I swung through Halifax for two nights on my trip to the Atlantic provinces using the Aeroplan short-haul sweet spot, marking my first proper visit to Nova Scotia and indeed to all of Atlantic Canada.
Westin Nova Scotian – Booking
In deciding on a place to stay, I had heard very good things from several people about the Marriott Halifax Harbourfront, so that had been my default choice – I went for weeks without making a booking, assuming that I’d have no trouble securing a room there.
However, it turns out that HalCon, one of the most major events in town, was taking place on the same weekend that I was visiting, and the cash rates at the Marriott were sky-high when I got around to making the hotel booking. And while the Category 5 property could’ve also been booked for 35,000 Bonvoy points per night at the standard rate, I also didn’t really feel like dropping 70,000 Bonvoy points on a rather pedestrian stay in Halifax when I could simply choose to pay a lower cash rate at a different property.
Looking further afield, then, the only other hotel that appealed to me was the Westin Nova Scotian, one of Canada’s grand railway hotels adjacent to the Halifax train station. Rates at this hotel were more reasonable for the weekend, and the lowest I found was $175/night, so I went ahead and booked that.
(It’s also worth noting that my girlfriend Jessy was originally supposed to join me on this trip, but pulled out at the last second when it was too late to change hotels. If I had known I’d be travelling solo to begin with, I might’ve simply booked a more no-frills option like the Four Points by Sheraton or something and called it a day.)
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Westin Nova Scotian – Location
The location is ideal if you’re travelling to or from Halifax by train, and it’s also well-positioned for visiting the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, one of the city’s foremost attractions. From Halifax’s downtown core, however, it’s a slight 10–15 minute walk to reach the Westin.
My Air Canada flight from Montreal arrived at Halifax Stanfield at 11pm. The airport is quite a huge distance away from the city, and I took a $68 taxi to the Westin, where I was dropped off just before the clock struck midnight. As usual, given my late-night arrival, I came back the next morning to take some photos of the hotel.
As one of Canada’s famous grand railway hotels, the Westin Nova Scotian boasts a beautiful and stately exterior that reflects the lofty statures of the old railway companies. While the firebrick-red appearance might not be to everyone’s taste, I personally liked it very much.
Unfortunately, the hotel’s main entrance was undergoing renovations during the month of October, so guests were asked to enter and exit via a set of side doors instead.
Westin Nova Scotian – Check-in
Entering through the side entrance, you’ll turn right and walk through the main lobby space, consisting of the hotel’s bar and lounge…
…before arriving at the front desks.
Under normal circumstances, if the main entrance were open, then the front desks would be the first thing you see as you enter the hotel.
In addition, beyond the front desk, there’s also a side entrance connected to the Via Rail train station.
There was one staff member working the night shift when I arrived, and he handled my check-in very professionally. While I had politely asked for a Titanium suite upgrade via chat prior to arriving, it turns out that the hotel was quite full (which wasn’t surprising given that it was one of the busiest weekends in Halifax), and the best that they could do was offer me a larger room with water views.
Since I was travelling solo after all, I wasn’t feeling too fussy about this, so I gladly took my keys to Room 1000.
The associate also informed me of my breakfast entitlements as an elite member: I was able to select the breakfast vouchers as my elite amenity, but they’d only be valid for a limited cold continental spread. If I wanted to enjoy the full hot breakfast buffet in the Elements restaurant, I could upgrade for an extra $12. I wasn’t too thrilled about that, but figured that a $12 surcharge wasn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
I also asked if this Westin had a Club Lounge, which they do not – unsurprising given that this was originally an independent hotel, known as The Nova Scotian, that was only later repurposed as a Westin in 1996.
I made my way up to the 10th floor via the rather tired-looking elevators. The Westin Nova Scotian has retained many elements from its old days, such as the illuminated “This Car Up” signs above the elevators or the Canada Mail postage box embedded in the wall; while I thought this did a good job of showcasing the unique character of the hotel, I also wondered if a round of light refurbishments might help to tidy everything up a little bit.
Compared to the lobby, the guest room hallways feel slightly more in keeping with the times. My room was located near the end of the hallway, in a small nook along with a few other corner rooms.
Westin Nova Scotian – Corner King Room
The corner room was about what I was expecting: a short hallway followed by the bedroom, with a bit of seating space on the side.
The king-sized bed was more than a good fit for my purposes. Westin hotels are known for their Westin Heavenly beds, and while this one wasn’t quite as plush as some of the more upscale Westins I’ve visited, it still gave me two nights of sleep of decent quality.
I appreciated the spacious working desk in the corner, where I spent a few hours each day in the mornings and evenings getting my work done.
A chest-of-drawers in the opposite corner acts as the room’s pantry, where you’ll find the minibar and coffee machine (with Starbucks filter coffee). I was also pleased to see that the hotel had left me a half-bottle of wine as a welcome gift, which made for a nice nightcap on both evenings.
Note that the television is also shunted into this corner of the room, making it difficult to watch TV from your bed.
The bathroom was also quite poorly designed, in my opinion. It’s downright tiny, and whether you were using the sink, toilet, or shower, it all felt like a tight squeeze, and it wasn’t pleasant to spend time in there at all.
If this is the hotel’s “larger” guest room, I’d hate to find out how small the bathrooms are in the regular base-level rooms.
Finally, the room had a closet, which was similarly on the small side.
On the plus side, I was at least treated to some decent views of the Halifax cruise terminal, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and the surrounding Halifax Harbour.
Westin Nova Scotian – Breakfast
I ate breakfast at the hotel’s Elements restaurant on both mornings, deciding to pay $12 to upgrade to the full hot buffet.
I thought it was pretty hilarious that they’ve set up the cold continental breakfast spread in a separate room from the rest of the buffet, and you’re restricted to visiting this spread if you don’t want to pay the surcharge.
The cold spread is downright stingy on the hotel’s part: there are fruits, pastries, cereal boxes, and yogurt boxes. How that’s supposed to make anyone feel like a valued member of the loyalty program is beyond me, and I really don’t understand why Marriott allows its hotels – seemingly mostly in North America – to get away with this.
The hot spread was better in terms of variety, accompanied by an omelette station where you could ask for eggs to be prepared to your liking. While I didn’t feel great about paying the $12 surcharge, I at least felt that it was a reasonable price for the breakfast I was getting.
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On the plus side, the staff members at the Elements restaurant were real exemplars of Nova Scotian hospitality, proactively offering coffee top-ups and spending a few minutes each morning chatting with every guest about their plans for the day.
I didn’t end up spending too much time at all at the hotel during this visit to Halifax, and I was mostly just coming and going a few times during the day before resting my head for the night. I therefore got a chance to swing by the entrance to the pool and gym, but didn’t manage to actually check out the inside.
Having secured a late checkout on my day of departure, I gathered my belongings at around 2:30pm to complete my checkout and then take the local bus to Halifax’s Scotia Square, where I caught the hourly airport bus this time – at a much more reasonable cost of $4.25 compared to taking a taxi – back to Halifax Stanfield for my 5pm flight to St. John’s.
The Westin Nova Scotian was adequate, but not much more than that. The room would’ve been perfectly fine if it weren’t for the severe lack of square footage in the bathroom; meanwhile, the full breakfast spread as an elite member comes with an annoying surcharge, but was at least quite appetizing. If it weren’t for the hotel’s stature as one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, I’m not sure whether it would be befitting of the Westin brand in the first place.
While it was a novel experience to stay in a grand railway hotel for the first time, I think I’d like to try out a different, more modern property the next time I visit Halifax – in particular the well-regarded Marriott hotel on the city’s waterfront that I’ve heard many good things about.