January 28, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It 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.
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.
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)
January 28, 2008
By: Courtney W. May
More 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.
By: Courtney W. May
January 22, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
London's celebrated hotel, the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, has just announced the addition of six brand new luxury suites created by world-renowned interior designer Khuan Chew (the genius behind the stunning interiors at Dubai's seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel). Located smack dab in the middle of Knightsbridge, the Jumeriah Carlton Tower raises the bar for luxury in London: these new suites are simply oozing glamour and sophistication. Private lobbies sweep through to spacious lounges appointed with rich upholstered couches and dark wood furniture. Bedrooms are detailed with chrome studding set into the leather walls, modern light fixtures, and sumptuous bedding. The bathrooms, appropriately, are the largest in the hotel-- with deep infinity baths and rich red marble for the double sinks. The Six Luxury Suites can be booked as either a one- or two-bedroom suite starting from $3,610 for a one-bedroom suite and from $4,880 for a two-bedroom suite.
P.S. The hotel has also recently unveiled 92 refurbished rooms! You'll love the new pop-up TV at the foot of the bed, and mirror-vision concealed TVs in the bathrooms.
January 22, 2008
By: Lucy LeTourneau
Upon entering The Carlyle, as I did during a late evening arrival last week after a harrowing cab ride from New York's Penn Station that coincided with the end of a Rangers hockey game, I was immediately soothed by the simple but elegant surroundings and the friendly and welcoming hotel desk staff. A guest representative escorted me to my room, a Deluxe Suite on the 10th floor and gave me a quick tour. The suite was beautiful and felt very homey with hardwood floors and area rugs, vs. wall to wall carpeting we've come to expect in most hotel rooms. Even though my suite was directly across from the elevators, the rooms were amazingly quiet. Although I wasn't in the hotel long enough to enjoy the world famous Bemelmans Bar or Café Carlyle, this leaves a great excuse for less-harried return visit.
Scoop: The Carlyle is currently offering guests who book through FIVE STAR ALLIANCE a complimentary in-room continental breakfast daily.
By: Lucy LeTourneau
Guess where President Bush stayed last weekend on his Middle East trip? The oil-rich outpost of the United Arab Emirates boasts the most extravagant luxury hotels in the world, like the seven-star Burj Al Arab where aquarium walls full of tropical fish line the escalators, and the world's largest fleet of Rolls-Royces is available for guests.
President Bush, arriving in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, stayed in one of the basketball-court-size "Ruler's Suites" at the Emirates Palace, which bills itself as the world's costliest hotel. At $3 billion, with 300 rooms, that comes out to $10 million a room.
In this spare-no-expenses kingdom, the opulent Emirates Palace stands out because of its brand new Anantara Spa. You'll find an enormous private treatment complex, Vichy shower suite, hammam with heated marble beds, and intricate architectural details: Moorish tile floors beneath a glowing domed ceiling. Return to your room, sauntering down the hallways shimmering with gold mosaics, and enjoy private butler service and Hermes bath amenities.
P.S. We hear the hotel's best suite is the 1,185-square-foot Khaleej Suite, overlooking the Persian Gulf.
Washingtonians, take heed. A blissful spa weekend is just a pleasant drive away- in the quaint Victorian town of St. Michaels on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The Inn at Perry Cabin is an idyllic hideaway, with a stunning spa which opened last summer to much acclaim. With signature treatments like the Linden Ritual and the Five Flower Solace, which incorporate local medicinal plants, the Linden Spa has proved itself worthy of all the buzz. Book the "Suite Dreams" package and get your second night at 50 percent off! Plus, you'll get a bottle of wine on arrival, and two tickets to the famed Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Starting from $495 (for the first night).
Caesars Palace Las Vegas is the world's best known resort-casino, celebrating the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome in an 85-acre destination location that sets the standard for entertainment, dining and luxury. Caesars Palace is in the final stages of their Forum Tower renovations - where all the rooms, suites, corridors and elevator lobbies are being renovated top to bottom.
Available to book as of January 31, 2008, with travel beginning in April, the new Forum Tower Rooms will be considered an upgrade room in addition to the Palace and Augustus Towers. Forum Tower Rooms will now feature two LCD televisions (the second built into the bath mirror), wired and wireless Internet service, iPod docking station, oversized showers with dual rain bath showerheads, plus more.
Cliff Atkinson was promoted to General Manager of the Gramercy Park Hotel in July 2007 after joining as the Hotel Manager in October of 2006 with more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Cliff Atkinson: I was recruited by Ian Schrager to be the Gramercy Park Hotel Manager in September 2006 and I assumed the General Manager position in July 2007. I was very excited to incorporate my traditional luxury hotel background with the modern luxury that Gramercy Park Hotel introduced to the market.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Cliff Atkinson: The best thing about our hotel's location is the access to Gramercy Park. My favorite thing to do on a Sunday is to grab a New York Times, with a morning coffee and sit in the park and read my paper all year round. It is so quiet and peaceful, right in the middle of New York City!
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?
Cliff Atkinson: My favorite rooms are our Loft rooms. They really feel like an artist’s loft from the 1920's… very Bohemian. I recommend our "05" rooms, which have fantastic bathrooms and a large open feel.
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?
Cliff Atkinson: The Private Roof Club access and the weekend Dim Sum brunch in Wakiya.
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?
Cliff Atkinson: I think there are five distinctive points about our hotel:
1. The unique design of the rooms. – They are different than anything in the market today, with a design created by Ian Schrager, the patriarch of the modern hotel industry and Julian Schnabel, a world renowned artist. The rooms set themselves apart from the usual homogeneous look of the majority of hotel rooms.
2. Our location – The Gramercy Park area is becoming the “new midtown”. It is close to both the traditional Midtown Manhattan shopping and the exciting dining and night life of downtown Manhattan. Plus, our location directly on Gramercy Park provides our hotel guests with an experience like no other by allowing exclusive access to New York’s only private park.
3. Our Food and Beverage – Our options for dining and entertaining are truly world class from our Chinese restaurant, Wakiya, to the exciting nightlife of our Rose Bar, to the comfortable, laid back garden atmosphere of our Private Roof Club. Guests don’t feel like they are in a hotel but rather a private mansion with an incredible selection of personal chefs!
4. Private Roof Club – There is simply nothing like our Private Roof Club anywhere in New York City. It is accessible to hotel guests only, it provides a private retreat with incredible artwork and is covered and temperature controlled 365 days a year. It is truly special.
5. Our Service – Our approach to service is the same approach I used at former Mobil Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotels and Resorts. Ian Schrager has the eye for the design and can create a hotel space like no other. It is my job to ensure the service is at the level you would experience at the World’s top luxury hotels packaged in this unique hotel casing.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Cliff Atkinson: Our hotel guests are the global luxury traveler, with over 40% international. The demographic spans all ages from young 20’s to mid 60’s – anyone who wants a luxury experience that is special, unique and personal.
More About Mr. Atkinson:
Prior to joining the Gramercy Park Hotel, Cliff worked for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group for seven years and held various positions within the company, most recently as the Executive Assistant Manager for Mandarin Oriental, New York. Before Mandarin Oriental, New York, Cliff was the director of Revenue Management for the Group’s properties in North America and Europe from 2000 – 2003. Cliff began his career in the hospitality industry with Hilton Hotels in Revenue Management and as Director of Front Office Operations and other various management positions in Rooms Division.
Cliff attended City College of San Francisco with a degree in Hospitality Management as well as the University of San Francisco and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Cliff resides in Manhattan with his wife Jennifer and is currently pursuing his MBA.
January 8, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Disney's Year of a Million Dreams celebration has been extended until the end of 2008 (!) -- which means that lucky guests still have the opportunity to score a night in the Cinderella Castle Suite, towering four stories above Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Over the past year, hundreds of visitors to the Disney resorts have been awarded freebies by the Dream Squad, with the top prize at Disney World being an overnight in the fairytale chamber at the pinnacle of Cinderella's Castle, originally built for Walt Disney and his family. This prize is chosen randomly by a computer that designates a certain attraction, time, and seat number daily. The lucky winning party is plucked from the crowd and whisked away to a marvelous wonderland. Reached by private elevator, the salon, bedchamber, and bathroom are situated off a private marble-floored foyer appointed with 18-karat gold leaf. Canopy beds are draped with fluffy feather comforters. The famous glass slipper (worth $18,000) is displayed in a cove, "a memorable artifact from the story." The furnishings may resemble the style of the French rulers from the period inspiring the Cinderella story, but the amenities are definitely 21st century: garden tub plus shower, and a flat-screen HDTV hidden behind the framed portrait of Cinderella hanging above the fireplace.
December 7, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Keep winter blues at bay with a Vegas getaway and get luxury for less at The Venetian. In the center of the action on The Strip, the resort's got plenty of wow factors: authentic gondola rides on the Grand Canal, the Guggenheim Museum, excellent live entertainment, top-quality restaurants, and the Canyon Ranch Spa... Talk about the ultimate winter playground. Skip the holiday frenzy and luxuriate in style at The Venetian, where you can unwind in one of the newly remodeled Luxury Suites for a mere $149 per night with their exclusive holiday rate. Available until January 3, 2008. (Weekend rates are slightly more at $199 per night.)