Monaco's traditional style is major-league luxury, where one chandelier is good, but ten are better. Recent times have, though, seen changes in this gilt-edged little world. There’s been a move away from eye-popping extravagance to a purer, simpler design approach.
And, post-crunch, value-for-money has become important…yes, even in this cocoon of excess. Business was down about 10 per cent in 2009. Suddenly, hotels have realised that they can no longer set prices by thinking of a number, then doubling it.
The good life for less
Obviously, rates remain high - this is Monaco - but there are deals around and a new focus on cheaper establishments. It’s possible to taste the Monte Carlo life for less than 45 euros, per person, per night.
As importantly, there’s an acute desire to please. Outposts of snootiness survive but smiling and courtesy are far more common. These people have caught on to the fact that they need us far more than we need them. Should you nevertheless still feel nervous about tackling Monaco glam, please remember that 93 per cent of people in Monaco are no more glamorous than you are. Believe me. I’ve checked. It’s the other seven per cent who make the image, and the papers.
Four of Monaco’s poshest hotels – along with all five casinos, 30-plus restaurants, night-clubs and bars – are run by the Société-des-Bains-de-Mer (‘Sea-Bathing Company’: don’t ask). Its 70 per cent stake in the SBM ensures the Monaco government keeps a grip on the principality’s tourism.
Monaco luxury hotels operate on the assumption that you can do nothing for yourself, so there are lots of people whom you might feel obliged to tip. I always equip myself with five-euro notes. I give one to the bloke who parks my car and another to the porter. Full stop. I do this on the grounds that (a) five euros is ample for the effort entailed (b) I’m here for a break, not to become best friends with the staff and (c) American customers will make up any shortfall in the guys’ daily earnings.