The Pink Monster on the Green, the Fairmont Southampton Princess Hotel
Written: Sep 10, 2001 (Updated Jun 22, 2002)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Beautiful grounds, good service, excellent dining in the Newport Room
Cons:Huge, by Bermuda standards, slightly impersonal and busy, ugly building
The Bottom Line: Architecturally uninspiring, this place compensates with excellent dining and stellar service. Outstanding recreational facilities.
The Fairmont Southampton Princess is a very good hotel in a very ugly building. Ugly duckling though it is, it swans its way into your heart with very attentive service.
A short ride from the center of Hamilton, not far from Horseshoe Bay, the Fairmont Southampton Princess sits on a rise, imperially commanding the greensward around her (actually, this is the highest point on the island). She is now an aging queen, and a bit of an ugly duckling. Her architecture is not the best, and if you look closely, the age spots are showing beneath the rouge. Rouge indeed! The place is entirely, almost virulently pink! But then, what important building in Bermuda isn't pink these days?
One is never allowed to forget that this is indeed a very large hotel by traditional Bermuda standards. With 593 rooms (including 40 suites), the place is much larger than most hotels here, and does not fit into the cottage colony mold.
Once inside, the lobby unfolds before you in a never ending procession of halls and public rooms, all rather large and imposing, in a 1970's kind of way. A total refurbishment was underway when we visited last year. Pains were being taken to lighten its ponderous look with softer colors, less dark wood paneling, and a generally more open feel.
Registration was handled effortlessly by the pleasant young lady at the desk. Unfortunately, our room would not be ready for some time. We elected to have lunch in the meantime.
Rooms and Suites
Though we did not get the suite we had hoped for, we were upgraded to the Entree Gold, or club floor. The rooms on this floor are the same size as the rest (rather large at 450 square feet), but the amenities are nicer. More about the private lounge in a moment.
The room was fairly conventional, with a king bed all decked out in a batik-like local fabric. The draperies matched, so everything had that almost closed-in feeling of so many English hotels. Still, the look was fresh and attractive. The nicest feature of the room was the large balcony overlooking the spacious manicured grounds, the golf course and the azure sea beyond.
As beds go, this one was quite comfortable, and fitted out with triple sheeting. Plenty of pillows to go around too. The rest of the room was conventional, but comfortable as well. The desk was well lit and had the requisite dataports and so on. The closet in the dressing area was huge, and had mirrored doors. I liked the umbrella hanging there...big and green, and perfect for the afternoon showers for which Bermuda is famous.
Nothing too special here, but well equipped. Acres of brownish beige marble and twin basins...The towels were very plush, and there were lots of them. The housekeepers changed them twice daily too. bathrobes? of course. Very thick and stealable too! I didn't steal them, though. There was a note attached, reminding me that I would be billed $85.00 if one of them made its way into my suitcase.
Soap? Shampoo? Yes, and very good ones too. These did find their way into my luggage. Petty theft sometimes pays.
Entree Gold Lounge
The sixth floor is the club floor, called Entree Gold from its days as a Canadian Pacific Hotel before that company merged with Fairmont. The lounge is attended by enthusiastic staff members who will care for you in every way. The concierge staff up here really know their jobs well, unlike many a concierge level staff I have seen. Fortunately, they know the local dining scene well, and are good for more than a nod in the direction of the hotel's dining rooms.
A very large buffet is set up each morning. it does not pay to be a late riser here, as the buffet is well picked through by 9:00 or so. In the afternoons, a creditable tea service is set out, followed immediately by the copious buffet of hors d' oeuvres. Drinks are complimentary, and quite strong.
There are six restaurants here, most of them good. My favorite is the Newport Room, long a tradition among locals for formal dining. Named for the Newport to Bermuda yacht race, its theme is appropriately nautical. Vast and dark, the room has few, if any windows. This is more than compensated for by the rich teak paneling and the outstanding service. Service is what this restaurant is about. The menu is still a bit stodgy, in spite of some recent tinkering. the best things to have are the roasts, carved right at your table by an ancient waiter. The vegetables are brought round on a silver salver. Fortunately, they know how to make Yorkshire pudding correctly. Theirs is both chewy and flavorful, without becoming dry or reduced to mush. A good balance. The wine list is daunting....take a few minutes to get used to it, or simply ask the sommelier to choose something for you. They know their business here. Your dinner may not prove to be the height of culinary innovation, but rest assured that it will be good.
The service is formal. but far from stuffy. They have mastered a delicate balance here, and it shows from beginning to end.
Their next most important dining venue, the Waterlot Inn, was closed for renovation while we were there. This historic house is perched near their dock, and is said to have an excellent kitchen (or as good as they get in Bermuda, never known as a hotbed of culinary wonders). I would imagine their service to be comparable to that found in the Newport Room.
We did venture down to the Whaler Inn, on the beachfront near the former dolphin enclosure. A rather awkward building with a funny pitched roof, it is nonetheless another polished dining room. In season, reservations are essential. As with the other two, lunch is rarely served here, dinner being their stock-in-trade.
Comfortable, even luxurious, in an tropical way, the Whaler Inn offers a menu of mostly fish. That it is fresh as can be and caught daily is an added bonus. Prices are not reasonable, but then, one would not expect them to be.
We were surprised to find that a young men's chorus had taken up residence in the hotel during our visit.Where were they in the evenings? At the Whaler Inn, belting out show tunes and other trifles. About twenty fresh-faced kids from Dartmouth, they were, and enjoying every minute of it too. I wish I could say the same for their glee-club singing...
For breakfast, one is generally pushed in the direction of Windows on the Sound, a large, rather dated looking room in the main building. Dated, but attractive too. The large windows offer a view of the grounds and the water that makes you forget the ordinary buffet. I was taken with the endless carafes of coffee, myself.
For less formal dining, the lower level has Wickets, a more casual dining room by the pool. If you must go here, try to sit outside by the pool. There were a few problems with service here, perhaps brought about by the young waitstaff being relatively new at their jobs. Lunch took about two hours on the day we arrived. We avoided it thereafter. The menu is also casual, but expensive too. There are better club sandwiches to be had elsewhere on the island.
Finally, for rock-bottom, wear your bathing suit casualness, there is the Beach Cabana across the road by the tennis courts and the rocky beach. Though there is a full menu of mostly fried things, we chose to drink Dark and Stormy cocktails all afternoon while clambering over the rocks on the beach.
The nightclub, 7 Up, was closed for renovation while we were there. Probably a good thing too, with a stupid name like that! We were directed to the bar adjacent to the Windows on the Sound. Drinks are as stiff as the prices, but you knew that already...
Pools and Recreation
The large outdoor pool is heated, though I only went in once. There is also an indoor heated pool. A fitness club offers all sorts of torture equipment, if you are so inclined.
Tennis anyone? The resort offers eleven professional tennis courts at the Tennis Club.
Eighteen holes of golf are visible all around you. Prices are high, but the course is impeccably maintained.
The hotel is quite good about shuttling passengers down to the beach, though you may have a wait if you want a ride beck to the main hotel.
A motor launch will take you to their sister property in Hamilton, the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, an older faded pink beauty in the middle of the old port town. While the dining rooms there are not bad, there are many good restaurants in Hamilton. Excellent, if expensive shopping is found at Smith's, Trimingham's and other traditional shops.
The dolphins used to be kept down at the beach. Some time in the winter of 2000, they were removed to a location near the Dockyards, but the hotel still offers DolphinQuest packages. We were there on one of these packages, as my girlfriend has a great affinity for these creatures.
It's quite a production. You are delivered to the DolphinQuest enclosure and are instructed to change into a wet-suit. Having done this, and feeling quite foolish, you watch others as they cavort in the rocky pool with these gentle beasts. Soon, it is your turn. Stepping gingerly into the frigid water at first, you soon learn to play with the dolphins. They feel strange at first, almost like velvet, sandpaper and soap....They will even let you feed them, but the best part is simply swimming with them. The whole thing lasts about 40 minutes, and you will likely emerge begging for more.
This is a place with a very large staff, and most of them are well trained and serious about your comfort. A few of them seemed like lost children, pining for their homes in County Clare, but they were an energetic lot. You will find the service here as good as any large hotel in Bermuda, perhaps better.
This is not an inexpensive place, unless you happen to be visiting for a conference. Even then, you might not find the rates to your liking. Standard rates start at about $200.00 USD in the off season and escalate skyward in the winter. Rack rates for the rooms on the Entree Gold floor are in excess of $400.00 USD. Do not be shy about asking for a discount here, especially during the shoulder seasons (February-April and September-November).
Fairmont Southampton Princess Hotel
101 Southshore Road
Hamilton, 5 BERMUDA
Toll free 800-441-1414- Fairmont Hotels (USA)
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