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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.

Fun Family Adventure at the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside

June 7, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside The majestic mountains of British Columbia offer more than superlative skiing; North America's renowned ski destination is just as enticing in the summertime, with fabulous hiking, gorgeous swimming pools, and world-class golf. The Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside, the luxury boutique hotel located superbly at the bottom of the gondolas, has put together an excellent family vacation package for some thrilling adventures this summer. The Summer Family Adventure Package (created for a group of two adults and two kids) consists of five nights in a two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and two bathrooms. The package also includes a five-hour boat trip on Lillooet Lake; a two-and-a-half hour ZipTrek Canopy Tour through the forest treetops; a dog sled tour (without the snow, but thrilling nonetheless); passes to go up Whistler Mountain Peak; and a disposable camera. Starting at $1,739, for family of four. Via Travel and Leisure Hot Deals


Top Picks for Teens and Tweens in Chicago from the Teen Concierge, Four Seasons Chicago

June 7, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Four Seasons Chicago

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago debuted the Teen Concierge program last year in an effort to cater to older children and teens who have different expectations for a fun vacation. Cynthia Waldmeir, the Teen Concierge, knows Chitown inside and out: the coolest boutiques in Lincoln Park and the trendiest restaurants in the city. Equipped with iPod fix-it kits, lip balm, and popular DVDs, Cynthia's got her list ready for the Top Picks for visiting teens and tweens:

Where to eat:

1. Best Place to Enjoy Sushi: Kamehachi, 240 East Ontario Street

Cynthia says: "They have a really cool underground atmosphere. It's like you are going into this cave where you sit down to enjoy delicious sushi rolls."

2. Best Sweets in City: Sweet Mandy B's, 1208 West Webster Avenue

Cynthia says: "The vintage cafe is so cute and their cupcakes and sweets are to die for."

3. Best Place for Something Different: L'Appetito, 875 North Michigan Avenue.

Cynthia says: "They have great panini-- but leave room for the gelato, an Italian favorite."

4. Best Place for a Chicago hot dog: Downtown Dogs, 804 North Rush Street

Cynthia says: "A trip to Chicago is not complete without a Chicago hot dog. Downtown Dogs has a great menu and is within walking distance for our guests."

5. Best Place for Chicago-style Pizza: Giordano's, 730 North Rush Street

Cynthia says: "At Giordano's you can place your order while you wait for a table-- which is important for young eaters who are low on patience."

Where to Shop:

1. Best Place for Jeans: The Denim Lounge, 940 N. Rush Street

Cynthia says: "They carry all the popular brands as well as fun T-shirts."

2. Best Place for Sunglasses: Active Endeavors, 935 West Armitage Avenue

Cynthia says: "They have a great selection and carry a lot of trendy, hard-to-find styles."

3. Best Place for CD's and DVD's: Virgin Megastore, 540 North Michigan Avenue

Cynthia says: "They have their own deejay and listening stations-- not to mention three floors of the hottest music, latest movies and even those rare titles you can never find."

4. Best Place for Jewelry and Handbags: Francesca's Collections, 2012 North Halsted Street and 1154 Lill Studio, 904 W. Armitage Avenue

Cynthia says: "Francesca's has a wall-to-wall jewelry collection of fun and sophisticated styles. If you can't find it there, it's not going to happen. At 1154 Lill Studio, you can design your own handbag which is something different and a fun activity for teens and their moms."

5. Best Place for Cosmetics: Sephora, Water Tower Place/Shops at Northbridge

Cynthia says: "They have free samples of just about everything so that you and your girlfriends can give one another makeovers."

Where to Play:

1. Best Scenic Beach Spot: Oak Street Beach

Cynthia says: "Right behind you is Chicago's awesome skyline."

2. Best Recreational Beach Spot: North Avenue Beach

Cynthia says: "Here you can join in a volleyball game or rent a bike for a scenic lakefront tour."

3. Best Cultural Spot: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue

Cynthia says: "It may not sound like kid-pleaser, but the guys love the Arms and Armor collection and the girls love The Thorne Miniature Rooms. Plus the gift shop has posters of their popular art. Teens will also enjoy the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum and the U-505 Submarine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry."

4. Best City Park: Millennium Park, 222 North Columbus Drive

Cynthia says: "Where else can you get soaked by interactive fountains of faces that spew water?"

5. Best Snapshot Spot: Outside the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lakeshore Drive

Cynthia says: "It's a picture-perfect spot with a spectacular view of Chicago's skyline and Lake Michigan."


Cruising the Coast: The Newport Bermuda Race Centennial

June 6, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Cambridge Beaches

In June, Bermuda is the place to be. For over 100 years, the legendary Newport Bermuda race has culminated in celebratory frolicking (and rum-guzzling aplenty) at the race's finish. The 635-nautical-mile race is a challenging course raced by sailboats of all sizes, and this year's Centennial has attracted a record number of fleet entrants. This is high season in Bermuda-- by far the best and most fun time to visit the island of pink sand beaches and renowned golf courses. Where to stay? Cambridge Beaches, of course! The romantic hideaway boasts exemplary service and world-class facilities: indoor and outdoor pools, three tennis courts, five private beaches, the world-acclaimed European wellness centre, extensive marine rentals and watersports, putting green, croquet and internationally recognized gourmet cuisine. The resort's cottages (94 guest rooms and suites) are surrounded by blue sea, fine gardens, and long stretches of sandy beaches.


Third Night Free at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina

June 6, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Inn at Palmetto Bluff

What an excuse to get your fix of the best Southern hospitality and charm. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff--South Carolina's picturesque resort and spa-- embodies all the grace and romance of the South. Exquisite accommodations, delightful cuisine, world-class golf, luxurious spa, and impeccable service… The Inn at Palmetto Bluff has it all. Situated amidst flowering gardens along the May River in the Lowcountry, the resort offers an enchanting setting for your next retreat. Enjoy a relaxing summer holiday at one of the finest of the world-renowned Auberge Resorts, and experience fantastic savings. From June 1-August 30, guests who book a two-night stay receive a third night for free, a savings of over $450.

Via Washington Post "What's the Deal?"


The Hotel Rival: Stockholm’s Most Exciting Hotel

June 5, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Rival

Stockholm's Hotel Rival is the epitome of cool. Hip, lively, colorful, and chic, the city's first boutique hotel is a modern masterpiece of design. (As to be expected of one of Sweden's finest hotels.) On a recent visit to the Hotel Rival, I decided I could camp out there for quite a while. Whether it be in the lobby (swooning over the stylish furniture), on-site bakery (stuffing my face with homemade breads and tasty pastries), the gorgeous bar (pretty-people-watching), or the on-site cinema (oohing and ahing a little bit more), I found the Hotel Rival to be the kind of friendly and exciting boutique that every city should wish for.

On the way to the hotel, flying over the islands that make up Stockholm's archipelago, my taxi driver told me that Paris Hilton much prefers the Hotel Rival to her Daddy's Hilton, right next door. No surprise there. Paris isn't the only one who adores the Hotel Rival. From Pop stars to business-folk, the hotel's clientele keep coming back for the thoughtful service, cutting-edge technology, and careful attention to detail. Of course there's also the star factor. This crib belongs to Benny Andersson, the ABBA legend. The Swedish version of Mama Mia! has recently debuted in Stockholm, much to the city's delight, and CDs (along with ABBA memorabilia) are available for purchase in the lobby.

The Hotel Rival is a major gathering place in Stockholm. The gorgeous cinema--showcasing original historical touches after its lux renovation-- is now the scene of fashion shows, parties, concerts, and film screenings. Indeed, the cinema motif is dominant in the hotel's design: the comfortable bistro features wall paneling with a mosaic of 924 film star images, and each guestroom is adorned with a scene from a vintage Swedish film, the glass-covered canvas suspended above the beds.

Ahhh the rooms. Perfectly comfortable and highly sophisticated, the guestrooms embrace a sleek modern minimalism which hasn't abandoned function over form. The DUX beds are heavenly, with luscious linens, Egyptian cotton sheets, a special pillow menu, and the signature teddy bear from Debenhams. Some rooms feature a windowed wall between the bathroom and bedroom, allowing guests to soak in the tub while gazing out into the room. Of course the guestrooms and suites are loaded with technology, from 32" plasma screen TVs, DVD/CD players (and plenty of DVD rentals), PlayStation2, and wireless internet access.

The Hotel Rival is Stockholm at its finest.


An Interview with the GM - T. Colm O’Callaghan of the Conrad Chicago

June 5, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan, General Manager of the Conrad Chicago

T. Colm O'Callaghan

The Conrad Chicago, formerly the Le Meridien Chicago, opened in November 2005 and has been continuing to upgrade ever since. Five Star Alliance and The Informed Traveler got in touch with the General Manager, Mr. T Colm O'Callaghan to find out more about his experiences with the new hotel and to learn more about what guests can expect.

Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?

Mr. O'Callaghan: My family owns a hotel in Ireland which meant I was born into the business; I also attended hotel school, worked for Hilton for 18years. When this position became available I jumped at the opportunity.

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan: Location, location, location.

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

Mr. O'Callaghan: Our customers are both business and leisure with our feeder markets being Los Angeles, New York, the UK, and Germany.

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

Mr. O'Callaghan: We are located in the heart of The Magnificent Mile surrounded by wonderful shopping, great museums, great dining and within walking distance to city favorites as Millennium Park, and Navy Pier. My favorite thing to do is people watch, great people watching right on Michigan Avenue.

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan: I can not speak about specific guests. I will say we do have a loyal client base. Our biggest compliment is our repeat guests.

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan: All of our rooms are fabulous!

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan: Designed by Chicago architects Frederick J. Thielbar and John Reed Furgard, this 16-story art deco limestone building is a collaboration between one of the city's leading architectural firms and the sculptors Eugene mad Gwen Lux. Gwen Lux is among America's pioneer women sculptresses; her work can be found at the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City and at the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit designed by architect Eero Saarinen. The McGraw-Hill Building served as the Midwestern offices of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, among the largest trade paper and book publishers in the country.

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan: The location of the hotel, and the warmth and friendliness of its staff.

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan: The hardest part is the administrative aspect of the job it prevents me from interacting with the guests and staff as much as I would like.

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan:

1. Sheen Falls – Kenmare, Ireland – ideal setting

2. Evans Hideaway Resort – Huahin, Thailand – love private villas, infinity pools and enclosed walls.

3. Conrad Tokyo – New standard for the International Conrad, great urban hotel.

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

Mr. O'Callaghan: Warm friendly staff, second none in Chicago.

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Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan is the General Manager of the Conrad Chicago in Chicago, IL where he came from his position as the Resident Manager at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. Prior to that, Mr. O'Callaghan had over 20 years of European and American professional experiences with hotels such as The St. Regis Hotel New York, The New York Palace, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, and Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton. He received his B.A., an Honors Degree, from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland and his Graduate Certificate from the General Manager Development Program in Hong Kong.

More Information about The Conrad Chicago


Dining Behind the Scenes at The Peninsula Hong Kong Chef’s Table

June 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Peninsula Hong Kong

In a city known for endless dining options, at one of the world's most famous hotels, a new trend made waves: guests join the Chef's Table for a tailor-made meal prepared before their eyes. The Peninsula Hong Kong offers an exquisite culinary experience hosted by the Executive Chef, Florian Trento. Witness the inner workings of a busy hotel kitchen and watch in awe as your mouth-watering personalized menu-- comprised of one course from each of the hotel's seven dining venues-- is crafted before your eyes. The gourmet delight of the Grand Chef's Table can cater up to ten guests. Sample cuisine from each of the hotel's restaurants: Chesa, Felix, Gaddi's, Imasa, The Lobby, Spring Moon and The Verandah. It is only available on request with two weeks advance notice and costs HK$48,888 (US$6,268), and includes a special gift for each guest. Also available at The Peninsula: Gaddi's Chef’s Table, which seats only four guests. Three-course lunch $88, five-course dinner $191, ten-course dinner $268. Spring Moon Chefs' Table seats up to six guests, and is available only for dinner. The six-course dinner menu costs $1,071 for one to four diners, with up to two additional diners at $268. Reservations essential.


Resort Escapes at the Balboa Bay Club and Resort, Newport Beach, California

June 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Balboa Bay Club

Situated in the heart of sunny Newport Beach on 15 bayfront acres, the Balboa Bay Club and Resort is the only full-service waterfront hotel on California's renowned gold coast. The AAA four-diamond winner offers 136 luxurious guestrooms, each with patio, marble bathrooms with sunken tubs, and feather-top beds. Since 1948, the "Host of the Coast" has welcomed Hollywood legends, honeymooners, and business executives to its luxurious establishment. The "First Cabin" restaurant offers al fresco dining (California cuisine) overlooking the harbor, and Dukes Place features live jazz nightly on the waterfront. The Balboa Bay Club also boasts a heated swimming pool with hydro spa and onsite spa with fitness complex. And from now until December 31, 2006, Preferred Hotels and Resorts is offering "Resort Escapes"-- with your stay at participating hotels, indulge in a $100 resort credit. When you book a two-night stay at Preferred Hotels such as the Balboa Bay Club, receive an added credit of $100 for "mood enhancers" such a warm mud bath or dinner for two. Valid until December 31, 2006.


Luxury in Southern China: Announcing the Banyan Tree Lijiang

May 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Banyan Tree Lijiang

Luxury resort and spa experts Banyan Tree have opened their Lijiang resort-- their second one in southern China-- to much fanfare and acclaim. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, in China's magnificent Yunnan province, is an 800 year old village of winding cobble-stone streets, canals, and bridges, full of charm, beautiful architecture, and cultural history. This is sacred territory, beneath the snow-capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The 55-villa Banyan Tree Lijiang reflects this rich cultural landscape, built of local materials and traditional furnishings. The highlight, of course, is the Banyan Tree signature Ryokan Spa, with world-class facilities and a spa menu featuring lavish treatments, from ancient Asian healing and relaxation to European rejuvenation therapies. In addition, the resort organizes tours and treks in Lijiang and the surrounding countryside, including such sights as Tiger Leaping Gorge and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.


The Best of Key West Dining: Cafe Marquesa

May 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Cafe Marquesa

The award-winning Marquesa Hotel-- Key West's finest small hotel, a luxurious gem with lush gardens just steps from Duvall Street in Old Town--is home to one of the best dining experiences on the island. The 50-seat restaurant offers Contemporary American Cuisine, with specialties including Seared Brioche Dusted Yellowfin Tuna, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Marinated Key West Shrimp, along with fresh baked breads and desserts. Awards include the AAA four-diamond and the DiRona Award. And Zagat has distinguished the restaurant as one of the best hotel restaurants in the country, identifying its "sophisticated" Key West style, "beautiful" presentations, and "relaxing ambiance" as what "makes her a queen."