Dan Caesarea: You had me at the coffee

The theme here is vintage, and there are funky art installations from a car on the wall of the lobby to a bright pink polar bear.

A Mediterranean dinner in the hotel restaurant (photo credit: ORI ACKERMAN)
A Mediterranean dinner in the hotel restaurant
(photo credit: ORI ACKERMAN)
Many years ago, I spent an overnight at the Dan Caesarea and what I remembered was that the pool and the green lawns around the hotel were beautiful, but the rooms were small and outdated. Well, the former is still true, but the latter has changed for the better.
The hotel was built in 1962 as a Club Med, and the Dan Hotel chain purchased in it 1972. After an NIS 80 million (more than $22m.) renovation, the Dan Caesarea reopened for Passover 2019, less than a year before corona hit. The hotel is luxurious and simply fun. With 116 rooms, it doesn’t feel like a huge industrial hotel, but more like a boutique hotel. The hotel is surrounded by more than 15 acres of grounds and is walking distance from the Caesarea golf course.
“It’s less conservative and heavy than it used to be,” Matan Lerner, the general manager, said in an interview. “There is a lot more color, and the vibe is different.”
The theme here is vintage, and there are vintage games scattered around the hotel, including Skee-Ball and shuffleboard, and a great old-fashioned pinball machine. All of these games are free, which is a nice touch. My husband challenged me to pinball, which I used to be pretty good at. I’m not going to say who won, but let’s just say it wasn’t me.
There are funky art installations from a car on the wall of the lobby to a bright pink polar bear. There are also luxurious couches. When you check in, you are offered a chaser. Choices included cognac and etrog liqueur. There is also a basket with small 50 g. bags of coffee beans for the Beanz machine in every room.
I am a serious coffee snob and the ability to have a freshly ground cup of coffee whenever I wanted it was a true luxury. There was also a funky gramophone that you operate with the Bluetooth on your phone.
The bed is insanely comfortable, and the shower had the largest shower head I’ve seen in Israel. The towels were plentiful and soft, and the robes and flip-flops in the closet are a nice gesture.
The pool area is very large, and social distancing was easier here than at other hotels I’ve visited, because of the large green lawns. You can sit next to the pool if you want, but you can also sit some distance away in a lounge chair on the lawn. There is a bar at the pool and a separate restaurant offering food like gyros and grilled chicken. There is also a pool table with cues and balls set in the shallow end of the pool that was in constant use while I was there.
The clientele was always a mix of upscale Israeli families and tourists, and the Israelis are still coming.
“People can’t fly so we’re about 70-80% full for the summer and I expect we’ll be fully booked for the Jewish holidays,” Lerner said. “Demand in August has been insane.”
He said many families come back for vacation year after year, “a little like (the movie) Dirty Dancing,” which is set in the Catskills. There is a supervised Kids Club although it didn’t seem to have many takers, and various activities for kids like shows out on the lawn. They are about to launch an Escape Room that can be downloaded on a phone with clues scattered around the hotel.
Breakfast during corona time was served in an interesting way. We were asked to reserve a time slot to enable the dining room not to get too crowded. When we sat down, a waiter brought us a wooden tray with bowls of various salads, including hummus and fruit. The bread basket, an assortment of breads and other pastries including croissants, was wrapped in a paper bag, and also put on the table. There were premade plates of smoked salmon and sliced cheese as well.
We ordered coffee, which was delivered quickly and exactly the way we ordered it. It was definitely an improvement over standing in line for coffee, having someone cut in front of you, and then order six complicated coffees.
A waiter then came to take our “main course” order. We both chose scrambled eggs with parmigiana and truffles on a potato pancake. It was delicious and filling. Then the waiter came back.
“How about something sweet?” he asked. “Would you like pancakes or French toast?”
At that point, we were too full to order more.
One of the things that has always bothered me at hotels is the waste of food. People often take much more than they can eat, and of course once the food is on the table, it must be thrown away. With the new corona system, there is much less waste, Lerner said. But financially it hasn’t helped his bottom line because he had to hire more servers than before.
The Dan Caesarea closed in mid-March, like all hotels in Israel, and Lerner said they were not sure when to reopen. They were actually one of the first hotels in Israel to reopen, in time for Shavuot on May 28. At first they were only open on weekends, but as of June 17, they fully reopened.
Lerner said he knew he was taking a chance, and that reopening a hotel is far more complicated, and more expensive, than reopening a restaurant. While some workers are still on “chalat,” or unpaid leave, he said most were happy to return.
There are Dan hotels in Jerusalem, Eilat, Caesarea and Herzliya. They all tend to be upscale, and prices reflect that. Prices also go up in August when kids are off from school and Israeli families go on vacation.
Lately, the chain has introduced theme weekends, including a culinary weekend at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It’s worth joining the online e-Dan club, which gives hotel discounts.
Prices for one-night Bed and Breakfast at the Dan Caesarea range from $250 for a couple during the week to $500 per night for a couple with two children over the weekend. There is also a two-night minimum on the weekend. 
The writer was a guest of the hotel.