Cruise ships would love to have the mystique and space of luxury hotels, but few achieve that goal. Some hotel owners would love their properties to be able to move around, from one event to another (many hoteliers in, say, Baku, which has far too many hotels, would love to have been able to spirit them away to Johannesburg this week, when at least one hotel was telling booked guests to move out, to make way for celebrities at Mandela’s memorial service). Some hotels look and feel a little like a cruise ship. Mandarin Oriental Miami springs to mind, says the gal, as does Fairmont Monte Carlo, at least from the Mediterranean-facing side.
The other side of the seven-floor zigzag, flat-topped building looks just like that, a frequently-bending piece of card. From the top floor, on the city-facing side, you can walk straight out to the casino, which is useful for some. Up on the seventh floor, too, is the heated outdoor pool, which with its white railings adds to the cruise-ship feel. The pool is next to one of Monaco’s two best fitness gyms, extensively used by locals. I am sure that the guy running for over an hour on a brand-new Technogym piece of equipment must be a sports star, relocated here for tax reasons. I come in when he has already done 40 minutes but Antonio Citterio’s new look for Technogym runners makes all data so large that even a squinting bat can see how many minutes, how many calories, those around have used up.
The 616 rooms here are also rather cabin-like, superior cabins, of course, with balconies (go for a sea-view). Walls are pale blue, with nautical decoration on the blue seating, and a porthole-shaped mirror, and another porthole-shaped mirror on the outside of your door, facing the corridor – useful for delivery people bringing a glass of something and a snack for your sundowner, to check their hair is in place. The hotel was built back in 1975 but now, under its present owner and its magnetically creative GM Xavier Rugeroni, it seems more 2014 than any other date. Struth, they even opened the second Nobu in the whole of mainland Europe this very week.
Of course, being Monaco, you come here for the casino, but also for the shopping. As you wend your way along the main floor of this long zigzag building, you pass one after another really fabulous boutiques and vitrines. Some, like Steffano Ricci – as in Four Seasons Milano – seem like old friends, others are new names but who cares, they are all luxury-look displays. You can buy a Ferrari-themed beer dispenser here, or an Art Deco local car excursion there, and incredibly sexy underwear in lots of places. M. Rugeroni is evidently broad-minded, and it obviously works as it brings people into the hotel.
Of course many come for Nobu, lunch and dinner, but you can come 24/7 for breakfast – yes really – in the 24-hour Saphir lobby lounge, which cleverly has lounge seating in the middle and tables around (is this another bit of Rugeroni ingenuity?) Sit here and look across at those lingerie vitrines. Sit here at this time of year and look at the Christmas trees, which in typical Monaco style, at least this year, are all-white. Head out of the hotel, along Avenue Princesse Grace to Grimaldi Forum Monaco and you pass every public-street tree, it seems, adorned in white lights, some with shooting stars that vibrate up and down the length of the supporting wire.
One of my favourite times at this luxury hotel is sunrise. Sit having your wakeup coffee, in Saphir or on your balcony – if sea-facing – and look what you get, wallpaper of a sunrise. Just like at sea. Did I ask if this is a cruise ship or a hotel?