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LUXURY HOTELS: Palazzo Versace*, Queensland, australia

Style: Over the top ritz and glitz
Scene: The Gold Coast's sunburnt strip
Seen in the lobby: The glamazons meet the tourists

It's hard booking into a hotel where the staff is better dressed than you are. And thanks to the luxury hotels' trend for designer uniforms it is an experience I have had several times over the years and it never gets any easier. What to wear for a visit to Palazzo Versace, the style palace on Australia's Gold Coast? That's the question.
With another Versace hotel scheduled for opening in Dubai in late 2010 The Luxury Travel Bible revisited the original palace of pizzazz to reacquaint ourselves with the hotel's signature style.
 
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Donatella looks as if she was born to live on Queensland's bleached blonde Gold Coast, but amazingly when the hotel was first opened in 2000 few thought it would work. Yet Versace started an unstoppable trend. Palazzo was the first of what is now a whole collection of designer hotels and everyone from Armani to Missoni has joined the fashion show.
I fling a pair of Versace gold sunglasses on my face and several designer dresses into a case and I'm ready to go. A limo transfer from the gold Coast's Coolangatta airport and a less than elegant clamber out of the back (it is a good job the paparazzi never have cause to snap me arriving at a premiere) and my stilettos are clacking their way over the black cobblestones of the sweeping drive way. Total cost of stones, a cool $A2 million - more impressive than a red carpet any day.
 
The first thing you have to realise about Palazzo Versace is that everything you see is custom designed; from the hand-woven ballroom carpet to the soap dish in the bathroom and the stationery in the desk.
The cathedral marble in the men's toilets is imported from Italy, the rare orchids in the lobby cost about $A500 a bloom, the chairs on the patio and much of the furniture are copied from ones which were in the late Gianni's own house. Legend has it that the chandelier in the lobby once used to hang there too (all 750 kilograms of it - now that is some seriously heavy Venetian glass). Everything, but everything, with the possible exception of the toothpick, is specially designed by the House of Versace.
I am a little disappointed to discover that not all the guests have taken the dress code seriously and there is a fair smattering of American Tourist plaid pants and Gold Coast golf shirts in the lobby but once I get over that it is glitz all the way. My reservations are soaked away in the huge circular tub in my Deluxe Suite. This process is helped by the Versace bubbles in the bath and more particularly, in the champagne glass I balance on the rim. Afterwards I lounge on the intricately patterned cushions in my fluffy Medusa-monogrammed robe and look out of the wide-open windows at a view of the huge 65m pool.
 

Everything, but everything, with the possible exception of the toothpick, is specially designed by the House of Versace.

 
The resort incorporates 205 classical hotel rooms and 72 privately owned condominiums, so whatever your kind of room, you'll find it here. And in most cases the cost of a night's stay is MUCH more affordable than, say, a Versace bracelet.
Not surprisingly, with the wholeof this luxury hotel an advert for Versace the newly refurbished in-hotel boutique does a roaring trade. Those who check in usually check out with a little something designer gift-wrapped. Plates such as the ones in the Vanitas a la carte restaurant are popular (Tresor de la Mer pattern dinner plates) so are the room cushions. And you can even buy a bed like the one you've just slept on ($A11, 000 or so and it's yours).
"Would madam like to buy a little memento?" - "Err... how much was the soap again?"
The Vie bar and bistro on the boardwalk overlooking the water attracts a lot of locals as well as in-house guests, as does Le Jardin cocktail bar. At Vanitas you'll get fabulous food and a wine list of Italian and European offerings as well as the best of Australia and New Zealand.
However, the place to really indulge yourself is the Salus per Aquum spa. Decked out like a Roman baths, you really feel you ought to be bathing beside senators and Caesars. Instead you get to be massaged, pummelled, steamed and soaked until you feel as made over as any supermodel.
In partnership with Sunland Group Versace plans to open a whole 22-carat gold chain of luxury hotels with an exclusive global rollout agreement to develop 15 Palazzo Versace hotels and resorts worldwide over the next 30 years.
Next off the designer drawing board is Palazzo Versace Dubai scheduled to open its doors in late 2010. The 130,000 square metre Dubai resort will provide 169 private residences and 217 luxury hotel rooms and suites, all furnished with an exclusive line of Versace Home Collection products. Like Palazzo Versace Gold Coast the development will also offer a Vanitas fine dining room. There will also be a day spa, ballroom and convention facilities, and the "largest Versace boutique in the Middle East."
Watch this space.
Check in: Palazzo Versace, Sea World Drive, Main Beach, Queensland 4217. Tel:+ 61(0)7 5509 8000.
Ultimate Luxury: For a riot of glorious gold decor book into the Imperial Suite
Most Indulgent Moment: A Donatella-style spray tan in the spa (when in Rome.....)
Insider Secrets: More than 100 specialists from around the world have been recruited to a special UAE based studio to produce the detailed mosaics for Palazzo Versace Dubai's 'porte cochere', lobby floors, the spa, and the private residences' bathrooms and swimming pools.
The Little Things: We love the tiny sample bottles of Versace perfume in the suites.
Junior Luxies: Surprisingly welcome
Dress code: Gold and Glam
Perfect luggage: White leather and gold trimmed Versace of course
Dent in the platinum:
*Palazzo Versace,  is going on the market. Owner the Sunland Group, which scored a coup by opening the world's first fashion-branded hotel in 2000, is selling the Main Beach hotel to reinvest in other projects. 
Hilary Doling . Update 3/5/12
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