Even Shane Krige, the general manager of the Plaza Hotel in New York, can’t book the Eloise Suite. “It’s in such high demand,” he sighs. And yes, Krige’s five-year-old daughter, Madeleine, isn’t thrilled that her own father, who definitely has an “in,” can’t get her a night in the suite where the Plaza Hotel’s most famous, glamorous, precocious (and pretend) resident lives. We, on the other hand, had a coveted reservation (after booking almost two months in advance). We’d be bringing three little girls, 4, 7 and 8. The demand for the Plaza’s suite doesn’t seem to be affected by the price: $1,150 a night. To book the adjoining “adult suite” brings the total to $2,300 a night.
Eloise, the fictional six-year-old girl who lived at the Plaza, is the creation of writer Kay Thompson. The original book, Eloise, was published in 1955 and there were four sequels. My daughter, who loves Eloise, wanted to know before she got to New York if she’d be allowed to run around the lobby, order room service on her own, and eat lunch by herself in the restaurant, “like Eloise.”
When we arrived, a butler met the girls and took them up to the suite, which was designed by celebrated fashion designer Betsey Johnson. (She’s stayed there with her granddaughter.) The screaming started when the doors opened and the girls took in the zebra-striped floors, the flashing neon Eloise sign above the bed, the Eloise videos and dress-up clothes and complimentary stack of brownies, cookies and pink lemonade. Also waiting for them were personalized bathrobes embroidered with their names. The bar in the room was stocked with a ton of candy and even a manicure set. The bedsheets were printed with scenes of Eloise and there were pink sleeping bags on hand in case anyone wanted to sleep on the floor. The girls became princesses, as Eloise would say, “rawther” quickly. By 8 p.m. they were in a bubble-filled bathtub drinking pink lemonade out of champagne glasses.
And in answer to my daughter’s question, yes, the staff does encourage the mini-princesses to act like Eloise. They are allowed to run around the lobby. The bellman took the girls on rides on the suitcase cart every time we saw him, and my daughter called down about 25 times to the front desk, asking, “Where is Eloise?” The answers ranged from, “She’s in the Palm Court restaurant right now,” to “She’s on a movie set in Hollywood,” to “She’s in Paris.”
“Every one of our staff has a little part in the Eloise play,” says Krige. “We encourage kids to live the Eloise experience.” In fact, there is a whole “guest relations” team that specifically focuses on guests who stay in the suite. All the girls received personalized notes from Eloise, wishing them a “rawther” good time, and signed, “Smooches!”
Little guests also get a gift card (which says, “Charge it please!”) to the Eloise gift shop in the hotel, a camera, and a professional photo shoot. (The photo to take home comes in an Eloise photo frame.) One day we had high tea with the girls, who ordered from the Eloise tea menu: grilled cheese sandwiches, brownies, and other goodies on a three-tiered tea set.
The youngest guest to stay in the suite, which celebrates its first anniversary this July, was a three-year-old. Although Krige won’t divulge any names, there have been A-list celebrities who have stayed there with their daughters. “They sleep in the king bed too.” Even adults who grew up loving Eloise want the experience. “We had a couple in their thirties who wanted to stay in the suite.”
Even though it is the parents who pay, the younger guests are the ones treated like royalty. “We want the children to have a love affair with the hotel,” Krige says. “When they walk away, we want them to have had a five-star experience.” The girls we had with us certainly did. At one point my daughter said, “That was my best day ever.” Her favourite line now is “Charge it, please!”
Krige says he doesn’t think of this as spoiling kids. “Yesterday I was having lunch with clients in the Palm Court restaurant and there was a little girl dressed in the full Eloise outfit with a pink bow in her hair. I just sat back and realized how important it was,” he says. “Listen, we’re not heart surgeons, but we do create memories.”