(photo credit: URY ACKERMAN)
Dan Caesarea. The name alone elicits associations of elegance, refinement and class. Indeed, more than half a century ago, Baron Edmond de Rothschild opened the hotel on 15 acres of land adjacent to a golf course in Caesarea, halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The top-tier Dan Company later bought the hotel and it became part of the prestigious chain that includes the iconic King David in Jerusalem. Dan Caesarea was the first and only luxurious hotel in north-central Israel, where towns like Zichron Ya’acov, Binyamina and Pardess Hanna are named for Rothschilds. But half a century later, other grand hotels and international level spas have moved into the area, and the tired aristocratic forerunner needed re-imagining. The Dan Caesarea’s doors were closed for eight months.
Some 80 million shekels and a lot of brainstorming were invested in transforming the sleeping princess. And indeed, her crown was returned to its former and future glory. My husband and I arrived around noon on Thursday, our favorite vacation day. If the original Dan Caesarea was stately, the renewed Dan is fun.
There are games everywhere, including pinball machines and magnetic board games and something like bowling in the lobby. You can play pool in the pool, because there’s a billiards table in the water. We rode around the property on a go-cart and took a spin on the bicycle- for-four. You can play Robinson Crusoe in one of the two tree houses or, as we did, admire the view from up high. You can play tennis day or night or practice your soccer kicks on the lawn.
Two rooms serve as a special area for kids, called Danyland, with a mix of arts and crafts and electronic toys with supervised activities. Kids also have a shallow area attached to the pool. Of course, the nine-hole boutique golf course is next door.
There’s a small but well-equipped exercise room (OK, I didn’t use it) and a spa run by an external company on the premises.
Stunning artworks decorate the walls, but the beauty of the renovated Dan Caesarea goes way beyond the exhibits. Whoever did the purchasing has a curator’s touch, from the not-quite oblong place mats and white salt shakers in the Palato dining room, to the tangerine terry towels that cover the beach chairs.
The historic hotel has been modernized but the past is not forgotten. There are traces of history in the Corinthian column base that holds up the glass table in the lobby and the retro Victrola that is a Gramovox bluetooth speaker in each guest room. The carpets in the guest quarters contain an eye-catching, ingenious pattern of sea and sand.
The guest rooms are nothing less than stunning, a successful combination of comfort and aesthetic, from the parquet floors, lavish use of mirrors which add to the spaciousness, and plush beds.
The huge flat screen TV is built in so that it’s an integral part of the room design, and the screen shows an artistic design, not an advertisement. Other features I appreciated were having both a bathtub and rain shower, the rare light in the clothes closet, and bright, focused reading lamps on both sides of the bed.
The in-room coffee machine grinds your beans, a wide selection of which is provided for the connoisseur. Each room has a balcony, cleverly shaped so that rain won’t come in during the winter.
Our room on the fourth floor was “deluxe pool view” but the rooms are similar, differentiated by the height and view. There are larger family rooms with extra beds for two children and an infant, as well as adjoining rooms and suites. Our room would have cost NIS 1,640 for bed and breakfast.
Prices are dynamic and there are introductory and Dan Club discounts. When we arrived we had a satisfying light lunch of grilled sandwiches in the Salon Bocca lobby restaurant. We might have elected for a meat lunch from noon to four, but we were eager to get to the pool.
On Shabbat and holiday, meat dinners are served, and the much-anticipated chef’s restaurant for fine evening dining is scheduled to open in winter of 2020. The hotel provides jeep transportation to and from the nearby Caesarea Port, with its tourist attractions, upscale restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlors.
We decided to stay put for the evening and were very pleased that we did. We returned to the lobby for dinner. The salmon, surrounded by green beans, asparagus and potatoes, was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Ever virtuous, we shared one delicious tricolad cheesecake for dessert. We timed dinner to finish by 9 p.m. because we were eager to play more games. Although you can play ping-pong, pinball and magnetic soccer board games anytime, balls and pucks for other games are provided after 9 p.m. We were quickly addicted to skeeball and the shuffleboard on the upscale McClure table. It was an unusual and fun-filled evening for us.
The five-star breakfast buffet served in the indoor-outdoor spacious Palato dining room, offers a large array of bread, cheeses and salads. Israelis are spoiled by these morning offerings, really more brunch than breakfast. The cooked broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms were unusual. The two I’d like the recipe for are their spicy endive salad and the sweet and sour cooked plums.
The swimming pool is set in the equivalent of a large grassy park. On Friday morning, when many Israelis have the day off, the pool was busy but orderly and quiet. Shaded tent cabanas with guest refrigerators are set up around the lawn so that babies and small children can sleep while their siblings are using the playground toys or taking a spin on the go-carts. The pool is well supervised and has a built-in basketball net. The poolside Lemonada Restaurant offers slush in various fruit flavors, including innocuous-looking alcoholic varieties. Having played lots of games, I alternated between swimming and lying on a deck chair, drink in hand, where I read most of a novel.
For me, vacation, no matter how short, can’t get better than that.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.