Ho Chi Minh

Caravelle Saigon — Legacy 5-Star Hotel That Still Defines and Refines

The Caravelle Hotel became synonymous with the Saigon that was before reunification. Now, in present day Ho Chi Minh City, it leads the way as an acclaimed and thoroughly modern 5-star hotel.

The Caravelle Saigon, both old and new, brings heritage and modernity side by side. It’s part of the WorldHotels Elite Collection of independently run luxury hotels targeting savvy business and city leisure seekers. Discover a Saigon legacy that still stands tall.

The Caravelle Saigon that Defined an Era

Caravelle Saigon in the past
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The Caravelle is one of a couple of historic hotels in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. It opened on Christmas Eve of 1959. Soon after, it became the media hub of the Vietnam-American War and American news bureaus set up offices there.

After reunification, the Caravelle became a state-operated hotel and was renamed Doc Lap or Independence Hotel. In 1997, it came under joint state and private corporate ownership. A year later, a new Caravelle rose above the skyline of Saigon. 

The Two Caravelles of Today

Caravelles Saigon Today
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The original Caravell was a 10 storey building which still stands today. It was designed by the Vietnamese architect Nguyen Van Hoa as the tallest and most luxurious hotel of its time.

What stands out are the curved balconied corners. The iconic rooftop bar still commands one of the most picturesque views of the city. Not much has changed in terms of the bar’s original design and charm. It’s now called Saigon Saigon Bar.

In 1998, a new 24-storey Caravelle opened when the hotel reclaimed its original name. Both buildings became part of the same hotel — the new Opera Wing and the old Heritage Wing.

The Heritage Wing houses Cafe l’Opera and Tapas Kitchen on the ground floor. The 1st floor is the Vegas Club for electronic gambling. The 2nd floor is the business center, and Reflections Fine Dining is on the 3rd. Saigon Saigon Bar is on the 9th floor, or the 10th if you count ground as the 1st floor!

It is, of course, right opposite the Saigon Opera House. It backs onto the famous Dong Khoi Street shopping street. Nguyen Hue Walking Street is a block away. Other places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City are within a 10-minute-walk or so away. These include the Notre Dame Cathedral, Independence Palace, the War Remnants Museum, and Ben Thahn Market.

Caravelle Hotel Saigon into 2021

Caravelle Saigon

Into 2019, the Caravelle completed a much-anticipated renovation to its 1998 Opera Wing. This also included their suites and the Signature Lounge in the Heritage Wing.

The original Caravell was noted in 1959 for its imported marble, state-of-the-art air conditioning, and bulletproof windows. Recent Opera Wing upgrades have additional imported marble throughout. Now there are large soundproof windows.

Signature Suite upgrades included posturepedic beds and premium biodegradable bathroom amenities by Appelles. Other upgrades throughout were large 49 inch Sony Tvs and ecological lighting.

During 2021 and the extended pandemic period, the Caravelle Saigon has remained a select experience, especially for summer staycation and day stay packages. Popular features such as its buffets, live music events, the gym, spa, and Saigon Saigon Bar may be on hiatus depending on changing conditions.

The Signature Experience Redefined

Caravelle Signature Experience
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The Heritage Wing, or original Caravelle, is home to the Caravelle Signature Experience. Booking a Signature room, studio, or suite gives access to superior luxury, style, and bespoke service.

The Signature Lounge at the Caravelle Saigon was a centerpiece of the most recent renovations. Despite its upgrade, this stylish lounge still captures the essence and chic of a bygone era, but with a modern sparkle.

The lounge is on the 9th floor with commanding views of the Saigon Opera House and Dong Khoi Street. It’s one of the best executive lounges in all of Southeast Asia.

This Signature Lounge is where exclusive guests check in. It’s also place to breakfast, and to enjoy all day sparkling wine, fine teas, coffee, and light refreshments. In the evening, for cocktails and canapes, a semi-formal dress code is required.

Saigon Saigon Bar — Rooftop of the Original Caravelle

Caravelle Saigon Rooftop Bar
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Perhaps the most that’s changed at Saigon Saigon Bar are the topics of conversation. Before, it was a watering hole of war correspondents and a place to observe fighting around Saigon.

Perhaps now the news shared is not so dire, and people show mobile pics of their trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. One can observe the mayhem of Saigon traffic, but the stunning sunsets are more tantalizing.

Jokingly, it’s now called the lowest skybar in Saigon. Modern constructions like the nearby Sheraton have taken over, but the views are still unparalleled. You get a closer eye-level view of the city’s historic landscape rather than feeling you’re above it.

There is indoor and rooftop seating. The chairs are modern comfy wood lattice with cushions. Tables suit groups of four, or there are high tables for casual couples. Daily happy hours, discounts, and regular live music support the bustling atmosphere.

The food menu has some quite nice originals, and there are beers from around the world. Sliders include Wagyu, curried chicken, spiced lamb, tiger prawns, and generous seafood and mixed sharing platters. As for most Caravelle public spaces, the dress code is smart casual or business.

Green Accolades and Appraisals

The recent renovations to the hotel were also an opportunity to upgrade environmental approaches. The Caravelle is the first and only hotel to have removed all plastic bottles.

Guests received refillable glass bottles which are sanitized and sterilized between usages. There are refill stations on all floors, or housekeeping will do it for you. The hotel also has an in-house filtration system using reverse osmosis and ultraviolet technology.

Furthermore, all lighting is now LED. This has led to substantial energy savings. Also, within reach of each bed, is a master lighting control panel. The entrance of every room has motion activated lighting.

The Caravelle was awarded the 2020 World Luxury Awards as Luxury Eco/Green Hotel. The 2020 World Luxury City Hotel Spa went to Kara Spa. Other recent awards include the Best Luxury City Centre Hotel, Southern Vietnam by APAC Insider.

Day Stays and Staycations at Caravelle Saigon

If you’re looking for special stay offers, it’s best to consult the Caravelle homepage. Their ‘staycation’ promotion of 2021 included a 32 hour stay in a deluxe room with early check-in and late check-out. The offer includes hotel credits for facilities and drink vouchers.

On the Caravelle website you can also book a 6-hour luxury stay. This is perfect for people transiting the city or needing a treat. The current offer includes access to the pool and gym, and a 10% discount on airport transportation and F&B outlets.

Read more about Staycation in Vietnam

Never Short of a Great Offer or Good Deal

Caravelle Saigon Offers
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The Caravelle Saigon is never short of good offers for its staying guests as well as outside visitors. All food and beverage establishments have regular or fixed period specials.

If you’re not party to an inclusive breakfast, you can visit Cafe l’Opera for traditional Vietnamese morning noodles. Reflections Restaurant for fine dining has an exquisite 5-course seafood dinner.

Once again, at Cafe l’Opera enjoy a 3-course healthy lunch or business set lunch. There are coffee and patisserie specials and an ongoing world coffee promotion.

For the Kara Spa, there are value deals for members. These suit more regular guests and locals. They include complimentary day access to the pool, and free use of the VIP room, spa, steam, and jacuzzi rooms. There are also generous discounts on the a-la-carte spa menu.

Rooms of the Caravelle

Caravelle Saigon Rooms

Rooms of the Caravelle, as modern as they are, exude old-school style and homely simplicity. The smallest rooms, the Deluxe, Opera, and Signature, are 34 sqm. Deluxe rooms have a walk-in vanity, and Signature rooms have a Nestle Espresso Machine.

Opera rooms have large soundproof windows, while Signature Premium and Studios have walk-in vanities. All Suites and the Signature Premium rooms have Sealy posturepedic beds.

Suites include Executive Suites and the Opera View Suites have a balcony. Balconied Heritage Suites include an additional kitchen and powder room. There are also two bedroom suites, and the premium Diplomatic and Presidential Suites.

Wining, Dining, and Refining at the Caravelle

Food and beverage establishments at the Caravelle Saigon include Reflections Restaurant, buffet Nineteen, Cafe de l’Opera, Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar, and Tapas Kitchen.

Reflections Caravelle

Caravelle Saigon Specials
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Reflections serves ‘creative dishes from around the world’. It’s on the 3rd floor of the Heritage Wing with views of Lam Son Square. They promote culinary culture in Saigon with guest chef appearances, wine dinners, seasonal specials, and workshops.

The restaurant opens from 17:30 to 23:00, but also provides 24hr in-room dining for staying guests. It enforces a smart casual dresscode. There are vegetarian options, but rather limited.

buffet Nineteen Caravelle Saigon

buffet Nineteen Caravelle Saigon
[ image from Facebook ]

buffet Nineteen is where you can enjoy your breakfast buffet as well as lunch buffet specials. There are also bi-weekly dinner buffets and Sunday brunches. It’s named after the hotel’s address of 19 Lam Son Square.

The Caravelle buffets have reached acclaimed status in the city. It’s seafood and other buffets rival those put on by the Saigon Hotel Nikko. It’s always best to make a reservation. However, during pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, the buffet service is often under hiatus.

Cafe de l’Opera

Cafe de l’Opera
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Cafe de l’Opera is a ground floor establishment on Dong Khoi street. It’s opposite the iconic Saigon Opera House. Drop by for premium coffees, light snacks, and high tea in the city. They also serve a pho noodle breakfast special.

Tapas Kitchen 

Tapas Kitchen
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This is also a ground-floor corner establishment open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm. They have daily specials to pair with wine and spirits. Their seafood appetizers are excellent, and they have a good selection of cold cuts and cheeses.

They also have a nice slider (mini burger) selection including Japanese Wagyu beef, lobster, pork, and salmon. There’s a reasonable selection of vegetarian sides and they also serve up a 3-course set lunch.

Kara Spa and the 7th Floor Amenities

Kara Spa
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On the 7th floor of the Opera Wing, you will find the award-winning Kara spa, the gym, and an outdoor rooftop swimming pool.

During select times, Kara Spa has generous discounts for staying guests. They have a wide range of massages including candle, hot stone, Balinese, and Thai among others. The VIP treatment room special has a private sauna and shower.

The gym, which faces the pool, is fully equipped with the latest machinery. There are gym attendants on hand if you need any help or advice. There’s also a squat rack, plates up to100kg, and dumbbells to 25kg. The pool is a beautiful free form with plenty of comfy loungers and a poolside bar.

These leisure facilities and services may be periodically on hiatus due to pandemic restrictions.

Why Choose the Caravelle Saigon Hotel

Why Choose the Caravelle Saigon Hotel
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Not only is the Caravelle Saigon an historic hotel in a prime location, but it’s also one of the best modern refurbished 5-stars in the city. It’s Signature Experience is also top of its class. While it checks all the right boxes, it’s not the most definitive nor singular experience to be had.

The Hits:

  • Downtown views and location
  • Modern, classic, and homely
  • Premium Signature Experience
  • Specials and offers
  • Green initiatives
  • Spacious pool area

The Misses:

  • Menus choices for dietary needs
  • Not uniquely singular

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