October 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
While Dubai has become marked by unceasing construction (the hotels cropping up at an increasingly frenetic pace), the Gulf-facing country of Bahrain boasts similar awe-inspiring landscapes and pleasant climate. As suggested by the savvy travelers at The Observer:
Being an early adopter of a new destination can dramatically reduce your bill. Rather than glitzy Dubai, for example, consider the island of Bahrain. It has many of the same qualities (and fewer cranes) and is still looking to entice tourists rather than profit from them.
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Villas and Spa is the natural choice for luxury travelers. Situated on the north coast of Bahrain on the seafront of Manama, the 245-room hotel is located within a lush 20-acre urban resort complex which boasts its own private island. The newly-renovated rooms feature panoramic ocean views overlooking the Arabian Gulf. White sand beach, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gorgeous spa with Thalassotherapy pool, kid's club, and nine restaurants and bars… the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain's got it all.
Announcing the 1 Hotel and Residences, the brainchild of Barry Sternlicht, former big shot at Starwood. (As HotelChatter points out, this is the same mastermind behind the yet-to-be-seen Crillon lux hotel brand.) The new hotel brand aims to compete directly with the St. Regis (Starwood's lux label), Ritz-Carlton, and Four Seasons brands. And Sternlicht's setting his sights high: these hotels will have a "level of amenities and service lofty enough to earn a coveted five-star ranking from Mobil Travel Guide." Hotel launch locations will include Seattle, Scottsdale, Paris, Mammoth Mountain (Cali), and Fort Lauderdale. It's a crowded field. In South Florida, for example, the St. Regis Fort Lauderdale Hotel and Residences has been under construction since 2000 and is expected to open soon, and other luxury properties—including hotels by Trump and W—are in the works. (Not to mention the already existing five-star hotels.) How will 1 Hotels distinguish itself? It's being billed as the first ultra-luxurious, eco-friendly global hotel brand. 1 is planning to donate one percent of revenue from each hotel to local environmental groups, and the NRDC will serve as the environmental adviser.
Pictured: St. Regis, Fort Lauderdale
Ride through the snow-covered parks in a traditional Russian troika. Gape at the wondrous art collection at the Hermitage, the gorgeous palace from which the tsars ruled the Empire. Attend a spectacular ballet performance at the world-renowned Mariinsky Theater. With a plethora of concert and opera performances, and cafes and bars abuzz with warmth and good cheer, St. Pete's offers the world's ultimate winter experience. Stake a room at Rocco Forte's Hotel Astoria and experience the elegance and refinement of the city's finest five-star hotel. It's location couldn't be more perfect: situated opposite the St Isaac's Cathedral in the heart of St Petersburg, just a short walk from the Hermitage. There's caviar and chilled vodka aplenty at The Caviar Bar in the hotel's Davidov restaurant, and the Spa by Clarins has a sauna, steam, and four treatment rooms.
The White Days package at the Hotel Astoria features the city's top cultural experiences, dining, and entertainment, including entrance tickets to the Hermitage, "Russian table" at Davidov restaurant, three-hour city tour in English, and massage at the spa, three nights luxurious accommodations and buffet breakfast. Starting from EUR 525 per person in a Classic Double Room. Available from November 15, 2006 to March 31, 2007 (excluding the days around New Years).
What could be better than a few days retreat at the exclusive Peter Island resort? Add to that a few nights onboard the luxurious 41' sailing yacht Silmaril. Peter Island has devised the picture-perfect way to experience the best the Caribbean has to offer. By boat, explore the crystal-clear waters of the British Virgin Islands, and on land, discover the 1,300 acres of lush tropical island, and get pampered in style at the sophisticated luxury resort considered one of the best hotels in the world. (Added bonus: the new, swanky $6 million Spa.) The Ashore/Afloat package includes accommodations, full American plan (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), private lunch on a nearby secluded beach, unlimited use of facilities/activies (tennis, hobie cats, windsurfing, fitness center) and airport transfers. From November 1, 2006 to December 19, 2006, the four night package starts from $4,659. (Seven nights start at $6,401). From January 4 to April 15, 2007, the package rates are $5,330 and $7,925 respectively. All rates are based on double occupancy.
Yep, it's in a mall. But Maestro restaurant, housed in the Ritz-Carlton at Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia, is worth it. (Besides, Tysons is pretty swanky as far as malls are concerned.) This is contemporary Italian cuisine at its tasty and artistic best. A winner of the exclusive AAA five-diamond award, Maestro is a celebrated and highly-acclaimed venue which features an elegant open kitchen where guests are witness to food preparation that's more like an exquisite culinary performance. Zagat hails Chef Fabio Trabocchi as a "star," his talents matched by the fantastic sommelier Vincent Feraud. The restaurant's accolades are numerous and it's really no wonder: the menu is divided into Trabocchi's four culinary inspirations-- La Creazione, La Tradizione, L'Evoluzione and I Colori dell'Orto—showcasing the freshest of ingredients in the chef's creative interpretation of the regional Italian dishes that he grew up with. Plus there's an impressive wine cellar brimming with 800 wines from Italy, France, and the US.
It's on the market for a whopping $70 million. According to the Times UK, the penthouse is being marketed as the most expensive apartment in the world:
The French chateau inspired flat has 16 rooms, including five master bedrooms, 10 baths, and separate guest suites and staff accommodation. But there is no need to cook. The Pierre's five star hotel service is available 24 hours a day.
This could be the best spot in Manhattan. The Pierre, New York's landmark hotel, is located on Central Park at Fifth Avenue, steps away from all the best NYC attractions. The Penthouse boasts easily the best views in the city: sweeping vistas of Central Park and the city skyline.
Set amidst swaying coconut palms overlooking the beaches of the Gulf of Thailand, Four Season's newest resort is a stunning hilltop oasis. The spacious Thai villas and residences are surrounded by tropical gardens and coconut groves, and each boast private infinity pools, sundecks, and al fresco living spaces with incredible panoramas of the white sand beaches and turquoise sea. The Spa—deeply rooted in Thailand's rich healing tradition-- is housed in five salas, each equipped with two indoor and two outdoor massage beds, two outdoor showers, an outdoor bathtub and either a steam sauna or an indoor rain shower. And there are tennis courts, a yoga pavilion, and an excellent fitness center. This is the ultimate tropical idyll. Now accepting reservations for arrivals starting February 1, 2007.
Perfectly situated in the heart of the vibrant German capital on Eislebener Strasse just steps from the Kurfürstendamm shopping mile, Brandenburger Hof Berlin is an exclusive luxury boutique hotel that offers a private haven of indulgence in the midst of the bustling city. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Brandenburger Hof features 58 fashionable rooms and 14 suites named after great operas. The Michelin starred restaurant, Die Quadriga, is one of the best in Berlin, boasting a "treasure trove" of 850 German wines. Guests enjoy relaxation and pampering in the Thaleia Beauty and Wellness Suite, where certified masseurs and beauticians offer a full menu of spa services.
With the Christmas in Berlin package, visitors can marvel at the bright lights of the big city beautifully adorned for the holiday season, including the world-famous Christmas market. The package includes three nights accommodation at Brandenburger Hof, limousine transfers, bottle of champagne, Christmas welcome with stollen/mandarins and Christmas cookies in-room, champagne shopping including concierge parcel service, afternoon tea, a three-hour guided stroll through Berlin, entrance to the Christmas market, champagne reception and small Christmas concert in the festive winter garden followed by the Quadriga Christmas eve menu, and tickets to the Christmas concert or the ballet at the Staatsoper. Rates start from EUR 985 per room, inclusive of tax. Valid from December 22, 2006 to December 27, 2006.
Skip the stressful holiday get-togethers and create your own holiday vacation, chilling at four participating Omni Hotels. The unique "Run from the Relatives" package is available from November 18, 2006 to January 7, 2007 at the Omni San Diego, Omni Los Angeles, Omni Tucson, and Omni Interlocken (in Colorado). Soak up the sun or hit the slopes and enjoy 50 percent off rack rates, starting at just $199 per night. The package includes accommodations, breakfast for two in-room, a "whimsical pre-printed menu of excuses" to give relatives, and a $50 American Express gift card "to send to family members to apologize for not seeing them for the holiday."
Americans will spend a record $511 billion dining out this year. And prices at the country's best restaurants are skyrocketing, in part to keep up with the rising cost of high-quality, locally-grown, artisanal ingredients. Forbes has teamed up with the Zagat Survey to determine the priciest restaurants in the US, and topping the list is Masa, the NYC sushi restaurant in the Time Warner Center where the price of dinner for one is about $446. Also on the list? Napa Valley's epic French Laundry ($254 per person), Chicago's futuristic Alinea (12 and 24 course menus are $125 and $175 respectively), Philadelphia's landmark Le Bec-Fin ($120), Alex at Steve Wynn's opulent Vegas hotel ($114), and elegant Virginia establishment The Inn at Little Washington ($141).