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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.

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


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.


Bulgari Resort, Bali to Open in October 2006

May 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Bali

Bali's island paradise is about to get even more fashionable. Following the successful 2004 debut of the Bulgari Hotel Milan, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts has been designing its second luxury hotel masterpiece, this time perched on a cliff in exclusive isolation overlooking the Indian Ocean. The all-villa retreat will wow guests in October with its traditional Balinese architecture fused with contemporary design. The 59 villas are free standing, luxuriously private, and feature exquisite Balinese antiques, open-air pavilions, terraces, private plunge pools, and of course luxurious Bulgari amenities. For the ultimate in exclusivity, choose the 1,300 sq meter Bulgari Villa, with its two master bedrooms, living room with built-in bar, dining room and home theater, along with the outdoor meditation pavilion, lap pool and extensive terrace. In addition, the Bulgari Resort, Bali will feature a dazzling oceanfront spa, two restaurants, private beach, and a Bulgari store.


One of the World’s Best Hideaways: Huka Lodge, New Zealand

May 30, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Huka Lodge

There's a lot of buzz about New Zealand-- above and beyond the publicity generated by the Lord of the Rings flicks. Everyone's talking about this little island nation on the far south end of the Pacific. (Indeed, Conde Nast readers rated the country the #1 holiday destination in the world.) No matter what the season, New Zealand has it all: breathtaking scenery, recreational activities galore, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. Easily the best place to stay on this gorgeous island nation is Huka Lodge, located in Taupo, in the central North Island, and considered one of the world's top retreats. This 20 suite lodge has racked up the awards: Travel and Leisure Top 500 list (the only property in New Zealand with this distinction), Conde Nast Traveler "Best Hotel Rooms in Australasia and South Pacific," Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report "Top 20 International Resort Hotels." And if the awards list seems impressive, you should see the famous guest-list. The guestbook reads like the party of the century.

The setting is magical. Situated in a beautifully landscaped park on the banks of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge is just a short walk from the spectacular cascades of Huka Falls. As can be expected, activities run the gamut from tennis to petanque, hiking to trout fishing, mountain biking to relaxing in the hot pools and outdoor spa. Spacious, light guestrooms are complemented by outdoor terraces and bathrooms with under-floor heating and sunken baths.

As described recently in Stuff NZ:

Huka Lodge is New Zealand's quintessential super-lodge for the globe-trotting rich, royal and famous… Since 2001, all the guest rooms and the Owner's Cottage - the super suite perched on a rise overlooking the first set of rapids - have been rebuilt or refurbished with the difficult aim of combining the comfort of a five-star hotel with a boysy ruggedness befitting its fishing hut origins.

And the dining is exquisite. Hotel rates include pre-dinner cocktails, a five course dinner and breakfast. All meals are communal seating with some private dinning available.


The Best of Ireland: Town and Country Experience at Ashford Castle and The Merrion

May 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ashford Castle

Visitors to Ireland who want to enjoy both the excitement of Dublin and the beauty of the countryside can now partake in the ultimate Irish vacation with the "Town and Country Experience" from Ashford Castle and The Merrion. Located on the country's west coast near Galway City, Ashford Castle is one of the most luxurious castle hotels in Ireland. Its setting is magical: the quintessential Irish pastoral of woods, lakes, rivers and mountains. Along with its delightful accommodations, Ashford Castle is renowned for its recreational activities and country sports, including fly fishing, equestrian center, nine-hole golf course, falconry and sporting clay shooting. The other participating luxury hotel is Dublin's finest five-star hotel. The Merrion is comprised of four restored Georgian townhouses, and now houses 123 guestrooms and 20 suites, the Tethra Spa, and Ireland's only two-star Michelin restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud.

The "Town and Country Experience" offers an exclusive stay at both beautiful properties, with transfers available via limousine, airplane or helicopter. There are three levels available. The Silver Experience is priced at EUR 1,550 per person, based on double occupancy and includes: 3 nights Deluxe accommodation at Ashford Castle, 3 nights Deluxe accommodation at The Merrion in the Garden Wing, full lrish breakfast daily, round-trip airport transfers, welcome cocktail at both hotels, tickets for the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and The Merrion's Art Catalogue, a one-hour massage per person at both hotels, limousine transfer between both hotels, a picnic lunch for two during the transfer, choice of a one-hour Falconry lesson or golf for two with club rental at Ashford Castle. The Gold and Platinum Experiences include additional amenities, such as half-day fly fishing excursion and half-day Georgian Walking Tour in Dublin. This package is subject to availability and includes taxes.


Going to Manila? Great Value Rates at The Peninsula Manila

May 25, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Peninsula Manila Modern and stylish rooms. Home of Manila's top restaurants. Club Floor catering to every need of business travelers. Complimentary internet access in all guest rooms and suites. State-of-the-art Spa and Fitness Center-- arguably the city's best-- with gym, pool, sauna, steam room, and massage treatments. Signature Peninsula service. The only hotel in the Philippines honored in Travel and Leisure's "World's Best Business Hotel" awards. Located in the heart of the business and financial district, The Peninsula Manila is the place to stay in the city. Ideal for business travelers, the hotel is also ideal for leisure visitors to the Philippines. And a luxurious stay at the city's best hotel has never been of better value, with rates starting at $120 per night for a Superior Room. Valid until December 31, 2006.


Sea Islands Resorts Escapes Packages

May 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Lodge at Sea Island

Georgia's Sea Islands offer a beautiful and exclusive summer escape. Championship golf, incredible dining, lots of Southern hospitality, and the chance to restore your body and mind. Find the perfect hideaway at The Lodge or the completely new, and absolutely stunning, Cloister at Sea Island. The "Golf Escape Package for Two" includes two nights luxury accommodations, two rounds of golf on Seaside, Plantation or Retreat Course or one round of golf and spa treatment of your choice during your stay, an elegant five-course dinner in the Georgian Room, breakfast each morning at any dining venue, Beach Yoga or a Beach Walk each morning, and welcome gift. Valid until November 1, 2006. Starting at $1,195 for The Lodge, River or Nature View at The Cloister. ($1,395 for Ocean View at The Cloister and $1,595 for River View Suite at The Cloister.)

Related Articles:

The Rebirth of an Icon: The Comeback of the Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia


Summer Fun at Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club, Barbados

May 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Sandy Lane

Memorial Day is upon us, which means the start of summer and some exclusive special deals in the Caribbean. One of the region's finest luxury resorts, Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club, the darling of royalty and dignitaries who visit Barbados, has announced some fantastic summer offers. A classic Palladian-style building of coralstone, the spacious 112 room resort is set in a mahogany grove overlooking a crescent of white beach and the turquoise sea. Each of the rooms feature private verandahs and state-of-the-art amenities like plasma wide screen TV, DVD/CD player, and wifi. Here at Sandy Lane, the service is phenomenal, from the chauffeured luxury car that greets you at the airport to the knowledgeable concierge and staff who cater to your every whim. The Summertime promises to be a blast in Barbados, with the annual Crop Over Festival, a colorful extravaganza and celebration of Barbadian culture. Ceremonies, competitions, shows and music, from July 15 to August 7, 2006.

Special Summer Packages at Sandy Lane are a real deal: "Romance in Paradise" includes accommodation in a Luxury Ocean Room at Ocean room rate, bottle of champagne on arrival, one candlelight dinner for two, unlimited non-motorized watersports, full English Breakfast daily, one Catamaran Cruise, spa voucher of $100 per person (or one round of golf on The Country Club per person.) Rates start from $4,750 for a seven night stay. With the "Family Fun" package, three Children under 16 years in connecting room pay 50 percent of the full 7 or 10 night stay. Package includes full English Breakfast daily, unlimited use of the Treehouse Club, one family Sunday Brunch, unlimited non-motorized watersports. Parent's room rates start at $4,250 for a seven night stay in an Orchid room; Children's room rates start at $2,975 for a seven night stay in an Orchid room.


Golf at The Homestead Resort, Hot Springs, Virginia

May 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Homestead Golf

Fodor's recently picked the Top 10 U.S. Golf Resorts, and The Homestead ranked right up there with the best of them:

The resort's Old Course, laid out in 1892, includes the oldest tee in continuous use in the United States. Backdropped by the Alleghany Mountains, the Cascades Course is beautiful during the turning of the leaves in the fall.

Surrounded by stunning mountain views, The Homestead is one of the country's leading historic resorts, known for its luxury spa, excellent recreational facilities, and world-class golf. The Homestead offers a luxurious Summer Golf Special, starting at $249 per night, which includes accommodations, unlimited play (including cart) on the three championship courses including the William S. Flynn designed Cascades Course (ranked as one of the top 100 courses in the world by Golf Magazine in 2005), the Donald Ross designed Old Course and the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed Lower Cascades Course, complimentary use of the driving range and range balls and a complimentary sleeve of Titleist golf balls.