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This is rather unexpected: Orient-Express, which includes hotels like the Cipriani in Venice and the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, as well as a number of river cruises and train journeys around the world, will be known as Belmond from March 10 onwards.
The group has never owned the Orient-Express the name, instead licensing it from SNCF, the French transportation company; moving to Belmond will give them greater control and independence. Five million dollars is being invested in marketing in the first year, with an additional $10 million in the following years. The one element that will still carry the Orient-Express name is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train.
One point we picked up on in the official statement is about making the group “attractive to property owners as we advance in our strategy of expanding into the third-party management of assets that complement our existing collection.” That sounds to us like we should be on the lookout for news of additional hotels joining Belmond in the future.
The current Orient-Express website will start redirecting to Belmond.com on March 10, the latter currently being a single landing page. Just in case you were looking for the website of Belmond, Iowa – the previous owner of the Belmond.com url – they’re now at belmondiowa.com.
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Here's a new reason to love one of Venice's most lovable hotels, the Hotel Cipriani. Next month, guests can sign up to have "Dinner In the Sky," a one-off experience that literally involves a 22-seat dining table being raised 164 feet in the air.
According to The Daily Mail:
"A total of 22 guests can be seated around the table, which will be suspended over the swimming pool of the hotel, located on the island of Giudecca.
Thrill-seekers will have the choice of a one-hour three-course meal prepared by the hotel's chefs or a 30-minute aperitif, during which they can drink in views that stretch to St Mark's Square on the opposite side of the lagoon."
We'd probably opt for the 30-minute aperitif, since we're almost positive the dizzying height would make us lose our appetite. Then again, we'd also have to watch how much we drank. Wouldn't want to have any bathroom emergencies at that kind of altitude!
According to the Daily Mail, the platform can be rotated 180º, offering each guest at the table a panoramic view of Venice.
If this idea sounds more romantic to you than terrifying, then plan on booking a seat at the table (50 EUR per person for the aperitif; 250 pp for dinner) for the event, which takes place June 19-23.
[Photo: Daily Mail]
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The Westcliff Johannesburg
You guys, the hotel news keeps rolling in so fast we can barely keep up with it. In order to get us all up to speed, we’ll give you a brief rundown of some of the latest news & rumors for Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, Rosewood and SBE that have us mighty intrigued.
Starting in South Africa, Business Traveller reported last week the venerable Westcliff Johannesburg will move from Orient-Express to Four Seasons, and based on our own investigation, that does look to be happening. If you’ve had Sunday brunch at the glorious La Belle Terrasse, spent time at the pool, and wandered its cobblestone streets and lush gardens, you know this place is easy to fall in love with. If indeed ‘substantial’ renovations will be part of the transition, things will only get that much better.
Surprising as it might be, late next year will be the first time Four Seasons will get in on the luxury hotel action in Dubai, with a 237-room resort at the northern end of Jumeirah Beach. More in the Middle East should follow in Abu Dhabi, Oman, Bahrain, Doha, Jeddah, and Kuwait. Like Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons is also planning on Kyoto and Casablanca, and if that wasn’t enough, we’re hearing about South America (with a number of hotels in Brazil) and various rumors elsewhere as well.
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Deals: you want 'em, and surprisingly, everyone has 'em. Take a look at some of the latest hotel deals going around the internet today from booking sites, social media sites, flash sale sites and more. Don't forget to scroll down to see the HotelChatter-approved deal either. Who knows? You might just find what you're looking for. (But don't forget to tell us about your stay!)
DEALS, DEALS, DEALS*
· The Lullaby of Broadway is a Buy Once More: The Milford Plaza in Times Square finally got a property-wide renovation and we're happy to report the hotel with the catchiest commercial jingle of the '80s looks good again. And Travelzoo is now offering a great deal for summertime, peak season for NYC hotels, for just $179 a night. That rate actually works for Thursday-Saturday stays in June and July, and it includes free WiFi. Plus, the hotel is open over Fourth of July starting at $159 a night. There are blackout dates (June 6, 30 and July 6) and you have to book by March 27. Going to NYC before June? The hotel has rates for just $199 in April and May. Go to Travelzoo to book.
· Live It Up In Vegas for 20 Percent Less: The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas is one of the most sought-after party spots on The Strip from its raging pool scene to its massive nightclub Marquee and its restaurant funland featuring Holstein's, Scarpetta, STK and two shops from chef José Andrés. Now you can stay there for 20 percent off thanks to Vegas.com's new deal. The offer is good for stays from now through September 30, but you have to book before May 30. A three-night minimum is required and there are some blackout dates (Memorial Day, Labor Day and a few others) but we found rates from May 10-13 for $186 a night, compared with $233. Go here to book.
· Upgrade Yourself at the Newest Orient-Express Hotel: Orient-Express Hotels has snapped and spiffed up the legendary El Encanto Resort in Santa Barbara, which now features 92 individually designed California-style bungalows, with hardwood floors, plantation-style shutters, and bespoke accessories. The first West Coast hotel for O-E also has its own spa, a lush garden wonderland, views of the Pacific Ocean and even its own Holstein cow, Ellie, whose milk is used to produce handmade cheese for the hotel's restaurant. Rates for a superior bungalow are pricey at $525 a night but the Enchanted Upgrade package gives guests a one- category upgrade at the time of booking. It's only valid until May 31st (excluding Memorial Day Weekend) so book soon. Call 805-845-4008 and mention the Enchanted Upgrade option. The hotel has a bunch of other offers on tap too that might interest you.
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It certainly looks like Orient-Express isn’t letting that whole rejected Tata offer get in the way of its renovation and expansion plans. We’ve barely told you about the disco break the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro enjoyed to come back in its former glory, and now reservations have started for a March opening of the historic El Encanto Resort in Santa Barbara.
One thing we already love? As part of its dedication to locally sourced produce, El Encanto will have its own cow: Ellie. Ellie’s milk will be used to make a special cheese only found at the hotel. How great is that? And it doesn’t stop there.
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The famous Copacabana Palace in Rio had once been the place to be when visiting Brazil especially during its 80s and 90s heydays. But then something happened and, well, the place fell into a bit of disarray. Then in 2011, Orient-Express stepped in. They shut down the place in June and finally have announced that after throwing $20 million into a makeover, the iconic hotel is back!
The lobby has been expanded for a more airy feel and all 145 rooms and suites in the main building have been renovated from furniture down to the linens. Careful attention was made though, to ensure that the history of the 90-year old hotel was well respected, keeping the marble staircase, and unearthing the original ceiling that had been covered by plaster.
Indian Hotels offer to buy the Orient-Express luxury brand is met with a "no"
Orient-Express Hotels Group has turned down the surprise buyout offer from Tata Groups’, Indian Hotels Company, saying the proposed $1.2 billion price tag was not enough and came at an inappropriate time.
Though Orient-Express said they would take three weeks to decide, they made the decision earlier, stating, The Indian Hotels proposal “..is deeply unattractive from a financial perspective," said Orient-Express Chairman Robert Lovejoy. Further, "The board believes the current macroeconomic environment, conditions in the luxury hotel business and factors unique to Orient-Express would make this a highly disadvantageous time to sell the company to realize its true value."
Indian Hotels’ initial offer was $12.63 a share for stocks (a 40% premium). Meanwhile OEH closed yesterday at $10.55 a share.
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Will the Orient-Express hotels in Cusco keep their names? In three weeks we'll know for sure
This news appeared in our inbox this weekend from an unknown source and we weren’t sure whether it was fact or fiction. Orient-Express Hotels up for sale? Really? Trouble in paradise?
Add the news that the unsolicited all cash offer from Tata Group’s Indian Hotels of $12.63 Per Share (a 40% premium on that day’s closing share price), was a tad on the bold side and we were even more uneasy--why go so high? Yet that would mean a cool $1.86 billion sale for Orient-Express. At least they're getting a higher bid, unlike the discount Jetsetter.com had to offer for its company sale.
Subsequent news briefs confirmed the proposal was definitely real, bold, and that U.S.-listed Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., while in $615.6 million debt wasn't seeking bailout. However, in a statement the company said it will evaluate the proposal carefully and respond in due course in accordance with the best interests of the Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. and its shareholders.
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If you've made it as far as Cusco, Peru, chances are you want to feel like you're in Cusco, Peru. That's where the Hotel Monasterio comes into play, as it not only calls a well preserved 15th century monastery home (hence the name), but keeps the furnishings and food as locally sources as possible. It's not all so foreign, however; the toiletries are L'Occitane, the staff speaks excellent English and its membership in the Orient-Express Collection ensures a certain level of service.
Yesterday we showed you all around the property and made mention of the fact that it was the first Cusco hotel to introduce the option of oxygen enriching guest rooms to counter the effects of Cusco's high altitude. Luckily we didn't suffer from "soroche," or altitude sickness, and thus didn't need to add the additional service.
First things first. Hotel Monasterio is the most famous hotel in Cusco, Peru. Part of the reason comes from its being of the Orient-Express Collection, but the property really distinguished itself when it became the first to offer oxygen-enriched rooms to combat the effects of altitude sickness, a very real obstacle to enjoying Cusco for travelers who arrive to the city's 11,200' height without acclimating. Airplanes actually have to specially adjust their cabin pressurization after arrival at the city's small airport.
Altitude effects everyone differently and we were lucky to only get super winded while climbing stairs, which isn't much of a problem as the hotel is only two stories and occupies a monastery built in 1595. It's got electricity now, and window glass, and luxury bedding, and other niceties of the last couple centuries (including free WiFi!), but the building has been well preserved and the 16th century aura is still very much alive.
Just over a week ago we told you that the Observatory Hotel in Sydney will leave the Orient-Express Collection come summer to be part of Langham Hotels. By then, Orient-Express will no longer have a presence in Australia; earlier this year its other property Lilianfels Blue Mountains made the transition to Starwood's Luxury Collection, marking this collection's debut in the country at the same time.
Lilianfels is set a few hours outside of Sydney in the village of Katoomba, the heart of the Blue Mountains national park in New South Wales. As you can see from the aerial shot, the famous Three Sisters are just a few minutes' walk away. Inside the historic mansion that was once the residence of New South Wales Chief of Justice, Sir Frederick Darley, you'll find 67 traditionally decorated rooms and 4 suites, with 22 of the rooms and 3 suites having views of the Jamison Valley.
Today Orient-Express Hotels officially opened Palacio Nazarenas, in Cuzco, Peru. Transforming the former 16th century Carmelite convent into a 55-suite hotel was a long, four-year excavation project in which architects and archeologists uncovered Inca artifacts. These have been preserved to use for the hotel’s historical talk series on the area and Cuzco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.