March 2, 2012
By: Christopher Roney
The last place one might expect to find a luxury hotel is on the wartorn streets of Kabul, where the porter's duty is as much to wipe off the accumulated dust of the ruined cityscape as it is to carry your luggage. But one hotel brand is not just opening there, it's making it its mission to use the luxury hotel business to spur development in struggling countries, predominantly in the Middle East. As Foreign Policy reports, Serena hotels are a mainstay of areas of internal conflict, its flagship property protected by armed guards in the heart of Islamabad. And they're looking to expand their efforts in Afghanistan as a part of the unique mission of their benefactor, Aga Khan.
Aga Khan, whose personal wealth measures in the billions, began the hotel chain in the 1970s, and it is supported by Norfund, a Norwegian development fund, and International Finance Corp. of the World Bank. As he is himself a spiritual leader of a sect of some 15 million Shiite Muslims, the vested interest in bringing the luxury hotel industry to Muslim countries is clear. Part of the international development process is giving visiting businessmen and dignitaries a place where they can feel safe and taken care of while they come to work the deals that might, in theory, help lift places like Kabul out of the perpetual poverty of a war-stricken country.
While the investment is not without its perils, the Serena in Kabul has been attacked three times since its opening in 2005, Serena has also been able to maintain occupancy rates of 60% in the very same hotel. The visitors to Kabul are, of course, aware of the perils of the situation they are choosing to step into, and are often intimately tied into the conflict itself. The clear hope is that once stability is gained, the hotels can serve as an existing infrastructure to develop a tourism industry around, and Serena's safer hotels in more established regions do a good business. Regardless of your thoughts on this kind of luxury development work in countries where even food and water can be hard to come by for much of the population, Serena serves as a fascinating test case for developing industries in countries without the infrastructure to support them and shows the potential the hotel industry has to do more than provide a nice vacation. You can read the full piece from Foreign Policy here and find out more about Serena properties at Five Star Alliance.
Kabul Serena Photo via Foreign Policy
February 28, 2012
By: Oksana Balytsky
We understand that an incredible view is of utmost importance to luxury travelers. After a day of exploring a new city, there’s nothing more enjoyable then returning to your luxurious accommodations and taking in the miraculous view before calling it a day. For others, there simply is no time to enjoy everything a city has to offer, and the only exploration one has time for is to take in the view from the hotel. We’d like to introduce you to our blog series, which will be featuring incredible hotels with incredible views! Whatever your travel reasons or however much time you have to enjoy your trip, we hope you leave thinking wow what a view!
Our third feature is the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus. It’s located on the European bank of the Bosphorus, which flows through Istanbul’s phenomenal history. This luxury hotel is a converted Ottoman Palace surrounded by indigo water and mountaintops. Its 145 guest rooms and 25 suites blend Ottoman design with contemporary furnishings and nearly a quarter of the rooms offer incredible views across the legendary Strait to the hills of Asia. Rooms located on the first and second floor offer straight views of the water and the Maiden’s Tower in Old Town. The hotel’s pool overlooks the Bosphorus, and the outdoor terrace of the hotel’s restaurant Aqua allows you to dine right on the water’s edge.
Be sure to keep up with our blog series to discover various luxury hotels all over the world with the best views!
February 9, 2012
By: Oksana Balytsky
In today’s competitive world, everyone needs a way to stand out from the crowd. Luxury hotels certainly are not any different and are always looking for ways to outshine their competitors and attract more visitors. We understand that our travelers look for the best of the best, and we would like to introduce you to our blog series, Hotels with an Edge. We’ll be highlighting and featuring a few hotels we feel truly stand out and offer their guests more than is expected. Be sure to check in with us to explore various hotels that deserve recognition for their supreme levels of luxury.
Our second featured hotel is the soon-to-be tallest hotel in the world, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is to relinquish its tallest hotel crown and take the seat behind this new property in Dubai. The JW Marriott Marquis Dubai has announced that its two towers will stand 1,164 feet tall, and it will offer 1,608 rooms. Unlike other exceptionally tall hotels, this property will be dedicated to hotel operations only. It will offer 9 restaurants, 5 lounges, a 16,000 square foot spa, 24 meeting rooms, private event space, and more. This hotel is scheduled to open in two phases starting in October, and it will have 804 rooms ready for guests. If you can’t wait until then, check out the other luxurious properties we have in Dubai!
Missed our first feature, the current tallest hotel in the world? Check it out here! Be sure to keep up with our blog series for a little inspiration on where to stay next!
A look into the presidential suite; photo courtesy of HotelChatter
February 6, 2012
By: Christopher Roney
Here at Five Star Alliance, we have a number of superlative hotels, in a very literal sense of the word. The Armani Hotel Dubai's claim to fame is that, as the name suggests, it is the very first hotel designed by the world famous Giorgio Armani. Epitomizing the stylistic elegance of the fine suits the same Armani is well known for, the hotel is sleek, modern, minimal, and luxurious. It's hotel that feels comfortable in its clothes, and it knows it. From the Eramosa stone floors to the zebrawood panelling, you'll find the Armani brings a unique understanding of unorthodox pairings that somehow feel natural together.
While you're there, enjoy any one of eight restaurants and relax in a 12,000 sq ft spa whose thermal suites will melt the tension in your muscles like the chocolate from the Armani/Dolci sweets store will melt in your mouth.
Of special note is the personally designed Armani Dubai Suite with breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf from your 390 sqm. space 39 floors above the streets below. Two bedrooms, a spacious living room, and a bathroom with separate shower and bathtub are all uniquely laid out to maximize luxury, and that's not even to mention the full-service bar and pantry.
The Armani Hotel Dubai is sleek, stylized, and hip and makes every effort to tailor your stay to the exact fit. In a city made of luxury, the Armani somehow manages to stand out from the crowd, and that's certainly worth a second look.
December 24, 2011
By: Five Star Alliance
In the #8 spot, we have the Atlantis the Palm Dubai, an aquatic Dubai resort.
Quick facts about the Atlantis the Palm Dubai:
- The entire Atlantis is built around an oceanic tribute to a mythological age where sharks and dolphins roam the seas and Poseidon invites guests to enter his realm of aquatic beauty.
- On the coastline of the largest man-made island in the world, Atlantis the Palm is surrounded by the sea of the Arabian Gulf at the very tip of the palm island crescent.
- With over 1,500 rooms and suites available and 16 restaurants, the sprawling Atlantis never lacks for entertainment, fueled by 15 million gallons of salt and freshwater attractions.
- Its pool/aquatic experience came up #2 on our list of the Ten Best Hotel Pools in the World, and here's what we had to say about it:
'Atlantis the Palm Dubai may just be the best thing ever. If you got all the things together in one place, and made me pick, I’d say, “I want that thing. It looks like the best thing.” So what is this thing I’m so excited about? Well, it just might be a standard luxurious hotel pool, only it’s attached to a full water park! I don’t bandy about with exclamation points lightly, but this seems to be worth one. If you, like me, have ever thought, “wow, this vacation is really relaxing, but what I’d really like is to go launching out of a ziggurat at high speeds into a pool of water,” then this is the destination for you. And even more than that, much of the hotel is themed around this aquatic experience. There are underwater mazes, a four-and-a-half hectare dolphin habitat, and something they just call Aquaventure.'
- Atlantis the Palm even includes a specialized kids program through the Atlantis Kids Club and Club Rush, where your children can go to enjoy the aquatics either with their parents or supervised by specialized Atlantis staff, so you can enjoy some more adult vacation time.
View photos, learn more about the hotel, and check availability at the Atlantis the Palm Dubai >>
Be sure to keep up with our countdown as we spotlight a new hotel every day until the New Year!
November 29, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Now that's a lot of Christmas stollen. The chefs at the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates have been hard at work preparing for the 6th Annual Stollen Charity Cake Sale which will take place on Friday, December 9th at the Mall of the Emirates' Galleria. They've been churning out loaf after loaf of the German yuletide cake- just check out the photo! The fundraiser will benefit the children of the Dubai Center for Special Needs. Buy a morsel of stollen for AED 5, or an entire loaf for AED 100, and revel in the charitable spirit of the festive season. There will be all kinds of fun and games for kids, to boot. Try face painting, music, and a special appearance by Santa Claus. Shop til you drop in the Mall of the Emirates, one of Dubai's landmark retail destinations, or hit the slopes- in the middle of the desert! The Kempinski is the only hotel with direct views onto Ski Dubai-- a unique indoor ski destination with five different runs and a 3,000 square-meter Snow Park featuring a snow cavern. When you tire of the snow, hit the hotel's infinity pool to bronze in the sunshine.
November 14, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
For his first eponymous hotel, Giorgio Armani didn't exactly go about it quietly. He chose the tallest building in the world-- the towering Burj Khalifa-- as the setting for the sleek Armani Hotel Dubai, which embodies the fashion mogul's sophisticated style even in the tiniest of details. Now Armani has done it again-- this time with a brand new "palazzo" hotel in his home town of Milan. Situated on via Manzoni in the city's designer shopping district, the Armani Hotel Milan recently held a star-studded opening gala where celebs like Jessica Alba donned their finest Armani apparel.
Conde Nast Traveller says: "Giorgio Armani has created a home from home, or casa della casa, for suitably stylish guests in Milan. Interiors are perfectly in keeping with Armani/Casa's sleek style and his clothing line; a continuation of his ocean-inspired Spring/Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection - think silver and sophisticated gold." Luxury Travel Advisor is smitten with the suites that come with private gyms and personal kitchens. "Each guest is assigned his or her personal "lifestyle manager," (think 24/7 butler). There is a rooftop spa with Japanese onsen-style Jacuzzi and gym overlooking the Duomo and La Scala (posh indeed!)."
November 10, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Calling all shopping addicts. Come winter, the Dubai Shopping Festival is where it's at. Get a tan (and soak up the balmy temps) while you're sprinting between boutiques. Indulge in some retail therapy with serious discounts on luxury brands, and you'll also be privy to the region's biggest "entertainment extravaganza"-- ie. huge fireworks displays, daily car raffles, and more. The best part of all? Shopping in Dubai is entirely tax-free. The annual month-long fest takes place from January 20- February 20, 2012 and attracts some three million visitors. Looking for a place to stay? Five Star Alliance has the skinny on a number of glamorous Dubai hotels- from the "seven-star" Burj Al Arab to Armani's very own pad (pictured). Take a gander at the full list here.
November 4, 2011
By: Oksana Balytsky
The Ritz-Carlton resorts have been known to provide exceptional service and luxurious accommodations, and the Ritz-Carlton Dubai is no exception. This hotel, however, is taking luxury a step further and is now proudly offering the services of a Hookah Sommelier. The Ritz-Carlton Dubai embraces the United Arab Emirates culture and ensures that its guests experience true Arabian hospitality.
With its very own Hookah Sommelier on staff, the Ritz-Carlton Dubai now has a professional to recommend a shisha flavor that goes well with your food and drink. Aside from creating the perfect tobacco blend, the Hookah Sommelier, upon request, can craft a unique shisha flavor which will be recorded and remembered for your future visits. Not an avid hookah smoker? Not a problem. Guests at the Ritz-Carlton Dubai can also relax on white sand beaches, enjoy incredible shopping opportunities, or simply take in the astonishing sites of Dubai.
October 31, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
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.