LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
The NYT reports on the phenomenal building boom that is transforming Shanghai at a feverish pace. My recent memory of Shanghai (2004)-- a landscape ravaged by industry, blanketed by pollution, and marked by strangely toxic sunsets over the Bund but also steeped in fascinating history and culture-- is barreling towards an unrecognizable future. The biggest city on Earth is about to get a whole lot bigger: host to the biggest ports, one of the biggest automobile factories, the biggest shipyard, Asia's largest shopping mall, and mammoth, futuristic skyscrapers dominating the Pudong riverfront. Shanghai's got its eye on surpassing New York in magnitude, size, and industrial infrastructure. And the trends I noticed a few years ago-- skyscrapers shooting up as quickly as bamboo stalks, the neon hovering and enormous in the smog, the transformation of the cosmopolitan face of modern China-- will continue at breakneck speed. As reported by the NYT, conservationists and critics bemoan the city's cultural losses: the architecture and personality of a city that has such a storied history, including its 19th century imperial division into autonomous colonial possessions, each ruled by the Brits, French and Americans. Historical neighborhoods of winding alleyways, open air markets and rich, authentic street life are set to be demolished.
Like China's capital, which is undergoing a crash rebuilding program in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics, Shanghai is using its role as host of the World Expo to shift what had already been a hugely ambitious remake into high gear. By the standards of recent urban development projects in the West — the so-called Big Dig in Boston, say — the scale of what the city is undertaking is astounding.
Along the western banks of the Huangpu River, site of the historic Bund thoroughfare, a 2,000-plus-yard-long stretch of the waterfront is being razed and redeveloped. The essence of the Bund, a virtual museum of Western architecture, flush with classical, Gothic and Art Deco landmarks, will be preserved, but densely inhabited neighborhoods at its edge are already being demolished.
Talk about ambition. As the city "aims for the top as it ascends the hierarchy of world cities, with one eye on longtime champions like New York, and another on its fraternal rival, Beijing," its rich heritage will perhaps be lost forever. Best to get there fast before a new breed of skyscrapers (already twice as many as New York's) paves China's quintessential urban cityscape.
We recently noted that Loews Hotels assumed management of the Washington, D.C. landmark-- The Madison Hotel. But what we didn't note is the hotel's Special Introductory Rate, to celebrate Loews return to the nation's capital during the springtime season of perfect temperatures and beautiful cherry blossoms. Check into Washington's traditional establishment (and check out Loews's signature style)-- for as low as $179 a night. Offer is valid for Friday and Saturday evenings through June 24, 2006.
April 13, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Truly the first of its kind, Shangri-La's newest venture in the Middle East is three-hotels-in-one, and it single-handedly ups Oman's luxury hotel rooms by 60 percent. Set within 124 acres of landscaped gardens, overlooking the mountains and gorgeous waters of the Gulf of Oman, the Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa is just 20 minutes from downtown Muscat. The destination resort is comprised of three hotels (Al Waha, Al Bandar, and Al Husn), 19 restaurants and bars, three private beaches, 6,000 sq meters of swimming pools, and a CHI spa. And don't fret; this oasis hideaway isn't without its own nightclub. With the third hotel (Al Husn) now opened, the resort counts 680 sea-facing rooms with private balconies, terraces or patios. The separate Chi Spa Village will be fully operational in May, consisting of private villas for rejuvenating treatments, three freshwater swimming pools, 19 (count 'em!) food and beverage outlets, meeting rooms and an open-air amphitheater. Did I mention the Oman Dive Center, Kids Club, Dolphin and Whale-watching trips, and marina? O- Man!
Shake or stir up the perfect weekend at Dukes Hotel, renowned worldwide for its marvelous Martinis, and of course the best Dry Martini in town. Located in a quiet spot on St. James's Place, Dukes is a charming, privately-owned luxury hotel set in a flowering gas-lit courtyard, just minutes from London's finest restaurants, theaters, galleries and exclusive shops. This luxurious boutique-- with its 89 rooms and suites individually decorated like a private home-- prizes its reputation for its happening Cocktail Bar. Brace yourself for the launch of the new Martini Menu, which will add clever concoctions such as a Filthy Dirty Martini, a Dukes Chocolate Martini, a Balsamic Vinegar Martini, a Saffron Martini, and a Rose Petal Martini, along with the traditional house specialties. In celebration of these libations, Dukes has introduced a special Martini Madness package, for Friday night arrivals throughout 2006. Priced at GBP 920 for three nights (double occupancy), the package includes: luxurious accommodations for two, full English breakfast daily, a private tasting with the bartender, a lesson on making the perfect Martini, and at-home presentation tips, two martinis at the happening bar, dinner for two at Dukes restaurant, and a special Recovery Massage for two. Top that off with a complimentary Dukes Martini set in a beautiful gift box that includes two Martini glasses, a bottle of gin, a miniature bottle of Vermouth, a lemon peeler, and a Dukes Martini leaflet with instructions on how to make a Martini. Cheers to that.
Dukes Hotel, Official Site
Dukes Hotel, Five Star Alliance
While visiting family and friends in Nashville, head to the city's treasured landmark, the Hermitage Hotel, for its famous Easter Brunch set in the historic lobby. Located in the heart of downtown, across the street from the State Capitol and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the luxurious Hermitage has racked up numerous awards, including AAA Five Diamond status and Robb Report's Best of the Best. Take advantage of the Easter Brunch package, starting at $279, and relax in splendor in a richly-furnished guest room, with its sumptuous fine thread count fabrics and all marble bathrooms.
In addition, the hotel is offering a Mother's Day Brunch Package that is sure to delight the most discriminating of guests. Brunch for two in the historic lobby features selections from the Capitol Grille. During mother's overnight stay, she will be spoiled with the hotel's Contemporary Bath Service, prepared by the Bath Concierge, with oversized plush towels, a bottle of fresh spring water, seasonal fruit, candles, rose petals, slippers, a luxurious robe, and a selection of aromatic bath salts and bath gels. Rates start at $349.
The Hermitage, Official Site
The Hermitage, Five Star Alliance
April 7, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
For those in the know, this boutique hotel occupies the 28th-42nd floors of the landmark Waldorf-Astoria, just steps from Park Avenue in Midtown. It's a luxurious space with a comfortable residential ambience, with excellent personalized service and amenities for the business traveler. This spot is all about convenience: with a superb location and access to the Astoria Lounge, full-service business center and Plus One Fitness Center. The Waldorf Towers is now offering VIP access to MoMA, so that you can skip the lines and get admission to the museum at any time. The MoMA VIP Ticket package starts at $419 per night, and includes accommodations, two VIP tickets (children under 16 are free), and discount vouchers for the Midtown bistro Brasserie. Valid until Dec. 31, 2006.
Next to the green urban oasis of Hyde Park in the heart of Sydney, Sheraton on the Park is considered one of the city's best luxury hotels, awarded to both the Conde Nast Traveler and Luxury Travel Mag's Gold Lists for 2006. The 557 luxurious rooms were completely revamped in 2003 with sumptuous contemporary furnishings. And the hotel is Sydney's largest conference hotel, with meeting and function rooms available to seat up to 900. But the best part of the place is the top-caliber recreational choices: the Executive Club Lounge offers a stunning rooftop pool, health club and spa with sweeping city views. For a limited time, Sheraton on the Park is offering three night Easter specials starting at $233 per night. (The Easter Package is priced at $299 for a single night stay, $499 for two nights, and $699 for three nights--which averages to $233 a night.) Daily buffet breakfast for two and valet parking are also included.
Sheraton on the Park, Official Site
Sheraton on the Park, Five Star Alliance
Listed on the Travel and Leisure 500, the Nile-facing luxury hotel has earned top recognition as the best in the Middle East, surpassing even Dubai's modern masterpieces. It boasts a wondrous city resort setting, with all the first-class amenities expected in a Four Seasons hotel, including superb business facilities, and largest Spa in Cairo. After a day spent exploring the dynamic city or the ancient Pyramids, head to the Health Club for a work-out with stunning views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Followed by the sauna, steam room, whirlpool or cold plunge pool at the Spa, or a drink by the secluded rooftop pool. On this meticulously landscaped outdoor terrace, 17 private cabanas are situated next to the three heated pools. From your chic and spacious guest room, take in the panoramic view from the deep soaking tub in the all-marble bathroom.
Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza, Official Site
Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza, Five Star Alliance
Change is afoot in Ft. Lauderdale, where the Intracoastal Waterway will be transformed with a new megayacht marina and five-star hotel. Just when we thought southern Florida couldn't get any more developed (satiric novelist Carl Hiassan is no doubt rolling his eyes at this one), the $100 million project will double the docks in size, adding three-phase power, WiFi and broadband, water, and pump-out stations. The adjacent hotel--the old Marina Marriott-- will get a $50 million infusion to debut as the Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel and Yacht Club. LXR Luxury Resorts aims to create the country's leading marina resort, stocked with 579 guest rooms, 33 yacht slips (for boats up to 300 feet), and 20,000 sq ft of meeting space. Spring specials are as low as $109 a night.
One of our favorite DC establishments-- the landmark hotel The Madison-- has been acquired by Loews Hotels, and we're excitedly awaiting the refurbishment of the brand new Madison, A Loews Hotel. The Madison has long radiated classic, refined elegance-- its Georgian, Federal and American Empire furnishings and superb service symbols of a bygone era. After all, this is the hotel that has hosted every President since John F. Kennedy, as well as international heads of state and business leaders. And it's got a killer location. The Madison will no doubt be made even more lavish with Loews trademark touches. Plans are in the works for new flat screen TVs, luxurious terry products, and signature suites.
The Madison, A Loews Hotel, Official Site
The Madison, A Loews Hotel, Five Star Alliance