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THE SAVVY TRAVELER

Make Room for Some Suite New Experiences : Hotels: Now you can stay in a jail, a tree house or a horse-drawn carriage. Welcome to the fun new world of fantasy suites.

May 20, 1990|PETER S. GREENBERG

At 23 minutes before midnight on March 24, 1969, a white Rolls-Royce pulled up in front of the Amsterdam Hilton.

A couple exited the car, and were whisked away by the waiting hotel staff up to room 902/904.

The hotel had busily prepared for their arrival by removing all the furniture from the suite . . . except the bed.

Within 24 hours, the suite assumed a different name: It became known around the world as the "Bed-In for Peace." Its occupants were John and Yoko Lennon.

Twenty-one years later, carpenters at the Amsterdam Hilton were hard at work again, removing furniture. And suite 902/904 is now ready. It has been re-created--and renamed--the John and Yoko Honeymoon suite. The rate: $750 per night.

An unusual hotel renovation? Hardly.

If you haven't noticed lately, hotels around the world are playing a game of one-upmanship in a struggle to increase their occupancy--from amenities packages and special room rates to weekend "theme parties."

A host of special fantasy suites are being built just about everywhere--from the Bahamas to King of Prussia, Pa., to West Bend, Wis.

Some of these suites are nothing short of outrageous. How about checking into a red 1973 Delta 88 Royale convertible for the night? You can, at the Burnsville FantaSuite Hotel in Muscatine, Iowa. The appropriately named Lovers Leap suite costs $175 a night.

Does early Egyptian life interest you? Call up the folks at the Sheraton Valley Forge Hotel in King of Prussia, Pa. Ask for the popular Pharaoh's Chamber (hieroglyphics on the wall included). Of special interest to would-be cowboys: the O.K. Corral suite (you enter through a swinging fenced gate).

The most popular suite is called Seclusion. It's on the penthouse level. It's a re-creation of a prehistoric cave, complete with stalactites.

Each of the Valley Forge fantasy suites contain large whirlpools. Room rates range from $125 to $175 per night. Weekends are higher.

And for those guests who request it, room service can be delivered by staffers dressed in attire consistent with the fantasy.

Hotel officials report that most guests who check into the fantasy suites don't leave their rooms until check-out time.

Looking for a very different kind of living experience? Perhaps the "Tijuana Jail" is available at the West Bend Royale FantaSuite hotel in West Bend, Wis. Yes, it's a cell, but it does offer a queen-size bed suspended from graffiti-covered stucco walls ($199 per night on weekends; $83 per night during the week).

Other suites at the West Bend property range from a tree house, a jungle safari suite (complete with grass hut and water bed) and, for the true princess, a Cinderella suite offering a bed inside a horse-drawn carriage (horses not included).

There are also fantasy suites for children. Boston's Ritz-Carlton offers the Junior Presidential suite--a room where the tables, chairs and bed are kid-size (as are bathroom fixtures), and even a tiny oval bathtub (the shower head is in the shape of a dragon). Two thoughtful additions: water temperature in the bath is regulated, and the furniture in the room includes protected corners.

Other goodies included in the kid palace: a host of gadgets and games, ranging from the venerable Etch A Sketch and Nintendo to a VCR, even a refrigerator loaded with juice, fruit and granola bars.

You may have to break into a trust fund, however, to afford this childhood dream. The rate: $395 a night.

Attention to detail makes these suites capable of supporting a fantasy, if not a memory.

For example, the John and Yoko suite in Amsterdam is painted all-white. The king-size bed has been repositioned to its original place. The carpet is all-white, and the remaining furniture is simple and based around "bagism" (the philosophy that since you cannot see what is inside the bag, you cannot have prejudices).

One bag contains a mini-bar, another an audio-visual system. Another houses a library of books and videos from the late '60s and early '70s. And on the ceiling, a hand-painting of the first five bars of "All You Need Is Love," and some words from "Imagine" and the "Ballad of John and Yoko," a song that was written while the couple stayed in the suite.

An additional touch: The suite even offers guests special note paper (white, of course).

The Hilton spent $50,000 on the conversion. "But we think it was worth it," says General Manager Robert Maslen. "1990 represents what would have been Lennon's 50th birthday. We receive dozens of inquiries from people all over the world asking about staying in the same room. Now they can."

If money is truly no object, then check into the Galactic Fantasy Suite in the Bahamas' Crystal Palace Resort and Casino. The two-bedroom, bi-level suite, decorated in white and silver, measures a staggering 2,500 square feet.

As guests enter the foyer, the heat of their body activates pulsating light columns, followed by a robot that explains how the high-tech gear in this room operates.

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