LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
January 16, 2008
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Escape the winter chill and get a 5th night free at Casa de Campo, the Dominican winter playground that boasts just about every single recreational activity on the planet. Tennis? The luxurious La Terraza Tennis Center awaits you-- with its 13 har-tru courts overlooking the resort and sea. Polo and horseback riding? You bettcha. Golf? Only some of the most celebrated, Peter-Dye-designed greens in the world. The spa offers a slew of rejuvenating services including exfoliating clay baths. Plus there's a dual-level pool with cascades and a swim-up bar, plenty of water sports from the beach, and an extensive children's program. Enjoy all this, while soaking up the Caribbean elegance and abundant natural beauty of the resort. Did we mention that it's all-inclusive?
Snow-capped peaks loom over olive groves and the crashing surf at the seaside eco-marine town of Kaikoura. Sandwiched between the sea and the mountains, halfway between Christchurch and Picton on the rugged east coast of New Zealand's South Island... Welcome to one of the most spectacular settings on earth. In this majestic spot, a family of designers and architects has created an eco-friendly luxury lodge unlike any place on earth. Hapuku Lodge is a treetrop retreat with solar-heated showers, spacious bathrooms, handcrafted furniture, multiple dining rooms, and even meeting venues. But the best part of all is the gasp-inducing 360 degree views from the hotel's perch 30 feet off the ground in the trees. To quote Outside Magazine, "'I joke with guests that over breakfast you can decide whether you want to go surfing or skiing,' says H. Justin Stafford-Wilson, whose father opened the lodge in 2002."
Ahhh, The Breakers. South Florida's bastion of style is truly the ideal winter escape. Since 1896, this Italian Renaissance-style palace has been welcoming chilled winter guests to thaw in luxury on the ocean. And with the gorgeous $15 million beachfront redevelopment, The Breakers continues to delight its guests with its indulgent beachfront experience. L'Escalier, the hotel's AAA Five-Diamond award-winning restaurant, is presenting its wildly popular wine dinners this winter. Master Sommelier Virginia Philip has partnered with celebrated winemakers to present magnificent food and wine pairings. A reception with tastings is followed by a four-course dinner artfully prepared by L'Escalier's culinary team. On Thursday, January 24, 2008, guests will be delighted by winemakers from Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron and Chateau Suduiraut. Priced at $450 per person. [Map]
Caesars Palace Las Vegas is the world's best known resort-casino, celebrating the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome in an 85-acre destination location that sets the standard for entertainment, dining and luxury. Caesars Palace is in the final stages of their Forum Tower renovations - where all the rooms, suites, corridors and elevator lobbies are being renovated top to bottom.
Available to book as of January 31, 2008, with travel beginning in April, the new Forum Tower Rooms will be considered an upgrade room in addition to the Palace and Augustus Towers. Forum Tower Rooms will now feature two LCD televisions (the second built into the bath mirror), wired and wireless Internet service, iPod docking station, oversized showers with dual rain bath showerheads, plus more.
A free night in NYC? The city that's notorious for the cost of its hotel rooms? Bring it on! Manhattan's Signature Collection of luxury hotels-- including the The Carlyle, Loews Regency, Four Seasons, The Peninsula, The Ritz-Carlton Central Park and the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, Mandarin Oriental, Hotel Plaza Athenee, Jumeirah Essex House, The St. Regis Hotel, The Waldorf Astoria, and Trump International Hotel and Towers-- have announced this incredible promotion for Winter 2008. Guests receive a complimentary reservation for a third night at participating hotels after paying for the first two nights, until February 29, 2008. Now here's your chance to stay another night, experience all the city has to offer and enjoy the city's finest hotels at tremendous value! Plus, Signature Collection Third Night guests will receive a VIP package at Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store as an added benefit, including an exclusive personal shopping experience.
Cliff Atkinson was promoted to General Manager of the Gramercy Park Hotel in July 2007 after joining as the Hotel Manager in October of 2006 with more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Cliff Atkinson: I was recruited by Ian Schrager to be the Gramercy Park Hotel Manager in September 2006 and I assumed the General Manager position in July 2007. I was very excited to incorporate my traditional luxury hotel background with the modern luxury that Gramercy Park Hotel introduced to the market.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Cliff Atkinson: The best thing about our hotel's location is the access to Gramercy Park. My favorite thing to do on a Sunday is to grab a New York Times, with a morning coffee and sit in the park and read my paper all year round. It is so quiet and peaceful, right in the middle of New York City!
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? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?
Cliff Atkinson: My favorite rooms are our Loft rooms. They really feel like an artist’s loft from the 1920's… very Bohemian. I recommend our "05" rooms, which have fantastic bathrooms and a large open feel.
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?
Cliff Atkinson: The Private Roof Club access and the weekend Dim Sum brunch in Wakiya.
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?
Cliff Atkinson: I think there are five distinctive points about our hotel:
1. The unique design of the rooms. – They are different than anything in the market today, with a design created by Ian Schrager, the patriarch of the modern hotel industry and Julian Schnabel, a world renowned artist. The rooms set themselves apart from the usual homogeneous look of the majority of hotel rooms.
2. Our location – The Gramercy Park area is becoming the “new midtown”. It is close to both the traditional Midtown Manhattan shopping and the exciting dining and night life of downtown Manhattan. Plus, our location directly on Gramercy Park provides our hotel guests with an experience like no other by allowing exclusive access to New York’s only private park.
3. Our Food and Beverage – Our options for dining and entertaining are truly world class from our Chinese restaurant, Wakiya, to the exciting nightlife of our Rose Bar, to the comfortable, laid back garden atmosphere of our Private Roof Club. Guests don’t feel like they are in a hotel but rather a private mansion with an incredible selection of personal chefs!
4. Private Roof Club – There is simply nothing like our Private Roof Club anywhere in New York City. It is accessible to hotel guests only, it provides a private retreat with incredible artwork and is covered and temperature controlled 365 days a year. It is truly special.
5. Our Service – Our approach to service is the same approach I used at former Mobil Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotels and Resorts. Ian Schrager has the eye for the design and can create a hotel space like no other. It is my job to ensure the service is at the level you would experience at the World’s top luxury hotels packaged in this unique hotel casing.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Cliff Atkinson: Our hotel guests are the global luxury traveler, with over 40% international. The demographic spans all ages from young 20’s to mid 60’s – anyone who wants a luxury experience that is special, unique and personal.
More About Mr. Atkinson:
Prior to joining the Gramercy Park Hotel, Cliff worked for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group for seven years and held various positions within the company, most recently as the Executive Assistant Manager for Mandarin Oriental, New York. Before Mandarin Oriental, New York, Cliff was the director of Revenue Management for the Group’s properties in North America and Europe from 2000 – 2003. Cliff began his career in the hospitality industry with Hilton Hotels in Revenue Management and as Director of Front Office Operations and other various management positions in Rooms Division.
Cliff attended City College of San Francisco with a degree in Hospitality Management as well as the University of San Francisco and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Cliff resides in Manhattan with his wife Jennifer and is currently pursuing his MBA.
Live the legend at the glamorous Parisian landmark, Hotel Meurice. It's not just the prestigious location on the rue de Rivoli-- facing the Tuileries Gardens-- that makes this the "hotel of kings." Host to royalty and the international jetset, the Hotel Meurice is Paris at its most posh and fashionable. Fashion week is on the horizon, so why not plan a trip to the City of Light to check out all the action and get pampered like a celeb at the fabulous Hotel Meurice? Surrounded by cafes and trendy boutiques in the heart of the chic 1st arrondissement, the Meurice is smack dab in the middle of it all in Paris. Special offer: If you book with Five Star Alliance, you get a free bottle of champagne in-room upon arrival.
Escape the cold and enjoy serious savings in the postcard-perfect Turks and Caicos islands, the newest "it" spot in the Caribbean. Just because it's January doesn't mean the holidays have to end. The award-winning Regent Palms has some last minute getaways that are too good to be true. Plus, you can scope out the brand new Regent Spa which just opened this month. Book the "Welcome to 2008" package and get five nights for the price of four in a Luxury Ocean View Room! You'll also score a 30 percent VIP discount on all signature massage services and two welcome cocktails as you watch the sun set over Grace Bay. The rate starts at $875 per night, available through January 31, 2008. Or book the "Four Night Holiday Recovery" and get a couple's massage, dinner for two at Parallel 23, an in-suite breakfast with champagne (complimentary continental breakfast on the other mornings), and complimentary non-motorized water sports. Valid until January 26, 2008, priced at $3,360. Nota Bene: Kids under 12 stay free at The Regent Palms!
Hot off the press. Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report-- a connoisseur's worldwide guide to peaceful and unspoiled places-- just released the list of 2008 Grand Award Winners. (Subscription to this monthly pub, targeting the affluent traveler, costs $499 per year.) The elite bunch in the U.S. and Canada that snagged the award? British Columbia's Wickaninnish Inn, The Wheatleigh in the Berkshires, Montana's Resort at Paws Up, and the Heritage House in Mendocino, Cali.
In the age when so many hotels suffer deficiencies of design-- weird showers and light configurations, complex alarm clocks, bizarre remote controls-- the new Peninsula Tokyo is absolute perfection. Not only does it have a superb location, spa, and luxurious facilities, but it also offers honest-to-goodness comfort and a true home away from home experience. As the New York Times recently raved,
There is a place, however, where many of these failings have been conquered though intuitive technology and smart design, a place marked by such endemic comfort and ease that home itself begins to seem like a downgrade. It is the newest Peninsula hotel, a 24-story building opposite Hibiya Park in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo, with what may be the world's most fully thought-through hotel rooms.
The technology is mind-blowing. Phones which show the time and weather of your hometown when you call to confirm you've arrived. Adjustable humidity levels in the room. Lavazza espresso machines. No-fog television screens in the bathrooms, along with remote controls for light and music (and a unique "spa" function in the tub, which automatically softens the lights and changes the music). Skype built in to the telephones. Portable phones which work all over the hotel, and switch to cellular networks when you take them in the street.
Book the Suite Life package and get the second night free when you reserve a two-night stay. Or enjoy the Winter Escape promotion, from JPY 56,000, choose a room upgrade, or dining and spa credit-- along with complimentary daily breakfast, Internet, and access to the Fitness Club.