Absolutely Famous: Where to Go for Royal Treatment

By: Lynn Waddell

You don't have to be famous to stay where the stars do.

Like many people, I've always longed to be famous. Not because I want adoring fans (I have a dog), but because I want to live the high life. I want to have a butler serve me breakfast in bed, a penthouse overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, a gourmet chef who will make my favorite recipe each day.

Fortunately, since the world isn't ready to hear me belt out "You don't have to be a star, baby," I found an easier way to get VIP treatment without having a Gold Record or an Academy Award. I stay where the celebrities do – the Loews Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach and the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg.

Four-Diamond Style

The Mediterranean revival architecture of these posh properties exudes an intoxicating movie star-vibe. Both were built in the 1920s and have the intricate romantic details of that era. Bell towers, grand ballrooms, high ceilings and handmade tiles, combined with the modern luxuries of wireless Internet access and fax service, bring together the best of the past and present. Both are four-diamond resorts. But their moods are distinctly different.

Along the shores of Tampa Bay, the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club caters as much to celebrities on business as those on vacation. The downtown resort with its wide verandah and arched foyer has a classic semi-formal style.

Along the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico, the Loews Don CeSar Hotel is the yin to the Vinoy's yang. Casually elegant and tropical, the pink palace appeals to affluent beach lovers. Its guest list has included everyone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Madonna to President George W. Bush.

Beach Luxe

Feeling at home at the Don CeSar, I stroll the Gulfside penthouse terrace where celebrities have been known to lounge. Inside, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on the flat-panel television is as vivid as the surf.

The thrill of the Don CeSar isn't the brush with greatnessas much as it is the unadulterated luxury of it all. The feeling is reinforced as I pass smiling employees in the Don CeSar's hallways. "Good day," each one says, making me feel like the First Lady.

The day of my visit, the resort is preparing a romantic getaway in one of the hotel's two penthouses that includes a trail of rose petals from the entry to the bed and to a dinner table set up with a candelabra. When they have time to notice, the visiting couple will find their monogrammed stationery and robes.

Sophistication by the Bay

At the Vinoy, I sleep in the same king-size bed where U.S. Presidents have snoozed. The Vinoy is frequently a campaign stop for presidential candidates, a fact that underscores the name of its spacious "presidential suites."

If you're in the mood for something less stately and more romantic, the resort has 16 guest suites on the ground floor. My husband James and I prefer to soak in steaming bubbles with the nighttime backdrop of glittering Tampa Bay.

Aside from its lush accommodations, the Renaissance Vinoy is popular for its location and amenities. It is on the northern edge of downtown St. Petersburg, less than a 10-minute stroll to the theater, exclusive shops, an international art museum and dozens of gourmet restaurants.
Its proximity to Home Shopping Network studios regularly fills its rooms with returning celebrities such as Chef Wolfgang Puck.

You never know whom you might see in the Vinoy's Salon and Day Spa. One Tampa Bay Buccaneer football player likes to pop in for a manicure and pedicure on his day off. Try telling him spas are for girls.

Guests have full access to the hotel's waterfall pool, spa and 12-court tennis complex in addition to complimentary transportation to its nearby 18-hole Ron Garl-designed golf course.

Me, I'm satisfied just being served mint juleps beside the waterfall pool. Who needs fans?

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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