Revel Resort playing for keeps

Atlantic City's newest resort is betting on attracting leisure-seeking vacationers rather than gamblers on an overnight jaunt

May 27, 2012|By Stephanie Citron, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Do you ever find yourself wishing for a stylish and luxurious beach resort within a reasonable drive from home?

Meet the new Revel Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.

Atlantic City? Seriously.

Ditch the image of a traditional casino packed with cigar-puffing high-rollers and day-trippers wielding free buffet coupons. Atlantic City's 12th casino opened its oceanfront doors to the public April 2, pioneering an innovative concept: a health-minded resort that also happens to have a glamorous casino targeted to the "beautiful crowd."

What's different about this place? Rather than a ceremonial grand opening with ribbon-cutting and champagne, guests were served blueberry smoothies, oceanfront, at sunrise. Front and center is a sizzling beach scene, enchanting rooftop gardens with fresh and saltwater pools and theme bars, a chic New Age spa and edgy, lavish nightclubs. There are no smorgasbords; instead, there are swanky eateries operated by celebrity chefs. Buses delivering day-trippers aren't even permitted.

And the whole place is nonsmoking.

Perched at the extreme north end of the boardwalk, Revel aims to change the neighborhood. Gone are the vagrants, dirty beaches and vacant buildings. Now stands a gleaming, 47-story, blue-tinged tower, soaring above an eccentric curvy base that syncs with the curls of the ocean. Guests arrive seaside, accentuating that this is a beach resort. A bellman promptly takes their luggage while directing them into a waiting elevator. The sun-streaked lobby, 11 floors up, is surrounded by an indoor-outdoor Sky Garden — nearly 2 acres of New Jersey greenery, pools, fire pits and lounging areas. Self-parkers enter via a garage-breezeway linked to the lobby. There, vacationers can avoid check-in lines by using automated kiosks that dispense room key cards.

To reach the rooms, key card-carriers pass through a private lobby encompassing a living room and library to guest-only elevators. Upstairs, the wow factor begins before opening the door of the room. Guest rooms have doorbells that change colors, informing housekeeping staff to make up the room (green), or do not disturb (red). Upon inserting the key card, the bellman is "pinged", alerting him to deliver the luggage.

Inside, it's simply stunning; every room has unobstructed floor-to-ceiling ocean views. Beds are dressed in crisp linens and down comforters. A remote control adjusts the window blinds, overhead lighting and room temperature. Spacious marble bathrooms contain two-person walk-in showers and a separate space for the commode. What's more, room service trays contain microchips, notifying housekeeping to remove a tray outside the door.

Slip into a spa robe and head downstairs. No worries: These elevators are routed so overnight guests can avoid the lobby in their robes and workout attire.

Bask Spa (developed by operator Exhale) is a 32,000-square-foot sanctuary featuring a magnificent coed bathhouse with a heated mineral water hammam (or Turkish bath) and a Himalayan salt grotto. Its Bathhouse Bar serves healthful snacks and organic cocktails. Single-sex locker rooms contain steam rooms and hot tubs. Among the items on the "Treatments" menu, try the Vichy Shower Renewal. It involves detoxifying body scrubs, full body and scalp massages, and hydrating skin masks, before a guest is sprayed down under pulsating Vichy jets.

Gym (its official name) is outfitted with high-tech fitness equipment, including a surf-style cardio and resistance trainer. It also offers outdoor therapy programs: beach boot camp, yoga for foodies and a bar for barre classes, to promote rejuvenation through social encounters. There are 10 swimming pools, including an 85-degree, year-round, indoor-outdoor roofdeck pool.

In essence, Revel is Atlantic City's first year-round vacation resort that also happens to offer gambling. In contrast to AC's casino-resorts, which depend upon gambling revenue to finance operations, Revel expects its casino to account for just 40 percent of its revenue (already proving to be an shrewd strategy, since March gambling figures reported a continued decline — down 5 percent at $266.3 million, compared to last year's $280.5 million).

Still, Revel's gambling area is spectacular. Large windows deliver natural daylight and ocean views — a no-no in conventional casino design. Other casinos rely on the reverberations of the slots and gambling tables to generate a thrill factor; Revel provides a sensory experience among a series of vibrant "neighborhoods" around the casino, intended to fuse digital gambling with social interaction. As a rule, dealers are good-humored and friendly. Entertainment is strategically positioned throughout, including theme bars and "The Social," an intimate open-air nightclub featuring live indie rock bands and Vegas-style performers, including burlesque dancers from Ivan Kane's Royal Jelly Burlesque Club.

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