Earlier in September, we had the opportunity and privilege to review a most diverse array of luxury hotels, from the highest ranked hotels (Palace ranking) Le Meurice, La Réserve Paris Hôtel & Spa, Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Park Hyatt Paris Vendome and luxury (five star) Sofitel Le Faubourg and Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Dedicated comprehensive (360 degree experience) review articles will be published on each hotel by mid October 2020.
Our criteria has been fine tuned and adapted to the expectations of luxury travellers during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We have taken into consideration the following:
- location – also from a point of view of access, safety and privacy
- type of building – including size of rooms and ratio of suites vs rooms
- quality of product – upkeep
- safety & hygiene measure to protect staff and guests from Covid-19
- quality of sleep
- mix of guests
Prince de Galles Paris, a Luxury Collection Hotel was set up in 1930 par André Millon, owner of Le Grand Hotel (today InterContinental Le Grand and Le Meurice (owned and operated by Dorchester Collection).
The hotel which boasts 159 accommodations (of which 49 are suites) is housed within a heritage building on the prestigious Avenue George V, steps from Champs Elysees and L’Arc de Triomphe. Nowadays edifice was constructed on the remains of a building which was inaugurated as a luxury hotel in 1928 by Sir Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich. Charles Laughton Dalida and Elvis Presley were among its famous patrons.
The location is not only easily accessible and prestigious, but it is also very safe. Avenue George V is wide four lane boulevard, with a small pathway which allows cars to stop right in front of the hotel. The configuration and width of the boulevard ensures that no matter the time of the day, it would not be crowded and pedestrian traffic is limited. Over 40% of the accommodations face Avenue George V with all windows opening.
Location also ensures privacy and the style of the building is also reflecting an air of understated sophistication, with a subtle blend that welcomes equally those who seek to see and to be seen as well as those more withdrawn. Location is also a key determining factor for the guest profile of the hotel which has a balanced mixed of business (corporate), diplomatic and leisure.
The building counts 8 floors, most of them high ceilings, with 3 guests elevators as well as a generous staircase (staff do not ride in the same elevator with guests, which is restricted to those occupying one particular room or suite – a key safety measure for Covid-19).
The lobby is large and welcoming, its predominantly black and dark coloured furnishings and floors kindling a WOW factor. The quality of the construction and interiors design is given away by the lobby with the finest lacquered wood (macassar), super black and limestone. Unlike some of the already re-opened Palace ranked hotels, Prince de Galles also has transparent panels at the Front, to limit interaction. The hotel is also working to introduce a key-less App for any smartphone.
The hotel also features the largest courtyard terrace, superbly decorated with high natural palm trees and an abundance of white flowers. It is one of the centre point attractions for both local patrons and hotel guests, an ideal meeting point during lunch, dinner but also for a drink. It is on of the largest such courtyard terraces among all luxury / Palace ranked hotels in Paris. During the current pandemic the courtyard terrace is ideal for social distancing and safe for fresh air.
Although only re-open for a week after a 3 month closure due to the pandemic, the staff of the hotel have been seamless trained, including role play so that key safety and hygiene measures are enforced in the most strict way, but which would feel as effortless for guests. On arrival, I was expertly briefed on some of the measures, even if they were aware I was arriving from another hotel. The briefing included all the key safety and hygiene rules which are widely implemented worldwide, some from the briefing of expert companies Bureau Veritas and Eco Lab
- masks must be worn at all times in all areas of the hotel, including elevators – exception are in the rooms and strictly during eating or drinking in any venue of the hotel
- hotel provides a kit, again at international standards, with two plastic individually sealed masks, disinfectant gel with 70% in a 75 to 100 ml recipient, surgical gloves and two disinfectant wet tissues, ideal to disinfect phones or eyewear
- breakfast can only be served a-la-carte or in-room dining (no more buffet)
- housekeeping service is only performed on demand; guests can even choose no housekeeping for 3 days and for example, towels can be delivered at the door with no interaction with housekeeping
- like most luxury hotels which properly implement safety and hygiene measures – on arrival, the minibar was empty, however, in a most creative manner, the hotel General Manager introduced a very efficient protocol – mini-bars are refilled only when guest arrives and while guest is in the room with a selection of waters, soft drinks or beer, complimentary to all guests (refilled every two days) each bottle is disinfected individually by a hotel staff in front of the guest
- hotel no longer provides any newspaper or magazine delivery (nothing printed on paper), the welcoming page when accessing the wi-fi leading to a press reader
- there are no more paper printed menu, instead, only a QR code which guests can scan
- the hotel would allow one day between each guest checking-in in the same accommodation – allowing for full disinfection and cleaning, assuring no staff was physically in the room for 24 hours
- in all rooms and suites windows can be opened – so, weather permitting, guests are encouraged to leave windows open as much as possible
- over 50% of the air circulated in the centralised system of the hotel is fresh air brought from outside (most hotels have a minimal 10-20% or no fresh air at all, because air is only re-circulated
- flowers and all other live plants had been removed from the room
- the hotel has a partnership with the American Hospital in Paris and a room for isolation, especially for guest that may perceive about coronavirus typical symptoms – in order to avoid any false alarms and an alarmist approach, the respective guest would be taken to hospital or consulted on site; the hotel has a very clear protocol on this matter too
In order to ensure a most safe stay, the hotel has a policy to encourage guests to use privately arranged transportation for airpot transfers, thus avoiding a potentially unclean or un-disinfected car (ride share or taxi), not to mention metro or trains. The hotel also encourages guest to avoid specific over-crowded areas and to arrange a private car (at a competitive price) for a private sightseeing tour or a shopping session.
Beds are the most comfortable among all the reviewed hotels, with an ideal filling of duvet and pillows. Italian luxury linen by Frette looks and feels very crisp yet soft. Mattresses allow for an ideal posture, neither too soft, nor too firm. Using mostly natural pieces (feather, down, topper etc) beds do not feel or get over-heated. Mattresses feel brand new with no ‘baggy’ surface because of over-use.
Bathrooms are large, with heated marble flooring, separate glass enclosed walk-in shower, sinks for ‘him and her’, bathtub and glass enclosed vanity. Hotel provides luxurious bathroom amenities by Lalique, the prestigious heritage French crystal and glass works manufacturer – impeccable packaging. Towels also include brand new thick Egyptian cotton towels. Most suites also have a large wardrobe space. Indoor (hallways) and outdoor (windows) sound-proofing allows maximum serenity, while black-outs ensure a best-night sleep.
Beyond all the safety and hygiene measures, it is impressive that once one feels, sees and notices they are consistently implemented, can only be safe. Staff are genuinely warm and courteous, and most importantly confident. The same way that guests are seeking to feel safe and confident, staff also need to know they are protected and taken care of.
This allows them to tackle any matter and behave in the most natural way, the pleasure to serve being obvious. It also allows, everyone to enjoy their time, for guests to be able to achieve the ultimate goal of their trip. I have very often seen in my travels (from July 2nd 2020) in 5 countries and several luxury hotels, that staff may look depressed or down, not to mention stressed.
Prince de Galles is busy working on completely transforming its main restaurant with a new restaurant managed by Michelin-starred chef Akira Back. An Art-Deco / Jazz inspired Bar was introduced before the pandemic. The bar is configured and arranged to be versatile – available for both drinks or a light meal. The mood is very Parisian, elaborate, chic and glam – while maintaining its luxurious positioning. The hotel’s bar also has a wide selection of cigars and the most refined cognacs for pairings.
Leadership with an innovative twist, while showing equal care for staff and guests, the use of common sense and logic, extensive and continuous training. Motivating staff is essential and with Covid-19, achieving seamless implementation of the strictest hygiene safety and hygiene rules has to be done very subtly and effortlessly so that the focus remains on the guest experience and not to make the hotel feel like a hospital.
Room for improvement:
- renovation / redesign of the Spa
- introducing SmartTv’s, ideal Apple Tv for better resolution and bigger range of programs
- introduce a complimentary proximity car (10 km radius) ex. for private shopping or sightseeing – ensures maximum privacy and safety
Needless to say, in such extremely challenging times, affiliation (management) with a large hospitality conglomerate such as Marriott International, is essential. Congratulations to the entire division in charge of luxury brands.
Chapeau bas for young and very talented and passionate Gerald Krischek-Cruypelans, so proud of his native Austria.
- most luxurious brand new Spa (Spa Valmont) at Le Meurice – top quality products, luxurious interior design, equipment and highly skilled personnel; one of the most hotel Spas in the world (it even includes a brand new courtyard terrace
- finest pastry – Chef Cedric Grolet
- stunning rooftop penthouse – covering an entire floor – with lavish open air terrace area; spectacular panoramic views of Paris
- being the smallest among the Palace hotels, atmosphere is very private / intimate (50 rooms and suites)
- safest hotel (steps from the American Embassy)
- strong base of neighbourhood patrons for dining (all day dining)
- the only luxury hotel that opened right after lockdown – accumulated experience re. Covid-19
- best swimming pool
- finest signature suites in Paris – classic with a twist of contemporary (perfect views of the Eiffel Tower from several suites)
- top fine dining by Alain Ducasse (Michelin starred)
- ideal location for the best luxury shopping – Avenue Montaigne is a mecca of luxury shopping
- ‘The Couture Address of Paris’ – a place to see and be seen – ultimate glam
- best value for a Palace ranked hotel steps from Place Vendome (also recently renovated)
- top performing F&B – a solid base of local patrons and returning guests
- highly praised Michelin starred dining (‘Pur’ Restaurant) – opening new concept dining by end of September
- best luxury for business & corporate; but also ideal for officials & diplomatic
- high standards of Covid-19 measures implementation
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