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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.

Barcelona, London, Rome: European Easter Packages Galore


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Easter Eggs'Tis the season. We've seen a slew of exciting packages for Easter, and now's the time to take advantage of these special rates for a spring getaway. As the proverb goes: no matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. And what could be a better way to defrost than with an indulgent stay at one of Europe's finest urban hotels? At the Gran Hotel La Florida, Barcelona's exclusive urban resort, you can abandon yourself with tantalizing spa treatments, incredible views from the swimming pool, and a unique gastronomic experience. The "Easter Escape" package is truly a pleasure for the senses. Priced at EUR 660, the package includes two nights accommodations, buffet breakfast in the restaurant for two, a complimentary Easter amenity, one half-hour massage per person, and complimentary access to Zen Zone Spa.

Or steal away for a city break in London at the Egerton House, the elegant, privately-owned hotel bang in the middle of Knightsbridge, or The Milestone, the No. 1 rated hotel in London according to Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler, with stunning views over Kensington Gardens. Book the "Easter Extravaganza" at The Egerton House, valid until March 31, 2008, and you'll get a chilled bottle of Champagne, fresh fruit platter, and luxury basket of Easter Eggs upon arrival; complimentary British and international newspaper delivered each morning; a hearty, full English breakfast with freshly-baked Hot Cross Buns every day, and an Egerton Afternoon Tea for two with an Easter treat. Priced from GBP 265 per night. At The Milestone, escape for an "Easter Weekend" (available from March 21-30, 2008 only), and enjoy the best available rate (GBP 265 per night). Plus, if you stay three nights, you'll get a Milestone Chocolate Afternoon tea for two. Stay three nights in a Suite, and you'll receive a hand-decorated, personalized Easter Egg for each guest.

Or head to the Eternal City for a luxurious stay at the historic St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rome, with its hand-painted frescoes and butler service. Experience the celebrated traditions and timeless splendor of Easter Sunday in Rome. You'll enjoy Easter Sunday lunch for two at the famed Vivendo Restaurant (listed as one of Europe's finest in the Zagat survey), a rich display of chocolates, daily buffet breakfast for two, and Double Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Reserve by March 23 for stays through March 21-25, 2008. Two nights minimum required. From EUR 475 per room per night.


Relaxation and Culture at Villa Spalletti Trivelli in Rome


By: Madelyn Giblin

For a fully enlightening and personal experience in Rome, enjoy the Villa Spalletti Trivelli's "Relaxation and Culture Discovering Rome" package. This special offers a three-night stay in one of the Villa Spalletti Trivelli's luxurious Deluxe Double Rooms complete with a welcome gift, fruit and cheese gift awaiting you in your room upon arrival and daily newspaper. The package also includes a three-hour guided personalized tour of Rome designed to your interests in a chauffeur-driven car throughout the city.

In addition, guests are treated to a one-hour personal spa treatment of their choice, and are provided with two admission tickets into a museum in Rome, as well as the "Tea for Two" in the Sala de Camino. The Villa Spalletti Trivelli also offers full complimentary access to Hammam/Engery Bar, Turkish Baths, Tepidarium, and Gym and Relax Room. Enjoy this personal comprehensive experience of the Eternal City, rates start at € 2.800,00.


Super Promotion at The Chester Grosvenor Hotel and Spa, England


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Chester GrosvenorDuring the month of March, the award-winning Chester Grosvenor is offering a special dinner/bed and breakfast package with Five Star Alliance that represents excellent value. Priced at GBP 229, the package includes an overnight stay in a Classic Room, 3-course a la carte dinner for two in La Brasserie restaurant, bottle of wine with dinner, breakfast and VAT. Considering the published rate on a Classic Room is GBP 229, this dinner-included package is a fabulous deal. Dating back to 1865, The Chester Grosvenor is owned by the family of the Duke of Westminster. Surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the historic city of Chester in northwest England, the hotel was one of a handful of hotels to be awarded five AA Red Stars.


Turkish Delight: Announcing the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Four Seasons Istanbul at the BosphorusSoak up the exotic atmosphere of Istanbul at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Now accepting reservations from July 1, 2008, the new Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus promises an alluring mix of old and new-- just like the vibrant city itself. On the European bank of the fabled Bosphorus Strait, a 19th century Ottoman Palace got a facelift and now houses the 166-room luxury hotel. Facilities are chic, fresh: a beautiful 22,605-square-foot urban spa, state-of-the-art fitness room, fine restaurants and pools at the water's edge. Guest rooms are bright and spacious, appointed with both Ottoman and contemporary furnishings and art. Almost a quarter of the rooms offer views across the Strait to the hills of Asia. Beyond the hotel, discover the treasures of the only city in the world to exist on two continents.


An Interview with the General Manager: Andrea Luri of Castello del Nero


By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Castello del Nero StaffCastello del Nero is a 12th century castle outside Florence, restructured and opened as a 5 star deluxe hotel in June 2006. Andrea Luri is the General Manager.

Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the Castello del Nero?

Andrea Luri: Following previous experiences as General Manager of 5 star properties in Italy and abroad, I took on this assignment with much enthusiasm and passion as I believed in the value of this project as well as finding in our President and CEO a person of integrity and broad vision and who made the opening of the hotel possible.

Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?

Andrea Luri: The historic atmosphere and location combined with modern features and comforts. The estate of Castello del Nero collects the essence of Tuscan heritage in the unique location with views on the rolling hills as far as eyes can see. The hotel was brilliantly restored conserving the features of the XII century castle it is, such as frescoes and vault ceilings as well as adding services such as tennis courts, swimming pool, gym with state of the art equipment and most of all a 100 sqm spa with 10 treatment rooms. What really does set Castello del Nero apart, however, is our staff. A team completely devoted in creating an unforgettable experience for all our Guests.

Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?

Andrea Luri: A high percentage of our guests come from U.S and Canada, which are followed closely by UK and Italy and other European countries.

Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?

Andrea Luri: The Italian law on privacy doesn’t allow me to actually share the names, however our Guests include famous movie stars, film directors, Italian and American politicians, pop stars and fashion designers. Many of whom come back to enjoy the privacy of the estate allowing them to relax in a safe and cocooned environment.

Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?

Andrea Luri: The location in the countryside assures relaxing peace and incredible views on every side which change constantly with the light and time of day. At the same time we are at short distance from all major cities of interest in Tuscany such as Siena, San Gimignano and Florence which our Guests can easily reach through a complimentary shuttle bus. Guests can also enjoy a hot air balloon ride which we actually operate on property. Being blessed with a fantastic location which is Tuscany, the wine and gastronomy sector offers unparalleled experiences such as wine tastings in Chianti wineries or even Tuscan cooking classes held by our chef on property which start with picking vegetables in our organically grown vegetable patch and follow by cooking along the chef's side in our kitchens.

Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?

Andrea Luri: I would say that all frescoed suites and our Galway suite are simply incredible, thanks to the fact that you aren’t simply sleeping in a hotel room, but Guests actually undergo the experience of living in a castle like a king or queen surrounded by frescoes which date back centuries ago, or having a private dinner on a 100 sqm private terrace overlooking the Tuscan countryside. The historical charm which these rooms exude is magnificently combined with state of the art in room entertainment and high speed connectivity. Regarding our double rooms, they are all different and it is difficult to actually pin point one as I would be narrowing down to a single choice a multitude of experiences that the different rooms can offer. They are all large and comfortable and unique in layout or furnishing or view or simply in character.

Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Perhaps a bit of history? Any special events that have taken place on property?

Andrea Luri: Of course, being a private noble residence since the XII century, close to the road that connects Florence to Rome, you can imagine that great men such as Michelangelo or Leonardo could pass by Castello del Nero . The last private owner was the noble Torrigiani family. One of the descendents, Carlo Torrigiani in the early 1900’s married a red cross nurse from Philadelphia, Anna Frey. This American lady was so affectionate with Castello del Nero that she requested her burial to be in the castle’s chapel where she rests ever since. Since the hotel opened we have had special events such as Sir James Galway perform with his golden flute and also the famous Jazz Saxophonist Scott Hamilton Quartet. Also one of the weddings which took place last season had reserved the hotel exclusively with a grand gala and fireworks – truly something that you will remember for ever.

Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?

Andrea Luri: A guest would certainly appreciate to know that we have a courtesy shuttle to/from the center of Florence at scheduled times, this avoids having to worry about driving and parking in the city and makes visiting much more pleasant. For all other excursions our Front Office is at disposal for organizing all sorts of activities. At the hotel you have access to the state of the art gym, two tennis courts, the swimmingpool in the summer season. Our ESPA at Castello del Nero welcomes you in the relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the many holistic spa treatments.

Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?

Andrea Luri: I have the same difficulty as most people do today: lack of time! Though, whatever happens, my first priority is taking the time to meet every Guest and get to know them. This job is incredible as it actually gives you the possibility of enjoying the company of extremely interesting people. If I had to change something about Castello del Nero it would probably be converting it from a hotel into my own home!

Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?

Andrea Luri: Villa d'Este is certainly at the top of my list. I was fortunate enough to start my career there and believe it to be THE great hotel. It has history, location beauty and an atmosphere of absolute magic. Another wonderful hotel is the Amansara in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A stunning property with wonderful service in a beautiful country. In my top three I also have to include the Faena hotel and Universe in Buenos Aires - staying there is a fascinating experience.

Five Star Alliance: Anything else you would like our readers to know about your property

Andrea Luri: We are now restructuring the various Villas which are located on the same estate as the hotel which will certainly turn out to be a great addendum to the property as they will also have access to the facilities of the hotel, other than having their own private pool and gardens.

Pictured From Left to Right: Restaurant Manager Giuliano Piscina, Spa Reception Maria Fanfani, Sales & PR Nathalie Beaugonin, Sales & PR Christina Ruettimann, General Manager Andrea Luri, Housekeeping Manager Sabrina Tonelli, Front Office Manager Alessio Nuzzi.


Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris: The Horse-drawn Carriage is Back for Easter!


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Plaza Athenee, ParisLocated on the prestigious Avenue Montaigne, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée is world-famous, a Paris landmark of individuality, prestige and comfort. Entirely redecorated, the Plaza Athénée has preserved its classical French style while adding an innovative touch. Chef Alain Ducasse oversees the entire dining operations of the Plaza Athénée and has also his own award-winning restaurant inside the hotel. For Easter-- from March 22-26, 2008-- the Hotel Plaza Athénée will offer its guests an elegant, horse-drawn carriage for those who wish to discover Paris in a different, more relaxed manner. Guests will enjoy a 30-minute complimentary tour and will be able to admire the famous Champs-Elysées, the avenue Montaigne and the Place de la Concorde. The itinerary can be modified upon request and the driver will be pleased to steer either Pride or Lucky, one of his magnificent horses, in that direction. Guests can stay snug and warm under cozy blankets and steaming hot chocolate will be provided for younger guests. Reservations can be made with the concierge.


Aveda Spa Spring Awakening at Mar Hall, Glasgow


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Mar Hall, GlasgowEscape to one of the premier luxury hotels in Scotland and "spring ahead" with some serious r 'n r. Steeped in history, the magnificent Mar Hall has 53 individually-designed rooms and suites with breathtaking views of the Kilpatrick Hills. And Mar Hall boasts an Aveda Concept Spa, the only one of its kind in the UK, with 11 treatment rooms including a Rasul mud chamber, couples' room, and area devoted to heat and water experiences. With the Spring Awakening package, you can renew your body and mind with a stimulating and nurturing spa experience. Your treatment begins with a
foot bath
and personal wellbeing consultation, followed by a dry body exfoliation.
Then awaken your senses with the essences of an Aveda Rosemary & Peppermint
total body lotion application.
While you are cocooned in a wrap of fluffy towels and a heat preserving blanket, experience a relaxing scalp and foot massage.
Finish your Spring Awakening with a
pure focus facial. Your Spring Awakening experience includes a Soup & Sandwich Lunch served in the Spa,
use of the facilities and the use of a bathrobe and "take-home" slippers.
Total treatment time 1 hour and 30 minutes, priced at GBP110 Monday to Friday and GBP130 Saturday and Sunday.
Valid from March 1- May 31, 2008.


Bliss Out on Sardinina at L’Ea Bianca Luxury Resort


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

L'Ea Bianca ResortThis summer, think Sardinia. The second largest island in the Mediterranean boasts beautiful, unspoiled coastlines and some of the best scenery in all of Italy. The new L'Ea Bianca resort, meaning literally "white water," sprawls over a gentle hillside overlooking the turquoise and emerald sea. Opposite the islands of the La Maddalena archipelago, the resort is framed by a lovely beach and groves of green juniper trees. There are only 31 bedrooms at the resort, meaning the ultimate privacy for guests. Each offers a spacious balcony, elegant furnishings, and bathrooms with both showers and whirlpool tubs. Lounge on the beach, where attendants will provide sun umbrellas and sun beds, or by the lovely pool. Not far from the Porto Cervo harbor (which houses some of the Med's most elegant yachts), L'Ea Bianca is located on one of the most prestigious areas of Sardinia's Emerald coast. Note: The spa will open this year, an excellent addition to the health and beauty center.


Discover Stunning European Destinations with InterContinental’s Insider Experiences


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ceylan InterContinentalPlan a getaway to Europe this spring and enjoy authentic and enriching experiences with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. We've gushed before about the "In the Know" concierge program-- destination videos and local tips galore-- and the "Insider Experience" program takes this attentive service to another level. InterContinental has designed special packages for its guests to experience what is truly special about a city or region-- local food and wine, art and music, sightseeing, local markets-- and discover the nuanced secrets of each destination.

Case in point: "Insider Experiences" at Ceylan InterContinental Istanbul (pictured), where you can "Conquer the Grand Bazaar" with a personal guide at your side to lead you through the maze of shops in the world's oldest and largest covered shopping area, or discover the "Sights of Istanbul" with a personalized tour and private driver. At Amsterdam's InterContinental Amstel, you can enjoy "Canals and Canapés," a two-hour tour of Amsterdam's historic canals aboard a private salon boat for two. As you watch the city drift by, indulge in champagne and canapés followed by a six-course dinner with wine at La Rive. The "Amsterdam Amour" experience includes private limousine service, glasses of champagne and chocolate Traditionamstel Pure in-room, and a pair of choice seats at a classical concert.

Fly to Athens and discover marvelous "Insider Experiences" at the Athenaeum InterContinental, including "City Shopper," where a personal guide will escort you in a private car to Athens' jewelry stores, designer showrooms and shops where artisans create sandals and other handmade items, and "Cultural Treasure Hunt," a private guided tour that includes a visit to a Greek artist's studio, a stop in the Central Market of Athens to sample taverna food and an introduction to ancient and contemporary architecture, composers and literature.


Family Easter Weekend in London at Hotel ‘41′


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Family at Hotel 41, LondonWhat could be more fun than a magical weekend exploring London? '41', the elegant five-star hotel located near Buckingham Palace, is offering a special weekend package your whole family will enjoy. Celebrated for its high service levels and stunning décor, '41' is not far from Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and a special treat for the kids – the Changing of the Guard. The two-night package includes family accommodation (king size bed and pull-out sofa bed), tour of the hotel (including the kitchen, so the kids can help prepare lunch for Mum and Dad), a special children's menu, your very own bathrobes and slippers, welcome pack with games, kiddies' packed lunch every day, English breakfast daily, and a special turndown treat each evening. Priced from GBP 495 per room, per night based on two adults and two children sharing a Hospitality Suite. Two-night minimum stay required. Available March 21-23, 2008.