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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.

Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival: Spring into the Willard Intercontinental

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Cherry Blossoms

Each spring, visitors flock to the nation's capital for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. From March 31-April 15, 2007, the Willard Intercontinental will celebrate the awesome beauty of the cherry blossoms with stunning floral displays, overnight packages, spa treatments, and delicious Cherry Blossom Tea. Centrally located on Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Washington, the Willard Intercontinental gracefully combines tradition with contemporary comfort and technology. Ranked among America's best historic hotels, the Beaux-Arts Willard has hosted almost every US president since Franklin Pierce in 1853. It was here that Julia Ward Howe wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, where Abraham Lincoln lived for a month, where, in the grand lobby, President Ulysses S. Grant popularized the word "Lobbyist" and where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King finished his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. The Willard is a major force in the social and political life of Washington to this day.

The luxurious hotel is transformed into a springtime wonderland for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The Willard's lobby and Peacock Alley promenade is decorated with live Cherry Blossoms and a display including historic renderings of the first Japanese delegation to America. (Three ambassadors and their entourage of 74 stayed at the Willard in an historic visit to Washington to ratify the nations' new Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1860.) Conveniently located near the tree-lined Tidal Basin, the Cherry Blossom Parade route and other festival events, the Willard is the perfect choice for festival enthusiasts. Guests can enjoy seasonal cherry cocktails at the historic Round Robin Bar. Or sip cherry-infused teas and nibble on festive themed edibles such as Petite Cherry Custard Tarts, Dry Cherry and Vanilla Scones with Homemade Cherry Marmalade and Devonshire Cream, and Hand Made Cherry Candy, while listening to live music in Peacock Alley. Or prepare for the Cherry Blossom Festivities with a special facial and massages at the luxurious I Spa at the Willard. Take advantage of the Very Cherry Willard Package, starting at $329, which includes accommodations, a special cherry amenity, plus the choice of one of the following: American breakfast for two, a second room at half price for children under 18, upgrade to a Deluxe room, or parking. This package reflects savings of $250. Prices are per room, plus tax, based upon availability and are available from March 16 through April 15, 2007.

Photo Via Flickr/Mr. DC

Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles: Valentine’s Dinner Dance

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Bel-Air Valentine's Day

What a better way to spend Valentine's Day than at one of the finest, most romantic hotels in the world? For the past 60 years, the Mobil five star award-winning Hotel Bel-Air has welcomed generations of lovers on this special day. The embodiment of LA glamour and luxury, this could be the city's most prestigious address. For this year's special Valentine's event, the Hotel Bel-Air has partnered with Laurent-Perrier Champagne to premiere their most delicious and rare vintages, paired with five courses from the master chefs. Following an elegant reception with hors d'oeuvres, the dinner will start at 7 pm. The menu includes a Terrine of Foie Gras and Date Chutney paired with Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut, Citrus Butter Braised Maine Lobster with Spring Vegetable Essence paired with Laurent-Perrier Brut Vintage 1995 in Magnum, a Seared Filet of Beef with Truffle Twice Baked Potato and Sauce Périgueux paired with a Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rose 1997, in Magnum, and for dessert-- a sinful Fig Soufflé with Passion Fruit Anglaise and Kissing Swans, paired with Laurent-Perrier Demi Sec. At 8:30 pm, John Brown and his four-piece band will kick off the dancing festivities. Priced at $225 per person, not including tax and gratuity.

The Keating Hotel, San Diego: Celebrate the Grand Opening

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Keating Hotel

Sexy and sophisticated, the new Keating Hotel is set to become a San Diego hotspot. Recently featured in both Urban Zeitgeist and Sherman's Travel Magazine, this chic design hotel is the first hotel creation by Pininfarina, of Ferrari fame. Billed as an "urban lifestyle hotel," The Keating oozes sexiness in the details: sinful bedding (down duvets and pillows, Italian linens), LavAzza espresso machines by Pininfarina, personalized sip and crave bars in-room, and the subterranean lounge: the exclusive high-tech bar and focal point of the hotel, destined to emerge as the place to see and be seen in San Diego. The hotel is bringing a winning combination of Europe and Soho to Southern California. To quote Sherman's Travel Magazine:

This fall The Keating hotel unveiled its overhaul of a century-old Romanesque Revival gem in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. Pininfarina, best known for their design work with Ferrari, turned the historic building modern with sleek, minimal interiors.

Each of the hotel's 35 luxurious suites (called "Stanzas," Italian for guestroom) are decked out with custom designed furnishings, vaulted ceilings, Bang and Olufsen's Beo Vision electronics, Dornbracht fixtures, and all the latest, cutting-edge technology. For a limited time, take advantage of excellent Grand Opening special rates, starting at $269 a night in a Stanza room. Valid until January 31, 2007.

PS. Sherman's Travel Magazine, Smart Luxury Splurges is some serious eye candy. For subscriptions (and free trial issues), check out their website.

Photo via Urban Zeitgeist

Ski the Southwest at La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa, New Mexico

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

La Posada de Santa Fe

Hit the slopes at Ski Santa Fe, recently recognized by readers of Conde Nast Traveler as one of the top 20 ski resorts in North America. Soak up the splendor of New Mexico's mountains and enjoy the season's record snowfall, just a short drive from charming, downtown Santa Fe. Stay at the award-winning La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa and score a lift ticket-inclusive package for just $135 per person, per night! Nestled on six landscaped acres in the heart of Santa Fe, the resort offers adobe-style accommodations in a magical garden setting. La Posada de Santa Fe exudes Southwestern culture with its vibrant artwork, kiva fireplaces, signature cuisine at Fuego restaurant, and Southwest-inspired spa treatments at the luxurious Avanyu Spa. Ski and stay at Santa Fe's legendary resort with the special lift ticket-inclusive package. The package includes accommodations, full day lift tickets for two, and unlimited use of the Avanyu Spa steam and fitness rooms. (Priced at $135 per person during the week and $147 on weekends.) Or, for the ultimate winter escape, choose the Ski, Dine and Unwind Package, which includes two nights accommodation, two 50 minute Dancing Wind Massages or two Flowing Water Massages, two half-day lift tickets each day to Ski Santa Fe, and lunch for two at Fuego. This package is priced from $190 per person, per night. Available until April 14, 2007.

Ritz-Carlton, Cancun Opens New Culinary Center

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ritz Carlton Cancun, Culinary Center

Cancun's most luxurious resort, the AAA five diamond Ritz-Carlton, has unveiled a brand, spanking new Culinary Center. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the $500,000 recreational kitchen facility features the world's finest equipment from Viking Range Corporation. Guests explore an exciting approach to food and wine with classes, demonstrations, and tastings. Rory Dunaway, the chef de cuisine, shares professional techniques and recipes through interactive, hands-on cooking experiences. Participants learn the secrets to authentic Mexican cuisine, and-- with Wine and Tequila tastings-- learn about beverage culture and how it is linked to culinary traditions. The Center utilizes the freshest, local ingredients for its two-hour classes, which feature three to five themed recipes. Guests can select from a menu of 12 different themed sessions a week: Monday's Cooking Without Heat class focuses on light, low-fat delicacies using marinades, lime and other ingredients (think ceviche and sushi), while Wednesday's Tuscan Dinner Party introduces classic Italian recipes using fresh ingredients and authentic techniques. Ritz-Carlton's Culinary Center is open six days a week. Wine and Tequila tastings are offered at 6:30 pm in the evenings.

Hotel Plaza Athenee, New York: Pillows and Penguins Children’s Package

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Plaza Athenee, New York

This charming and sophisticated boutique hotel-- ranked among the Word's Best Hotels by both the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List and Travel and Leisure magazine-- is a favorite Manhattan hideaway for couples as well as families. Nestled among the residences of the fashionable East Side in an oasis of calm, the Hotel Plaza Athenee is just steps from Central Park and Madison Avenue shopping. This European-style hotel offers the ultimate in personalized service. Need restaurant reservations or tickets to a Broadway show? Simply ask the knowledgeable concierge. Decorated in elegant European furnishings, the 115 guestrooms and 35 suites (some with glass-enclosed indoor terraces and outdoor balconies) create the feeling of being a pampered guest in an upscale, private home. The hotel is home to one of the best restaurants in New York City: Arabelle.

Take your family to Manhattan and enjoy a special children's package at the Hotel Plaza Athenee. Pillows and Penguins, available for children 14 and under, features special amenities sure to delight the kids: children's gift bag including a New York taxi, New York coloring book, crayons, Yankee's baseball cap, and plush penguin, four tickets to Central Park Zoo (just one block from the hotel), VIP passes for Jekyll and Hyde themed restaurant, 10 percent off Lunch or Dinner at Mars 2112 Restaurant, and milk and cookies at turndown. The package includes accommodations for two adults and up to two children in two connecting rooms and continental breakfast daily with special children's menu for the kids. Pillows and Penguins is priced at $990, per night for two connecting King bedded rooms, from January through April 1, 2007, and July 1-September 3, 2007. (From April 2 - June 30, 2007, the package is $1,140, per night for two connecting King bedded rooms.) Subject to availability.

Winter Indulgence at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

Winter blues? Escape to Arizona's sunshine and wrap yourself in luxury with warm winter rates at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. Situated on 93 acres in the ancient Catalina Mountains, the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort offers guests a sanctuary inside and out. Golf buffs, spa addicts, and sun worshippers marvel at the excellent recreational facilities and luxurious guestrooms (each with private terrace, and some feature fireplaces and Jacuzzis). Tee off at one of two Tom Fazio-designed PGA golf courses. Perfect your backhand at one of eight lighted tennis courts at the Tennis Center. Enjoy a rejuvenating body treatment at the 7,000 square foot, full-service spa. Relax by the gorgeous swimming pools. There's also hiking, bicycle rentals, croquet court, ping-pong, and basketball. And for a real splurge, book the Presidential Suite and enjoy its two-tiered patio with spectacular views (of either the 80-foot waterfall or the Canyon Golf Course) from your own private Jacuzzi. Wonderful Winter Rates for Loews Ventana Canyon Resort start at just $329, available until April 8, 2007.

Beverly Hilton Welcomes Waldorf Astoria to Beverly Hills

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Beverly Hilton

The longtime Beverly Hills landmark is getting a makeover. That's right. The Beverly Hilton, proudly situated on the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, has announced plans to welcome the first West Coast Waldorf-Astoria hotel as part of its nine-acre hotel property. An extension of Manhattan's legendary art deco hotel, the new hotel will be the first Waldorf-Astoria property under the new brand, and is part of a $500 million investment to revitalize the Beverly Hilton. (After all, even the most legendary and glamorous LA ladies require touch-ups as they age...) The 120 room Waldorf-Astoria will be designed by Gwathmey, Siegal and Associates with contemporary architecture celebrating the city's luxury lifestyle. Together, both hotels will offer spacious gardens, a public art collection, new luxury residences, a destination pool area, and upgraded conference center. They're promising a one-of-a-kind hotel property-- two singular and separate hotel experiences in one location-- that is "unmatched in its diverse offerings, services and amenities for guests and residents of Beverly Hills." Look out, 90210.

Related Articles:

TravelWeekly, "Beverly Hills Hilton to add Waldorf-Astoria hotel to site"

HotelChatter, "Waldorf-Astoria Wants to Live in 90210"

Reuters, "Hilton plans Waldorf-Astoria in Beverly Hills"

Pick Your Passion at Mauna Lani Resort, Hawaii

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Mauna Lani

This could be heaven on earth. Situated on the sun-kissed Kohala Coast of Hawaii's Big Island, the AAA five-diamond Mauna Lani Resort is surrounded by a stunning landscape of volcanoes, lush rainforests, endless beaches, and waterfalls. There's tennis, water sports, a children's camp, two championship golf courses, an epic Spa (with a naturally heated lava rock sauna and Aquatic Body Therapy facility), Sport and Fitness Club, and five exquisite dining venues. Because the choices are endless-- a round of golf on the challenging North Course (built on a lava bed older than the Kaniku flow?) or a massage at Hawaii's premier Mauna Lani Spa?-- the good folks at Mauna Lani have made the decision a bit easier for their guests with the "Pick Your Passion" Package. With a full array of exciting options, this package may be the perfect way to discover your favorite activity at the most romantic spot in Hawaii. The "Pick Your Passion" Package includes lodging and one certificate per person (per room night) valid for one of the following: breakfast, lunch or dinner, day of unlimited golf, Golf Academy Session, Spa treatment, personal fitness training, snorkel or sunset cruise, scuba dive, and a volcano helicopter tour. Starting at $595, available until December 19, 2007. So stay five days and discover five new passions.

Winterlicious at Windsor Arms Hotel, Toronto

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Windsor Arms Hotel

Tis the season. The fourth annual Winterlicious culinary extravaganza will take Toronto by storm, starting January 26, 2007. For two delicious weeks, Toronto's superb restaurants dazzle diners with mouthwatering culinary events and the ever-popular prix fixe promotion at 130 top dining establishments. This incredible value is also available at Courtyard Cafe, the elegant dining room located at Toronto's most luxurious hotel, the Windsor Arms. A landmark since 1927, the fashionable boutique hotel is a favorite hideaway for celebrities visiting the city, who enjoy sophisticated service, lavish suites, luxurious spa, and fine dining. Courtyard Cafe is beautiful and romantic, and offers a brilliant dining experience with impeccable wait staff. For the 2007 Winterlicious, Windsor Arms Hotel will offer ever-popular prix fixe menus of $20 lunch and $35 dinner. (Beverages, tax, and gratuity are not included.) The lunch menu features starters like roast celeriac and leek puree (with crab claw tempura and coriander essence) and bonito crusted corn and salmon cakes (with red pepper-chile sauce and pickled mushroom fennel slaw), followed by main plates like sole "maki" roulade with prawn mousse, smoked paprika beurre blanc, fingerling confit and haricot vert. The dinner menu is equally as extravagant, with appetizer choices like roasted beets, balsamic poached strawberries, tender greens, mascarpone bavarois and cashew pumpkinseed vinaigrette, followed by braised beef short-ribs with black bean-sherry reduction, white bean ragout and maple roasted brussel sprouts. Created in house, the heavenly desserts are designed to seduce the eyes and delight the palate. Choose from chocolate terrine with pistachio creme anglaise and candied mandarin zest, chocolate walnut roulade with dolce leche mousse and late-harvest wine poached kumquat, or almond-apricot joconde cake with cassis sauce.