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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.

Bryant Park Hotel: The Essence of Chic in Midtown Manhattan


By: Christina Vasquez

Bryant ParkFor a first time visit to New York City, I have to say that ours was amazing. Not only were we able to spend the Christmas holiday in one of the most exciting cities in the world, but we were also able to stay at one of the most fashionably chic boutique hotels. The Bryant Park hotel is conveniently located in midtown and walking distance from major New York sites such as the Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park and major shopping on 5th avenue.

We were surprised at the contrast between the classic architecture of the exterior of Bryant Park and the ultra chic décor of the interior. We stayed in a Deluxe Room, which was very modern and stylish, with simple detail and a pleasing color palette. Be advised though that the Deluxe Room Categories do not have park views; however this did not make us enjoy our room any less. The plush bathrobes, the spa-grade sunken bath tub, Soundscape sleep machine, plasma screen television, and BOSE Sound system more than made up for the lack of park view. My only disappointment: the hotel's bar/lounge, Cellar, was closed during our stay (It's closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) - we visited Underbar at the W Hotel instead. That aside, the hotel's staff was courteous and unpretentious, and our concierge, Marco, was extremely helpful in getting us last-minute reservations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner at two wonderful restaurants!


Mobil Five Star Awards: And the Winners Are…


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Stein Eriksen LodgeJust yesterday the Mobil Travel Guide came out with 2008's list of Four- and Five-star hotels, restaurants and spas. And they've been at it for 50 years! (Bon anniversaire.) Notable winners include: The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs (the longest running property on the Five-Star list with some 48 years!), The Tower at Wynn Las Vegas (the only casino-hotel in the world with this badge), and Deer Valley's Stein Eriksen Lodge (the first ever Utah hotel to garner this award). The other Mobil Five-Star virgins are the Boston Harbor Hotel, The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island, and the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole.


Seaside Serenity in Santa Monica: Romance is in the Air at Loews Hotel


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Loews Santa MonicaBeat the winter blues and bring your valentine to the beach! Book the Seaside Serenity package at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and you have a $200 resort credit to play with. Choose a candle-lit dinner for two, indulgent massages from the Ocean Spa & Fitness Center, a personalized consultation or yoga classes... The sky's the limit at this Santa Monica favorite, just a block from the soft sandy beach. Custom-designed rooms are so fabulous, you'll be content to just lounge around in your "Ultimate Doeskin" robes by Chadsworth & Haig, and smother yourself with the sumptuous 300 thread-count sheets, while checking out the Pacific views. The package includes one night's stay in a premium ocean view room, a special romance welcome amenity, and the $200 credit to be used towards meals, spa, fitness and/or retail. Priced from $499 per night, available February 11- February 21, 2008.

Pssst. You can bring your pup; Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is pet-friendly!


What’s New in Scottsdale: Introducing The Tower at Hotel Valley Ho


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Tower at Hotel Valley HoScottsdale's hip mid-century landmark-- the original hide-away for Bogart, Bing and Marilyn-- just got a new addition. Hotel Valley Ho recently opened The Tower, an elite boutique hotel soaring above this urban resort. The ultimate luxury experience, complete with personal shopper and private chef service, can be yours at The Tower. In the guest rooms, floor-to-ceiling glass windows provide sweeping panoramic views. Other room highlights include a custom-swivel plasma-screen TV, 1950s-design chairs, stainless steel hardware, a fully-equipped kitchen, and dazzling bright-yellow cabinets. Plus there's an entertainment system with an iPod satellite and free Wifi. Every guest is afforded VIP status; you'll get a management escort to your room for check-in without ever stopping at the front desk.


Beach Picnic with Twelve Apostles in Cape Town


By: Courtney W. May

Twelve Apostles Hotel and SpaIt's summer in South Africa and the perfect time to visit the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town. Not just because the views are amazing and the weather is awesome, but because the fantastic golden sand beaches are just minutes away. They are also perfect locations to enjoy a picnic lunch. Guests who visit the Twelve Apostles making reservations through Five Star Alliance will receive an extensive "Fynbos Picnic Hamper" with food, treats, and drinks once during their stay. Whether you are traveling with a significant other, family, pet, or friends - Twelve Apostles can accommodate everyone and is barely ten minutes from the bustling heart of Cape Town, with nearby attractions including prime diving spots, nature trails, and seals, dolphins, whales and penguins.


The Fabulous Evolution of the Hotel Mini-Bar


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Gramercy Park Hotel Mini-barIt all started back in 1963 with The Madison in Washington D.C., when the capital's landmark hotel decided to introduce a novelty: the in-room mini-bar! Fabulously convenient, stocked full of helpful items, the mini-bar is now universally appreciated (late-night snack binging!) and abhorred (scandalous overpricing!). Since its debut, the mini-bar has come a long way. In an era of truly over-the-top hotel amenities (baby butler service, pet pampering, unpacking and bath service), the mini-bar has been completely made over and sexed up.

Gramercy Park Hotel Mini-bar

Hotel Victor in Miami offers all kinds of decadent treats. A hotel this cool-- furnished by celebrity designer Jacques Garcia with retro furniture and an illuminated moon jellyfish tank in the lobby-- has gone one step further by introducing full-size in-room bars, stocked with a large range of liquor and "South Beach life-style essentials" like chilled eye masks.

The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta caters to female guests with practical items like stockings and nail-polish remover. Gentlemen, don't despair when you forget socks at home! The mini-bar is stocked with fresh pairs of black socks to match your dark suits.

Omni Hotels created Sensation Bars in cities like New York, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco with all sorts of items to create soothing mini-spa treatments in-room. Think sleep inducing CDs, lavender pillow sprays, eucalyptus bath salts and mini Zen gardens.

Hotel Mela Mini-bar

But the biggest trend of late is sex kits in the mini-bar. NY's 60 Thompson and Miami's Sagamore may have "Shag Bags," and the Montalembert in Paris has a "petite love box," but the Hotel Gansevoort has ticklers!

On a recent trip to New York, we snapped these shots of the goodies on-hand at the Hotel Mela and Gramercy Park Hotel. The mini-bar at Hotel Mela isn't refrigerated; instead you'll find a basket spilling delicious snacks, drinks, and an "Intimacy Kit." What's inside? Lifestyles, lubricant, and individually wrapped life savers. (We just couldn't resist buying one. As a *cough* souvenir...)

The mini-bar at Gramercy Park is nothing short of awesome (check out the pix). T-shirts, sweet treats... They've also got an Intimacy Kit, of course, but it's as classy as they come. And if things get too rowdy, there's a first-aid kit, to boot.

Curious? Be careful when you take that item from the mini-bar! Most of today's "smart" minibars have infra-red sensors (or wireless technology, found at the sophisticated Willard Intercontinental in Washington D.C.) that automatically records your purchase on your bill when you reach for, say, a bag of M&M's or something equally as tempting...

Photos Via Courtney May (top to bottom: mini-bar of Gramercy Park, Gramercy Park, Hotel Mela)


The Westcliff: Where to Stay in Johannesburg, South Africa


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The WestcliffJust 10 minutes from the city center, but worlds apart... The Westcliff basks in the sun on a hilltop in the city's posh northern suburbs, its cascading gardens and cobbled pathways reminiscent of Mediterranean hillside village. Soak in the heated infinity pool and check out the bird's eye view of the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens below; ogle the elephants during this unique "safari swim"! Play a match of tennis a mile high (literally- as Joburg is located some 6,000 feet above sea level) or hit the gym with a personal trainer. Mountain bikes are also available for guests to explore The Westcliff's historic surroundings. After a day in the city, return to this sumptuous sanctuary for a spa treatment at the Botanica Spa Suites (brand spanking new! Ready in mid Feb 2008) or relax in your guest room-- extravagantly sized and unashamedly indulgent. Private balconies and sunny patios showcase more of those sublime views. Book the Diamonds are Forever package and experience Johannesburg's world-renowned diamond industry at work. The two-night package, priced at R 5,700 per Luxury Room (R7,630 per Junior Suite), includes full English breakfast daily, a guided tour of one of Johannesburg's biggest diamond cutting factories - the Wesselton Diamond cutting center, and a 3 course a la carte dinner in the hotel's highly acclaimed La Belle Terrasse Restaurant.


Winter Specials: Stay like a Sultan at the Ciragan Palace, Istanbul


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ciragan PalaceNow's your chance to stay in a genuine Ottoman Palace, Turkey's only imperial palace hotel, for a mere EUR 215 a night. Get luxury for less this winter 2008 with special weekend rates available at Istanbul's most glamorous hotel. Overlooking the Bosphorous Sea, the 282-room Ciragan Palace-- the former home of a line of Ottoman sultans-- was restored by the Kempinski Group for over $100 million in the 1990s. You'll find a lobby decked out in 19th century marble and mother-of-pearl. The stone latticework and marble colonnade of the façade were recreated by hand from materials salvaged onsite. Besides the glorious views, you'll enjoy a marvelous infinity pool (heated during the winter time), authentic Turkish Hammam, fine cuisine, and personal butler. Special winter weekend rates are priced at EUR 215 in a Park View room, and EUR 287 for a Bosphorous View Room. Valid Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday until March 31, 2008.


Highest Price per Room was The Point at Saranac Lake


By: Courtney W. May

The PointMore than $18 billion in upscale and luxury lodging facilities changed hands in 2007, according to Stephen Hennis, Managing Director of Hospitium. A total of 279 properties were traded last year and The Point at Saranac Lake in upstate New York garnered the highest price per room in 2007 at more than $2.7 million per room. With only 11 rooms on the property - $2.7 million per room is a steal when you consider that it has received the Mobil 5 Star award and is a member of Relais and Chateaux. Nightly room rates (they start around $1400 per night) are all-inclusive for two people, with carte blanche use of sports equipment and facilities, as well as three meals, afternoon tea, unlimited wine, liquor, and liqueurs from help-yourself bars open 24 hours a day. In the heart of the Adirondacks - on the shore of Upper Saranac Lake, The Point can be reached in six hours from Manhattan and three hours from Albany, New York. The hotel has a "Great Camp" motif with no phones and no televisions - definitely geared for people to get away.


Celebrate Valentines in Style: Maybourne Hotels, London


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Maybourne HotelsSteal away to London and spoil yourself with a stay at one of the capital's chicest hotels: The Berkeley, the deluxe Knightsbridge retreat that's home to Madonna's favorite Blue Bar and rooftop spa with glorious views over Hyde Park; Claridge's, known as London's art deco jewel, situated in the heart of Mayfair; The Connaught, the stylish hideaway that quietly re-opened in December after a multi-million pound restoration which brought together some of the world's finest designers and artisans. At these three Maybourne Hotels, you'll be spoiled by staff who accommodate every whim. During the month of February 2008, choose the Truly Madly Deeply package and you'll get one nights luxurious accommodation including English breakfast, a bottle of champagne, a fresh basket of fruit, roses in your room and bathrobes for the special couple. Starting from just GBP 395 per night.