Meetings & Conventions: Newsline
Newly restored classic: Hotel Grande Bretagne in
Few places in the world can claim a richer history than Greece.
The country nurtured some of humankind’s greatest thinkers, such as
Aristotle, Plato and Sophocles. It is home to one of the great
landmarks of ancient civilization, the Parthenon.
Mainland Greece occupies the southernmost tip of the Balkan
Peninsula and is surrounded by more than 1,400 islands. While Ios,
Mykonos and Santorini are big draws for sun-seeking Northern
Europeans, in all only 169 Grecian islands are inhabited.
Athens, the capital, is busy putting on its prettiest face for
the 2004 Olympics. The bulldozers are in high gear indeed, both in
Athens and on resort islands, to prepare for the expected deluge of
tourists next summer. Some key developments:
The 327-room Hotel Grande Bretagne reopened this
past March after a $70 million restoration. Part of the Luxury
Collection of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the centrally located
property has hosted visiting dignitaries to Athens since first
opening its doors in 1874. The formal royal palace has a
4,450-square-foot ballroom, a health club and a spa.
The Hilton Athens was crowned the headquarters
property by the International Olympic Committee this past May.
Since November 2001, the hotel has undergone an extensive
renovation and a 74-room expansion, bringing its total guest room
count to 517. Meeting space also was expanded and now totals 63,600
Grecotel, an Athens-based chain of 24 resorts and urban
properties, has opened and refurbished several hotels. In Athens is
the King George II, an historic property across
from the Greek Parliament. Following a top-to-bottom rebuild, the
hotel reopens this fall after being dormant for 14 years. The
118-room property offers a ballroom and three meeting rooms.
On the island of Kos, the Grecotel Kos Imperial
opened in 2002 as a sprawling complex of beachside bungalows,
landscaped gardens and a thalasso spa. A ballroom seats 320.
About an hour’s drive south of Athens is the 154-room
Grecotel Cape Sounio resort, reopening this month
after an extensive renovation. The property is perched on a
hillside with vistas of blue waters and the ancient temple of
Poseidon. Conference facilities include four breakout rooms and a
main hall that holds up to 700.
In West Peleponnese, the Grecotel Olympia Riviera
Resort is receiving a complete redo in preparation for
Olympics fans. The hotel is adding 1,000 beds for a total of 1,310
and is renovating its spa. Work should wrap up next year.
To handle the Olympics crowd, organizers have contracted with
several cruise lines to serve as floating hotels. Holland America
Line will be moving two ships to the port of Piraeus, the
1,848-passenger Oosterdam and the
Royal Olympia Cruises will provide three ships to house people
during the Games: the 814-passenger Olympia
Countess, the 836-passenger Olympia
Explorer and the 836-passenger Olympia
The 1,310-cabin Queen Mary II also
will be in the port. Now under construction in France, Cunard’s
huge $780 million flagship will recall the elegance of stately
ocean liners of yore.
• By Carla Benini
Lisbon’s 194-room Pestana Carlton Palace Hotel, formerly the Palácio Valle Flor, opened last year. The main building, a national monument, was restored to its grand 19th-century ambience, and two wings were added to house the guest rooms. The property has 15 meeting rooms, a fitness center, formal gardens and an outdoor pool. (011) 351-291-209100; www.pestana.com
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