All photos courtesy One Ocean Resort Hotel and Spa
For accuracy’s sake, One Ocean Resort Hotel and Spa in Atlantic Beach, Fla., could change its name to One With the Ocean Resort.
In a chic, sleek manner, the resort reminds guests of the sea outside its door. A bronze seaweed fountain splashes in the lobby; handmade porcelain shells line the hallway to the spa, where the signature treatment is a shell massage that transforms a body to an almost jellyfish state. Each night, guest room iPods are set to the sound of the ocean. Seafood served in its restaurant is so fresh it practically flops on the plate. Every opportunity to showcase ocean views is seized.
No doubt, One Ocean could change its name, but it did that after a $34 million renovation two years ago that transformed the Sea Turtle Inn, a landmark beloved by novelist John Grisham, who mentioned it in The Brethren.
With the renovation, the hotel kept the same guest room configuration, but “everything else in the hotel changed,” said Shirley Smith, director of sales. “The Sea Turtle was real ‘beachy’ and laid-back. Residents were hesitant to see it change.”
As calming as a sea breeze
But they have come around, and so have One Ocean’s guests, old and new.
The reimagined resort is as calming as an ocean breeze, starting with its “seamless check-in.”
Guest information, including credit card numbers, is taken when rooms are booked, so there is no need to stop at the front desk. The moment guests drive up in the hotel’s porte a cochere, they are greeted by name by their personal docent — a cross between a concierge and a butler — and taken directly to their room.
One Ocean, with 193 guest rooms, including three suites, is Dallas-based Remington Hotel’s first in a luxury resort line called the Gallery collection. Others are planned, depending on the economy.
The high standard of service, the attention to detail, the location, and more than 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space translate to the perfect setting for a small meeting.
One Ocean’s meeting space is on the hotel’s first floor and includes a 3,600-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into three, each with a breakout room attached.
“Coffee breaks and registration are never in hallways,” said Smith. The 325- to 350-square-foot breakout rooms can serve that function, although the rooms can also seat up to 40 conference-style.
Tables in meeting rooms are finished metal with a swirly design echoing the movement of the ocean.
“We don’t use linens on tables, unless they are requested,” said Smith. “It makes for a cleaner look.”
Around the corner from the ballroom and meeting rooms is a prefunction area with couches and chairs. Off to one side is the Pristina, a 1,550-square-foot meeting room that opens to the Verandina, a 1,635-square-foot veranda that overlooks the ocean. It can be enclosed as needed.
An additional space in front of the veranda, the Solaria, is also a popular reception area, but because of demand for additional meeting space, plans are under way to turn it into 2,000 square feet of meeting space by the end of the year.
“A perfect size group is 75 people or less,” said Smith. “The largest is 140 overnight stays or 180 people. Our average is 40, so could have two or three groups of 40 or two groups of 75. We won’t cram people in.”
Among the meeting segments the resort attracts are medical and pharmaceutical. But the fashion and food industries are also drawn by its high style.
“It’s a very chic property with lots of young professionals,” said Smith. Its appeal to a younger audience is suited to Jacksonville, where the average age is 37, she said.
Hotel staff is willing to work with the groups to accommodate their needs, from fitness classes and relay races on the beach to filling the ballroom with funky furniture to match a theme.
Tammy Bice, executive administrative assistant/meeting coordinator for KLS Martin, a surgical supply company in Jacksonville, has brought her company’s sales force of 85-plus from around the United States and Canada to the Sea Turtle and now One Ocean for eight years.
“The thing that makes the difference at One Ocean is the service, which is phenomenal,” Bice said. “Other places have rooms and food, but this place strives for service as well. My guys feel pampered. The staff just gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. And you know that your meeting will be taken care of.”
Rebecca Anderson, marketing director of Body Central, brought a group of 90 to 100 executives to One Ocean last April. They are returning this year.
“Everything was perfect,” she said. “It’s beautiful and has a great team to work with.”
Restaurant, lounge overlook ocean
The comfy prefunction space is adjacent to the dramatic arched entrance to the restaurant, Azurea, and the oh-so-hip lounge, both of which overlook the ocean.
“When Remington Hotels of Dallas took over the property, they wanted the spaces that look outside to be open to everyone,” said Smith.
The 52-seat Azurea, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, “is the nicest restaurant in Jacksonville,” Smith whispered, almost in awe.
Even pets agree. Room service offers a pet menu that includes everything from an opened-faced beagle burger to feline tuna carpaccio with thinly sliced ahi-grade tuna. While the restaurant menu changes seasonally, certain items are kept year-round.
“Our signature dishes are crab cakes; sea bass from Japan, not overfished sea bass from Chile; and roasted beet salad,” said chef Ted Peters. “We buy the best ingredients, the freshest we can possibly find.”
In the center of the room is the chef’s table, where small groups of about eight can arrange for an “adventurous palate” seven-course meal with wine pairings. Large groups are not seated in the dining room.
“If groups are too big, they take up too much of the restaurant,” said Peters.
But don’t worry; meeting groups don’t complain about their catered meals. “The food? Phenomenal,” said Bice.
“Our food service is straight off the line like it’s served in the restaurant,” said Smith. “The orders are plated, not stored in a hot box; that’s the difference. It’s amazing.”
“We do not preset tables with salad and desserts, unless requested,” she said. “If the group is in a hurry, they should do a buffet.”
Meeting attendees might prefer a buffet to give them time for the hotel’s amenities.
The shell massage is not the only sea-inspired treatment at the spa. Relaxation begins in the waiting room, where chairs overlook the ocean. Treatments include a mother of pearl salt scrub, an ocean mud wrap and a seaside firming wrap. In addition to its six self-climate-controlled treatment rooms, the spa has three oceanfront suites.
A state-of-the-art fitness center overlooking the ocean never closes, and golf privileges are available at the nearby Queen’s Harbour Yacht and Country Club.
Bar manned by area’s best bartender
The lobby bar is manned by Hugh Thompson, who recently was named best bartender in Jacksonville for the second year in a row by the Northeast Florida Hotel and Lodging Association. He eagerly chats with guests about his surfer sons while concocting drinks, such as his own rum creation called Hugh’s Your Daddy.
And then there is the star attraction — the beach — just a few steps away.
“A big draw for One Ocean is the location,” said Smith. “Guests don’t ever have to drive. Anything they want is right here.”
General manager Sieshi Mengiste agrees. A list of the resort’s strengths, he said, would include its location, its luxury accommodations, intuitive service, nightlife and restaurants within walking distance, and of course, the sea.
“There are many things. But it’s not all about us; it’s all about our customers. We’ll do everything for them,” said Mengiste. “The reason a group should meet here is because it’s going to be their place.”