It was an offer I couldn't refuse...but I almost did.
Here's the opportunity that landed on my desk: A night's stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in downtown Vancouver, to check out how they are keeping guests safe and comfy during Phase 3 of B.C.'s "Restart Plan" in the face of COVID-19.
I know, tough assignment, right? Swimming in the pool, dining at the hotel's lauded Raw Bar, checking out their summer pop-up courtyard patio, and sleeping in a cozy bed with a Coal Harbour view doesn't sound like a struggle.
But I had to step back and evaluate the risk: Do I feel safe spending over 24 hours outside my home? Dr. Bonnie Henry would probably tell me yes (in a relaxing chit-chat session over a glass of wine on a sunny patio, ideally). I'm in a more "high risk" category for COVID-19 complications, and I've been keeping it relatively close to home since mid-March, working full time from home while being a single parent to my seven-year-old son. A night "away" would be a welcome mini-break and change of scene...but also a risk. Then again, even a visit to the grocery store is a risk. In pre-pandemic times, I would not have hesitated to accept, but these days, the decision to travel, even within our own city, and to be indoors in public spaces, brings with it a slew of considerations that will vary from person to person.
What sealed the deal for me to give it a go was the hotel itself. With a global reputation on the line, and some helpful and detailed safety considerations clearly outlined by the property itself and its parent company, safety does seem paramount for the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
So I checked in, with my son in tow, and we checked it out.
We kicked off our one-night early-July weekend stay on the pop-up patio restaurant that's situated outside the hotel's front entrance and main driveway. They've centralized the point of sale and you pay your bill up front by purchasing food and drink tickets, which means servers have one less close interaction tableside with guests. Before you are seated, all guests in your party (of six or fewer) must have their temperature checked.
The food at the pop-up patio is upscale casual - a creamy lobster and shrimp roll overflowing from a pocket of buttery toasted bread, a multi-napkin cheeseburger, among the options. A basic selection of wine, beer, house cocktail, or non-alcoholic drinks is available; the house rosé is served in a little jam jar, super cute touch for the picnic vibe. As a fun bonus there is live music offered on the patio as well.
Additional dining options at the Pac Rim include the casual Giovane café, as well as the Lobby Lounge and Raw Bar. In the evening - and in particular on a weekend evening - the Lobby Lounge remains a popular draw. You'll need to have your temperature checked before you're shown to your table or seating area; the space has been reconfigured so that tables are distanced, and the masked staff do not come too close while serving. Groups are restricted to six people or fewer in the Lobby Lounge, and some things are a little different than usual - the sushi bar itself is closed, for example. However some things are on pace with "the before times" - there is still live music at The Lobby Lounge, Wednesdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 8 to 11 p.m. and the drinks are fantastic.
Food and drinks at the RawBar are impeccable (as always), with a selection of fresh and beautifully presented OceanWise sushi and craft cocktails. You will find a scan code at your table in place of a menu, which further reduces touch points and contact.
While the award-winning Botanist bar and restaurant are on the property, those venues remain closed at this time. One further option for dining on the property itself is to order in-room dining. We went this route for a leisurely Sunday breakfast, ordering via phone from the weekend brunch menu. The table is dropped off just over your threshold and then you can pilot it as you wish; you're asked to call out to get the table picked up.
Speaking of being in your room, the guest rooms are the most relaxing places at the Pac Rim, since you won't need to be as "on guard" in terms of physical distancing and interactions with others. Hotel staff are now less hands-on in terms of how often they access the guest rooms, for example, for longer stays, housekeeping service is by request only and not done automatically daily.
Guest rooms at the Fairmont Pacific Rim are kept vacant a full 48 hours after a guest departs, allowing for a thorough cleaning and airing out of the space. When you check in, rooms should be set up with helpful sundries like a "wellness" kit comprised of disposable gloves and mask, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. What's missing, though, is the in-room mini bar, which has been temporarily removed for safety; if you want to purchase a mini bar item you can call the front desk to arrange to have the item(s) brought to your room.
Otherwise, you can enjoy all the amenities of your room like the well-equipped bathrooms (hello, there's a TV in the bathroom mirror), and the comfy beds. One thing that's happening in the hotel industry are some pretty sweet deals, and the package we were checked in to check out was the Fairmont Pacific Rim's Canadian Residents offer, which includes 10% off your room rate, an upgrade to the next available room category, free self-parking, and - maybe the best of all - a 5 p.m. check out time. Seriously, when do you ever get to hold onto a hotel room until just ahead of dinnertime on check-out day?
Amenities at the Fairmont Pacific Rim that are on-site include the Willow Stream Spa, which is re-opening on July 31. The Fitness Centre is open, and the Taschen Library is available by appointment only. At this time, there is no BMX bike service and the Giovane Market is limiting its capacity in certain areas of the store space. Additionally, if you're arriving in your own car, there is no valet parking.
The pool is open, too, and thanks to a booking system and distancing protocols, it is one of the best parts about visiting the Fairmont Pacific Rim in warm weather. The water is heated, too, which was lovely since we took our dips on breezy days. Guests can book one slot per day, and your booking is made after you've checked in. Time slots are one hour and 45 minutes. At the pool, seating is distanced and there is a limit on how many people may use the pool and hot tub at once. You can also order food to be delivered to you while at the pool, and masked attendants are there to help with towels and anything you might need.
If you venture off-property, you're right in beautiful Coal Harbour, which means you are steps from the seawall for enjoying leisurely walks or bike rides, and you're down the road from Stanley Park. Over at Canada Place you can check out the recently re-opened FlyOver Canada if you are looking for some true "local tourist" attractions, and you can also head over to the North Shore to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and make use of their free shuttle, which departs from Canada Place. There are restaurants and cafés galore, too, within walking distance.
Overall, staying at the Fairmont Pacific Rim felt safe and comfortable. I was mindful at high-traffic points, like elevators and at the check-in desk, that we kept our distance and wore our masks; it seemed as perhaps about 30% of the non-staff on the property wore masks when indoors. We opted to defer riding in the elevators unless we could ride alone, which only left us waiting for a few extra seconds once or twice out of our many elevator rides. There's a temperature check upon check-in, and hand sanitizing stations throughout (as well as the mask, glove, and sanitizer for you to take from your room), and the staff are all extremely mindful to keep their distance and wear their masks properly. Additionally, the hotel is able to continue to provide the high level of customer service they are known for, so any request was met readily.
So what is it like to stay at a hotel in downtown Vancouver right now? It's a pretty wonderful break and a great way to "get away" without going far. But it does come with a side order of stress that will depend on your comfort level with public spaces, that can be mitigated by all the tools at your disposal to minimize contact and promote distancing. If you aren't the type to pack those worries along with your swim suit and pajamas, none of that need factor in. The Fairmont Pacific Rim goes a long way to make sure guests are safe and comfortable, so any worries were on me...but some laps in the pool, delectable fresh sushi, and Burrard Inlet views definitely helped me relax.
A few more photos from our stay:
For infomation on parent company Accor's COVID-19 safety guidelines, created in partnership with top experts, including Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspections and certification; Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security; and Ruth Petran, Ph.D., CFS, Senior Corporate Scientist, Food Safety and Public Health, Ecolab, please visit ALLStayWell.com. You'll find all the info about reservations, offers, and amenities on the Fairmont Pacific Rim website. The hotel is located at 1038 Canada Place in Vancouver.
Thanks to the Fairmont Pacific Rim for providing one night's stay and meals; all opinions and inclusions are those of the author’s and were not guided or influenced in any way, and the business was not granted any previews of the story prior to publication.