Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Bathroom Views

If you’re a fan of views from your living space or guest room then you’ll be pleased to learn more about hotels with stunning views from not just your suite’s main space, but from the bathroom as well. Stock up on bubble bath, collect a pile of fluffy towels, and consider buying a waterproof, one-time-use camera to bring into the bath with you! These are some of the best hotel bathroom views in the world.

Post Ranch Inn
Soak in the tub after a long horseback ride and enjoy the incredible beauty of the Big Sur coastline. The Post Ranch Inn, located off Highway One, combines rustic beauty and incredible natural sights to reach a place on Travel + Leisure’s international “best bathroom views” list.

“Mountainviews include views of the Santa Lucia peaks and rugged Ventana Wilderness. If you want to be even closer to nature, head outdoors for a soak in a stainless-steel hot tub on the private terrace,” Travel + Leisure coos.

Jade Mountain
Jade Mountain’s breathtaking views even extend to the bathtub. This luxury hotel rises majestically over the untouched beach and clear water, complemented by the stunning architectural triumph of the Jade Mountain Resort. Bold design is exactly what allows such amazing views for all guests, including the “absence of a fourth wall” to create the essential stage-like setting for visitors to Jade Mountain. This open-to-the-elements hotel design invites natural beauty into your room like no other hotel in the world.

Travel + Leisure describes: “You can unwind [in the bathroom] in a whirlpool tub, which is raised above the rest of the living area, for unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea and the verdant mountainsides of the Pitons World Heritage Site.”

Hotel Plaza Athenee
Everyone needs to go to Paris once--and when you do that, you should also try staying in a hotel with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Since not every room features views of the iconic tower, be sure to request the Terrace Eiffel Suites on the hotel’s top floor. You can make the window turn opaque for privacy, or you can leave the glass “au naturale” to see the glowing, breathtaking sight of the Eiffel Tower by night.

Six Senses at Zighy Bay
This hotel’s rustic appearance doesn’t mean that you’re not getting top-billed views from your bathroom. Sensitively blending in with its surroundings, the Six Senses at Zighy Bay is situated between sandy beach and mountains in Oman. It’s not just the hotel bathrooms that have great views, of course--booking a meal at the hilltop restaurant means that you’ll be spoiled by views of sparkling, crystal waters of the Gulf of Oman. As for that bathroom, the enclosed patio in the Private Reserve Suite gives you peeks of the gulf, too.

You might not have a view in the bathroom at home, but that’s the beauty of booking at a top-rated hotel with Exclusive Complimentary Perks--you can get nearly anything you’ve dreamed of.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hottest Travel Destinations of the Year

2011 is here, resolutions are in full swing, and we need to start planning for our vacations for the year. With a list prepared and luggage ready to go, we can take the hottest travel destinations of 2011, find the very best hotels out there, and then book to our hearts’ content.

Travel + Leisure are list makers extraordinaire, and they spared no expense to hunt down the most popular vacation destinations of 2011. If you’ve done London, Paris, Rome, and Vienna, then you should buckle up for exotic trips in less-frequented cities worldwide.

Since you’ll be traveling for such a long time on the plane, you should combine your dreams for an Australian vacation with the plans suggested by Travel+Leisure. Start your trip in the orange-red outback of Kimberley, which features untouched coastline, trails galore, and Aboriginal caves not far from the winding path through the northwestern section of Down Under.

After snapping pictures of the reefs, checking out the areas’s largest town (Broome), and traveling by boat to see the natural wildlife, spend the rest of your time in Australia recuperating at hotels like the Four Seasons Sydney. You’ll be able to take advantage of an adventure-filled break, and then you’ll prepare for the long trip home in the lap of luxury.

Zambia, Central Africa
Going to Zambia is an unforgettable experience, raw and untouched. A trip to Central Africa wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t peppered with large-game viewing, exploring the plains, and nature-gawking in canoe tours and car safaris. Besides ecotourism trips, you should explore all that your hotel has to offer, like views of the dramatic falls from the Royal Livingstone. The Falls Resort is a three-property hotel collection with a good deal of perks and natural views, and with a combination of what the Royal Livingstone calls “luxury, extravagance and sheer indulgence,” it’s sure to please.

Mexico’s a complicated vacationing spot, filled with social contrast, natural beauty, and stunning architectural finds. Travel + Leisure’s leaving time on the Mexico-vacation itinerary to visit the town of San Miguel de Allende, which is now considered a “model for historic preservation.” Delicious, quality restaurants, interesting art finds, and lots of cared-for public space makes for a wonderful sightseeing experience. For your lodging, one top contender is the Casa de Sierra Nevada, which is located right in San Miguel de Allende and offers the “ultimate Mexico experience” for guests. If you’re into cooking and you’d like to replicate Mexican cuisine at home, don’t forget about their Sazon school’s Mexican cooking instruction!

Travel + Leisure’s got the options right there for you, but how will you decide? Sometimes flipping a coin over a couple of the top luxury hotel options is the only way to go.

Friday, January 21, 2011

America’s Most Affordable Cities

Have you ever gotten an amazing deal on a hotel, only to find out that surrounding city was so expensive that you ended up spending more than you planned for your trip? If you have a chance before you meet with your travel agent, you can review America’s most affordable cities, which will give you a better idea of how you can save on your next vacation.

Houston, Texas
Houston got on the new Forbes affordability list because of its deals, low housing prices, employment opportunities, and cost-of-living factor. If you like to shop when you’re exploring a city, then Houston is a clever choice for the luxury hotel lover. Dining will be less expensive, and you can also stay longer in the city to explore.

Four Seasons Hotel Houston
Perfectly situated in the center of Houston’s financial district, the Four Seasons Hotel Houston provides more than just amenities for the business traveler. This hotel offers a range of amenities at no additional cost, plus FREE complimentary perks through your booking.

Hotel Granduca
Do you prefer a grand setting when you’re vacationing? This luxury hotel in Houston features 123 suites with old-world charm. Despite its quiet appeal, the hotel is still located close to shopping options as well as boutiques, restaurants, and spas.

Raleigh, North Carolina
East Coast vacationing doesn’t have to be expensive--not if you go to North Carolina! While there are small-town adventures to be had and outdoors experiences to schedule, prices are low enough that one can book multiple experiences through the hotel or via an independent tour provider. Either way, you can experience more for less in North Carolina, especially if you include Raleigh as part of your state tour.

While you’re traveling the Carolinas, consider visiting the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. This oceanfront hotel is located only thirty minutes from Charleston, but it still feels appropriately secluded for a relaxing stay away from home. Golf, spa treatments, and weekend shopping are all close to this stunning resort location.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Midwest cleaned up on Forbes’ list of the most affordable cities in the States, and one of Forbes' top picks was Minneapolis. Minneapolis was called a city with a “desirable amenity base” by one expert, and its number of local educational institutions results in funky coffee shops, interesting retail destinations, and plenty of cultural highlights on the schedule.

Le Meridien Chambers, Minneapolis
Le Meridien’s guests stay on two floors of a landmark revival building, providing a new setting for the average guest. Partnering with the Walker Art Center, Le Meridien Chambers offers exclusive, complimentary access to the galleries and also features original contemporary artwork from celebrated artists. The Young British Artist Movement is featured heavily in the hotel’s displays.

Hotel Ivy, Minneapolis
The Hotel Ivy is a landmark in Minneapolis, with its captivating Ziggurat details and zigzagging skyway to connect the Convention Center, Nicollet Mall, Orchestra Hall, and the Guthrie Theatre. Besides the impeccable decor and elegant appointments, hotel suites features 10-foot floating ceilings and Italian linens. Taking a break, you can get a massage at the Ivy Spa Club and then dine at Porter & Frye.

The only question we have left is where to first? There are plenty of options for 2011 vacationing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

AAA's Five Diamond Hotels for 2011

Are AAA-rated Five Diamond hotels just a dream for you, or do you stay in them regularly? Even if you've never had a chance to experience what is considered the highest level of luxury hotels by AAA—the “best of the best”--there's always this year. After careful consideration, AAA determined the newest crop of 2011 Five Diamond recipients.

For those not in-the-know, AAA Five-Diamond rated hotels are extremely rare. The Five-Diamond status is given to only .3% of the 59,000 hotels that AAA inspectors visit every year, and the distinction is only bestowed upon luxury hotels in the United States, Canada, Caribbean, and Mexico. Since we can't be the inspectors—what a perfect job that would be, right?--we will take the next best thing-- an opportunity to experience one of their favorite properties in this side of the northern hemisphere.

You could hope that with your good taste, you could choose one of the 179 hotels on AAA's list by accident, but do you want to risk it? A AAA-rated Five Diamond hotel is the perfect pick for someone with high standards, but it's not just a standard hotel stay. Out of 179 hotels, there will be some that feature Exclusive Complimentary Perks that you've never experienced—these are the hotels you need to book in 2011!

Five Diamond Hotel Highlights: The “Best of the Best” Sampler

Right in our backyard:
The Four Season Miami - first made the list in 2006 and has maintained it ever since.
Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, Sunny Isles Beach, first on the list in 2009 and has maintained it for 3 consecutive years!

Trump International Hotel and Tower New York: The Trump International Hotel on the Upper West Side strives for the highest level of luxury service and amenities, and the 167 hotel suites and guestrooms feature fully-equipped kitchens and dramatic windows for stunning New York views.

Tortuga Bay Punta Cana Resort and Club in Punta Cana: Have you ever thought about riding a horse down the beach? Now's your chance to check something off the bucket list with the Tortuga Bay Punta Cana Resort and Club. Nine internationally-recognized restaurants are minutes away from your hotel, and you can't forget to snap pictures of the lush Dominican forests on your drives and excursions--including that horseback ride.

Grand Velas All Suites and Spa Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen: White sand beaches are just part of the appeal of Grand Velas, which provides elegant accommodations, a supreme spa, concierge services, and a convention center. With family-friendly options at Grand Velas, it sounds like everyone's invited to enjoy Playa del Carmen the right way.

Jade Mountain Resort in Soufriere: Will you be able to pull yourself away from the sweeping views? Jade Mountain rises above a 600-acre beachfront and the sparkling Caribbean, and has consistently been noted as one of the most dazzling sanctuaries in its category. It's no surprise that the resort has received Five Diamond attention as well.

Ritz-Carlton (Denver): This unforgettable luxury hotel flaunts a signature restaurant, Elway's, and is located in the center of downtown Denver. Explore Larimer Square and the 16th Street Pedestrian Promenade by day, and then get your spa treatment before you go out on the town. Natural stone and wood create a relaxing haven for guests.

Out of the hotels that have been chosen as 2011 Five Diamond Winners, many have placed on the list for consecutive years running. 124 hotels on the list have received Five Diamond status for multiple years in a row in 2010, and 15 hotels added to last year's list were new to the Five Diamond distinction. Even more impressive than the three-years-running recipients are the few hotels on the AAA Five Diamond Hotel list that have maintained Five Diamond Status for more than thirty years—35, to be exact. The lucky locations? The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs; Camelback Inn, the JW Marriott Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Will more hotels start setting Five Diamond records? We'd like to hope so, but now's your chance to explore 2011 picks. Don't wait!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Joining Food Network at Sea can be an Experience

We usually devote all of our postings to luxury hotels.

But in this particular case, we wanted to highlight how much fun one could have on a luxury cruise ship if they were to sailing on an official Food Network cruise. Take a look and see what we mean.

Lorraine Travel (which owns the site WhataHotel !), as a member of Signature Travel Network, is now offering a Mediterranean and Transatlantic Food Network at Sea sailing featuring Food Network star Anne Burrell, the vivacious host of popular series Worst Cooks in America and Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. The 11-night cruise aboard the new Celebrity Silhouette sails Rome, Cagliari, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon and New York, departing October 22, 2011.

“Following Food Network at Sea’s successful inaugural sailing in August 2010, this cruise marks the next exclusive culinary travel itinerary available to our clients with a passion for travel and the joy of cooking,” says Greg Guiteras of Lorraine Travel. “We are very excited to bring this exclusive opportunity to travel with Food Network to our clients. Many of them have heard about the first cruise and have already begun asking us how they can be a part of this next sailing! It truly is a remarkable experience.”

Lorraine Travel’s Food Network Travel guests will enjoy exclusive access to authentic and engaging Food Network Travel experiences. “By invitation only” Food Network events include: culinary demonstrations led by Food Network star Anne Burrell, hands-on interactive cooking classes led by Food Network Kitchens chefs, private parties featuring Food Network recipes, and Food Network VIP Hospitality lounge. Food Network guests will also receive pre-paid gratuities and special turndown gifts.

Following the successful inaugural sailing in August 2010, Food Network Travel has made a few enhancements for this voyage. Guests will have even more time to enjoy the Food Network experiences as this Mediterranean and Transatlantic itinerary offers multiple days at sea. This conveniently disembarks guests in the “foodie” center of the world: New York.

An additional highlight of the inaugural sailing expanded on this cruise is the hands-on cooking classes led by the chefs of the Food Network Kitchens. These intimate classes give each guest the opportunity to create and eat his or her own culinary masterpieces. The chefs walk from station to station providing tips and assistance to each guest, creating a truly interactive experience.
Plans are in development to offer a range of exclusive Food Network programs, including additional cruises, as well as land vacations and wine and food festival packages. These experiences will include exclusive access to Food Network stars, as well as trips tied to specific Food Network culinary trends and topics.

Food Network Travel packages for this Mediterranean and Transatlantic sailing featuring Anne Burrell start from $1897 with all exclusive Food Network events included. For information on booking this or other Food Network Travel experiences with Lorraine Travel, just CLICK HERE.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Plaza Hotel Experience

Are you a technology-loving individual, or just someone who likes to stay hooked up to their iPod. There's nothing worse than checking into a hotel and finding your hook-up options sub-par, and The Plaza Hotel has been working on their offerings for an optimal customer experience from day one.

Plaza Hotel General Manager Shane Krige, a fan of new technology like the iPad, took current options and blended them with an interactive customer experience, or ICE, plus in-room environmental controls. The new technology allows hotel guests to control 30 different service areas, starting with in-room dining and zipping all the way to valet service. Not only is it convenient for the customer to use, but it is advantageous for the hotel's operations and procedures.

“That was the home run in this,” Krige said, “to have it be fully integrated into our systems and to offer the guest such a range of capabilities.”

The Plaza Hotel is quick to point out that their new iPad/ICE combination has not been devised to cut costs (although it does, for those interested). It is super-efficient, yes, but it is also able to improve service and help streamline supply-and-demand for food and services, for example.

“And for our guests,” Krige added, “it means that when you arrive at JFK airport, you can use your iPhone to engage the system, check in, and order lunch for your arrival. The ‘personal touch’ it gives us is just astonishing. And the Intelity platform for running a hotel is just superb. But for us, it’s really about improving our guest experience and service.”

If you're a foodie or someone who just likes to move fast, then the ICE technology combination should work for you. The Plaza Hotel has developed a new standard for luxury hotels, and guest service will be taken to new levels, thanks to Krige's interest. You'll get up-to-the-minute special offerings from the hotel restaurant, access to announcements, and service details to your heart's content. Who would complain about better service? If you don't have an iPad, you might want to consider getting one just so that you can check into The Plaza and see what the fuss is about! After all, they were already offering Exclusive Complimentary Perks, so it's a win-win situation for you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cayman Islands Sinks Ship for Reef

Although it's already known for its incredible diving options, the Cayman Islands has plans for a stunning sunken shipwreck off its coast. Last week, the USS Kittiwake was given a new home under the waves, where it will be an ideal spot for divers in coming years.

The 1945 rescue ship lies near the Grand Cayman Island’s Seven Mile Beach, at a depth of 62 feet. With the deck close to the surface of the water, the Cayman Islands’ newest attraction will be an easier dive for newer scuba lovers, also providing a new home for fish and crustaceans living near Seven Mile Beach.

Jon Glatstein was a sailor on the boat for two years in the '80s, and he watched the flooded vessel sink last week.

"This is the first time I've seen the ship in 25 years, and she's in pretty rough shape. But she's been serving divers all her life and now she's going to continue doing just that. That's got to be a whole lot better than getting melted down for razor blades," Glatstein told the press.

The Cayman Islands is already known for its diving options and access to adventure sports--parasailers were even watching the ship sinking last week--so you don’t need to wait for the newest ocean addition to spot coral formations and exotic fish. Book a trip in 2011 to take advantage of the botanic park, stingray tours, horseback riding, and the unique turtle farm, not to mention cove exploration and boat tours.

And where should you stay? One of the top-rated luxury hotels in the Caymans is the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. This 144-acre resort is favored by honeymooners and families alike, thanks to its diverse list of advantages, and it features fine restaurants, a well-planned golf course, it's own magnificent stretch of beach on 7 mile beach and tennis with a pro coach for vacationers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Luxury Perks Get Bigger, Better in 2011

Have you always planned on traveling like an insider? The VIP treatment is what you'll want if you're going to maximize your vacation experience, and we don't mean the VIP perks you get when you book a luxury hotel room—we're talking above and beyond your usual turn-down, wine tastings, and exploration packages. If you've dreamed of got-to-have-them tickets to shows and events only a select few receive, then these revamped programs at hotels around the world will get you planning your next vacation in an instant.

Top hotels worldwide are luring in customers with exclusive packages to tempt. Low-priced, hard-to-find, or entirely unique options are available to the luxury traveler, particularly after recent changes in the travel industry. Beyond free nights' stays and spa credits, the L.A. Times noted, luxury hotels are upping their game in the new season.

"Service and quality of the product are more important to the luxury customer than the rate," Sam Nazarian, SBE's chief executive, told the press. "The luxury customer changes habits much more infrequently than the business, leisure or rate-conscious customer."

Take the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, for instance. While Las Vegas has been an amazing place to be pampered at a high-ranking hotel and still save, you can now double your exclusive complimentary perks by connecting with a casino loyalty program. On January 11th, the MGM Grand will launch the special benefits program, called M Life, that allows access to 15 of the company's properties around the United States. With your spending tracked at the casinos around the country, personalized rewards are generated according to preferences and pattern.

If events are more your thing, then the Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows should be on your possible hotel-booking list. If you want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event and you can pay the price, this particular hotel has been known to get their guests tickets to the Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, and the Golden Globe Awards—at a price of $5,000 to $15,000 per ticket, of course.

Luxury vacations aren't always about bling and brand-new hotels—there are plenty of locations that combine the old and new. The Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris is the perfect place to get tickets to a fashion show or an exclusive arts event, and the Hotel Principe di Savoia Milano participates in a program as part of the Dorcester Collection, which gives guests the opportunity to book bespoke trips and explorations. For example, opera buffs will swoon over the Principe's insider access to La Scala, which is not normally open to the public.

Looking at the wide range of booking options for the average traveler, we wonder how you'll be able to choose. To start, you might want to list all the countries you've dreamed of visiting, and see if a VIP perks package happens to be available in one of those locations. If you're still stuck on which hotel to select, you can always contact your luxury travel agency to find out about seasonal promotions that could correspond with the trip of a lifetime. Since many hotels have the connections to get visitors into top events, you'll only get the best deal by finding out what's on right now.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Best Luxury Hotels in the World

Perhaps you never thought you'd be lucky enough to stay in a hotel that's ranked as one of the best in the world, but the opportunity is closer than you might have imagined. Travel + Leisure picked their highest-ranking lodgings in the world, and each one has its own take on hospitality, from the interior design, to guest perks, to guest dining options.

Travel + Leisure creates an annual collection of these international gems, and their compendium release only comes after asking their public to vote on their top selections.

Travel + Leisure's No. 4 Pick
California: San Ysidro Ranch

If you're the type who travels with pets, then you should consider going to San Ysidro in Santa Barbara, California. Since the 1930s, animals have been welcome at San Ysidro, and your loyal friend can look forward to VIP treatment, too—pets receive food and water dishes, toys, and can even get an in-room massage. The accommodation at San Ysidro Ranch is exclusive, only catering to 90 guests at a time, and the charming clapboard cottage accommodations on 500 acres of land have been renovated to meet guests' exacting standards.

Travel + Leisure's No. 8 Pick
Italy: Palazzo Sasso

Besides placing number 8 on Travel + Leisure's list of top hotels worldwide, the Palazzo Sasso was named the leading resort in Europe for 2010. This stunning five-star destination is situated on the Amalfi coast, and it's far from the mega-resorts we see along waterways worldwide. This hotel is actually a 12th-century villa decorated with furniture from the XVIII and XIX centuries, antique carpets, and brass accessories. Travel + Leisure reminds travelers to go to the Renaissance-style Villa Cimbrone, just a 20-minute walk away, with gardens, cloisters, and a promontory that peeks out over the Mediterranean.

Travel + Leisure's No. 9 Pick
Mexico: Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F.

What to experience colonial-style Mexico in the heart of the city? The Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F. features some of the city's most spacious accommodations, and you should try to book the deluxe rooms, which overlook the courtyard and give you additional quiet time. The hotel is located near Chapultepec Park and business centers, but you'll be able to escape to a quieter world after a busy day exploring. Travel + Leisure recommends going on a tour of the house of Luis Barragán, an influential architect, while in Mexico City.

Travel + Leisure's No. 11 Pick
Caribbean: Jade Mountain

With just 28 open-air suites complete with infinity pools or private Jacuzzis, Jade Mountain in St. Lucia is going to book full up this year. While the “Rooms to Book,” according to Travel + Leisure, are the Galaxy Sanctuaries (they offer sunset views and private pools), any of the stunning spots in Jade Mountain will please. After all, the Celestial Terrace is open to all guests and delivers perfect opportunities for star-gazing and cocktail-sipping at sunset. If you can tear yourself away from your room, Jade Mountain offers adventurous hiking trips, shopping and dining, plus nearby soft sand beaches.

The top 25 hotels tabulated by Travel + Leisure are just the beginning of your world of options. Their expanded list branches out to 500 high-ranking hotels in the world, with 218 in the United States alone. Whether you aim to travel to another corner of the planet in 2011 or stick closer to home, you will find options available to you.