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.

Top Picks for Teens and Tweens in Chicago from the Teen Concierge, Four Seasons Chicago


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Four Seasons Chicago

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago debuted the Teen Concierge program last year in an effort to cater to older children and teens who have different expectations for a fun vacation. Cynthia Waldmeir, the Teen Concierge, knows Chitown inside and out: the coolest boutiques in Lincoln Park and the trendiest restaurants in the city. Equipped with iPod fix-it kits, lip balm, and popular DVDs, Cynthia's got her list ready for the Top Picks for visiting teens and tweens:

Where to eat:

1. Best Place to Enjoy Sushi: Kamehachi, 240 East Ontario Street

Cynthia says: "They have a really cool underground atmosphere. It's like you are going into this cave where you sit down to enjoy delicious sushi rolls."

2. Best Sweets in City: Sweet Mandy B's, 1208 West Webster Avenue

Cynthia says: "The vintage cafe is so cute and their cupcakes and sweets are to die for."

3. Best Place for Something Different: L'Appetito, 875 North Michigan Avenue.

Cynthia says: "They have great panini-- but leave room for the gelato, an Italian favorite."

4. Best Place for a Chicago hot dog: Downtown Dogs, 804 North Rush Street

Cynthia says: "A trip to Chicago is not complete without a Chicago hot dog. Downtown Dogs has a great menu and is within walking distance for our guests."

5. Best Place for Chicago-style Pizza: Giordano's, 730 North Rush Street

Cynthia says: "At Giordano's you can place your order while you wait for a table-- which is important for young eaters who are low on patience."

Where to Shop:

1. Best Place for Jeans: The Denim Lounge, 940 N. Rush Street

Cynthia says: "They carry all the popular brands as well as fun T-shirts."

2. Best Place for Sunglasses: Active Endeavors, 935 West Armitage Avenue

Cynthia says: "They have a great selection and carry a lot of trendy, hard-to-find styles."

3. Best Place for CD's and DVD's: Virgin Megastore, 540 North Michigan Avenue

Cynthia says: "They have their own deejay and listening stations-- not to mention three floors of the hottest music, latest movies and even those rare titles you can never find."

4. Best Place for Jewelry and Handbags: Francesca's Collections, 2012 North Halsted Street and 1154 Lill Studio, 904 W. Armitage Avenue

Cynthia says: "Francesca's has a wall-to-wall jewelry collection of fun and sophisticated styles. If you can't find it there, it's not going to happen. At 1154 Lill Studio, you can design your own handbag which is something different and a fun activity for teens and their moms."

5. Best Place for Cosmetics: Sephora, Water Tower Place/Shops at Northbridge

Cynthia says: "They have free samples of just about everything so that you and your girlfriends can give one another makeovers."

Where to Play:

1. Best Scenic Beach Spot: Oak Street Beach

Cynthia says: "Right behind you is Chicago's awesome skyline."

2. Best Recreational Beach Spot: North Avenue Beach

Cynthia says: "Here you can join in a volleyball game or rent a bike for a scenic lakefront tour."

3. Best Cultural Spot: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue

Cynthia says: "It may not sound like kid-pleaser, but the guys love the Arms and Armor collection and the girls love The Thorne Miniature Rooms. Plus the gift shop has posters of their popular art. Teens will also enjoy the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum and the U-505 Submarine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry."

4. Best City Park: Millennium Park, 222 North Columbus Drive

Cynthia says: "Where else can you get soaked by interactive fountains of faces that spew water?"

5. Best Snapshot Spot: Outside the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lakeshore Drive

Cynthia says: "It's a picture-perfect spot with a spectacular view of Chicago's skyline and Lake Michigan."


An Interview with the GM - T. Colm O’Callaghan of the Conrad Chicago


By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan, General Manager of the Conrad Chicago

T. Colm O'Callaghan

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?

Mr. O'Callaghan:

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.

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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.

More Information about The Conrad Chicago


World’s Largest Aquarium Opens in Atlanta


By: Guest Writer

Atlanta Aquarium

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.

Enjoy!


Sea Islands Resorts Escapes Packages


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Lodge at Sea Island

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.)

Related Articles:

The Rebirth of an Icon: The Comeback of the Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia


Summer Fun at Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club, Barbados


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Sandy Lane

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.


The Ultimate Luxury Resort Experience: Four Seasons Langkawi, Malaysia


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Four Seasons Langkawi

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 Greenbrier Plans $50 Million Renovation for Winter 2007


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Greenbrier Golf

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.


The Fabulous Five-Year Makeover of Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Little Dix Bay

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.


Summer Savings at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, Phoenix


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Arizona Biltmore

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.


Luxury Cruises: Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas


By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Freedom of the Seas

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.

Related Articles:

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"

CNN.com, "World's Largest Passenger Ship Arrives in New Jersey"