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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.

The Newest Hotel in Venice, Italy: The Bauer Palladio Hotel and Spa


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Bauer Palladio

The media's abuzz about the latest five-star hotel in Venice. Opened in June, Bauer's magnificent Palladio Hotel and Spa joins the ranks of Il Palazzo and the Bauer Hotel. Housed in a Renaissance building designed in the year 1500, the former convent was converted into a luxury hotel by the world-renowned Bauer Hotels. Located on its own private island across the basin from the other Bauer hotels, the Palladio boasts breathtaking lagoon views. The 50 elegant guestrooms are beautifully detailed with the finest paint decoration and tapestries. The spa is slated to open in September, and will offer a variety of wellness therapies, specialized massages and facials. Beauty treatments will incorporate the Daniela Steiner Skin Care System. This luxury hotel is a rare jewel in Venice, with its secluded location amidst private gardens on Giudecca island.


Hidden Gems in San Diego: The Britt Scripps Inn


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Britt Scripps Inn

Located in the heart of San Diego, just steps from Balboa Park, the beaches, and the Gaslamp District, the Britt Scripps Inn is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the country. The authentically restored Inn oozes romance, Victorian splendor, and contemporary luxury. Each of the nine elaborately appointed guest rooms has been lovingly restored to reflect the craftsmanship and grandeur of the turn-of-the-century. The Queen Ann style inn is bedecked with a wealth of period antiques, rugs, hand-carved oak staircase, wrap-around porch, and a two-storey original stained-glass window wall. The rooms were created with comfort in mind, and don't skimp on the modern technology, including flat screen LCD TVs, high speed Internet access, heated towel racks, and the very finest in linens-- 1,000 thread count sheets. Complimentary full American breakfast is served each morning and the end of day sees a complimentary artisan cheese and wine gathering in the parlor.


Diving Adventures at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Banyan Tree Maldives

Discover the paradise island of the North Atoll and the luxury of Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru, just 20 minutes by speedboat from the airport. On this slice of heaven, 48 villas are perched on the sand, surrounded by nothing but the vast expanse of turquoise ocean. Gaze out at the sea from your own personal sundeck, or step onto the powder soft beach to swim above the untouched coral reef with its vast array of colorful tropical fish. To enjoy these magnificent marine creatures of the Maldives, the Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru has put together an awesome Wonders of the Sea Adventure package, where certified divers, guided by PADI-certified instructors, discover the sting rays, green sea turtles, dolphins, and white tip sharks in the deep. Available from July 1 to December 19, 2006, the eight-day, seven-night package offers a series of six dives with villa rates starting from $740 per night per couple. Includes half board meals, exclusive accommodation at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and return speedboat transfers between the airport and the resort. At its five-star Gold Palm Resort Dive Center, the Banyan Tree offers the full range of PADI courses. Notably, Banyan Tree employs marine biologists who offer environmental dives and eco-safaris. The Marine Biology Laboratory, the first of its kind to be built by a private resort, works on important conservation and research projects, including Green Sea Turtle and Reef Shark Conservation.


Fine Dining in Las Vegas: Prime Steakhouse at The Bellagio


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Bellagio

Where to find the best steakhouse in the Wild West? Vegas, baby, Vegas, where The Bellagio features Prime Steakhouse (among all of its many award-winning restaurants). Superstar Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees a superb staff at this gorgeous lakeside establishment, packed with Baccarat chandeliers and plush furnishings. Resembling a 1930's style speakeasy, the restaurant evokes a bygone era. Enjoy a sumptuous meal accompanied by heavenly drink (the wine cellar is brimming with California reds and first growth Bordeaux), followed by a hand-crafted cigar. As always, Zagat says it best: "if the Rat Pack were still around, they'd congregate here" for "marvelous" meat, "martini-centric drinks", "theatrical decor" and "fantastic" fountain views."


Summer on the Med: Gran Hotel Son Julia in Mallorca


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Mallorca

Recently featured in House and Garden magazine, the Gran Hotel Son Julia in Mallorca is a small luxury hotel housed in an exquisite 15th century mansion. Not far from Palma de Mallorca and the Mediterranean coast, the hotel offers 24 stunning rooms and suites, including the Imperial Suite, which overlooks the spectacular countryside and groves of almond trees from its perch on the top floor of the hotel. The hotel balances historical details-- high beamed ceilings and original archways—with all the modern conveniences, including spacious all-marble bathrooms, jacuzzis, internet, and plasma screen TVs. Walk the beautiful grounds, relax by the pool, play a game of tennis, hit the gym, or relax in the spa. Two 18-hole golf courses are within 2 minutes of the property. The dining experience at Las Bovedas Restaurant is first-rate; delicious dishes are served in a beautiful environment. Enjoy an unforgettable break on the island of Mallorca with special summer rates starting at EUR 240 a night for two people (in a Superior Room).


Free Fourth Night at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Just outside the charming historical city of Charleston, South Carolina, Kiawah Island Golf Resort is a secluded haven of unspoiled beaches, championship golf (five courses! including the world-famous Ocean Course), and nature trails through lush semi-tropical wetlands where alligators, egrets and other natural residents seek refuge. This oceanside resort is likewise paradise for the guests who flock here-- to experience the luxurious accommodations and abundant recreational facilities which provide fun for the whole family to enjoy. Ranked as a top travel destination in North America by Conde Nast Traveler, Kiawah Island offers a slew of lavish accommodations from the fine rooms at The Sanctuary to condos, from private oceanfront homes with private docks to the well-appointed villas with breezy balconies overlooking the sea. And for a limited time, when you reserve a three night stay in the villas, receive an additional night for free! Or stay two nights in a villa, and receive a 50 percent discount on your third night. Both offers includes breakfast for two each day. Valid through December 30, 2006; reserve by September 15, 2006.


An Interview with the General Manager


By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Jonathan Critchard is the General Manager of the five-star deluxe Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments in London. He has held the position since 1993 and has over 21 years experience heading some of the most prestigious hotels and residences in the United Kingdom and worldwide. He has left his professional imprint on Blakes Hotel, The Hempel, The Dorchester and 3A Palace Green (the world's most luxurious apartment complex located in Kensington Palace Gardens in London); Amberley Castle in West Sussex and The Regent in Hong Kong.

Jonathan Critchard

Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?

Mr. Critchard: By good fortune

Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?

Mr. Critchard: We are family owned and have a warm, friendly and intimate persona.

Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?

Mr. Critchard: Our market is predominantly from the USA. We have a repeat guest factor of 45% which is split between corporate and leisure business.

Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?

Mr. Critchard: The best thing about our location is that it is incredibly central and situated right opposite Green Park. My favorite thing to do in the surrounding area is to enjoy the open spaces of London’s parks.

Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?

Mr. Critchard: Unfortunately not, we are renowned for our discretion in the entertainment industry.

Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages?

Mr. Critchard: All our apartments are individual and unique, offering both contemporary and traditional styles of decor. 30% of our hotel rooms have stunning views overlooking Green Park.

Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Perhaps a bit of history? Any special events that have taken place on property?

Mr. Critchard: AA Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh used to live in our apartments. During the war Winston Churchill spent a lot of time in the Down Street underground station, opposite the side of the hotel, and rumor has it, that we kept him supplied with his favorite drink of Pol Roger.

Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?

Mr. Critchard: What is their service ethic, how warm is the welcome, and I focus on the quest for both comfort and service.

Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager?

Mr. Critchard: To juggle a myriad of priorities and key issues to help determine what is best for the business, people and guest.

Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?

Mr. Critchard: The Peninsula in Hong Kong which is the epitome of quality service. Gravetye Manor in Sussex which is a classic country house hotel in stunning surroundings, which offers a wonderful old world charm, hospitality and service.

Five Star Alliance: Anything else you would like our readers to know about your property?

Mr. Critchard: We have recently completed a major refurbishment of our ground floor public areas and dining facilities. This is part of an ongoing project desire to maintain our property to a high standard.

More info on the Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments.


Free Helicopter Transfer at the Sivory Punta Cana, Dominican Republic


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Sivory Punta Cana

Imagine… landing on the beach, not at any Heli port, enjoying beach check-in with champagne and cold towel service, and heading straight to your suite, bypassing the lobby. The hottest new boutique hotel in the Caribbean, the Sivory Punta Cana, is offering a free helicopter transfer with a 3-night stay, until December 15, 2006 (book by October 15, 2006). Located on the soft white sand of the eastern top of the Dominican Republic, the 55-room Sivory Punta Cana has nothing but suites: each Balinese-style room opens onto its own private garden, with ocean views. Choose from three different restaurants, inside or out, by the pool, on your own private terrace, or next to the beach. Indulge in a luxurious treatment at the Aquarea Wellness and Spa, relax by the gorgeous infinity-edge pool, or play tennis, scuba dive, mountain bike. This could be heaven. (Free helicopter transfer is based upon the following conditions: 3 night minimum stay, purchase of Sivory Meal Plan, available from Punta Cana airport only, subject to weather conditions.)


Destination Lyon, France and the Villa Florentine


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Villa Florentine

Located in the middle of the Cotes du Rhone wine-growing region, the historic city of Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France. An important artistic and cultural center, Lyon traces its roots back to the ancient Romans, when Lyon was the capital of the Roman territories of Gaul in 43 BC. The cobble-stoned streets, colorful Medieval buildings, and outdoor cafes of the Old City are all protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Looming above Vieux Lyon is the hill where the Romans built an exquisite amphitheater—still used today for summer concerts—and next door, the 19th century Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. The Villa Florentine is the place to stay in Lyon, offering panoramic views of the city from its perch above the Old Town, an unrivalled setting. With its elegant facade and Renaissance art and architecture, this Relais and Chateaux property exhibits a gorgeous Florentine style. Enjoy the region's famed gastronomy and a glass of Cote du Rhone at the terrace restaurant, while gazing out over the city. Rooms are sumptuous and modern, and the outdoor pool is breathtaking.


Conrad Chicago’s August Terrace Movie Nights Line Up


By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

In case you missed "The Terrace Movie Nights" at the Conrad Chicago Hotel in July, you still have more chances to unwind in their chic outdoor setting this August. On Sunday and Monday nights you can enjoy watching one of the following movies while also having fantastic cityscape views. The Conrad Chicago Terrace August Line up: 6/6 – Lawrence of Arabia 6/7 – Oliver 6/13 – The Sting 6/14 – Amadaus 6/20 – Great Expectations 6/21 – All the President’s Men 6/27 – Tootsie 6/28 – Out of Africa ****** All movies subject to change ******