Jumeirah, the luxury hospitality group and member of Dubai Holding, is growing by leaps and bounds. Perhaps the most significant development for 2005 was Jumeirah's entry into the US market, with the acquisition of one of Manhattan's most prestigious and historic luxury hotels: The Essex House. Renamed the Jumeirah Essex House, the hotel is an elegant city landmark, perfectly located off Central Park. Since its debut in 1931, this luxurious property has been the New York refuge for international leaders, dignitaries, and celebs. Most importantly, the hotel houses the superlative Mobil Five-Star restaurant, Alain Ducasse at Jumeirah Essex House-- easily the best restaurant in New York City.
After the acquisition of this gorgeous property, Jumeirah continues to anticipate awesome growth for 2006. Let us count the ways. Management of Shanghai's most prestigious new hotel development in the Luwan District (HanTang Jumeirah Shanghai will open in 2008). Management of Jumeirah Dubai Towers, a five-star hotel in Doha, Qatar. Management of the luxury hotels and theme park at the beachfront town of Aqaba, Jordan. And in Dubai, Jumeirah will operate Aqua Dunya, a theme park resort in Dubailand that aims to become the world's largest leisure and tourism attraction. (With a whopping 8 million sq. ft.) And let's not forget the management of Jumeirah Al Khor in Dubai Healthcare City, and lastly, the Jumeirah Business Bay Hotel, in Dubai's new business district (Business Bay, Dubailand, Healthcare City.... the names are clever, aren't they?) Whew.
Jumeirah Essex House, Five Star Alliance
Ahhh, Round Hill: the elegant Jamaican hideaway, a favorite for Town and Country fashion shoots, a former pineapple, allspice and coconut plantation, where the elite and moneyed few escape for their tropical respites. The legendary resort, not far from Montego Bay, is an oasis of gardens, secluded beaches, private villas and horizon-edge pools. There's a Spa, tennis, diving, and fine dining, a vacation experience enhanced by the best, most discreet service.
The 36 guestrooms in the Pineapple House were recently renovated and designed by Ralph Lauren, with white stone floors, four poster bamboo beds draped in a white net, 300-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, and upholstered furniture from the Ralph Lauren home collection. The rooms are all-white, evoking tropical beach living, and with ocean or garden views. The bathrooms were also redesigned by Lauren, with deep soaking tubs, freestanding rain showers, and double sink vanities.
You heard that right. The AAA four diamond resort-- in quest of the ever elusive five-diamond rating-- may construct an Old West-style casino with 500 slot machines. Just how that will up the rating is beyond me. Currently, Nemacolin Woodlands is a popular luxury destination outside Pittsburgh, with world-class golf course, excellent restaurants, internationally acclaimed Spa, Equestrian Center, Kids Club, shooting academy, tennis, and endless other activities.
Nemacolin Woodlands, Five Star Alliance
The Conch Republic-- so named in 1982 when Key West seceded from Florida with the motto "The People Who Seceded Where Others Failed"-- is a quirky and magical place. At the southernmost point in the US, charming, white Victorian houses bask in the sun. There's diving and snorkeling, sailing and sunning, deep-sea fishing, and more bars per capita in (possibly) the entire world over. Needless to say, this was a favorite haunt of Hemingway, whose legendary residence still houses the offspring of his six-toed cats. In celebration of the city's most famous resident, Key West hosts an annual "Hemingway Days Festival." From July 18 to July 23, the 26th annual event celebrates Hemingway's work and lifestyle. A week of literary readings, a theatrical premiere, short story competition, a museum exhibit, and fishing tournament. And as highlighted by the Washington Post "What’s the Deal?"-- from now until October 15, the city of Key West is offering half price admission to many of its major sites, including sightseeing tours on the Conch Train and Old Town trolley, Hemingway Home and Museum, and Aquarium. Coupons are available here.
Northwest of Bordeaux, bordered by the Atlantic and the Gironde Estuary, lies the world-renowned Medoc region, celebrated for producing the world's most prestigious red wines. Meaning the "middle territory," the Medoc is situated on the 45th parallel, benefiting from an ideal temperate climate and a unique gravelly terroir. These beautiful vineyards produce high-quality grapes of many varieties: Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet-Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
Situated in the midst of these splendid vineyards on a 135-acre property, the Relais De Margaux is an elegant hotel, graced with the traditions of a rich past but with all the comforts and facilities of the present. Originally the chateau of one of the premier wine-producing families of France, Relais de Margaux has been transformed into a comfortable, contemporary resort destination. From your room, enjoy spectacular views of the new 18-hole golf course situated between the Estuary and the vineyards. (The course opened in 2005 with driving range and putting green.)
Rooms are the essence of comfort-- furnished in a traditional French style, and with all the modern amenities of a world-class hotel: flat screen TVs, spacious bathrooms with heated towel racks, large French windows, luxurious linens. Relax in your room or immerse yourself in luxury at the new Spa Harmonia with a treatment a la carte, or full day cares package, to enjoy the Jacuzzi, hammam, sauna, swimming pool, and fitness room.
After a day spent tasting the divine wines of the nearby Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and Chateau Margaux-- all renowned for their premier grand cru classe-- indulge in gastronomic cuisine that will likewise knock your socks off. At both the gourmet restaurant (Ile Vincent is situated in one of the ancient wine cellars) or the Brasserie du Lac, Chef Laurent Costes creates exceptional dishes to match the region's exceptional wines. For dessert, you must order the chocolate pizza: rich melted chocolate over a thick, round crust of brioche. And breakfast is a sheer delight: bountiful baskets of piping hot crossaints, meats, thick yogurt, fruit, and rich coffee.
What's next: Toddler Teatime or Tween Scene? Looks like Hyatt has pegged the teenage demographic as crucial for future marketing efforts. Now the sweet 16's can "assert their independence" and mark their celebratory milestone with a luxurious sleepover party, with lots of pampering and chocolate manicures, at participating Hyatt Resorts in the U.S. and Caribbean. The Standard Suite 16 Package includes: Birthday Concierge consultation (lucky kids!!), one night luxurious accommodations in a two-bedroom suite, for up to 2 adults and 6 guests under the age of 18, limo transportation, one plush Kashmere Spa Robe for the birthday teen, use of a digital camera while at the hotel and a commemorative picture frame for the birthday teen to take home, dinner for eight catered by in-room dining, special birthday dessert, bowls of popcorn and candy, movie night in room via On Command, use of Cranium(R) games in room, continental breakfast for eight served in-room. Starting at $2,500, and varies by property.
You're about to head out on a trip to Budapest or Timbuktu and you're thinking of starting a blog. Maybe you just want a space to showcase the gazillions of photos you will take (you're a little snap-happy with the new digital). Or maybe you tend to wax poetic about monuments and museums. Or maybe you just want a cool mapping feature to illustrate your travels. Or maybe you want to glean some advice from the locals about trendy hotspots. TravBuddy is the place to do it. TravBuddy is a travel-networking community that allows you to write travel blogs and review destinations all over the world. The Google mapping features are rad. They offer unlimited photo hosting. And it's super easy to post comments and/or connect with other travelers. And TravBuddy is also useful right from your own backyard-- whether you're an enthusiastic armchair traveler or want to share local tidbits about restaurants or shops in your hometown. Check it out.
We go gaga over all things Philippe Starck. Hong Kong's sexy boutique, Jia, LA's Mondrian (oozing all of that Cali style), Miami's hotspot The Delano, and BA's extraordinary Faena Hotel and Universe. The award-winning celebrity designer has knocked our socks off with pretty much every one of his creations. And now the rumor on the street is that the master has been chosen by SBE Hotel Group to create a signature look for an unnamed luxury boutique brand scheduled to debut in 2008. The deets? Apparently, Starck signed a 15 year, exclusive contract, which will open its first hotel in SoCal, where the Beverly Hills Le Meridien is now. Other hotels in NY, Miami and the Carib will follow-- mostly all conversions. The contract also stipulates the design of nine restaurants and lounges, the first of which will open in Brentwood in May. Bring it on! (This is the father of the whole boutique category we're talking about!)
Dubai is hopping this week with the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the enormous travel and tourism exhibition held at the Dubai World Trade Centre. With the tourism industry booming in the Arabian Gulf these days, the ATM is an important event for the hospitality industry, with oodles of exhibitors announcing new projects, hotels, and airlines. Dubai-based Elite Jets debuts today at the ATM, showcasing its luxury jet travel for VIP clients expecting the ultimate in convenience, luxury, and privacy. Established at the Dubai Airport Free Zone, Elite Jets has been around since November 2004, providing charter services for corporate and leisure travelers in the Middle East. (Its founding partners are National Airways Corporation and JML Investment Group.) The fleet consists of Raytheon Hawker 1000 aircraft, which have spacious, well-equipped cabins that can accommodate 9 passengers. In July, the portfolio will be expanded with the brand new Raytheon Hawker 850XP, which boast the largest cabins for midsize jets. It seems Elite Jets fills an important niche by providing the luxury travel option for reaching the world's fastest growing luxury destination.
There's been quite a hullabaloo over Mobil's recently announced 2006 award winners. The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental New York made the cut and graduated to elite five star status, its "wow factor" described by the experts:
This sleek hotel marries Asian sensibilities with New York panache, and its 14,500-square-foot spa is the piece-de-la-resistance. Bamboo and natural stone are used throughout, creating a temple of serenity in this most frenetic of world capitals. Chinese, Ayurvedic, Balinese, and Thai healing therapies are the highlight of a visit to this facility, where guests are encouraged to book blocks of time, known as Time Rituals, for a comprehensive relaxation experience.
It joins the likes of the Spa Montage at the Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, Cali-- the nation's only other Mobil Five-Star Spa. The full list of 2006 award-winners is here. Any dynamite spas that you noticed didn't make the cut?