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Monday, May 17, 2010

On My Radar -- Luxury Hotel Destinations

Hey everyone,

I'd like to introduce a new feature on Hotel Hopper: On My Radar.  From time to time, I will highlight a few hotels that I have come across that I will make the effort to visit in the future and share my experience.  Hopefully, these will be places you will want to visit and share your experience as well.  Things may change as I discover new, exciting hotels, but these will always be hotels that I legitimately want to visit.  Here's the first On My Radar List:

Amangani, Jackson Hole, WY:  I readily admit that I am not a huge nature enthusiast, but Amangani is the type of hotel that will make me change my mind very quickly.  Amangani appears to have perfected the mix between modern design and the rustic characteristics that are common among lodges situated in close proximity to nature.  It is located in the near vicinity of the Grand Tetons, and thus offers the opportunity for an amazing outdoor adventure in addition to luxurious accommodations.  It also has a pretty extensive list of awards that have recognized its appeal.  This destination offers a new experience for me, inside and out, and will likely be the first off of this list for me to visit.  The impressive menu of suites starts at $565/night.

Wynn/Encore, Las Vegas, NV:  This destination also offers a special experience, but in a much different way than the Amangani.  The Wynn/Encore is the kind of place that appropriately makes you feel like a million bucks.  You may give some of that away in the casino, but you will also depart having stayed in an amazing hotel.  Even the most basic suite can provide a great experience, but this is one of those places where you probably want to spring for something even more special.  I have been through both the Wynn and Encore in person, and promised myself that during my next trip to Vegas, the Wynn/Encore will be where I set up camp.  Suites start at around $199/night, but consider a Parlor or Salon suite if you want to live it up in the City of Lights.  Las Vegas is also a destination where hotel deals run abundant, so be diligent in your search for the best rate.

Jade Mountain, St. Lucia: Okay, this is maybe the only hotel on this list that should be on EVERYONE'S radar, just because it offers a completely unforgettable experience.  Depending on what you do in Vegas, you may or may not remember.  Any place that offers panoramic views of a majestic landscape and in-room infinity pools deserves some serious consideration.  Consider combining the cost of multiple vacations for this one though, the price tag is quite high, with the most basic Sky suite starting at $900/night during the off-peak tourist season and prices are scheduled to increase next year.  Well worth it, I am sure.

The Setai, Miami, FL: This Asian-influenced, Art Deco gem of a hotel is possibly the best designed hotel of this group with maximum drool factor.  The Setai has two buildings, the Art Deco building which contains studio and junior suites, and the Tower, which contains the larger accommodations, including the specialty suites.  Suites, spa, pool, beach will all leave no doubt in your mind that you are on perhaps the best vacation ever.  Plus, anything that's good enough for Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian is good enough for me.  Rooms start around $575/night, but you can get the rates down through advanced booking.

Vdara, Las Vegas, NV: Okay, so apparently I like Las Vegas, but what luxury hotel enthusiast doesn't?  Vdara is one of the new CityCenter hotels, and probably not the most high-profile hotel of the group (see Aria and Mandarin Oriental), but the sleek, modern design is too much for me to resist.  There is not even a casino inside the hotel, but I don't think it would be too difficult to find one if you decide to stay there.  You still have access to a sleek spa and pool, which I think can do the job in satisfying any expectations.  Suites can start as low as $129/night, which is an awesome value, but consider going with a group of friends and splitting the Panoramic Suite or one of the two-bedroom penthouses.

These hotels will be added to the Gallery Links page.  What's on your radar?


Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Luxury Hotel Photowall!

I am happy to announce that a new Photowall page has been added to Hotel Hopper!  The photowall was embedded onto the site using Cooliris, which is a great tool that provides a 3-D capability for browsing various types of media.  The photowall uses Flickr to search for images of luxury hotels.  Honestly, the search isn't as good as I would like it, but it's still pretty good for browsing a large quantity of luxury hotel images relatively quickly.  I would love to use a Google Image or Bing Image search, but I am sure there are copyright issues involved with using those search engines and that is probably why Flickr is used.  If you download Cooliris for use in your own browser, you can use Google or Bing to do your own image search for luxury hotels.  Try this query using either search engine, I think it works great in Cooliris or on the web.

Luxury Hotel Image Query: luxury hotel AND (lobbies OR suite OR bathroom OR pool)

Enjoy browsing!  I will probably continue to try to improve the Flickr search query to produce an even better collection of images.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hotel Hopper is Now on Twitter!

That's's true!  You can now follow Hotel Hopper on Twitter @luxehotelhopper.  Twitter will be used to update members about new posts, to retweet stories I find from other members that are maybe not substantial enough for blog posts (i.e., interesting articles or hotels to which I don't have much to add or comment about), and also just to post short thoughts I have related to luxury hotels.  Hotel Hopper is following many of the resources and blogs you see listed here on Twitter, with the hope of staying on top of any new developments in the luxury hotel industry and with the sites and blogs themselves, and also other travel-related members.  A feed of the most recent tweets has been added to the toolbar on the right side of the page.  Help the followers list grow by going to Twitter now!


Luxury Hotels Offering iPads for Guests -- Update

Hey people,

I came across this ongoing list of hotels offering iPads to their guests on Hotel Chatter.  These hotels are probably much less expensive than the Berkeley Hotel in London that was first mentioned in the post from May 4 (updated May 8).  Check back often to see if iPads are coming to a hotel in a destination you're heading.


Monday, May 10, 2010

T + L: It List -- Best New Luxury Hotels for 2010

Travel and Leisure (T + L) has released its It List for 2010, which profiles 45 of the best new luxury hotels across the world.  This is a great list because it provides awareness about fresh, new, and exciting places versus the well-established places that we hear about all of the time.  There are still some familiar names (e.g. W, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Willard, Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-la, Waldorf Astoria), but they have set up shop in new locations. I have highlighted a few of the hotels for you below, based on the images that stood out to me the most from the list or if I have come across the hotel in other searches.  This is somewhat arbitrary, but it represents a pretty good mix of the new flavor out there in the world of luxury hotels. 

Upper House, Hong Kong - Awesome website! 
Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia  
Argos in Cappadocia, Uchisar, Turkey 
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, Lithgow, Australia 
Andaz Wall Street, New York, NY 
Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa, Boracay, Philippines 
Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, Spain 
Las Alcobas, Mexico City, Mexico 

Enjoy browsing! I have also added the T+L Carry-On blog, tagged just to hotels, to the Blog List and the featured hotels onto the gallery links page.  You may want to check out today's Carry-On article on a new hotel under construction in Singapore.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gallery Links Page Now Operational!

I have now populated the Gallery Links page with links to all of the hotels featured in a post on Hotel Hopper.  For those of you who just want to browse the luxury hotels, you can do so on that page, which connects you with a photo gallery of each hotel.  I will continue to update the gallery from time to time with hotels that are featured in posts.  I will be sure to let you know when I do so.  Enjoy browsing!


Friday, May 7, 2010

New Luxury Hotel Resources!

Hey everyone,

As I continue to find interesting stories and hotels, I come across a lot of sites that are useful in searching for a luxury hotel for your vacation.  I don't want to overwhelm you with too many sites, so as Hotel Hopper evolves, I will try to to keep the resources listed at the bottom of the page to an optimal set of sites that you can explore for your personal needs.  I may add sites on occasion and take some away on others.  Here are the best new resources that I have found and have decided to add to the resource list:

Splendia: This site is my favorite of the new sites and maybe one of the best I have seen so far.  Not only does it feature a large selection of 4500 luxury hotels all over the world, but it offers a pretty extensive set of options for exploring the collection.  These options include, but are not limited to, searching by location and theme, whether it be general luxury, spa, boutique, or design.  In addition, once you have started a search, you can refine the search in many ways, such as by the type of experience you are looking for in your vacation, hotel facilities and amenities, style, and location.  One of my favorite features is that Splendia also lists starting rates for rooms at the hotels, so you can have an idea of the price point without putting in arbitrary dates for reservations.  You can also view all of the listed hotels in your search on a map so that you can make a more informed decision on the exact location you want to stay at your destination.  Splendia also has a members benefit club where returning customers can gain access to special rates and rewards.  Overall, a great site with useful tools for finding your hotel destination.

Tablet Hotels:  This is also another great site that doesn't feature as large of a selection (which is sometimes a good thing), but it has a lot of content related to luxury hotels and travel.  Tablet features over 1800 selected hotels and, much like Splendia, has a lot of ways to hunt down your desired hotel.  There are two recently released features on the site, which include member access to exclusive and last minute hotel deals, and a nice integrated Google Maps search interface that allows users to search for hotels by location and theme.  The Tablet site also provides reference guides for selected destinations and maintains a travel blog, but the best content-related feature on the site is the Tablet 10.  This page features all sorts of Top 10 lists for hotels in different categories.  I will probably explore this more in a future post so be on the look out.

Preferred Hotels & Resorts: Preferred Boutique was already listed in the resources, but I wanted to add this site as well.  Obviously, they are part of the same group, but focus on different categories of luxury hotels.  This site is more formal in that it is basically just a search site to find luxury hotels.  There isn't much in terms of content, but you are gaining access to a highly rated selection of hotels.  There isn't as much 'guidance' as there is on the site as far as refining your search, but there is a nice interactive map so that you can search by location.  There is also the I Prefer member rewards program that provides benefits to customers that use the services of the Preferred Hotel Group and its alliance partners.

Hotique: Hotique is another nice site I found that again provides some pretty good assistance for narrowing your search to a single selection.  There are lots of options at the bottom of the home page for searching by category and destination.  Once you select one of these options, there are suggestions and featured hotels that serve as a good starting point.  Of course, you can always just search if you are looking for something specific.  There is also a Travel Center page that offers suggestions on other travel related issues such as destination guides, airlines, and other important details.

Luxique: As far as I can tell, Luxique is not related to Hotique, so I guess making your site sound like boutique is just a popular theme these days.  Luxique features a collection of over 2000 hotels that are not limited to just the boutique category.  The Destination Guides are a nice feature that provides suggestions for the best luxury hotels by destination and some recommendations on what to do there.  There is also an interesting blog that I have refined to hotel articles and added to the Blog List.

As I am beginning to learn and as you are surely seeing by the growing list of resources on Hotel Hopper, there are tons of sites out there for finding a luxury hotel for you travels.  For now, I am trying to stick to sites with more of a global capacity, but there are advantages to sites with a more localized focus.  It can be overwhelming, but the best sites out there will offer some tools that will help you narrow down that search into something more manageable.  Reward programs are also nice once you decide to use one or more of the sites on a consistent basis.  Finally, there is something a little more authentic about a visually appealing site.  Some of the sites I did not include were certainly lacking in that category, regardless of the other benefits.  Try out a few of the sites I have suggested to see what you like.  Let me know what you think!