New ownership and management of the
Claremont Resort & Spa in Berkeley, Calif., promises to add
even more luxury to the castle-like hotel in the Berkeley and
Oakland hills. The Claremont was part of the sale of CNL Hotels
& Resorts to Morgan Stanley in April.
The sale included
eight luxury properties. Among the others were the Arizona Biltmore
in Phoenix and the Grand Wailea on Maui in the Hawaiian
brought in Boston-based Pyramid Hotel Group as the management
company for the Claremont. Sometime in the next year, the hotel is
expected to start upgrading guest rooms and meetings space,
according to Susan Hollers, director of sales and
"The scope of the
renovations is still to be determined, but they are looking at
different color schemes and changing case goods and soft goods,"
The gleaming, white
landmark hotel, parts of which date from the California Gold Rush
of 1848 to 1855, is spread over 22 acres of landscaped gardens on a
hillside above Berkeley and Oakland that affords views of San
Francisco and the bay.
In the 1980s, the
Claremont underwent a $40 million renovation that was designed to
maintain its historical charm while adding modern amenities, such
as air conditioning, during a major room overhaul. A European-style
spa was built poolside.
In 2000, the hotel
underwent yet another guest room renovation. And in 2001, a new,
larger spa opened in the main building.
"We are known as an
urban resort smack dab in the middle of a bustling area of
commerce," said Hollers. "You can get anywhere from here quickly,
including San Francisco.
"We are unlike
anything in the area and consider our competitors not local hotels
but places like the Sonoma Mission Inn [in California's Wine
Country] or the Hotel del Coronado [near San Diego], places where
you can have a romantic weekend, go to a spa with girlfriends or
have a business meeting."
Pull of pampering
20,000-square-foot spa has become a focus of the resort. It
contains 32 treatment rooms, double the size of the former spa, and
a creative selection of treatments, including "Signature Journeys,"
multiple hours of hydrotherapy soaks, massages and various relaxing
and energizing treatments.
One example is the
Brazilian Rainforest Journey, a three-hour experience of soaks,
body wraps, massage, skin exfoliation (coffee and nut polish is
used) with a final moisturizing treatment using rose hip and
plantain lotion. The treatment sells for $350.
Hollers said the
spa was an integral part of the hotel experience.
"We sell the spa in
the reservation process and always ask about spa packages," she
said. "It's ideal for girlfriend getaways and corporate
that about 35% of the hotel's guests take advantage of the
"Spa use is
growing, and competition is sprouting," Hollers said. "Spas are not
considered luxuries anymore but necessities. Getting a massage, for
instance, is looked at as a healthy way to increase
"Our spa is very
much wellness-based and doesn't focus on anything frivolous or
trendy," she added. "We try to keep on top of what's new, such as
hydrafacials, which we started this summer, but we'll never be the
kind of place to go to for Botox injections."
The former spa was
turned into part of the Claremont Club, a country-club-like
facility with an outdoor swimming pool, a cafe and an indoor
fitness center with space for yoga and other fitness classes. These
facilities are part of a Living Well Center that is open to hotel
The hotel charges a
resort fee of $24 per room, per day.
Selling the hotel
rooms can be a challenge because all 279 units are different, said
Hollers, who said she believed that having different rooms added to
the hotel's charm.
The exceptions are
the 40 rooms in the spa wing, which was built after the main
building was constructed and is thus more modern and its rooms more
At 550 square feet,
rooms in the spa wing are larger than the rooms in the other part
of the hotel, which are between 250 and 300 square feet.
Dining at the Claremont
To locals, the
Claremont is known as the place for cocktails and
At Jordan's, the
resort's elegant fine-dining restaurant, the cuisine is
Californian, with a Pacific Rim influence. Low-calorie,
health-oriented dishes are available for those on a spa
The Paragon Bar and
Cafe is a more casual restaurant known for its views of the bay and
cocktail lounge, which is popular at sunset. The bar offers 179
vodkas. Another dining option is the Bay View Cafe.
The Claremont also
is a huge wedding and meetings venue. Its 30,000 square feet of
meetings space includes 24 meetings rooms and two ballrooms. All
are equipped with high-speed Internet access and Wi-Fi.
Room rates range
from $270 to $1,000 per night. Available packages include the
Weekdays Away for stays Sunday through Wednesday nights. The rate
is $249 per person, per night, with a two-night minimum required. A
50-minute spa treatment and daily breakfast is included.
contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].