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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.

Sponsored Article: Romance in Florence at the Relais Santa Croce

November 22, 2010
By: Five Star Alliance

Relais Santa Croce, Florence

Is a romantic trip to Florence in the cards? The capital of Tuscany and birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, the city on the Arno River is steeped in history and romance, full of artistic treasures and excellent restaurants. Get inspired in the many museums, pick up the latest fashions, discover the incredible architecture, and dine by candlelight. A stay at the Relais Santa Croce, housed in an 18th century residence located in the historic city center just a two-minute walk from the Santa Croce Basilica, is guaranteed to rekindle the romance. A perfect balance between the luxury of a bygone era and modern comforts, the hotel is appointed with sumptuous furnishings and frescoed ceilings. You'll enjoy the intimacy of a private residence while getting pampered with impeccable service from the professional staff. Rooms are living works of art, equipped with free high-speed Internet access alongside the period furniture and precious fabrics. Right next door you'll find Enoteca Pinchiorri, a Michelin three-star restaurant.

Relais Santa Croce, Florence

The Relais Santa Croce has designed a "5 Senses Experience" with the romantic in mind. As seen on NBC's Today Show, the package allows guests to discover Florence through all five senses while enjoying accommodations in the hotel's top suite. Valid through December 31, the package includes:

* 2 nights in the de’ Pepi Presidential Suite

* One dinner at the Guelfi & Ghibellini restaurant, including a wine selection from the Sommelier

* Daily turndown with rose petals, candles and chocolate dipped strawberry with champagne

* In-room daily breakfast

* Round-trip transfer from Florence railway station or the airport to the hotel

Special activities to experience with your five senses:

* TASTE: one dinner at the 3 star Michelin restaurant the Enoteca Pinchiorri, including a wine selection from the Sommelier

* HEAR: midnight private violin serenade in the Sala della Musica

* TOUCH: 2 hour private lesson at the Leather School of Florence for 2 people

* SMELL: private guided visit to the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella

* SIGHT: private guided visit to a small jeweler laboratory in a medieval tower


Sponsored Article: Discover Art and Culture in Rome with the Regina Baglioni Hotel

November 15, 2010
By: Five Star Alliance

Regina Hotel BaglioniWith over two and a half thousand years of history, Italy's city on the Tiber River is a bastion of art and culture. As the ancient capital of the Roman Empire, seat of the Papacy, and one of the centers of the Italian Renaissance, Rome is a major draw for visitors, brimming with monuments and museums. In fact, it's the 11th most visited city in the world, and its historic center is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Regina Hotel BaglioniOne of Rome's most emblematic streets is Via Veneto, made famous by director Federico Fellini in the classic 1960 film La Dolce Vita. Lined with upscale shops, the street is also home to the Café de Paris and Harry's Bar. While visiting the Eternal City, why not stay in the center of the action and sleep on the Via Veneto? The five-star Regina Hotel Baglioni is the ideal jumping off point for discovering Rome's art and culture. Just a stone's throw from the Villa Borghese, Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti, this luxurious hotel is a favorite meeting place of the international jet-set.

Regina Hotel BaglioniThe hotel has an excellent selection of rooms in original Art Deco style. The 39 Superior Rooms are appointed with antique furniture, rich brocades and precious Murano hand-blown chandeliers. The 46 Deluxe Rooms are a mix of styles; some are traditional with antique décor, precious silk tapestry, damask and Murano crystal chandeliers, while others offer a more innovative design, defined by fine marble floors and original Art Deco furniture. Some have private balconies overlooking the Via Veneto. The 18 Grand Deluxe Rooms feature tapestries in refined combination of colors, precious fabrics, Murano hand-blown chandeliers, original furniture and marble floors. All bathrooms are designed in elegant marble, and all rooms are equipped with free high-speed Internet access.

Regina Hotel BaglioniAfter a day of taking in the sights, relax with a spa treatment at the hotel's Tempio della Salute. Then enjoy refined Mediterranean dishes at the Brunello Lounge & Restaurant, while sipping innovative cocktails and people-watching on the Via Veneto.


Dispatch from Paris: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Le Royal Monceau

October 26, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Le Royal Monceau, ParisThe talk of the town in Paris is the re-opening of Le Royal Monceau, the legendary palace hotel that recently emerged from a dramatic renovation by designer Philippe Starck. The Informed Traveler went behind the scenes before the official opening date to check out the property, now operated by Raffles. And we're totally smitten. This could easily be one of the hottest hotel openings around the globe this year. Here's what we loved:

Le Royal Monceau, ParisA thoughtful and eclectic design scheme. Inspired by the working studio of André Malraux, each spacious guest room is equipped with a guitar, haute couture walk-in closet, and a map highlighting Starck's favorite Paris addresses.

Desserts by Pierre Hermé. Enough said.

Le Royal Monceau, ParisA movie theater that puts iMax to shame. Built for major film premieres and private screenings, the 100-seat cinema has divine leather seats, high-tech projection equipment, and a decadent snack menu, including gourmet popcorn recipes dreamed up by Hermé himself. Can we say celeb central?

Le Royal Monceau, ParisAn impressive contemporary art collection in the hotel's public spaces. The on-site contemporary art bookstore boasts screens which broadcast live feeds of international art auctions. There's even an Art Concierge on staff.

The cigar lounge, painted in bright red, with 50 private cigar boxes outside, reserved for cigar-lovers to store their favorite cigars for the next visit.

Restaurants which are destined to become top addresses in the French capital. Both La Cuisine and Il Carpaccio boast talked-about decor (a chandelier made from shells in the Italian resto, a colorful ceiling painting called "Le Jardin de Paris" adorns La Cuisine).

Le Royal Monceau, ParisA central garden with a giant tea-pot sculpture designed by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. This garden is a magical space available for al fresco meals in the summer months. It's also got a neat pond with views- through sheer glass- of the spa swimming pool below. In another part of the hotel, there's an organic garden where the chefs grow herbs and produce for the restaurants.

Coming soon: an outpost of the trendy L'Eclaireur concept store. *Swoon*

Note: The spa-- My Blend by Clarins-- won't be open til next year.


Autumn in Rome: Shopping, Spa, and Foodie Delights at the Hotel Hassler

September 30, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Hotel Hassler, RomeAutumn could be the best time to visit the Eternal City, when the summer crowds have dispersed and Rome is yours for the taking. Immerse yourself in the fall colors (not to mention fashion!) and experience a stay at the Hassler Roma, the legendary hotel perched atop the Spanish Steps in the heart of the historic city center. The hotel of choice for visiting stars, The Hassler is just minutes away from Rome's top shopping venues and important landmarks (like the Pantheon and Coliseum). The "Autumn in Rome" package is the ultimate pampering experience. Here's what's included: • 3 nights in a room of your choice • Daily buffet breakfast at the elegant Salone Eva • 2 massages at the Amorvero SPA (1 per person, per stay) • Relaxing tea at the Amorvero SPA after the massage • Light lunch for 2 in the Salone Eva (starter, first course & home-made dessert, drinks excl.) Validity dates: November 1 – December 22, 2010. Limited availability! “Autumn in Rome ” package rates are euro 1,350 for a Deluxe Double / twin room and euro 1,530 for a Grand Deluxe Double / twin room. Rates are for a 3-night stay, per room. Cancellation deadline is 4 days prior to arrival in order to not incur a 50% penalty charge.


Special at D.C.’s The Madison Hotel: “Geckos: Tails to Toepads” at National Geographic Museum

September 28, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Madison, A Loews HotelKids are sure to go wild over the new exhibition, "Geckos: Tails to Toepads," at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. Through January 5, 2011, the museum will showcase 75 live geckos from around the world. Visitors can check out diverse gecko habitats, listen to gecko voices, try to spot camouflaged geckos and even experience gecko night vision. As a sponsor of the museum, The Madison, A Loews Hotel is offering a special overnight package for guests to experience "Geckos: Tails to Toepads." Starting from $204 per night and available through January 5, 2011, the package includes:

* Luxe overnight accommodations at The Madison, a few blocks from the National Geographic Museum

* Admission to the "Geckos: Tails to Toepads" exhibition

* Free in-room internet access

* Complimentary valet parking

* A one-year subscription to the National Geographic Kids magazine

* 20 percent discount at National Geographic Museum Store


Hot in Paris: See the Blockbuster Art Exhibition of the Year, Claude Monet at the Grand Palais

September 15, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel de Crillon

Heading to Paris in the next few months? Don't miss the Claude Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais, the "biggest the world has ever seen," opening next week. The most famous father of Impressionism is being honored in a big way; 200 of his paintings will be displayed to show Monet's artistic development over the 60 years he painted-- including still-lifes (like "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe") and the large-scale waterlilies painted in his garden at Giverny. It's already sold 38,000 tickets and promises to outsell the huge Picasso exhibition showcased earlier this year. Stay in style at the Hotel de Crillon (pictured)-- the gorgeous palace on the famous Place De La Concorde-- and take advantage of a special offer promoted by Concorde Hotels & Resorts. A special "Monet Exhibition Package" is available at the company's six Parisian hotels, including the Crillon, Hotel Lutetia, Hotel du Louvre, Hotel Concorde La Fayette, Concorde Opéra Paris, and Hotel Concorde Montparnasse. Starting from $245 per night, the package includes two priority tickets for the exhibition, accommodations for two, early check-in (helpful after those red-eye flights from the U.S!), late check-out, and buffet breakfast for two daily.


Special at St. Regis Hotel Washington DC: First Ladies, American Style at the White House

August 27, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

St Regis Washington DCA new package at the posh St. Regis Hotel in Washington D.C. has tongues wagging. Where better to and "play First Lady" than at this elegant icon, located on K Street just two blocks north of the White House? (With the Alain Ducasse-helmed Adour Restaurant and personalized service through the St. Regis butler program, this hotel is totally "presidential.") Here's the skinny from HotelChatter on the offer, available on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights:

Forget the Real Housewives! We want to live it up like a First Lady. So if we can rustle up the $509 a night necessary, here's what we'd choose to do over being tacky and crashing a White House party... If we booked this offer, we would:

· Sleep in the posh Caroline Astor Suite at the St. Regis

· Nosh on breakfast in bed -- on dishes inspired by First Ladies (We'd probably opt for Lady Bird Johnson’s beef tenderloin and eggs over Laura Bush’s favorite carrot muffins)

· Throw back complimentary cocktails for two at The Bar at The St. Regis

· Take a private guided tour of the First Ladies at the Smithsonian exhibition over at the National Museum of American History

· Ooh and ahh at the sight of Michelle's Jason Wu dress and anything Jackie Kennedy ever touched

· Take home our welcome amenity/memento from The National Museum of American History

· Realize that we were not cut out to be a First Lady or political wife of any kind ...


Outdoor Bars, Hotels, Restaurants and More: Top New Reasons to Visit New York

July 12, 2010
By: Guest Writer

By Meagan Drillinger, Jena Tesse Fox and Ruthanne Terrero

The Surrey's Presidential Suite

For starters, we say a stay at The Surrey will make you fall in love with all that is the best of Manhattan. Set on East 76th Street between Madison and Fifth avenues, it’s close to Central Park, elegant shopping (think Lisa Perry, Alain Mikli, Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang, Jack Vartanian, Missoni and Lily Pulitzer) and classic, refined residential brownstones and townhouses.

The hotel is ideal for those seeking a secure, intimate setting; step into the lobby and you’re greeted by staff at the reception desk; someone is always on hand to guide you to the elevator and to see you to your room, should you wish. And what choices you’ll have. Starting at the top with The Surrey’s most lavish accommodation is the Presidential Suite (No. 1406). It has 4,500 square feet of space and can be configured to have one or two bedrooms. Other important elements include a private terrace, formal dining room for 10, a living room with a fireplace and an iMac, a baby grand piano and a full kitchen.

The Penthouse (No. 1701) on the top floor, we must say, is a fine runner-up to the Presidential Suite. At 1,150 square feet, it has a full kitchen, a living room with a marble fireplace, dining area with seating for six and a posh, private 1,000-square-foot wraparound terrace that provides fabulous views of Central Park and the Upper East Side. Note: A huge plus of staying in the Penthouse Suite is its exclusive access to The Surrey’s new private rooftop garden.

Good to know: Ultra Deluxe Suites (No. 1403 and the “01” line of suites, for example, No. 1401) have small kitchens and terraces with Central Park views. Note: Those in the know will appreciate that The Surrey has Duxiana brand beds in all of its rooms. Additionally, as only smaller buildings surround the hotel, all rooms have bright light all day. P.S.: The hotel is pet friendly; there's also a wonderful rooftop garden for guests only.

Andaz Wall StreetThis winter, Andaz, a new luxury brand by Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, opened a hotel on New York City's Wall Street. This month, the Andaz Wall Street got a new sibling in Manhattan: The Andaz 5th Avenue.

We hear the hotel takes its design from its midtown location. Think sleek lines with classic luxury, reminiscent of New York City apartments at the height of their glamour.

The 184-room hotel boasts 36 suites. Ask about the six that offer terraces overlooking the New York Public Library. Each room has a black footbath in the shower area.

Top digs: The Andaz XL Two-Bedroom Terrace Suite measures a whopping 1,779 square feet, offering sweeping views of the Hudson and East River.

The ground floor restaurant seats an intimate 38 and offers selections from New York City staples. Think Katz's Delicatessen, Sullivan Street Bakery and the Pickle Guys.

Head down to the cellar and visit the bar, serving a selection of wines, liquors and small plates.

Speaking of Bars…..

Here in New York it’s open season on drinking outdoors, so we thought we’d round up some news of outdoor bars where one can imbibe in style. Here goes….

When Rockefeller Center's Ice Rink closes up shop for the winter, the Rink Bar opens for business in its place. This summer it features a newly expanded cocktail menu. Think mojitos, specialty lemonades, martinis and frozen drinks.

In the mood for a snack? We hear that in addition to popular bar snacks, Rink Bar serves up some tasty barbeque. We're talking slow-roasted pork shoulder, mango and jalapeno glazed chicken, St. Louis ribs - with all the trimmings from corn on the cob to slaw.

Rink Bar is open seven days a week. It is located off Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets. For more information visit www.patinagroup.com.

While in midwtown, the Roosevelt Hotel's mad46 rooftop lounge is open. This year it’s better than ever, with expanded indoor space, retractable glass windows and an interior bar. (And the air conditioning will be appreciated when the mercury hits 90. Not many of us like spending hours in a sauna, either!) We hear that the indoor spaces are bookable for private parties if you want to celebrate a big birthday.

Convenient touch: Those wishing to bypass the hotel's lobby can use the exclusive elevator on 46th Street that will take them directly to the lounge and enjoy the fresh air...such as we have it!

For more information, call 212-885-6095 or visit www.mad46.com.

Feel like have a drink indoors? Just go downstairs; the Roosevelt has also just opened its new Vander Bar. Open Monday through Friday from noon until 9 p.m., the bar has a wide variety of beers on tap, as well as a menu of light bites (the Mini Lobster Rolls sound divine). For some funky cocktails, try The Blackberry (a vodka-infused drink named in honor of one of Midtown’s favorite toys…look, just be happy they didn’t call it the Crackberry!), the Madison Avenue Mai Tai, the Bull Moose (pictured right, a mix of coffee and Patrón—yum!) or The Lombardo, a salute to the Big Band great Guy Lombardo who began his New Year’s Eve tradition of broadcasting “Auld Lang Syne” from the hotel.

(It’s amazing, the trivia you can learn in bars. Why else do you think it’s the Guinness Book of Records?)

Nice touch: Vander Bar has its own dedicated 45th Street entrance.

Downtown, the SoHo House rooftop has fantastic views over the West Village and the Hudson River. Members and guests, as well as those staying in the hotel, can lie on loungers or sit at tables for drinks and breakfast, lunch and dinner daily during the summer months.

Where else can you brunch poolside, next to an all-glass balcony and take in panoramic views of New York City? Or go for a dip in the pool, bathing in the sun while sipping a Strawberry Lemonade Cocktail? (That’s made with fresh lemons, muddled strawberries and vodka and has been a rooftop favorite since its opening  – even Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte from Sex and the City enjoyed it in a summer episode.)

Theater Watch

All New York-bound theater fans, mark your calendars for October! Acting legends James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave will be returning to Broadway this fall in Alfred Uhry's classic play Driving Miss Daisy, which was made into an Oscar-winning movie with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy.

The play, a sensitive study of race relations as seen through the eyes of an elderly Jewish woman and her African American chauffeur, premiered off-Broadway in 1987, and was made into a hit movie two years later. Jones was last on Broadway in the recent revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, while Redgrave earned a Tony nomination for her performance in Joan Didion's one-woman play The Year of Magical Thinking.

Driving Miss Daisy will begin performances on October 7, at the John Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street), with an official opening on Monday, October 25.

Driving Miss Daisy will play the following performance schedule: Monday, Wednesday - Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2:00 p.m.  (From October 7 – 25, Tuesday performances begin at 8:00 p.m.)  Tickets ($65 - $125) will be available via Telecharge.com and beginning September 9, will also be available at the box office of the Golden Theatre.

On the Radar:

Exciting news for foodies in New York: The New York Times is reporting that Thomas Keller  will be opening a second Bouchon Bakery (www.bouchonbakery.com/)  next March. It will replace the Dean & DeLuca at 1 Rockefeller Plaza (48th Street).

Unlike the Bouchon Bakery in Time Warner Center, this eatery will not be a complete restaurant. Keller told the Times that in good weather, there will be about 45 tables outdoors, but there will be no waiter service. Sébastien Rouxel, the pastry chef for Bouchon uptown, will also be involved in this project. Fresh touch: All of the baking will also be done in-house. Tiffany Jones will be the chef de cuisine for both Bouchons, in charge of savory items.


Art of Ethiopia at the Sheraton Addis

July 9, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Sheraton AddisThe Sheraton Addis, A Luxury Collection Hotel, will be hosting the third annual Art of Ethiopia 2010 from August 21- 24. The finest hotel in the Ethiopian capital, the Sheraton Addis sits on a hilltop opposite the National Palace overlooking the city. The free exhibition will showcase nearly 400 works of art from 40 of Ethiopia's leading established artists (and exciting new talent) in the Lalibela Grand Ballroom. Long a patron of Ethiopian art, the hotel also boasts a permanent art collection featuring local artists. In fact, sales of the exhibition catalogue-- prepared by the hotel-- will go to the Sheraton Addis Art Endowment Fund to support art initiatives in Ethiopia.

Booking a stay in Addis Ababa? The hotel is currently running some enticing special offers-- including a package that doles out a fourth night free and a family package that gives 50% off the second room and free meals for the kids.


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

July 7, 2010
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.