Hot, cool, hip, and posh, new boutique hotel is also ultra-luxurious
By Karen Rubin
It’s hot. It’s cool. It’s hip. It’s posh. Its chic. And it’s so far beyond what Atlantic City has been, it might as well be in a different time zone.
The Water Club, fresh from its grand opening this summer, is the most refreshing change in Atlantic City since, since… since its sister hotel, The Borgata Hotel & Spa, opened in 2003, bringing a Las Vegas-style destination-resort concept to Atlantic City.
Together with The Borgata, The Water Club brings the hope for the beach resort’s renaissance as a destination, rather than a bus ride to the gambling tables.
The two hotels, together with the massive casino-entertainment-and dining complex between them, form their own destination – an “island” surrounded by highways and overlooking a bay (with a view of Atlantic City’s wind turbine farm).
The $400 million, 800-room Water Club is Atlantic City’s first “boutique-lifestyle” hotel, offering a personalized guest experience within a distinctively cosmopolitan setting. You could easily imagine celebrities and power brokers feeling very comfortable here.
The Water Club is also billed as Atlantic City’s first luxury hotel built in the era of casino gambling but without a casino. In actuality, Water Club shares a massive casino/entertainment/dining complex with its sister hotel, The Borgata.
But unless you take that walk through the lobby down a short promenade of six exquisite, high-styled boutiques, you could easily enjoy Water Club as a boutique resort-style hotel with a world-class, two-story spa, five indoor and outdoor pools, and and state-of-the-art meeting and function facilities.
A one-to-one employee-to-guest ratio means service that rises to the level of pampering and begins with a valet taking the car and an “Ambassador” who checks you in curbside with a hand-held device.
The Water Club continues the precedent of an upscale, sophisticated, cosmopolitan hotel set by The Borgata. When the 2,000-room Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opened in 2003, it was the first new Atlantic City casino in 13 years, and the first to present a Las Vegas-style destination with entertainment, celebrity chef restaurants, lavishly appointed guestrooms, and exciting nightlife options all under one roof.
“Within a few short months of opening Borgata, we realized the need to expand our product offering to accommodate the high demand and understood that there was a untapped niche in the market for a cosmopolitan hotel experience in Atlantic City,” explained Larry Mullin, President & Chief Operating Officer for Borgata at the opening of The Water Club in June. “We are confident that not only will the addition of The Water Club firmly position Borgata for long-term success, but will lead Atlantic City as it evolves into true travel destination.”
The connection to Las Vegas is no surprise. The projects are a joint venture between Boyd Gaming and MGM Mirage, and with The Water Club, brings the total investment into the resort destination to $1.7 billion – leading Atlantic City in its development surge, which includes over $10 billion in capital investments planned within the next five years (including another 4,000-room MGM hotel on the site). The hotel was conceived as an exclusive extension to the Las Vegas-style Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Just steps away from Borgata’s gaming, dining, nightlife, and entertainment options, The Water Club combines elements of Borgata while delivering a personality all its own.
But rather than merely expand The Borgata, the decision was made to create a second hotel with a distinct personality.
“The Water Club’s personalized service, sophisticated style and unique brand of comfortable luxury will offer guests the feeling of an exclusive retreat, without being excluding,” said Drew Schlesinger, VP and General Manager for The Water Club. “In crafting The Water Club experience, we drew inspiration from the style and intimacy of boutique hotels in cities like Miami and New York, while still affording guests the ability to enjoy Borgata’s entertainment, world-class restaurants, nightlife and gaming.”
What impresses you (especially if you have been to Atlantic City’s boardwalk, with the Caesars, the Trumps, Resorts International) is the elegant design not seen before in this city, the quality of the materials, the sophisticated styling.
The Los-Angeles based design firm Laurence Lee Associates, has created an exquisite atmosphere using naturalistic themes and materials, much in the style of (what I call) Asian-moderne, with the motif of “immersion” – immersion in water, immersion in indulgence – as the over-arching motif.
In the hotel lobby, limestone columns, and plush handmade rugs punctuated by rich splashes of color are interwoven with gentle water features to create alluring spaces that soothe and revitalize. As you go around the hotel, you see different patterns of stone (collected from 40 different countries) and grain of woods that form artful patterns, palm trees and bamboo grace the interior landscape, stunning art work including Chuiluilly glass.
Floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the hotel’s 43 floors present striking views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding bays, while the five pools offer sanctuaries of renewal and relaxation. The hotel’s lobby lounge, The Sunroom, is a sun-filled space with cascading water that flows along a curved 50-linear-foot blue stone wall and into a tranquil reflective pool. In the evening, The Sunroom transforms into a sultry hideaway with intimate seating areas set amidst a winding stone pathway and lush landscaping that can be enjoyed for drinks and conversation.
Outdoors, guests are introduced to two heated infinity-edge outdoor pools. Surrounding the 400-jet pool, a wooden deck features soft sand with Teak chaise lounges and cabanas. Inside The Water Club, a 42-foot high glass ceiling canopies the hotel’s two infinity-edge indoor pools with plush beach chairs and lofty palm trees that evoke the feeling of an outdoor setting. The indoor pool area is complimented by an intimate bar with poolside service and large Jacuzzi.
The Water Club’s 800 guest rooms, including 760 Clubrooms, 3 levels of suites, and 3 residences, provide upscale amenities and stunning design. Warm Earth tones mix with subtle yet striking bursts of color. A scarlet throw blanket adorns a plush cream-colored chaise lounge, while woven, ultra soft, Egyptian cotton linens combine hues of brown, beige, and deep turquoise.
Each guest room is outfitted with a 40″ LCD Sony Flat Panel TV, iHome Alarm Clock with iPod docking station, wireless high-speed Internet access, and IP Phone. Black and white photographic artwork, L’Occitane amenities, his and hers bathrobes with matching slippers, woven, 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton linens, and oversized, glass-enclosed showers with therapeutic showerheads provide an intimate, soothing atmosphere.
You will likely swoon over the quality of the plush robes, towels, even the bathroom glass that is utterly gorgeous – and everything you see, including the sheets, the slippers left by your bed, and even the pillows – can actually be purchased in the Cameo store downstairs.
The Water Club’s suites are spacious and stunning, and come with butler service! plus showers large enough for two people, and are equipped with a media-rich mini theater, a 70-inch Sony LCD HGTV with surround sound, wet bar and panoramic views of the ocean and bay. Both the two-bedroom Viceroy and Social Suites and one-bedroom Harbor Suite offer designated spaces for in-room massage therapy treatments.
The Water Club’s three residences are modeled after chic, New York-style lofts. The Residence on 34, located on the 34th floor, is a two-bedroom duplex with grand piano, fireplace, and spa room, while the two-bedroom 4,500-square-foot duplex Residence on 36, offers a pool table, fireplace and entertainment center. The 3,000-square-foot, Residence on 38 is a single-floor suite with one bedroom, wet bar, and spa room.
For many valid reasons, The Water Club sees itself as appealing to destination weddings, bridal or bachelor party getaways, as well as for high-level corporate retreats, incentive programs and board meetings.
Immersion – A Spa With A View
Located on the 32nd and 33rd floors, Immersion – The Spa at The Water Club, is a globally-inspired, 36,000-square-foot retreat with floor-to-ceiling windows, 180-degree ocean views; a 25-yard infinity-edge lap pool; 16 ‘experience’ rooms, a 1800-square-foot, state-of-the-art fitness center with TechnoGym equipment; and gourmet spa menu.
The spa, which is available exclusively to Water Club guests, is the epitome of opulence and luxury, and is like a resort-within-a-resort, with a private lounge (separate ones for men and women), 80-foot lap pool, fitness center, in addition to the 16 treatment rooms. Spa guests can use the exclusive facilities for the entire day.
Not only is the spa for the exclusive use of Water Club guests, but there is an extra $30 charge even for guests to use the spa pool and fitness room.
The 36,000-square-foot spa, Immersion blends natural materials with a modern design, including a river rock archway with cascading water; slate, green marble, stone and glass detailing; and lush indoor greenery. Immersion’s crowning feature is a spacious, two-lane, 80-foot-long infinity-edge lap pool with horizon and Atlantic Ocean views and 42-foot ceilings with floor-to-ceiling glass panels.
Sixteen experience rooms cater to today’s spa trends of longer (80 and 110 minutes) and more personalized services (and cost $250 each).
Two of the treatment rooms are deluxe couples’ suites with oversized Japanese-style Hanoki soaking tubs and 180-degree views; two are Vichy shower wet rooms with heated Hamam tables; four are skincare-ready rooms; and two are individual suites with dedicated private showers and Jacuzzi tubs. Immersion also offers three soft-pack floatation device tables, designed to increase product absorption by 30 percent. Pairs can experience this service side-by-side.
Additionally, The Water Club has 28 deluxe suite accommodations with a dedicated spa room ready for body treatments, massages and facials for a private in-room spa experience.
Immersion’s spa director Brennan Evans, who is also the director of spa operations at Borgata’s Spa Toccare and formerly the spa director at the esteemed Canyon Ranch Spa, created the service menu to suit the spa enthusiast who not only wants medi-spa options, but also desires “a quick fix and spa indulgences without downtime.” Immersion satisfies with “high tech, high touch” experiences, which last a minimum of 80 minutes and feature leading spa industry products, including Naturopathica, Intraceuticals, Spa Visions, Jamu, True, Academie Scientifique and Tara Spa Therapy’s Ayurvedic line.
For example, intraceuticals, involve oxygen infusion, which plumps up and hydrates the skin without an injection or redness (which is why is popular with popular with “red carpet” celebrities.
In another room, we see a fine stream of herb infusion oil being dripped on the “third eye” – to calm and relax – which is followed by scalp, hand and foot massage.
Another room offers heated hammam table, from Germany, made completely of jade marble.
What impresses is the selection of methods from around the world and with different cultures.
Immersion’s signature services include the Immersion Rainforest (110 minutes), which starts with an exfoliation and mud wrap of Black Silt Clay containing herbal extracts of Indian Sarsaparilla, Plantain, and Echinacea, and then a rinse in a Japanese-style Hanoki soaking tub filled with rare essences of Bourbon Vanilla, Massola Bark and Linden Blossom. The experience finishes with a pampering full-body deep tissue massage.
In addition to the pool, the spa includes a state-of-the-art Techno Gym-equipped fitness center with ocean views that also overlooks the pool area; a men’s and a women’s lounge featuring cold water plunge pools along with Jacuzzi and steam rooms.
A gourmet spa menu has been created by New York City’s Country and Town Chef/Owner Geoffrey Zakarian. Continuing the personalized focus, guests are given the opportunity at check-in to select their dining option, which is served poolside, or while relaxing in a spa suite. Spa cuisine is served in three Geoffrey Zakarian designed bento boxes.
Spa menu selection include super food lunch boxes with options like a roast turkey wrap with arugula, and cranberry relish, a string bean and almond side salad with yogurt dressing, quinioa, shallots, pine nuts and sherry vinegar, served with a blueberry parfait filled with crushed pumpkin seeds. The Spa also offers guests a chocolate and tea service for before and after treatments to provide the ultimate experience in decadence.
A delightful surprise is Acai – a spritzer of sparkling water and berry juice from Brazilian rainforest, high in anti-oxidant.
Spa Immersion offers fitness classes and personal training sessions for $120/hour. To visit Immersion, spa clients must be guests at The Water Club. For guests opting out of a spa service, a $30/day fee is charged for use of the fitness center and pool. All packages and services include a 20 percent service charge (visit www.thewaterclubatborgata.com, or call 800-800-8817 for reservations).
The Water Club’s dining experiences are all designed by chef Geoffrey Zakarian of Manhattan’s Country and Town, in his first venture outside New York City, who creates and oversee all food and beverage hospitality for the spa, pool, special events and in-room dining.
The selections are completely unexpected: Tuna Tartare with green apple and flat bread crisps; Grilled Organic Chicken with smoked mozzarella, pesto and arugula and rosemary foccacia; and a Curried Taro Turnover with pork, daikon and lemongrass, guests will enjoy soaking up the atmosphere, which is inspired by Miami’s South Beach and features lush landscaping, sand and private cabanas.
A novel twist is the emphasis on in-room dining, especially for breakfast, rather than going to a hotel restaurant (since the hotel restaurants are really all in the Borgata).
Signature in-room breakfast items such as bagels and scrambled egg sandwich or savory sides of smoked bacon, cheese pork grits, and rosemary home fries or a healthy heart cereal choice of house made granola, organic raisin bran or Kashi GoLean Crunch complemented with soy, whole organic or rice milk and fresh berries on the side.
We enjoyed the unusually prepared Blueberry pancakes, and “Ouefs in plate with cheese” (cheese omelette) with ham and wild mushrooms, served on stunning silverware and china.
Instead of a formal restaurant, The Water Club has casual eateries in the Sunroom and by the pools (a dozen restaurants are just steps away at The Borgata). The lobby-level Sunroom is lush and will make you think you are in Palm Beach, with soaring palm trees and fountain (though the fireplace is a bit jarring). It is set up with comfortable lounge nooks where you can order light breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks.
The two heated outdoor pools are just behind the Sunroom – they have done an excellent job creating a beach-like environment – with sand, cabanas, trees – and shielding the roadways from view. Both outdoor pools -beautiful with the “infinity edge” where water rolls over the side – are reserved for adults.
The prettiest pool (also heated) is indoors, but it is easy to forget that it is actually indoors, except that the temperature is perfectly controlled and there is music. It, too, is lushly landscaped with trees, lounge chairs (each with an orchid placed on a rolled towel). There is an eaterie, here as well, for breakfast and light meals, making it a delightful gathering place.
The Water Club is billed as the first non-gaming hotel to be built in Atlantic City since gaming began, but you simply walk through the small promenade of retail shops, leaving the tranquility of The Water Club, and enter a “happening” place with 161,000-square-feet of casino floor space including 200 gaming tables, 4,100 slot machines, and an 85-table poker room; 12 destination restaurants; 12 retail boutiques; a 54,000 square foot spa; 70,000 square feet of event space; a 2,400-seat Borgata Event Center and a 1,000-seat Music Box theater,
The space is actually gorgeous – not tacky like so many of Atlantic City’s casinos, even the name-brand hotels – and can be enjoyed even if you are like me, a non-gambler.
This is the place to come for dining and entertainment.
There are seven “destination” restaurants to chose from – each exquisite and offering a distinct personality: Bobby Flay Steak famous for its Southwest-style steak and boldly seasoned dishes; Old Homestead Steakhouse, an original, classic steak house; Ombra, a classic trattoria and wine bar; SeaBlue, A Michael Mina restaurant, serving seasonal fresh fish from all over the world cooked over a wood-burning grill; Specchio, featuring modern Italian cuisine with a classical twist; Wolfgang Puck American Grille serving American cuisine; and the newest, Izakaya, A Modern Japanese Pub offering spectacularly reinvented Japanese cuisine within an alluring social scene.
There also are six casual dining options: The Metropolitan, a 24-hour café serving contemporary and classic American foods; Borgata Buffet, a buffet of entrees, snacks and desserts; Bread + Butter- serving sandwiches and gourmet beverages; Risi Bisi serving pizza, Panini and salad selections; N.O.W. featuring Japanese, Chinese, Korean cuisine; and The Cafeteria, multi-concept quick service dining featuring Tony Luke’s cheese-steaks, Ben & Jerry’s, and Panda Express.
Also within this complex (again, just steps away from The Water Club) are four signature nightlife experiences: MIXX dance club featuring renowned DJs; mur.mur, an intimate nightclub with signature bottle service and celebrity DJ’s and B Bar lounge centrally located on the casino floor. My favorite place was the Gypsy Bar, Borgata’s rock & roll and tequila bar featuring live music and eclectic eats. There is also a theater presenting live entertainment.
Shopping as Entertainment
The Water Club’s retail shops warrant mentioning – just six, but each is distinct and in most cases, the only shop of its kind, and really interesting/fun to visit, even if you are just window-shopping (like at Hearts of Fire).
The Water Club is home to the first North American Hearts On Fire store. Hearts on Fire elevated the industry standard in diamond cutting by creating perfect “Hearts On Fire” cut diamonds, which are truly exquisite. The boutique offers an intimate and personalized shopping experience that you would not expect.
Fixation, a Water Club exclusive, featuring top brands of shoes and handbags such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Stuart Weitzman, PRADA, Emilio Pucci, KORS by Michael Kors, Diane Von Furstenburg, L.A.M.B, Longchamp, Juicy Couture, BCBG, Betsy Johnson, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Lacoste, Via Spiga, and Missoni. Fixation at The Water Club, boasting 1,580-square-feet of designer labels, is the only place at the shore to find all of the top accessory designers under one roof. Plush white leather couches complemented by pearlescent silver walls add to the rich shopping experience. Unexpected pops of lime add energy, while black and gray accents keep the overall design grounded. There is also an unexpected range of prices, with sandal flats at $29, up to jeweled sandals at $140.
Hugo Boss at The Water Club features stylish menswear, ranging from classic business-wear and casual sportswear to elegant evening apparel.
The Shoppes at The Water Club also boast the area’s first Just Cavalli boutique, which joins the brand’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue, combining the right mix of high-end retail and luxe lifestyle. Renowned designer Roberto Cavalli’s ready-to-wear collection has a sensual, party infused flair similar to The Water Club. The store successfully caters to women of any age who want “fun” and “sexy”. This is a great place to look for Prom or Sweet 16 dresses (prices ranging from $200 to $300).
Wrap yourself in sensuality at La Perla at The Water Club. Specializing in luxurious intimate apparel, swimwear, and ready-to-wear, La Perla features one-of-a-kind, limited edition items (even a cigarette holder and a gold-plated “dragon bra”, at $1,048). This is really something to be seen. The stunning 1,250-square-foot boutique mixes a cool and calming color scheme of silver and white with warm wooden floors.
Cameo, The Water Club’s signature boutique, is where you can find just about any of the necessities you might have forgotten to pack. But it is also where you can actually purchase just about anything you admired (and wished you could stuff in a suitcase) in your room: bathrobes, slippers, sheets, pillows, towels, even the glass in the bathroom.
You get your first exposure to just how high-tech The Water Club is when you pull up in a car, and the valet checks in the vehicle, and a Water Club Ambassador greets you curbside and checks you in with a handheld device. The device sends information to a second Water Club Ambassador, who arrives with pre-printed keys and a glass of champagne and escorts you up escalator, avoiding a waiting at the front desk
You no sooner enter your room, than an IP LCD TV offer personalized greetings with your name.
Guestroom phones are VOIP (voice over IP), which allows guests direct information from the Internet, view in-room dining information and place orders from the phone; find out the wait time for an in-room dining request, check the delivery status, and advance order an “Express Breakfast” by touching a phone icon. You can also use the phone to check flight status, weather or travel conditions, and locate local restaurants through citysearch.com.
Rooms are equipped with HD television and video on-demand and (for a fee) wireless and wired Internet service. You can also trade-up to “Turbo Service”, to connect to home computers, photos, and videos.
The rooms all have Sony HD LCD screens, iHome Alarm Clock with iPod docking station; even the minibar is equipped with “smart” technology that lets housekeeping know when to replenish items (or what to bill you for).
On the Boardwalk
You can see the Atlantic City boardwalk from the hotel and easily spend the entire time within The Water Club and Borgata complex, but it is tremendous fun to hop a jitney bus for the 15 minute-ride ($2, it operates 24 hours) from the surface parking lot at The Borgata and within minutes, you can be strolling the famous boardwalk.
By day, Atlantic City is still a great beach destination – in summer, some of the major hotels have opened lovely eateries and provide umbrellas and chairs right on the beach; in other seasons, it is still fun to just walk on the beach.
There seems to be a concerted effort to fight back against the forces that would stomp out everything that was charming about Atlantic City. Look a little closely and you will find historic marketers (like along Jones Beach boardwalk) that tell you the history of the wicker rolling chairs ($5/for five blocks), even Mr. Peanut shop, that I remember so fondly from our many family trips when I was a child.
Those famous rolling chairs date from 1877, when the Boardwalk was the “Great Wooden Way, and hardware store owner William Hayday rented wicker wheelchairs for people with disabilities, then a few years later, people started requesting them for a joy ride. (This triggered memories of my younger brother, age 4, saying “beep beep” as we were pushed along the boardwalk).
The nicest, most charming aspect to the Boardwalk is the miniature golf course that harkens back to Atlantic City’s Victorian glory days, with lovely sculptures and old-time “postcards” at each of the holes. The course is directly opposite Atlantic City’s famous convention center, once the home of the annual Miss America contest. A round of miniature golf should definitely be part of your Atlantic City tradition (Weekdays, 10 a.m. to midnight, weekends until 1 a.m., $8 pp).
You can ride a bike on the boardwalk, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. from April 1-Oct. 31, and 6 a.m. to noon from Nov. 1-March 31.
The boardwalk is fairly tacky – even and perhaps because of the gambling era hotels that seemed oriented to middle America and show the effects of hordes of people.
A pleasant exception is the Pier Shops at Caesars retail shopping mall where one of the pier attractions used to be. The shops and restaurants are great, the atmosphere is fun.
And if you walk through to the pier, you will find yourself out over the ocean with lovely views back up the beach and boardwalk on both sides. Off in the distance is the Steel Pier, now more than 112 years old and still an amusement park.
But to add to the resort-feel of Water Club and The Borgata (and the exclusiveness that maximizes separation of hotel guests from the Boardwalk and the Boardwalk casinos), they offer a shuttle on weekends to Brigateen Beach, on an island surrounded by water and significantly more private than Atlantic City’s beachfront (you have to check the shuttle schedule).
Atlantic City is now the second largest casino-gaming destination in the country, earning $5 billion – after Las Vegas. The take from gaming may actually be greater than what Las Vegas brings in, but Atlantic City, with 15,000 hotel rooms to Las Vegas’ 130,000 – can’t compete in terms of non-gaming revenue.
The Water Club, 1 Renaissance Way, Atlantic City, NJ 08401, 609-317-8888, 800-800-8817,www.TheWaterClubatBorgata.com.
Wednesday, 15 October, 2008
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