From 24-7 pools to your own lagoon, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess does luxury

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It's 3 a.m. and you're taking leisurely laps in a pool the Olympics would get jealous over. This comes after an evening of noshing on tapas while watching a NFL football game. Which was followed by eating dessert under the stars of a quiet desert night, while sipping on the port the waiter insisted on special ordering for you from another restaurant on property even though it wasn't on his establishment's menu.

No, you haven't arrived. That Powerball jackpot is still but a dream. There's been no Martha Stewart stock tip or fortuitous Las Vegas land deal for you.

Your key to getting special treatment is nothing more than a mundane standard issue keycard. This is what it's like being a guest at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. You're suddenly liable to feel like a VIP, become convinced that the staff's mistaken you for someone else. Maybe that loon at the airport who became convinced you were Matt Damon saw something after all.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a prime place to stay on a blowout, living the high life Phoenix-Scottsdale area golf vacation. When you want to experience serious pampering, accommodations to go right along with playing top-notch, top-dollar courses like Troon North, Grayhawk, Bouldersand Gold Canyon, it's hard to beat the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

The grounds are impressive. It's almost a Spanish or Mediterranean resort theme with all its ornate colorful tiled areas in the Southwest desert. A waterfall three stories high crashes down off rocks near the front entrance area. This is a waterfall to put all faux golf course waterfalls to shame.

But none of that is what makes the Scottsdale Princess.

What separates this resort from other high-end resorts is how it makes its guests feel like they have run of the place. Stay a few days at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and you could delude yourself into thinking you're some Saudi Arabian oil baron and the whole grand, sprawling complex is yours. There are no stupid rules limiting your access to areas you paid to have access to with that room rate.

Most of the pools are open 24-7. This should be standard practice, but anyone who's ever stayed at a plush retreat and found themselves at the mercy of the pool schedule knows that is anything but the usual case. At Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, if you want to swim at midnight, you swim at midnight.

This philosophy runs throughout the resort. The tapas bar, which actually has a few creative non-hotel-like dishes, serves food to midnight every night. LV Bistro, the in between not-so-fancy, but not-so-casual restaurant, has a private family room where kids can watch cartoons while their parents rediscover adult dinner conversation.

"It's like people actually care about making you smile," Wisconsin vacationer Kim Hurley said. "The staff's so nice. I know they're getting paid for it, but still ..."

This "Truman Show" environment is something of its own world. Sitting outside in one of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess' large lounging areas at night, it can feel like you're in the middle of the countryside at some private retreat. It's that quiet.

Yet, in reality, the Scottsdale Princess is a few quick turns from the busiest road in town, Scottsdale Road. Drive down Scottsdale Road for about 15 minutes and you're in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale and the most happening bar scene around.

It's an equally convenient location for golf. The TPC Stadium and Desert courses are less than five minutes away. Tom Fazio's Grayhawk Raptor and Gary Panks' Grayhawk Talon are in the neighborhood. The Boulders Resort complex is only about 20 minutes up the road.

Fittingly, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is pretty much smack dab in the middle of Phoenix-Scottsdale's most show-stopping, gourmet golf. That fits nicely with its own superior reputation and regular $300-plus winter room rates.

"I've heard the Scottsdale Princess is the best resort in town," said Massachusetts golfer Mark Ehrenzeller, who was staying at another hotel for a business convention. "It's the best, right?"

It is certainly one of the most relaxation obsessed. Its Willow Stream Spa covers 44,000 square feet and took $16 million to build. There's a private adults-only swimming pool with a fireplace on the spa roof. And Willow Stream's already become one of those spas that offers special golf treatments.

Though, this being the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, it goes even a step further. Willow Stream Spa doesn't just have a golf treatment. It has PGA player Charles Howell III endorsing its golf treatment. "Treatment addresses both the mind and the body," Howell III says in the ads. "You leave feeling, relaxed, loose and ready for the next round."

No word on whether Howell III buddy Tiger Woods kids him about shilling for a single spa while Tiger endorses a shoe empire, a car brand, a video game and everything else in the free-market empire.

Staying at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess allows you the luxury of ruminating over such inconsequential matters. The thread-count on the sheets is more than high enough to make for a relaxing, near-coma sleep. Every room has a balcony and there's even a lagoon stocked with fish for you to catch.

It really does feel like you're the lord of your own super-sized estate. If only for a few, heady days.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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