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 New York Times Reviews The James Hotel New York

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The James New YorkIn typical New York Times fashion, Sunday's Travel section was a whopper. A fantastic piece on Paris by Matt Gross, Fall Foliage Deals in the "Practical Traveler" column, and "Caves and Kayaks in a Quiet Corner of Thailand." We were also pleased to see an in-depth review of one of our fave hotels, The James in New York. From its location at the edge of SoHo to its rooftop pool and art collection, it's hard to pinpoint what we love most about this place. Here's a memorable quote from the most venerable of papers:

...The hotel’s striking lobby offers free use of Apple computers, alongside free happy-hour wine with snacks. Each floor features work by a different contemporary artist, with explanatory texts and mobile tagging. There’s also a small rooftop bar and heated pool; a well-equipped gym; the Treetop terrace bar; and a restaurant, David Burke Kitchen, serving modern American fare. The mini-bar was chockfull of healthy organic snacks, as well as an “intimacy kit.”...


Bottom line: If you picture life as a magazine spread-- where the architecture is modern, the art cutting-edge and everything else organic or free-range — then the James New York may fit you to a T.

Interested in seeing photos or booking the hotel? Click here.

Caribbean Escapes: The BodyHoliday in St. Lucia Reopens after Renovation

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The BodyHoliday, Saint Lucia

News from the postcard-perfect Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. The BodyHoliday-- the all-inclusive resort famous for its promise "Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind"-- has opened its doors after a $20 million makeover. The renovation added a brand new infinity pool; doubled the size of the Watersports Center; and upgraded the resort's public spaces and dining venues. Not to mention the all-new, open-plan Penthouse Suite-- complete with a marble hammam and a soaking tub for two with sea views. What's more- the resort is introducing two new beauty partnerships to guests: THALGO, a high-end marine-based skincare and beauty line available at the wellness center, and REN, a bioactive skincare line available in-room.

Candy and Kitties: Kimpton Does Customer Service Right

By: Christopher Roney

Sometimes hotel news is awesome.  HotelChatter reports that a guest of the Hotel Monaco Portland wrote to jokingly request a “a bed full of puppies” and “a bathtub full of Reese’s Pieces” two weeks before his stay.  On top of this, he wished to be treated like a man “just acquitted of quintuple homicide charges.” Two weeks later he had completely forgotten, but arrived to discover a bowl of reese’s pieces atop his dresser and a hand-written note congratulating him for exonerating himself.  The Kimpton concierge wrote, "there weren't any spare puppies, but this kitten looked lonely and needed some love.  We've been calling him "Whiskers," and even threw in a $10 coupon for the minibar.

In my mind, this is what customer service should be. There’s so much effort put into standardizing across brands so people are comfortable and know what to expect, but it’s the unique experiences that really create a memorable trip. We would never go to a McDonald’s or a Subway for a gourmet meal and it’s just so with the hotel world. I’d rather have an experience tailored specifically to me than even the most luxurious industry standards. If a hotel’s staff is having fun, the guests will be, too.  So next time you book your stay at the Hotel Monaco Portland, or anywhere else, try cracking a few jokes, and who knows? You might just be rewarded for it.

Tango in Buenos Aires with Palacio Duhau

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Park Hyatt Buenos AiresTraveling to Buenos Aires? Check into the Palacio Duhau- Park Hyatt Buenos Aires for a taste of rich Porteño heritage. The hotel combines the Belle Époque splendor of a 1930's palace with the contemporary conveniences of today. (Located on Avenida Alvear, in the heart of the Recoleta district, the Palacio is connected to the newly-built Posadas building by an underground walkway.) It's stylish and cosmopolitan- just like the city itself. As part of the "Culture at the Park" package, you can choose between a three-hour private guided tour of the city (with transportation included), or a private Tango lesson for two followed by attendance at a Milonga (Tango) party. But this isn't just any old Tango lesson. You'll learn the steps in the privacy of the Palacio's historic rooms (Los Salones de Piano Nobile), featuring magnificent views of the garden, restored oak floors, and the original boisserie that was recovered and worked by craftsmen with silver foil. Tango lessons are accompanied by a selection of Argentinian tapas and a special wine menu. The "Culture at the Park" package also includes daily breakfast with your luxury accommodations.

Kick Off the Ski Season with a Free Night at Park City's Grand Summit Resort

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Grand Summit Hotel at Canyons Resort, Park City

The first snow storm of the year has hit Utah, and ski hounds may already be jonesing for their first taste of the mountains. Canyons Resort in Park City has a fab "Season Starter Special" so you can take advantage of all that fresh powder on the slopes when the season officially kicks off in 50 days. The snow-obsessed can get one more exhilarating night in the mountains-- on the house. Come early in the season-- any time between November 24 and December 13, 2011-- and get your fourth night free at Canyons' preferred properties like The Grand Summit Hotel- a AAA Four-Diamond resort that boasts an exceptional ski-in / ski-out location, great service and "livable luxury." Come between December 14th and 17th, and it’s the fifth night you get for free. You'll get a thrill out of the resort's 4,000 acres of unparalleled ski and snowboarding terrain.

Hotel Review Guide: Reviewing the Reviews

By: Christopher Roney

hotel comic strip

Hello friends/acquaintances/internet (wo)men,

Today I want to take some time out of my busy schedule to address an important issue in the hotel world.  Randall Munroe of XKCD has been kind enough to bring to our attention one of the problems plaguing hotels and travelers alike: The bogus hotel review. Who are these evil people who are out to ruin the reputation of perfectly good hotels and steer you wrong in your vacation plans? Are they fun-hating scrooges who kick puppies and steal candy from babies? Maybe. But that doesn’t have much to do with writing reviews. Maybe instead they’re hired guns engaging in intricate plots of corporate espionage, compromising their rivals with claims of bed bugs and sticky-fingered staff. Or maybe they’re just entitled people full of rage at some perceived slight: “Agh, my muffin wasn’t cut in half for me! Worst hotel ever!!!”

We may never know for sure. But what we do know is this: Telling the real reviews from the fake is just as important as any step in the booking process. And it can be really difficult to do so. Here’s a couple of tips I’ve picked up in my time working with online reviews.

1.Don’t base your decision off a single negative review. Look at the aggregate of a hotel’s reputation online and across more than one site.  Some of the biggest review sites are so worried about trustworthiness, they're changing their slogans.  Any mistake can be made once, but the mark of a problem is when more than one person on more than one site points out the same bad service.

2.Go to the experts. If industry staples are reviewing a hotel well, it’s unlikely that poor reviews are anything but an anomaly. And conversely if it’s getting bad reviews, you might want to think twice about booking. This isn’t to say you should ignore customer reviews, however. Professional reviews are great at getting drilling deep into the nitty-gritty of a hotel stay and evaluating across multiple hotels, but customers are more likely to spot the most recent changes in a hotel’s practices. If a hotel has taken a turn for the worse, customers will be the first to know.

3.Pay attention to the language.  According to a study by Cornell researchers, if a reviewer itemizes every experience they had, mentions the name of the hotel, and uses a lot of exclamation points, there’s a chance that it’s been generated by the hotel itself. Plenty of people enjoy their stays and want to gush about them, but very few will take the time to give you an itemized list of everything you can see and do there.

4. Above all, trust your instincts. Ultimately, reading online reviews is about reading the people who wrote them, and even after only a couple of sentences you’ll have a good sense of who is trustworthy. If you think someone sounds like a fake or is completely irrational, don’t let them color your judgment.

Reading reviews is certainly anything but a science, but hopefully with these tips, you can be a little more confident in your next choice to book some of the world’s top hotels.

Comic via XKCD

Hotel Buzz: St. Regis Florence Completes 10-Month Restoration

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

St. Regis FlorenceHot off the press! Starwood has unveiled a dazzling hotel in Florence, Italy. After a 10-month restoration, the property that was formerly called the Grand Hotel Florence has been reborn as a St. Regis- meaning it features the signature St. Regis Butler service and St. Regis Aficionado program, providing guests with insider access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Talk about historical grandeur! This hotel was originally designed in 1432 by Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, and is one of the city's most culturally significant buildings. The 81 guest rooms-- including the opulent designer suite by Bottega Veneta-- are decked out with paintings, decorative antiques, frescos and crystal chandeliers-- thus paying homage to local Florentine artisans. Overlooking the Arno River, the hotel also features three Iridium Spa Suites for the ultimate in pampering. What we're most excited about? A stellar restaurant called Etichetta Pinchiorri, opened by the folks behind the Michelin three-star restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.

Check out the photos of the St. Regis Florence.

InterContinental Hotels Celebrates Responsible Business Week with National Geographic

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Presidente InterContinental Cozumel ResortFrom supporting local craftsmen in Romania to clean-ups of the reefs in Cozumel, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts knows responsible business. In fact, they've partnered with National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations to celebrate Responsible Business Week. Hotels around the world are "taking part in activities that ensure their location remains an appealing place to visit for future generations"- to quote the official press release. The protection and preservation of local environments is key. Examples of these geotourism initiatives include: InterContinental Boston's rooftop beehives that pollinate the flora in surrounding parks and provide local honey for the kitchen; InterContinental Bora Bora Resort's salt water air-conditioning system, the first in the world; Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort's environmental work to protect the reefs and marine life, teaching guests how to scuba dive responsibly. More details can be found here.

The Chocolate Bar & Dazzling City Brunch at The Langham Boston

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Langham Boston'Tis the season... for chowing down on some heart-warming fare. While in Boston, skip over to the Langham Hotel for one of the best brunches in town. Offered on Sundays from September to June, the famous City Brunch is a feast of epicurean delights. We're talking Artisanal Cheeses & Meats (like Duck Prosciutto wrapped Roasted Red Pear with Lavender Honey), a Raw Bar and East Coast Catches (shrimp, salmon, crab, oh my!), a Carving Station, and all kinds of heavenly Breakfast Specialties (Honey Strawberry and Banana Smoothie, Pecan Sweet Rolls, Cinnamon Sticks). From 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; priced $52 for Adults, $28 for Children 5-12, 4 and under free.

As the temperature cools, The Langham Boston is also heating things up with the return of its famous Chocolate Bar on Saturdays. Five interactive dessert stations feature varied chocolate content ranges. A selection of this season’s menu includes: mango white chocolate chili mousse parfait (0% cocoa), spiced pumpkin and milk chocolate cake (40% cocoa), dark chocolate brulee (50% cocoa), manjari chocolate and gruyere tart (60% cocoa), and guanaja cremeaux with olive oil and sea salt (70-80% cocoa).

Travel Trends: Hotel Lounges Exclusively for Teens

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, TucsonFrom special spa treatments to private guitar lessons for adolescents, hotels are noticing the teenager set. The latest trend in the hospitality world is the teen lounge created exclusively for teenagers at luxury hotels. Read: no adults allowed. At the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, the Blur Teen Lounge was an instant hit when it opened in April. Traveling with an adolescent can be tricky, but the Teen Lounge provides a separate area for independent-minded teens to hang out and relax, while still on hotel property. Another big attraction? All the technology, like iPads, an Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, a 46-inch LCD HDTV, and a DVD library. Also in Arizona: the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has an exclusive teen lounge called The Hang Out.