June 5, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan, General Manager of the Conrad Chicago
The Conrad Chicago, formerly the Le Meridien Chicago, opened in November 2005 and has been continuing to upgrade ever since. Five Star Alliance and The Informed Traveler got in touch with the General Manager, Mr. T Colm O'Callaghan to find out more about his experiences with the new hotel and to learn more about what guests can expect.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: My family owns a hotel in Ireland which meant I was born into the business; I also attended hotel school, worked for Hilton for 18years. When this position became available I jumped at the opportunity.
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. O'Callaghan: Location, location, location.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Our customers are both business and leisure with our feeder markets being Los Angeles, New York, the UK, and Germany.
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. O'Callaghan: We are located in the heart of The Magnificent Mile surrounded by wonderful shopping, great museums, great dining and within walking distance to city favorites as Millennium Park, and Navy Pier. My favorite thing to do is people watch, great people watching right on Michigan Avenue.
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. O'Callaghan: I can not speak about specific guests. I will say we do have a loyal client base. Our biggest compliment is our repeat guests.
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?
Mr. O'Callaghan: All of our rooms are fabulous!
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. O'Callaghan: Designed by Chicago architects Frederick J. Thielbar and John Reed Furgard, this 16-story art deco limestone building is a collaboration between one of the city's leading architectural firms and the sculptors Eugene mad Gwen Lux. Gwen Lux is among America's pioneer women sculptresses; her work can be found at the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City and at the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit designed by architect Eero Saarinen. The McGraw-Hill Building served as the Midwestern offices of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, among the largest trade paper and book publishers in the country.
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. O'Callaghan: The location of the hotel, and the warmth and friendliness of its staff.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The hardest part is the administrative aspect of the job it prevents me from interacting with the guests and staff as much as I would like.
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?
1. Sheen Falls – Kenmare, Ireland – ideal setting
2. Evans Hideaway Resort – Huahin, Thailand – love private villas, infinity pools and enclosed walls.
3. Conrad Tokyo – New standard for the International Conrad, great urban hotel.
Five Star Alliance:Anything else you would like our readers to know about you’re your property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Warm friendly staff, second none in Chicago.
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan is the General Manager of the Conrad Chicago in Chicago, IL where he came from his position as the Resident Manager at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. Prior to that, Mr. O'Callaghan had over 20 years of European and American professional experiences with hotels such as The St. Regis Hotel New York, The New York Palace, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, and Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton. He received his B.A., an Honors Degree, from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland and his Graduate Certificate from the General Manager Development Program in Hong Kong.
June 5, 2006
By: Guest Writer
By Nathan Stone
As summer beach season gets underway it's natural to ponder all the amazing creatures that inhabit the oceans. In November 2005, Atlanta opened the doors to the world's largest aquarium, offering a chance to see an amazing array of ocean inhabitants without the scuba gear. Home to over 120,000 aquatic creatures living in over 8 million gallons of water, the massive 200 million dollar aquarium boasts five areas each representing a different ecosystem. The largest exhibit is the Ocean Voyager, which begins with a ride down a curving moving walkway through an acrylic tunnel where stingrays, sharks, and many schools of brightly colored fish appear to fly overhead. The tunnel leads to the main theater, which has a gigantic viewing window.
The aquarium has exceeded all attendance expectations and purchasing time-reserved tickets online is highly recommended. The aquarium is located in Atlanta's Olympic Park near downtown. Both the Four Seasons Atlanta and Ritz Carlton Atlanta are nearby. JavaJive is perhaps the town's hippest brunch spot, offering gingerbread waffles set in an old-style ice cream parlor setting complete with vintage 1950s appliances.
For aquarium lovers, another massive aquarium that will compete in size with Atlanta's is being constructed in The Dubai Mall in Dubai. Other notable aquariums in the U.S. include Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Additional images from my trip can be found in The Informed Traveler Flickr Group.
By: Guest Writer
Georgia's Sea Islands offer a beautiful and exclusive summer escape. Championship golf, incredible dining, lots of Southern hospitality, and the chance to restore your body and mind. Find the perfect hideaway at The Lodge or the completely new, and absolutely stunning, Cloister at Sea Island. The "Golf Escape Package for Two" includes two nights luxury accommodations, two rounds of golf on Seaside, Plantation or Retreat Course or one round of golf and spa treatment of your choice during your stay, an elegant five-course dinner in the Georgian Room, breakfast each morning at any dining venue, Beach Yoga or a Beach Walk each morning, and welcome gift. Valid until November 1, 2006. Starting at $1,195 for The Lodge, River or Nature View at The Cloister. ($1,395 for Ocean View at The Cloister and $1,595 for River View Suite at The Cloister.)
Memorial Day is upon us, which means the start of summer and some exclusive special deals in the Caribbean. One of the region's finest luxury resorts, Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club, the darling of royalty and dignitaries who visit Barbados, has announced some fantastic summer offers. A classic Palladian-style building of coralstone, the spacious 112 room resort is set in a mahogany grove overlooking a crescent of white beach and the turquoise sea. Each of the rooms feature private verandahs and state-of-the-art amenities like plasma wide screen TV, DVD/CD player, and wifi. Here at Sandy Lane, the service is phenomenal, from the chauffeured luxury car that greets you at the airport to the knowledgeable concierge and staff who cater to your every whim. The Summertime promises to be a blast in Barbados, with the annual Crop Over Festival, a colorful extravaganza and celebration of Barbadian culture. Ceremonies, competitions, shows and music, from July 15 to August 7, 2006.
Special Summer Packages at Sandy Lane are a real deal: "Romance in Paradise" includes accommodation in a Luxury Ocean Room at Ocean room rate, bottle of champagne on arrival, one candlelight dinner for two, unlimited non-motorized watersports, full English Breakfast daily, one Catamaran Cruise, spa voucher of $100 per person (or one round of golf on The Country Club per person.) Rates start from $4,750 for a seven night stay. With the "Family Fun" package, three Children under 16 years in connecting room pay 50 percent of the full 7 or 10 night stay. Package includes full English Breakfast daily, unlimited use of the Treehouse Club, one family Sunday Brunch, unlimited non-motorized watersports. Parent's room rates start at $4,250 for a seven night stay in an Orchid room; Children's room rates start at $2,975 for a seven night stay in an Orchid room.
Recently Robb Report Luxury Resorts singled out the finest luxury hotels in the world, and among the thousands of resorts reviewed, the Four Seasons Langkawi scored at the top of the best new luxury resorts. (Check out the pic at right and you'll see why everyone's making such a fuss.) First, its location. Langkawi is part of a Malaysian archipelago of 99 islands in the clear emerald waters of the Andaman Sea. The resort's island is one of only two of these islands that is inhabited and offers a dramatic mountainous landscape covered with rainforest, towering granite cliffs, and white sand beaches. Four Seasons Langkawi is set on a one-mile stretch of beach against this magical backdrop. Secondly, the spacious guest pavilions and villas. Soaring ceilings, killer views, traditional Malaysian design elements, wood floors, open verandahs, and outdoor showers. Third, the phenomenal facilities, including the beautifully-designed Spa, new Yoga pavilion (opening July 2006), gorgeous pools with private cabanas, and water sports pavilion on the beach. Lastly, and most importantly, Four Seasons Langkawi is distinguished by its exceptional service. Truly the tropical, luxury beach experience of a lifetime.
The award-winning resort located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia represents the pinnacle of ultra-luxury and elegance. Its classic architecture, sumptuous interiors, gorgeous grounds, excellent recreational activities (including three championship gold courses, indoor and outdoor tennis and a 38,000 sq ft spa), and impeccable service have distinguished the resort for over two centuries. But the National Historic landmark is in need of a little sprucing up, as reported by the Associated Press. The resort will be closing for three months next winter, starting January 2 after the holidays. The project is the most extensive since the 1940's, and is slated for 18 months total. The renovation will include the main dining room, the Tavern Room, Old White Lounge, main kitchen and about 65 guest rooms in the main building, which will be enhanced by new furniture and marble bathrooms. The Greenbrier seeks to restore its Mobil five star rating, which it lost in 2000 after 38 years.
May 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Little Dix Bay is a Caribbean gem on Virgin Gorda beloved by its discerning clientele for its elegant villas nestled among lush gardens, delicious dining venues, and other-worldly Spa. The award-winning beachfront resort just got a little more enticing when it unveiled new renovations and additions, including eight new junior suites and three new hilltop villas. These renovations--including all 100 guest rooms-- are part of a five-year makeover that will be completed in December just in time for high season. Each of the new suites is distinguished by patio and porch with gorgeous sea views and sunsets, and extraordinary outdoor bathrooms that are completely hidden from the water. The interiors are luxuriously appointed with indigenous woods, local stones, and handcrafted furniture and fabrics. The three new villas feature three or four bedrooms, oversized living areas, outdoor showers, private pool and dining pavilion/barbeque area. The magical makeover began in 2000 with the addition of the 3,000 sq ft Children's Grove, where children enjoy creative activities with a professional and fun staff. In 2001, the resort opened The Spa at Little Dix Bay, in its unparalleled cliffside setting, along with two beachfront villas. Eight Rosewood Junior suites were added in 2004, and in 2005, the resort redesigned its restaurants and renovated two-thirds of all guestrooms with completely new bathrooms and outdoor showers. With these extensive renovations, the tranquil and sophisticated Caribbean resort just got a whole lot more luxurious.
May 17, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Now's the time to find fantastic savings and oodles of family activities at the "Jewel of the Desert." Situated in the heart of Phoenix on 39 lush acres at the foot of Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the Arizona Biltmore is oft-considered one of the world's finest resorts, with its oasis of swimming pools, gardens and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture. The distinguished clientele--including visiting Presidents and celebrities-- enjoy the resort's spectacular facilities, including eight swimming pools, seven tennis courts, 18-hole putting course, fitness center, and full-service European spa. The neighboring Arizona Biltmore Country Club offers two 18-hole PGA golf courses.
With Summer Specials, villas are a steal starting at $299, and classic rooms from $149. The resort is offering enhanced poolside amenities and a full agenda of activities for the whole family to enjoy: from Dive-In Movies (enjoy popular movies on the big screen while floating in the Paradise Pool, or on the deck with Ben and Jerry's ice cream novelties), to S'mores and Salsa making demonstrations and poolside massage. In the Summertime, enjoy the best of the Biltmore.
May 11, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It's big, it's bad…Royal Caribbean's new boat eclipses them all. Freedom of the Seas is set to sail, and the media is abuzz. At 208 feet tall, weighing 160,000 tons, and with a capacity for 4,000 passengers, this baby dwarfs Cunard's Queen Mary 2-- and grabs the title of world's biggest passenger ship. The mother of them all sports some pretty nifty "firsts" in the cruising world: rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink with (Good God) Willy Bietak's Ice Skating Musical Extravaganza, mini-golf, boxing ring, water park, and top-deck surfing pool called "Flow Rider." And as recommended by Fodor's, the perfect family cruise experience. Look out, Caribbean.
Fodor's Travel Wire, "Royal Caribbean's Big New Boat"
A Luxury Travel Blog, "Freedom of the Seas in Hamburg"
Yahoo! News, "Freedom of the Seas Is Largest Ship Ever"
May 4, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
You heard that right. The AAA four diamond resort-- in quest of the ever elusive five-diamond rating-- may construct an Old West-style casino with 500 slot machines. Just how that will up the rating is beyond me. Currently, Nemacolin Woodlands is a popular luxury destination outside Pittsburgh, with world-class golf course, excellent restaurants, internationally acclaimed Spa, Equestrian Center, Kids Club, shooting academy, tennis, and endless other activities.
Nemacolin Woodlands, Five Star Alliance