A Bermudan resort without a beach—who would go?As it turns out, quite a lot of you: last year, T+L readers did the Waterloo—which has 30 rooms—the honor of voting it Best Hotel in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. The 19th-century manor house and its attendant cottages rule from a terraced, lushly planted roost directly on Hamilton Harbour—and are all the more prized for it. The atmosphere is VVB (Very Very British), which happily means lots of GEF (Good English Furniture). And if you hop a taxi or moped, you can even get wet: guests have full privileges, including dining, at Waterloo’s sister property, the Coral Beach & Tennis Club. 100 Pittsbay Rd., Hamilton; 800/468-4100; www.waterloohouse.com; doubles from $420.
This may be the preppiest, most conservative hotel on the island (you’d swear you were in a country club), but the 94-room Cambridge is capable of thinking outside the box: it’s the only resort that offers accommodations with dedicated pools. Each of the sexy, freestanding new suites is poised on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic and includes a bedroom, a sitting room, a dressing room, a whirlpool tub positioned before a picture window framing the ocean, a six-head shower stall with an independent sound system—plus an infinity-edge plunge pool. Tray ceilings, cutting-garden chintz, and gourd lamps on mahogany night tables assure the old guard that Cambridge hasn’t gone, er, off the deep end. The dirty secret is that these glamorous suites, of which Bay Grapes is the most sensational, can be booked by couples only, i.e., no singles traveling together, as if they were all noisy and on the prowl. This seems a little mean, not to mention exclusionary, though you and your best friend can always fake it. 30 Kings Point, Sandys; 800/468-7300; www.cambridgebeaches.com; doubles from $445.
The crowd-pleasing, family-friendly behemoth of Bermuda resorts, a.k.a. the Big Pink Lady on the Hill, never makes the mistake of trying too hard, or of tinkering too vigorously, with its wholesome, aren’t-we-all-happy-to-be-here image. (The downside of the Southampton’s size is that service can be robotic and unyieldingly unhelpful, with personnel refusing outright to perform the simplest tasks: one operator told me it was “impossible” for her to obtain the fax number of the hotel next door.) Just months away from coming off a total refurbishment, the Southampton is looking not just fresh and camera-ready but relevant, something that it may not even have been reaching for but that is certainly a welcome dividend. Sofas and wing chairs in overscaled, stylized, exaggerated shapes fill the lobby. Rugs patterned with shells, flowers, harps, and fish, and that put you in mind of Oliver Messel, are pretty swell, too.
One of the great things about all but a handful of the 593 guest rooms, which measure 450 square feet, has always been the twin sinks in an alcove outside the bathrooms rather than in them. The bad thing about this feature was how thin wall-to-wall carpeting continued directly from the hall under the vanity. Today, that carpet is history. Instead, there’s gleaming marble tile, which is better design and even better hygiene.
The civilizing refinements and decorative flourishes elsewhere in the rooms won’t make you faint, but at least someone thought to include them: armchairs with branch frames, sheer curtains in motifs borrowed from iron grillwork, crackle-glazed lamps. French doors are a great improvement on the old sliding-glass ones; if only the budget had allowed for real panes. The fake ones couldn’t fool a child of six. No one likes being treated like a philistine, especially on vacation. 101 S. Shore Rd., Southampton; 800/441-1414; www.fairmont.com; doubles from $439.
Christopher Petkanas is a Travel + Leisure special correspondent.