I was the last person to check out of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel—at least for a while. Yesterday at 11 a.m., the landmark Waikiki hotel shut down for a seven-month renovation.
There were no chaises on the beach. The last drink had been served at the Mai Tai Bar. The shops with their 50 percent off signs were packing up the last remaining aloha shirts and Panama hats. Employees, even those off duty on this Sunday, gathered on the spacious Palm Court for a blessing and employees-only private luncheon in the Monarch Room.
It’s the first time the hotel has been completely shuttered since the end of WWII. During the war, it had been surrounded by barbed wire on the beach and turned into a R&R center for Pacific submariners. That time, it took two years to get back in operation. This time the $30 million renovation will be fast-tracked.
Except for some minor modifications on the first floor, not one wall of the historic hotel, built in 1927, will come down. They can’t. “The mass of this building is incredible,” said renovation architect Wayne Goo. “It was built like a Moorish fortress—nobody builds like this anymore.”
Instead, there will be new plumbing and wiring, paint and furnishings, restaurants, pools and spa facilities. As the hotel marketing staff likes to put it, this will mark “a return to luxury.”
The hotel—once the priciest and most deluxe accomodations in Hawaii—will reopen in 2009 as part of owner Starwood Hotel & Resort's “Luxury Collection.” Rates will be about 70 percent higher.
As everyone knows, the hotel is nicknamed "the Pink Palace." When it reopens, gone will be the pink sheets, pillows, blankets, robes, beach towels, umbrellas, tableclothes, napkins, etc., etc. The hotel’s decorator, Marion Philpotts-Miller, promises shades of pink will “accentuate but not dominate.”
Will the hotel itself stay pink. “Oh, how could it not?” asked Goo.
How was staying at the hotel? The rooms and windows are small by current hotel standards, but when you look out the window—there, perfectly framed, are Diamond Head and the soft sands of gentle Waikiki Beach.
It’s the view millions have dreamed about coming to Hawaii. In the hotel that has housed everyone from FDR to the Beatles.
I didn’t even mind the pink sheets.
Scheduled reopening date is Jan. 1, 2009. You can make a reservation already.