Phoenix Teen Haven Reborn as Posh Spot

PHOENIX -- Two years ago, the 116-room Royal Palms Hotel and Casitas was a place for teenagers on spring break rather than for high-end meetings. After closing for a year-and-a-half-long overhaul, this resort at the foot of Camelback Mountain emerged last August as the latest luxury retreat in the Valley of the Sun.

A 1929 Spanish Colonial mansion, built as a private home, houses a cozy lobby -- the scent of mesquite drifts from its fireplace -- a boardroom and a meeting room. The mansion's courtyard reveals its original stone fountain and hand-painted tilework.

Historical hotels are scarce in Phoenix, a city of gleaming modern buildings. Royal Palms joins the area's Hermosa Inn, Camelback Inn and Biltmore as a step back in time. Royal Palms' owners also own the Hermosa Inn, which was restored in 1992.

The resort's residential-style meeting rooms have wooden beams, terra-cotta and gold walls, fireplaces, five-foot-tall iron candelabra, libraries and wrought-iron chandeliers.

The largest indoor meeting space holds 300 people for a reception.

Windows bring in natural light, and French doors lead to gardens or patios.

Outdoor space, bordered by citrus trees, accounts for 17,000 of the resort's 27,000 square feet of meeting space.

There are dozens of outdoor niches, many with fireplaces, to steal away for a private chat.

During my stay, Volvo was holding meetings to unveil its latest car.

The firm had booked 1,200 room nights over three weeks for consecutive groups from around the globe.

The nine-acre resort is best for meetings requiring about 30 rooms, although some groups have taken 100 rooms, Greg Miller, general manager, said.

And since the property is still new, planners can negotiate deals on rates, according to director of sales and marketing Kathy Massarand.

In high season, rack rates for casitas are $425; standard rooms are $335, single or double occupancy.

Half of the guest rooms are individual casitas, each with in-room fireplaces and private patios.

Standard guest rooms include either balconies or private patios.

All rooms include cordless phones, so guests won't miss calls while on the patios.

As the site of an American Society of Interior Designers Showhouse, Royal Palms' 33 deluxe casitas were created by 25 different design teams in styles such as Barcelona, Romantic Retreat, Pueblo Deco, Plantation, Spanish Colonial and Tuscany.

The resort built four eight-room villas during the renovation, which include indoor and outdoor fireplaces.

In keeping with Royal Palm's residential feel, the nonalcoholic drinks and snacks in the minibars are free, and tipping is not allowed. A $16 daily service charge is added to the bill instead.

During my stay, the resort's T. Cook's Mediterranean res-taurant became a social hub on Saturday night. Guests should book tables early, as the restaurant draws hordes of locals.

Couples huddled on the couches in the lounge, while others indulged in cigars in the eight-person Cigar Room -- also part of the original mansion -- which features a fireplace and red leather floor.

T. Cook's also offers a private dining room for up to 12 guests.

Attendees who flock to Arizona for golf, meanwhile, can arrange for preferred tee times at the nearby Raven course or the Biltmore and Phonecian resorts.

Royal Palms is building a spa that is slated to open in 2000. In the meantime, the resort can arrange in-room massages and spa treatments.

For an excursion, my group opted for a Carefree Jeep Adventures desert tour.

Our guide, an American Indian named Twojoes, drove us 45 minutes into the cactus-covered Mazatzal Mountains.

We passed through the town of Carefree, where Twojoes pointed out some stars' homes as well as one that appeared in two James Bond movies.

The tour also included the chance to shoot a gun at empty soda cans. None of us would try it, though, so Twojoes demonstrated for us.

To attract agents, Royal Palms is offering a rate of $55 per night. The rate is valid through Sept.17.

The Royal Palms Hotel and Casitas is a member of Destination Hotels & Resorts.

Phone: (800) 672-6011 or (602) 840-3610.

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