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.

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.


One Complimentary Night at Reid’s Palace, Madeira, Portugal


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Reid's Palace, MadeiraNow's your chance to extend your stay at this glamorous palace hotel perched on the cliffs of Madeira overlooking Funchal Bay. After a multi-million dollar renovation in 2006, the legendary Reid's Palace has re-emerged as the finest luxury hotel on this Portuguese Atlantic outpost, a paradise of lovely pools and stunning views. Managed by Orient-Express Hotels, Reid's Palace also boasts a lovely spa. Take advantage of the "One Complimentary Night Offer" and get a free seventh night from March 18- April 19, 2008. Starting at $4,112 (double occupancy) for the full week stay, including daily breakfast and roundtrip airport transfers. Celebrated for its wine-making tradition, the beautiful island of Madeira has a temperate, therapeutic climate, just right for a springtime visit.


Dine in Paris at the Philippe-Starck Designed Le Dali at Hotel Meurice


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Le Dali at Hotel MeuriceSince the legendary designer reinvented Paris's sumptuous palace hotel, diners have been flocking in droves to Le Dali for the new culinary concept. Starck injected his signature style into the restaurant's redesign. Dine on Yannick Alléno's* signature creations beneath a fabulous 1,500-square-foot painting, a giant canvas with gold and ochre hues painted by Ara Starck. And get this: her monumental project was actually picked anonymously by her father, the celebrity designer, for the restaurant's ceiling! Here, the spirit of Dali reigns supreme. You'll find a Daliesque seat with feet in the form of ladies shoes, a lamp with drawers, and a lobster on a telephone.

*Highly acclaimed by food writers worldwide, the Head Chef at Meurice has been awarded a third Michelin star. Chef Yannick Alléno creates menus with the best of Parisian products, coming from French terroirs (though he's passionate about exotic products as well).


Winter Golf Special at The Heritage Golf and Spa Resort, Killenard, Ireland


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Heritage Golf and Spa Resort, KillenardPlan a winter escape to the gorgeous Irish countryside and get pampered at the luxurious Heritage Golf & Spa Resort located in the picturesque village of Killenard, just an hour from Dublin. Experience the renowned 72-par Championship golf course and lavish accommodations for just EUR 190 per person (sharing) with the Winter Golfing Break. Available until April 30, 2008, this special includes one night bed & breakfast in a Deluxe guest room, a round of golf, and one evening meal in Greens or So Oriens Restaurant. Set in the beautiful rolling countryside of Co. Laois with the Slieve Bloom Mountains as a backdrop, the golf course was designed by Seve Ballesteros and Jeff Howes with five lakes and a stream meandering through the greens. Don't miss the luxury spa at The Heritage, featuring 20 treatment rooms and a selection of over 70 spa treatments with the Pevonia botanical skincare line.


Hotel de Charme Les Airelles: Ski the Alps in Courchevel, France


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel de Charme Les AirellesBed down in five-star luxury at the most sought-after lodgings in the Alps. The exclusive ski resort of Courchevel caters to a glamorous crowd of international jet-setters who flock here for the snow and hopping après-ski scene. Escape to the recently-renovated Hotel de Charme Les Airelles, the hotel of choice for the International Olympic Committee during the 1992 Winter Games. The fabulous spa, touted as a "winter wonderland" with waterfalls, soundproof shower booths, and a unique snow cave, is out of this world. Cozy, elegant and charming, Les Airelles resembles the grand ski chalets of another era. And the setting is just as stunning, with ski runs right out the door. The Ski Valet is there to help with your equipment and boots and give you the best tips about the "3 Vallées", arguably the greatest ski area in the world. The new restaurant, "Pierre Gagnaire pour Les Airelles"-- serving cuisine from the superstar chef-- already has quite the following.