In early 2008 the 53 unit Fairmont Ghirardelli Hotel opened as a hot fractional ownership luxury residence in SF. Post Lehman, Fairmont needed to change course a bit, so they began to start renting out rooms hotel style. Turns out Fairmont Ghirardelli is building itself a reputation as an under the radar luxury hotel alternative in the Fisherman's Wharf area, which is definitely lacking in luxury options.
Unit 204 was gorgeous. Exposed brick, Wolf and Sub Zero appliances and quality fixtures. This is the benefit of spending the night in a place intended for residency. Check out the video tour one more time:
This place felt really spacious, probably close to 1,000 square feet, and most importantly you had everything you needed in the unit -- fridge, kitchen with cutlery, large bathroom off bedroom, Bosch washer/dryer, and an absolutely great balcony for sitting, relaxing and people watching.
WiFi is free. No pop up hijinx either, just free, easy, four bar connectivity.
The units are equipped with a full blown in wall entertainment center. Stereo, you can plug your iPod in if you have the right cord, DVD player, and DirecTV. The big tease? It looks like you have DirecTivo, but when you hit the button to record a show a message pops up saying service not available. This also applies to pay per view movies, which we found no way to actually access.
Unit 214 overlooked Ghirardelli Square, literally, and off in the distance you could glimpse the bay as well as Alcatraz.
There is not an in-house restaurant, but who needs one when Ana Mandara (some of the best Vietnamese food in The City), McCormock and Kuleto's Seafood, and Lori's Diner are all not only right next door, but also available for room service. However, be forewarned we could not get Ana Mandara to deliver to our room because the kitchen was closed for a special event and while McCormick and Kuleto's did deliver it took over an hour and when the food did arrive it differed slightly from what we ordered. How so? The sea bass was described on the menu as coming with a lemon sauce, but arrived with beat sauce instead. Still plenty tasty, just not what was ordered.
Here is where the Fairmont Ghirardelli really shines. There is a pool table, a sitting room with a flat screen television, and two completely separate outdoor areas, both with attractive fire pits. There are enough common areas that you can find yourself an area all to yourself, or easily mingle with other guests if you are feeling social.
Smack dab in the middle of Ghirardelli Square. We use to live in San Francisco, and we don't remember Ghirardelli Square being this nice. The square offers enough restaurants and shopping within a walking radius that you may not need to leave the area. However, if you do need to leave the Fairmont provides a car service that will take you and pick you up within a 2 mile radius, in a Maserati, even on New Year's Eve, when folks in the city have been known to wait for over two hours to snag a post midnight cab.
$43.86 per night. Now, that rate is actually on par with other less luxurious hotels nearby, however, it took the valet over a half hour to retrieve our car at night. Furthermore, we called down at 7:30 asking that our car be in front at 5:30 AM since we needed to get to the airport at the crack of dawn and when we begrudgingly got out of bed and made it down to the lobby at 5:30 there was no car to be found -- the car arrived 5+ minutes later and the staff needed another prompting to actually get the car. 7 minutes may seem like nit picking, but just imagine if you were a fractional owner who dropped $250,000 and you almost miss your flight because of an absent minded valet group -- not good.
Ok we have talked about a couple of the service slip ups, however, the good service far outweighs the bad, and the most important point to drive home is these folks actually care. Every service person approaches you with a smile, and some, like Lawrence at the front desk go the extra mile. While we were playing pool Lawrence must have noticed we were running low on champagne, so he hooked us up with a bottle that wasn't used during the hotels early evening happy hour.
Other perks? Twice a day room cleaning service and the turn down lady will let you take all the Ghirardelli chocolates you can eat!
$440 for the night. Yes that rate is high, but remember we booked for New Year's Eve. Also keep in mind this is a residence experience, so our unit was a true one bedroom, with balcony. To get the rate down, remember the couch in the front room pulls out into a bed, so you can easily accommodate more than 2 people.
In 2010 we think we will be watching many former cotels straddling the line between residences and hotels. This could get awkward for fractional owners and staffers alike. However, if these luxury fractionals are built and run like the Fairmont Ghirardelli they have a great shot of finding a niche with luxury hotel lovers who are looking for a bit more room.
Should you stay at Fairmont Ghirardelli?
Yes. If you can get a good rate and are looking for something bigger than just a hotel room. It is a great place to entertain, is fully equipped for a week or longer stay, and you really can't beat the location if you are a tourist headed to San Francisco.