NEW YORK (MainStreet) When Mario Puzo wrote the line "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes" in his novel The Godfather, little did he know that in the future, tourists would use the term literally. The latest craze in adventure tourism is the underwater hotel--opposite of the tree house hotel.
If the voice inside your head is a "huh?" as you read this, then it's time to wake up and realize the amazing milestones architecture has been crossing over the years.
What was once a mere concept based on some sci-fi author's imagination, is now a reality. So are underwater hotels just fantasies of ambitious architects, or have we reached that stage of human achievement where Aquaman can potentially be our neighbor? What price must one pay to live in such modern establishments, and even if some of us do have the money to spend some time there, how do we know it is safe down there? Let us put our "Mulder and Scully" hatd on and probe all of this while looking at some of the best underwater hotels out there.
Before we go about checking out the following list of hotels, let us first acknowledge the fact that some of them are still in their blueprint stage. However, we are not considering them as conceptual designs because their establishment, so to speak, has been announced.
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Jules' Undersea Lodge, USA
There's a whole other level of charm to staying in a pace that has a nice little piece of history attached to it. Jules' Undersea Lodge, located in Key Largo, Fla., is a two-bedroom motel that has been operational and open to the public since 1986. However, the basic skeleton of the hotel has been in existence since the 1970s when it was used as a mobile underwater marine lab off the coast of Puerto Rico where scientists could work and stay during their time spent underwater. Back then, they called it "La Chalupa" meaning "the little boat." Even though the lodge is named after the famous author Jules Verne, it owes its establishment to diving pioneer Ian Koblick, whose brainchild it is.
The price of occupying a one of the two bedrooms on this cozy underwater adventure vessel is quite reasonable considering how the occupant would technically be one of the few civilians in this word to be sleeping underwater at that point in time. If you're traveling in a group of three to four people, then according to the prices listed on the site, it would cost each person about $350. However, they also have a "for two" package that costs $800 that includes a pizza delivery dinner from the local, family-owned Tower of Pizza. Oh, and in case we forgot to mention it earlier, Jules' has a perfect safety record. This place is clearly not the swankiest of the lot if you read further down the list, but for the sheer fact that it has actually been successfully running for 25 years now, we believe it deserved the first mention.
Utter Inn, Sweden
While compiling this list we have tried to ensure that we simply do not become a slave to fashion and simply name the most expensive hotels or the biggest ones out there. Innovative thinking and execution were placed above those parameters. This is why Utter Inn, located on Lake Malaren in Sweden, slides its way into the second spot on this list; also, just like Jules' Lodge, it actually exists. The unique selling proposition of Utter Inn (pronounced "otter") is the unprecedented level of coziness combined with the homey feel it provides. Once the guests have made their way onto the upper deck, which floats on water, using a boat, they get access to the restaurant. At night, all they need to do is climb down a ladder and enter the cozy two bed cabin that has a window on each of its four walls. Adding to the homey feel is a nice homemade Swedish rug on the floor. The entire experience can be compared to being in a reverse aquarium. It's the fish that check you out as you retire for the night. Don't worry: if the feeling of being watched by marine life is not the most sleep-inducing one, you can always pull down the blinds.
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Utter Inn uniquely allows you to stay on a floating vessel and yet be underwater. Ideally, it's a Swede's dream home, having his own private island and then being able to retire underwater and yet be safe. Psychologically speaking, this vessel also helps the guest to turn a fear into an enjoyable experience. In academic terms, it is known as "transfer of exaltation". Not many would want to sleep underwater in a small enclosed space, but by providing you with the comfort of home, Utter Inn turns your possible fears into a kind of love. All that is yours at a rate of $1,750 for seven nights.
Conrad Rangali, Maldives
One of the biggest ecological concerns of the island nation of Maldives is its sheer existence. Experts believe that with the rise of global warming, the nation could potentially not exist after 50 odd years. This however, has not detracted hoteliers from building one of the most beautiful hotels in the world today Conrad Rangali, which is part of the Hilton group of hotels. Awarded the "best water villas in the world," "best spa resort in the Maldives" and even "the best suites in the world" awards, this 6 star resort, spread over two small islands offers a very spectacular underwater experience. Like most other luxury beach resorts, the Conrad Rangali offers above water villas, most of them with glass floors giving you an excellent view of the marine life beneath you. But the clincher for this resort is the underwater restaurant Ithaa, which, believe it or not, also doubles up as a wedding ceremony venue. There will be many other underwater restaurants as new hotels are opened, but getting married under water is something very few of them would provide. The price of food for one person is listed at $320. It might seem expensive at first glance, but when you add on the fact that it's a seven course dinner meal comprising of the best of the French cuisine, that you would be enjoying while marine life is checking you out, you might be not so judgmental about the cost.
Soon to be opened underwater hotels
This is where things get even more exciting. When the imagination of the architect meets the deep purses of the builder, magic happens. Dubai, which is the de-facto luxury capital of the world, is soon to launch the largest underwater hotel in the world, the Water Discus Hotel. Imagine the Jetsons meeting Captain Nemo, and that's what you get. The top deck looks like a cluster of UFOs but it does have a sun bathing area while the lower deck that is completely underwater, houses 21 luxury suites and a scuba training lounge.
The Water Discus hotel is part of a series of hotels that are being designed by Deep Ocean Technology to be launched all over the world. The second one in line would be in the Maldives, for which the announcement was made in June this year.
Adventure tourism is not necessary everyone's cup of tea. Some get restricted by money but seeing how the market will get competitive in a few years, the real question is do you have what it takes to live underwater? There's a thin line between fear and ecstasy, and to enjoy these marvels, you need to cross that threshold. Other concerns like safety and logistics will be taken care of by the experts. But yes, stay away if you do not want a shark staring at you while you're trying to go to bed.
--Written by Preetam Kaushik for MainStreet