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The stunning coastal views from Hotel Du Palais
They say the customer is always right, and we generally agree. PR pushes and clever marketing can often make a hotel sound better than it is, but leave it to a consumer to give you the inside track with merciless honesty. This is precisely why Readers Choice lists are more trusted than other carefully cultivated round-ups.
Last week, Condé Nast Traveler's unveiled its 22nd Annual Readers Choice Awards, a respectable overview of the best cities, islands, resorts, airlines, and other travel-related miscellany. It's the location-specific hotel and resort "Top Three" lists that caught our eye first, of course, but there were some questionable standouts as well.
Some of the top picks were self-evident, like Biarritz' Hotel Du Palais, honored by readers as the Top European Resort and called out by our discerning HotelChatter family for its stellar beach and pool views. Here on the mainland, meanwhile, Pebble Beach's Inn at Spanish Bay was named one of the Best U.S. Resorts. Having taken in the coastal surroundings along Monterey Peninsula's famed 17-Mile Drive last year, we can vouch for the Inn's luxury credentials.
The prize rewards “unique projects that expose brands to new markets, deepen audience engagement and develop new audiences”. Well it’s definitely done that – the London social scene doesn’t exactly revolve around hotels but R-in-R Damian Barr definitely pulled in the trendies for his open book sessions. In fact, he’s done so well with that and a Literary Salon that he runs at Soho House that he’s now starting up his own country retreat reading holidays.
The Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza helped shed the shabby image typically associated with the budget hotel chain by winning Renovation-of-the-Year, an industry-wide award given by the InterContinental Hotel Group, for its makeover of the lobbies, restaurants and guest rooms.
Adjacent to the Merchandise Mart and perched on top of the Chicago Apparel Center, the 521-room hotel got J/Brice Design International to give it a facelift. Major changes are visible in the lobby, where designers chose more moveable ottomans and similar backless seating over sofas so that guests could shift things around and their own congregating areas. The design company also put the focus on the view—the hotel looks out over the Chicago River and the city skyline—rather than on installation artwork.
While we continue to ponder the hefty price tag on DC’s very-soon-to-open Jefferson Hotel, another chi-chi Washington hotel has caught our attention. The classic Willard InterContinental received a Conde Nast Traveler “World Savers” award for its commitment to the environment and communities in need.
This is CNT’s third year to give out the awards, which honor global travel companies for their leadership in social responsibility causes. The Willard was the overall winner in the City Hotel category (we guess living across the street from the White House must be inspiring). You can find the rest of the winners here.
The economy has put everyone in a bad mood. From the banker dudes who had to downgrade from the company-covered Ritz's to (gasp) Marriotts and such, to the families who wisely made the most of one double room instead of booking a separate room for the kiddies things in the industry have changed because of the downturn, both on the guest's side and from an operational standpoint.
Today, this year's J.D. Power and Associates 2009 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study was released and it had a few surprises. Mainly, this one: after two years of claiming the number one spot, Ritz-Carlton was bumped below Four Seasons in both the overall satisfaction index and the luxury segment satisfaction index, rankings that were compiled after 66,000 hotel guests rated their satisfaction with their stays.
The South Australian capital city doesn't get too much attention from either vacation or business travelers, but at least according to this survey it's got the best hotel in the whole country: the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel. The 120-room Majestic rated 24th best in the world, even though it's only been open for five years.
As you'd be guessing from the name, this place does have a pretty cool roof garden. It's also in a good location near the main shopping area of Rundle Mall, and since two thirds of its guests are business travelers, it's obviously well-placed for them as well.
And the big bonus is that you get the apparently best hotel in Australia for a pretty cheap rate. For example, they've got an autumn special (that's now in Australia) with a Deluxe King room plus breakfast for A$165 ($125) a night and there are last-minute rates around that are even cheaper.
There's nothing quite like being right, is there? Since it opened, we've been loving Andaz London and now, hotel booking website Trivago has joined the Andaz fanclub by naming it the best hotel in the world for "party people."
They reckon that Andaz has the best "design, atmosphere, location and style" for nightlife-minded visitors, as well as an "uncomplicated style and prime location." Meanwhile, the original Gansevoort in New York came in at a mere number 10.
The ulta-posh Montage Beverly Hills, which opened its doors in '08, has managed to score itself another distinction (you know, besides being on Brit-Brit's radar and having seriously high opening rates): the hotel has achieved LEED Gold status, and is now the "first certified ultra-luxury hotel in Southern California for LEED for New Construction" and is one of only four Gold certified hotels on the planet.
Though there's a whole lot of LEED chatter here and there, a surprisingly low number of hotels are actually LEED certified at any level:
A total of 18 hotels worldwide have to date achieved LEED certification at Certified Silver, Gold or Platinum levels. The specific LEED for New Construction V2.2 rating system designations reflect assessments of factors such as site selection, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. LEED, begun in 2000, now encompasses more than 22,000 registered and certified projects in the U.S. and 91 countries and is administered by the USGBC, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders.
Is it worth the $395-and-up room rate to you? Your choice but lets hope LEED Gold status doesn't mean rates will get jacked up so high that you've gotta be impossible-baller status to afford 'em.
The 140 hotels on this list include the three newest Los Angeles-area hotels--The Montage Beverly Hills, The London West Hollywood and the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. In New York, The Greenwich Hotel and The Thompson LES are the stand-outs. Down in Miami, new hotels made the list as well like The Viceroy, The Fontainebleau and The Mondrian South Beach, Miami Beach, Fla.
In Europe, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Citizen M made the list and in Asia, several of the new hotels that opened in time for the Beijing Olympics made the list as well.
We're still going through the list as we type (it also includes restaurants, nightlife and spas) but already we've spotted a questionable selection. It's the Arctic Club Hotel in Seattle which will turn into a Doubletree in May and has downgraded itself from a four star hotel to a three star hotel. While an eye-pleasing place to spend the night, the hotel has also suffered from terrible service.
Hopefully, with a Hot List award under its belt and the expert staff training from Doubletree, this hotel will manage to find its footing.
Sure, we wax poetic about plush amenities and posh hotel perks, but, honestly, we never lose sight of what should be every hotel room’s pride and joy: The Bed. From comfort to aesthetic, a hotel bed can decidedly make or break your hotel experience. So we’re smitten with Concierge.com’s new story on the World's 11 Best Hotel Beds (in their words: "These beds think outside the box springs").
The offerings range from a “safari slumber party” in Kenya to a “magic-carpet ride” in Berlin. We'd love to book a session in all of these beds for some serious shut-eye not to mention, er, a few other bedtime activities that spring to mind.
Even so, we picked three of our favorites:
1. One by the Five in Paris: The single-suite boutique hotel features a bed floating three feet above the floor to match the rest of its floating "avant-garde boudoir furnishings." Concierge says that an infrared Web cam "broadcasts the bed activity (ahem) on your own closed-circuit television channel." What can we say? We love a little raunchy fun. Suite from $1,275.
2. The Benjamin Hotel in midtown Manhattan: Sign up for the sleep retreat, which is a two-night package that's dedicated to helping you find a good night's rest. Even better: the hotel offers a "sleep guarantee" which means the hotel refunds the cost of your night's stay if you don't sleep well. That courtesy alone should help you sleep tight. Rooms from $299.
3. Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra: Um, you can wake up to a view of the sun rising over the Taj Mahal. Or you can take Concierge's suggestion and not really get out of bed at all; "stay in bed around-the-clock and admire the changing colors as the sun moves across the white-domed Mughal mausoleum in the not-too-distant vista." Rooms with Taj Mahal views from $599.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: A hotel review that describes a place as an “exclusive lair where guests live out their recluse fantasies” is pretty much guaranteed to perk our interest.
Well, folks, that’s what ForbesTraveler.com wrote about Cayo Espanto, a private island resort off the coast of Belize that’s officially — albeit apparently belatedly — on our radar. Cayo Espanto made ForbesTraveler.com's 2008 list of the world’s top 400 hotels and resorts (one of two Belize resorts to make the cut, we should mention).
Yotels. Really? We get it that Yotels can have very convenient locations (that is to say, at airports), and the price is a lot cheaper than fancier hotels. But the best business hotel? In our informal street survey of a few average business people, they certainly didn't agree--sorry, company bosses, but our contacts were after bigger and quieter rooms if the company's paying.
Just the same, the Yotel concept has some real positives going for it, so we say congrats to them for picking up this award. We're looking forward to seeing a few more Yotels around, like the proposed Abu Dhabi ones, before we decide if we're lovers or haters.