We decided to book a stay at The Four Seasons hotel in Vancouver the night before I started my journey around the world for a couple of reasons. First, I’m making an effort to review all of the American Express Fine Hotel and Resort properties in Vancouver this year, and second, because I had never stayed at a Four Seasons before and was eager to sample the brand before my stay in Jakarta. I should preface this review by saying I had heard really mixed reviews of the property. Most people agreed the hard product was well past its prime, and that service was inconsistent.
I booked the room using my American Express Platinum Card to gain access to The Fine Hotels and Resorts program. Availability was good, given it was the off-season in Vancouver, and rates were low.
The Fine Hotels and Resorts rate was the same as the best available rate offered by the hotel, but included all of the extras, including breakfast for two, room upgrade, and a $100USD property credit.
I emailed the hotel in advance and inquired about early check-in. Although it’s not a guaranteed benefit, I generally find most properties are able to guarantee a noon arrival. However, the reservations agent wasn’t able to guarantee early arrival, and went on to explain a really strange policy surrounding photographs in public spaces. After a few more emails with The Director of Communications and Public Relations, all was in order, including guaranteed noon check-in.
We arrived at the hotel shortly after 1:30pm after taking a few loops around the block (although we both live in metro Vancouver, we relied on Google Maps to direct us to the entrance, as we weren’t actually sure where the driveway was). Built in the 1970’s, the hotel is located directly above the Pacific Centre shopping mall and not much to look at from the outside, with very boring architecture resembling an old office tower.
The entrance is via the driveway off Howe street.
The arrival process was slightly chaotic. We arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon and it seemed the staff were very busy dealing with some guests checking out. The driveway was packed with cars and it took a few minutes for the valet to approach us. When he did, however, the service was prompt and very friendly. We were travelling with our dogs and the valet was quick to offer treats and suggestions for a short walk to stretch our legs. Valet parking at the hotel is $49 per night, including in/out privileges, which is expensive, but competitive for downtown parking rates.
Right inside the driveway is a lobby area, although reception and check-in is up a set of escalators on the second floor. The lobby area was tastefully decorated, although the building is certainly showing its age.
Up a set of escalators is the concierge desk and check-in area. The second floor lobby is also home to YEW seafood + bar, the in-house dining option. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the second floor as I was trying to be respectful of the hotels request to avoid taking photos with other guests present. The agent that assisted with check-in was very friendly and efficient. He apologized that the room wasn’t quite ready, but insisted it would be less than 15 minutes and offered to call me as soon as the servicing team was done. He went over all of the Fine Hotel and Resorts benefits and proactively asked if we needed late check-out. Also during this time the front desk manager came over and introduced himself and welcomed us to the property.
In less than 5 minutes we were given our keys to room 2718, a Deluxe City-View Room on the 27th floor (the property has 28 floors).
The hallways were beautiful, and spotlessly clean. In fact, the entire hotel was spotless. The housekeeping and maintenance team definitely do a wonderful job at keeping this aging hotel in great shape.
Our room was located at the far end of the hallway, and I was happy to see we received an upgraded corner room.
My first impression of the room was that it was spotlessly clean, and well laid out. I have a bad habit of looking in obscure places for dust, such as the tops of headboards, lamps, baseboards, etc and I’m happy to report I couldn’t find a trace of dust in this room. The entrance featured a small hallway with the minibar at the end.
There was a lovely card from Kate Colley, Director of Public Relations and Communications, as well as a welcome amenity consisting of some cheese and chocolates.
I thought it was interesting the hotel had bottles of Evian for purchase, despite unlimited bottled water available at no charge through (although I guess it wasn’t Evian). I thought the packaging on the Evian bottles was funny, and at $8 dollars each, somewhat overpriced.
Below the welcome amenity was the usual hotel minibar supplies. It should be noted that the minibar fridge is actually empty (something I much prefer to store my own purchases) but can be stocked on request.
To the right of the minibar area was the main room, which was well laid out with two double beds (not queens) and a large sitting area with pull-out couch and coffee table. The television was located in the corner on top of an entertainment unit with Blu-ray player. There were large floor to ceiling windows which offered sweeping views of the Vancouver skyline, including the Vancouver Public Library, BC Place, and a sliver of the harbour. I really liked the room layout, and never felt cramped, which often isn’t the case with two beds in a room.
The beds were insanely comfortable, and featured very high quality linens and pillows. The double beds were definitely doubles, and felt a bit small, which could mean an intimate night for two adults sharing one bed. Although a bit dated, finishes were luxurious and furniture was high-quality (I especially liked the headboards and lamp). The room was definitely lacking the ‘wow factor’ of say, The Fairmont Pacific Rim, but was more understated, which some people will appreciate. For the airline geeks, I would say The Four Seasons Vancouver is Lufthansa first class, while The Fairmont Pacific Rim is Emirates.
The two beds were separated by a table, which featured an alarm clock with iPod dock and a very beautiful lamp.
The sitting area was very large and featured a comfortable pull-out couch and coffee table.
The views from the room were nice, with sweeping city landscape featuring the Vancouver Public Library and BC Place Stadium. To the far left you could see a piece of Coal Harbour. The windows featured very effective blackout curtains, although not electronically controlled like most luxury hotels.
As mentioned earlier, we were travelling with our dogs, who were well accommodated. The Four Seasons Vancouver is a pet friendly hotel, and they provide all of the amenities such as bowls, beds, poo bags, treats etc. They also provide a ‘pet-menu’ with various room service items from feeding trays to food and leashes. Unlike most hotels, this property doesn’t impose any pet fees to bring your animal (usually $25-$50 per night at other hotels), which is something I really appreciate. Pet owners should be aware that this hotel is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver with very few green areas in the immediate vicinity. The pet information pamphlet suggested the grass area at the Vancouver Art Gallery (directly across the street) for bathroom walks, however, the area is under construction and closed to the public.
The only letdown of the room was the bathroom. I generally put a lot of stock in the bathroom, and is one of my top considerations in choosing a hotel. I love a good spa-like bathtub, luxurious steam shower, and high-end amenities. Unfortunately, this bathroom was functional, and that’s about it. This hotel was built 40 years ago, and this bathroom is a constant reminder of the aging building. The bathroom features a combination tub/shower (not especially deep) with the toilet directly beside it. There is also a large marble vanity, but only one sink. This room came with L’Occitane amenities, which were nice enough, and certainly high-end, though not my favourite.
For dining, guests have the choice between in-room dining or YEW seafood + bar on the second floor.
We decided to get in-room dining for dinner and breakfast and were really impressed with both the service and quality of food. Generally I find hotel food a little ‘meh’, but the food we sampled was delicious! One of our orders wasn’t correct on arrival, but was quickly replaced along with some chocolate covered strawberries delivered personally by the assistant food and beverage manager.
Pool and Spa
The Four Seasons hotel features a small spa offering massages and hair services and the concierge was quick to recommend other full-service options near the hotel. Located on the fourth floor, the pool area was fantastic and featured a large indoor/outdoor pool, comfortable jacuzzi, impressive gym, ample seating, and change rooms with sauna. There was also a staffed bar with complimentary fruit infused water, plenty of pool towels, and even headphones for those working out. The pool area is open between 5:30am and 10:00pm.
There was also a range of cardio machines along the perimeter of the facility extending out into the pool area, however, a few guests were using the machines so I didn’t get an opportunity to take a photo. Overall it was one of the nicest hotel gyms I’ve seen, and would certainly meet the needs of any fitness enthusiast.
Is the hotel dated? Yes. Are there newer, more contemporary offerings in Vancouver? Sure. Would I stay at this property again? Absolutely. The Four Seasons has a loyal following, and for good reason: the service. They are, simply put, in a different league than most other luxury hotels, and their service is what sets them apart. It’s hard to define what exactly makes the service so special, but they’ve mastered the art. Furthermore, the hotel is in a fantastic location for nightlife, shopping and dining, the rooms and common areas are spotlessly clean and well maintained, and the dining and amenities are truly world class. Participating in The American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program allows for an even better experience with a food and beverage credit, daily breakfast for two, and guaranteed late check-out. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Four Seasons Vancouver for those seeking a bespoke luxury hotel experience.