Hotel Review: Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

Posted by Brette in Travel
Fairmont Southampton

Fairmont Southampton

I’m a little stunned to return from our stay at the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda and discover there is no daily free breakfast, afternoon tea, appetizer, and dessert being Bermuda  6-7-2014 7-36-43 AMset out for me at home. There’s no private concierge down the hall. No heated outdoor pool and restaurant on the water just down the hill. No one is turning down my bed for

Lobby

Lobby

me. Just a few days of special treatment on the Gold private concierge floor and I’m completely spoiled.

Choosing the Fairmont

We went to Bermuda for our 25th anniversary. We debated several hotels, but ultimately chose the Fairmont Southampton because of its location and amenities and it’s ability to cater to our dietary needs. The hotel is situated on a hill between the ocean and the harbor on a fairly narrow strip of land. You can see the gorgeous pink building from far out on the water.  The hotel was built in the 70s, but the lobby has an old world English feel to it with lots of dark wood, Oriental rugs, huge staircases, and a sense of history. The interior is extremely spacious with lots of nooks and crannies for sitting. There is a variety of shops on two different levels (and these were very well-stocked shops, with clothing, jewelry, and high quality gifts and art).

Hospitality area

Hospitality area

Gold Concierge Floor

Since our airfare was free using Jetblue points, we splurged on our hotel room. June is a busy season in Bermuda (lots and lots of weddings, including a very large Indian wedding the first night we were there and several brides spotted throughout our stay) so the only room available at the Fairmont Southampton was on the Gold floor.  The Gold floor offers a private concierge on the floor and some wonderful amenities.  Bottled water was replenished in our room daily and we had twice daily maid service.

Also included wasBermuda  6-7-2014 1-40-49 PM an amazing hospitality center. There was a stocked bar that is self-serve. Non-alcoholic drinks were free. Alcohol was on the honor system, with little receipts to fill out if you helped yourself. Snacks were available all day (nuts and dried fruit).  A free continental breakfast was also provided free. This included beverages, pastries and two hot items (we did not

Walk-in closet

Walk-in closet

partake and instead chose to splurge on the full buffet breakfast downstairs).  The hospitality center offered afternoon tea with sandwiches and pastries and sweets each afternoon. Then an Bermuda  6-7-2014 1-41-21 PMearly evening appetizer selection was offered with one plated hors d’oeuvre and cheeses, fruits, vegetables, dip, and chips. And just because you would want to really get your money’s worth, dessert was provided mid-evening as well.

Both my husband and myself are gluten intolerant and

one of the reasons we chose the Fairmont was because they have a lifestyle cuisine program, ensuring that guests with any type of diet can be catered to. We explained our dietary needs when making the reservation. When we checked in, the concierge noted it and said that at every food service in the hospitality center, there would be gluten free offerings for us (at no charge). And indeed there were. We had a bit of  a rocky start the first day and waited half an hour for the gluten-free selections to come up from the

Windows breakfast buffet

Windows breakfast buffet

main kitchen, but after that the staff knew us and always had gluten-free selections kept just for us in their little behind the scenes kitchen. It was quite impressive  – they even had gluten-free scones.

The Room

Our room was beautiful and comfortable, with a king-size bed, sitting area, desk, bar, flat screen tv, double sinks, walk in closet, and an amazing balcony with a table and chairs that allowed us to soak up the view

Our balcony

Our balcony

from the 6th floor. Truly stunning and luxurious. The shower and toilet area felt a little dated and cramped. They could definitely do with some renovations there. Something other than a small standard hotel tub with shower curtain would be welcome. A walk-in shower with glass doors (or at least something that was not cramped and dark) would really complete the picture of luxury. We explored all of the hotel during our stay (and there is a lot to see!).  Although the hotel is not directly on the water (no crashing waves outside your window), it does have a lovely ocean view (or a harbor view from the other side). There are also a few rooms that have a mostly land view that includes the lighthouse.

Location Is Everything

Because of its location, you can go to the beach or the harbor by hopping on a hotel-run shuttle. I was a bit leery about having to ride a shuttle to the beach. It’s not far at all (maybe a 4 minute ride at most) but the hill is very steep and the road has switchbacks, so walking would be arduous and dangerous. We never waited more than 5 minutes for a shuttle. The shuttles are comfortable and air conditioned. Actually, I found I rather liked the door-to-door service of a shuttle – none of this hauling your beach bag down stairs and paths to get to the beach. The shuttle takes you directly there.

The Beach

The

Spa pool

Spa pool

private beach has many lounge chairs, even some with built-in canopies. There is a beach bar/snack bar (where apparently straws are not available – this made my traditional virgin strawberry daiquiri a little hard to consume) and a restaurant (the Ocean Club) at the beach. Towels are given out in stacks – no negotiating to get just one more as I’ve experienced at other resorts. You are given at least two per person and no one is scrutinizing how many you have and how many you return. The private beach was somewhat well-maintained. There were the usual issues with people claiming chairs for the day by leaving a single towel and no one seemed able to pick up their own garbage. The chairs tended to be lined up in rows at least three or four chairs deep, which meant you couldn’t be right by the water or away from the crowds. The brilliant part about this beach though is that if you don’t want to line up on the sand like sardines in a can, there is a path to Horseshoe Bay, which is the public beach next door. It is at least 1/4 mile crescent of perfect sand with lots of space. And if you keep walking, you’ll discover one hidden

Shuttle bus

Shuttle bus

cove after another – small private beaches that are yours for the taking. We enjoyed walking to the public beach and exploring the secret beaches with the dramatic scenery. Tennis courts are also located next to the beach and there was always a court available.

The Harbor

Take the shuttle in the opposite direction from the hotel and you come down to the harbor. Here there is the hotel’s most formal restaurant, The Waterlot (a steakhouse, which had excellent, over-the-top attentive service and amazing food), an outdoor waterfront bar, and a free ferry. Several times a day the ferry that is just for hotel guests shuttles across the harbor (it’s worth it for the views alone and it’s only about a 30 minute ride) to the sister property, the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. This hotel is located on the edge of  the main city of Hamilton and it’s a short walk to shops and restaurants and the city’s main harbor. Hotel guests can use the restaurants and facilities at either property.

We took the shuttle down to the harbor one evening for dinner and I was pleased to see they had a security guard at the shuttle stop, which was a bit dark and isolated.  The guard also assists guests in crossing the road to the ferry stop or restaurant.

The Pool

If you’d like to spend some time by the pool, there is a very large outdoor heated pool just off the lobby. The pool deck was spacious and comfortable and in addition to the usual loungers, they had some cute wicker cabana chairs that were almost like a little bed. This pool closes at 6:30 each evening but guests are then welcome to use the spa pool. One night the pool closed at 5 (it needed to be cleaned we were told) so they opened the spa pool earlier and we went and enjoyed it completely alone. A few afternoons later they closed half of the outdoor pool because there was a meeting on the balcony above it. This left only the shallow end of the pool and it was filled with splashing kids. We went to the spa and explained the situation and they let us in there early again. The spa pool is indoors but has lots of windows and a waterfall. It was virtually empty each time we visited. Two outdoor hot tubs were also available here. It was tranquil and lovely.

Service

Overall we were very pleased with the service at the hotel. Of particular note is the front door staff who go out of their way to be friendly, engaging, and convivial. They were hands down the best I have ever encountered. The

Fairmont Hamilton Princess, sister property

Fairmont Hamilton Princess, sister property

doormen always spoke to us and commented on where we were going and asked how our outing was when we returned. The baggage service was also excellent – prompt and friendly. There were always taxis waiting. The food service staff at the hospitality center went out of their way to be accommodating and thoughtful to us. The wait staff at the hotel restaurants were excellent. We dined at the Ocean Club (where there were some wonderful fish selections and lovely outdoor dining overlooking the beach) and at the Waterlot, as well as having the breakfast buffet at Windows each morning (the buffet was excellent with a large selection and attentive service). Everyone understood our needs as gluten-free diners and were very helpful to us. The Waterlot even offered us a special dessert and had the staff sign a card for us when they discovered it was our anniversary. No tipping

Private beach

Private beach

is required with the hotel staff (and gratuities are automatically included on restaurant bills). The bellman who brought our bags walked away when he saw my husband reach into his pocket. Doormen did not expect a tip.

Problems

The criticisms I have are minuscule. When we made our reservations, the hotel suggested we pay for a private shuttle to bring us to the hotel. They said it was less expensive than a taxi (and it was). We were led to believe it was run by the hotel and they told us someone would greet us with a sign with our name on it. We emerged from the airport to see lots of signs, but none with our name. We waited. Nothing. We then called the hotel and were put on hold. Eventually we asked a gentleman at a car service stand and apparently our reservation was with them. Some better instructions would have saved us about half an hour of confusion.

The hotel brought us a fruit bowl for our anniversary. It contained two strawberries, two oranges, and an apple. I opened it to discover the strawberries were rotten and molding. As previously mentioned, we had some trouble getting the gluten-free tea the first day, but things ran smoothly there after that. One morning when we went to the buffet breakfast, when we gave our room number, the hostess became a bit snide and said “Oh, the 600 floor [the gold floor]. Nice of you to come down and eat with the little people.” We didn’t appreciate that at all (we are the little people splurging on a special occasion!). For the most part we found the private concierge staff to be accommodating, however there were one or two women who were always very busy and slightly unfriendly. One morning someone else’s bill was slipped under our door by mistake. When we checked in, we were asked which newspaper summary we would like left at our door each morning. We received it only one day. The walls were a bit thin on our room and the first night we listened to the man next door throwing up and the next night listened to his diatribe on immigration.

The problems were tiny though, and overall, this was one of the most wonderful stays we have had anywhere. I felt pampered and well-cared for at this hotel and we were comfortable and relaxed nearly the entire time. The only thing I would wish for is being closer to the ocean so I could hear it from my room. Other

One of many neighboring secret beaches

One of many neighboring secret beaches

than that, it was a nearly perfect stay. I would stay here again and again!

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