Of course nothing beats a private pool – on this last trip, being able to plunge into my own, with no-one watching, was a joy. Thinking back there were pools at Le Touessrok, LUX* Belle Mare and Shanti Maurice on Mauritius, and One&Only The Palm in Dubai and Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. But even elsewhere there were pools to satisfy the gal.
The pool at Park Hyatt Dubai, for instance, is like an origami opened out flat, with nooks and crannies and palm trees and lots of places to lounge. The same can be said of The Palace Old Town’s pool, with all its shisha-smokers around. And a real memory is reserved for the romantic moonlight swim at the world’s most luxurious hotel, also known as Burj Al Arab.
Like Hollywood stars vying for attention, hotel swimming pools try to outdo competitors. The pool at the tallest hotel in the world, Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, not surprisingly touts its pool as ‘the tallest swimming pool in the world’. Sure enough it is on the top of the 118-floor hotel, and it has a working fireplace one end and LED software to project your company logo or a movie on the other end of the 65-foot pool and wrapping over its ceiling.
Ritz-Carlton’s sibling, W Hong Kong (they have the same parentage, if not the same operating company) can, in turn, announce it has the world’s highest outdoor pool. The 80-foot pool is only on the 76th floor but wow, get out there and despite firmly fixed screens the only things that do not seem to blow away are the screens, the water and, fortunately, you. If you cannot face the wind, check out the 24-hour gym with its X-box 360 home entertainment system.
Resorts of course must have significant pools. You find beautiful ones in the Maldives. Huvafen Fushi’s is T-shaped, with the leg of the T tapering to zero water so that you can have dinner sitting, literally, in the shallowest part, and the whole area is littered with twinkling lights set into the base.
The pool at One&Only Reethi Rah extends out as a catwalk, and indeed models are amongst the global A listers who frequent this place (is it true that a king of a Middle Eastern country likes to spend Christmas here?). Personally I would find time, too, at Reethi Rah for a good long session with the highly-trained disciple of Bastien Gonzalez, the Parisien foot specialist who makes grown women weep (for joy) as their tootsies are pedicured and massaged.
One&Only Reethi Rah is one of the Gonzalez outposts, together with One&Only Le St-Géran, and, in Hong Kong, Landmark Mandarin Oriental.
In the Caribbean, pool-resorts that stand out include Grace Bay Club, on Turks & Caicos – also here, ooh and aah at its 90-foot Infiniti Bar, a Keith Hobbs design that seems to stretch out (to infinity?) over the water. And many love the football-field sized main pool of Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma.
Four Seasons left this 500-acre hangout, Butch Stewart took it over, and spent $30 million building a pool that includes vitality sections and a bar and goodness knows what else and since the entire place is inclusive you can bet that the couples who stay here love to have a swim or laze in between heading for the Drunken Duck pub or even, if they have the energy, the 18-hole Greg Norman golf course (gosh he is a busy man, it is he who has done the links course at Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi).
Which other pools spring to mind? Gosh there are so many. The private pools at Soneva Kiri on Koh Kood island in the Gulf of Thailand are C-shaped, wrapping round the appropriate villa. The private pool of the presidential suite at The Oberoi Gurgaon is cantilevered six floors above the ground and, also in Delhi, the – shared – rooftop pool of Leela Palace Chankyapuri (did Prince Andrew find time to use it when he stayed there last weekend, eschewing the hospitality of the British High Commission residence?).
The pool at The Peak club in Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London, has been a godsend on more than one occasion: it comes into its own for hotel guests recovering from, or getting ready for, a flight, and local club members love it.
One of the biggest hotel pools ever is in the basement of the former Hotel Ukraina, Moscow, now Radisson Royal Hotel. Built in 1957 by the Architectural Studio of the Ministry of Construction of the USSR, it is now leased to a consortium that includes the Azeri entrepreneur Telman Ismailov, owner of Mardan Palace, Antalya.
Ismailov and his mates are through to have invested ‘billions’ in renovating what is now a 505-room hotel soaring up through 34 wedding-cake-look floors. Some of the dough went into excavating below ground, to put in what is literally the world’s largest Technogym (four of everything, and all the latest) and a five-lane, 160-foot pool with blue neon lighting overhead.
From one extreme to another, one of the most tasteful pools will unveil any day now with the opening of Bulgari Hotel London. Its basement pool is a dream, 80 feet long with cabanas down one side, and a vitality pool lined with gold Murano tiles. Another plus is the hotel boss, Mr Charm Personified, former paratrooper and political advisor and long time hotelier Sylvain Ercoli.