Four Seasons Palm Beach scores with service

Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers visited a resort on an island connected by a bridge to the U.S. mainland. She knew she was not in her usual stomping grounds. Here is her report:

That the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach has a toehold in the upscale family market is evident from the first glimpse beyond the lobby.

I spotted enough young kids crowded around the pool to form a peewee sports league.

Clearly both parents and kids were having a good time.

On the beach, couples relaxed on chaise lounges as waiters plodded through the sand, balancing trays with buckets of ice, Evian water and chilled towels.

Everyone, it seemed, was having a good time.

So was I. In my brief visit, I sampled the resort's restaurants, its spa, its beach and room service.

I toured the kitchens, witnessed a wedding reception and played with two dogs, also guests at the hotel.

In February 1994, Four Seasons assumed management of the resort, which had opened as the Ocean Grand in 1989.

The Palm Beach property marked Four Seasons' debut in the southeastern U.S.

Since then, the property has garnered numerous awards, including a ranking among the country's Top 20 resorts from Zagat's 2001 Guide to U.S. Hotels, Resorts and Spas, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. AAA gave its Five Diamond kudos to both the hotel and its formal restaurant.

Every room at the 210-room Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach has a view of the ocean, palm trees and the pool deck. What sets this 210-room resort apart from others?

Harry Gorstayn, general manager, singled out its oceanfront location, the skills of longtime chef Hubert Des Marais and "an unparalleled level of personal attention."

Betty Anderer, an employee since the Ocean Grand days and now a spa attendant, said, "The Four Seasons service aspect passes down to the line staff in every aspect of this hotel operation. Personalized service is what we are all about."

Chef Des Marais demonstrates the personal touch during tours of his orchid greenhouse and garden with 75 varieties of herbs.

He also shares tips with aspiring chefs during his monthly cooking seminars and will supply his recipe for jumbo crabcakes upon request.

Pet owners who arrive at the resort with their critters in tow receive food bowls, nightly turndown treats and a room-service pet menu.

The Doggie Delights listings include Dog Gone Good (scrambled eggs, steamed rice and grated cheese for $6) and Rin Tin Tin (grilled chicken breast with egg noodles for $7).

Feline feasts feature Kitty's Craving (albacore tuna, chopped egg and steamed rice, $7) and Cats' Meow (steamed fish, rice and sour cream, $8).

Not overlooked are female guests who want to dress in Lilly Pulitzer fashions as if they were longtime Florida residents. These classical trademark dresses may soon be available for daily rental from the Four Seasons gift shop.

The resort's amenities also score high marks from guests.

The Kids for All Seasons program is complimentary, year-round and very popular with the 3 to 12 set -- and their parents. The program operates daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a dinner club on weekends from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Daytime activities are complimentary, including off-property treks to local attractions such as Lion Country Safari and Peanut Island.

Other facilities include a full-service health and beauty spa, landscaped pool deck with a heated pool and whirlpool, water sports, three tennis courts, meeting rooms and access to three nearby golf courses.

Each room comes equipped with a Sony PlayStation and high-speed Internet access.

I sampled the resort's three restaurants, beginning the day with breakfast at Ocean Bistro, overlooking the pool deck, followed by lunch at the Atlantic Bar & Grill and dinner at The Restaurant.

The attention to detail is extraordinary. Female guests who wear dark-colored dresses at The Restaurant, for example, are given black dinner napkins to use during the meal (white napkins might leave traces of lint on dark clothing).

Des Marais' menus stress fresh seafood and regional cuisine.

The Living Room, the marbled cocktail lounge near the library and courtyard, has a new tapas menu that could suffice for a complete meal.

No wonder the resort's spa is in constant use and the resort's beach a busy thoroughfare for beach walkers at first light.

Room and board at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach is above average, even for Florida's Gold Coast.

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