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.

Tour Italy with an Itinerary from Starwood Hotels (Guaranteed USD Rate)

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Gritti Palace, VeniceWant to take a Roman holiday? Explore the romantic canals of Venice? Immerse yourself in Renaissance art in Florence? Snag some fashionable threads in Milan? Eat and drink your way across the Italian boot? Have it all with a unique offer from Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Create your own personalized Italian itinerary, staying a minimum of seven nights in any combination of participating Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and you'll get a guaranteed US dollar rate and buffet breakfast included. For example: Shack up in style at the Hotel Gritti Palace in Venice-- luxuriating in an opulent guest room detailed with Murano Glass chandeliers and original gold-trimmed ceilings-- for $360 per night (included: complimentary rollaway bed for 1 child aged 12 or under). For the "Welcome to Italy" package, participating hotels include the Hotel Gritti Palace, Hotel Danieli, and The Westin Europa & Regina in Venice; the Westin Palace in Milan; the St Regis Grand Hotel, The Westin Excelsior Rome, and the Hotel Eden in Rome; and the Westin Excelsior Florence and the Grand Hotel in Florence.

Bed, Breakfast, and Marc Jacobs at the Elysian Hotel Chicago

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Elysian Hotel, ChicagoNow fashionistas can "get in bed with Marc Jacobs" with a special package offered by the Elysian Hotel, the luxurious new hotel in Chicago that landed a spot on Conde Nast Traveler's "Hot List" just after opening. Back in February, the Marc Jacobs Collection store launched in the hotel's street-level retail space causing quite the stir in Chitown (and nationally!) The "Bed, Breakfast, and Marc Jacobs" package, available through Labor Day, includes accommodations in an Elysian guestroom or suite, complimentary breakfast in bed, a Marc Jacobs beach tote, and a limited edition Marc Jacobs towel. Rates start at $415. As BagBunch puts it, "These Marc Jacobs accessories are just the thing for looking the part when sunning yourself near the Elysian pool."

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Suite Escapes: Lots of Extra Perks at the Carlton Hotel Baglioni in Milan

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Carlton Hotel Baglioni, MilanTreat yourself right on your next trip to Italy's fashion capital and book a sumptuous suite at the Carlton Hotel Baglioni, situated in the heart of Milan directly overlooking Via della Spiga. A darling of the international jetset, this prestigious hotel is home to Baretto al Baglioni, one of the most famous restaurants in the city. Stay two consecutive nights in one of the hotel's top suites and you'll get pampered with some fab amenities:

* One way complimentary transfer

* Open bar

* One complimentary dinner for two people (wines matched by the sommeliers)

* Daily buffet breakfast

* In person wake-up call delivered with coffee/tea and newspaper of choice

* Choose from one of the following additional services: 3 hours of babysitting, 3 hours with a personal shopper or 4 hours in a complimentary meeting room

The "Sweet Suite Program" is valid until March 30, 2011 with a minimum two-night stay required. Rates are as follows:

* 2 night-stay in Leonardo Suite: 2,130 euros

* 2 night-stay in Art Déco Suite: 2,530 euros

* 2 night-stay in Montenapoleone Suite: 3,530 euros

Buzz: ATM-Style Gold Vending Machine at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Emirates Palace, Abu DhabiNews of an over-the-top amenity at Emirates Palace is making the Internet rounds. Abu Dhabi's "seven-star" hotel is now home to an "ATM with a golden touch." The brain child of Thomas Geissler, a German entrepreneur, the vending machine is called "Gold to Go" and dispenses customized coins or small bars up to 10 grams. The AP reports that the machine's unveiling was well-timed because gold hit a record high on Wednesday: "Geissler says he picked Abu Dhabi because of its high-rolling atmosphere and the region's traditional ties to gold in commerce." And the Emirates Palace, we'd like to add, has a reputation as one of the world's costliest hotels, built for $3 billion (or $10 million a room). Oh, and their spa has a "Diamond Experience" treatment that uses real diamond dust...

No Plans for Mother’s Day? Mandarin Oriental New York’s Got You Covered

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Mandarin Oriental New YorkA little late in planning a special something for mom on Mother's Day? (Slacker!) Mandarin Oriental to the rescue. The Manhattan hotel is celebrating "Mom's Month of May" so you can treat mom right-- not just this weekend, but for the entire month. The five-star hotel-- located in Columbus Circle's Time Warner Center-- has some fun special offers in May. Treat mom to a decadent weekend brunch at Asiate, catch up over tea and snacks during a signature pedicure (the "Pedicure Package" is perfect for moms and daughters), or shop til you drop with Stacey Mayesh, one of Manhattan's top celebrity and socialite stylists. With the "NYC Stylist" package, Mayesh will accompany mom for a day of shopping at the city's hidden boutiques, couture hot spots, and private showrooms. Priced from $5,515, this package includes two nights accommodation in a Deluxe Room, a style consultation prior to arrival, a day of shopping with professional Stylist Stacey Mayesh, and Mercedes car service during the shopping session.

London: Where to Shop, Sleep and Play

By: Ruthanne Terrero

London is one of the best shopping cities in the world, with unique boutiques in every district. Want a special guided tour with a great host to help you shop?

London Where to Shop Sleep and PlayNoteworthy Group helps organize excursions—especially walking tours—of some of the city’s most famous shopping spots (think Bond Street in central London) and of the up-and-coming areas. For those interested in the big names, we suggest you opt for a walking tour that goes from Bond Street to the West End with stops in Mayfair (plenty of time to check out the latest from Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney.) But for those of you out to discover, there’s a special trip to the East End, home to many up-and-coming designers and artists with plenty of boutique shops and fairly undiscovered by travelers. Insider Tip: Noteworthy can also arrange for you to have private/VIP closed-to-public arrangements.

Where to Stay

London Where to Shop Sleep and PlayThe Goring Hotel, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, has just been fabulously redone. This one of the largest, privately owned five-star hotels in the world (it has always been run by a member of the Goring family; currently at the helm is Jeremy Goring, the fourth generation to manage the hotel).

Try to snag one of the six newly redone Gainsborough Silk Rooms, they all overlook the property’s popular gardens and evoke a sense of luxury that is never overwhelming—just perfectly comfortable. (The rubber duckies in the marble bathrooms are a good indicator of the mix of fashion and whimsy.)

We hear that Suite No. 52, a Belgravia One Bedroom Suite designed by Nina Campbell (she has tailored homes for the Duke and Duchess of York, as well as Rod Stewart), is one of the best picks in the hotel, with a separate bedroom and sitting room and views over Beeston Place.

The hotel is a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace and, as such, was a popular hangout for the Queen Mum. Other members of the Royal Family too have been among the guests here, as has Lady Margaret Thatcher, presidents and—yes—HM The Queen herself.

Ask Head Concierge John Andrews (; 011-44-20-7396-9000) to arrange a private two- or four-horse drawn carriage tour around central London, or perhaps charter an original Dunkirk boat for a ride on the Thames with a picnic lunch and Champagne. Andrews can also arrange exclusive private Verger tours of Westminster Abbey. And, of course, all of these tours would be arranged in the utmost of style: Guests traveling around town can request a chauffeur-driven S-Class Mercedes or Bentley Arnage.

 Where to Take Afternoon Tea

London Where to Shop Sleep and PlayWe hear that The Langham's Palm Court has been voted the best place for afternoon tea in London by the Tea Guild.  Competing against dozens of other hotels and tea rooms, The Langham clinched the award after judges succumbed to its "light and airy setting, friendly and efficient staff and excellent selection of scones, sandwiches and pastries." The judges toiled for months in their task, sipping their way across Britain and the capital to pinpoint the best spots. Sixteen other London tearooms were also given Awards of Excellence.

On the menu at The Langham's Palm Court? Finger sandwiches like Smoked Scottish Salmon with horseradish or Hens' Eggs with Secretts Farm mustard cress, Valrhona chocolate éclairs and Langham cupcakes. Indulge in the Bijoux Tea and you'll taste pastry selections inspired by jewelry collections (think Asprey diamonds and Chanel pearls). Seatings for this timeless ritual are at 2 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:30 pm, and 5 pm. (High tea is served from 5-6:30 pm.)

For more information, check out the Palm Court's official website,

Where to Dine

Chef Daniel Boulud is opening a branch of NYC’s Bar Bouloud May 7 at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. The famed chef, known in particular for his three Michelin-starred Daniel in New York, has handed the reigns to executive chef Dean Yasharian and general manager Stephen Macintosh to run the 165-seat bistro.

On the menu: Signature terrines and a charcuterie bar as well as a full bistro menu and an extensive wine list.

For more information visit

Where to Smoke up a Storm

London Where to Shop Sleep and PlayHot news for cigar aficionados visiting London: The Garden Room at The Lanesborough has acquired a box of the world’s most exclusive cigars, the Cohiba  “Behike,” some of the rarest and most expensive in the world. (How rare? Only 4,000 cigar sticks have been produced, each one ceremoniously rolled by Norma Fernandez, the renowned cigar-maker at the El Laguito factory in Havana. That's pretty rare.)

The Cohiba “Behike” will be sold for £1,500 per cigar—that’s approximately $2,309. Even cooler: The Lanesborough will be the only outlet in the world selling these cigars by the stick.

And while a great cigar can be an experience in and of itself, we hear Bar Manager Giuseppe Ruo offers a wide range of pre-embargo cigars and is on hand to advise guests on how to pair their smoke with a perfect drink.

The new Garden Room at the Lanesborough is an urban retreat in the heart of Kingsbridge, and, with space for just 35 guests, is one of the most exclusive spots in all of London.

 Where to Drink

The Salt Whiskey Bar and Dining Room, proclaimed as The Best Bar in London by Time Out and the Greatest Whiskey Bar of the world by Whiskey magazine, is a hot spot at 82 Seymour Street in the City of Westminster that offers more than 100 malts on its fine menu. Not a scotch drinker? The establishment also serves up several delectable cocktails using gin, rum, vodka and other good stuff.

The dining room has a wide variety of options from Italian antipasti, Moroccan starters and Mediterranean mezze, to oak smoked salmon and steaks.

The bar has also added a "shisha" menu, allowing guests to smoke socially in London's busiest area. There are 15 flavors at Salt. We hear the champagne shisha is a must-try, but the bar also offers the usual fruity flavors.

Nice Touch: There's also a private room upstairs for VIP parties, and, there's live jazz every Sunday.

When to Go

There’s more for foodies—and those who think English cuisine consists of fish & chips and corned beef & cabbage. The 2010 London Restaurant Festival will run from October 4-18 (for the record, last year's was just six days). Last year, the London Restaurant Festival featured more than 500 establishments, including the "pop-up" restaurant of chef Pierre Koffmann on the roof of department store Selfridges, which ran for more than seven weeks.

Other events included the biggest-ever Sunday roast cooked by chefs including Fergus Henderson, John Torode and Mark Hix at Leadenhall Market as well as the London Eye Restaurant Capsules, which saw celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and six other top London chefs transform one of the capsules of the London Eye into a kitchen...Which is really rather impressive, considering how "cosy" the capsules are.

                                                                   By Jena Tesse Fox and Mary Winston Nicklin




Now Open: Trump Chicago’s Outdoor River Walk and Plaza

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Trump Chicago River WalkIt's here-- just in time for summer. And it's bound to become a big pedestrian draw in Chitown. The Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago at 401 N. Wabash has opened its public river walk, park, and plaza, encompassing 1.2 acres. The "tallest American high-rise since Sears Tower's completion in 1974," the 92-story hotel and residential tower was designed by the same folks who recently unveiled the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Trump's new river walk is accessible from the Wrigley Building breezeway and Wabash Avenue and offers awesome views. Still in store: the opening of 90,000 square feet of retail space along the river (some 20 shops and restaurants). Here's the word from HotelChatter: "The city scenery isn't the only sight to behold. The river walk path is made of black granite from the Far East and imported Jerusalem gold limestone that was chiseled by hand to create a one-of-a-kind pattern. The walkway also has a water lily pond that's supposed to offer a place of calm in the busy urban center. There's also native trees, prairie grass and more dotting the area." This summer there will be plenty of tables and umbrellas set up for hanging out in the sunshine.

Armani Hotel Opens in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa; New Hotel Planned for Milan

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Armani Hotel DubaiAt long last, the Armani Hotel has opened in Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. After years of hype and anticipation, the designer's first hotel is welcoming guests to floors 0-8 (along with 38 & 39) of the soaring, 2,717 foot building. (The Burj Al Khalifa is also home to the world's highest mosque and swimming pool.) To quote the Telegraph UK: "Not content with letting his many collections be a feast for the eyes, the Italian fashion maestro seems determined his hotel should be a feast in every sense of the word. The Armani Hotel Dubai boasts not one, not two, not even three or four - but EIGHT restauarants, ranging from Italian (certo!) and Indian to Japanese and Mediterranean." And Armani himself designed these restos.

The Huffington Post quotes Armani at this week's opening: "Yesterday when I arrived and saw the hotel, I felt really emotional. After five years of working on this project, I finally saw how it all came to life. Working with me is not always easy, I think everyone here would agree because my standards are very high." The hotel features 160 guest rooms, a spa, the Armani Prive nightclub with $800 table reservations, and various shops (including an Armani boutique, Armani Dolci (sweets) and Armani Fiori (flowers). Price tag? Suites cost as much as 40,000 dirhams ($11,000) a night. Next up for Armani? A second hotel in Milan- to be built with partner Emaar Properties PJSC.

Photo Via HotelChatter

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Barcelona Sets The Bar High

By: Dave Eisen

Sagrada FamiliaIf Yankee Stadium (the better precursor to the mall-like structure now sitting in the Bronx) is the house that Ruth built, Barcelona is the city that Gaudí helped build. His capricious designs are scattered throughout this Catalan capital (some must sees: Sagrada Família, its intricate facade and unfinished steeples rising just off Avenue Diagonal; Casa Battló and its melted wax almost skeletal façade; and Parc Güell, a cornucopia of Gaudí work. Hint: Be patient—snapping a photo of the famed multicolored mosaic dragon fountain is a process as it’s always mobbed by tourists).

Like any great city, Barcelona has its share of great stores and restaurants. While Passeig de Gràcia is the 5th Avenue of Barcelona (think Escada, Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent), head west to El Born, its Soho, if you will. There you will find some great boutiques. One of our favorites is Ivo & Co. (Plaça Comercial, 3), which, if you are into high-end, retro-vintage home décor, is just the spot for you.

La RamblaAfter some hours shopping, you’ll want to head back east to the Barri Gòtic, better known as the Gothic Quarter, with its narrow streets and whimsical cathedral architecture. Despite several changes, many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. A short walk from the Gothic Quarter is the tourist-trafficked La Rambla—a must-see. Make sure to duck into the Boqueria Market for its endless stalls of produce, meat and other delectables.

Food is a major attraction of Barcelona. In the city, tapas restaurants are as ubiquitous as the street performers along La Rambla. While each is similar, Taller De Tapas, with four locations in the city, serves up a mean plate of salt cod fritters. Try Tapas, 24, and Bravo for fried sardines.

One of the wonderful things about Barcelona is that you find something new around every corner. We serendipitously came across a restaurant in Barceloneta that we are still raving about. Walking the desolate streets of this once small fishing town (Barceloneta is on the ocean and close to the W Barcelona), Restaurante Somorrostro (Carrer de Sant Carles 11) captured our eye (later our stomachs!). At first, we were hesitant to go in (not a soul occupied the small dining room). Then we remembered it was Christmas Eve. We have no problem saying you will have one of your most memorable meals here. The restaurant is an intimate affair, where you can watch the chefs toil away at their craft in the exposed kitchen. A Must: If you are lucky, the monkfish draped in béchamel sauce will be on the menu. Do not pass go without ordering this dish. One Word: otherworldly. After dinner, take a stroll down Sant Carles, toward the beach; you will come across Absenta Bar (Carrer Sant Carles 36), where they concoct authentic absinthe drinks. It’s the perfect spot to wrap up an evening in the City of Counts.

If you aren’t into doing everything on your own, check out Made for Spain, which offers bespoke experiences in Barcelona. How about lunch in one of the only places in the city that serves true—and truly good—paella? That’s not all, the lunch is hosted by Jeff Koehler, author of La Paella: Deliciously Authentic Rice Recipes from Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. Koehler explains in detail paella’s role in Spanish culture and tricks used to prepare it. Another fun one is a visit to Gaudí’s Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera. This isn’t just your regular museum visit: Made for Spain’s good friend María hosts the tour. “Maria who?” you might ask. Maria is Maria Milà, part of the Milà family, which commissioned Gaudí at the beginning of the 20th century.

Luxury for Less: A Dining Credit Plus Special Perks at The Fullerton, Singapore

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Fullerton

Singapore's landmark riverfront hotel, The Fullerton, is pulling out all the stops to pamper guests on weekends. An indulgent new package features a dining credit and enticing special perks (free Internet, late check-out, and Champagne in room). What's more-- the "Idyllic Gourmet Weekend" promises an exceptional luxury value because you get all this starting from just S$388 per night. Bask in the luxury of The Fullerton (the outdoor infinity pool is tops), or take the hotel's complimentary shuttle service to shop til you drop around town. Valid for check-in on Fridays & Saturdays until December 30, 2010, the "Idyllic Gourmet Weekend" includes one night's accommodation in a Courtyard Room, a dining credit of S$88 per night, complimentary in-room Internet access, and a late check-out at 4 pm. With a minimum two-night stay, you'll get a complimentary bottle of Champagne, to boot.

While in town, why not check out the hotel's new All-Chocolate Buffet? The chocolate creations prepared by Chef Carl Bertka are out-of-this-world. Here's a sampler of the indulgences on offer: a signature Chocolate Fountain, Chocolate Cremeux with Vanilla Panna Cotta and Confit Cherries, and the White Chocolate and Lychee Tiramisu... Best of all: a cup of thick hot chocolate infused with a selection of seasonings like Rose Petal, Lavender, Szechuan Pepper, Chili, Star Anise, Black Cardamon, Wasabi, Lemongrass, Ginger or Coffee.