SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda -- Plans to revamp the Sonesta Beach Resort
were already being sketched when Hurricane Fabian began gathering
speed in the Atlantic Ocean last September.
The $78 million project was to be phased in over several years
while the 400-room resort continued to operate as usual.
All that changed when the strongest storm to hit the island in
50 years slammed into the resort (see story below). The Sonesta
closed immediately; soon architects and designers were drawing a
new set of blueprints. When the resort reopens May 1, Sonesta
officials said it will be very different from what it used to
"The old Sonesta is gone," said Donald Weber, director of
marketing for Sonesta Bermuda. "This is a brand new resort -- in
concept, in feeling, in food and beverage -- in just about
The 10-foot waves that crashed through the first floor of the
South Shore resort "gave us a clean slate," Weber said. "We're
taking advantage of that to introduce something Bermuda has never
seen before -- a modern hotel that's cutting-edge, funky and
Instead of the usual pool area, guests will splash in a water
park (the first in Bermuda) that includes several swimming pools,
waterfalls, water slides and tunnels. The "fun" theme will continue
throughout the resort in guest rooms, restaurants, lounges and
"Our plan is to break the mold in Bermuda," said Weber. "We
think what we're doing is going to generate a lot of fresh interest
in the resort -- and in Bermuda."
"Cutting edge" isn't usually a term associated with Bermuda. The
island is better known for its prim, cottage-style resorts that
date to the late 1800s. But competition from flashy new hotels in
the Caribbean and Cancun has taken its toll. Air arrivals and hotel
occupancy rates have declined in recent years, according to
"There's been a huge shift in product," he said. "And Bermuda
hasn't kept up. It's been stuck in the era of pink lipstick and
While Bermuda's tourism organizations and its more traditional
resorts may be conflicted about whether the island should change
its image, Sonesta felt free to try something different.
"The Sonesta was never all that traditional," Weber said.
Built in the late 1950s on Bermuda's southern coast, the resort
includes several modern, multistory white buildings that stretch
across a rocky promontory overlooking coral reefs.
The 33-acre resort is owned by Southampton Beach Resort and is
managed by Sonesta International Hotels Corp.
Three private beaches offer Sonesta guests access to the
Atlantic. Its location has helped make it one of the island's most
active resorts, with water sports, scuba diving and snorkeling.
But like Bermuda's other resorts, the Sonesta has had difficulty
expanding its base beyond couples and honeymooners, the island's
"bread-and-butter clients," Weber said. "Catering to active adults
and families is becoming increasingly important."
Weber said the new resort will be modern yet informal enough
that parents won't feel uptight if their kids scamper across the
lobby. By adding the water park, a dolphin sanctuary and other
amenities aimed at families, Weber said the Sonesta will be able to
compete with the likes of Atlantis in the Bahamas.
The areas receiving a face-lift include:
• Guest rooms. The resort will reopen with 247 rooms, down from
400 before the hurricane struck. About 100 rooms will be new;
another 100 will be refurbished. More will be added later to make
up for those lost when part of the main Carlton Wing was demolished
by the storm.
• Pool area. A water park with four pools and a swim-up bar will
be added. The children's pool will have an interactive water-play
• Restaurants. The Greenhouse will reopen as the Chameleon. It will
seat 270 guests indoors and 160 outdoors.
Sazanami, a sushi restaurant, will open in place of the old
Longtail Cafe. The Seagrape Terrace has been renamed the Pearl
• Lounges. The Longtail Lounge is now the Tip Toe Lounge, named
for the boat that was immortalized in photographs after Hurricane
Fabian struck. The boat, which came to rest in one of the resort's
bayfront suites, will be displayed in the lounge.
• European Health & Beauty Spa. The spa will reopen in its
original location in May, but the resort plans to double its size
and move it to a new location in the next two years.
A new children's activity area, called Just Us Kids, will offer
daily supervised activities for children ages 5 to 12.
Weber said four packages are being planned for guests arriving
May 1, although their rates have not yet been released. Among them
are a Romance package, a Family Fun package and dive and golf
Weber said the sales staff will be working closely with travel
agents as the resort's marketing blitz begins in March. A program
that includes incentives and fam trips for agents is planned.
Travel agent commission is 10%.
"We think this property is going to be an easy sell for agents,
and we're going to do all we can to help," he said.
Room rates range from $290 to $480 May through August; $255 to
$435 September to Nov. 15 and $150 to $255 Nov. 16 through March
For more information, phone (800) 766-3782 or visit www.sonesta.com/bermuda.
To contact the reporter who wrote this story, send e-mail to
[email protected] .
Fabian: A 1,000-year storm
SOUTHAMPTON -- The Sonesta Beach Resort has taken steps to
protect the property against damage from future hurricanes while
reassuring potential clients that a storm the magnitude of Fabian
is not likely to hit the resort again in a thousand years.
The resort raised the seawalls in most areas and is using more
stone materials for the lower areas, according to Cliff Schorer,
managing partner of Bermuda-based Southampton Beach Resort, which
owns the property.
"It is important to keep in mind," Schorer said, "that Fabian
made more changes [to the land where the cliffside0 property now
stands] than any storm in the last 1,200 years, including
increasing the size of all three of our beaches."
Schorer attributed the information to the coastal-erosion
specialists brought in by the government of Bermuda.
"This is not to say that it couldn't happen again," Schorer
added, "just that statistics are on our side." --