Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman

Just returned from a marvelous family vacation at The Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman and was moved to write about it because the resort is awesome.

Completed in 2006 and sitting on 144 beautifully landscaped acres, this is THE premier luxury resort on Grand Cayman.

The hotel "welcome" on arrival ( my 4 year-old Emma loves the hotel "welcome" ) was everything we expected with porters, door men & even management greeting - just over the top.

The resort's interiors contain elegantly appointed furnishings, spectacular tropical floral arrangements, as well as rich wall coverings and chandeliers. And since the resort has a rear facing side over a wonderful golf course & a forward facing side over the spectacular 7 Mile Beach, there is an elevated, air conditioned walkway across the road from the beach that makes seaside access a breeze and interesting because one actually walks thru an art gallery too. Some may not like this layout but it worked for most of us. My 16 month old who just discovered walking enjoyed this corridor more than anyone.

The property features seven restaurants and bars, including alfresco service, casual snack spots and fine dining. Blue by Eric Ripert, is an elegant venue and recipient of three Michelin stars which we did not have a chance to dine at with two kids and an extended family with too many individual tastes.

This property is known for its 7 Wonders on 7 Mile Beach experience. The seven wonders include :

1. Golf- there is a 9-hole golf course-the only course on Grand Cayman.

2. Tennis - The tennis center was designed by renowned coach Nick Bolletteri and boasts three red-clay courts and one grass court. Lessons, workshops and a full tennis program are available for guests (surcharge).

3. Ambassador of the Environment - children's program designed and sponsored by Jean Michel Cousteau. Children learn through excursions, activities and programs about the Caymans and the Caribbean's natural environment.

4. Watersports - The Ritz offers all sorts of watersports rentals and will book diving, snorkeling, and fishing trips. For those who prefer pools, there are two outdoor pools (one beachfront and the other a quieter option close to the lagoon) and whirlpools. .

5. Spa - The full-service spa specializes in many types of treatments and pampering. Options include a la carte treatments, as well as complete pampering packages to address any beauty, health or relaxation need. The steam rooms and sauna are open to all resort guests free of charge.

6. Fitness - A very adequate gym on-site provides complimentary group classes, personal training, and the latest in muscle-pounding technogadgetry.

7. Beach - It's really about (5 1/2 miles) long, but who's counting? The translucent aquamarine waters are very inviting. Australian pines dot the background (except where there is a huge resort like the er.. Ritz of course), and the average winter temperature of the water is a perfect 80°. Wait staff parades around the beach front taking food & drink orders & delivers them to your chaise lounger or even into the water where one can sit on these floating table & chairs and enjoy lunch. There are cabanas available for rental, and there are plenty of free cushioned beach chairs with their own sun shades for guest use.

There are several categories of rooms, suites and even multi-room residences. The Standard Resort View and Ocean Front rooms are well-appointed but a bit small for my taste. Nevertheless, the top-end mattress are covered with feather duvets, down pillows and 400-thread-count designer Italian sheets that make these smaller rooms very accommodating! If you can splurge, go for the Blue Tip Suites which are 960 sq ft and include two 75-sq-ft private terraces. They do however need flat-screen TV's instead of those TV/Armoires that are just outdated. There is also wireless internet access in the rooms & all common areas of the resort so one can stay in touch all the while.

The staff, as always at a Ritz, couldn't do enough for you, all very friendly and helpful.

This is the absolute best property on 7 Mile Beach for luxury guests. It is an all encompassing resort chosen by high-end clients who do not mind the lofty prices. This is why there is a Tiffany Retail shop on premises! It is the top of the line in Grand Cayman and is a sure bet for those who expect the best.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fitting Rooms at the World's Most Fashionable Hotels

It's the definitive fashion fantasy: to enter a world created entirely by your favourite fashion designer and never leave. Well, until checkout, that is. From the soft furnishings to the fixtures and fabric, staying in a hotel fashioned by your designer deity - while you wear their wardrobe, of course - is the closest you'll come to experiencing the world of luxury through their eyes. And with fashion hotels opening around the world, you can now "try on" rooms by Moschino, Armani, Diane von Furstenberg and, soon, Louis Vuitton.

Creating the hotel of your dreams is exactly what Italian fashion label Moschino was aiming for with Maison Moschino, Milan, run by the high-end hotel group, Hotel Philosophy. There, you can sleep in a bed of roses or an oversized ball gown that swallows your bed beneath its skirt. The creative director of Moschino, Rossella Jardini, known for her playful ideas such as the label's lampshade corset, led the design of 16 different interiors for the hotel's 65 rooms and suites. They read like a list of stops down Alice's rabbit hole: there's the Forest Room, where trees climb from the bed's four corners, or the Sweet Room, where giant flan-like cushions adorn the bed and a chandelier dangles sweet treats from above.

In London, fashionista travellers might want to stop in at Claridge's in Mayfair to stay in one of Diane von Furstenberg's 20 newly designed rooms, the first few of which opened late last month. Fans will find von Furstenberg's signature prints and bold colours alongside original furniture pieces in what is the New York-based designer's first foray into interior design.

Skip up to Scotland for some ready-to-wear, ultra-mod rooms by Italian fashion house Missoni at its namesake Edinburgh hotel, which opened in June 2009 and is run by the Rezidor Hotel Group.

One of Italy's hippest nonnas, 78-year-old designer Rosita Missoni, is behind the look, a visual onslaught of pinks and prints, balanced with black-and-white basics then splintered with flares of colour. Two more Missoni Hotels are due to open soon: in Kuwait in October and in Cape Town early next year.

For anyone inspired by the Sex and the City foursome's designer-driven adventure to the United Arab Emirates in the latest movie, you can amp up your Arabian fashion fervour with a stay at Armani Hotel, Dubai. Located in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the 160-room hotel is clad from bedhead to bar with Giorgio Armani-designed furnishings from the label's home collection. A total of four resorts and 10 Armani hotels are planned for the world's fashion capitals, including Milan (2010), London, Paris, New York and Tokyo.

Or perhaps you'd like a little Louis Vuitton va-voom in your vacation. The label's parent company, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (which also includes Dior, Givenchy, Fendi and Marc Jacobs), has previously dabbled in hotel design with the Cheval Blanc, a five-star mountain lodge in south-eastern France. Now it has plans to open hotels under the Cheval Blanc name in Oman and Egypt in 2012.

While the fashion designer hotel experience is unarguably a beautiful one, does it really outdo other luxury hotel brands? What is the appeal beyond the novelty of sleeping between Armani-emblazoned sheets?

"I think it gives a lot of personality to a hotel," Australian fashion designer Collette Dinnigan says. "And to have the concept of 'every room's different', or you can name the room that you stayed in, it's quite personal. You don't want to feel like you're in a generic shoebox."

Vanity is another reason to bed down in a designer boudoir. "Fashion designers ... design rooms that people look good in," says American fashion-turned-hotel designer Todd Oldham, who redesigned The Hotel, Miami, in 1999 and Fairfax South Beach, Miami, in 2007.

But not every fashion hotel will grant you a five-star reflection. "I wouldn't just design a hotel room to make someone look good," says Dinnigan, who hopes to branch into hotel design. "They have to feel good. And if you feel good then you usually look good because it gives you confidence."

Feeling good is about finding a suite style that suits you. Lovers of neoclassicism, baroque and bling, for example, feel at home at the Palazzo Versace - the world's first completely fashion-branded hotel - on the Gold Coast.

"[At the Palazzo] you're immersing yourself in the lifestyle that is Versace," says Sabha Abedian, the managing director of the Palazzo's developer, Sunland Group. "You're getting a total experience that is unique and different."

Aside from this shiny hotel on the Gold Coast, Australians must travel far for a fashion-hotel fix. Why is that when Australia considers itself to be a fashion-forward nation and is the birthplace of the fashion-hotel concept?

"Because [fashion hotels] are very expensive to build and very expensive to operate and manage," Abedian says.

From the linen to the bath products (which include fragrances) and the cutlery in the restaurants, everything in the Palazzo is of the Versace brand. Coffee cups and saucers in the dining areas retail for about $100 a pop. "We have to sell a lot of cappuccinos in the event that one breaks," Abedian says.

It could also be to do with the fact Australia's fashion industry is young and our hotel market slow.

"We have some very talented designers but they don't have the same brand recognition, or the same level of aspirational value, as the international luxury brands do," Abedian says. "Not to say that they won't in time but the problem is that we don't have the critical mass of a population to be able to support and sustain an industry like fashion in this country."

It looks like we'll have to settle for a trip to Europe and a bed of roses instead.

Here is a list of proprties where one can find of some of the world's most fashionable rooms:.

■ Diane von Furstenberg at Claridge's, London,

■ Armani Hotel, Dubai

■ Ferragamo, Lungarno Hotel Florence

■ Bvlgari Hotels in Milan and Bali

■ Chanel, Coco Chanel Suite, The Ritz Paris

■ Vera Wang Suite, The Halekulani Hotel

Jodie McLeod struted the couture hotel catwalk in search of these high-fashion getaways for the Sydney Morning Herald where I copied the article from.