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Weekend Escape: Coronado : The Del Alternative : For those who've done the Hotel Del Coronado, the newish Loews is a water- themed resort with a kid-friendly attitude

October 09, 1994|PAT GERBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER; Gerber, formerly an editor at The Times, recently moved to London. and

CORONADO — I love the sea, but it doesn't love me. Every time I get on a bobbing object, be it a mall-size cruise ship or a single-person sailboat, my stomach flip-flops, my head swirls and I turn the color of pea soup.

That's why my husband, who has an iron stomach and is all too familiar with the vagaries of mine, guffawed when I suggested we try the family nautical weekend package at Loews Coronado Bay Resort. The package cost ($174 plus tax) includes use of a sailboat, paddle boat or kayak on each day of your stay, plus box lunches (if you're still hungry after the aquatic escapade) and a double bay - view room that, alone, ordinarily goes for $205 plus tax. The room with its two queen-size beds was a good setup for the four of us, but in fact, the hotel told us they would move in roll - aways and cribs for more children if needed.

A landlubber I may be, but even motion-sick wimps--and we are legion--can harbor hope of someday, somehow savoring the bite of ocean spray full in the face without losing one's cookies. The Loews Coronado turned out to be my grand compromise--sort of like taking a luxury cruise without leaving terra firma.

The place also turned out to be that rarest of things: a swank setting with a kid-friendly attitude.

My husband, two tykes aged 4 and 8, and I set off on a blustery spring Saturday, arriving under skies the color of angry bruises. Riggings on teak-trimmed yachts moored in the hotel's 80-slip marina--yes, guests can dock just steps from the main lobby--clanked in the heavy wind. Visions of spending the weekend zonked out on Dramamine rolled through my head. Hang on, stomach.

But I was steadied by the hotel's setting, which seems like a private island community entered through guarded gates. The resort is actually on a sub - peninsula--a 15-acre spit of land attached to the spine of the Coronado peninsula, a few miles south of the venerable Hotel Del Coronado and 10 miles north of the border. But it gives the appearance of being surrounded by water--on one side is the whitecapped Pacific and Silver Strand beach, on the other San Diego Bay.

The water line continues within the resort itself, which has three swimming pools. And moving farther inward, each room features a huge steeping tub big enough to float 100 rubber duckies.

The lobby is elegant, with overstuffed chairs upholstered in tapestry. A double staircase swoops elegantly in a semicircle to the upper floor. I could see why the Loews chain was recently ranked by Consumer Reports magazine among the top 10 luxury hotel chains in the nation.

As we headed to our room we passed a Ping-Pong patio with two tables, then a game room with a pool table and a group of pint-size pinball wizards fixated by the blinking lights.

Elizabeth, our 8-year-old who competes on a swim team and who, I suspect, is part fish, wasted no time unpacking and practically dove into her swimsuit. With the 4-year-old in hand, we trailed after her toward the pools and set up camp on one of a multitude of lounge chairs. We read while she and Emma navigated the waters.

As the afternoon waned the air turned brisk, but the sun--peeping in and out of gliding clouds--stayed hot. We were almost tempted to order a drink from the poolside bar, but decided instead to save ourselves for dinner at the hotel's Azzura Point Restaurant. Oh, were we glad we did.

But first, to make sure we enjoyed what was billed as a sophisticated meal, we signed the shorter members of our group up for the Commodore Kids Club. Oh, were we really glad we did.

The club is a parental version of having your cake and eating it too--enjoy the kids but also cut some time out for adult pursuits, even a bit of romance. Because the club is held in a large playroom on the first floor of one of the building's guest wings, the children are never more than five minutes away. The service can be booked hourly or daily and can include meals. (It's basically $30 per child aged 4-12 for all day; $12 for the first child, $6 for the second for an evening--and the hotel is offering free Commodore Kids Club baby - sitting Friday and Saturday nights Nov. 20-Dec. 30.)

We dropped Emma and Elizabeth off to a roomful of giggling kids, pizza and an "Aladdin" video. We blew a kiss goodby, but the phantom smooch fell into oblivion.

The Azzura Point, the tonier of the hotel's two restaurants, is a light, airy affair up the grand staircase and above the main lobby on the second floor. It commands a panoramic view of San Diego Bay and the Coronado bridge. The menu is Pacific Rim, which means it features lots of fish and some beef.

We chose a crisp Sauvignon blanc from a list that read like the best and the brightest of boutique wineries in the Sonoma and Napa valleys. My red and yellow tomato salad with grilled asparagus in a basil vinaigrette was a delightful eye-opener. My husband "ooohhhhed" and "ahhhhhhhed" through crispy bites of lobster spring rolls in a sweet and sour Thai sauce.

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