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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.

Trinidad-Tobago Gets a New Five Star Hotel

November 2, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Beach

Finally. This month, construction will begin for the Carlton Savannah, which will be located between the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre and President’s House in Port of Spain. The hotel will be built over a 20-month period and will include apartments and penthouse suites.


South Beach, Miami: Hotel Victor’s VIP Vibe

October 30, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Victor

The press has gone gaga over this sexy addition to the swanky boutique hotels of South Beach. Last year’s $60 million make-over of the Hotel Victor has utterly transformed the formerly-tacky Ocean Drive. Right next door to the famed Versace mansion, the Hotel Victor is centrally located in the middle of the Art Deco district, just a hop from the city’s buzzing nightlife. Parisian designer Jacques Garcia has created a sensory explosion of rich color, aromatic infusions and whimsical retro furniture, the lobby marked by an illuminated moon jellyfish tank. The hotel’s 91 rooms and suites are situated around an infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic. Mini-bars are stuffed full of “South Beach life-style essentials” (chilled eye mask, anyone?) The 6,000 square foot Spa V entices with signature treatments (like the Jet Lag V which incorporates a patented formula of volcanic mud) and the only Turkish Hammam in South Beach. The best part of the hotel? Your personal “vibe manager,” who can arrange just about anything you want to do in Miami-- from salsa to surfing.

Hotel Victor, Official Site

Hotel Victor, Five Star Alliance


Hotels After the Hurricanes: How Are They Healing?

October 29, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Soniat House, New Orleans

Vacationing on the placid waters of the Caribbean—from the coral reefs of Belize, the perfect windswept beaches of Mexico’s Yucatan and the French West Indies, to the pulsing nightlife and crooning jazz tunes of The Big Easy—it’s hard to imagine the annihilating wrath of the hurricanes that sweep through every year. And this year—as we’ve all been witness—has been especially destructive. After the devastating damage of Katrina and Wilma, reconstruction efforts must begin anew in these tourism-dependent regions. Relief pours into New Orleans, but it’ll be a long time until the city and its inhabitants recover. In the preliminary stages, most hotels have begun reparation work, and expect 2006 reopenings. Wikipedia presents a thorough analysis of the sustained damage, including criticism of the initial relief efforts. In the Yucatan, the coastal resorts (which account for almost half of Mexico’s $11 billion yearly tourism revenue) are not expected to reopen for at least two months. Many will not be ready until Easter week. The island of Cozumel was even harder hit—many of the cruise ship piers were entirely destroyed. Heard any more news? Let me know. (Read one reporter's account of Wilma's wrath.)


Tonga: The Overlooked Pacific Island

October 28, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Tonga Beach

Where on earth is Tonga? Sure, I used to sip those elaborate tropical concoctions at the Fairmont Hotel’s Tonga Room in SF, soaking in the kitschy atmosphere, complete with faux-Polynesian glasses and timed thundershowers, that would rain from the ceiling in synch with the cheesy tunes played by the live band (stranded on the—um-- floating “island” that moved across the artifical lake.) But before last year’s adventure, I could barely find Tonga on a map, let alone trust the captains of my Air New Zealand flight to spy the air strip among the hundreds of islands in the middle of the Pacific. I was only about to discover this tiny island kingdom in the South Pacific: the first place in the world—positioned just to the west of the International Dateline—to see the dawn of a new day.

Unequivocally, Tonga is paradise: Long stretches of white sandy beaches. Not a soul in sight. A coastline marvel of magnificent blowholes, the surf erupting like geysers out of holes in the reef. Unique and lush vegetation on islands mostly uninhabited, though the main island—Tongatapu—is largely cultivated with fields of taro, sweet potatoes, breadfruit and mango trees. For the adventurous: caves to be explored (bring a torch, and candles to stick in fissures between stalagmites, so that you can swim in the cool freshwater pool in the pitch black of ‘Anahulu Cave), snorkeling and diving, yachting in the sailing capital of Vava’u Island, whale-watching tours where you can actually swim with the humpback whales. I laughed in disbelief when the Peace Corps workers in Tonga advised me to track down a local boat operator to ferry me to an outlying island to camp for a day or two. Roughing it “Survivor”-style-- surviving on fish, more fish, and fruit).

The group of islands that comprise Tonga are undeveloped, untouristed, and largely rural. Pigs and dogs root around in the foliage, and lounge roadside, in traditional villages. Above and beyond the very real paradise landscape, Tonga is a place utterly distinguished by its culture, and very serious sense of hospitality. A word of warning: Be prepared to eat. Eating a lot in Tonga gives great joy and pride to your hosts, who will no doubt serve portions bigger than anything you’ve ever seen. (Guidebooks love to point out how Tongans embrace fatness. After all, the king was in the Guiness Book of World Records for his weight. And I’m yet to find another place in the world where the national airline requires each passenger to step on a scale before departure.)

Christianity pervades all aspects of Tongan culture. It seems (that terrible flick) Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ generated more excitement in Tonga than anywhere else in the world. On Good Friday, I chatted with a girl in the airport who was on her way home to the neighboring island group of Ha’apai, who complained that it had been impossible to rent it from the video store in town. She was desperate. I watched pirated versions make their rounds around town. Discreetly changing hands in brown paper bags.

On the one hand, Tongans are very proud to say that they have never been colonized—that all the other Pacific Islands are under the jurisdiction of some foreign power-- but on the other hand, Tonga is very much colonized by religion. Indeed, it seems there are more churches in Tonga than there are villages (there are often multiple churches of different denominations in one village.) And all businesses—even Royal Tongan Airlines—are closed on Sunday. This same Good Friday, I saw a man walking down the road, burdened by the weight of a large white cross, with a trail of people behind him. We were in a Catholic village, and a series of shrines had been erected all along the road. These towering crosses—draped with woven pandanus mats and artificial flowers and images of Jesus—seem to be the ultimate fusion of cultures.

Ready to lounge and eat, lounge and eat, like the locals? For the ultimate Tongan vacation, head to the awesome, German-run Sandy Beach Resort, in the Ha’apai island group. Bungalows are set right on the beach, with the outlying coral atolls perfect for snorkeling. Meals are lavish and delicious. Royal Tongan Airlines flies daily from the capital, Nuku’alofa, (a 45 minute flight) though the airline is notorious about delays.

Want to know more? The Tonga Visitors’ Bureau has posted extensive information on their website.


The Allure of Oz: Outside Mag’s Picks for Travel in Australia

October 27, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Sydney from the ferry

In the November issue, Outside Magazine just featured the top ten trips in Australia, including treks in Queensland, sea-kayaking in Tasmania and diving the Great Barrier Reef. My favorite experience down under? Ferrying across Sydney’s Harbor to Manly beach, gaping at the Opera House on the way, then gobbling down those scrumptious little meat pies (washed down with local brew) after sunbathing and surfing in this perfect Sydney suburb. Next stop: the Outback. (Is it worth the blood, sweat and tears to get there?)


Special Offers: Thailand’s Le Meridien Khao Lak

October 25, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Le Meridien Khao Lak

Found out some good news from Gadling today. The Le Meridien Khao Lak has reopened its doors after last year’s devastating tsunami. The celebratory rates? A steal at $75 per night (plus tax). From now until Dec 22, enjoy that famous Thai hospitality in style at Khao Lak. P.S. The spa rocks.

Le Meridien Khao Lak, Official Site

Le Meridien Khao Lak, Five Star Alliance


The World… in Dubai

October 24, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The World in Dubai

In the luxury resort market of Dubai, nothing surprises me. Home of the only 7 star hotel in the world (Burj Al Arab), the latest SKI? resort (as Gridskipper reports today about Ski Dubai), and the development of The World-- in miniature man-made islands shaped like the continents of the world. The US$1.8 billion project, expected to be complete by the end of 2005, consists of 250 to 300 private artificial islands divided into four categories—private homes, estate homes, dream resorts, and community islands. Hell, you could even buy a continent! The World is located four kilometers offshore from Jumeirah, close to The Palm Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab.


Make Way for Mayakoba

October 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Mayakoba

Cancun is a mess. Mangrove swamps and coral reefs were paved over for towering high-rises and wet t-shirt contests. God bless the eco-friendly developers at Mayakoba, who are creating a new kind of luxury community just south of there on the picture-perfect beaches of the Riviera Maya. We’re carefully observing this ecoproject, which is ambitious and unique, and may set the standard for responsible, sustainable development worldwide. Mayakoba is a community of five luxury hotels—including Fairmont, Viceroy, Banyan Tree, Rosewood, and La Casa Que Canta—set within sugar white beaches and lush mangrove lagoons. Among all these celebrated resorts (of which the Fairmont Mayakoba is the first to debut in December 2005), guests can experience a range of spa and culinary choices.

Fairmont Mayakoba, Official Site

Fairmont Mayakoba, Five Star Alliance


Itching To Plan Your Winter Getaway?

October 13, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Caribbean getaway

Luxury Travel Magazine just released their list of top new resorts in the Caribbean... Check them out and get tempted.


Taj Mirage? Taj Exotica Maldives Ready to Dazzle in December

October 12, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Taj Exotica Maldives

Taj Hotels and Resorts has created a seemingly ephemeral paradise—smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Situated on one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives, the all-new Taj Exotica Resort & Spa will open in early December. On the 20 minute boat ride from the airport, you’ll think your eyes are playing tricks on you. The Taj Exotica is glorious. The resort seamlessly blends with the island’s natural beauty, creating your own private sanctuary in the middle of the ocean. Each of the 62 villas is built entirely over the lagoon and sea. Balconies, sundecks, and even private freshwater plunge pools open out onto the vast, surrounding turquoise. Get this: the Rehendi Suite even boasts a glass bathroom providing infinite views of the sea. Plus, there’s diving, snorkeling, fishing-- galore. But what we’re really drooling over is the authentically Indian spa. The Jiva Grande Spa is like its own private island, accessible by a bridge from the main resort. Spa Pavilions-- each containing private sundecks and relaxation space—include two luxurious Couple Suites. But on top of this, the Jiva Grande offers a Signature Indian Royal Mud and Bathing Experience Pavilion (with Hammam and couple experience showers), an Ayurveda Sanctuary Pavilion (with traditional Ayurveda treatments), and Heat, Hydro and Relaxation Experience Pavilion. Wow.

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Official Site

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa Booking at Five Star Alliance