The skies were dark and cold the day I returned to the Stanley Dock in Liverpool, but the welcome was warm and the pre-dinner rum cocktails even warmer.
My first trip to the Titanic Hotel and Rum Warehouse was several months earlier when the builders were still fitting out the building, the first stage of the £36m conversion of the historic maritime site.
The scale of the investment shows why the hotel supplanted its rivals in the city to host visiting Premier League football teams. The first thing that strikes you about this red-brick palace is it sheer size. The second is its history.
Stanley Dock opened in 1848, a time when Britannia ruled the waves and Liverpool was a giant in world trade.
The city was the main port of call for trade with the colonies, with sugar, coal, tobacco and textiles shipped in and held in giant warehouses before distribution to the regions, via routes like the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (an early prototype of HS3), which starts at Stanley Dock.
The developers renamed the North Warehouse the Titanic Hotel in recognition of the city’s historic links with the doomed vessel and in recognition of the vast tourist trade that Liverpool attracts these days, not least for The Beatles.
The hotel has 153 bedrooms and suites. Mine was enormous, with views over the dock basin and over to the Mersey beyond. The hotel corridor was wide enough to drive a 4x4 down. You cannot fault the Victorians for thinking big.
I met an old friend from my London newspaper days in the bar and we reminisced in style about our formative years while the barkeeper kept us watered with a selection of rum-based cocktails. Hence the warm glow.
After drinks, we moved through to the restaurant for chateaubriand, washed down by South African Syrah.
The beef was from Yorkshire, I think. It was delicious. Top marks to head chef Phil Green.
The following morning, I visited the hotel’s tranquil spa. I’m told the wives and girlfriends of local footballers are frequent visitors.
I can see why from the luxurious pampering on offer.
Aside from providing a very nice new facility for guests, the Titanic Hotel also preserves one of Liverpool’s many imperial jewels for the future.
Kerry Smith, director of sales and marketing at the Titanic Hotel and Rum Warehouse, said: “The launch of the Titanic Hotel at Stanley Dock has been the catalyst for regeneration in the north of the city.
The investment is a true statement of intent and already interest in the area has rocketed.
Ms Smith told us: “We believe the confidence shown in creating the hotel, the adjoining Stanley Bar and Grill, our luxurious spa, our sumptuous Rum Bar and of course the huge events and conference space, The Rum Warehouse, will boost the much-neglected North.”
She said the hotel and warehouse encourages more people to think of Liverpool as a destination not only for leisure – nights out here are legendary – but also for business, conferences and events.
Ms Smith added: “We are winning world-class events, for clients that have never visited the city before based on the out-of-the-ordinary nature of the site.”
But the story doesn’t end here.
The Titanic Hotel is the first phase of the creation of the planned Stanley Dock Village and the next phase promises to create 420 luxury apartments with retail space and an artisan market.
The rebirth of Liverpool just keeps on going apace. I love the place.