wants to give it a go.
“Let me see what I can do,” she whispers, careful to not let the dozens of people hanging around the desk overhear her.
My need for a room is not urgent, and instead I opt to go to lunch. I’ve heard stories of Vancouver’s legendary dim sum and I’m thrilled to learn that one of the top recommended places, Imperial Chinese Seafood, is within walking distance of the hotel.
When eventually checking into my room, I find I’ve been fortunate enough to get one of the property’s 300 rooms that overlook the harbor. (The Fairmont Waterfront has 480 rooms in total.) While the Fairmont Waterfront offers many excellent reasons to book a room, the harbor views alone are worth the stay.
From my vantage, on the 20th floor, I have at least a partial view of all four cruise ships docked in Vancouver. There’s something almost Zen about watching hopeful cruise passengers mill about, and I find myself watching the activity below for a good 30 minutes.
Eventually however, my voyeurism hits a lull and I set out to explore the hotel beyond my room. My first stop is the health club. Although there is no spa on site — guests can use the Willow Stream Spa across the street at the hotel’s sister property, the Fairmont Pacific Rim — there is an excellent health club, which comes complete with a heated, 50-foot outdoor pool; an indoor whirlpool and even a massage room and therapist. Massage rates start at around $110 per hour and in-room massages can be arranged starting at around $127 per hour.
Fitness buffs will be particularly attracted to the morning seawall runs, held every Tuesday and Thursday with Ian Pullan, the hotel’s general manager. Pullan, who has competed in several half and full marathons, creates a pace that’s customized to the group joining him. Usually the excursion involves a 5 kilometer run along the seawall to Stanley Park, but more advanced groups have done the entire 10 kilometers around the entire park.
Culinary activities are more my speed, however, so it isn’t long before I venture into the property’s herb garden, which was one of the city’s first green roofs. The garden features more than 60 types of herbs, vegetables, fruits and edible blossoms and even some 10 species of local birds, all of which are used to create the cuisine that is served throughout the hotel.
If the Fairmont’s sustainable practices pique your client’s interests, what will really have them talking is the property’s honeybee apiary. Last year, Fairmont Waterfront was home to nearly half a million honeybees, which brought in more than 600 pounds of honey. The bees visit more than 1 million plants, over 26 square miles, to produce just one pound of honey. The hives were so productive last year that three of them created new queens, netting a total of eight wintering hives.
Guests can sample the honey in a variety of cocktails and dishes or they can purchase a box of Bee’s Knees Truffles, which are produced in conjunction with British Columbia’s legendary chocolatier, Rogers’ Chocolates.
Although the Fairmont’s proximity to Canada Place make it ideal for a pre- or post-cruise excursion, it is also close enough to many of the Vancouver’s other major attractions, including the historic Gastown District and Stanley Park, to make it an ideal option for any Vancouver traveler, even the ones who aren’t looking to test out their sea legs.
20th Anniverary Special Offer
This year, the Fairmont Waterfront celebrates its 20th anniversary. Clients can take advantage of a 20th Anniversary Special Offer, which includes overnight accommodation, 20 percent off the best “rate of the day” and 20 percent off their food and beverage tab.