Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The Royal Palms Resort & Spa
Written by A. Sebastian Fortino
The Royal Palms Resort and Spa recently underwent an expansive renovation, now boasting 62 guest rooms it is the largest gay resort in the United States. When you first encounter the gleaming white façade, with a royal palm dramatically cutting through an overhang, you know taste, and elegance lies within.
Spacious, gleaming white rooms with accents of lime or orange play upon the resort’s mid-century aesthetic. In addition to a cohesive, flowing color scheme the artwork of local renowned photographer Dennis Dean is prominently featured throughout.
This is not a gay guesthouse, where guests stay while on vacation. The Royal Palms is a destination unto itself. There are two pools, one clothing optional, but both heated for midnight swims. The pool bordering the bar seemed more popular than the other.
“It helps this is the clothing optional pool, but having a poolside, full-service bar and grill serving food until 4 p.m. and drinks until 2 a.m. also makes it popular,” said Richard Gray, Owner of the Royal Palms.
Gray has owned the initial, smaller property, now called the Royal Palms Annex, since 1991. Professionally he is known for bringing gay tourism to Fort Lauderdale, and has seen many changes in terms of gay travel demographics. With the recent expansion he seeks to bring something new for gay visitors to the area.
“There used to be tons of gay guesthouses, but numbers dwindled. I want to appeal to all gay men traveling here, and bring more gay-owned accommodations back to the beach,” he said confidently.
Gay guesthouses and hotels are often lost on younger men, who may find such venues outmoded. At one time, in order to feel comfortable while traveling, a gay guesthouse, a secret world, was needed in which to escape.
“And, in those days they came to shag,” said Gray, originally from London. “Don’t get me wrong when you’re on holiday you should have as much fun as possible, but today’s gay travelers want a massage, enjoy a facial, all the things they can find at bigger hotels – not just shag.”
Gray has more planned for the resort, and not just a tea dance launching in May, he would consider further expansion of the property if possible. There is also a 54-foot yacht, Anita, which can accommodate 10 guests, for a three-hour tour of the Intercoastal or chartered trips to The Bahamas. The Fitness Center and Spa at the Royal Palms also seeks to accommodate discerning clients.
“We are a destination, not only for guests, but for men who wish to use our gym, or frequent our Spa,” said Eston Dunn, manager of the Spa and Fitness Center. “We offer day passes and gym memberships for clients who just want to work out, or enjoy the pool.”
At night everyone carelessly frolicked in the pool, those wearing bathing suits were gently teased into skinny-dipping. During the day, lounging poolside, sipping perfect Bloody Marys, and delighting in homemade crab-cake sandwiches, we encountered a broad, fun, demographic of gay men. It seemed as if no one wanted to leave the lush pool area – even for a moment.
“My partner and I thought about heading to Sebastian Beach,” said Tim, from Washington, D.C., in town only for the weekend. “Why bother though? The pool is just beautiful, and time stands still here.”
Tim added the couple loves Key West, but for Northeasterners who want only a quick weekend getaway it’s impractical in terms of travel time.
“For a weekend by the time we get there, it’s time to leave. Here we pack a bag, head to the airport and we’re in paradise in two hours,” he said. “We don’t need to rent a car here either, not driving is luxurious.”
Before we checked out on Sunday afternoon we checked into the Spa. I overindulged in the sun earlier, and the masseuse informed me a massage was not possible. Instead it was suggested I take a combination of the hand and foot treatment, which are normally separate 30-minute procedures.
The treatments aren’t a manicure and pedicure. Instead it is a soothing treatment with a scrub, and paraffin dip to soften the skin with soothing essential oils. I was disappointed initially upon learning I could not get massaged. However, once my hands and feet were, rubbed, immersed in warm wax, the gentle music and peaceful atmosphere lulled me to sleep – truly as relaxing as a massage.
My guest indulged in The Royale, their signature massage. This includes deeper Swedish technique, combined with hot stones. Gentle pressure is applied to key points where stress and tension accumulate. During his massage, he learned his shoulders are hunched forward, indicating a great deal of stress – which he found eased by the session.
In addition to out-of-state guests we met locals, with whom we happily commiserated about life in the Sunshine State. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live here. However, at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, we relished and rediscovered life in paradise.