November 2, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Jumping on the blog bandwagon, I’d like to highlight the interesting NYT piece about the ultra-lux perks recently employed by luxury hotels, in order to distinguish themselves and entice repeat customers. Notable extravagant examples include the Four Seasons Manhattan (where a $400,000 Maybach 62 and a $325,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom are parked out front for clients’ use), the Conrad Istanbul (which provides CD players and discs for guests to learn useful Turkish phrases) and the Loews Annapolis Hotel (where guest can “borrow” the hotel’s Labrador retriever, Luke.) Experienced any hotel perk that can top this list?!
In the rugged wilderness of Canada’s Vancouver Island lies the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, its temperate rainforest deemed one of the most important habitats in the world. On show here is a year-round spectacle of some of the best wildlife viewing in the world. Spawning salmon, nesting eagles, otters, porpoises, and migrating whales. Did I mention the bears? Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts offers two luxury eco-resorts within this untouched wilderness. The Quait Bay Floating Resort is Clayoquot’s flagship property, with full-service spa and conference center with gorgeous views. A 30 minute boat ride away, the 18 ultra-luxurious white canvas tents of the Wilderness Outpost at Bedwell River were inspired by late 19th century Great Camps. Who says you can’t get pampered while roughing it? The suite tents are outfitted with Adirondack-style beds covered in down duvets, antique dressers, pressed-glass oil lamps, heirloom accessories, and a plethora of candles. Who needs in-room telephone or flat screen TV when you can lounge in a terry cloth robe, hook up your laptop to wireless internet, and bask in the heat of your remote-controlled propane wood-stove?
The site includes luxurious spa tents, dining tents, and lounge tents. The food is all organic, as regional growers and producers supply cheese, giant oysters and scallops, free-range hens, wild fish and just-picked berries. I’m drooling at the sample Outpost Table d’hote menu: local albacore tuna tartare with grilled vegetable ratatouille. Pan-seared wild pacific halibut with marinated spaghetti squash salad, oven-dried tomatoes and red bell pepper reduction. Or maybe the oven-roasted venison loan with sweet potato tarragon flan? Followed by a white chocolate pumpkin mousse with local organic fieldberry blintz and vanilla sour cream sauce. Mmmmmm. Guided (and unguided) activities abound—from horseback riding, whale and bear watching, salt and fresh water fishing, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, Hot Springs Cove day treks, and naturalist hikes.
It’s about time. Bangkok is scheduled to open the new Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2006, which will feature a high-speed rail link and five alternative routes to the city center to avoid that nasty Bangkok gridlock!
Every Tuesday, National Geographic Traveler releases their A* list of weekly travel specials. This week, I couldn’t resist highlighting a few of their offers (that just can’t be missed). Even if I can’t jet to Timbuktu, maybe you can!
(Le Meridien Winter Warmers are almost too-good-to-be-true. For a limited time only, thousands of Le Meridien rooms in more than 50 destinations worldwide are selling at ridiculously low rates. Book by 15 November 2005, for stays arriving from 1 December 2005 to 31 January 2006.)
Walking through Rome’s beautiful boutique hotel Boscolo-Aleph is like taking a sensual trip through Dante’s Divine Comedy. We’re talking a most-clever interpretation of Heaven and Hell. The architect Adam D. Tihany has reversed the concepts, so that the heavenly Paradise spa is located in the basement, while the Sin restaurant (decked out in ravishing red) and Angelo bar are located on the floors above. The hotel’s 96 rooms combine 30’s and 40’s design with sleek minimalism. (Nifty photography on the walls portrays “a day in the life of Rome.”) The two full-sized suites include outdoor terraces with Jacuzzi for soaking under the stars. On the top floor of the hotel, the 7 Heaven open-air restaurant offers fantastic city views from its terrace. In the basement—site of the bank building’s original vaults—the Paradise Spa lures with its sauna, Turkish bath, thermal swimming pool, and divine treatments like Melted Chocolate massage.
Boscolo-Aleph Hotel, Official Site
Boscolo-Aleph Hotel, Five Star Alliance
Check out Frommer’s list of special travel offers to China, during the quieter (and immensely better) low season. Though I’m usually a fan of independent travel, some of these packages look too good to pass up. For example: $1,899 for 13 days of sight-seeing (Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Guilin) and roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco.
The Economist recently announced that two new niche carriers have started flying the London-New York route. We’ve watched the low-cost model (thank you, Southwest!) catch on in Europe and Asia, but these two new transatlantic airlines are uniquely (and notably) devoted to luxury business class. Eos has enhanced planes originally built to carry 250 passengers. Now catering to only 48 business travelers, the Eos planes provide an experience more closely akin to corporate jets than business class cabins. Flights commenced October 18, leaving London in the AM, with return fares of $6,500. The other new kid on the block is Maxjet, targeting a different part of the business market: the more budget conscious business travelers. Maxjet planes carry half their original capacity, so 102 passengers enjoy double the space per seat. Return fares are the same as full economy fares, at $1,600. (Both airlines fly from London’s Stansted to New York JFK.)
P.S. A follow-up to my post a few days ago… The New York Times “New Orleans Watch” includes a hotel status report with a list of all the hotels open in the city. Including some of my favorites like the JW Marriott, International House, Le Pavillon and the Monteleone. Come on down south, y’all! The price is right.
October 30, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The press has gone gaga over this sexy addition to the swanky boutique hotels of South Beach. Last year’s $60 million make-over of the Hotel Victor has utterly transformed the formerly-tacky Ocean Drive. Right next door to the famed Versace mansion, the Hotel Victor is centrally located in the middle of the Art Deco district, just a hop from the city’s buzzing nightlife. Parisian designer Jacques Garcia has created a sensory explosion of rich color, aromatic infusions and whimsical retro furniture, the lobby marked by an illuminated moon jellyfish tank. The hotel’s 91 rooms and suites are situated around an infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic. Mini-bars are stuffed full of “South Beach life-style essentials” (chilled eye mask, anyone?) The 6,000 square foot Spa V entices with signature treatments (like the Jet Lag V which incorporates a patented formula of volcanic mud) and the only Turkish Hammam in South Beach. The best part of the hotel? Your personal “vibe manager,” who can arrange just about anything you want to do in Miami-- from salsa to surfing.
Hotel Victor, Official Site
Hotel Victor, Five Star Alliance
October 29, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
After much passionate debate, our Five Star Alliance crew of somewhat obsessive luxury hotel fans was finally able to come to agreement on what we consider to be world's best luxury hotels. Coming up with our lists (which cover luxury spa resorts, golf resorts, beach resorts, business hotels, and even honeymoon resorts) wasn't easy, but we're asked for our recommendations so often that we figured we might as well tell the world. Hopefully you'll find the lists as much fun to read as we do. Do you have a favorite that didn't make our lists? After checking them out, come back and discuss your favorites with us! (You'll find a link for comments at the bottom of each list.)