Bermuda Scales Back

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On this island, bigger isn’t always better.

For years, the biggest names in luxury travel in Bermuda were also the biggest properties. Fairmont’s two resorts, each boasting over 400 guestrooms, have been leaders in its upscale market. But though Fairmont still accounts for much of the luxury travel to the island, smaller properties are also making their mark. With one new resort weighing in at under 100 guestrooms, and a large existing property slashing its room count, now is a great time for boutique-sized properties in Bermuda.

cottage colonies Bermuda’s small resorts known as “cottage colonies” aren’t new by any means—in fact, one of the most well-known, Cambridge Beaches, is rumored to have hosted Rockefeller himself. But with one well-known large resort changing over to cottage colony status, they’re getting more attention than ever.

“Basically, a cottage colony is a resort that has a selection of cottages on the property that are supported by the infrastructure of the hotel,” explains Anne Schutte, director of global operations for the Bermuda Department of Tourism. These properties offer “the benefit of thinking you’re in an intimate retreat, but you still have the restaurants and the spa,” she continues.

Schutte says Bermuda is home to “three or four” such properties, including Cambridge Beaches. “It’s one of the older ones, and quite beautiful with quite a few acres of ground.” One of the biggest luxury perks of Cambridge Beaches, she explains, are its “two amazing suite cottages, which are ideal for people who want a real retreat. They have their own private pools and hot tubs, and they really are somewhere you can just whisk the world away.”

Cambridge Beaches’ All Inclusive Privilege Plan package includes all meals and drinks, activities like tennis and croquet, use of its Spa Experience Suites and more. Rates start at $160 pp per day.

Cambridge Beaches is the oldest cottage colony in Bermuda. Elbow Beach, which has looked out over Bermuda’s south shore for over a century, is oddly one of the newest. Though it’s operated as a large resort for years, 2010 was the first year it entered boutique resort waters.

About a year ago, says Sophie Dier, director of communications, this resort in the Mandarin Oriental group underwent repositioning, transitioning from a 235-room property to a boutique-style 98-room resort. The move was partially driven by the economic downturn, she explains. “We had decided to no longer sell the rooms in the main building, because they were in need of renovation. Due to the economic climate, we decided it made more sense to focus on the other 98 guestrooms,” accommodations spread outside of the main building in cottage style.

And those rooms received a major upgrade, bringing them to the cutting edge of luxury. “All 98 are refurbished with Mandarin Oriental bedding, state-of-the-art espresso machines, iPod docking stations, and all new lamps, fixtures, bathrooms, down to the artwork.” And the investment into the property didn’t stop there. “Many other aspects of the resort were enhanced. We repaved our roads, added new signage. There’s a recreation lounge in the lobby for guests that serves as a relaxation area with complimentary Internet access, flat-screen TVs and an antique pool table. We have a new business center. And we added new courtesy rooms by the pool for guests who are late to check-in or check-out. It’s somewhere nice to stay with all the facilities: full bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, Internet stations.”

By cutting guestrooms instead of services and amenities, Dier says, Elbow Beach preserved its luxury status—and may even have enhanced it. “What’s wonderful is that now that we have 98 rooms, we obviously have a lot less people. So guests have more privacy and more attentive service, but still all the amazing amenities.”

Those amenities include “a total gem” of a spa, Dier continues. “It’s totally unique on the island, because there are no communal or shared areas. Guests check-in at the welcome desk then they’re escorted to their own private spa suite. It basically contains everything for the service: a personal changing area with their own locker, a shower, toilet and everything, and connected to it is the treatment room.” Each of the six suites—four singles and two doubles—also have a large marble tub and a balcony with a day bed. “So when you come to our spa, you have that suite for your time with us. It’s completely private.” Pair those amenities with a pink sand scrub, one of the spa’s specialties, and you have an experience like no place else in the world, Dier says. “We take pink sand from our beach and purify it, then combine it with oils and use it for the scrub. It’s incredible, and a very unique experience.”