Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hotel Review: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

I have lived in Calgary my whole life and am a little embarrassed to say that neither I nor my family have ever stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel! That all changed however on Mother's Day weekend. Not only was this the first stay at this hotel for us but it was also my first booking made with American Express' Fine Hotels and Resorts program which comes as part of the benefits package from The Platinum Card from American Express. I booked the hotel via the Amex Platinum Travel Service and figured I might as well use the annual $200 travel credit that comes with the card towards the stay. The agent was very helpful and credited the $200 which showed up in my account the day after booking, well before we actually completed the stay!

Fine Hotels and Resorts offers select benefits on stays at their participating hotels including daily breakfast for 2, complimentary upgrade (if available), 12pm early check in (if available) and 4pm late check out (if available) and specifically for the Fairmont Banff Springs it includes dinner for 2.

As for the actual stay, I was kicking myself for not doing a little more research on the hotel prior to booking and arriving at the hotel. The agent booked us into a Stanley Thompson suite as there were four of us (Wife, 2 kids and myself) and that suite had two queens along with a room size that would be comfortable for all of us. This is where that lack of research came in, since it was our first stay at the hotel we wanted to be in the main building for nostalgia sake but for those of you who have stayed there you'll know that the Stanley Thompson rooms are in a separate building connected by a walkway (which during our stay was blocked off because of a wedding, meaning you had to go outside to get to the main building). Not only that but after we checked in* and got our room, 1102, it was on a ground floor and had no view, well the view was of a pathway and mainly the ventilation walls of another part of the building. Add to that all you could smell was cigarette smoke from the hotel workers smoking right outside the building next to our room and you would be able to tell we were not happy! Again research would have helped, the agent booked us a Stanley Thompson Suite not a Stanley Thompson Mountain View Suite as at least that would have got us onto the other side of the building. This was not how we had pictured our first stay at the Banff Springs nor how we wanted to celebrate Mother's Day! I called the front desk voicing our concern, nicely not all huff and puff mad, and asked if there were any other rooms available. We were told there was a Junior Suite with one king and a pull out sofa on the Fairmont Gold Floor available but she would need to talk to the Front of House manager to get us the room. She said he wouldn't be more than 5 minutes to get back to us. Almost 30 minutes later we had not heard back yet so a call to the front desk again yielded an answer that they are extremely busy but they would put me through to another front desk agent who said the Junior Suite was now gone! She said there was another Junior Suite available but only with 1 king but they could get us a cot to put in the room. We told her we'd take it despite there being 4 of us and that we'd come up front to get the keys. No longer than 3 or 4 minutes after that we got a call from Jason who is the Front of House manager. I explained everything to him and he profusely apologized, seeing that we booked via Fine Hotels and Resorts and wanted us to enjoy our experience and come back in the future he begun working on a plan for us. He said there was a Terrace Suite (also known as a Spa Suite) available.  Jason also explained that it is one of the largest rooms on the property and had the largest terrace of them all. We met him at the front desk to grab the keys so we could take a look as he didn't want us taking it if we didn't want the room. We got to the room and low and behold it had not been cleaned yet despite being told otherwise! Nonetheless we would take the room as it had a king and a cot just like the Junior Suite. He told us he would get it cleaned ASAP for us. In the mean time, Jason also found out that the Queen Room next to it was also open and offered that to us so that we actually had enough 'real' beds for our family of four rather than using the one king and cot. Jason also went above and beyond by allowing us to use the dinner for two benefit included with Fine Hotels and Resorts for in-room dining! (Normally it can only be used at some of their restaurants) From this point on (about 4:30pm) our stay was nothing but exceptional!

My wife had herself booked into the Willow Stream Spa at 4:45 so while she got ready for that, the kids and I decided to check out the pools and get some swimming in! The pool area is great with an indoor 32m long pool which the kids really enjoyed, a hot tub and an outdoor heated pool which I really enjoyed as its not like most hotel heated pools where the water is still just above freezing, it was almost as warm as the Banff Hot Springs! Great to enjoy when it snows and it did snow while we were in the outdoor pool!

Back to the room, the Spa or Terrace Suite as it is called was a really nice room, plus when you add in the extra queen room we couldn't have asked for much more! There was a separate entrance that accessed both rooms so we were able to use that and essentially have a 2 bedroom suite as we kept the door to the Suite and to the queen room open at all times. With the combination of rooms we had three bathrooms, one was a powder room for the suite,  the queen room bathroom which  is a little tight if you only had this room but it did have a large beautiful shower (no tub), the final one was the ensuite bath for the suite which had a separate shower, jetted tub, dual vanity and more all off of the bedroom which housed the king bed.

The living room featured a small sectional, another chair, a gas fireplace with a flat screen TV above it, it also had a small bar area with a fridge, coffee maker and some wine glasses for entertaining plus a desk for working at. Off of the living room and a few steps up was a small dining area with a table for four set in the 'name this thing' with a grand view of the mountains and the hotel.
Dining Area
Living Room

Finally the terrace for the room was amazing, it was huge, had a lounger and a couple of chairs. Unfortunately for us as you may have surmized from above, the weather wasn't very cooperative so we couldn't enjoy the terrace to its fullest.
View from the Terrace
View of our terrace and dining area from the Hotel grounds
View of the Hotel from the Terrace
View of the hotel from the Terrace

In the evening we explored the hotel (it is a great hotel for exploring!) to see its history and seeing that our oldest daughter is ghost hunting buff she wanted to see the supposed haunted/mysterious sections of the hotel such as the missing room 873!  As legend has it a man murdered his family in there and afterwards no matter what staff did they could not stop some sort of child's writing happening on the bathroom mirror so they blocked off the room. Here are some photos taken from our exploring adventure:

We dined in the room that night since Jason said he would honour the dining benefit and for breakfast we did not do the very famous Mother's Day Brunch at the Banff Springs as we didn't want to wrangle with 2,000 other people celebrating moms. We decided to eat at the Bow Valley Grill (this is the set restaurant for the daily breakfast benefit) and could not have made a better choice. The restaurant wasn't very busy and the breakfast buffet was excellent with more food choices than you can think of!
Our in-room dining experience!

Mother's Day saw further enjoyment of the pool area, more hotel exploring and we were out of there before our 4pm check out that we were granted. When the final bill came in I was surprised to see the entire in-room dining was taken off (the benefit is for two not four dining) and breakfast was also covered for all four of us.

Despite a rough start our stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs was really enjoyable! Jason the Front of House manager went above and beyond for us and he will be happy as we will return sometime soon! The Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits were great despite not getting the early check in but the fact all of our food (around $350) was credited more than makes up for that! I have to remind myself to practice what I preach, do your research first before you book! Had I done that the first couple of hours at the hotel would not have been wasted but then again we probably would not have ended up with the amazing Terrace Suite! This stay also provided me with the 1st of the 5 required nights to achieve Fairmont Platinum status that comes with the Platinum Card (normally Fairmont Platinum requires 10 stays or 30 nights)

Next up on the local scene will be using Amex's FHR for the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise!

(* - We called the night before and were told it would that our 12pm early check in benefit would be available however when we arrived at 1pm that wasn't the case and the room wasn't ready until sometime after 2pm)

Hotel Details:
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel


  1. King Chung HuangMay 21, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    How does the rate via Amex Platinum Travel Service compare to the Alberta Resident's Rate? As a Calgary resident also, I've always wondered if it's a better deal to get the FH&R benefits or book using the resident's rate at the Fairmont Banff Springs.

  2. Is there a way to look up Fine Hotels and Resorts rates on line? I hate calling Amex up and ask them to quote me a bunch of rates while I am still in the planning stage.

  3. The Alberta residents rate is definitely cheaper (approx 30% less as Amex seems to book at the Best Available rate) however you don't get all the benefits, so you have to way those versus the savings. The amount we saved based on the F&B and our $200 travel credit made it worthwhile to book via FH&R

  4. Not that I am aware of! For this stay I know that the FH&R rate was the same as Fairmont's Best Available rate