LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
March 21, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It's that time of year again. MGM Mirage-- which now owns over half of the hotel rooms on the Strip-- is spending a whole lot of cash on its Vegas spring cleaning. $800 million on upgrades, in addition to the $7 billion they're shelling out for the Project CityCenter development, expected to open in 2010. After all, you've got to spend money to make money, as the Las Vegas Sun explains: "the idea is to continue to attract big spenders." Last year they spent big bucks on upgrading a wing of MGM Grand, building high-end Skylofts, adding two restaurants from Chef Joel Robuchon, and serious upgrades at Mandalay Bay. What's in store with this year's spring cleaning? Renovation of the outdoor pool and beach area at Mandalay Bay to add a bunch of new deck space and cabanas. Remodeling of the Rumjungle bar and revamping of the 3950 restaurant, with the addition of a celebrity chef. A new nightclub at Luxor. A new restaurant and bar at Excalibur. A new Japanese restaurant at Mirage. And the biggest upgrade of all: a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the music of the Beatles, to debut in May at the Mirage.
Pay $5 for a snack box with a cardboard-tasting sandwich and mushy apple? I don't think so, say many luxury travelers, who are opting for delightful gourmet take-out meals offered by their upscale hotels. As the Miami Herald reports:
...the posh Peninsula Beverly Hills sells takeout platters of blue fin tuna, poached salmon and Cobb salad in narrow cardboard boxes with suitcase-like handles for about $20. Guests at the Hotel Plaza Athene in New York can order a chicken club or shaved roast beef sandwich packed with monogrammed cloth napkins and a reusable thermos from the hotel's "Goodies to Go" menu. Hotels aren't just filling doggie bags with food from their restaurant menus. Some are devising special dishes that travel well and stay tasty at room temperature.Now that's a way to build loyalty among your (happily-satiated) clients.
Holy week in Seville takes place in the eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter (April 9-16 this year): an incredible celebration and melancholy observance at the same time. The cloaked Cofradias (Brotherhoods)-- their eyes and faces hidden by huge conical hats-- process through the city's narrow, winding streets. Some barefoot, burdened with crosses, or huge fantastic floats of the Virgin Mary or Jesus, kneeling in penitence as they circle from their church to the Cathedral of Seville and back-- passing mobs of citizen revelers and eager onlookers. The streets are absolutely packed with extended families (from infants to grandmothers) who gather to watch the processions of 57 brotherhoods carry 116 marvelous floats through the streets. To witness this religious ritual is a once-in-a-lifetime must. Where to stay in the exquisite historical city of Seville? The Hotel Alfonso XIII, of course! Built in 1929, the posh royal palace was inaugurated by the King for which it was named. A fixture on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List, the hotel is the essence of opulence. (Hurry, rooms are still available! My pick are the Moorish-themed rooms, with their tasteful and elegant furnishings.)
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Official Site
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Five Star Alliance
On its sun-soaked perch overlooking Miami, Coral Gables-- aka City Beautiful as it was dubbed when it was founded in 1925-- is a lot more than its 6.5 million square feet of office space, high-end boutiques and University of Miami campus. This is also the Latin American business headquarters of oodles of multinational companies (try 175 of them). It's a lush and beautiful spot, with a Mediterranean style aura. Starwood just announced plans to convert the 157-room Colonnade Hotel-- long known as the scene for important social and business events-- into a new Westin. What can guests expect at the new Colonnade, slated to open in late 2006? Why-- Westin's signature Heavenly Bed, of course, along with luxurious services, products and amenities that are all in line with Westin's new brand message of "renewal." Hence, the high thread-count sheets, down duvet and down pillows, plush bathrobes, and the newest Heavenly Bath: "a custom-designed dual showerhead that offers a choice of spray options from light mist to massaging needles." But smokers, beware. As of February 2006, Westin's paved the way for smoke-free hotels across North America.
March 15, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The first new hotel to open in Monaco in 75 years, the $260 million Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel has reinvented Monte Carlo, bringing back the chic and legendary glamour of the Roaring Twenties on the Riviera. Set on the edge of the sea, with sweeping azure views, the hotel is elegantly situated within four hectares of Mediterranean gardens and lagoons. Just minutes from Nice. Lounge by the glass-domed indoor swimming pool, or relax in the adjoining spa, a contemporary and luxurious paradise complete with 12 treatment rooms, fitness center and Turkish baths. In the evening, watch the sunset from the sea-view bar, and then indulge in the gastronomic pleasures of four stellar restaurants, including one directed by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse. And the nightlife—as expected—is exceptional.
Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel, Official Site
Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel, Five Star Alliance
Say hello to the brand spanking new Raffles Beijing Hotel. The decadent 171-room hotel makes its debut on May 28, and Raffles is celebrating big time. A little background: the hotel is not a new glass skyscraper or contemporary architectural icon. This building was constructed in the 1900s, and is cloaked in history. This is an illustrious Beijing address, located just a few minutes from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Inside, the guest rooms are beautifully decorated, a fusion of Asian and French elegance. There is fine dining aplenty, and a gorgeous fitness center (squash or indoor tennis, anyone?) with its own indoor swimming pool. And the Raffles Beijing Hotel is celebrating its opening with a fantastic introductory offer. Two nights luxurious accommodation includes the following amenities: complimentary breakfast for two, arrival car transfer from the airport, complimentary wireless internet, and personal on-call valet services. Starting at CNY 2,180 per night for a Landmark Room, and CNY 2,680 for an Executive Room. Available May 28-August 31, 2006. Did I mention that the first 1,000 guests receive a special free commemorative gift?!
March 14, 2006
By: Guest Writer
By Courtney W. May Last week in the Informed Traveler Newsletter we had an article which highlighted three suites in New York City, including the Taipan Suite at the Mandarin Oriental, the Royal Suite at the Carlyle and the Park Avenue Suite at The Regency. We asked our readers to send us their favorite suites in NYC and the highlight was the 'Triplex Penthouse Suite' at The Time located at 224 West 49th Street in the heart of the West Side. On level one of the three you have the main living area with a huge L-shaped terrace, full sized marble bath, and dining area. On the second level you have the master bedroom with King size platform bed, computer workstation, the master bath (featuring jacuzzi tub, sauna, towel warmer and dual vanities), and a printer/fax/copier. Level three is the 'entertainment' level with oversized terrace, exercise bike, and 60" projection screen tv. As our reader put it: "it's pretty 'Suite'!".
By: Guest Writer
According to a new survey, Fortune 500 companies are prepping in a big way for the avian flu pandemic. After all, the forecasters are predicting that the avian flu could reach US shores in just a few months:
In particular, the companies are placing measures in place to track employee travel as being central to risk mitigation efforts, according to International SOS, one of the top providers of medical assistance, international healthcare, security services and outsourced customer care.Thus, if I fly to Vietnam, China, or-- God forbid!-- France, am I considered at-risk by these same venerable companies? My travel plans and activities logged and databased to protect me from spreading the contagion?
This Easter experience the renaissance of the cool and cultured in Berlin, and the luxurious bliss of Germany's most famous hotel. Leveled during the war, the Hotel Adlon was reconstructed in 1997 by Germany's renowned hotelier, Kempinski. Located in the heart of Berlin, next to the famous Brandenburg Gate, the Adlon is a grand and storied hotel. The seven-room Presidential Suite-- its window the notorious scene of Michael Jackson's baby-dangling antics-- is as elegant as befits the royalty and heads-of-state who frequently stay here. The Easter Package includes two nights accommodations in a deluxe room, a welcome gift upon arrival, gourmet breakfast buffet daily, one special four-course dinner with champagne, a guided cultural tour, and free entrance to the Adlon Spa. Starting at EUR 498, valid from April 14- April 17.
Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, Official Site
Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, Five Star Alliance