Royal York superb service sets them apart

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If you're like me, it's not the fancy furnishings or surroundings of a hotel that leave a lasting impression but rather the service and attention you receive from a friendly, knowledgeable staff during your stay.

Trust me that you get both in generous amounts, as well as a whole lot more, as a guest at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

One of Toronto's most renowned and historic lodging places -- the Fairmont Royal York -- is iconic and breathtaking from its huge, open lobby to its fancy ballrooms and well-appointed guest rooms.

But it's the highly dedicated and hard-working Fairmont employees including Candice Petersen, Stephanie Salvador, Ahmed Abo Teiour and Catherine Tschannen that leave guests with a lasting impression of a memorable hotel stay.

In fact, the list of dedicated employees is endless and includes nearly everyone from the maids to the concierge staff that go above and beyond to help ensure an enjoyable stay whether it be overnight, a weekend or a week.

I'm always amazed at the number of guests and visitors that pass through the Royal York Hotel on any given day.

Those who enjoy people watching couldn't pick a better place than the hotel's huge lobby to sit and gaze and watch hundreds of passerbys every hour of the day.

An endless stream of people of all sizes, colours and shapes make their way up and down the huge hotel lobby -- some headed to meetings, others to meet up with friends and relatives and some there just to catch a glimpse of the interior of the grand old lady.

Don't be surprised if you spot a famous Hollywood star, a prominent politician or even your neighbour down the street. The Royal York has and continues to be a place to meet, greet and lodge for many moons.

Among the famous people who have stayed at the hotel are Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Francis Ford Coppola, Gloria Swanson, Gene Kelly, Mohammed Ali and Tony Bennett.

The first royal guests were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Other royalty and heads of state that have been hotel guests include Queen Elizabeth 11, King Hussein of Jordan, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, the Dali Lama, Prince Charles and Prince Edward.

The hotel also welcomes many other VIPs such as "very important pets'' and has created an amenity package for the "dignitaries'' who arrive at the hotel with their four-legged friends.

It's also believed that certain guests have decided to spend all eternity at the hotel. People have been spotted wandering the corridors and then suddenly disappearing.

Among the spirits is a steward who wears his uniform and wanders the silver room in the hotel's basement. When hotel staff collect silverware, they often report seeing him out of the corner of their eye, but when they turn to get a second look, he disappears.

There is no doubt the historic AAA Four-Diamond property is one of Toronto's premier luxury hotels.

The hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Toronto, steps away from the best nightlife, dining and shopping and within a stone's throw of the CN Tower and other major attractions.

Located across the street from Union Station, the hotel is connected by the underground PATH Walkway to more than 1,200 shops, services and attractions including the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Air Canada Centre and the Eaton Centre.

The Royal York offers everything required for a memorable stay in opulent surroundings including fine dining, state-of-the-art exercise facilities and, of course, its cordial staff.

The temporary lodging for stars, dignitaries and, of course, royalty, opened its doors in the summer of 1929.

In 1886, the Montreal-based Canadian Pacific Railway began constructing its chain of grand hotels, including Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Frontenac.

The Royal York was to become the largest railway hotel in the chain. The site chosen was that of the Queen's Hotel, which was demolished in 1927.

The Royal York was the largest hotel in the British Empire at the time and was dubbed "a mountain over city and lake.''

The hotel's 28 stories of steel frame, encased in Indiana limestone, was capped off with a steeply pitched copper chateau roof.

The 1,100 room hotel instantly became a Toronto landmark and dominated the skyline for more than three decades.

The hotel cost $16 million and boasted a library containing 12,000 books as well as 10 ornate passenger elevators and even a 12-bed hospital with doctor and nurse on site. The convention and banquet space could accommodate more than 4,000 people.

A $12 million restoration in 2001 transformed the main lobby area and all public meeting spaces in the mezzanine level and the following year a $2.5 million restoration was carried out on the famed Imperial Room.

Initially, the Royal York's ground floor was essentially arranged as a commercial street centred around a square hall with two corridors of stores, a barber shop, a bank and an exhibition hall. A coffee shop and grillroom served travellers entering the hotel from Union Station.

No trip to Toronto is complete without an overnight stay -- or at least a visit -- to the world-famous Royal York. And despite its grandeur, nightly rates are very affordable.


Bob Boughner's Travel column appears Saturday in the Daily News. Email him at for any travel tips you have to share.



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