Business or pleasure? How to define my recent overnight stay at the Carlton Tel Aviv Hotel? The newly refurbished 300-room hotel takes pride in catering to business executives, tourists and groups, offering each a personal touch. In fact, its slogan is “We’ve got you covered,” and the accent is on personalized service, pampering and meeting requests great and small.
An atmosphere of luxury permeates the hotel’s 15 floors. On every floor, there is a healthy temptation to do more than just relax and let someone else handle the details of your stay: A bowl of fresh apples is placed close to the elevators, offering a surprisingly homey informality.
Arriving for a Thursday night getaway from Jerusalem, relaxation was instant. I felt as if by stepping through the revolving door, I had sent the tensions of a tough week covering news in the capital spinning out onto the sidewalk. I brought along my 13-year-old son, partly as the last in a series of bar mitzva celebratory events.
As a guest staying in one of the Royal Executive level rooms, I was granted easy, expedited check-in and check-out facilities.
The bellboys prepared to help with luggage, and we had barely stepped inside when the smiling concierge staff offered us seats in the fragrant lobby. Complimentary peach iced tea and cheese nibbles arrived almost as soon as we sat down, and the front desk manager came over to personally complete the checkin as I sat in the comfortable easy chair.
Service throughout the hotel seemed to be universally polite, efficient and friendly, and the staff spoke both English and Hebrew. I discovered that the higher the floor number, the more luxurious the rooms and amenities.
We had been allocated a room with twin beds on the 14th floor, one of the three Royal Executive levels, and the minute I opened the door I realized the attraction – the sea view, overlooking Tel Aviv’s marina, the legendary Gordon Pool and the beachside promenade. Later, I met equally satisfied hotel guests who had rooms looking down on the city’s urban landscape.
Hotels in Israel tend to hand themselves a five-star rating based on aspirations rather than international standards, but the Carlton well deserves its five stars, every one of them shining brightly that night.
The secret lies in the small touches: the roses, fruit and specially prepared cookies and chocolates awaiting on the table and chocolates delivered in the evening; the well-equipped, fully automated mini-bar; the his-and-hers robes and slippers; the toilet paper folded into a triangle and sealed with a Carlton sticker; and an addition I had never come across before: among the complimentary toiletries was a small bottle of mouthwash.
It provided just the right extra feeling of attention to personal details.
The Carlton recently underwent a NIS 30 million facelift, and it was clear that a lot of thought had been invested in the design along with the money.
Although the bathroom area in our room was large and very attractive, with wavy white tiles and a sleek, modern look, it was equipped only with a shower. Other rooms, however, are outfitted for those tired travelers who prefer a bath at the end of the day, but guests should check in advance.
The room itself was clean, well designed and aesthetically pleasing, with a balcony just the right size for two, so it was tempting to stay in for the night and venture no farther afield, even though the Carlton’s location is perfect for visitors who want to enjoy the vibrant local life of “The city that never sleeps.”
We had a reservation at the hotel’s Lumina restaurant, one of two restaurants at the Carlton run by award-winning celebrity chef Meir Adoni, so we turned the gourmet meal into the main attraction of the evening. Adoni’s dairy restaurant Blue Sky on the 15th floor will have to wait for a future visit.
After a comfortable night’s sleep, breakfast beckoned.
Israeli hotels are famed for their buffet breakfasts, but the experience that awaited us exceeded our expectations. Breakfast is served at Carlton on the Beach, a restaurant just across from the main entrance and about as close as you can get to dining on the beach without getting sand in your food.
The choice was so great, from the breads and cereals to the cheeses, salads, waffles and individual shakshoukas, that I spent a good few minutes just wandering around the large room weighing my options (and calories.) The freshly squeezed fruit juices were a welcome start to the day (I sampled the carrot juice and the orange.) But my eye was drawn to the honey dripping off the comb into a bowl – as fresh and delicious as it comes without having to fight off the bees.
The scenery was as stunning as the name “Carlton on the Beach” implied.
Following a large breakfast, we decided to get a taste of what the locals do and took a pleasant walk on the promenade where Tel Avivians were jogging, cycling, strolling and walking their dogs in perfect weather (our stay coincided with one of those wonderful autumn days when Tel Aviv is sunny and hot but not humid).
Since our time was limited, we decided to opt for a leisurely morning rather than trying to cram in as much as possible. I skipped the well-equipped spa and gym facilities and headed for the hotel’s jewel in the crown: the newly redesigned rooftop pool and sun deck.
The view in every direction – from the Mediterranean to the Tel Aviv skyline – was spectacular, and the pool and poolside area were fabulously clean and inviting. The swimming pool itself, however, is small.
Serious swimmers might be better off going to the Gordon Pool, the iconic beachside pool nearby, where from my room I could see people plowing up and down lanes until late into the night and from early in the morning. The hotel pool also obviously takes time to heat up and was on the cold side of refreshing when we arrived.
As a Royal Executive level guest, I was entitled to enjoy the Royal Lounge, which offered a full complimentary buffet; international and local newspapers and magazines; fully equipped computer stations; spectacular vistas from the windows; and service with a smile. Although I had passed on their services in the evening, I did have some of the snacks instead of eating lunch before making our way back to Jerusalem.
On my way out of the hotel, I passed signs welcoming various groups, and the hotel was preparing for Friday night and Shabbat.
Stepping outside, more relaxed and in a far better mood than when I had arrived the previous night, I envied the guests staying for the weekend.
Every hotel aims to provide a “home away from home.” Passing the Carlton’s “We’ve got you covered” slogan in the lobby and grabbing a green apple from the bowl, I thought of an alternative motto – “A most accommodating hotel.”The writer was the guest of the Carlton Tel Aviv Hotel.