Many years ago, my daughter and I visited Nassau, Bahamas. We stayed at what is now the Nassau Marriott Resort and Crystal Palace Casino
on Cable Beach. We took a bus to downtown Nassau and the Straw Market; while we weren't terribly impressed with the offerings, we were
taken with an extraordinary colonial-style ediface located on a critical corner with its backside to the beach. It was the British Colonial Hotel, at that time a Best Western property.
Although its pink facade was fading and worn, it was obvious that this was a lovingly constructed building with history.
We wandered into its front doors only to find a dark and cramped entry. It was anything but appealing; musty-smelling and dank, it was hardly welcoming. The location was wonderful, though, and so was its beach, walled off from the city center and surrounded by fragrant gardens. "Pity," I thought. "Such potential..."
In 1999 the property, having been licensed to Hilton, reopened after an 18-month renovation as The British Colonial Hilton. No longer a faded pink, the hotel now proudly stands in golden yellow glory. What had been a musty entryway has been recreated as an open lobby and lounge with a conservatory roof and elegant frescoes, marble flooring and contemporary furnishings. A central staircase to the restaurants and meeting space on the second floor anchors the space between the Palm Court Lounge, which looks out at the pool and beach, and the huge lobby area, which fronts on the city side of the resort.
What a difference some $60+ million makes!
The hotel's restoration is spectacular. The sense of time and place in the old building has been preserved while modern amenities, new furnishings and fittings and lots of light, airy spaces have been added.
Downtown Nassau is the financial center of the Bahamas, and a leading international banking and investment venue. British Colonial Hilton
sits in a prime location for conducting business in a refined atmosphere.
The sixth and seventh floors of the hotel have been designated as the Executive Level, with a lounge reserved solely for guests on those floors. An elaborate continental breakfast, afternoon drinks and hors d'oeuvres are served in the lounge, and comfortable seating areas are available for private discussions. Rooms at this level boast oversized work desks, wireless Internet access and in-room coffee makers.
Let's be honest... this hotel is not for everyone. It's a grown-up's hotel, although of course children are welcomed and treated royally. But, compared to the theme-park atmosphere of the Atlantis, visible across the harbor, or the overdone megaresorts of Cable Beach, this hotel is positively staid.
The rooms, elegant and beautifully furnished, tend to be... cozy. The windows are small. There are no balconies. (It's a historic hotel, after all, built before air-conditioning and sliding glass doors; windows were kept smaller to keep the heat out.) It's romantic. It's timeless. It's charming. With 291 rooms and suites, it's smaller than most of the other resort hotels and much more refined.
This does not mean, however, that any services have been sacrificed; just the opposite. The level of personal attention evident here can only be achieved in an atmosphere such as this, and the hotel has all of the amenities of the larger and noisier resorts.
The beach, meticulously groomed and maintained, is the only private beachfront in downtown Nassau and provides views of the cruise ships both as they transit to and from the harbor and at the harbor itself. The pool, while without the fancy waterslides and fantasy themes, is beachfront, tranquil, and surrounded by gardens. The Patio Grill and Pool Bar anchors one end.
The Azure Spa, owned and operated by Isabel Robert and her staff of therapists, is adjacent to the pool. Offering many levels of treatments and services, spa specialties include beachfront massages and Vichy showers; hotel packages often feature spa treatments.
Several restaurants and bars featuring steaks, seafood, Bahamian and Italian cuisine are scattered thoughout the property. The Palm Court
offers afternoon tea in the British style, and evening entertainment in the Bahamian style.
Just off the lobby is a sundry and snack shop, and a well-equipped business center with fax machines, printers and computers for guests' use.
Several meeting rooms are available, and in fact, the hotel is perfectly suited to business gatherings and small conventions.
With its beautiful gardens and view of the ocean, it's also perfectly suited for weddings and honeymoons. It's perfect for anniversaries, for weekend getaways, for any occasion in which a refined, quiet, personalized and elegant hotel stay is desired.
All photos ©Jána Jones
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