New Orleans Travel Guide
It's been a while since we last checked in on the U.S. development plans for AC Hotels by Marriott but boy, are we glad we did. That's because we've discovered that the first AC Hotel for the U.S. won't be opening in Miami Beach.
Instead, Antonio Catalan's design forward boutique hotel concept will open inside the former Cotton Exchange Building in New Orleans in October. Miami Beach will follow in late 2014/early 2015 as will Kansas City.
So now, let's take a closer look at what to expect for the AC in NOLA. Looking at the hotel's website, there isn't much to go on from a visual standpoint. We've got a shot of the exterior of the building--a National Historic Landmark built in 1871, as well as a photo of the lobby, the AC Kitchen restaurant, the bar and the suave AC Lounge area, where all the action should be happening.
We're loving the glass bar that extends from the wall to the ceiling but we're also anxious to see a guest room too. Unfortunately, there aren't any shots of those but we do know that free WiFi will be found throughout the property.
The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans renovated its guest rooms and club level rooms last year, giving the spaces a modern luxury look that's still very New Orleans. Hello, silk purple armchair! But for the exterior, the hotel is going back in time.
The historic terra cotta facades of the Maison Blanche and S.H. Kress Co. buildings which make-up the Ritz-Carlton are going under an extensive restoration project this summer, worth $2 million, that will restore them back to their early 20th century look.
The Lucifer bathroom
With Mardi Gras just ahead (March 4), New Orleans is hard to beat as a place to celebrate. While there are no guarantees that what happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans, the Saint Hotel wants it to happen there. With the debut of five new luxury suites their message is clear—play naughty. It’s OK.
We loved the Saint Hotel when it opened in 2012, and we love it still. Now a member of Marriott's Autograph Collection, the Saint continues its unique blend of approachable luxury with the soul of New Orleans. The design concept of the new suites is to the credit of the hotel’s owners Mark and Lorenda Wyant. They created the setting -- the rest is up to you.
The suites are named after archangels Christopher, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Lucifer. Yes, Lucifer. Let’s have a look at the two Master Suites, the Archangel Lucifer Suite and the Archangel Michael Suite, which are about as different as night and day.
Recently, we've had hotel share their secrets for keeping royal families happy as well as their 10 commandments for keeping luxury hotel guests happy. Today, we've got a new set of tips from a hotel--The Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. But their list deals with a different kind of VIP--the film industry. And yes, that includes celebrities.
The Windsor Court has hosted pretty much every major film and music star from Brad and Angie to Beyonce (who stayed there for her Super Bowl performance last year) to Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, annual attendees of the Jazz Fest. And they typically stay in the hotel's best suite--The Presidential Suite on the 22nd floor.
With 2,700-sq.ft. of space, the suite has two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a full kitchen and dining room, two living rooms, a butler's pantry, a full entertainment center, original artwork, two private landscaped terraces and a baby grand piano that's been tinkered on by Billy Joel. Penthouse guests get to enjoy the perks of the hotel's Club Lounge which has dedicated concierge service and daily food offerings. Rates typically start at $4,500 a night which, let's be real, is chump change for these A-List folks .
But putting up celebs in the best digs is only part of the job. The rest is coordinating with the production companies, the assistants and the entourages.
Here, The Windsor Court Hotel's general manager, David Teich, dishes out his 10 Commandments for Hosting Film Stars:
1. First commandment to hosting celebrities, film industry and VIPs is that privacy is key. Treat all guests with respect – absolutely no photos, autographs, social media, etc.
2. Prior to arrival, it is important to have one key point of contact, i.e. a guest relations manager or customer experience manager, to ensure that all details/pre-needs are known.
3. Keep communication open with local production teams so the hotel knows of schedule changes as well as comings and goings of the guest.
Fashion Hotels / Hotel Parties / W Hotels / New Orleans Hotels / Starwood Hotels / Hotel Pools / → All Tags
Summer doesn't officially (like, calendar-wise) begin until Friday, but at W New Orleans, things have been heating up since the beginning of this month, when the hotel kicked off its "Adults/Swim" series—a weekly rooftop pool party with DJs, specialty cocktails and cabana packages.
Fashionistas will want to pay attention to this next part, though: on the last Sunday of each month, the Adults/Swim party will be followed by an exclusive poolside fashion show, presented through a partnership between W New Orleans and Fashion Week New Orleans.
Dubbed "Strut +Swim," the shows will take place on the fourth floor Wet Deck, featuring local designers, boutiques, and hair and makeup artists telling you exactly what to wear, how to wear it, and why it's trendy. (This could be especially helpful for those of you trying to revamp your wardrobe this summer—these guys are experts, after all). Different designers and beauty experts
Hotel Desserts / Hotel Restaurants / Sheraton Hotels / New Orleans Hotels / Louisiana Hotels / → All Tags
Last Friday seems the whole country went nuts over National Donut Day. Even we moseyed on by the Doughnut Plant at the Chelsea Hotel for our favorite tres leches variety (and get a free Classic Mini Cake doughnut with Carnival sprinkles!). Oh, and we may have taken advantage of the “buy a drink, get a donut free” deal at Dunkin’. Yeah, it was a good sugar-filled day.
However, if you live in New Orleans, you’re one lucky duck. See, every Friday from 9-11 a.m. for the rest of the month, the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel will celebrate the city’s original ode to the donut—the beignet—by serving them at their Roux Bistro restaurant for only $5 (regularly $7).
For those who've never tried one of these delectable pastries, know the treat, introduced in N’awlins in the 18th century, is a yeasty, deep-fried, square creation covered with tons of powdered sugar. Word to the wise? Don’t wear a black shirt while chowing down on these babies.
Some sad news for W Hotels fans, there's going to be one less W Hotel in the world. But great news for Le Meridien Hotel fans as Le Merid will take over the W New Orleans on Poydras Street (near but not in the French Quarter.)
The hotel was recently sold to the Chesapeake Lodging Trust for $65 million in April with a $29 million renovation expected to begin in April of 2014 (just after Mardi Gras) that will transform it into a proper Le Meridien Hotel. Here's what you can expect when the Le Meridien New Orleans opens in late 2014.
Le Méridien New Orleans will offer 410 fully renovated guestrooms and bathrooms as well as upgraded fitness center, rooftop pool and more than 10,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting facilities, ideal for weddings and business functions.
Le Méridien New Orleans will also feature the Le Méridien Hub™ experience, which re-interprets the traditional lobby into a social gathering place for creative people to converse, debate, and exchange.
And as dedicated Le Merid fans know, the Le Meridien UNLOCK ART program with its LM100 artist-designed key cards will also be in effect, offering not just cool key card souvenirs but also access to the Le Meridien affiliated cultural centers in Nola.
Just to be clear, the hotel is still a W New Orleans and will be until April 2014. We did a rate check for next weekend and you can get a Wonderful room for $194 a night or 10,000 SPG Starpoints. We bet those rates and Starpoints will increase when the Le Meridien opens.
UPDATE: We were informed after press time that the "privileges" for Courtyard guests at the Ritz Carlton come with a $25 fee when using the fitness center, pool, and spa (if not making an appointment)-- a resort fee, if you will. Disappointing, for sure and not our understanding when originally approached with this story. So, we now turn the question to you, reader: Is this still a deal you'd be interested in? Would you pay the $25 with the cash you save on the rate to take a dip or workout at the Ritz while staying at the Courtyard?
Looking for a deal at the Ritz Carlton? Aren't we all. But now, thanks to an emerging hotel trend, you can crawl out of the bowels of the Internet: In New Orleans, the cheapest room at The Ritz-Carlton is actually next door at the Courtyard.
"Say what?" We can hear your disbelief right now. But it's true! The two hotels are connected by a shared elevator, and guests of the Courtyard New Orleans Downtown/Iberville are allowed access to the Ritz-Carlton's fitness center and pool for a $25 fee (fee is normally $75 for non-Ritz guests). They can also charge back to their room at the Courtyard when hanging at the Ritz restaurants, lounges, and spa. We find this great for business travelers, their expense accounts, and anyone looking for perks that up their swag from mid-market to luxury level.
Property sharing among sister brands isn't exactly a new concept, but this is one of the first we've seen to offer budget and business travelers the chance to live well above their room rate. Prices for the Ritz start at $249 a night while the Courtyard will run you only $129 per night. Food for thought!
We've already talked about how good the Super Bowl was for hotels in the Big Easy, but will it be the biggest blessing of the year?
While the city used to judge the success of Mardi Gras by the amount of trash they cleaned up afterwards (seriously), they lean a little more on hotel performance these days. How does Mardi Gras stack up against the Big Game? New Orleans is still sorting through the hotel data from this year's Mardi Gras, but a look at the numbers from last year show one thing very clearly: The Super Bowl really was super.
A study that compared the peak days of each event showed that the Super Bowl drew much higher rates despite similar occupancy levels. High-end hotels had an average daily rate of $460 during the Super Bowl compared to an ADR of $265 for Mardi Gras 2012. The story was the same for "middle-class" properties -- $392/night for the Super Bowl and $273 for Mardi Gras. Those are pretty big rate gaps! It's also interesting to note that the "middle-class" hotels had a higher ADR than the high-end hotels for Mardi Gras. Guess that says something about the type of lodging visitors to Mardi Gras are seeking.
The Ravens are Super Bowl Champs, and the Beyonce-Destiny's Child reunion certainly got plenty of folks talking, but New Orleans hotels came out on top, too.
A few fast facts to brighten up your Monday: during the week of January 27th leading up to the Big Game, occupancy rose from 46.6% to 71.1%, and the average daily rate jumped 125.9% to $289.03, according to data from STR.
Meanwhile, the U.S. hotel industry as a whole benefited from the Super Bowl, with occupancy up 3.6%, and RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) increasing 9.8% to $57.06.
While it makes us sad that a city as great as New Orleans had an occupancy rate well below the national average prior to the Super Bowl, it just goes to show how important it is for cities to take advantage of major national events. Everyone wants to take a vacation, but they sometimes need a little push and motivation. Props to the hotels this year who pulled off Big Game parties and promotions (and boo to the hotel room scalpers like this guy hawking a room at the Wyndham Barrone Plaza for $3,000/night).
The next big sporting event for the hotel industry is baseball's spring training in Arizona and Florida, which starts next month. We've already mentioned one such promotion in our mancation story, and hopefully more will emerge as the date gets closer.
Super Bowl Hotels / Super Bowl XLVII Hotels / Hotel News / New Orleans Hotels / Hotel Parties / Bud Light Hotel / → All Tags
Even non-football fans have figured out SUPER BOWL XLVII is happening in New Orleans this weekend.
While the top hotel rooms sold out long, long ago, there's still a few ways to get in on the action in town.
Stalk the Teams at These Hotels: Conde Nast Traveler told us where the AFC and NFC champs are staying. The San Francisco 49ers will be shacking up at the New Orleans Marriott while the Baltimore Ravens are spending the night at the Hilton Riverside. There aren't any rooms available for you, of course, but there's nothing stopping you from hitting up the hotel's restaurants and bars to spy on some past and future gridiron greats.
Take a Chance on Craigslist: Now that we're just days away from the Big Game, folks in the Big Easy are getting desperate with their hotel room offerings. There are several available on Craigslist right now. You can peruse the options here.. As always, with Craigslist, USE CAUTION when buying a hotel room. Make them show you a confirmation email before you fork over any money.
Reality TV Hotels / The Layover / Celebrity Chefs / Anthony Bourdain / Ritz-Carlton Hotels / New Orleans Hotels / Louisiana Hotels / → All Tags
Anthony Bourdain is back for another season of “The Layover”, and we like it because he names the hotels in the cities where he'll be spending his precious time. We figure, he won't be laying his salt-and-pepper head just anywhere, after all, he's big time now.
So, for entertainment and a dose of travel value, we’ll give you some details on the properties he picks, just in case you find yourself looking for a place to stay in a city that’s sanctioned by this travel personality/chef.
In this episode, we were certain Tony was going to get funky in New Orleans. How could you not? A haunted hotel maybe? Back to the W? But dammitall, you know what he did. He went fancypants again. While stuffing his face for 36 hours with down-home Southern/Creole food, he then went back to his pristine place for sleepy time. Sigh. What happened to letting the good times roll?