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As you touch down and begin the slow taxi to the gate, you fidget in your seat with impatient excitement to get off the plane and through the airport to begin your vacation. One scramble at baggage claim later and you’re cruising past palmettos and pink sand beaches on your way to the hotel. Your driver pulls up in front of a palatial, pastel pink colonial building, and as the porter steps forward to help with your luggage, he smiles and says, “Welcome to the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club.”
At the turn of the 19th century, Bermuda was beginning to establish itself as a destination for wealthy elites seeking respite from the long, cold winters back home. In 1883 Princess Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria of England, sailed to Bermuda for a winter retreat and became so enraptured with the island that she declared it ‘a place of eternal spring.’
Mark Twain was a regular here, while novelist Ian Fleming is said to have used the Princess’ fish tank-lined bar as inspiration for the aquarium in Dr. No. The Princess played her part in the war effort, doubling as an intelligence center during WWII for Allied troops, where communications bound for Europe and the Americas were intercepted and analyzed. Throughout her 130-plus years, the so called ‘Pink Palace’ has consistently lived up to her glamorous reputation.
Today The Hamilton Princess and Beach Club is looking more luxurious than ever on the heels of a two-year, $100 million restoration. Renovations include new guest suites, restaurant upgrades, an infinity edge pool, a spa and boutique fitness studio, and a state-of-the-art 60-berth marina. The hotel recently developed property on the South Shore of the island into a private Beach Club, complete with a bar and restaurant. In spite of her 130 year old history, this girl is now the hottest date on the island.
A modern update doesn’t mean The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club has compromised on character. Far from it. Served on the terrace of the lobby restaurant, Crown & Anchor, traditional elements such as afternoon tea remain. The hotel’s French pastry chef delivers a 3:00pm sugar pick-me-up with an assortment of scones, pastries, and finger sandwiches alongside a selection of teas. The experience is given a modern twist, courtesy of striking views of the sleek, new Marina below. In the evening, whirl your way through the signature selection of rums, cognacs and champagnes, paying particular heed to the Bermuda Rum Swizzle – a finely wrought mix of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and local juices.
The amenities at the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club are everything you would expect from a modern luxury hotel, from elegant guest rooms with marble bathrooms, to immaculate spa and fitness facilities. Less expected perhaps are contemporary paintings from artists like Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst which compliment the classic architectural elements such as the coffered ceilings and wainscoting. Inside you’ll find four Reigning Queens prints by Andy Warhol in the lobby, and other artists of note on display include Bansky, Philippe Decrauzat, Tom Sachs, and Nelson Mandela. With a $5 million collection to her name, the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club has become a destination for cultured travelers who like their Yayoi Kusama sculptures with a little R&R.
Major investment has been injected into the Princess’ gastronomic game as well. Taking the cake is the new celebrity chef restaurant, Marcus’, by none other than Marcus Samuelson of Red Rooster Harlem. The award-winning chef, restaurateur, and author incorporates his signature globally-influenced cuisine with local ingredients and flavors of the island into dishes like jerk pork belly and a grilled catch of the day. The space has a nautical flair, decorated with vintage pieces and dive artifacts, and in the Princess’ knack for interweaving the old with the new, contemporary art decorates the walls, including four Warhol portraits of Mick Jagger that are signed by the singer himself.
Relaxing into one of the stools circling the colorful subway-tiled bar, you’ve taken a break from Warhol and instead are alternating your gaze between the serene harbor and the action unfolding in the open-air kitchen. The waiter comes by with another Dark & Stormy and asks if you’d like to see the dessert menu. You nod your assent and breathe in the briny island air to make room for that rum cake. This place is spoiling you to the point that you’re starting to feel like a Princess yourself.
Shoving the last of your clothes into the overstuffed suitcase, you’re just able to coax the zipper closed. On the drive to the airport, you pass the same palmettos, the same white beaches and turquoise bays, only this time it’s with a twinge of nostalgia. Settling into your seat aboard the plane, your mind begins to replay sun-drenched scenes from the previous days. As you relive watching last night’s sunset from your chaise lounge by the pool, you realize with a start that you left your bathing suit drying on the balcony back at the hotel. Oh well, it looks like I’ll just have to come back, you think to yourself with a grin.
Hamilton Princess x The Culture Trip