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.

Best of the Best: Royal Hideaway Playacar is Best Luxury Coastal Resort of 2011

By: Christopher Roney

Royal Hideaway Playacar, Mexico

 We understand that no one aims to come in second place; there is no recognition for mediocrity. We at Five Star Alliance know better than anyone the importance of offering the most luxurious resorts in the world, so we notice what’s going on in the industry, and it matters to us, because it matters to you. We'd like to welcome you to our new blog series, Best of the Best, where we’ll be featuring the best and most luxurious resorts in various categories. But don’t take our word for it. These resorts have been recognized as the best in the business by the prestigious World Luxury Hotel Awards, so you can relax and stop worrying about your upcoming trip, knowing that it truly will be the best of the best.

It’s probably a little out of place to use a gambling metaphor for a coastal resort, but with a name like Royal Hideaway Playacar, it’s hard not to resort [Ed: stop that!] to it when such a shameless pun is on the line: Play your cards right, and you’ll be staying at the Playacar in no time.

Located in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the Royal Hideaway lies on the bluest, clearest waters you’ll ever see. The major selling point? The Hideaway has a minimum age of 13, so there won’t be any of those pesky kids running about and distracting you from the pure relaxation of the Mexican coast. The adult-oriented resort boasts a AAA Five Diamond award and boy has it earned it. Sandy tropical beaches accent the colonial Mexican architecture and leafy palm trees that shade you from the tanning sun. And now that fall is upon us, there’s no better time to escape to a place where the changing of the seasons hasn’t brought a slight chill to the air. Take in the warm rays of sunlight on the furnished balcony or terrace that comes with every single room, and avail yourself of world-class spa treatments. So make sure you check out the Best Luxury Coastal Resort of 2011.

World Luxury Hotel Awards Declare Best Luxury Hotels of 2011

By: Christopher Roney

The 2011 World Luxury Hotel Awards have announced their Global Winners across a variety of categories, and we’re confident that each of these hotels represents the finest in luxury accommodations. We'll be spotlighting many of these individually in the coming weeks and offering our critical commentary, but for now, take a look at the winners such as the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, winning Best Luxury Hotel overall, and the Sandals Royal Plantation, the Best Luxury Island Resort.

Click here to check out the full list of best hotels, listed alphabetically by location so you can find the names of the top hotels in your vacation spot of choice, and search here if you're interested in booking any of the top hotels of 2011.

Say Aloha to Winter and Aloha to Beautiful Beaches!

By: Oksana Balytsky

With the winter months rolling in, it may be time to steal away from the brisk winds and soon-to-be snowy sidewalks to the beautiful, warm, sunny beaches of Hawaii. The scenic islands of Hawaii offer something for everyone, so whether you want to go scuba diving, jet skiing, sailing, wind surfing, golfing, shopping, or simply want to sunbathe on the beach all day, Hawaii has something for you. Interested? Consider the Kahala Hotel and Resort in Honolulu. It’s set on a secluded beach, making it the perfect place to find your Zen and take in the salty breeze and beauty of the clear blue ocean. If that’s not enough to send you packing, consider this: The Kahala Hotel and Resort has a private, 26,000 square foot lagoon with its own resident dolphins! Embark on a Dolphin Quest and encounter these magnificent creatures face-to-face, in the water. So whip out your hula dancing skirt, start practicing your dolphin squeaks, and make a reservation for the Kahala Hotel and Resort today!

Behind the Scenes, All Access Pass to Qatar Airways

By: Oksana Balytsky

Qatar Airways hosted a media reception at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. With the opportunity to attend the event, I thought you, our luxurious travelers might like an inside look into this luxury hotel in the sky!

Qatar Airways has earned the reputation of offering a luxurious experience the moment you set foot on the plane, but for us, the special treatment began the moment we arrived. Our evening started with champagne and hors d’oeuvres being served at Qatar Airway’s downtown office. Afterwards, we proceeded to Dulles Airport, aboard a Reston’s Limo Bus, giving everyone on board a flashback to senior prom. Upon arrival, we were taken on a tour of the airport and got a quick rundown of how the control tower manages incoming and outgoing flights.

We then proceeded to the best part of the evening, an on-the-ground tour of a Boeing 777. The sheer size of the plane was breathtaking, and it made you wonder for a second how a machine of that magnitude can fly. Our tour continued onto the aircraft, which had two business classes, accommodating 42 seats total. The plush, crimson chairs recline fully, and the pristine flight attendants pride themselves on providing five-star service. Qatar Airways prides itself on delivering individual service and catering to every passenger on board. There is no designated meal time; at any point during your flight you can enjoy anything off the unlimited menu that offers indulgences such as zucchini soup, salmon, and even ice cream. And by unlimited, they really mean unlimited. If you want eight servings of ice cream, you are more than welcome to it.

Our evening ended with an incredible dinner, and at that point it was quite clear why Skytrax voted Quatar Airways Airline of the Year in 2011. Qatar Airways flies to over 100 destinations, and since it is at the forefront of the luxury travel industry, it’s bound to meet and exceed your expectations.

Bottom Line: For your next trip to a 5-star resort, consider flying with the leader in luxury, Qatar Airways.

(Photo via Qatar Airways)

Wild, Wild West: Blacktomato Offers Luxury Frontier Package

By: Christopher Roney

Tanque Verde Ranch

Think back to childhood. Picture yourself chasing after your friends, finger cocked into the shape of a pistol. “Bang, bang. I got you! You’re dead!” you’d yell, but your friends would never just fall down. They’d have a million reasons why not: “You missed me!” or “I’ve got armor!” or “I’m superman – bullets don’t hurt me!” or “Nuh uh!” You probably wrestled a bit until Mom told you to come inside and have your dinner already, it was getting cold.

Remember that? Now you get a chance to bring those childhood afternoons spent playing "Cowboys and Indians" to life. Blacktomato has created a 12-night luxury tour to showcase the modern Wild West adventure. Travel the edge of the Grand Canyon, wrangle cattle, and visit the most awe-inspiring of desert oases. It’s so authentic you might forget when you’re out in the wilds that you’re not spending your nights in a small, sweltering tent, but instead getting refreshed and rejuvenated at some of the world’s most prestigious hotels. They suggest, as we do, that you spend at least part of your stay at the Amangiri, a secluded resort so built to blend into the landscape that you’ll think it’s a mirage. Unlike most vacation packages, which offer you a set itinerary, Blacktomato recognizes that you want to take control of your own destiny, and their 12-night package is nothing more than a suggestion for things to see and do as you explore the western frontier:

  •  • Begin at Las Vegas and experience the strip in all its neon-bathed glory.
  •  • Leave the city to explore the rugged, scenic vistas of the Grand Canyon.
  •  • Continue on to the hidden desert oasis of Amangiri.
  •  • Experience the majestic red rock formations at the Enchantment Resort.
  •  • Live the life of a cowboy at the Tanque Verde Ranch.

Blacktomato will work with you to craft the perfect journey through America’s wildest of regions, and trust us; you can’t go wrong.

The Great Test of Penmanship: September 26 is National Love Note Day

By: Christopher Roney

Six Senses Hideaway, Vietnam

I’m about to depart from my normal articles to give you an important notice. So sit up straight, get out your quill and inkwell, and start taking notes. Are you listening? Good. Because September 26, a week from now, is National Love Note Day. Largely created so your significant other has an opportunity to critique your writing skills, this important landmark in a relationship is a chance to really step up the romance. So get ready to tell her how you really feel, using the liberal application of glitter.

One of the hallmarks of a good card (hah!) is its presentation, so don’t just give it to them in your kitchen over Chinese takeout (although major bonus points if you hide it in a fortune cookie). Instead take them to your favorite destination, spend a night away in a wonderful hotel, and give them the royal treatment. Some hotels, like the Four Seasons Boston, are even offering to help you out if you don’t fancy yourself clever enough to match the words of Keats or Longfellow. Using some famous expressions of love to liken your relationship to the great romances in history, the Four Seasons will craft a card with whatever turn of phrase you desire. Need some ideas for locale? Check out the Reuters top ten romantic hotels.  Honestly, I can’t think of a better time for a romantic getaway.

We Sell Swell Suites by the Sea Swells

By: Christopher Roney

Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Hawaii

This just in:  The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is offering crazy deals for the fall season. Situated on the Kohala Coast in Hawaii, the hotel is home to 1,839 acres of scenic beachfront which it shares with just one other hotel. Its name is derived from a series of underground springs that used to bubble to the surface and form Artesian fountains, providing fresh water to weary travelers. Now the Hapuna Beach is home to an 18-hole championship golf course and offers a ridiculous variety of activities: swimming, snorkeling, outrigger-canoeing, sailing, kayaking, whale watching, and deep-sea fishing. Or you could just sit on the beach all day and enjoy the view of Hawaii’s twin volcanic mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Either way, the resort is offering some great deals, including getting your third night free. So escape the fall weather and check out this amazing island location. In no time, the headlines will be reading, “travelers tired of tourist traps try traditional, topnotch retreat.”

The Emperor's New Groove: Caesars Palace Opens New Tower

By: Christopher Roney

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV

As TravelAgentCentral reports, Caesars Palace is beginning to take reservations for its new 668-room tower, and its accommodations are certainly befitting an imperial residence.  The Octavius Tower, named after the given name of the Emperor Caesar Augustus, keeps with the Roman theme with elegant, austere marble floors made warm and inviting by extensive traditionally patterned carpets.

As with any good Roman palace, the rooms feature flat-screen tvs and plush velvet sofas.  In lieu of the more period-accurate public baths, however, private bathrooms feature whirlpool bathtubs and glass-enclosed showers.  

For a public space, the Tower expansion offers the appropriately understated Garden of the Gods, a pool and garden area perfect for lounging around as you munch on a bit of ambrosia.

So next time you’re looking to go to Vegas, go check out the new addition to Caesars Palace (laurel wreath not included).

Public Chicago Offers Modernized, Discrete Room Service; Also, Cows in Hats

By: Christopher Roney

Public Chicago, Cows in Hats

The Public Chicago just keeps coming up with something new. I just posted about them a couple of days ago, and already they’re back with more interesting and innovative concepts. HotelChatter has released reports of their amazing, new room service. Classic room service is based on the concept of the full-service experience – because pure luxury is being waited on hand and foot.  A butler brings the food to your room, and you go through an involved process of preparation and presentation.  But the Public Chicago has smartly realized that sometimes guests prefer their privacy to an extra inch or two of service.

In this case, Public knows that discretion is the better part of more than just valor, and they offer an alternate room service model in addition to the standard. Often on vacation we want nothing more than to be left alone to lounge in our ultra-soft blankets, so the Public has adapted the philosophy of the convenience in non-interaction (see the self-checkout line at your supermarket) to luxury service.  

Removing the pressure of having to look put-together and the hassle of removing unwanted dishes, the food is delivered in a surprisingly sleek brown bag with nothing but a discrete knock on your door.  It’s so circumspect; I’m half expecting them to offer a fake passport hidden in a false bottom with your every meal. While you might not be having a clandestine meeting with foreign intelligence agents, Public respects your desire for privacy and doesn’t skimp on the quality.  Look for this practice to catch on as more and more hotels cater to a modern sense of luxury.  But don't worry if you prefer the classic; Public Chicago still offers the industry standard if discretion is not your cup of tea.

I've neglected to even mention some of the other spectacular reports coming out of this new hotel, such as the breathtaking views, complimentary bike rides, or fine dining.  And if you're curious about the second part of the headline, I think this picture speaks for itself:

Ambassador East Goes Public: Rechristened Public Chicago Hotel Is Ready to Rumble

By: Christopher Roney

Public Chicago Hotel 

HotelChatter recently traveled to the newly renovated and renamed Ambassador East Hotel, now the Public Chicago Hotel, and have brought back their impressions along with a number of gorgeous photos. The verdict:  Public Chicago is undeniably the next big thing.  While the name itself evokes images of other, less luxurious public facilities, once you step inside, it becomes quite clear that the Public Chicago is warm, sleek, and modern.  While the hotel has been updated and modernized, reopening just this month, it also hasn’t forgotten its roots – the Public has integrated the traditional aspects of the Ambassador into their reimagining, ranging from a postcard of Dustin Hoffman dressed in their original bellman’s outfit to their inviting library and exquisite restaurant, The Pump Room. 

And when you consider the pricing of the rooms, officially starting at $135/night (though demand could quickly raise the cost), the “public” in the name becomes clear.  The value for the cost is far beyond other hotels of its class, and the Public manages to bring affordability to a luxury hotel without sacrificing the experience that discerning travelers have come to count on – something that many hotels have tried and failed to do.  This is no welfare system; it’s an atmospheric and ultra-modern hotel offering top-of-the-line accommodations at a price anyone could afford. Click through to see HotelChatter’s own analysis, and check out the galleries of the rooms and the public spaces for a look under the hood of a hotel so freshly rebranded, the cab drivers don’t even know its name. And if it looks like a destination that’s right for you (hint: it is!), don’t hesitate to book now while prices are still low.