Fiji Time: 2:20 PM on Wednesday 25 November

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22 years, 5 stars later

Avinesh Gopal
Friday, May 16, 2014

IT was once the best and most famous hotel in Suva, according to people who visited it then.

The hotel was frequented by tourists who mostly arrived in the country in cruise liners and spent a few days there.

Apart from the tourists who stayed there, locals also frequented the Grand Pacific Hotel then for some cold beer to wind down after a hard day's work.

Built in 1914 and commonly known as the "Grand Old Lady", it closed operations in 1992 and changed ownership since then.

It has now been restored to a five-star hotel and is scheduled to officially open for business next month, although some events have already been held there.

The colonial era building which formed the central part of the original hotel in 1914 still stands in the middle with new wings adjoining both sides, extending almost to the seawall.

Those who visited the hotel before its closure in 1992 either for a few drinks or for business still remember the "Grand Old Lady" during its hey day.

One of them is Balram Singh of Vatuwaqa in Suva who used to supply seafood for about three years in the early '80s.

"It was normally walu at $3.50 a kilogram and ground fish was between $2.80 and $3 a kilogram. I used to take the fish straight to the hotel's kitchen where I was always treated to tea or juice by the workers," he said.

"Apart from fish, I also supplied prawns and lobster to the GPH, which was the best and most famous hotel in Suva at that time."

Mr Singh recalled going to the hotel bar once and having some beer, saying that apart from the hotel's kitchen and bar, he did not get the opportunity to see the entire hotel then.

"The old building in which the hotel started still stands out after the restoration works, which has seen a major expansion to the hotel.

"It looks very nice and beautiful now after the restoration works and I think it will be the pride of Suva once again," said Mr Singh.

Located on the seafront and opposite Albert Park, the hotel was built by The Union Steamship Company in 1914 to serve passengers on its transpacific routes.

The hotel was made famous internationally by the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who landed his aeroplane at Albert Park in 1928.

During the official reception in one of her visits, the Queen stood on the wrought-iron portico of the hotel and addressed people crowded at Albert Park and along Victoria Parade.

Last Saturday, the first wedding was held at the hotel and according to the hotel management, more weddings have already been booked.

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