January 24, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Kudos to the Ritz-Carlton Berlin, which was named the Best Luxury Hotel in Europe by TripAdvisor's 2006 Traveler's Choice Awards. What makes it so special that outspoken TripAdvisor readers felt compelled to cast their votes? Situated right in the heart of Berlin on the prestigious Potsdamer Platz, the Ritz-Carlton Berlin is pretty posh. Guest rooms feature sumptuous marble bathrooms, with signature amenities and the unique service of a Bath Butler. The exclusive gourmet restaurant, Vitrum, is decked out in finery: inlaid Italian marble floors, mirror covered columns, antique Venetian cabinets, and Murano glass chandeliers. At the Curtain Club hotel bar, guests sip aperitifs next to an open fireplace while listening to live jazz. And the La Prairie Boutique Spa is utterly swoon-worthy, a luxurious oasis with health and wellness center and swimming pool set under a ceiling which sparkles with crystals. Signature treatments include Champagne and Caviar (prepare yourself for a gala evening), The Changing Room (the ideal buildup to a night out in Europe's most exciting city), and Jet Lag Recovery (banish the effects of a long-distance flight and stale airplane air). Of course it's the little details which really distinguish luxury hotels like the Ritz-Carlton Berlin. Case in point: the hotel's Joggers Station which supplies fresh towels, mineral water, fruit, and route maps to lucky guests.
January 18, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Only the finest five star hotels can become members of The Leading Hotels of the World, the world-renowned collection of 430 of the world's best hotels. These small luxury hotels, resorts, and famous stately hotels offer unparalleled luxury and first-class service for a discriminating few. So when LHW announces its annual award winners, travelers (and, indeed, the whole world of luxury hospitality) pays attention. The 2006 International Convention was held in Barcelona, where LHW announced its new Commitment to Excellence Awards, acknowledging hotels like Uppal's Orchid in New Delhi and One Aldwych in London for their exceptional community service programs. And (...drum roll please) taking the Gold for the Leaders Club Awards was the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington DC, the historic landmark which offers guests the most prestigious address in the nation's capital. Overlooking the White House, Lafayette Square, and St. John's Church, the Hay-Adams has long been the choice of Presidents and international dignitaries who enjoy the hotel's famous personalized service, plush accommodations, and one-of-a-kind amenities.
With the exchange rate hovering at a dismal low, Americans traveling to Britain often experience serious sticker shock come check-out time. But not so if American travelers book a London stay at one of Red Carnation's outstanding luxury hotels and take advantage of an exceptional special offer: the Deluxe Dollar Deal. At three stunning five-star hotels-- "41" (overlooking the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace), the completely refurbished Egerton House (in the heart of fashionable Knightsbridge), and Milestone Hotel and Apartments (opposite Kensington Palace and Gardens)-- guests are guaranteed an affordably fixed US Dollar rate. Available until April 15, 2007, the Deluxe Dollar Deal also includes added extras such as car transfers to/from Heathrow, a hearty English breakfast for two each day, one traditional afternoon tea for two, a complimentary bottle of Champagne, and free wireless internet access. Rates are $1,399 for three nights at "41" or The Egerton House, and $1,499 at The Milestone Hotel. Minimum three night stay required.
When Cunard unveils its newest ship, Queen Victoria in December 2007, three ships will sail together under the Cunard banner for the first time ever. The ships-- Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth 2, and the Queen Victoria-- are part of a legacy of ocean-crossing that symbolizes the refinement and elegance of a bygone era, when trans-Atlantic journeys were civilized events for the privileged few. These glorious voyages continue today with ocean liners that are "floating palaces of art deco splendor and Edwardian excess." Cunard pampers guest with every comfort and elegance in the ultimate luxury travel experience. The maiden voyage of the Queen Victoria is scheduled for December 11, 2007. Amenities include the dramatic three-tier Grand Lobby, Winter Garden (with glass roof), Royal Court Theater, a two-story library, and a Todd English Mediterranean style restaurant. Sweeping staircases, soaring ceilings, and elaborate chandeliers will dazzle the passengers. 86 percent of the 1,007 guest staterooms will be outside, and 71 percent will have a private balcony.
In the 100 years since its inauguration, the legendary Hotel Adlon Kempinski has become a symbol of luxury in Berlin. Now celebrating its centennial, the Adlon Kempinski invites guests to enjoy its jubilee year with special events, historic exhibits, and the October birthday bash. And with the debut of the Presidential Suite--unveiled last year in the hotel's new Security Wing-- the Adlon Kempinski continues to make history with one of the most opulent suites in the world. (Not to mention safe. This suite has an independent telecommunications system, dedicated security hub with video monitoring, bullet-proof walls and windows, and an independent power supply.) The seven-room suite is as elegant as befits the royalty and heads-of-state who frequently stay there. With a beautiful view over Potsdamer Platz, the Suite features a spacious living room, office and conference room, bedroom with separate dressing room, as well as a 30 sq meter bathroom with Jacuzzi, Finnish sauna, and massage area. Of course the suite's loaded with state-of-the-art technology (and includes 24-hour butler service). The impressive 240 sq meter suite is available for about EUR 20,000 a night.
Hot on the trail of Guggenheim, which last year announced ambitious plans for a new museum in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, designed by celebrity architect Frank Gehry. As reported by the New York Times, the French government recently confirmed that it will rent the Louvre name and art treasures to a new museum in Abu Dhabi, for a sum rumored to be between $800 million to $1 billion. The new Louvre will be one of five museums slated for the tourist development on Saadiyat Island, opening in 2012. The new museum will be managed by a new International Agency of French Museums, which will also manage the Musée d'Orsay, the new Musée du Quai Branly, the Château de Versailles, and the Pompidou Center. This is a monumental decision, and signifies a serious directional change in the marketing of the oldest and most famous art museum in the world. Is Chirac selling out?
Photo via Wikipedia
January 11, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Most folks know the Conrad Brussels as the luxurious spot with the biggest guest rooms in the European capital. But that's not all. In addition to its world-class facilities, the Conrad Brussels has now created its own winter wonderland with a 300 sq meter private ice-skating rink in the hotel's beautiful inner courtyard. (So you can recreate the winter magic despite this year's bogus-- thanks, global warming-- season). Until February 14, 2007, enjoy Conrad On Ice in the heart of Brussels. Special packages start from EUR 249 per person, per night and include accommodations in a classic room, buffet breakfast, access to the Aspria Avenue Louise spa facilities, and two passes for Conrad On Ice with a delicious hot chocolate.
January 10, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Welcome to the most luxurious hotel in the Czech Republic. (According to Dolce Vita magazine, anyway.) A proud member of Small Luxury Hotels, Chateau Mcely has opened as a five star hotel after an incredible renovation project. The former rural manor of the Thurn-Taxis aristocracy, the 17th century castle has a long and fascinating history. It is situated in the middle of the legendary St. George Forest above a small village, just an hour's drive from Prague. When the current owners discovered the property, it was a devastated ruin. The restoration of the chateau was close to miraculous; the sensitive attention to detail won the hotel an award for the "Best of Realty 2006 in Hotel Projects." Situated next to the lush Jabkenice Game Park (1,200 acres of forest and fish-filled lakes, with excellent walking trails), Chateau Mcely provides beautiful vistas for as far as the eye can see. The 24 guest rooms and suites are exquisitely decorated, each with its own style and name. Enjoy an aperitif at the Alchymist Bar and Plate Hall; choose from the fine selection of Czech and international wines, drinks, and single malt whiskies. Indulge in a massage at the Wellness Center. Go on a hot-air balloon ride, or marvel at the beautiful surrounding landscape on the ground, with the assistance of the Forestry Center.
Fringed by the tall, snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees, the French village of Cauterets is a picturesque resort destination, famed for its seasonal recreational activities. In the winter, Cauterets is almost always shrouded in a thick blanket of snow, and entices skiers and snowboarders of all levels to hit the slopes carved from the surrounding mountains. This year's scant snowfall has compelled most French ski resorts in the Pyrenees to close-- with the exception of Cauterets, of course. The town's proximity to some of the best hiking trails in France (the National Park of the Pyrenees straddles the Franco-Spanish border and boasts a wealth of natural beauty) ensures plenty of summertime visitors as well. After a day on the slopes, relax fatigued muscles in Les Thermes, the Roman style bath complex fed by hot springs. (The naturally-warm water may reek of rotten eggs, but the jet pools and showers are divine.) Sip an aperitif at one of many cozy bars or hit the casino, located near the river which flows through the town. At the small covered market, foodies drool over perfect wedges of local cheese, homemade blueberry torte, and seasoned charcuterie. Note: most shops are only open in the morning and evening hours.
Savor an enchanting Valentine's Day package at some of the world's most romantic hotels and resorts. From the French Riviera to the East Coast of North America, Relais and Chateaux properties are luxurious hideaways that provide the best kind of pampering for you and a loved one. Packages include luxury accommodations and some delicious treats... like Champagne on ice in your guestroom, a romantic dinner for two, chocolate-dipped strawberries, pampering spa treatments, and more. At the Chateau de Noirieux in the Loire Valley, for example, enjoy a romantic Valentine's Day package that is also a gourmand's fantasy. The sumptuous hotel, truly fit for a king, features lavish accommodations and a superb restaurant in a grand architectural setting dating from the 12th century. The Valentine's Day package includes accommodations for two, continental breakfast, lunch or dinner with a special Valentine's menu, and a half bottle of Champagne in-room upon arrival. Priced at EUR 370, available from February 9-14, 2007. And North Carolina's elegant country inn, The Fearrington House, is offering a one-night Romance Package which includes overnight accommodations, traditional English Afternoon Tea, full breakfast, a bottle of chilled champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, gourmet dinner for two, a red rose at turndown, and luxurious robes and slippers. Starting at $560, available from February 14- 28, 2007. The full list of participating Relais and Chateaux properties can be found here.