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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.

Book Your London Hotel for the Olympics & Queen's Jubilee

October 4, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Athenauem Hotel and Apartments, London2012 will be a big year for Britain, says Travel Agent Magazine. London is prepping for a series of blockbuster events, starting with the Queen's Jubilee in June, honoring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne (can we say gigantic flotilla on the Thames?) If you're eager to get in on the action, and also partake in Olympic fever, it's best to book your hotel room ASAP. The USA Today reports that "hotels are expected to fill about 92% of their rooms, which will mean many sold-out nights"-- according to a new forecast from Pricewaterhouse Coopers. "And that's despite a number of new hotels that have opened, including Dorchester Collection's tony 45 Park Lane in Mayfair and Starwood's trendy W in the heart of Leicester Square."

Looking for a hotel in London or the surrounding area? Five Star Alliance has a number of recommendations- whether you want a family-friendly boutique hotel or an opulent palace on the Thames. There are also a slew of four-star hotels available.

Pictured: The Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments.


Tallinn It Like It Is: Estonia Is the New European Hot Spot

September 30, 2011
By: Christopher Roney

Three Sisters Hotel, TallinnThere are plenty of cities renowned for their superficial beauty: gorgeous city centers practically lined with monuments to the glory of architectural prowess and a developed tourism industry specifically designed to funnel you to the safest of orchestrated experiences. The façade is beautiful and idealized, but you never really see anything of the real city. And real cities have their own beauty to them – the beauty of people living their lives around you, the beauty of a city growing and changing beneath your feet.

In Tallinn, you can feel that pulse. It has all the same trappings and amenities of a modern European city, but everything feels more raw. You can touch the rough edges of the polished front, and that’s where the beauty of Tallinn lies. From the hopelessly kitschy restaurants catering to the crowd that steps off the ferry from Helsinki each day to the street hawkers who sell coins with the faces of American presidents, completely unrelated to the monuments they stand in front of, everything in Tallinn feels somehow more genuine than tourist experiences elsewhere. Their tourist industry is so obviously a costume for the city that you can see right through to the heart of a people still growing into their newfound wealth and independence. And it's fascinating and captivating to behold, both in the mix of traditional culture with ultra-modern amenities and in the way the people themselves engage with you.

The new European Silicon Valley, Tallinn is experiencing the same tech boom that hit California a decade ago, and the influx of money has revitalized and restored a city with a history that dates back to 1050, when the fort at the heart of the old town was first constructed. Forging their independence most recently in 1991, the city is exploding upwards and outwards. Despite this growth, the entire city is easily explored on foot from any of the top hotels in Tallinn, such as the Hotel Telegraaf and The Three Sisters Hotel, who each bring a modern glamour to the traditional architecture. From these outposts, it's easy to take a bike tour of the city, visit one of the oldest forts in Europe, and explore towers and monasteries that date back to the Teutons.

If you're at all interested in history or modern culture, Tallinn is a growing European gem that you just can't miss.


Luxury Launches: Beijing's New Gold Vending Machine

September 27, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Gold Vending Machine, BeijingLast May, the world gaped over the ATM-style gold vending machine installed at the Emirates Palace, one of the world's costliest hotels to build (at $3 billion). Called "Gold to Go," the machine dispenses customized coins or small bars up to 10 grams. Now we're getting word that China has followed suit, opening a gold vending machine in a busy shopping district in Beijing. We can't say we're surprised. A recent article in The Independent (UK), titled "Shanghai's Young High Rollers Splurge on Luxury," calls attention to the growing market for luxury goods in China, and millionaires keen to hedge their bets against inflation may cash in on gold. All we can say: look out for pickpockets.

Image via The Straits Times


Hot Rates: Spend the Holidays at the Westin San Francisco for $135

September 26, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Westin San Francisco Market StreetThis just in. We've found unbelievably low rates for the holiday period in San Francisco. Needless to say, we don't often see prices like this at four-star hotels in the City by the Bay. We're talking $135 per night when you reserve seven days in advance at the Westin San Francisco Market Street. But we say book today to ensure availability! Valid for stays from November 20-27 and December 2, 3, 11, 15-18 and 22-29. That's not all. When you stay two nights- and if you're a Facebook friend and Twitter follower of the hotel- you'll get a free upgrade to the next room category. Located in SOMA (the South of Market district), the hotel offers spectacular views of the city from floor-to-ceiling windows in every guest room. Plus, Westin Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Bath, flat-screen TVs, and High Speed Internet Access to make you feel right at home.


Personalized Gourmet Package at Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing

September 26, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Yannick Alleno at Shangri-La Hotel BeijingWe've been keeping our eye on this for many (hungry) months, and now star chef Yannick Alléno has opened the doors to his new S.T.A.Y. Restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing. For those not familiar with this French hot shot, his cuisine at Le Meurice in Paris has scored rave reviews, not to mention three Michelin stars, and he now has eateries around the world-- from Dubai to Marrakech and now Beijing. This is one of the Chinese capital's most anticipated restaurant openings... So it's little wonder we are drooling over the hotel's new Gourmet Package. Here's why: You get to savor a Beijing culinary journey personalized by the dynamite chefs at S.T.A.Y. Think five-course meal* with wine pairings at the Chef's Table, a guided tour of a local market, a to-die-for breakfast, a dim sum lesson, and a Chinese tea ceremony. And did we mention that the chefs can greet you at the airport... with Champagne? This fully customizable package is available until December 31, 2012, priced according to your itinerary.

*A few of the signature dishes at the resto include Quail Eggs with Coral Sea Urchin; Black Cod in Seaweed Butter, mmmmm...


Emerging Destinations: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

September 26, 2011
By: Oksana Balytsky

Tired of your typical vacation spots and looking to spice up your plans with a visit away from the norm? Then you’ll love our new blog series, Emerging Destinations! We’ll be featuring an exciting hotspot with every post that’s not your typical resort. So whether you’re looking for an exciting adventure or simply an escape to a new world, we guarantee to awaken your intrepid spirit, encouraging you to take a leap of faith and check out a new location for your next vacation!

Our first featured locale (drumroll please) is Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! According to Travelagentcentral.com, Vietnam is an emerging destination for high-end travelers, and with tourism on the rise, this once predominantly rural country is becoming a vacation hotspot. The Caravelle Hotel, located in the enchanting and captivating city of Ho Chi Minh, offers traditional refinement in an environment that is both elegant and sophisticated. From floating down the Saigon River in a water taxi to exploring the cultural streets of Lam Son Square, Ho Chi Minh City is sure to be an incredible adventure. After a day of exhausting exploration, unwind at the Saigon Saigon Bar, which offers live music and a breath-taking view of the city, assault your taste buds at Reflections, a restaurant serving fusion cuisine, and get pampered at the recently renovated spa facilities. Where are all of these amenities, you ask? They’re all at the Caravelle Hotel, so the next time you’re debating which country to visit, consider the adventure that awaits you in Vietnam!


Escaping the Heat in Florence at the Bars of Five-Star Hotels

September 23, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Hotel Savoy, FlorenceWhat to do when it's broiling in Florence? When battling record-setting temperatures in August, one city visitor came up with a brilliant solution: five-star cocktail hour! As Zofia Smardz recounts in an article in The Washington Post Travel section, the best way to beat the heat is to retreat to the ritzy spaces that are cool as cucumbers (air-conditioning isn't the norm in Europe). She and her husband headed to the Hotel de la Ville, "the blissfully cool bar at the posh Hotel Lungarno," Hotel Brunelleschi, and the Hotel Savoy:

“Buona sera, signora!” call out the desk clerks as we enter the Savoy lobby. Everybody’s so welcoming! In the elegantly plush modern bar, the waiters hop to and we’re soon basking in climatic comfort. We raise our martini glasses in a toast to our smarts, then sip the drinks verrrrry slooooowly as the sweat evaporates from our skin. The waiter brings a tray of treats — mini-crostini, olives, cheeses — for us to munch on. And a second when we finish that one. We relax. We feel very cool. In every sense. This is the life!

The only downside to a week-long spree? When the credit card bill arrives back home.


Kimpton to Transform Philly's Historic Lafayette Building into 4-Star Hotel

September 22, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Lafayette Building, PhiladelphiaBig hotel news out of Philadelphia: Kimpton Hotels is taking over the historic Lafayette Building and transforming it into a four-star Hotel Monaco, one of only two city hotels to open next year, and the first new hotel in the Society Hill/Old City area in a decade. Major Nutter was on site for the recent groundbreaking ceremony- to applaud the project's jolt to the local economy (the new hotel will create 400 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs). Overlooking Independence Mall at Fifth and Chestnut Streets, the hotel is located in "the most historic square mile in the country." Expect brightly colored spaces, and a hefty dose of signature Kimpton whimsy. The 268-room Hotel Monaco will be joining the Hotel Palomar-- located at 17th and Sansom Streets-- as Kimpton's second property in the City of Brotherly Love.

Image via The Philadephia Inquirer


New in San Francisco: Trace Restaurant at the W Hotel

September 21, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

W Hotel San FranciscoThere's no shortage of excellent restaurants in SF. And now we're hearing about a new, farm-to-table eatery that could give them all a run for the money. Located in the posh W Hotel, Trace restaurant opened on September 5 to much fanfare. Its mission? To quote the official website: "TRACE is committed to fusing the vibrant, local personality of the Bay Area with a dedication to socially responsible food prepared from locally sourced and sustainable ingredients, led by Executive Chef Paul Piscopo and Executive Sous Chef Alaun Grimaud." Daily Candy sings its praises: "Upscale food styling elevates already-satisfying small plates and entrees like homemade ravioli with summer squash and grilled rib-eye with pillowy gnocchi and lobster mushrooms." And Eater SF has some swell photos of Stanley Saitowitz’s interior architectural design. This being the W, there's a happening bar and lounge scene, to boot.


Don a Dirndl, Grab a Stein of Beer: Oktoberfest in Munich with The Charles Hotel

September 20, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Charles Hotel, MunichIt's our favorite time of year. Sunny days with a slight chill in the air... And Oktoberfest is here! Planning to hit up one of the world's biggest parties in Germany? (Munich is calling your name.) Do it right and don a custom-made dirndl for the occasion. The Charles, a Rocco Forte hotel, has partnered up with Schatzi Dirndl, the well-respected Bavarian costume designer, to dress its guests in style. Not only that, but the hotel will hook you up with beer spa treatments! Reserve the ‘Wiesn Warm-Up Spa Treatment’ and you'll be indulging with a beer footbath, a hops and salt scrub and a revitalizing back-and foot massage, followed by a refreshing Bavarian wheat beer. Did we mention the "Hangover Massage" for post-Oktoberfest recovery? Book the Oktoberfest Package, available from now until October 4 and priced from 925 euros for two nights, and you'll get: accommodations with breakfast for two, one personalized dirndl by Schatzi Dirndl, transfers to and from Schatzi Dirndl for fitting, Bavarian gift in room upon arrival, an welcome drinks.