November 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
A recent article in The Guardian got me thinking about the hotel rating system—those hotels that strangely surpass five stars. The best-known example worldwide? Why the seven-star, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab takes that prize. Perched on its own island, its tower soaring above the skyline, the hotel is the landmark visible for all of Dubai. What’s so special about a pad here? Personalized butler service, a laptop and private fax in every suite, an underwater seafood restaurant (reached by a simulated three-minute submarine ride), and an 18th floor spa with sweeping views of the Arabian Sea. The price tag starts at $1,000 a night.
With such over-the-top perks at luxury hotels these days (personal iPods and PSPs, and all the good stuff I’ve recently blogged about), it’s no wonder that hotel PR departments are getting creative with their rating systems. After all, there is no global, standardized rating system. Sure, different tourist boards around the world have their own ratings, and Mobil and AAA are widely known, but a universal system? Nope.
That’s pretty bogus if you ask me. What should we do about it?
Courtesy-- again-- of Island Magazine. Any that didn't make the list? What's your tropical dream?
Live in the Northeast? Don’t worry about flying to Florida this winter when you can take your swimsuit to a water park!, a recent AP article counseled. Hmmm, a lodge in the Poconos vs. Miami Beach. Somehow-- I muse-- it’s not quite the same thing… But read on, loyal reader, the concept is pretty sweet. The park in question just opened in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains (very convenient to the whole Megalopolis of the East Coast), and another one is opening soon in New York’s Adirondacks. Great Wolf Lodge is a 78,000 sq ft indoor water park, with 401 suites (log cabin style), an arcade, spa, restaurants and fitness center. This is a full-service family resort, and the kids go gaga over the water park’s 11 slides, wave pool, winding river, and whirlpools. The price ranges from $189 in the off season to $569 for a luxury suite during the holiday peak.
Devastating news about Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers attacking Jordan Hotels (the four- and five-star Radisson SAS, Days Inn and Grand Hyatt) yesterday. After these sickening acts of terrorism, the U.S. embassy in Beijing has issued warnings of attacks at four- and five-star hotels across China.
This is no Vegas heist. George Clooney has graduated from robbing Vegas casinos on film, to actually developing them. Clooney, along with night-club extraordinaire Rande Gerber, Related Las Vegas and Centra Properties, have partnered to create Las Ramblas—a $3 billion luxury hotel-condo-casino complex. Its namesake, the legendary boulevard in Barcelona, inspired the urban plan of an outdoor pedestrian promenade lined with European cafes and boutiques. (So guests can feel like they’re actually walking through a city! How novel.) The 25-acre development is situated along Harmon Avenue, just west of the Hard Rock. Along with 4,400 hotel and condo units, Las Ramblas will have a 30,000 sq-ft spa, swimming pools, upscale shopping and a 40,000 sq-ft casino. Not to mention the best and chic-est nightlife. After all, these are the guys whose After Midnight Company (evolved from The Whiskey Bar brand) has helped revolutionize and innovate nightlife across the country. Scheduled to open in 2008. Strict dress code, folks.
November 9, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
I just heard about another controversial development project: the first five-star hotel opened yesterday in war-ravaged Kabul. The Kabul Serena luxury hotel offers 177 guestrooms, ranging in price from $250-$1,200 a night. Afghanistan’s capital is being revitalized by foreign aid and investment (and profits from the opium trade). Yet many argue that money invested in development projects—such as the city’s luxury hotel—should be aimed instead at projects to aid the poor. On the other side of the coin, the hotel is providing jobs for 360 Afghans (20% women) and is helping to promote economic growth and international tourism. The hotel itself—as explained by its developer—helps the national economy by accommodating those foreigners who will have a major impact on developing the economy. What are your thoughts?
Barcelo shelled out 31 million dollars for the luxurious La Jolla De Mismaloya, known worldwide as the setting where Ava Gardner and Richard Burton got it on during the filming of The Night of the Iguana. The 303-suite luxury hotel—now dubbed the Barcelo La Jolla de Mismaloya— was built in 1989 on the site of the sets used by John Huston in directing the 1964 film. With this new addition, Barcelo will operate 11 hotels (3,613 rooms) in Mexico, including the Yucatan’s Barcelo Maya Colonial and the Barcelo Maya Tropical, planned for late 2005.
Both The Washington Post and The Independent UK have recently reported the impossible: the development of a five star, $85 million hotel in the heart of Baghdad. The 23-storey “opulent palace complex”—as described by the Independent—will be the first private investment in Iraq since the U.S.-led war. Not to mention: the tallest building in the capital. (Hmmm, could the target be made any more obvious?) The land is being donated by the Iraqi government, but the (foolish) private financing is being undertaken by an Iraqi businessman. The hotel will be located in the middle of the Green Zone (built to withstand mortar and rocket attack), and will take two years to build. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the project, because most citizens cannot enter the Green Zone, and the hotel would thus be serving only the foreign population. (The plush suites, business centers, conference rooms and golf range accessible to a select few foreigners.) This has got to be a joke. Would you book a room here? PS. Apparently, there’s another plan brewing- to turn Saddam Hussein's former Tikrit palaces into a themed tourist destination. Don't know about you, but I've always fantasized about vacationing at the former-residence of a war criminal...
Fodor’s Editors recently released their Winter 2006 picks for hotels, restaurants and unforgettable experiences. And they’ve got great taste! (Both Esperanza in Cabo and Faena Hotel + Universe in Buenos Aires made the cut.) The Fodor’s List includes Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Eco Lodge in Nicaragua, which is beautiful and all, but beware of creepy-crawlies and things that go bump in the night. Big spiders reported. (For those even just a teensy bit squeamish of jungle bugs, steer clear.)
The most outstanding new city hotel across all of Asia? The award goes to the Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong-- bestowed at the 16th Annual Travel Awards 2005, presented by TTG Asia. The hotel is a business traveler’s dream. With Omnipresent WIFI, IP Telephony and 42 inch Plasma TVs, the hotel is the most technologically advanced in Asia. The hotel’s Chuan Spa—perched on the top three floors of the hotel—is arguably the best in Hong Kong. And with a location directly above the MTR subway station, the hotel provides easy access to all of Hong Kong. (And let’s not forget the 600,000 square feet of shopping at Langham Place Mall, connected to the hotel by walkbridge.)
Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong, Official Site
Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong, Five Star Alliance