Tag: HotelChatter 2008 AwardsView All Tags
Thanks for joining us on the last day of 2008 for our 2008 HotelChatter Year-End Awards. A big, big shout-out to all the Hotel Mavens out there who have contributed to our site with their reviews, photos and comments this year. We couldn't have done it all without you. Keep it up in 2009!
As always, there are at least four ways to contribute:
·Become a HotelChatter member and submit stories, releasing your inner travel writer.
·Become a HotelChatter member, comment on stories, and review hotels.
·Send us snapshots of your favorite and least favorite hotels.
·Shoot us an email tip.
Now for your viewing enjoyment, here is our complete list of winners. We will be back in full effect on Friday (yes, this Friday) to kick-off the new year of stories.
· All-Star Map: Andre Balazs' Real and Rumored Hotels
· Best Hotel Opening: SLS at Beverly Hills
· Hotelier of the Year: Bill Marriott
· People's Choice Award: Palazzo Las Vegas
· Best Hotel Scene: New York City
· Best New Hotel Service: Andaz's Reader in Residence
· Best Hotel Video Tours: Inside Aloft Hotels
· 2008 Must Have Amenity: High-Tech Recreational Toys
· Best International Hotel WiFi: The Emirates Palace
· Worst Hotel Hells: Monte Carlo Fire and Waldorf-Astoria Shoot-Out
· Best Hotel Renovation: The Fontainebleau Miami
· Worst Anti-View: Embassy Suites LAX
· Best Killer View: Intercontinental Hotel Bora Bora
· Worst Hotel Hype: Cooper Square Hotel
· Best Celebrity Performance: Eliot Spitzer
We know: you thought we were gonna with the Thompson LES as the best hotel opening of 2008, weren't you? Not this time we've given the LES lots of the love and attention (and fair criticism) it deserves, but in awarding this particular honor we looked West to SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills.
Last year, if you'll recall, we bestowed the honor of Best Opening upon NYLO Plano, for whom we had very little criticism after a rather enjoyable overnight stay fairly soon after the property opened. Our choice of SLS for the best hotel opening may be a little bit surprising considering we've heaped a fair bit of criticism their way, but we praise SLS for what it is for what it has done for LA: injected a kickass hip new life into the getting-stale-quickly LA hotel scene, littered with copycat boutiques, big box hotels and old-ass luxury hotels in Beverly Hills.
When we went into the SLS on a pre-opening tour, we loved what we saw: there were three separate common areas (and guests-only hangouts see ya later, scenester celebutards). And we liked what we saw in the guest room something different:
Inside the guest rooms, prepare to have your vision of the traditional hotel room turned on its head. If you like predictability in your hotel rooms, then you should not stay here. The focus of the room is the bed. Apparently, [Phillipe] Starck wanted to create a sort of floating hotel bed. Thus the bed sits in a clear, but sturdy frame with two shelves jutting out from each side where a Macally Tune Pro iPod dock/alarm clock sits on one and a pen and pad sit on the other.
The desk is located behind the bed and all that is in front of you is a 40" Sony plasma TV placed within a floor-to-ceiling black light box. It's crazy.
Sexy, except for the low-ceilings. Let's hope the entrance of an unusual hotel like SLS happens in major markets beyond just LA to stir things up all over the hotel world in '09.
We're very visual people and we assume all hotel geeks are as well so when we've got a whole bunch of info about hotels in an area, we map 'em all for you so you can see the big picture. We've been all over the maps this year (again with the wordplay!), and it was tough to pick a fave among hits like our Thompson Hotels Map charting the progress of the rapidly-growing chain; our Beijing Olympics Map, our Malibu Beach Hotels map and the definitive guide to the hotels you should hit up in Carmel... but one came out on top for us: hottie hotelier Andre Balazs' Real and Rumored Hotels Map.
We promise we're not just picking this just because we heart Andre (we pink heart him, in fact), but Balazs' hotels the Standard properties among them have consistently been the most fun for us to gossip about ... not to mention the board-game-esque rush we get from mapping out all the rumored hotels around Manhattan and separating fact from Page Six column fodder.
Another hotel near the Standard NYC? Or was it just a private club? A Sin City hotel for Sir Balazs? So many questions and we did our best to dig up the truth. Yup, we did the dirty work (and the mapping!) so you didn't have to. You're welcome, Andre fans.
When Bill Marriott first started blogging we were kind of miffed he was honing in on our turf. But this past year we've really come to appreciate all of Marriott's social networking efforts from his Marriott on the Move Blog to Twitter (done by his communications staff) to Flickr (see pics of Bill's birthday bash!) to YouTube.
For us, all this internet activity helped us keep dibs on what Marriott Hotels were up to. For guests, they can see more of what goes on at Marriott hotels aside from what's listed on the website. And it's working. Bill's blog has given Marriott an estimated $4 million+ in bookings. And now Marriott is reporting that the introduction of their new Marriott Mobile service has yielded $12,500 a day in its first 100 days. See, it does pay to be on the internet!
It's been an interesting year for the Palazzo Las Vegas which was the most popular hotel in 2008 here on HotelChatter. When the place finally opened last December, much of it was under construction and the rooms weren't quite ready.
Then we wandered through the casino in mid-January and it was dead. On a Friday night. Before the recession had even kicked in. Yet once the Palazzo started to open up their luxury shopping mall and new restaurants, the tide started to turn a bit.
Celebrity sightings came quick and fast after that. We managed to spend a few days in the hotel in April, experiencing all the goodies the hotel had to offer. And there's a lot. Barneys. Christian Louboutin. Ferrari. Jersey Boys. Cut. Sushi Samba.
While we were there, everything seemed to be in place but they didn't actually stay in place. A handle fell off the cabinet to the minibar when we pulled to open it. And we heard another guest had her water turned off in mid-shower. Yikes.
The good news is that a chance to stay at the Palazzo will be much less expensive in 2009 as rates keep plummeting in Las Vegas. A room of $119 can be yours in January.
Ah, memories: it seems like only yesterday that we bestowed the honor of "Best Hotel Scene" to the grand city of Las Vegas. She wowed us with her abundant hotel rooms, hundreds of restaurants and bunches of nightclubs and word up to that supposed 90% occupancy rate of last year but this year, we only have eyes for New York City.
2008 was a huge year for hotels in the Big Apple. This year ushered in major new players like the Thompson LES (and oh, we stalked the F outta that one) not to mention a smattering of hyped-up but not-yet-opened properties, like Vikram Chatwal's Lamb's Club (now called The Chatwal) though Tricky Vikky did manage to open up Stay.Hotel in Times Square in the fall.
And the end of the year has been hotel hype central in NYC. The Cooper Square finally opened up, but by the time it did so, we're sorry to say, we didn't care too much about anything but the naked butt in the window. The Standard NYC welcomed its first guests as well (yay!), as did The Jane, but the Smyth Tribeca opening has been pushed to mid-January and we haven't been hearing a whole lot of buzz about the place lately.
What surprised us most in the Big Apple was the emergence of good ol' Brooklyn as a borough offering totally cool and slightly-more-affordable hotel alternatives. Thanks in part to the openings of funky boutique properties like Le Jolie and Nu Hotel, we are no longer afraid to go to Brooklyn.
Even though NYC hotels were a bit behind the rest of the world in starting to worry about the economy, we hope things keep moving along nicely for NYC hotels. After all, they've got Whitney Port to impress now.
In 2008, we were able to visit many hotels far and wide to round out our video collection from Mexico to Los Angeles to Buenos Aires to London and Munich. To pick a best hotel video tour was actually really hard to do. But the ones from our trips inside Aloft Hotels had the most impact.
That's because this year, the anticipation of the most hyped hotel in all of history ended when we first entered the Aloft Hotels. We first toured the Aloft Rancho Cucamonga, just outside of Los Angeles. We weren't that impressed the first time around. Sure, the rooms were new and the style different than what we're used to from airport hotels and other budget types of roadside hotels. But it all just seemed so...weird...to us.
Then we took another trip a few weeks later to the Aloft Lexington in Massachusetts. And it kind of sunk in for us. We got the whole hip roadside hotel thing that Starwood and W Hotels was throwing at us, especially with the free WiFi, the outdoor pool, the car wash, the 24-hour mini-mart and the game room/lounge that makes up the lobby. If you want (or have to) to stay somewhere cheap in a secondary or tertiary market (read: near corporate office parks and airports) why should you have to sacrifice style and fun?
2008 was not the year for one hot new amenity. It was the year for several hot new amenities. Hotels are no longer content with providing you a flat-screen TV, an iHome iPod docking station or even a sex-kit in the mini-bar. This year hotels went above and beyond to show you dear guests just how much cool stuff they can put into a room.
2008 saw the introduction of the Hotel Sax's 6th Floor Studio which comes with Rockband, Guitar Hero and anything else you can play on the XBox 360 gaming console. Marriott Hotels and Westin Hotels struck partnerships with Nintendo's Wii system. Some are offered in-room, others are offered in the hotel's fitness center.
More hot amenities after the jump!
2008 was a year of great improvements for Hotel WiFi both here in the U.S. and abroad.
More and more hotels began offering wireless internet to its guests (although, not all of 'em were doing it for free.) And when we traveled to Europe in the fall, we had two positive WiFi experiences in Barcelona and in Paris. Of course, we had some issues with the internet in Munich. Fellow HotelChatterer JennM had some hell she experienced at the El Coloso Hotel in Madrid. But even the notorious WiFi gougers in the UK started to jump on the cheap and reliable WiFi bandwagon. A very good bandwagon to ride.
Yet probably the best example of international hotel WiFi has to go to the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. If you can manage to get to Abu Dhabi, you can rest assured that your internet connection will be fast, free and most of all, safe. From USA Today:
The computer and broadcast network — and its 3.5 terabyte storage network — can be cut off completely from the outside world, like the U.S. government's secure intranet
The hotel actually upgraded its system in June increasing the signal so guests can even access the internet from the beach. Then again, when you're playing around $1,000 a night, you should have access to whatever you like--on the internet or off.
When we went to pick out this year's Worst Hotel Hell, there were, unfortunately, a lot of incidents to choose from. While nobody bit the head off a live duck in a lobby this year, there were some cases of hotel sick, a dude who woke up with white powder on his bed at The Excalibur and a crazy elevator freefall at Paris Las Vegas.
But in the end, we decided to call it a tie between what we thought were the two worst hotel horror stories of the year: the fire at the Monte Carlo Las Vegas and the recent shootout at the Waldorf=Astoria in NYC.
The $1 billion renovation of the iconic Morris Lapidus-designed Fontainebleau Miami Resort took a few years to complete and we're not even sure if it is fully completed now. But if you spend $1 billion renovating a hotel then you pretty much just bought yourself this award.
The Fontainebleau began unveiling some new rooms over the summer when Barack Obama made a stop on his campaign trail. Yet an earlier phase of the renovation was opened even back in 2007. Later, we got all giddy about the amenities in the rooms which would include iMacs. Finally when all was said and done, the hotel hosted a star-studded opening extravaganza complete with a Victoria's Secret fashion show.
Now the hotel plans on ringing in 2009 with three different parties on the grounds. OK! Magazine reports that Maroon 5's Adam Levine will perform live with a countdown by Molly Sims. The Liv Nightclub and Blade, will have Diddy as the party's host and an appearance from Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford is expected. And according to the hotel website Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paris Hilton and randomly, Martha Stewart will all be partying here tomorrow.
Room rates in 2009 are starting at about $399 a night.
[Photo: Fontainebleau Miami Beach Flickr]
While Killer Views are sort of depressing to go through, we had a grand ol' time picking out the most atrocious Anti-View of the year. This year, we've been subjected to hotel room windows that looked out onto alleyways; views of dirty rooftops and dirty people; the occasional brick wall but no anti-view was so disappointing than the one at the Embassy Suites LAX, where the guest gets a view of absolutely nothing. Nothing!
HotelChatter's very own MarkJ hit up this hotel and was confronted with a window-less room:
We have seen frosted windows before, nothing new there. However, the Embassy Suites LAX South took it up a notch by frosting the one big giant feature window in room 247.
Perhaps they might consider trading this opaque glass with the completely transluscent glass in the Standard NYC's peekaboo showers, hmm?