The VIP guest

by Anne Johnston

This story is part of our 'Funniest hotel experiences' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition.


I had chosen to stay at the prestigious Arabella Sheraton hotel in Cape Town to pamper myself with its five star amenities. This magnificent hotel exuded luxury from every corner, set against the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain and moments away from the lively Victoria and Albert waterfront. Taking a well earned rest from a busy schedule, I was soaking up the ambience of the luxurious facilities with a refreshing cocktail on the extensive patio, savouring the captivating view of the bustling waterfront and ocean beyond.

My attention was drawn to the arrival of a convoy of vehicles at the front of the hotel. These looked like no ordinary guests, conspicuous by their black suits contrasting the warmth of the afternoon. I was curious when they did not enter the lavish foyer but spread out around the boardwalk, their jackets tellingly unbuttoned. Spiralling wire from communication earpieces was evident above the collars of their crisp white shirts and dark sunglasses reflected the sun glinting off the glass facade of the hotel. A man started to undress on the sidewalk, partially screened by a van door. Donning a wetsuit, he slipped into the shimmering water that formed a protective moat surrounding the splendid dining and patio areas. I watched as he inched his way around, the tip of his snorkel tracing his path through the water. Was this the twenty four hour security advertised as one of the extensive guest services or was moat cleaning such a prestigious business that it came with its own minders? Surely this was no security scare. There were no alarms or evacuation in process, nothing to disturb the serene elegance of the hotel.

Eventually, his search clearly unsuccessful, the swimmer emerged from the water. The men in black were speaking into the cuffs of their jackets. More vehicles arrived and photographers spilled out, credentials carefully checked by the vigilant security, taking positions a discreet distance from the entrance. There was an air of anticipation as more vehicles pulled up. Stylishly suited businessmen and women, attaché cases in hand, briskly entered the foyer barely glancing at the smartly uniformed doormen waiting to welcome them. The tension was mounting, more conversations into the cuffs of jackets, impassive glances around the surrounding area until a clearly awaited cavalcade came into view. The sleek fleet of luxury cars pulled up, their paintwork gleaming and blacked out windows hiding the occupants. Was this a Starwood Preferred Guest accessing their ‘exclusive benefits and preferred service’? Security men closed in, opening the doors as Hillary Clinton stepped elegantly out and disappeared through the lustrous entrance.

The secret service agents were evident for the next two days, always in pairs and ever vigilant. They looked out of place in the spacious foyer amongst the valuable sculptures and African art. I wondered how many guests knew such an eminent visitor was in the hotel such was the discretion with which her visit had been handled. How I wished I could be a VIP too!

Read all of the competition entries:

Send to a friend