Grotto Bay invests in new style

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HAMILTON PARISH, Bermuda -- Underground caves and scenic ocean views have enticed visitors to Grotto Bay Beach Resort since the 1970s. But the resort wasn't known for being particularly Bermudian. Its low-rise buildings were beige and generic, the kind you'd find almost anywhere.

When a group of Bermudian investors bought the resort about a decade ago, they quickly decided that had to change.

The vision

Their vision -- to transform the ho-hum compound into a place with the look and feel of this English-style tropical island -- is now a reality.

With the completion last spring of more than $7 million in renovations, the resort is one with its environment, said J.P. Martens, general manager.

Guest lodges have gables, shutters and furnishings reflecting the British colonial era.

The Great House, which has quadrupled in size, has a new reception area, a casual dining room and two patios offering expansive views of the ocean. Warm, pastel colors welcome visitors throughout the resort.

"The results are truly stunning," said Martens. "We now look more like a traditional Bermuda cottage-colony, but we have all the amenities -- dive shop, tennis courts, restaurants -- you'd expect in a larger, full-service vacation retreat."

The project

Martens gives much of the credit for the resort's new appearance to West Palm Beach, Fla., designer Sam Rosenberg.

"Bermuda has its own style, and Sam brought it to the property in exteriors and interiors that let guests know that they have truly arrived on this unique island," said Martens.

In Grotto Bay's lobby, a wall of windows showcases dramatic ocean views to guests as they check in. Grotto Bay, a 201-room resort on 21 acres about a mile from the airport, has been a challenging but satisfying project, Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg's charge from the owners was to make the contemporary-style resort look more like traditional Bermuda, and at the same time upgrade the facility in an opulent fashion to appeal to worldly travelers.

"English traditions can be charming, but they can also be stuffy," he said. "Our plan was to infuse the colonial style with an eclectic, international flavor."

Pillars and gables

The redo, which began in 1995, started at the beach and pool, where a restaurant was added along with exercise rooms, a bar and rest rooms.

Rosenberg tackled the guest lodges and the main buildings next. To give the three-story, concrete-block structures more character, gables and shutters were installed.

Pillars and other architectural details common in Bermuda also were added to the exterior of the resort's buildings, some of which were painted pink to match the island's beaches.

Inside the guest rooms, pedestal sinks, travertine marble, tropical prints and floral bedspreads replaced the bland, modern interiors. Rosenberg also designed colonial-style furniture specifically for the resort.

A second story was added to the Great House along with a restaurant and conference area.

Resort for all seasons

In the lobby, a wall of windows showcases ocean views. Outside dining areas, patios and lounges now beckon guests to relax, read a book or have a drink or a meal.

To help extend the season, several outdoor and indoor fireplaces also were added. Bermuda has more competition these days from warmer islands farther south, Rosenberg said. One of the resort's goals was to create an atmosphere that will appeal to guests in the winter as well as summer.

At the same time the renovations were under way, the resort was upgrading its service, Martens said. An outside firm that specializes in resort hotels was brought in to train the staff.

"We realized that just making the resort look pretty would not cut the cake," Martens said.

Last year, the resort received the Buttery Award from the Bermuda Department of Tourism for consistently high standards in accommodations.

Bigger and better

Now that the renovations are complete, the resort's next project is to add 70 rooms to the complex. The rooms will be larger -- more like apartments and suites than hotel rooms -- so they can accommodate guests who plan to stay a month or more. The expansion, expected to cost several million dollars, should begin next year, Rosenberg said.

Martens said the resort's owners are optimistic about the future, despite recent economic difficulties around the world.

"We've had some of our best years recently. Repeat bookings and new business are positive," he said. "The renovation is a big part of the reason."

Grotto Bay has 198 hotel rooms and three suites in 11 lodges. Rooms have a balcony or a patio, with an ocean view.

The resort also has two restaurants and bars, a pool, a health club and tennis courts.

Rates vary, and all-inclusive packages are available. To Oct. 20, rates are $270 to $300 a night, single or double. Inclusive rates are $255 to $265 per person, per night, double, for a minimum three-night stay. Nightly low-season rates are $135 to $185, single or double. The resort pays 10% commission.

For more information, call (800) 582-3190 or visit www.grottobaybeach.com.

Resort escapes Fabian's wrath

HAMILTON PARISH -- The Grotto Bay Beach Resort is open for business following Hurricane Fabian's Sept. 5 assault on the island.

Although several hotel properties reported extensive damage, Grotto Bay had little damage and remained open and operational even during the height of the storm, with no interruptions in power or telephone service.

The property is located on Bermuda's north shore; most of the major damage was sustained on the south coast. The resort had 70 guests in house when the island began battening down the hatches in advance of Fabian's arrival.

The property is open year-round; guests who were unable to reach Bermuda because of canceled flights and services are being accommodated at later dates.

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