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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.

Luxury Eco-Tour of Istanbul with Urban Nomads and the Newly Renovated Pera Palace


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Pera Palace, IstanbulAfter a two-year, $30 million renovation, Istanbul's Pera Palace is back on top. Built in 1892 to host passengers of the Orient-Express, the historic hotel was one of the most luxurious of its era, welcoming all kinds of royalty and celebrity guests, including Agatha Christie, who is rumored to have written "Murder on the Orient Express" at the hotel. (Room No. 411 has been preserved as the "Agatha Christie Room.") Stay tuned for details of the hotel's grand re-opening, slated for later this year... Buzzworthy: Visitors can now partake in a luxury eco-friendly tour of Istanbul for Christie's inaugural Green Auction,* courtesy of the Pera Palace and Urbane Nomads, a luxury travel company. Guests will stay in the Agatha Christie Studio Room for four nights, and visit Istanbul via fuel-efficient vehicles in a tour led by Gursan Ergil, a famous designer of eco-friendly furniture in Istanbul. At the Grand Bazaar, visitors will get the skinny on the city's sustainable produce.

*Christie's Green Auction will take place on April 22, 2010, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.


Destination Jordan: Insider Tips for the Lost City of Petra


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Lost City of Petra, JordanEver dreamed of playing Indiana Jones and galloping off to the rose-red city of Petra? Is a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site on your bucket list? A year-round destination and a safe haven in the Middle East, Jordan offers a diversity of landscapes and historic sites, including the archeological wonders of Petra. When making your vacation plans, don't limit yourself to a few days exploring the "Lost City." What else should be on your Jordan agenda? A float in the Dead Sea (nominated as one of the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World) combined with spa pampering at Movenpick's sprawling Zara Spa, camping with bedouins under the stars in the Wadi Rum desert, snorkeling in the Red Sea, and exploring religious sites like Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized, and Mount Nebo, where Moses looked out over the Promised Land.

Petra By NightBut Petra is certainly the crown jewel in the country's archeological riches. Carved from sandstone canyons hidden deep within the mountains, Petra was "lost" to the western world for centuries. Mysterious and inspiring, this ancient city was built by the Nabateans in the 4th century BC, and flourished from profits made by controlling the region's caravan routes. Archeologically, the incredible ruins show the architectural influences of Assyria, Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Some tips:

--Many visitors falsely assume that Petra's highlight is the Treasury (pictured), the setting for Indiana Jones' discovery of the Holy Grail in the film. Not so. Petra sprawls over miles and miles of trails to follow through the sites. Don't miss a hike up to the Monastery. After climbing up hundreds of stone steps carved into the mountainside, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views across to Israel.

--Plan your trip to include "Petra by Night", an experience offered by the tourism office which leads visitors along a candle-lit path to the Treasury, lit by hundreds of flickering candles. You'll be served hot tea while listening to bedouin music.

--New maps are available at the visitor center, as are interpretative signs marking sites along the trails.

--Not far from Petra, enjoy another less touristed site called "Little Petra."


What’s New in Minneapolis: Chambers Hotel Morphs into Le Meridien


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Chambers MinneapolisIt's only natural that the art-filled Chambers Hotel-- described as the "Luxury Art Hotel in Minneapolis"-- is turning into a Le Meridien property. After all, Starwood's Le Meridien brand is all about culture and refinement, sponsoring various art programs at properties worldwide. Since it's opening in 2006, Chambers has gotten rave reviews for its design aesthetic and art collection featuring 250 original works. Now called "Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis," the property is owned by art collector Ralph Burnet, who also owns W Minneapolis- The Foshay, a city landmark of cutting-edge cool.


The Pyramids and More: The Conrad Hotel Wants to Show You Around Cairo


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Conrad CairoGame to explore Cairo? The Conrad Hotel-- smack dab in the heart of town on the banks of the Nile River-- wants to show you the city's hidden treasures. If you can tear yourself away from the views from your guest room (private balconies overlook the river), a tour guide will drive you around town to check out the sights. Return to the hotel and relax with a snack at Felucca Café as you gaze out over the Nile. There's a heated pool and fully-equipped gym for those craving a work-out. And for those feeling lucky: an onsite casino. This special package-- called "Let Us Show You Around Cairo"-- includes two nights accommodation in a classic room with a complimentary upgrade to a deluxe room; meet & greet at the airport with transportation back to the hotel; daily breakfast buffet; tour guide, transportation and sightseeing entrance fees; choice of one of the following sightseeing attractions: Egyptian Museum and Cairo Tower; Pyramides and Sphinx; Old Cairo and Citadel; Islamic Cairo, Khan El Khalily Bazaar and Azhar Park.


What’s on in London: See the Landmark Van Gogh Exhibit with the Langham Hotel


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Langham LondonCalling all art lovers. The Royal Academy of Arts is staging a major exhibition of the work of Vincent van Gogh and The Langham, London will hook you up with tickets. A contemporary of the artist, The Langham opened in 1865 at the top of Regent Street as Europe's first Grand Hotel. After a recent renovation, The Langham continues to dazzle its guests. Running until April 10, 2010, "The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and his Letters" is the first major van Gogh exhibition in London in over 40 years, offering a unique glimpse of the artist through both his letters and the paintings and drawings described within the correspondence. So tickets are going like hot cakes. Book the "Art Aficionado Package" at The Langham-- just a short walk away from The Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly-- and you're guaranteed exhibition tickets (and you can cut the line). Priced from £249, the package includes overnight accommodation in a Grand Room, breakfast for two the following morning in Palm Court and two tickets to "The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and his Letters Exhibition." It's possible to upgrade the package to enjoy Grand Junior Suite accommodations and a dinner for two in The Landau restaurant from just £449.


Summer Down Under: Special Extras at The Langham Hotel Auckland


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Langham Hotel AucklandSun-seekers desperate for some rays, consider a jaunt to the southern hemisphere, where summer entices with warm weeks aplenty. Auckland, "the City of Sails," is one of New Zealand's sunniest destinations (with an average of 2060 sunshine hours per annum). Here in the country's largest city, The Langham brings five-star indulgence and the famous Langham service standards to a city center location. Fans of the hotel rave about the Langham Service Stylists (aka butlers), spacious rooms, Chuan Spa, well-equipped fitness studio, and heated swimming pool. Business travelers appreciate all the facilities catered to their needs. Book the "Wonderland-The Magic of the Rose" package for a Friday or Saturday night stay and you'll get all kinds of extras thrown in with your luxury accommodations in an Executive Room. Valid until April 16, 2010 and priced from NZ$289 per room, the package includes buffet breakfast for two, a complimentary bottle of Stoneleigh (Marlborough Pinot Noir Rosé 2008), late check-out at 1 pm, two tickets to the Auckland Museum's 'Wonderland – The Magic of the Rose' exhibition, plus complimentary valet parking and use of the Chuan Spa facilities.


Check out the Corcoran Gallery’s New Exhibit with the Park Hyatt Washington


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Park Hyatt WashingtonGet a dose of culture on your next visit to the nation's capital. The Corcoran Gallery of Art-- the beautiful, centrally-located museum that's also the largest privately supported cultural institution in Washington-- is getting ready for its newest exhibition, "Turner to Cezanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum of Wales," on display January 30 - April 25, 2010. The Park Hyatt Washington is inviting guests to experience the exhibit (plus special perks at the hotel) with the "Culture at the Park" package available February 1 - April 25, 2010. You'll get a complimentary upgrade to a Park Deluxe Room, a welcome bag provided by the Corcoran, an exclusive, docent-led tour, for two, of Turner to Cezanne, on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, along with an exhibition catalogue, two beverages of choice featuring Van Gogh Vodka in the hotel's lounge after viewing Van Gogh's work in the exhibition, and valet parking for the length of your stay. Priced from $359 in a Park Room.


Grape-Stomping in Virginia: Celebrate Jefferson in Charlottesville with Keswick Hall


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

MonticelloSmack dab in the middle of Virginia hunt country, Keswick Hall is just minutes away from Jefferson's Monticello and the University of Virginia, nestled between spectacular vineyards and landscapes. This 600-acre estate, managed by Orient-Express, has an Arnold Palmer 18-hole golf course and a spa. Since the resort is surrounded by vineyards, guests are invited each fall to crush local grapes to make the hotel's Chardonnay and Petit Verdot wines. Appropriate considering Jefferson's role in bringing viticulture to this country. In fact, Keswick Hall invites guest to learn the history behind what Thomas Jefferson called "the Eden of America" with a special "Celebrating Jefferson" package including daily Continental breakfast, a three course dinner at Fossett's, a Welcome Monticello guide, and Presidential passes and a tasting tour of Jefferson Vineyards. Priced from $335 per room, per night. Two-night minimum stay required.


Tea Chinois at Peacock Alley; The Willard InterContinental Honors Terracotta Warriors


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Willard InterContinentalJust because the holidays are over doesn't mean you can't check out the festive tea at the Willard InterContinental in Washington D.C. (Check out the video on YouTube.) To celebrate the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, the landmark hotel has gone all out with fanciful decor inspired by Chinoiserie, the 17th- and 18th-century Western aesthetic representing European interpretations of Chinese styles. Peacock Alley has been reimagined by the capital's noted event designers, Ayran Kanter's Eventscapes and Kelly B. Jenkins of Capital Décor and Events. Tuck into exquisite pastries (with flavors from the Far East) with live musical accompaniment by a Guzheng master. Priced from $39 per person, $49 with a glass of Champagne. Available until February 14, 2010, Fridays through Sundays. Reservations are necessary.


Diamond Tiara Cocktails and More: Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Atlanta Celebrate Princess Diana


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ritz-Carlton BuckheadTo celebrate the arrival of a popular exhibition featuring Diana, The Princess of Wales, the two Ritz-Carlton hotels in Atlanta are offering a "Diana" memorial package starting on January 23, 2010. Guests can check out the show at the Atlanta Civic Center with 150 items on loan from Althorp Estate, Diana's family home, including the wedding gown, diamond tiara, veil and 25-foot train from her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles. Back at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta or the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, guests can imbibe exclusive Diamond Tiara Cocktails at the bar, before luxuriating in their swank accommodations. Rates include the VIP tickets to "Diana: A Celebration Tour," an audio tour narrated by Charles Spencer (Diana's brother), and one night's accommodation. Priced from $229 at the downtown hotel, and $239 at the Buckhead property.