November 7, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
To the disappointment of the Hollywood celebs and business tycoons who bunk down at The Gritti Palace while staying in Venice, the iconic luxury hotel has shuttered its palatial doors for a 15-month restoration. When it reopens in 2013, this Starwood Luxury Collection hotel is guaranteed to still have its magnificent historic features and design elements (original Rubelli Venetian textiles and unique furniture custom designed by Donghia and inspired by Venetian Rococo couches and pozzetti). But it will also flaunt up-to-the-minute technology and all the latest contemporary conveniences. The finest craftsmen have been enlisted for this meticulous renovation project. Located on the Grand Canal and housed inside a 16th century palazzo, The Gritti Palace is a fixture on Travel + Leisure magazine's "T+L 500" list of top-rated hotels around the globe.
For other accommodations options in Venice, check out our recommended hotels.
November 2, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Come hell or high water, the Angsana Laguna Phuket will be opening its doors on December 1, 2011. The new flagship for Angsana Hotels and Resorts, the property closed earlier this year for a multi-million dollar overhaul, and promises to dazzle after a dramatic makeover. The guest rooms and public spaces are stylish and contemporary in design, with traditional Thai touches (think steep arched roofs, waterways winding through the grounds, and vividly colored fabrics).
Nestled on Bang Tao Bay in the northwest of Phuket Island in Southern Thailand, Angsana Laguna Phuket is part of Laguna Phuket, Asia’s first integrated resort, which is comprised of five luxury hotels, six palm-fringed lagoons, 600 acres of parkland, three kilometers of pristine beach and a slew of recreational activities and dining options. We like the sound of the 323 metre free-form pool that meanders throughout the Angsana Laguna Phuket and the award-winning Angsana Spa. Did we mention the treehouse-inspired Kids Club? This resort is family friendly (and they even have a special kiddies pool called the toddler's "tub").
Hot rates: The resort is currently offering $199 introductory rates with breakfast included, and they'll throw in a resort credit of $98 when you stay in two nights or more. Stay a minimum of three nights, and you'll get a free 90-minute massage.
November 1, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Slated to open on January 19, 2012, the new St. Regis Bal Harbour promises to bring a new level of luxury to the affluent Florida enclave. Inside the oceanfront development (pictured), both residences and hotel rooms will be available for luxury-seeking sun-worshippers. Rising 27 storeys above the beach, the three all-glass towers will house-- to quote the press release-- "a sprawling Remède Spa, a world class dining experience at Jean-Georges' restaurant J&G Grill, exquisite interior design by Yabu Pushelberg, renowned contemporary art and the finest finishes with one-of-a-kind West African Movinque wood and Chinese God Flower Stone Marble from a private quarry commissioned exclusively for the resort." Guests can also expect the signature St. Regis butler service, and an impressive contemporary art collection showcased throughout the hotel. For some gorgeous pix, check out the photo library.
We've been waiting with bated breath to find out which talented designer would nab the prestigious Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize. The luxury hotel group-- celebrated for iconic hotels in urban centers in Europe and the U.S.-- launched the Fashion Prize to honor the work of young designers- and it's gotten some serious buzz in the press. Just this past weekend, the prize was bestowed in The Rodeo Ballroom at The Beverly Hills Hotel after a runway presentation featuring models from cycle 18 of America's Next Top Model. (The event was filmed for an upcoming episode to be aired in spring 2012.) After much deliberation, the judges chose the collection by Anndra Neen as best representing “the spirit of individuality, luxury, style and craftsmanship" of The Dorchester Collection's hotels. Anndra Neen received $40,000 and will have the opportunity to display their work at the fabulous Hôtel Plaza Athénée (pictured) during Paris Fashion Week in 2012.
Nothing whets our appetite for travel more than the annual destination lists by top travel guides. Frommer's recently released their "Top Destinations for 2012" after its editors, authors, and experts spent "months bickering" among themselves. They also reached out to readers to find out their travel plans for the coming year, with Turkey the clear winner at 51% of the vote (Paris, Italy, and Hawaii also got high marks). The USA Today has summarized the list, including explanations about each destination from Frommers.com editorial director David Lytle.
Curacao – This often overlooked Caribbean island has affordable rentals, "as opposed to traditional flop-and-drop all-inclusives."
Chongqing, China – An alternative to the usual Chinese destinations (Beijing, Shanghai), it's a 19th-century town that has undergone rapid modernization, thanks, in part, to its position as the last stop on the Three Gorges river tour.
Fukuoka Japan – This feudal Japanese town on the north shore of Kyushu province is a place to go after you've done Tokyo and Kyoto. Plus, its inclusion on the list is a reminder that not all of Japan was affected by the earthquake.
Beirut – The city has experienced a renaissance in recent years, as many European travelers know. "It's an urban hotspot full of smartly dressed people who have intelligent conversation," Lytle says.
Ghana – Unlike some other African nations, this country has enjoyed long-time stability. As a former center of the slave trade, it's also on the heritage trail for African Americans.
London's Greenwich neighborhood – Just 20 minutes from Central London, this Thames-side town has undergone a renaissance. And post-Olympics is a good time to visit London, since it's bound to be gussied up for the event, with bargains after the party's over.
Girona, Spain – This Costa Brava town is popular among Brits, but is largely undiscovered by Americans. It's also an easy-to-get-to beach getaway from Barcelona.
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia – It's a quiet, charming area, perfect for recharging your batteries.
Kansas City, Mo. – Its food and music scenes are lively. It sports a number of really good museums. Plus, it's central locale makes it relatively close to a lot of Americans.
Yucatan Peninsula – There's more to this region than Cancun. Moreover, it's been relatively free of drug-related violence that has touched border towns and the some of the Mexico's western reaches.
October 27, 2011
By: Five Star Alliance
Starwood is handing out the treats this Halloween. Book the "Trick or Suite" package by October 31, 2011 to get in on the action (the biggest suite sale of the year!) The Toronto Star points out that you can snag 40% off suites at hotels like the Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain, Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, W Montreal "and four properties in Toronto, including Le Meridien King Edward, Sheraton Toronto, Westin Harbour Castle and Sheraton Parkway." For weekend stays with arrivals Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, for travel through December 30, 2011. Black-out dates apply at each property.
Hurry, it's the last week for newly-engaged couples to enter the Velas Weddings' contest to win a tantalizing, $25,000 dream wedding at Grand Velas Riviera Maya! All you have to do is submit the story of your creative marriage proposal along with a photo (optional) of your best moment together on the on the Velas Weddings, Xcaret, and Xel-Há Facebook pages. Ten finalists will be chosen by Velas Resorts in a random drawing on November 1st. On November 2nd the 10 finalists will be notified, and public voting will take place from November 2nd - 19th on the Velas Weddings Facebook Page. The winners will be notified on November 20th, 2011. To see the winning couple from this past spring's contest tie the knot in paradise at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, tune in to www.velasresorts.com/grandwedding for live coverage on October 30. .
Curious to hear more about the winning prize? Read on to learn the details about this all-expenses paid beach wedding on Mexico's idyllic Riviera Maya...
The winning couple will enjoy a unique Mayan ceremony at Xel-Ha, known to be one of the most beautiful natural aquariums in the world, followed by a symbolic or legal ceremony complemented with flowers and music at Xcaret eco-archeological park, which showcases Mexico's mystical natural wonders, biodiversity and cultural heritage. The prize package includes four days and three nights in a luxury ocean-front Ambassador Pool Suite, a beach-side cocktail hour, a three-course wedding reception, live music, hair and makeup for the bride, decorations, wedding cake, $250 gift certificate courtesy of Diamonds International, event photography by Humberto Castilla, "Trash the dress" photo session by Dream Art and a Ultrafemme gift certificate. The couple and guests will also enjoy a welcome dinner at the resort's exclusive Piaf restaurant, dolphin swim courtesy of Delphinus, special shopping excursions to Luxury Avenue and nature tours courtesy of Rio Secreto.
One of the latest trends in luxury travel? Tykes and teens are getting pampered with specialized spa treatments. We've seen teen acne facials and little princess manicures at hotels like Stowe's Topnotch Resort, Loews Coronado Bay Hotel in San Diego, and The Homestead in Virginia. The latest resort to create a customized menu for its youngest guests? The Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand's northern culture capital in the beautiful Mae Rim Valley. For "little angels," the resort recently unveiled a menu of new treatments using organic, chemical-free products. Here's the menu:
Angel Bliss Massage – A relaxing, soothing treatment perfect for energetic kids, the Angel Bliss Massage improves the quality of children’s sleep, soothes the nervous system, and helps to strengthen the immune system through a gentle pressure oil massage applied to the scalp, legs and feet. 60 minutes.
Look At Me Facial - Formulated especially to suit young and teenage skin, and to leave a little one looking her very best, this is a very gentle facial incorporating an exhilarating face massage to hydrate and purify the skin. 50 minutes.
Gorgeous Skin Glow – The perfect treatment to bring a glow to young skin, the Skin Glow is a gentle scrub using natural red rice to exfoliate dead skin cells and revitalise the skin. 50 minutes.
Soothing Wrap for Sun-Kissed Skin – The perfect after-sun treatment for those kids who’ve been enjoying the great outdoors, this soothing body wrap uses the healing power of aloe vera to cool, moisturise and heal the skin. 50 minutes.
The first Ritz-Carlton in Saudi Arabia officially opened its doors in Riyadh this week. Situated in the Diplomatic Quarter next to the King Abdul Aziz Convention Centre, The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh is positively palatial in size with 493 guest rooms-- including a whopping 49 two-bedroom Royal Suites and 50 one-bedroom Executive Suites. Looks like they're expecting some high-rollers! The opulent hotel has already become a destination for weddings, even hosting a few before the official opening date, and-- with some 5,800 square meters of conference space-- it's expecting some of the city's largest international summits and gala events. Dotted with fountains, the grounds are beautifully landscaped with native palms and 600-year old olive trees imported from Lebanon. That's not all; the hotel also has an indoor bowling alley and a cigar lounge with one of the largest selections of Cubans in the Kingdom.
There's so much fun and excitement happening the hospitality world these days (beer-themed spa treatments? Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh?) that you can't possibly be expected to keep up with it all. So we're helping out with a wrap-up of some of our favorite tidbits (and gossip) this week. First up: Rumor has it that Buckingham Palace might open as a hotel for tourists when when Prince Charles moves his home to Windsor Castle upon taking the throne. If this does indeed come to pass, expect to pay a "princely sum" to sleep there, says The Boston Globe's Melanie Nayer. Another fun news item: Sir Richard Branson has signed the first deal for his highly anticipated Virgin Hotels brand... in Chicago. The 27-storey Dearborn Bank Building at 203 N. Wabash-- just a block off Michigan Avenue and the river-- will get a makeover and open as a hotel in fall 2013.
Pictured: Another newsworthy item, the lebua New Delhi, opening in December.