I remember the first time I stepped into the Royal Palm Hotel in Umhlanga. I was there on a fashion shoot with a Durban photographer, who suggested the 4-star-hotel as the location, and boy was I impressed.
Opulence and a large dose of regal colours filled the hotel lobby and the perfect fit for a classic shoot. Three years later, I am back for their relaunch and I am bowled over once again.
It's one of those hidden Durban gems that you will love once you see it.
With the number of luxury hotel establishments in Umhlanga, Royal Palm may seem like they are small fish, but on close inspection, they are actually swimming with the sharks.
I arrive early and occupy my time socialising with other early arrivals about books, wine and travel. As guests arrive, the mood is set with calming violin rendition and, from a distance,the sound of clinking glasses.
Soon, everyone gathers around Tim Spencer, Royal Palm Hotel Asset Manager, who kicks off the formalities.
Spencer is short and sweet with his speech, but encapsulates exactly what the hotel offers.
“The hotel has been around for more than 10 years and we wanted to just do a few structural changes and give life to our rooms.
“The revamp started a year ago and we are quite pleased with the outcome. We have given each of our 94 rooms a modern look with lots of colour, added energy saving lights and air conditioning systems and will soon launch one of the fastest wireless internet connection throughout the hotel,” he says.
Joining management as the new general manager is Simon Bailey, who previously worked as a GM for Salt Rock Hotel and La Montagne in Ballito. He says he is amazed at the strides the hotel has made.
“The hotel has a phenomenal team with great work ethic. I want us to continue to treat our customers with respect and empower staff because running a hotel is a team effort,” he says.
Bailey says people should visit the hotel because of its location, staff, large rooms, 4 star experience and the best hospitality in Umhlanga.
After the interviews, guests are taken on a site inspection.
We visit the three bedroom Penthouse, equipped with a dining area and lounge. The penthouse offers privacy and comfort, with upstairs and downstairs bedrooms.
Guests can enjoy the views of Gateway Theatre of Shopping from their balcony.
Next, we see the Executive Suite, aimed at the business traveller. It offers a lounge and dining area.
The Deluxe room is entry level, but judging from its size, it's bigger than most standard hotel rooms. All rooms are kitted with microwaves and bar fridges.
While the relaunch consisted of minor tweeks, not much has changed to the room interior. However, I am quite impressed by the thought that went in designing each room, not to mention how big the rooms are.
With luxury Eastern influences, inspired by Bali, Thailand and China, each room allows guests to feel at home.
Some of the facilities include Health and Vitality Centre, Spa Royale, and conference facilities.