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LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
 
FSA LogoThe Luxury Hotel Insider: Exclusive luxury hotel deals, features and special rates from the luxury hotel experts at Five Star Alliance. 
 
Named one of Tripbase's Best Luxury Travel Blogs for 2011, below are Five Star Alliance's newest articles featuring exclusive information on luxury hotels worldwide including special offers and deals at the world's best hotels.

Uganda is the New ‘It’ Tourist Destination

February 9, 2011
By: Daniel L. Moses

The Serena Kampala“The person who has not traveled widely thinks his or her mother is the best cook.” -Ugandan Traditional Proverb

Having been to The Serena Hotel in Kampala, Uganda, and eaten some of the most delicious East African cuisine, I can tell you that while my Mom was an excellent cook (Hi, Mom!), she has nothing on a master chef. In Uganda, there aren’t many master chefs, in fact most of the restaurants are locally-owned establishments where Mom actually is cooking, but The Serena Hotel is a bit different. Beneath The Serena’s rose-colored towers high above downtown Kampala lies a restaurant that indulges all 5 senses, and maybe the 6th sense too. The sense of wonder!

The flagship restaurant, The Pearl of Africa, is stunning! And the views over the terraced lawn and pools are immaculate. In fact with the cascades of a 7 meter waterfall flowing into the largest pool complex in all of Uganda, The Serena Hotel in Kampala even outdoes itself. Why itself, you ask? Well The Serena was already the finest establishment around, but just last year completed renovations to make it a premier destination in not just Africa, but the entire world.

Given the abundance of activities in Uganda (and shhhh! the prices are much lower than in other parts of Africa), including incredible big game safaris, gorilla trekking, the white sand beaches of Lake Victoria, and amazing freshwater sport fishing, I can’t understand why more travelers aren’t flocking to this burgeoning tourist mecca. The reason: It’s still not quite discovered, so you can be among the first to go and enjoy everything Uganda has to offer. When you do, stay at The Serena Hotel in Kampala, and let them take care of the rest.


Sponsored Article: Lake Okareka Lodge by lebua Awarded Among Top Honeymoon Destinations

January 13, 2011
By: Five Star Alliance

Lake Okareka Lodge by lebua, RotoruaPrince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton are scouting out honeymoon destinations, and Lake Okareka Lodge by lebua-- located in Rotorua, New Zealand-- should be at the top of their list. After all, this exclusive, ultra-luxe lodge was recently named as one of the world's top 10 honeymoon destinations by HotelsCombined.com.

Lake Okareka Lodge by lebua, RotoruaIn fact, Lake Okareka Lodge manager Diana Moore wrote the Prime Minister John Key urging him to invite the royal couple to New Zealand for their honeymoon. "We suggested to Mr. Key that a New Zealand honeymoon would be the perfect wedding gift from the people of New Zealand and at the same time it would generate priceless worldwide publicity for New Zealand as a visitor destination." The honeymooning couple would experience breathtaking scenery, world class culinary experiences, and the seclusion and privacy of this unique and unspoiled environment.

Lake Okareka Lodge by lebua, RotoruaMany guests book out the entire lodge for exclusive use, as it comprises just three large suites, one on each level. Lake Okareka Lodge rates start at around NZ$2500 per couple per night in a suite and rise to around $8,000 per night for exclusive-use of the entire lodge with accommodation in the award winning Lake Okareka Suite-- with gourmet dining, beverages and 24-hour butler service included.

The lodge boasts its own helipad, floatplane jetty, outdoor spa, private beach, massage room and fitness studio. Honeymooning couples find it a magic, romantic hideaway for a few days of guilt-free pampering.


Hot New Hotels for 2011: Announcing the Viceroy Maldives

December 31, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Viceroy Maldives

We're the first to admit it: we've got a big weakness for Viceroy Hotels and Resorts. From Santa Monica to Snowmass to Miami to Anguilla, Viceroy has staked its claim to some prime real estate, wowing with designer interiors (Kelly Wearstler at her best) and sumptuous facilities (glimmering private pools, dining with dramatic views). And get this. Pretty soon the world-famous L’Ermitage Beverly Hills will be reborn as Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills. There's more. Come summertime, the Viceroy Maldives will debut in the Indian Ocean, the first resort beyond the Americas for the collection. Set on the crescent-shaped island of Vagaru in the Shaviyani Atoll, the Viceroy Maldives will feature 61 luxury villas perched over the white sand and crystal clear water. These villas are billed as some of the largest in the Maldives, occupying between 1,345- 3,300 square feet of indoor space. Not to mention the private outdoor living areas and plunge pools.


Oman on My Mind: Anantara Al Madina A’Zarqa Resort & Spa Opens in 2011

December 29, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Anantara Al Madina A'Zarqa Resort, OmanWe've long had our eye on Oman as a destination to watch. Travelers who return from the Middle Eastern oasis spin tales of mysterious landscapes, rugged natural beauty, and ancient historic sites- untouched by tourism. We love that you can arrive by hang-glider at the Six Senses Hideaway at Zighy Bay. Though not far as the crow flies from over-the-top Dubai, the Sultanate of Oman is investing in a different type of tourism with a sustainable, long-term approach to economic diversification. In fact, the government is now investing $20 billion in the tourism sector to diversify the economy now dependent on oil production. The goal is to attract 12 million upscale visitors annually by 2020. The official Tourism Ministry website says it best: "Beauty has an address." Convinced yet?

Come 2011 there will be another exciting luxury hotel on the scene, the latest property from Bangkok-based Anantara Hotels & Resorts. Just an hour outside Muscat, the Anantara Al Madina A’Zarqa Resort & Spa is situated on a natural peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Oman. The 122-room luxury resort showcases traditional Arabian architecture, reminiscent of an ancient Omani castle on the beach. Facilities will include a fitness center, Anantara spa, business center, beach club bar, wine cellar and top-notch restaurants.


Test Drive a Land Rover on Eastnor Castle’s Estate: Special with 51 Buckingham Gate

December 21, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

51 Buckingham GateCare to romp around the estate of an English castle? Or even better: take a wild spin over hill and dale? Now you can with a special package from 51 Buckingham Gate, the intimate luxury hotel located in close proximity to Buckingham Palace in London. The hotel has teamed up with Land Rover to offer guests a thrilling drive experience at Eastnor Castle, where off-road circuits are used by Land Rover to test their vehicles. These 5000 acres present some of the most challenging all-terrain driving in the UK. A Land Rover Experience instructor will show you how to tackle all kinds of turf: from mud-deep tracks to precipitous hills and deep water. The "Land Rover at 51" package includes suite accommodations at 51 Buckingham Gate, breakfast, luxury transport to and from Eastnor Castle, a lunch provided by the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant Quilon served on castle view hill, complimentary evening cocktail and canapés reception, and the full use of sauna, steam rooms and fitness facilities.


Sponsored Article: Paradise in the Turks & Caicos at Seven Stars Resort

November 29, 2010
By: Five Star Alliance

Seven Stars Resort~Spacious suites and lavish facilities right on famous Grace Bay beach are key ingredients for an unforgettable Caribbean vacation~

Imagine: chartering a boat for an excursion to the deserted cays in the Turks & Caicos islands; going deep-sea fishing on the world's third largest barrier reef; taking a helicopter tour for a bird's-eye view of the islands; discovering pristine beaches on an eco-tour aboard a touring kayak; going sailing or scuba diving; taking a dip in the island's only heated salt-water swimming pool, or lounging on a cabana so close to the ocean that you can hear the waves. Seven Stars ResortBeach attendants will supply your favorite cocktails, ice-cold towels, the smoothie shot of the day, and chilled sorbet. There's even Wifi by the pool. A stay at Seven Stars Resort-- named for the seven stars of the Pleiades, a storied constellation that's said to shine brightest over the Turks & Caicos Islands-- means you'll get a resort experience that shines above all others. Service at Seven Stars Resort is a cut above the rest.

Seven Stars ResortYou'll relish the joys of a tropical paradise and white sand beaches that will take your breath away. Flanked by the marine preserve of Princess Alexandra National Park, Seven Stars Resort embraces the natural environment of the Turks & Caicos Islands. The resort's 113 guest accommodations range in size from spacious junior suites to a spectacular five-bedroom penthouse suite overlooking the ocean. Housed in three beachfront buildings, the suites come equipped with iPod docking stations, plush terry bathrobes, L'Occitane bath amenities, marble bathroom with shower and separate soaking tub, and kitchenettes with Nespresso machines. Internet access is complimentary.

Seven Stars ResortStart the day with yoga or a work-out in the fully-equipped gym, working up an appetite for breakfast by the pool. (The resort's continental breakfast is free.) Up for golf? Play a round at the nearby Provo Golf and Country Club, an 18-hole championship course. The resort has tennis courts and a full water sports program, too. Prefer to laze around? The resort's tranquil spa has expert therapists trained to soothe mind and body. No need to leave the kids at home; there's a dedicated Children's Program and babysitting service at the resort.

The best part of all: a stay at Seven Stars Resort means luxury for less. You can take advantage of various special offers that translate to just $280 per night, including a $200 resort credit when you book four nights or more. More than you've ever imagined, for less than you've ever imagined.


Win a Botswana Zebra Migration Safari: National Geographic’s Great Migrations Sweepstakes

November 10, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Did you see Great Migrations, the new series on the National Geographic Channel? The first episode of this seven-part TV event aired on Sunday, revealing to viewers the incredible journeys that millions of animals undertake to ensure species survival. This Sunday, November 14 you can watch Botswana's zebra migration, one of Africa's largest mass-animal movements which takes place every spring. Talk about action-packed armchair traveling!

Approximately 25,000 zebras leave the lush Okavango Delta (pictured) to make an imperative voyage into the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Family by family, the stallions lead their mares out of the Delta’s Eden, to make the 150-mile trek into the Pans so their bodies can take in much needed minerals. Their journey includes hundreds of stops at water holes, eventually bringing the zebras back to where they began their pilgrimage in the Okavango Delta.

Visitors to Botswana can check out this incredible spectacle on a luxury safari experience with properties like the award-winning Khwai River Lodge, overlooking the vast Khwai River floodplains and beyond into the Moremi Wildlife Reserve.

Buzz: National Geographic is currently running the "Migration of a Lifetime" sweepstakes with some incredible prizes. For a chance to win a Botswana Zebra Migration safari, register online November 14 – 20.


Fly Over the Maldives by Seaplane with the Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa

November 8, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda HuraaTalk about a Maldives adventure! Located on a private coral island a short speedboat ride away from Malé, the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa is a luxurious haven of palm-thatched bungalows on the sand overlooking the crystal-clear turquoise water. Unwind at the spa, or explore the untouched atolls surrounding the island in the Four Seasons Explorer catamaran. But perhaps the most spectacular views of the Maldives can be experienced from the air. The resort can arrange 20-minute seaplane rides so you can check out schools of dolphins and manta rays as you fly low over the ocean, taking in the views of coral reefs and beautiful lagoons. Now that's an experience to write home about.


Where to Stay in Chiang Mai, Top 10 City of the Year

November 3, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Chedi Chiang MaiLonely Planet just released a list of the "Top 10 Cities of 2011"-- featuring Tangier, Tel Aviv, New York, Wellington, and more. The venerable guidebook company had flattering words for Chiang Mai, Thailand's culture capital, which may just inspire us to visit soon:

If Chiang Mai were a person, it would be Bob Dylan. With a history dating back further than anyone can remember, its influence remains enormous. And despite its great age, there’s still a bohemian chic that makes it as relevant and hip as ever. Culture capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai was once the heart of the Lanna kingdom. Today those wanting to flee the bustle of Bangkok visit to lounge in coffee shops and drink in the city’s artisanal atmosphere. With a friendly, cosmopolitan feel, this is one easy, safe and pleasant place to explore. There are dozens of well-preserved temples here, too. Many new ecotours and adventure trips are appearing, and with a choice of river rafting, elephant rides, trekking and off-road cycling, even the biggest adrenaline junkie will be sated.

Looking for accommodations in town? Five Star Alliance has some choice Chiang Mai recommendations-- from The Chedi (ooh la la) to the Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental. In addition, Five Star Alliance offers some four-star properties in Chiang Mai. Browse away!


Buzz: The Boating Butler and Island Hopper Experience at Westin St. John Resort

October 8, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Westin St. John ResortKeen to frolic between all the tropical Caribbean isles that make up the US Virgin Islands? The Westin St. John Resort has just launched a unique new service that lets you do exactly that. Coordinated by a Boating Butler, the "Island Hopper Experience" lets adventurous guests explore the open waters with personalized boating adventures-- from St. John to St. Thomas to St. Croix and back. Book a five-night "Island Hopper Experience" and you'll receive a resort credit of $150 that can be applied at time of checkout towards boat rentals. Stays of six nights or greater receive a $200 resort credit. Choose between the following:

* For the whimsical wanderluster : Catamaran Island Spirit

"Island Spirit" is a brand new custom built sailing catamaran, the first of its kind in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the vessel can accommodate up to 70 passengers. The cabin features a large U shaped bar for beverage and food service, upholstered seating in both sun or shaded areas, and stereo throughout the vessel.

* For the family frolicker: Dinghy boat rental

Be your own captain aboard a 12 foot dinghy powered by a 15 hp Yamaha outboard. Take a picnic lunch and cruise the U.S. Virgin Islands at your own pace. Visit stunning beaches like, Honeymoon, Caneel, Hawksnest and Trunk Bay.

Westin St. John Resort* For the adventurous explorer: Powerboat Rentals with Nauti Nymph

Fountain Powerboats offer simplified elegance teamed up with the highest quality and best performance. The vessel makes for one of the smoothest riding, best handling and safest boats in its class.

* For the sophisticated traveler: Luxury Excursion with Magic Moments

Magic Moments Luxury Excursions caters to guests who want to discover the heights of luxury at sea level. Offering first class service and gourmet food and drink aboard a luxury yacht, guests are pampered with breathtaking destinations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

* For the underwater voyager: Cruz Bay Watersports Diving Experience

Scuba diving around St. John is best described as fantastic, safe, easy and fun. Divers can discover more than 25 under water sites within a 15 minute boat ride. Shallow coral gardens, shear rock faces, and fringing coal reefs have an outstanding variety of hard and soft corals, sea fans and sponges of every hue. Visibility ranges from 50-100 feet, and water temperature between 78-84 degrees.

The offer is available for stays booked now through December 30, 2010, and is subject to availability. An "Island Hopper Experience" of at least five nights includes one free night, and also a complimentary upgrade based on availability.