This is my third trip to Nairobi. First visit I stayed at the Fairmont Norfolk. Second was at the Intercontinental. I'm back at the Fairmont for good reason. While the Intercontinental seems to be a more prestigious hotel, it's rooms are smaller and it has an antiseptic feel to it. Very business-like, but no personality. The Fairmont is the opposite.
You get the feel for the Fairmont when you drive up. It feels more like you're entering a lodge or a big residence than a hotel. The security staff, while compulsory in Nairobi at most hotels, always has a smile and a good word. Inside the hotel, I only need to say my name once. From then on, everyone calls me by my name. I'm not sure how they spread the word as they don't wear headsets like I've seen at other hotels that pull off this feat. They just seem to recognize me...even though I have met most of them only once.
Checkin has always been seamless. The staff is friendly and they go out of their way to make sure guests feel welcome and informed about the property. After checking in, the walk to the rooms takes you through a courtyard with beautiful native plants and trees. There are exotic birds chirping from sunrise to sunset.
Rooms are spacious and comfortable. Beds are large and mattresses are of high quality. Being one that can experience back problems in a bad bed, I greatly appreciate the quality of the mattress. There is always a selection of pillows from firm to soft. Televisions are large, HD, and have 20+ channels - not that I watch much TV while here (except for the occasional sporting event that I can get on ESPN, one of the channels they receive).
Since my last visit in 2012, the rooms have been upgraded to include multi-national electrical outlets (so I don't need my adapter), video and iPod/iPhone inputs, S-video, USB data and USB charge and audio. Very convenient. The bathroom is new and shiny. Everything works well and even the temperature control is better than my last visit. Plenty of wardrobe space and a small living area to kick back after work. The desk is big enough to hold my computer and allow me to do some writing. And WiFi is free if you signup (for free) to join the Fairmont President's Club.
I got room service and the food was excellent. The breakfast buffet is as good as any place I've been. Eggs, food cooked to order, breads, fruit, fish, Indian cuisine, fresh juice and the coffee is fabulous. Breakfast is a bit on the pricey side if purchased separately. It's free with my room package - which is equal to the base rate at the Intercon. I've had dinner at the grill in the lobby and the steaks are almost as good as you'd get in a US steakhouse.
The area around the hotel is a bit depressed although the entire hotel compound is enclosed and secure. It's like an oasis. I've had several business meetings in the outdoor bar, which has couches in the open air with attentive service (for tea, drinks, snacks). Wait staff is friendly and there when you need them.
I've used the gym and it is much better than most hotels and certainly among the best of the business hotels at which I've stayed. The pool is nice, clean and secluded. There are ample lounges and tables with umbrellas on the apron around the pool. The staff in the fitness center are also very attentive, bringing towels when you need them and offering assistance with equipment when needed.
What I just described is a very nice business hotel. However, I can't help but look forward to the trip my wife and I will eventually take together to Nairobi - to stay at the Fairmont. I'd recommend this hotel over almost any hotel at which I've stayed...not for the luxury. There more luxurious hotels. Not for the value. Certainly there are less expensive, very good hotels. But for the pleasant experience at a reasonable cost. This place is a gem. If you're in Nairobi, at least give it a try. I expect you'll be back.