Hotels that host royalty take pampering to the ultimate level
Author CHRIS WRIGHT
ALL LUXURY HOTELS offer variations on a single fantasy, one in which the beds are softer than our own, the food is better than we’re used to and everyone around us is almost alarmingly nice. At their best, these places make us feel like monarchs, indulged and coddled to within an inch of our humility. And the ones that create this illusion most adeptly very often tend to attract actual royalty.
When Spain’s King Juan Carlos I stayed at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana, Malta, he signed the guest book thanking staff for the “grand service” (which, let’s face it, beats even the gushiest TripAdvisor review). Although most visitors won’t receive an honor guard salute upon arrival, they’ll still be able to waltz through the regal lobby, climb the grand staircase and survey the ancient clutter of Manoel Island while nibbling lovingly prepared delicacies. Book the Presidential Suite, and you’ll have something in common with Spanish royalty and Enrique Iglesias.
Set in California’s starkly beautiful Yosemite Valley, the Ahwahnee Hotel — whose more unusual claim to fame may be that it inspired the interior sets for The Shining — has a venerable tradition of hosting royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II. The hotel’s aesthetic is a study in castle-like elegance: exposed beams, granite walls, roaring fires. Decorum dictates that a possible stay last year by newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton cannot be confirmed, and yet, like the nightly visitation of the ghost said to roam the Ahwahnee’s halls, the glittering couple’s visit persists as part of the hotel’s mythology.
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud liked the Four Seasons brand so much that he bought the company — or at least a chunk of it. The Saudi royal is said to have a particularly soft spot for the Four Seasons Los Angeles. The hotel is set away from the commotion of downtown, in a Beverly Hills suburb, providing the peace and privacy that Saudi billionaires require; the décor is unflaggingly exquisite. The scent of lilies fills the halls, wafting behind you as you make your way to the hotel’s signature restaurant, Culina, where you just might spot a gentleman in a kaffiyeh muttering “buy” into his phone.
On the Greek isle of Spetses, the Poseidonion Grand Hotel more than lives up to its billing as a “destination for high society”: Greece’s Prince Nikolaos and Princess Tatiana celebrated their 2010 wedding here, then returned for their first anniversary. Located in a restored Côte d’Azur-style chateau, the Poseidonion is known for stunning views, fantastic food and an über-elite clientele. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the resort is situated on a tiny patch of paradise a mere few hours’ drive from the royal palaces of Athens.
The lavish Emirates Palace hotel is such a favorite haunt of Abu Dhabi royals that they have their own entrance, which is reasonable, seeing as they bankrolled the place. From the moment you enter through its stately arch, the Palace transports you into an appealing parallel universe, where Italian marble and gold leaf are commonplace. Out back you’ll find the blue waters of the Persian Gulf — but you may be too busy reclining, emir-like, on lavender-scented pillows to concern yourself with natural splendor.
Founded by Adolphus Busch a century back, Dallas’ gilt-edged Adolphus has welcomed the aristocracy of sports (The Babe), business (The Donald) and, well, aristocracy (The Queen). A photo of Elizabeth II hangs in the lobby, near a Steinway grand that, legend has it, had been earmarked for the Titanic. Guests can also feast their eyes on Flemish tapestries and Chinese jardinieres, and the French Room restaurant is among the finest anywhere. Not bad for a hotel built by a beer baron.
Looking out on a landscape that makes words like “paradisiacal” seem flimsy, with an interior that makes the average English country manor look like a YMCA, the Huka Lodge is the kind of place that leaves you disappointed if you don’t spot a royal in the dining room. The Taupo, New Zealand, resort started out as a fishing lodge but has since gained a reputation for comfort and calm that has attracted pretty much every monarch in Europe. Queen Elizabeth II has slept here, more than once, as have the royals of Holland, Belgium and Denmark. If the clinking of regalia gets to be too much, though, you can retire to one of the decks, where the only sound is the soft whoosh of the Waikato River, part of your own private kingdom, sliding by.