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Bermuda’s Hotel Revolution

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Photo: Annie Schlechter

It’s not easy being Bermuda. For years it has been snubbed in favor of the Bahamas (especially smug and clubby Harbour Island) and the Caribbean (rap-sodized St. Bart’s). But Bermuda is back, signaling a return to good old-fashioned warm-weather resort values, to an uncomplicated time when a rum swizzle was a rum swizzle, Lilly Pulitzer was worn without a wink, and an afternoon on a world-class pink-sand beach was its own reward.

The island’s hotels have dusted themselves off from the ravaging effects of 2003’s Hurricane Fabian, the worst storm to hit the island in 50 years, and are looking plenty buff. The other (amazing) news is that it costs less to fly to Bermuda than it did a decade ago, due to a gloves-off battle for market share between low-cost and traditional carriers. On the same day in May 2006 that JetBlue introduced service from New York, American Airlines slashed its fares to match. (Both companies now offer one-way tickets starting at $129.) Continental also joined the price wars, even if it has, so far, been unwilling to go as low as the competition. USA 3000 beats them all with one-way flights from Baltimore for $99.

The only thing I regret about the island as it enjoys its present star turn is the relaxed dress code. Most hotel restaurants, even the really hidebound ones, no longer require men to wear jackets and ties. But Bermuda is still a long way from bling.

The Reefs

Even if this resort didn’t have a vest-pocket beach bar named for Travel + Leisure, I would still find it easy to like. According to owner David Dodwell—who also happens to be a member of Bermuda’s parliament, a former minister of tourism, and that body’s actual, official “shadow” minister—the Reefs has the highest repeat-guest rate of any luxury hotel on the island. Guests are not only married to the resort, they're married to when they go: staffers joke that you can tell what week of the year it is just by who’s sitting around the pool. To maintain all that goodwill—and to silence critics who had been quietly insinuating that the place was looking, well, a bit dull, a tad tired—a complete redesign was undertaken last year. Complete, but subtle: “The Reefs customer is incredibly proprietary of its past,” Dodwell says. “You can use the word enhancement or improvement, but never change.” This tightrope is walked in the 65 guest rooms with soft-blue ceilings, muted green walls, prettily draped headboards, and specially commissioned artwork depicting local flora. Continuity is also provided by the personnel. A quite unbelievable 57 years with the hotel won the recently retired Sylvia Celeste Bean the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for service to the Bermudan hospitality industry. 56 S. Shore Rd., Southampton; 800/742-2008; www.thereefs.com; doubles from $512.

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