March 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
At last, a luxury destination hotel for business travelers in the heart of Indiana's capital. The Conrad Indianapolis debuts today (and Conrad's been prepping for this opening ceremony for months!) The 241 guest rooms are loaded with technology and amenities for business travelers: 42 inch flat screen TVs with satellite, high speed wireless internet, spacious work areas, three telephones and fax. In addition, the hotel's got ample meeting space (10,000 sq ft. of it), excellent spa facilities, and fine dining. The Vitesse tapas and caviar bar may even lure East and West coasters into the depths of the Heartland's fly-over territory.
The best cure for the winter blues? With the arctic blasts continuing to rage through the northeast (and southeast for that matter), we've desperately sought the answer. Flee west, my friend, to the deluxe desert spa resorts of the southwest! Where balmy winds and dry desert heat are as much a tonic as the superlative body treatments at the destination spas like Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. And the award-winning Sanctuary dazzles in more ways than one; the luxurious casitas-- with outdoor balconies, wood-burning fireplaces, and outdoor soaking tubs enclosed within its own private patio-- are surrounded by dramatic mountain landscapes, while the Sanctuary Spa is renowned the world over for its Asian-inspired treatments and spectacular setting.
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, Official Site
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, Five Star Alliance
The media is abuzz: Louisville's 21C is the hottest thing this side of the Mississippi. The newly-opened boutique hotel-- listed on the National Register of Historic Places-- is part of what the New York Times calls Louisville's "downtown renaissance." The 90 rooms (including six premier suites) are elegantly decorated and are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including 42' flat-screen televisions and WiFi. But this masterpiece is not merely a luxury boutique hotel; 21C is also a museum of contemporary art, housing pieces from the owner's mind-blowing $10 million art collection. (Philanthropists Steve Wilson and Laura Brown, a husband and wife team, are the co-developers.)
March 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The award-winning hotel that is oft considered the best city hotel in the United States has a dining room to match. Seasons Restaurant is an opulent dining experience, both in its gorgeous seventh-floor setting overlooking Chicago's avenues, and in its creative Franco-American cuisine. The new executive chef brings with him an 11 year career with the company. A Chicago native, Hickey is a frequent shopper of neighborhood ethnic markets, incorporating local, organic products into his distinct menus of American cuisine.
Seven months ago, four-star executive chef Robert Sulatycky left Seasons for Napa Valley to pursue his dream of becoming a winemaker. Since the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels are sister properties, that left Kevin Hickey, the executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, responsible for the entire kitchens of both hotels. The guy says he has literally been running across the street in his chef whites as many as four times a day, "writing menus, driving the creative force, being involved with events." How do you do it? Dish asked. "I don’t know," Hickey replied, "but I delegated a lot. I have great sous chefs and put a little bit more work on their shoulders." One set of those shoulders belongs to the executive sous chef at the Ritz, Mark Payne, a UK native with credentials that include nine years with the Four Seasons family from properties in Nevis (West Indies) to New York City. Clearly Payne and Hickey each performed at the top of their culinary game because Hans Willimann, general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, has announced that as of April 1st, Hickey will become the executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel and Payne will be promoted to the top toque position at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Both chefs expect to have their new dining room menus in place by mid-May.
March 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
To many, the Hotel Jerome is the symbol of Aspen. Opened in 1889 at the height of Colorado's silver boom, the grand Victorian hotel is now a National Register Landmark. Just minutes from downtown Aspen and surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Jerome is magnificent. The gorgeous rooms, the essence of comfortable elegance and sophistication. Each luxurious guest room is individually decorated, equipped with fully stocked mini-bar, luxurious terry bathrobes, DVD, double line telephones, fax lines, high-speed internet access, and oversized tubs with separate shower. Other perfect amenities include the year-round heated pool and two Jacuzzis, exquisite dining, and all sorts of kid-friendly activities.
From April 9- May 24, take advantage of the "Spring in Aspen" package, for an unbelievable $265 for Deluxe King accommodations. In addition, the "Ski Deal" package is available through April 16. The package offers excellent value, combining luxurious hotel accommodations and two lift tickets daily. From April 2 to 16, package rates start at $320 a night, double occupancy, during the week; or $370 on weekends. During Feb and March, that same package is at least $695 a night.
Hotel Jerome, Official Site
Hotel Jerome, Five Star Alliance
It's that time of year again. MGM Mirage-- which now owns over half of the hotel rooms on the Strip-- is spending a whole lot of cash on its Vegas spring cleaning. $800 million on upgrades, in addition to the $7 billion they're shelling out for the Project CityCenter development, expected to open in 2010. After all, you've got to spend money to make money, as the Las Vegas Sun explains: "the idea is to continue to attract big spenders." Last year they spent big bucks on upgrading a wing of MGM Grand, building high-end Skylofts, adding two restaurants from Chef Joel Robuchon, and serious upgrades at Mandalay Bay. What's in store with this year's spring cleaning? Renovation of the outdoor pool and beach area at Mandalay Bay to add a bunch of new deck space and cabanas. Remodeling of the Rumjungle bar and revamping of the 3950 restaurant, with the addition of a celebrity chef. A new nightclub at Luxor. A new restaurant and bar at Excalibur. A new Japanese restaurant at Mirage. And the biggest upgrade of all: a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the music of the Beatles, to debut in May at the Mirage.
After the tragic mess left by Hurricane Wilma, Cancun is slowly making a comeback. The Presidente Intercontinental Cancun Resort has recently reopened, with some profound improvements. They've renovated each guest room and suite, revamped the Club Floor, redesigned the lobby, enlarged the pool, added a new oceanfront bar with nightly live music, and added a new open air restaurant. Not to mention a wider (and whiter) beach. Actually, as the hotel explains:
due to its privileged location, added more than 15 feet of additional frontage to its spectacular private beach, one of the largest and most beautiful in Mexico and featured as one of the "World's Best Beaches" by the Travel Channel.
Forget the spring break hordes (they're all in Key West and Panama City, anyway); now's the time to head south of the border.
Palma de Mallorca-based Barcelo Hotels and Resorts recently acquired the five-star Karmina Palace Hotel along Mexico's Pacific Coast near Manzanillo. The 324 all-suite, all-inclusive resort has long been known as a world-class, premium destination, and the new Barcelo management will surely only enhance that reputation. (Barcelo operates 10 luxury properties throughout Mexico.) This baby-- for which they shelled out $48.2 million-- is rated AAA Four Diamond and offers an 18-hole golf course, swanky accommodations, three restaurants and four bars, eight swimming pools with waterfalls, children's club, fitness center and spa, and a theater. The Barcelo Karmina Palace Hotel is uber-family-friendly, and superior service is not abandoned with the convenience of the all-inclusive plan.
Here in Washington we're already going gaga over the annual flowering of the Cherry Blossoms. The festival doesn't get rocking until next weekend, but the flowers are a-blooming and travelers are enjoying the best time of year to visit the nation's capital. Below I've compiled some articles for your perusal and pleasure:
National Cherry Blossom Festival, Official Website
The Washington Post, "2006 Cherry Blossom Guide"
Fodor's Travel Wire, "Think Pink: Spring Cherry Blossom Festivals"
Fodor’s Travel Wire, "Essential Washington, D.C."
The Informed Traveler, "Luxurious DC Cherry Blossom Package at The Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington"
March 17, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Tony Ryan-- founder of Europe's beloved and enormously successful airline Ryanair (this is the airline that paved the way for the new model of competitive low-fare carriers, after all)-- is investing in a new low-fare airline in Mexico. Viva AeroBus will take off in September, servicing major Mexican domestic markets as well as big US cities like LA and Houston.