Guests of Haifa’s palatial Dan Carmel Hotel can no longer stay in the Ben-Gurion suite, which was a favorite of the country’s first prime minister, but they can be pampered in one of the 16 suites or 211 luxury rooms in the hotel, newly refurbished for its jubilee year.
After a long drive on a recent Friday afternoon, we checked into the hotel, had a refreshing glass of lemonade and were ushered up to our luxury room on the ninth floor.
All the rooms in the Dan Carmel have breathtaking views. We were lucky enough to be treated to the sight of the Baha'i Gardens and Haifa Bay from our balcony, while guests staying on the other side of the hotel can look out onto the Carmel Mountains.
The rooms may have been refitted from floor to ceiling, but they have retained a classic feel, with wall-to-wall carpeting, soft lighting and decorative touches such as ornaments, plants and coffee-table books.
The old-fashioned décor, however, belies the rooms’ ultramodern amenities, from lighting in the closet to a mirror defogging mechanism in the bathroom.
Speaking of the bathrooms, the ones on the hotel’s upper floors (five to nine) are unlike any you will have seen. Most striking is that the partition between the room and the bathroom is glass, so anyone who likes their privacy will have to pull down the blind provided for that purpose. Inside the restroom, however, there is privacy galore, with a frosted glass cubicle not just for the shower but also for the toilet. And for those who like to watch TV while in the bath, there is a small LED fitted to the (fogfree) mirror.
The upper floors, which were renovated first, are tailored for couples, with the option to accommodate one child. Floors one to four can sleep families of four. And yes, the family-friendly rooms have proper walls between the bedrooms and the bathrooms.
On a tour of the hotel and its grounds, the duty manager explained that while Haifa is popular with overseas tourists, most of them visit for day trips, so the hotel is geared mainly toward an Israeli clientele.
That is not to say that the Dan Carmel hasn’t had its fair share of famous visitors.
In its early years, the hotel was a regular vacation spot of prime minister David Ben-Gurion. It also hosted actress Sophia Loren, violinist Isaac Stern and US president Jimmy Carter. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat stayed there on his second visit to the country in September 1979.
More recently, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has been known to visit the hotel, as have Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
Walking around the spacious grounds, it’s easy to see why the Dan Carmel, which opened its doors as Haifa’s first luxury hotel in 1963, has remained a favorite with VIPs from here and abroad, as well as with local tourists. In addition to the picturesque half-Olympic-sized pool, the Dan Carmel has expansive gardens. Even on a mid-July afternoon, there is a refreshing mountain breeze that feels like more than an hour’s drive away from the sticky humidity of the center of the country.
For the working tourist, the hotel offers the King David Business Lounge for guests staying on its executive floors.
Wi-Fi is free in the lobby and can be rented in the rooms.
The hotel is also very family-friendly.
During the summer and holiday periods, the Dan Carmel provides children’s entertainment in the form of the Daniland games room.
As for the gastronomic fare, there is a range of options, from the poolside buffet and the dairy lobby menu to the Gan Dan restaurant overlooking the pool.
And, of course, the dining room does not disappoint. The Shabbat meals we enjoyed were traditional, but fresh, plentiful and satisfying. Shabbat at an Israeli hotel would not be complete without chicken soup for dinner, jahnun for breakfast and cholent for lunch.
The hotel’s NIS 70 million renovation took place over a period of about a year and a half. Great care was taken to work on one area at a time so that the guests were affected as little as possible.
Basking in all that luxury, all that is left to do is sit in one of the hotel’s eateries, enjoy the view and raise a glass to the next 50 years. The writer was a guest of the hotel.