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The Normandie begins a new era as a boutique hotel, with a new affiliation

After a $7.5 million restoration, the legendary hotel reopens offering ocean-front facilities, business centers, and spacious, art deco rooms


May 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The 1940s ocean liner-inspired Normandie Hotel owners Carlos Unanue and Andrés "Bubo" Gómez recently reopened the legendary San Juan beachfront lodging, which after a $7.5 million renovation is now an art deco boutique hotel. It also is now affiliated with WorldHotels.

Normandie Hotel is the first property in the Caribbean to join WorldHotels (formerly SRS WorldHotels), classified as "First Class," a category assigned to properties with superior accommodations, sophisticated atmosphere, and pleasant service, General Manager Thomas Pauly said. The affiliation began after the hotel ended its contract with Park Plaza Hotels. WorldHotels is one of the world’s leading hotel sales, marketing, and distribution organizations.

"Our determination [to become a WorldHotels affiliate] is comparable with the trend in [the hotel] industry of the growth of independent hotel operators. It will allow us to maintain our identity as a boutique hotel," Pauly added.

The 173-room Normandie Hotel’s renovation–color schemes, new facilities, lounge areas, executive salons, and room perks–is geared to attract executives seeking a lifestyle balance between business and pleasure. "Our primary target is businessmen and businesswomen between the ages of 30 and 50, explained Pauly, who added it will operate with slightly more than 140 employees.

Its rooms, lobby, skylighted atrium, gym, spa, and lounge bar were renewed by architecture & interior design firm Morrison Seifert Murphy, with the aid of local architect Miguel del Río, from Jorge del Río, Arquitectos c.s.p., said Sales & Marketing Director Ángel Mercado. The shape, decor, and furnishings of its large rooms still resemble ocean-liner staterooms, however, they now have work stations, complete with desks, ergonomic chairs by renowned furniture designer Herman Miller, and high-speed Internet connection.

A 50-yard beach fronts the hotel. "Normandie Hotel’s proximity to the beach and architecture resembling early 20th-century cruise ships provides guests and visitors with great ambiance, much like South Beach [in Miami], which makes it well-suited for vacation stays, special events, and business meetings," Mercado said. The N-Lounge, with its terrace on the hotel’s second level where guests can view San Juan and its nightlife is one of its main attractions, Mercado noted. It still has the original triangular pool terraced above the beach. Restaurant CRU, a fusion of seafood dishes and traditional Italian cuisine, is scheduled to open at the end of the month.

In its new phase as a boutique hotel, the Normandie will be offering summer season rates ranging from $145 a night for a standard room to $165 a night for a suite, with complimentary breakfast, plus 9% tax. Room rates in high season (Dec. 15 to April 15) will range from $225 per night for a standard room to $245 per night for a suite, plus 9% tax. There is a two-night minimum stay and all rates are subject to room availability.

Normandie Hotel, opened in 1942, was the brainchild of a Puerto Rican engineer as a tribute to his French wife, Moineau, whom he met on the French ocean liner SS Normandie. Its exterior was designed to resemble a luxury liner, elongated and curved in front, with portal-shape windows and lights. Inside, its art deco design–complete with Roman, Egyptian, and French details, high ceilings, and corridors looking down into a central skylighted atrium–was a sensation among the social elite when it opened. Moineau’s high-spirited, high-living life and the hotel’s history are chronicled in photographs on lobby walls.

WorldHotels, established 35 years ago–now positioned as a hotel brand rather than a reservations company–operates nearly 500 hotels in more than 250 destinations in 70 countries. The corporation supports its members through a global marketing, distribution, sales, and related services team, with offices in more than 30 locations in the major regions of the world. To business and leisure travelers, it offers an extensive portfolio based on individual tastes, needs, and budget through its three distinct collections–Deluxe, First Class, and Comfort Collection.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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