I've been fortunate to have visited San Francisco 5 times, including having stayed in hotels in the SoMa (South of Market), Embarcadero, Financial District and Nob Hill. My recent stay (April 13-16, 2012) was my 2nd time at the Fairmont.
Bar none, my favourite neighbourhood has been Nob Hill. It's a haven close enough to walk to the buzz of Union Square, Chinatown and North Beach, while feeling you're going home at the end of the night.
My first stay was 2 years ago (a last minute internet deal). The hotel was not fully booked, so (with some pleading smiles) I was generously upgraded to a room in the North Tower overlooking the rooftop garden. The room was spacious, well appointed and felt luxurious without coming across as austere or ostentatious. It was a pleasure to retreat there every evening and to wake up to a view of the city.
Fast forward to April 2012. I was doubly fortunate to book another internet deal to the Fairmont, arriving after a rainstorm had just vacated. Doubly fortunate....or so I thought...
Upon check-in, I found the front desk aloof although not rude. I did request a complimentary upgrade if there was availability (again, with a smile). I was promptly told that, no, the North Tower was entirely booked. No reviewing of the computer to see if there would be any checkouts during my 3 night stay.
I requested a room on a higher floor, and was offered a $30/night upgrade to a Bay view room with a king bed. Because of the fond memory of my previous stay at the Fairmont, I decided to splurge. "It's a very good deal, considering the price you paid on Expedia," I was told by another front desk agent.
I'd read reviews about Main Building rooms being in need of refreshing and noise being a factor. Based on my experience in the North Tower, I was a bit skeptical about the disparity of the rooms in the Main Building. I live in a city with 3 world-class Fairmont Hotels, so I wasn't overly concerned about room quality.
I couldn't have been more disappointed. The room had a fabulous view of Alcatraz, San Francisco Bay and the bridge. However, there was no king bed, 2 of the lampshades for the makeup desk were dented and frayed, the carpet smelled musty, the windows were filthy on the outside, there was a curtain pull missing from one of the blackout curtains (meaning it was a workout opening/closing the curtains), there was a cheap looking plastic soap dish, and the fixtures in the bathroom were tarnished. Then, a dull thudding sound of music continued for 2 hours. I spent that time on the computer doing some work, but eventually found it distracting.
I called front desk and asked for a room change. A personable fellow named Julian personally offered to walk me to a room in a similar category to see if it would suit my stay. That was a gesture that I appreciated. Unfortunately, the other room was overlooking the car port...although the quality of the room was an improvement. So, I decided to try a night in the original room.
Every single night, I could hear a guest in the next room coughing through the night. Then, housekeeping services would roll their carts up and down the hall. Then, boisterous guests yelled to each other up and down the hall. You could hear everything, like the walls were made of cardboard. The corridors were dark and the carpets/baseboards had seen better days.
I called front desk each day, asking if another quiet room was available. I was told, "Sorry," every single day. By the 2nd sleepless night, I was exhausted. I spoke with the front desk manager, who offered to reverse the upgrade charge for the 1st night. What about my 2nd sleepless night, I asked? Reluctantly, she agreed to reverse the charge for the 2nd night as well.
After the 3rd sleepless night, I was never so happy to be leaving a hotel after a vacation. I didn't even care to try to explain my frustration to anyone at front desk. I filled out a detailed comment card, but bit my tongue and checked out. Imagine my surprise when there were 2 charges for room upgrades on my bill. The agent checked their system and reversed the charges after seeing the manager's note about waiving the charge.
I was optimistic when the director of front office operations personally called to say she had gone through the room with an engineer to review the broken items in my room and was investigating the noise issue. Verbally, she offered to help get me into a North Tower room on my next visit, implying that booking directly with the Fairmont would likely increase the odds. Great. I asked for an e-mail so that I could save her contact information. The e-mail she sent was different from our conversation. She thanked me for sharing my comments and suggested that I book a North Tower room directly through the hotel the next time I come to San Francisco. I politely replied that if I hadn't had such a great experience in the North Tower and based future bookings on the Main Building, I would seriously reconsider. For the price that the Fairmont charges in the Main Building, based on my experience, you can find comparable rooms elsewhere (perhaps not Nob Hill).
The rest of the hotel is outstanding. The main atrium is grand. The hotel has a presence on the Hill. It has history. There is a decent business centre with 2 computers and printers. I walked by the gym, which was small but not busy. Even though there were several elevators away from front desk, as a solo female traveller, it felt safe. The cablecar takes you from Powell Station right to the hotel, so it's easy to get to and from the airport. The neighbourhood is safe, too.
Housekeeping did a good job of making a welcoming bed every night (although I found 2 hairs on my comforter the 1st night) and replenishing towels/toiletries.
Sign up for the loyalty program and you will receive free WiFi, daily newspaper, free local calling, and the option to pre-book workout gear from Adidas for a nominal $10.
If you enjoy exploring on foot, look up a Nob Hill walking tour. I did that a few years ago.
There are restaurants everywhere. What I remember are a casual coffee spot called Contraband Cafe on Larkin near California. It's a local spot with free WiFi and a casual vibe. There is also a little Italian restaurant on Taylor, just north of Sacramento. Both are walkable.
The next time I visit beautiful San Francisco, I will keep an eye out for deals at the Fairmont. However, if the only room selection I have based on affordability is the Main Building, I'd think twice. The neighbourhood and quality of the common areas in the hotel are this hotel's hallmark. The Main Building rooms seem to be neglected and tired in favour of the more luxurious and expensive North Tower rooms, which is a disappointment. The quality of your stay really shouldn't vary that much within the same hotel.
- Also Known As:
- The Fairmont San Francisco Hotel
- The Fairmont San Francisco Hotel San Francisco
- Fairmont San Francisco
- Fairmont Hotel San Francisco
- San Francisco Fairmont
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- World-renowned, The Fairmont San Francisco hotel presents an awe-inspiring picture of historic San Francisco. The grandeur of the hotel coupled with its reputation for impeccable service promises a truly memorable experience. Known for turning moments into memories for leisure and business travelers alike this luxury San Francisco hotel has been host to some of the most influential meetings and events, breathtaking weddings and personalized special occasions of the century. Each of the San Francisco hotel's spacious guestrooms and suites have been elegantly updated including flat screen TVs, Frette linen ensembles, pillow top beds, and MP3 docking stations.In addition to its 591 guest rooms and suites this luxury San Francisco hotel offers fine dining with three renowned restaurants and lounges, as well as 55,000 square feet of spectacular function space. With a panoramic view of the City and the Bay from high atop Nob Hill, The Fairmont San Francisco hotel presents an unmatched blend of luxurious accommodations, elegant meeting spaces and superb services, which make for an unforgettable stay. ... more less
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