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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.

Ritz-Carlton and Jean-Michel Cousteau Expand the Ambassadors of the Environment Program

April 30, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ritz-Carlton, Grand CaymanWe're big fans of the aquatic education program at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, run by Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. Emphasizing education and respect for ecosystem sustainability with "hands-on" activities, the program was recently awarded "Best Children's Program for 2007" by Virtuoso. Participants explore coral reefs by snorkeling on the ocean floor, discover the critical role of mangrove trees in the ecosystem on pontoon expeditions, and participate in the breeding programs of rare species like the Blue Iguana. Now this collaboration between Ritz-Carlton and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society will be expanded to other select destinations around the world, including Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, Maui and Sanya, which opened April 24th, 2008.


The Caravelle Hotel, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Plans Major Overhaul

April 28, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Caravelle, SaigonSaigon's most storied hotel is getting a makeover. Made famous during the American-Vietnam War when journalists camped out on the hotel rooftop and filed stories (Walter Cronkite stayed here during his 1968 tour of the country), the landmark Caravelle Hotel reopened in May 1998 and soon attracted clientele like President Bill Clinton and the Lord Mayor of London. It's already pretty swanky; there's a free-form swimming pool with Jacuzzi set amidst lush lagoon palms, rooftop terrace and bar, the tranquil Qi Spa, and newly-revamped restaurant Nineteen (one of the city's best buffets). But The Caravelle has big plans for 2008. Not only will all the guest rooms and suites be renovated, but the hotel will also introduce a slew of environmentally friendly green initiatives and the publication of a book that celebrates the hotel's history. The Caravelle is situated in the very heart of the city, across from one of Vietnam's three colonial-era Opera Houses.


Celebrate Earth Day with Better World Packages from Banyan Tree

April 24, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Banyan Tree MaldivesExplore Australia's UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest with a certified eco-guide at the Angsana Resort Great Barrier Reef. At the Banyan Tree Bintan (situated on an island just off Singapore), take off on a nature walk amongst 100-year-old trees and other fascinating flora and fauna, followed by a rejuvenating foot massage. You can also plant a tree. At the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru in the Maldives, which houses the first-of-its-kind Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab, you'll have the opportunity for guided snorkeling and coral planting under the watchful eyes of dedicated Marine Biologists. You can also take part in a reef survey, take a manta tow ride, learn the technique of measuring and weighing endangered green sea turtles, and enjoy a special dive to the Lotus, an artificial reef. Angsana Velavaru, located in the South Nilandhe Atoll, and Angsana Ihuru in the North Male Atoll, offer similar packages including a marine biology and ecology session, coral planting and guided snorkeling trip to house reefs, and a dolphin cruise led by the respective Marine Lab's resident Marine Biologist. The Banyan Tree Group has launched these earth-friendly activities to celebrate Earth Day, and the "Better World" packages will be available until the end of the year.


An Interview with the Concierge: Aleenta Resort & Spa Phuket

April 24, 2008
By: Courtney W. May

Located on the beach, past fields of pineapple and coconut which is a pure, simple and elegant resort - Aleenta Resort and Spa - where you can relax, enjoy and discover. The resort's concierge recently took some time to answer a few of our questions below.

What activity do you recommend the most often?

Private Yacht Charter on Ferretti 680 (which is simply the most luxurious charter vessel on offer in Phuket; featuring air-conditioning 2 LCD satellite TVs , jet ski and scuba equipment) to Phi Phi Islands, Krabi or Phang-Nga Bay.

Do you have any Do's and Don'ts for travelers to the hotel and the city?

Do experience the Thai Culture, food and the turtle conservation at Aleenta. Don't go to the beach without sun block.

What types of things have you been unable to do for guests?

We weren't able to do a sunset blessing wedding by the monks, due to the fact that monks only bless weddings before 11am.

What is the funniest request you've gotten from a guest?

A male guest requested to have his privates waxed.

What is the strangest request you've gotten from a guest?

See above.

Because you are in a major international tourism destination, what kinds of language problems come up?

When two cultures meet and neither of them speaks English, it becomes a challenge.

Which restaurant do you recommend the most often and why? Who is it best for?

We have several recommendations for restaurant first and for most is our Aleenta main restaurant which has Thai cuisine, than we have our Chefs' Table fine dining Restaurant which has French and European cuisine. Apart from our restaurant we have small local beach shack located 10minutes drive from the Resort which gives an authentic Thai meal eating experience.

What are the things that you wish guests knew about the Concierge?

The time and effort that goes into ensuring that our guest's leave with not only a positive image of our Resort, but also of Thailand.

How big is the Concierge staff at the hotel?

1 concierge staff and 2 front office agents

Are there any specialty concierges or all generalists for everyone?

Generalists for everyone, concierge is an area of expertise for all our Front Office staff.

What is the average number of requests a day?

20 per day.

What is your personal favorite part of the hotel?

Our Aleenta Ka Spa and the view from the outdoor dining area of our Chef's Table fine dining restaurant.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

I love to interact with the guest and teach them about the Thai culture.

Visit the Aleenta Resort and Spa in Phuket


Buzz: Capella Niseko Resort, Designed by Tadao Ando, Set for Japan’s Renowned Ski Destination

April 21, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Niseko2010 won't come fast enough. Capella Hotels and Resorts is planning a top-tier resort for Niseko (boasting some of the world's finest powder- blown straight from Siberia), and it's going to knock our socks off. The famed architect Tadao Ando is going to work his magic in designing the luxury resort set on 32 acres adjacent to Annupuri-Niseko Mountain. Recipient of every major architecture award in the world (including the Prizker), Ando is renowned for his creative use of natural light and forms that follow the natural contour of the landscape. The resort will highlight the natural beauty of Niseko's incredible setting. What else would we expect from the posh, new Capella brand, led by legendary hotelier Horst Schulze (long-time president at Ritz-Carlton)? Capella is all about personalized luxury, and the resort promises an incredible wellness center and Auriga Spa, along with year-round recreational opportunities. A total of 9 Capella hotels worldwide have been announced; Schloss Velden, a Capella Hotel, in Austria, and Capella Castlemartyr, located in Cork, Ireland, were the first Capella resorts when they opened in 2007.

Image via Wayfaring


Anantara Resort Golden Triangle, Thailand: King’s Cup Elephant Polo, Elephant Trekking and the Elephant Camp

April 16, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Anantara Resort Golden TriangleOverlooking the rugged hills of Laos and Burma and the winding Mekong River in Thailand's mystical Golden Triangle region, Anantara Resort is a luxury nature retreat set on 160 acres of tropical jungle. The resort is just as evocative as its surroundings. From your private balcony with a built-in sofa, you can check out the views of three different countries! The 58 guest rooms feature traditional Thai art, hardwood floors, and open bathrooms with oversized tubs for two. Go elephant trekking, learn exotic Thai flavors at the resort's own cooking school, take a guided excursion to Burma's colorful markets. The resort offers myriad conservation activities, and the luxurious facilities include a hilltop infinity pool overlooking the Mekong valley, pampering Anantara Spa, and signature restaurants.

Elephant Polo at AnantaraAs we've been eagerly anticipating for months, Anantara Resort Golden Triangle recently hosted the 7th King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament on a new polo pitch set just feet from the Ruak River dividing Thailand from Burma. From March 31-April 6, 2008, 12 elite teams battled it out. (There was even an all-female London-Irish team!) After some exciting matches, the Mercedes team clinched the title in a close finish against Chivas Regal of Scotland. But the real winners? The elephants themselves, as the tournaments raise money for the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Over $200,000 has been raised to help provide protection for the threatened Thai elephant. In fact, Anantara Resort is praised for its on-site Elephant Camp where some 27 elephants are in residence. Funds have been used for a custom-built elephant ambulance and a (powder) milk bank for baby elephants.


Shangri-La Hotel, Xian: Check In to Luxury and Check Out China’s Terracotta Warriors

April 14, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Shangri-La Hotel, XianWith all the Olympic buzz, the world's gaze has shifted to China. You may not be heading to the games in Beijing this summer, but a trip to China, ranked one of the top international destinations by the World Tourism Organization, may be on the horizon. An absolute must is a visit to Xian, an ancient capital of China and the terminus of the legendary Silk Road, home to the Terracotta Warriors, one of China's most renowned archaeological discoveries. Described as a "Natural History Museum," Xian is simply brimming with relics and sites. The city is also an important part of the economic revival of interior China, a bustling modern city. The place to stay is the Shangri-La Hotel, Xian, situated within easy reach of the top tourist attractions and the city's business and entertainment districts. The only luxury hotel located in the Gaoxin hi-tech development zone, The Shangri-La has choice guest quarters and an impressive service team including IT butlers. Also on site: four trendy designer restaurants, the largest meeting and banqueting facilities in Xian, and a fully-equipped health club with heated pool.


Himalayan Adventure at Wildflower Hall, Simla, India

April 11, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Wildflower HallBritish colonials flocked to the hill towns of northern India for the cool climate and incredible scenery, and the region continues to lure folks looking for trekking, rafting, and pampering. In the midst of this mindblowing landscape of pine forests, terraced hillsides and snowcapped peaks, Wildflower Hall promises an unforgettable stay in alpine India. It's managed by Oberoi Hotels and Resorts (the company behind the No. 1 resort in the world)-- an indication of the level of luxury offered here in the mountains. Situated at an altitude of 8,250 feet, 45 minutes outside Simla, the resort boasts a teak-paneled lobby, spa by Banyan Tree, heated indoor pool with mosaic floors and chandeliers, and an outdoor deck where you can soak in the whirlpool while checking out the views.

Of course there are a slew of adventure sports on offer, and from now until June 30, 2008, you can take advantage of a "Himalayan Adventure" package, which includes a variety of activities: a three-hour rafting trip down the white-water rapids of the Sutlej River (with gourmet lunch on the riverbank included), mountain-biking the picturesque trails around the forests of Wildflower Hall with an experienced guide and all-terrain bikes, and full spa treatments to soothe the body and mind after a day of adventure. Starting from INR 61,000 (double occupancy), the offer includes: 4 nights stay for two in a Premier room, daily Breakfast, one 3 hour white water magic rafting trip, one 60-minute spa treatment, daily Yoga and meditation sessions, tennis or ice skating in the rink (weather permitting), complimentary use of indoor swimming pool and health club, and choose either 1-hour Mountain Biking trip or a 3-hour hike with a naturalist.

Image Via New York Times


Chocolate Business Cards at the Conrad Bangkok

April 11, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Conrad BangkokLeave it to the innovative Conrad Bangkok-- the cutting-edge luxury hotel situated in the heart of the Thai capital at All Seasons Place-- to come up with this exciting amenity. Polish Executive Pasty Chef Slawek Golaszewski at Conrad Bangkok has created edible Chocolate Business Cards made from dark and white chocolates. Now available at Baht 30 (1 US$ = 32 Baht ) per piece at the Deli by Conrad. Within 24 hours, guests can have their details embossed in chocolate (actual business card size) to make a sweet impression on their business associates. To quote the Chef: "I simply combine two key points to produce this. Firstly, Conrad Bangkok is a business hotel and clients always find something unique to impress their clients. Secondly, we are famous in homemade chocolates and creativity is us."


Langham Place Eco Resort, Krabi: Tempting Offer in Thailand

April 9, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Langham Place Eco Resort, KrabiExperience the pinnacle of luxury for a song. The Langham Place Eco Resort and Spa, the new eco-friendly hideaway on the small island of Koh Lanta off the southwest coast of mainland Thailand, has a special package for just $185 per night including transfers, a bountiful breakfast, daily fresh fruit basket in-room, and complimentary late check-out at 4 p.m. Play some tennis, hit the gym, enjoy the use of the non-motorized water sports equipment and the movie house and music room-- all included. The three-night "Buy Me" Package is priced from Baht 6,000 ($185) and is available until October 31, 2008.

P.S. The pix will make you pine for paradise-- soft sand, crystal clear water, dramatic infinity-edge pools with uninterrupted views to the Andaman Sea. And the accommodations, infused with authentic Thai style, are equally as inspiring.