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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.

The Fabulous Evolution of the Hotel Mini-Bar

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Gramercy Park Hotel Mini-barIt all started back in 1963 with The Madison in Washington D.C., when the capital's landmark hotel decided to introduce a novelty: the in-room mini-bar! Fabulously convenient, stocked full of helpful items, the mini-bar is now universally appreciated (late-night snack binging!) and abhorred (scandalous overpricing!). Since its debut, the mini-bar has come a long way. In an era of truly over-the-top hotel amenities (baby butler service, pet pampering, unpacking and bath service), the mini-bar has been completely made over and sexed up.

Gramercy Park Hotel Mini-bar

Hotel Victor in Miami offers all kinds of decadent treats. A hotel this cool-- furnished by celebrity designer Jacques Garcia with retro furniture and an illuminated moon jellyfish tank in the lobby-- has gone one step further by introducing full-size in-room bars, stocked with a large range of liquor and "South Beach life-style essentials" like chilled eye masks.

The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta caters to female guests with practical items like stockings and nail-polish remover. Gentlemen, don't despair when you forget socks at home! The mini-bar is stocked with fresh pairs of black socks to match your dark suits.

Omni Hotels created Sensation Bars in cities like New York, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco with all sorts of items to create soothing mini-spa treatments in-room. Think sleep inducing CDs, lavender pillow sprays, eucalyptus bath salts and mini Zen gardens.

Hotel Mela Mini-bar

But the biggest trend of late is sex kits in the mini-bar. NY's 60 Thompson and Miami's Sagamore may have "Shag Bags," and the Montalembert in Paris has a "petite love box," but the Hotel Gansevoort has ticklers!

On a recent trip to New York, we snapped these shots of the goodies on-hand at the Hotel Mela and Gramercy Park Hotel. The mini-bar at Hotel Mela isn't refrigerated; instead you'll find a basket spilling delicious snacks, drinks, and an "Intimacy Kit." What's inside? Lifestyles, lubricant, and individually wrapped life savers. (We just couldn't resist buying one. As a *cough* souvenir...)

The mini-bar at Gramercy Park is nothing short of awesome (check out the pix). T-shirts, sweet treats... They've also got an Intimacy Kit, of course, but it's as classy as they come. And if things get too rowdy, there's a first-aid kit, to boot.

Curious? Be careful when you take that item from the mini-bar! Most of today's "smart" minibars have infra-red sensors (or wireless technology, found at the sophisticated Willard Intercontinental in Washington D.C.) that automatically records your purchase on your bill when you reach for, say, a bag of M&M's or something equally as tempting...

Photos Via Courtney May (top to bottom: mini-bar of Gramercy Park, Gramercy Park, Hotel Mela)

The Westcliff: Where to Stay in Johannesburg, South Africa

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The WestcliffJust 10 minutes from the city center, but worlds apart... The Westcliff basks in the sun on a hilltop in the city's posh northern suburbs, its cascading gardens and cobbled pathways reminiscent of Mediterranean hillside village. Soak in the heated infinity pool and check out the bird's eye view of the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens below; ogle the elephants during this unique "safari swim"! Play a match of tennis a mile high (literally- as Joburg is located some 6,000 feet above sea level) or hit the gym with a personal trainer. Mountain bikes are also available for guests to explore The Westcliff's historic surroundings. After a day in the city, return to this sumptuous sanctuary for a spa treatment at the Botanica Spa Suites (brand spanking new! Ready in mid Feb 2008) or relax in your guest room-- extravagantly sized and unashamedly indulgent. Private balconies and sunny patios showcase more of those sublime views. Book the Diamonds are Forever package and experience Johannesburg's world-renowned diamond industry at work. The two-night package, priced at R 5,700 per Luxury Room (R7,630 per Junior Suite), includes full English breakfast daily, a guided tour of one of Johannesburg's biggest diamond cutting factories - the Wesselton Diamond cutting center, and a 3 course a la carte dinner in the hotel's highly acclaimed La Belle Terrasse Restaurant.

Winter Specials: Stay like a Sultan at the Ciragan Palace, Istanbul

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Ciragan PalaceNow's your chance to stay in a genuine Ottoman Palace, Turkey's only imperial palace hotel, for a mere EUR 215 a night. Get luxury for less this winter 2008 with special weekend rates available at Istanbul's most glamorous hotel. Overlooking the Bosphorous Sea, the 282-room Ciragan Palace-- the former home of a line of Ottoman sultans-- was restored by the Kempinski Group for over $100 million in the 1990s. You'll find a lobby decked out in 19th century marble and mother-of-pearl. The stone latticework and marble colonnade of the façade were recreated by hand from materials salvaged onsite. Besides the glorious views, you'll enjoy a marvelous infinity pool (heated during the winter time), authentic Turkish Hammam, fine cuisine, and personal butler. Special winter weekend rates are priced at EUR 215 in a Park View room, and EUR 287 for a Bosphorous View Room. Valid Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday until March 31, 2008.

Highest Price per Room was The Point at Saranac Lake

By: Courtney W. May

The PointMore than $18 billion in upscale and luxury lodging facilities changed hands in 2007, according to Stephen Hennis, Managing Director of Hospitium. A total of 279 properties were traded last year and The Point at Saranac Lake in upstate New York garnered the highest price per room in 2007 at more than $2.7 million per room. With only 11 rooms on the property - $2.7 million per room is a steal when you consider that it has received the Mobil 5 Star award and is a member of Relais and Chateaux. Nightly room rates (they start around $1400 per night) are all-inclusive for two people, with carte blanche use of sports equipment and facilities, as well as three meals, afternoon tea, unlimited wine, liquor, and liqueurs from help-yourself bars open 24 hours a day. In the heart of the Adirondacks - on the shore of Upper Saranac Lake, The Point can be reached in six hours from Manhattan and three hours from Albany, New York. The hotel has a "Great Camp" motif with no phones and no televisions - definitely geared for people to get away.

Celebrate Valentines in Style: Maybourne Hotels, London

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Maybourne HotelsSteal away to London and spoil yourself with a stay at one of the capital's chicest hotels: The Berkeley, the deluxe Knightsbridge retreat that's home to Madonna's favorite Blue Bar and rooftop spa with glorious views over Hyde Park; Claridge's, known as London's art deco jewel, situated in the heart of Mayfair; The Connaught, the stylish hideaway that quietly re-opened in December after a multi-million pound restoration which brought together some of the world's finest designers and artisans. At these three Maybourne Hotels, you'll be spoiled by staff who accommodate every whim. During the month of February 2008, choose the Truly Madly Deeply package and you'll get one nights luxurious accommodation including English breakfast, a bottle of champagne, a fresh basket of fruit, roses in your room and bathrobes for the special couple. Starting from just GBP 395 per night.

What’s Hot: Wakiya Restaurant at Gramercy Park Hotel, New York

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Gramercy Park HotelIan Schrager's newest masterpiece has been the talk of the town since its 2006 opening. "Dazzling," "showstopping," "searingly hot"... Gramercy Park has established itself as one of NY's most happening hotspots. The eclectic, candle-lit Rose Bar was voted "Best Hotel Bar in New York City" by Citysearch 2007, and the Jade Bar is likewise an original and exciting public space, filled with custom-designed furniture by Julian Schnabel. And now the eagerly-anticipated new restaurant, Wakiya Gramercy Park Hotel, is dazzling diners with an innovative take on Chinese cooking, inspired by the traditional food of Shanghai, Szechuan, Canton and Beijing done from a Japanese culinary perspective. (Read: it's both healthy AND delicious!) Chef Yuji Wakiya is the man behind this new genre of Chinese cuisine; he was introduced to Ian Schrager by Nobu Matsuhisa. Don't miss the incredible Dim Sum Brunch. For reservations, call 212-995-1330.

Romance Made Easy at the Jefferson Hotel, Richmond

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Jefferson, RichmondNo plans for Valentine's Day? Richmond's historic jewel, simply brimming with Old World charm, has saved the day with a perfect Valentine's Day package. The Jefferson is one of the finest hotels in America and its romantic setting-- grand public rooms, sumptuous guest rooms and gracious service-- makes it easy to feel the love. Book the "Romance Package" and you'll get champagne and strawberries upon your arrival, one dozen red roses, a full American breakfast (via room service) and valet parking. All for just $350 a night in a Deluxe Room. For a Studio Suite, the package is priced at $450 per night.

Starwood’s Luxury Collection - Dreaming of Danieli

By: Courtney W. May

With 70 properties worldwide, Starwood's Luxury Collection is a group of unique hotels and resorts offering exceptional service to an ultra elite clientèle. Located in over 25 countries (even Ethiopia), the collection offers resorts, city-center high-rises, centuries old buildings, modern boutique properties, over water bungalows, and more. A current favorite of mine is the Hotel Danieli in Venice. Lagoon View at Hotel DanieliMade up of 3 interconnecting palaces - Dandolo Palace, Casa Nuova, and Danielino - the Danieli is steps away from Piazza San Marco, Doge's Palace, and the Bridge of Sighs. A great choice for special occasions and first visits to Venice are the Lagoon view rooms (pictured), some of which have a balcony - all are beautifully decorated in Empire or Venetian style and offer romantic views of the Venice lagoon.

NOTE: Guests making reservations at Hotel Danieli through Five Star Alliance will receive a traditional English high tea once during stay and, based on availability, a one category room upgrade at check-in. Pretty snazzy.

Fly in Luxury to London: Dynamite Deal on Silverjet

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

SilverjetIn honor of its first anniversary on January 25, 2008, Silverjet-- the exclusive, premium class airline with only 100 lie-flat seats on each aircraft-- is offering "very sivilised sale fares" of $1,500 RT between London (Luton) and Newark. Considering that these fares are valid for flights until October 31, 2008, including the summer months when flights to Europe are astronomical in price, this deal is a real steal. Simply enter the promotional code DAILYCANDY08 when booking at before January 30, 2008. You'll get to experience the convenience and luxury of a private jet at a fraction of the price (this special offer is over 35 percent off the standard roundtrip fares!) Plus, Silverjet is a carbon-neutral airline.

Buzzworthy: The Little Nell, Aspen Will Open New Luxury Hotels

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Little NellThe legendary après-ski scene at The Little Nell in Aspen is about to hit the road. Rumor has it that the five-star Little Nell is expanding as a brand, with other hotels slated for Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Snowmass. This is great news for Little Nell devotees, who have come to see the luxurious accommodations and impeccable service at The Little Nell as a benchmark for ski resorts worldwide.