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Travel News 2005

Current Travel News

December 21, 2005

Fairmont Teams with Agassi and Graf for the Perfect Match

This month Andre Agassi and Stefanie (Steffi) Graf chose Fairmont Hotels & Resorts to manage their planned luxury hotel/condo property at the Tamarack Resort north of Boise, Idaho. The partnership unites the vision of the tennis champions—who are husband and wife—with the reputation of one of the world's most esteemed hotel groups in a resort area popular for its skiing, hiking, mountain biking and lake activities. Developed under the direction of Agassi and Graf, the 225-room property, which will include a residential component, will open in 2008. Along with a spa, the property will offer ski and golf amenities. As for tennis, there's no word yet on whether the couple's signature sport will play a prominent role in the new venture.


December 14, 2005

Frankly Speaking: The Wright Stuff in Tokyo

Given Frank Lloyd Wright's association with the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, the property's new Frank Lloyd Wright Suite is cause for celebration. Originally constructed by royal decree in 1890, the hotel was replaced in 1923 with a Wright-designed structure. Due to decay, Wright's building was dismantled in 1967, with portions going to a Japanese architectural park, and a new hotel was built in 1970. The 2,300-square-foot suite, constructed in collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, incorporates original design motifs—such as stained glass and carpet patterns—from the Wright-era hotel, as well as replicas of furniture designed by Wright to decorate his prairie-style houses. Framed drawings of Wright's original sketches hang on the walls, and the entry corridor features a replica of the multihued oya stone relief from the Takara Room which Wright designed for the old hotel—part of the original relief is preserved in the Old Imperial Bar. Comprising a study, living room, dining room, bedroom and two bathrooms, the suite resides on the 14th floor overlooking Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace gardens.


December 7, 2005

The West Coast’s Viceroy Brand Heads for Miami

A few months ago, the New York-centric Thompson and Gansevoort hotels declared their plans to invade Los Angeles. Now, with the Kor Hotel Group sending its style-conscious Viceroy brand (Viceroy Santa Monica, Viceroy Palm Springs) to Miami, the fifteen-minutes-of-fame, bi-coastal hotel scene is finding balance once again. Slated to open in 2008, the Viceroy Icon Brickell will reside in the yet-to-be-built three-tower Icon Brickell complex on Biscayne Bay. Between fifty to sixty stories each, the towers will offer unobstructed views over South Beach and the bay from the 15th floor and above. Keeping up with today’s hot trend, the complex will merge hotel rooms with condo and residential units, à la the Viceroy’s Miami competitor, The Setai. Facilities in the Viceroy Icon Brickell will include a 20,000-square-foot spa, a 50th-floor rooftop lounge and a restaurant on the fifteenth floor overlooking a Philippe Starck-designed swimming pool.



November 16, 2005

St. Regis Joins the Ranks of San Francisco's Top Luxury Hotels

San Francisco isn't short on swanky hotels, but that doesn't mean the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco isn't a welcome addition. The November opening of this SoMa property brought luxury lodgings as well as a new outline to the city skyline. Next door to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the hotel comprises the historic, early 20th-century Williams building and a new forty-story tower, which was inspired by Rodin's sculpture, "Balzac;" the angled top floors replicate the statue's cloak. The Williams Building houses two of the hotel's biggest draws. Ame operates under chef Hiro Sone and his wife, pastry chef Lissa Doumani, of Terra in St. Helena, which was ranked among our 2004 Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S. The restaurant shares a roof with the 9,000-square-foot Remède Spa, which offers ten treatment rooms, customized treatments based on the Labortoire Remède skincare line and Champagne and truffles on arrival. A refreshing, streamlined style incorporating plenty of white is emphasized throughout the hotel, which also includes three commissioned public art installations, 22,500 square feet of space for indoor and outdoor events, Vitrine restaurant and a full fitness center with fifty-foot lap pool for guests and residents—there are 102 St. Regis Residences above the 260 guestrooms and 46 suites.


Historic Housing Turned into Private Cottage Lodging in the Napa Valley

In the Napa wine country, a region known for its intimate lodgings, the new Cottages of Napa Valley fit right in. The property comprises eight small houses, with the oldest dating back to 1939. Over the years they were used to house war veterans, students and vineyard workers, and rumor has it they even served as a brothel. Today, after a complete renovation that restored original wood floors and side and back porches, they operate as a unique B&B. Each extensively remodeled cottage features a sitting area, kitchenette, gas fireplace, flat-screen TV, DVD player, Bose music system and wireless high-speed Internet. Arranged around a central garden courtyard with mature trees, lawns, fountains and flowers, cottages also have their own private gardens with outdoor fireplaces. Baskets of fresh-baked goodies, including pastries from Bouchon Bakery, are delivered to guests each morning. Spa treatments are offered indoors and out, patios are available for meetings and events, and activities such as art classes and wine tours can be arranged. The Cottages of Napa Valley are located a few blocks from Highway 29 in the town of Napa.


November 9, 2005

Farewell to Orange County's Four Seasons Hotel

Hotel history saw the end of an era last week when the Four Seasons Newport Beach became The Island Hotel Newport Beach. Long a symbol of O.C. affluence, the Four Seasons was a favorite destination for celebs, titans of industry and visiting politicians (from the President of the U.S. on down the ranks) for almost twenty years. The Island Hotel is now managed by the Irvine Company, the county's primary real estate developer. Staff turnover means reviews of what was once legendary service are pending, but fans of the old hotel will be happy to know that facilities such as Pavilion restaurant and the 30,000-square-foot spa remain the same.


November 2, 2005

Fashionable Fusion: East Meets West in Hong Kong

Given Hong Kong's booming luxury hotel scene, it was only a matter of time before the Four Seasons group arrived. This fall sees the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, located in one of four towers that comprise the waterfront International Financial Centre (IFC) complex. As a new member of the city's dynamic skyline, the hotel provides 399 guestrooms, whose measurements begin at 484 square feet. A quartet of interior designers have provided a range of styles, from traditional Chinese to contemporary western. Amenities include 42-inch plasma screen TVs and rain showers, and floor-to-ceiling windows mean terrific views of Kowloon, Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak. A team from the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris is responsible for the menu at Caprice Restaurant; additionally, the hotel houses Lung King Heen restaurant and Blue Bar. In the spa, guests will find a crystal steam room with mother-of-pearl covered seating, an ice fountain for cooling off and a private vitality pool. Since Hong Kong is a city of commerce, there are plenty of meeting facilities onsite.


October 26, 2005

Après-Ski "On the Rocks"

The creative minds behind the new N'Ice Club Mont Tremblant lounge in Quebec, Canada, are taking the concept of chilling out quite literally. This novel lounge, due to open its icy doors to après-skiers and everyone else in late December, will be made entirely of snow and ice, even the glasses. Can’t quite imagine this frozen grotto? Picture an arched structure of 4,200 square feet with 18-feet-tall walls, private alcoves, a fireplace, video projectors and an ice bar. The Mont Tremblant Resort hopes to welcome corporate groups, business meetings, wedding parties and all sort of other custom-organized gatherings to its concept lounge. We think it’s hot! For more information on the N'Ice Club Mont Tremblant or to reserve your next stay at Mont Tremblant Resort, call 866-829-7722.




October 12, 2005

Jazzing Up The Mirage with Jet

If it seems like every other day there’s news coming out of Las Vegas, it’s because “Sin City” is exploding with new restaurants, hotels and nightclubs. With the recent heavyweight openings of the Wynn Las Vegas and “chef of the century” Joël Robuchon choosing the MGM Grand for his comeback with Joël Robuchon at The Mansion, The Mirage is doing what it can to stay on top in a competitive tourism market. “At its opening, and for years following it, The Mirage set the standard for Las Vegas resorts. The changes we’re introducing will ensure that the resort remains at the forefront of the city’s contemporary scene,” said Scott Sibella, president of The Mirage. Among the changes, guests can expect to see distinctive pieces by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, a Cirque du Soleil production on The Beatles and even an overhaul of the resort’s iconic volcano. In addition to new restaurants, there will also be a new nightclub, Jet, developed by the Light Group (Fix at Bellagio and Mist at Treasure Island) and featuring a one-of-a-kind light and laser grid and state-of-the-art cryogenic effects systems. Look for rock, hip-hop and popular dance music in The Main Room, and house music spun by guest and international DJs as well as an eclectic mix of music ranging from the '80s to rock in the other two spaces. Four libation bars will offer specialty cocktails, and European bottle service will be featured in each room. Jet hours: Friday, Saturday and Monday, 10:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.


October 7, 2005

Hire a Travel Companion in London

A new VIP "companion" service has been launched in London for female business travelers and the wives and partners of visiting executives. My Friend in London gives clients, or small groups of clients, a tailor-made itinerary incorporating some of London's best-kept secrets. It was conceived by lifelong Londoners Sharon Glanville and Stephanie Archer, whose "insider tips" were constantly sought by friends and colleagues looking for something to do in the capital. "We will open up a broader experience for the discerning woman who is traveling alone with limited time. The accent is not necessarily on 'alternative' London but 'quality' London—and we will provide the companionship to enable a client to explore it fully," said Archer. "London is a vast and diverse city and visitors risk missing out on so much if they don't know where to go." My Friend in London also offers a gift-buying service (open to men, too), and assistance for executives and their families who are re-locating to the city..


October 3, 2005

The French Countryside in the Middle of Vegas

Besides high rollers and world-class performances, Las Vegas is also known for its extravagant architecture. New on that scene is the Marriott's vacation club resort Grand Château, which opened in early October between Aladdin Resort & Casino and MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. Obvious from its title, the Grand Château exudes the grandeur of a French countryside château and when fully up and running will offer 895 one-, two- and three-bedroom villas ranging from 820 to 2,095 square feet in four 37-story towers. The villas are designed with rich hues of red, green and gold and provide a homey, albeit luxurious, feel with tapestries, full kitchen, living and dining areas and washer-and-dryer systems. Within the resort itself, there are all of the amenities that any guest would desire such as a rooftop pool with whirlpool and pool bar, fitness center and full-service spa. But all of this luxury and comfort comes at a hefty price, starting at $16,500 per deeded week. However, nightly reservations starting at $499 are also available. For more information, visit www.vacationclub.com or call 866-300-3032.


September 27, 2005

Top Views in Tokyo

The concept of a room with a view takes on a whole new dimension at the new Tokyo Park Tower. Open since April 2005, the flagship property of the Prince Hotels group offers unbeatable views of Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge or the Roppongi Hills from all of its 673 guest rooms, 387 with balconies. Situated in green Shiba Park, close to Ginza and the Imperial Palace, the property features another reason to set up camp here: a natural hot spring spa or onsen. Guest rooms are equipped with Jacuzzi bathtubs and LCD flat screen TVs, and onsite pub Torishiba serving “yakitori” is the highlight among the hotel’s several restaurants. Take advantage of special opening rates through December 30, 2005.


Rancho Valencia Resort Adds Luxe Spa in 2006

Rancho Sante Fe, Calif., is already renowned for its picturesque Rancho Valencia Resort. If that wasn't reason enough to voyage there, the resort is opening a luxurious spa in the summer of 2006. Besides being adorned with hand-crafted European tiles and other unique architectural details, the 10,000-square-foot, $12-million retreat will feature a wide variety of therapeutic pools, treatment rooms with private patios and a Vichy room for special hydrotherapies. Yoga, pilates and other wellness workouts will be offered along with treatments such as Tangerine Sea Salt Body Polish and Orange Blossom Massage. To take some of The Spa home with you after your stay at the resort, a line of hair and body products utilizing avocado, grape seed, citrus extracts and other offerings from Mother Nature will be available for purchase. For more information, visit www.RanchoValencia.com.


September 23, 2005

Channel Relaxation with YogaAway On Command

No more jet lag or stress for the weary traveler. Beginning in November 2005, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts will be launching a comprehensive series of yoga videos from YogaAway. The videos ranging from The Workout: Feeling Great Again (Strength, Flexibility, Endurance) to Stress Reduction: Feeling at Home (Relaxation, Low Back, Neck and Shoulders) to Finding Focus: Feeling Clarity of Mind (Concentration, Memory, Meditation) will be available via On Command pay-per-view for Hyatt guests. In addition to these instructional videos, YogaAway will also soon be offering yoga classes taught by certified instructors at the hotels. So, time away from home doesn't have to include late nights of flipping through countless channels anymore. Instead, YogaAway! For more information, please call 303-534-4459, or visit www.yogaaway.com.


September 14, 2005

Getting Physical at Olivia Newton-John's Gaia Retreat & Spa

Autumn 2005 is going to see a surprising number of luxe spa openings, but one intriguing fall newcomer has already debuted. With the autumnal equinox still upon us, how is such a thing possible? The answer: Fall comes in March in the land Down Under, which is where Gaia Retreat & Spa is located. No doubt this enchanting place is what co-founder Olivia Newton-John was foretelling all those years ago when she belted out, "Let's Get Physical." Along with Amala Day Spa, a pool, tennis court and yoga room, the retreat features accommodations whose design is inspired by the tropical mood of the Pacific Islands and a guests-only restaurant serving spa cuisine. Those staying here can socialize on the loungy sofas at the communal Kukura House, or seek privacy at Samira Lookout, an intimate canopied daybed with views ranging from Byron Bay to the Nightcap Ranges.


September 8, 2005

Transporting Trends Coast to Coast With Thompson Hotels

Having successfully appropriated The Hollywood Roosevelt, turning a grand dame on her deathbed into a bikini-wearing, hip-hop hollering hotbed of celebs, fashionistas and wannabes, Thompson Hotels intends to increase its very cool portfolio with a second hotel in Los Angeles and two more in New York. Slated to open in March 2006, Thompson Hotel Beverly Hills will be the West Coast counterpart of the brand's flagship property, 60 Thompson, featuring design by Dodd Mitchell, the man behind the Roosevelt and unapologetically hip dining venues such as Dolce. On the East Coast, the expansion will include 6 Columbus (any time now) and Thompson Hotel Lower East Side (spring 2006). The theme for all these properties: hip, hip, hip. Keep an eye out for requisite quirks and excessive luxuries, from an old-fashioned barbershop at 60 Thompson to a theater (and condos, in case you want to stay awhile) at Thompson Lower East Side.


September 7, 2005

Cavorting Across the Country with the Hotel Gansevoort

With the proposed fall 2006 openings of Gansevoort South in Miami and Gansevoort West in Los Angeles, the Hotel Gansevoort joins the elite group of slick boutique hotels that are using their initial successes to blossom into chains. This hipster haven in New York's Meatpacking District is working on the theory that bigger is better as it prepares for two dynamic new properties. Gansevoort South will boast a 112-foot ocean-view, rooftop pool on a 28,000-square-foot teak deck adorned with palm trees; a tri-level beach club with cabanas; a second infinity-edge pool on a second teak deck; a major spa; and a full city block of boutiques and restaurants. As well, the 736-square-foot and up guestrooms and suites will be accompanied by condos and condo-style hotel units for sale. Across the country, Gansevoort West will compete in downtown L.A. with the likes of Andre Balazs' The Standard, with a 48-foot, glass-bottom, rooftop pool that will stretch over one of the hotel's two restaurants; a pair of landscaped rooftop lounges connected by a glass bridge; and a 1,800 seat concert hall showcasing $25 million worth of Tiffany glass. Talk of Las Vegas and London Gansevoort properties is already underway.


August 31, 2005

New Orleans Travel Update

If you had plans to visit New Orleans during the next few weeks, be sure to check the site of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.neworleanscvb.com, for regular updates. Recorded information is also available by calling 504-566-5011. With the city under incalculable stress in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Monday, New Orleans is under curfew and Louis Armstrong International Airport as well as most airports throughout the Gulf region are still closed. Cell phones and telephones are inoperable. Public transportation, including bus services, is at a standstill. While AP reports that hotels are not open, according to the CVB some New Orleans hotels are operating and accommodating existing guests. However, none are accepting new reservations. Arrangements are being made to evacuate stranded hotel guests. Please note that there is currently no access to the city. Evacuees are also barred from returning to the city until it is deemed safe. With 80% of the city under water and conditions worsening in what is perhaps the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States, the Pentagon has launched one of the largest search-and-rescue operations in U.S. history.

Resources:
Status of Citywide Transportation

Louisiana Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness

How to help:
Salvation Army: 800-SAL-ARMY or www.salvationarmyusa.org
Red Cross: 800-HELP-NOW or www.redcross.org
Catholic Charities: 800-919-9338 or www.catholiccharitiesusa.org


August 25, 2005

W Hotels Ups the Ante with its Proposed Vegas Extravaganza

Scheduled to open in 2008, the W Las Vegas is sure to lure even more of the ever-growing “Vegas, Baby” crowds to Sin City. Long the brand of choice for urban hipsters, W plans to offer a mix of 3,000 sleekly decorated hotel rooms and residential units on 21 acres just east of The Strip, near the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. There will be at least ten restaurants and nightclubs, a 75,000-square-foot casino and signature spa and gym. This joint venture between Edge Resorts and Starwood Hotels & Resorts will be positioned to compete for young, moneyed guests with the Palms, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, Wynn Las Vegas and the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. As a destination resort it will set a new standard for the W brand, as well as bring more attention—and cutting edge style—to the rapidly expanding Harmon corridor.


August 24, 2005

An Old Friend Arrives in Houston

We suspect that 2005 will go down as the year that launched a thousand new hotel brands. Hot on the heels of former Ritz-Carlton president Horst Schulze’s announcement of his proposed Solis Hotels & Resorts, Tim Miller launched his first Alden Hotel. Miller previously helped helm the Ian Schrager empire for almost twenty years. Decorated in warm, welcoming tones, the Alden prototype inhabits the old Sam Houston Hotel in, you guessed it, Houston. The hotel is a few notches above InterContinental Group’s new low-priced Indigo brand, and on par with Kimpton properties, although without all that quirk. Meaning “old friend” in Old English, the word Alden is intended to set an unpretentious tone. The idea here is Schrager-worthy style without the usual corresponding attitude. Although plans for other hotels have not been revealed, the Alden in Houston will no doubt serve as a bellwether for future properties.


August 10, 2005

Former Royal Hunting Grounds Turned Luxury Resort in Kathmandu

Following the trend of bringing the boutique luxury resort experience to far-flung locales (with Amanresorts in the lead, followed by COMO Hotels & Resort), the Le Meridien group has opened Le Meridien Kathmandu, its first property in Nepal. Anchored by a simple, traditionally styled main building, the resort sits at the edge of town in Gokarna Forest, the former private hunting grounds of Nepalese kings. Deer and monkey roam the woods, which shelter cottages, guestrooms and one suite, inspired by the country’s Malla and Rana dynasties. The cottages overlook the second fairway of the resort’s par-72, 18-hole golf course, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Himalayas. Harmony Spa features Ayurvedic treatments, an indoor pool and gym with views into the trees. Among the resort’s recreational offerings are forest walks, bird watching and visits to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley.


August 3, 2005

Kempinski and the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka is getting some competition with the opening of the Sanook Spa at London’s Courthouse Hotel Kempinski. Charlie may crave Scrumdidilyumptious bars, but his mother is sure to prefer a day at this retreat, which features chocolate facials, body treatments, manicures and pedicures, which capitalize on the anti-aging properties of cocoa. Guests can also enjoy more traditional treatments at this underground, Asian-themed spa. Among Sanook Spa’s unique features are an all-glass treatment room suspended over a the marble swimming pool and a sanarium (a type of wet sauna), with a fiber optic starry sky, mood lighting and ocean or jungle sounds. The spa also includes a fully equipped cardiovascular gym.


August 3, 2005

Former Ritz-Carlton Prez Launches a New Brand of Luxury

Lovers of sumptuous lodgings take note. Horst Schulze, former president of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, is heading the development of a new luxury hotel brand: Solis Hotels & Resorts. According to Schulze, hotel guests today demand a higher level of attention, and the Solis properties will be designed to meet those demands. Solis will focus on fine dining, facilities such as full-scale spas and the locale in relationship to the overall experience. For example, stays might incorporate archaeology expeditions, off-the-beaten path shopping and arts and culinary opportunities. The first Solis properties are planned for Phoenix (Paradise Valley), Atlanta (Alpharetta), Chicago, Orlando, San Antonio and Frankfurt, Germany. The Solis hotel portfolio will debut in Chicago in spring 2006, and the resort portfolio with the Montelucia – A Solis Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley in mid-2007. Among the latter’s signature amenities will be a spa by Sylvia Sepielli (Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa’s Spa Grande, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa’s Spa Ojai, Mii amo and Halekulani Hotel’s Spa Halekulani). Designed to compete with industry leaders such as Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, the first six high-end mixed-use Solis properties will also include residential units.


July 27, 2005

Frankfurt’s Little Slice of Heaven

With fall fashions already in the stores, it’s time to look past summer and peek at this autumn’s other projected offerings. Due to open in October, the Radisson SAS Hotel, Frankfurt (dubbed Blue Heaven) defies the banality associated with its brand name. The architecture is dramatic: an enormous glass disc that has been likened to a CD case. London-based architect John Seifert is the visionary behind this future landmark; teaming with him are Italian designer Matteo Thun (Milan's New Concept Hotel, Italy's Hotel Terme) and U.S. designer Adam Tihany (restaurants at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino and London's Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park), who can be counted on to get involved in almost any new upscale hotel project these days. Inside, the drama continues with a three-story suspended glass wine tower in the lobby and a portion of the accommodations; the 428 guestrooms and suites will be themed to suit all types of travelers, including the wild at heart. Among the facilities are a wellness center, top floor swimming pool and array of dining venues: Coast Brasserie & Oyster Bar, Gaia Restaurant, Wunderbar Lounge and Jam coffee shop. Connected to the Frankfurt Exhibition Center, the hotel is sure to attract a business crowd.


July 20, 2005

Headed for the Caribbean: Amanresorts' Signature Style

Known for their quiet exoticism, Amanresorts span the globe, from Cambodia to Morocco to Sri Lanka. In December, the group will open its eighteenth property, this one in the Caribbean on a nature preserve on the island of Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos. Amanyara will be unique in featuring a full recording studio, which was selected in partnership with Nile Rogers. Both music makers and tone-deaf globetrotters are welcome to bed down in the forty timber-shingled pavilions, which will be available in three categories based on location and view. Contemporary in style, all will have shaded, terraced outdoor areas. In addition, there will be a pair of villas, comprised of three pavilions; villas come with maids and golf carts for transportation around the resort. Approached through a large reception pavilion that leads to a large reflecting pond, Amanyara will include a dining room, library, boutique, circular lounge and fifty-meter swimming pool and sundeck.

July 20, 2005

A Beachfront Retreat for the Urbane Crowd in San Diego

The arrival of W and Kimpton hotels implied it, but this summer’s opening of Tower 23 confirms it: San Diego is an officially hip destination when it comes to hotels. A linear, glass structure right on the sands in Pacific Beach, just south of La Jolla, Tower 23 takes its name from the lifeguard tower that sits in front of it. This aggressively urban, three-story property offers 44 pied-à-terre guestrooms and suites with balconies or terraces, 30” flat-screen TVs and brand name entertainment amenities from Bose and Xbox. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel. The onsite steakhouse, Jordan, features an indoor/outdoor bar on the boardwalk, and the Tower Bar serves a “sea and sushi” menu. (Image by Gary Payne)


July 13, 2005

Taking it Easy in the Caribbean

From Andre Balazs’ QT in New York to W’s planned XYZ chain, hip hotels are catering to the budget crowd. It was only a matter of time before the cruise ship industry jumped on the bandwagon. Launched in the Mediterranean this spring by Stelios (the magnate goes by his first name, à la Madonna) EasyCruise has scheduled a full Caribbean itinerary from November 2005 to April 2006, based in Barbados with stops at St. Vincent, Martinique, The Grenadines, Grenada and St. Lucia. Rates are approximately sixteen dollars per person per night, based on double occupancy in dorm-style rooms. Facilities on board the bright orange easyCruiseOne are basic: gym, sundries shop, coffee shop, cocktail bar and sports bar, where passengers can purchase meals. Another unique feature is that passengers can board the ship at the port of call of their choice, with two-night minimum, fourteen-night maximum requirements. Because the ship travels at night and anchors in port during the day and evening, there is a midnight curfew. The average age of an EasyCruise passenger is 35, compared to 54 for mainstream cruise ships. The company’s initial success has prompted plans for easyCruiseTwo, which will sail the Greek islands during summer in 2006 and 2007.

July 13, 2005

Chef Charlie Palmer to Enhance Seabourn Cruise Dinner Menus

When it comes to small ship cruising, a line can’t compete if it doesn’t offer cuisine from a celebrity chef. A top contender with its signature menu by Charlie Palmer, The Yachts of Seabourn will add over fifty new dishes from Palmer over the course of 2005. This upgrade continues the growing trend by boutique ships of eschewing old-fashioned cruise ship buffets for single-seating, restaurant-style dining. Palmer’s approach, based on the progressive American cuisine served at his Aureole restaurant in New York, focuses on fresh seasonal ingredients and regional availability. Among Palmer’s new dishes to be rotated into the 28-day menu cycle on board the Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend are a crab and asparagus Napoleon appetizer; pan seared halibut studded with anchovies; vegetarian options such as potato leek crêpes with Gruyère, young vegetables and garlic confit; and ten new decadent desserts.


July 6, 2005

To Russia, With Love From The Ritz-Carlton

Known for its exclusive, upscale properties, The Ritz-Carlton Group has scheduled its first Russian hotel to open mid-year 2006. The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow’s tribute to the Classicism Era of Imperial Russia (circa 1780-1840) will incorporate the use of locally mined marbles, antiques and modern Russian artwork. Beginning at 452 square feet, the 332 guestrooms, including 76 suites, will be the largest of any hotel’s in the city. Dark polished cherry woods and burl wood veneers will set a dignified tone for the décor, and all rooms will include LCD TVs and high-speed Internet access. In addition, Club Level accommodations on the top two floors will feature views over Red Square, a dedicated butler/concierge service and a lounge. Among the facilities will be a health club and spa with an indoor glass-covered pool. Two restaurants and three lounges are also planned, including a rooftop bar in the cupola. The hotel is walking distance from the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the Bolshoi Theater.

June 29, 2005

A New Spa Resort in Vietnam’s Former Imperial Capital

Fans of two of Vietnam’s most enchanting hotels—the historic Sofitel Metropole Hanoi and Sofitel Dalat Palace—will be thrilled by the July opening of La Residence Hotel & Spa in the former imperial city of Hue. The newest member of the Accor Group, this boutique property was originally constructed in Art Deco style in 1910 and served as the official residence for the French governors in Central Vietnam until 1954. The 122 guestrooms have been restored with attention to period detailing, and the resort now consists of both historic and new structures. Set on landscaped gardens on the banks of the Perfume River, overlooking the Ancient Citadel and Forbidden City, the two-hectare grounds provide a serene setting for a full-service spa. Along with traditional Vietnamese massage, the spa offers a selection of international treatments for individuals and couples. The resort is equipped for both conference and leisure travelers, with comprehensive meeting facilities, a fitness center, tennis courts, swimming pool and Restaurant Le Parfum, serving regional and continental cuisine.


June 22, 2005

Historic Hotel Caruso Reopens in Ravello, Italy

This week’s much-anticipated reopening of the Hotel Caruso brings the exclusive Orient-Express Hotels group to Ravello, Italy. The newest addition to the Orient-Express portfolio underwent a $30 million restoration, following its purchase and closure in 1999. Formerly the Hotel Caruso Belvedere, the property is a natural fit for the Orient-Express collection, which features numerous historic structures, including the Villa San Michele in Florence and Hotel Monasterio in Cusco, Peru. Hotel Caruso was originally built as a palace in the eleventh century; it was destroyed and rebuilt over the years, and during the renovation twelfth century ruins were discovered. Portions of the current building date back to the seventeenth century, and its historic frescoes, vaulted ceilings, cotto tilework and ceramics have been fully restored. Along with the addition of suites and junior suites, the hotel also includes new event facilities.


June 15, 2005

Starwood Masters the ABCs of Designing a Savvy Hotel

With the introduction of its new XYZ hotel brand, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide proves that it is still a leader when it comes to the hip hotel industry. The creator of the acclaimed W brand has declared that it will open a series of high-end budget hotels, with the first scheduled for 2007. The XYZ boutique hotels will follow the W brand in style, offering loft-type guestrooms with urban décor, trendy lounges, 24-hour kitchen restaurants and al fresco “backyards.” David Rockwell and his Rockwell Group, who are responsible for the Kodak Theater, Nobu and W Union Square, will collaborate with Starwood on the design. Initially, XYZ properties will open in smaller U.S. cities such as Raleigh-Durham, Tampa, Minneapolis, Palo Alto and Cambridge. In establishing the XYZ brand, Starwood joins hotels groups such as InterContinental—originator of the stylish, budget Indigo brand—in providing upscale, low-cost accommodations outside the country’s major cities.



June 8
, 2005

Outdoor Retailer REI Launches Adventure Trips in the Bay Area

The Seattle-based, outdoor gear retail cooperative, REI, announced that it has expanded its active travel service, REI Adventures, into the Northern California area. Founded in the Pacific Northwest in 1938, the company now offers one day and weekend adventures for all ability levels; outings focus on backpacking, hiking, mountaineering, road cycling, mountain biking, sea kayaking and rock climbing with REI adventure guides. The adventures are designed primarily for locals, to introduce them to nearby attractions and give them an opportunity to try new activities in an accessible, non-threatening way. Among the newly created weekend trips are Mt. Shasta and Mt. Whitney Summit climbs, backpacking in Tahoe and Yosemite, sea kayaking on Monterey Bay and Mono Lake, rock climbing at Cantara and Castle Crags and cycling in Sonoma wine country. Paired with activities are education clinics to help participants prepare. REI plans to expand the program across the country to wherever the company has outlets. Bay area tours are based out of San Francisco and other regional locations.


June 1, 2005

Watsu … up? A Swanky New Day Spa in New York City

A rooftop Watsu pool is just one of the notable features at the newly opened Cornelia Day Spa on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Located on the eighth and penthouse levels of the newly redesigned Ferragamo flagship building, the 21,000-square-foot sanctuary includes rooftop treatment cabanas, a men’s only barber shop and a boutique selling personal care items created by the spa’s founder, Romanian-born Cornelia Zicu. Zicu personally oversees the creation and development of all products and treatments. The spa’s design incorporates elements such as celadon tiles, and treatments make use of natural ingredients such as mud extracts from Lake Amara, near Zicu’s hometown. Each of the 120 staff members has been trained and certified in the Cornelia techniques and philosophy. Accommodating the growing number of male spa goers, the property offers special amenities and treatments, such as complimentary shoeshine, hot lather shaves and a plasma TV in the men’s locker room. Additional facilities include a full service hair salon, relaxation library, three outdoor European soaking tubs surrounded by shrubbery and the al fresco Café Cornelia, catered by Abigail Kirsch. Views from the roof take in the Museum of Modern Art, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and Cartier.

May 25, 2005

Refined Country Comforts in a New English Spa

With the inauguration of a 2,500-square-foot luxury spa, Europe’s newest Four Seasons hotel is complete. Opened in February, the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, England is fashioned out of a converted and restored 18th century stable on the 500-acre Dogmersfeld Park estate, where Henry VIII met his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Carrying on the hotel’s Georgian manor house style, the spa resides in one of the stable blocks and features a 20-meter indoor swimming pool, fitness center, Zen studio, Café Santé and fifteen treatment rooms. Signature treatment such as the Chamomile and Sage Massage and Mint and Algae Foot Ritual incorporate plants and herbs grown on the estate. Just an hour from central London, the hotel also offers recreational pursuits such as fly-fishing, skeet shooting and horseback riding.


May 18, 2005

Fresh, Contemporary Style at Florida’s First Le Méridien Property

With the May opening of Le Méridien Sunny Isles Beach, the reigning champions of the Sunny Isles, Fla., hotel scene are getting some formidable competition. Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort and The Turnberry Isle Resort & Club now have to vie for luxury travelers’ attentions with this 26-floor member of the London based Le Méridien group. The hotel offers 210 one- and two-bedroom suites and four penthouses, done in cool colors and a tasteful, minimalist style featuring pale woods and frosted glass. Stylish living rooms and kitchens equipped with stainless steel appliances give this beach resort an urban residential feel. Among the hotel’s amenities and facilities are the two-level, 6,000-square-foot Le Spa, offering treatments such as a Caviar Facial; open-air yoga platform; fitness center overlooking the ocean; infinity-edge beachfront swimming pool; and Bice Restaurant, serving Milanese-inspired cuisine. The hotel is situated between Fort Lauderdale and South Beach.



May 11, 2005

Hip Residential Style Highlights West Hollywood’s New Boutique Hotel

This month’s opening of the Chamberlain West Hollywood marks the arrival of the first new boutique hotel in Los Angeles this year. The four-story, 112-room property is the most recent member of the Kor Hotels group (Viceroy Santa Monica, Maison 140). The hotel’s interior was designed by David McCauley, who blended English Modern and neo-classical aesthetics. The fusion design trend gets plenty of play here, beginning in the lobby, with its herringbone patterned tile; bronze, drum-shaped coffee table; and oversized reception desk that recalls an ancient Asian steamer trunk. The bistro dining room, situated off the lobby, serves American and Californian cuisine. Its twenty-foot wall of windows looks onto the garden patio, which also offers restaurant seating. Guestrooms and suites are done in muted gray, blue and ivory, and all come with gas log fireplaces, private balconies, 18th-century architectural lithographs, entertainment centers and work stations. Studios and Grand Rooms measure up to 550 square-feet and include step-up sleeping areas; one-bedroom suites have fully equipped kitchenettes. Rooms are designed to accommodate long-term stays. Other highlights include a rooftop terrace with heated pool, cabana lounges and 360-degree views of the city. The property has a business center and meeting room for up to 25. Reasonable starting rates, a great location on a tree-lined side street between Santa Monica Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, and a nice selection of business amenities position the Chamberlain to become a favorite with visiting hipsters and corporate travelers alike.


May 4, 2005

A Lavish New Spa for Vancouver, B.C.

The arrival of Spa Utopia & Salon at the waterfront Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel means a luxurious addition to British Columbia's burgeoning spa scene. The third in the region’s Spa Utopia collection (there are sister properties in North Vancouver and Langley), this new $4-million, 12,000-square-foot venue focuses on the use of fresh local ingredients and “Canada-inspired” treatments. Among the signature therapies are Healthy Hemp Expeditions, Deep Earth Mineral Voyages, West Coast Seaweed Journeys and Fine Wine Pedicures. Unlike many spas opening throughout North America these days, which follow a Zen-or-nothing philosophy, Spa Utopia calls on influences from ancient Rome, such as towering pillars and cascading waterfalls. Facilities include relaxation lounges with fireplace, essential oil infused steam rooms, a dry sauna, couples treatment rooms and VIP Spa Suites with private fireplaces, waterfall showers and private dining areas.


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(Updated: 12/23/11 CT)


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