Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue September 13 2016

Bermuda Reinvented at Hamilton Princess

Hotel & Resort | Charu Suri | September 13, 2016

Bermuda Reinvented at Hamilton Princess

Photo courtesy of Hamilton Princess

“She was a pretty dowdy old girl three years ago,” jokes general manager Allan Federer, of the newly-renovated Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. “Half of it resembled an old boys’ club-- the other half was an old ladies’ club,” he added. 

As I sit down with Mr. Federer in the hotel’s Crown & Anchor restaurant, I soak in the history of both the island and the hotel. “The tourism in Bermuda needed to be invented,” he tells me. “In the 1990s, Bermuda did a pivot towards the international business since it is the capital for the reinsurance business.” Over the last several years there has been a conscious move to rediversify the economy and focus on tourism. Federer notes that the great things about Bermuda had never changed including its postcolonial charm.

“All these things just weren’t epitomized in the hospitality or lodging product the way they are right now,” he added, noting that all these contemporary accents attract a younger, well-heeled audience.

There is something truly beautiful about staying in a newly-renovated hotel. The wandering eye glances at the polished floors, wondering how many days it took to put in the tiles that are ready to welcome the weary traveler.

The artistic soul looks at the lobby walls, hoping for location-specific art. The hungry traveler lovingly scans the restaurant menu. 

These days, with so many hotel choices everywhere, properties in the “casual luxury” category pull out all the stops, from investing millions of dollars in world-class art, hiring the most pleasant staff in the solar system, to providing several dining choices. 

The Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club in Bermuda invested a whopping $100 million into making the venue both an elegant luxury hotel as well as a museum: it features more than 60 pieces of artwork, ranging from vintage posters to pop art.

During the renovation period which took two years, 43 sleek new guest suites designed by Botelho Wood Architects were added, as well as three new restaurants and an Exhale flagship spa. Add to this a private beach club and a 60-berth marina, you have a hotel primed to make a starring role in a James Bond Movie (You Only Live Twice was filmed in Bermuda in 1967).

The world-class art collection here is playfully modern, not terribly high-brow stuffy.

READ MORE: 5 of The Best Art Hotels in America

Andy Warhol makes a prominent appearance, especially if you visit the spacious check-in desk, with a set of four “Reigning Queens: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, 1985” reprints at the hotel’s renovated lobby. This set demonstrated both Warhol’s interest in mass production and reminds us that Queen Elizabeth II is the most depicted woman in the world. 

You’ll surprisingly discover a number of pieces by the former South African president, Nelson Mandela, whose hand-signed Struggle Series, “Key & Bars;” “Hand of Africa” (the imprint of his right hand closely resembles the shape of the continent of Africa); and “Impressions of Africa” are contained within the hotel’s pink walls.

There is also a lovely wooden sphere designed by Chinese activist Ai Weiwei, made out of Huali wood, as well as a lovely lithograph by David Hockney called “Pool with Paper Blue Ink for Book” which is one out of a limited edition of 1,000. You’ll also find a curvaceous number by Jeff Koons made out of crystal and mirrored glass as well as a whimsical polka dot etching by Damien Hirst.

Patrons who come and go through the hotel’s lobby, terrace and beyond, may sometimes not know that some of the artwork they are gazing at or taking in with a cursory glance is worth millions. Children will especially love the ink and foamcore sculpture of the charming rabbit, Miffy, found at the bottom of the lobby staircase.

My favorite two pieces in this inspired collection are by Banksy and one done by a young British artist called Justine Smith who I was fortunate enough to meet (we are now friends, hopefully for life). Smith’s work, “Money Map of the World” hangs in the narrow sunlit hallway that connects the Crown & Anchor restaurant to the terrace outside, and is an inkjet with pearlized screen showing the map of the world made with each country’s local currency — a genius idea I had never seen done anywhere else before.

“I was drawn to how the concept of money touches almost every aspect of our lives,” she says. Banksy’s screen print, Girl with Balloon, is from an edition of 150 signed and numbered by the artist, and was originally painted on a gray wall in a London suburb.

The hotel staff is also clearly proud to be Bermudian, happily wearing their traditional shorts and black cotton knee-length socks as a tribute to British military officers who found wearing long trousers in the searing heat quite unbearable.

The restaurants are worth noting: the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-trained chef Marcus Samuelsson has a presence here, with his newly-added art-studded Marcus added as part of the renovation.

For those who love sailing (and Bermuda is an island after all; if you don’t at least dip your toe into the water you might as well journey to a land-locked destination), a newly-added Marina boasts several slips and a view of the Hamilton harbor, which is packed with lazy catamarans and sailboats soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the cool breeze.

READ MORE: Bermuda Experiencing A Tourism Turnaround

Because of its plum location, the hotel will be the official host for America’s Cup in 2017, considered the oldest international sporting trophy. The race will take place on the Great Sound, not far from the hotel’s marina, with the Oracle Team USA as the defending champion.

The Fairmont Hamilton Princess (lovingly referred to as the “Pink Palace”) is accessed by undulating foliage-flanked roads about 45-minutes from the airport. Since it is in downtown Hamilton, it is close to government shops and businesses. In this sense, it is more a business hotel but the renovation is clearly leisure focused.

A partnership with Exhale puts a world-class spa at your disposal during your stay, in addition to some fantastic libations (a strong Dark & Stormy made with Bermudian Gosling's rum is a must). The hotel operates a shuttle service to the popular Horseshoe Bay where the Beach Club is located: it is a calm stretch of sand and water where you can splish splash, drink rum to your heart’s content and take in an extraordinary sunset or two.

“Finally, I think, Bermuda is ready for tourists,” Mr. Federer said with a smile. 

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