BY MARK RABAGO
SAN ROQUE, Saipan — The Kensington Hotel Saipan has prepared a bevy of packages for its customers to celebrate the holiday season.
Brian Shin, CEO of E-Land Saipan, said of the hotel, “I can proudly say it is the most wonderful place to spend the most wonderful time of the year. We will present a variety of packages and dining opportunities. The range of choices is better than last year.”
E-Land Saipan is the parent company of the Coral Ocean Resort and Pacific Islands Club Saipan, as well as the Kensington, which has 180 employees.
The Kensington has five different staycation packages — Happy Holiday, Christmas Eve, Oh Holy Night, Heavenly Christmas, and New Year Countdown, designed to suit families, couples or friends on a night out at the end of the year. “We are also going to have Santa Claus deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Parents can bring their own gifts for kids and leave them at the front desk with the message they want to deliver,” Shin said.
Staycation packages also come with additional surprise. The Happy Holiday staycation package, which is available from Dec. 22 to 31, will give guests a special gift pack with a bottle of sparkling wine and heart-shaped cake, for example.
For the Christmas feast, Kensington will offer not only gourmet cuisine but introduce the talents of two new chefs.
“On Dec. 24 Saturday evening, we are presenting a chef’s special Japanese fine dining course dinner at Meisho. Chef Yunjin Jeong — a top-class chef in Japanese cuisine, is joining us starting Dec. 1. The iconic course dinner at Meisho on Christmas Eve is going to be his debut in the Saipan community. On Dec. 25 Sunday, authentic Asian-themed Christmas special brunch will be offered. The menu will be carefully prepared by Chef Jeong, Chef Dong Heon Lee — also newly joining as a Chinese cuisine chef, and of course Chef Simon Moon, our executive chef, the conductor of Kensington culinary orchestra.” Shin said the brunch buffet will consist of Cantonese and Japanese dishes, prime rib, and Christmas-inspired desserts.
Furthermore, Kensington’s renowned Christmas cakes will be back. This year Kensington will have four different cakes — Rouse Santa Village Cake, Festive Black Forest Cake, Double Fromage Lemon Cake, and Winter Fresh Cream Cake. The cakes will be available starting Dec. 1.
Shin also said despite the current inflation, Kensington has managed to maintain its pricing for its holiday offerings this year.
“The price of Christmas brunch and tickets to the Countdown Party remain the same as last year. A line of festive season cakes also remains at a similar price level. Not only the food costs but also utility costs have increased. But we try to maintain our prices considering the island’s economic situation as well.”
“We are offering Japanese cuisine for the Christmas course dinner for the first time. It is aiming to be topnotch high-end ‘Saipan-has-never-seen’ kind, so the price range will be also higher than the brunch.” Regardless of pricing, the hotel will still deliver additional for any of its packages or meals, he said.
The hotel continues to be well patronized by tourists and for its collection of cakes, Shin said. “Our main buffet restaurant Loria is always popular, especially Sunday Brunch is loved by the local community,” he said.
He acknowledged that the pandemic has affected not only to Kensington’s operations but the whole tourism industry and the local community and that difficulties continue.
“Not only is the current exchange rate not favorable to us, but also other tourist destinations are very much competitive now. But the good thing is that we are witnessing the signal of hope and recovery. New hotels, restaurants, and other businesses are now opening, which is a healthy sign. We hope that more flights will be added, and more markets will open in 2023.”
Shin said he has admired the CNMI’s resilience in the face of the coronavirus and the super typhoons the past several years.
“As a community, we have endured another challenging year with solidarity and the Marianas Strong spirit. We would like to extend our respect and appreciation to that. We believe everyone on the island deserves quality time with their loved ones to celebrate the holidays. We wish everyone happy holidays and a bright New Year.”
GARAPAN—Saipan’s first brand name hotel will have its first Christmas and New Year with new executive chef Matteo Fracalossi at the helm.
Hyatt Regency Saipan Marketing and Communications manager Bea O’Malley said the Trento, Italy native will give guests a unique experience this holiday season.
Fracalossi and his team are preparing slow-roasted Ohio certified Angus beef rib-eye, porchetta, traditional Milano-style braised veal shank, honey and balsamic vinegar-glazed pork chop, duck confit in pearl onion, orange-tarragon sauce, Mediterranean fish, freshly made corn polenta with pork sausage and soft cheese, Spanish garlic shrimp, among others.
O’Malley said Hyatt will still be pricing its Christmas and New Year feasts reasonably.
“Our prices are competitive, and guests are guaranteed festive dishes that are traditionally served during this season and of course, new dishes from Chef Matteo. Although prices of ingredients have gone up due to inflation, we will keep our prices affordable, because we very much consider what guests and the community are willing to spend.”
Aside from the Christmas and New Year lunch and dinner offerings, O’Malley said Hyatt will also be making available Christmas cakes for the whole month of December.
The hotel will also have a flash sale of Club at the Hyatt membership for $250 from Dec. 1 to 31, which is $100 discount.
O’Malley said Hyatt has seen a steady flow of local and foreign guests lately and she expects the trend to continue through the end of this year and the start of 2023.
“All of our restaurants are popular because each outlet is unique and open at specific times to cater to our market better. They are not open all at the same time though.”
For example, the Kile Café usually draws in-house guests and residents who have a big breakfast before they go to work and businesspeople that have breakfast meetings, O’Malley said.
In some respects, Hyatt’s operations are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
“In terms of normalcy, we believe that people are living it on Saipan, as more of them are now dining out. We are holding events again in the hotel, especially this Christmas season and it is a totally different environment compared to the past two years,” O’Malley said.
Inflation has brought businesses rising costs, she recognized. “But we also see this as an opportunity to drive more people to dine-in in our restaurants instead of spending a whole lot on groceries, especially on special occasions like Thanksgiving and now, Christmas and New Year,” O’Malley said.
Hyatt and its 145 staff are excited to present its dine-in offerings this Christmas and New Year, she said.
“Our culinary team is definitely wired to cook delicious meals for guests and the community. We thank our patrons for their fervent support of Hyatt Regency Saipan, as this inspires us to do better and persevere in our purpose of care so people can be their best.”
GARAPAN — Since reopening Sept. 1, the Grandvrio Resort Saipan has slowly eased back and is looking at the holiday season to return to full operations.
Corazon Barrios, assistant food and beverage manager, said although the Garapan hotel won’t have its full slate of Christmas and New Year promotions including the traditional New Year’s Eve countdown, it will still offer Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brunch. The Dolphin Restaurant on the 10th floor of the Crystal Tower will be the venue for the Christmas Eve dinner, while the $40 upscale Christmas Sunday Brunch will be at the newly opened Tropicana Restaurant.
Chef Mike Baldonadi said Christmas Eve dinner will be a la carte, featuring dishes Grandvrio Resort has always been known for, like steak and seafood. Baldonadi and his team of chefs will also prepare a wide array of food, including smoked salmon, suckling pig, swimming crab, pork belly, certified angus beef, oysters, various lip-smacking deserts, free-flowing beverages (including alcohol), among others, for Christmas Sunday Brunch.
As a bonus, those who dine-in on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, get a free pool pass for the day.
Barrios said the Christmas Sunday Brunch is only $10 more than the usual $30 Sunday Brunch buffet and is the best bang-for-your-buck smorgasbord on island.
She said the community should take advantage of Grandvrio Resort’s Sunday buffet as the price is expected to increase to $38 per head in January. Barrios said the Dolphin Restaurant is its most popular outlet because of its daily bento boxes, with all sides. mbj