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GIBRALTAR

Ash Bolton spends a night aboard the Rock’s first five star hotel ahead of its official opening on 26 June
06.06.14 - 16:28 -
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A luxury night at sea in Gibraltar
The Sunborn, Gibraltar’s first five-star hotel, floats in Ocean Village; the official opening party takes place later this month. :: SUR
It’s a devilishly lavish hotel that is set to rock the foundations of this compact, yet picturesque British enclave.
For up until now there were no five star hotels in Gibraltar, let alone a floating one with its very own captain.
That was of course until the Sunborn sailed into port last February, bringing with it seven floors of hitherto unknown opulence to the Rock.
Since its soft opening on 14 March a steady stream of cautious visitors have been venturing on board to see what all the fuss is about, after all it’s not every day the world’s only five-star super yacht drops anchor on your doorstep.
And with its official opening scheduled for 26 June you might even catch a glimpse of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is rumoured to be attending alongside Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.
It’s fair to say the Finnish company behind the Sunborn certainly pushed the boat out in its construction, as the 142-metre long ship cost a cool 150 million euros - meaning it easily dwarfs its neighbouring gin palaces.
It takes pride of place in Ocean Village, a trendy marina on the sheltered western coastline of Gib, that is full of suit-wearing workers who frequent the bustling bars and restaurants in the evenings.
As for views, you can drink in the vistas of where the Mediterranean kisses the Atlantic, with a brooding Morocco just 20km away.
Following a red carpet to the reception area, you’ll be impressed by how novel the experience feels, as anyone who has been on a cruise will no doubt feel quite at home here.
Oddly enough, the Sunborn legally has to have a captain on board, who, as well as looking after the maintenance of the ship and tilting his hat to passing guests, is also on hand for those who wish to have a drink on the bridge.
The Sunborn has 189 rooms (18 of them exclusive suites with sun terraces), which are spacious and furnished with five-star trimmings, such as a computerised panel that controls everything from your curtains drawing to your room temperature.
Rooms also boast sliding wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling picture windows that flood the room with light, as well as private terrace areas or a Juliet balcony, depending on what side of the ship you’re on.
As for the on-board adventures, you won’t be left disappointed.
In the brasserie-style Sky Restaurant and Bar on the top deck, the roof opens so that diners can eat al fresco in the evening light.
The international menu, which changes on a daily basis, is likely to have foodies dissolving into lip-licking rapture, thanks to a small army of 19 chefs cooking up taste bud-teasing favourites such as rib eye steak with grilled asparagus and Béarnaise sauce.
Plans are also afoot to open the Rock’s first Michelin Star restaurant on board, called Linen, which will plate up an eclectic mix of Scandinavian and Asian cuisine.
Elsewhere on the ship you’ll see the uber-chic Sapphire Cocktail Bar, a dimly-lit, glamorous looking watering hole with an extensive gin (20 different types) and cocktail collection.
A Muay Thai will knock your socks off (you’ve been warned!) or you can simply ask one of the mixologists to make you whatever you want; they are rumoured to know every cocktail on the Seven Seas.
Up top the Aqua Bar sits on the rear of the ship, where you can cool off in the open-air infinity pool or catch the start of the World Cup on an 80-inch TV.
Also set to open soon is a spa and gym, where you can pamper yourself in five different treatment areas, or sweat out those cocktails in the sauna and steam room.
On the other hand, those with a penchant for poker can also indulge themselves when the yacht’s casino opens later this year, which will have its own bar, private terrace and entrance, with space for up to 250 punters.
Raising the profile
Perhaps what is most exiting for Gibraltar though, are the audacious plans for raising the profile of the Rock, by attracting more businesses and corporate events to these shores.
At the helm of this drive is General Manager Olivier Six, who is busy luring new visitors from the UK, Europe, the US, Asia and the Middle East - by waxing lyrical about Gibraltar to all who’ll listen.
As well as six conference rooms, there’s also a grand ballroom with banqueting hall (with a chandelier worth more than £250,000) that can hold up to 600 people and has seen a number of couples tie the knot on board so far, after the ship got its marriage licence.
So it’s no surprise that since the Sunborn arrived, rival hotel the Caleta has ordered massive refurbishment to become a five-star hotel too.
And with the opening of the World Trade Centre in the near future and the TV series ‘Gibraltar: Britain in the Sun’ filming on board this month, these are exciting times for Gibraltar.
The Sunborn provides an original way to spend the night on the Rock and is certainly worth splashing out on if you fancy a night of unrivalled luxury.
Rooms start at £199 per night including breakfast and £650 per night for suites.
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