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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.

An Interview with the General Manager: Cliff Atkinson of Gramercy Park Hotel

By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Gramercy Park HotelCliff Atkinson was promoted to General Manager of the Gramercy Park Hotel in July 2007 after joining as the Hotel Manager in October of 2006 with more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?

Cliff Atkinson: I was recruited by Ian Schrager to be the Gramercy Park Hotel Manager in September 2006 and I assumed the General Manager position in July 2007. I was very excited to incorporate my traditional luxury hotel background with the modern luxury that Gramercy Park Hotel introduced to the market.

Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?

Cliff Atkinson: The best thing about our hotel's location is the access to Gramercy Park. My favorite thing to do on a Sunday is to grab a New York Times, with a morning coffee and sit in the park and read my paper all year round. It is so quiet and peaceful, right in the middle of New York City!

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?

Cliff Atkinson: My favorite rooms are our Loft rooms. They really feel like an artist’s loft from the 1920's… very Bohemian. I recommend our "05" rooms, which have fantastic bathrooms and a large open feel.

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?

Cliff Atkinson: The Private Roof Club access and the weekend Dim Sum brunch in Wakiya.

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?

Cliff Atkinson: I think there are five distinctive points about our hotel:

1. The unique design of the rooms. – They are different than anything in the market today, with a design created by Ian Schrager, the patriarch of the modern hotel industry and Julian Schnabel, a world renowned artist. The rooms set themselves apart from the usual homogeneous look of the majority of hotel rooms.

2. Our location – The Gramercy Park area is becoming the “new midtown”. It is close to both the traditional Midtown Manhattan shopping and the exciting dining and night life of downtown Manhattan. Plus, our location directly on Gramercy Park provides our hotel guests with an experience like no other by allowing exclusive access to New York’s only private park.

3. Our Food and Beverage – Our options for dining and entertaining are truly world class from our Chinese restaurant, Wakiya, to the exciting nightlife of our Rose Bar, to the comfortable, laid back garden atmosphere of our Private Roof Club. Guests don’t feel like they are in a hotel but rather a private mansion with an incredible selection of personal chefs!

4. Private Roof Club – There is simply nothing like our Private Roof Club anywhere in New York City. It is accessible to hotel guests only, it provides a private retreat with incredible artwork and is covered and temperature controlled 365 days a year. It is truly special.

5. Our Service – Our approach to service is the same approach I used at former Mobil Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotels and Resorts. Ian Schrager has the eye for the design and can create a hotel space like no other. It is my job to ensure the service is at the level you would experience at the World’s top luxury hotels packaged in this unique hotel casing.

Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?

Cliff Atkinson: Our hotel guests are the global luxury traveler, with over 40% international. The demographic spans all ages from young 20’s to mid 60’s – anyone who wants a luxury experience that is special, unique and personal.

More About Mr. Atkinson:

Prior to joining the Gramercy Park Hotel, Cliff worked for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group for seven years and held various positions within the company, most recently as the Executive Assistant Manager for Mandarin Oriental, New York. Before Mandarin Oriental, New York, Cliff was the director of Revenue Management for the Group’s properties in North America and Europe from 2000 – 2003. Cliff began his career in the hospitality industry with Hilton Hotels in Revenue Management and as Director of Front Office Operations and other various management positions in Rooms Division.

Cliff attended City College of San Francisco with a degree in Hospitality Management as well as the University of San Francisco and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Cliff resides in Manhattan with his wife Jennifer and is currently pursuing his MBA.

A Little Bubbly in Paris at the Hotel Meurice

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel MeuriceLive the legend at the glamorous Parisian landmark, Hotel Meurice. It's not just the prestigious location on the rue de Rivoli-- facing the Tuileries Gardens-- that makes this the "hotel of kings." Host to royalty and the international jetset, the Hotel Meurice is Paris at its most posh and fashionable. Fashion week is on the horizon, so why not plan a trip to the City of Light to check out all the action and get pampered like a celeb at the fabulous Hotel Meurice? Surrounded by cafes and trendy boutiques in the heart of the chic 1st arrondissement, the Meurice is smack dab in the middle of it all in Paris. Special offer: If you book with Five Star Alliance, you get a free bottle of champagne in-room upon arrival.

Last Minute Caribbean Getaway: The Regent Palms, Turks and Caicos

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Regent PalmsEscape the cold and enjoy serious savings in the postcard-perfect Turks and Caicos islands, the newest "it" spot in the Caribbean. Just because it's January doesn't mean the holidays have to end. The award-winning Regent Palms has some last minute getaways that are too good to be true. Plus, you can scope out the brand new Regent Spa which just opened this month. Book the "Welcome to 2008" package and get five nights for the price of four in a Luxury Ocean View Room! You'll also score a 30 percent VIP discount on all signature massage services and two welcome cocktails as you watch the sun set over Grace Bay. The rate starts at $875 per night, available through January 31, 2008. Or book the "Four Night Holiday Recovery" and get a couple's massage, dinner for two at Parallel 23, an in-suite breakfast with champagne (complimentary continental breakfast on the other mornings), and complimentary non-motorized water sports. Valid until January 26, 2008, priced at $3,360. Nota Bene: Kids under 12 stay free at The Regent Palms!

Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report: 2008 Grand Award Winners

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Wickaninnish InnHot off the press. Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report-- a connoisseur's worldwide guide to peaceful and unspoiled places-- just released the list of 2008 Grand Award Winners. (Subscription to this monthly pub, targeting the affluent traveler, costs $499 per year.) The elite bunch in the U.S. and Canada that snagged the award? British Columbia's Wickaninnish Inn, The Wheatleigh in the Berkshires, Montana's Resort at Paws Up, and the Heritage House in Mendocino, Cali.

Suite Promotions and Reasons to Love The Peninsula Tokyo

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Peninsula TokyoIn the age when so many hotels suffer deficiencies of design-- weird showers and light configurations, complex alarm clocks, bizarre remote controls-- the new Peninsula Tokyo is absolute perfection. Not only does it have a superb location, spa, and luxurious facilities, but it also offers honest-to-goodness comfort and a true home away from home experience. As the New York Times recently raved,

There is a place, however, where many of these failings have been conquered though intuitive technology and smart design, a place marked by such endemic comfort and ease that home itself begins to seem like a downgrade. It is the newest Peninsula hotel, a 24-story building opposite Hibiya Park in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo, with what may be the world's most fully thought-through hotel rooms.

The technology is mind-blowing. Phones which show the time and weather of your hometown when you call to confirm you've arrived. Adjustable humidity levels in the room. Lavazza espresso machines. No-fog television screens in the bathrooms, along with remote controls for light and music (and a unique "spa" function in the tub, which automatically softens the lights and changes the music). Skype built in to the telephones. Portable phones which work all over the hotel, and switch to cellular networks when you take them in the street.

Book the Suite Life package and get the second night free when you reserve a two-night stay. Or enjoy the Winter Escape promotion, from JPY 56,000, choose a room upgrade, or dining and spa credit-- along with complimentary daily breakfast, Internet, and access to the Fitness Club.

Tavern N Town at Beachside Resort: Best Dining in Key West

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Tavern N Town Restaurant Celebrity Chef Norman Van Aken-- the guy who coined the term "fusion cooking"-- has returned to Key West. Recipient of numerous accolades including the James Beard award, the "Founding Father of New World cuisine" is renowned for his South Florida restaurants. Van Aken's newest venture, Tavern N Town, marks his full circle return to Key West, where he opened Louie's Backyard in the mid-80s. Located at the brand new Beachside Resort and Conference Center, the two adjoining restaurants share a two-story space, but offer different dining experiences. Tavern serves up smaller plates and more casual fare, while Town-- not yet open-- is the place for gourmet fine dining. For a true epicurean delight, choose the chef's signature dish, Pork Tenderloin Havana, served with sherry jus, plantain crema, black bean corn-salsa, pickled red onions and pan arepa. Take a seat in front of the theater kitchen (gleaming with new appliances) and get ready for the action.

Renovated Mandalay Bay Guest Rooms

By: Courtney W. May

Mandalay BayLast month I had the chance to spend 3 days at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Amazingly, they've totally renovated all of the guest rooms since the last time I stayed (August 2004) and upgraded all of the rooms and the amenities - the older floral bedspreads that are no more. You can view all of the photos I took of my renovated room (23114) and get a better idea of what the new design offers.

The best part of the new look and feel? 2 flat screen televisions, floor-to-ceiling windows, strong wireless internet (for a fee of course), iPod docking station, friendly housekeeping and front desk, great closets and floor space. Plus the rooms generally feel and look nice to be staying in.

The cons? Because the television is so high-tech (multiple interactive channels, internet, etc), it is painfully slow to flip through the channels or find what you want quickly. This is a problem I've had at some of the best hotels - and hopefully is just a matter of time until hotels get wise to a fix. The only other con was that the bed was incredibly soft. I don't just mean kinda soft, I mean fall through the mattress soft. There was a huge down pillow-top on the mattress which was overstuffed and for that reason, pretty uncomfortable. The solution? You can take it off, but that means making the bed again for yourself. Or of course you can ask room service to do it before you arrive - which I highly recommend.

With some of the least expensive rooms on the strip when compared with comparable 4 star hotels, Mandalay Bay was well worth the price - and all guests will appreciate the renovated look and feel.

New and Noteworthy: La Casona Inkaterra Set To Open in Cusco, Peru

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Inkaterra La Casona, CuscoWe're big fans of Inkaterra's rustic boutique hotel located in the heart of Machu Picchu's Historical Sanctuary. So we were thrilled to learn about the opening of Inkaterra's La Casona Hotel in Cusco, a lovely gem that's the perfect base to explore the "Lost City of the Incas." (Cusco is the gateway town to Machu Picchu.) Built over the palace of Inca Manco Capac (founder of the Inca Empire), the 16th century manor house was beautifully restored as an 11-room hotel centered around a gorgeous courtyard. Showcasing an exciting mélange of Incan cultural tradition and contemporary comforts, La Casona is the the city's first luxury boutique hotel. Amenities include wireless Internet, private butler service, open fireplaces, spacious bathrooms, iPod docking stations, and a private spa. Plus, your stay is guaranteed to be 100 percent carbon neutral. Opening is scheduled for February 2008.

Special Offer in Philadelphia: Star Wars Package at the Loews Hotel

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Loews Philadelphia HotelFans of Star Wars, feel the power of the force with the most interactive Star Wars Exhibit ever, while experiencing the most inviting accommodations in the city. Reserve the Star Wars package at the Loews Philadelphia hotel and enjoy two VIP tickets to the exclusive showing of the "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Check out the artifacts (over 80 of them!) and 21 innovative interactive exhibits which provide a unique hands-on way of exploring the fantasy technologies depicted in the films. Then return to a feast at the award-winning SoleFood restaurant, before retiring to your deluxe accommodations at Loews. (And gasp at the views- pictured). Priced at $199, the package includes overnight accommodations for two and two VIP tickets to the exhibit-- including a Sci-Pass, good for admission to Franklin Institute exhibits, live science demos, and one show at the Fels Planetarium (a $14.50 value per adult). Valid from February 9-May 4, 2008.

Eos Airlines Provides Complimentary Helicopter Service Between JFK and Manhattan

By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Eos AirlinesFans of Eos Airlines will be thrilled by this scoop. The luxury airline just announced that it has signed a partnership agreement with US Helicopter to provide helicopter service between Manhattan and JFK International Airport for its London passengers. And get this: the helicopter transfer is free for folks reserving unrestricted tickets aboard Eos. After checking in at the heliports (located downtown at Wall Street and also at East 34th Street), guests go through security screening and check their bags to their final destination, before being whisked away on an eight-minute ride to the awaiting Eos jet at JFK.