Hotel News We Noted: December 7, 2012 (Special Edition)

end of the world renaissance hotelsWe write today with bad news. Judging by the amount of press releases in our inbox, the world will end on December 21, as predicted by the Mayan calendar, and nine days before, on 12-12-12, the publicity world will relish their last ever chance to send out far too many press releases about a holiday that may or may not happen.

And what reporters would we be if we did not bring you such news, interspersed with our favorite “Hotel News We Noted” of the week.

An Over-The-Top 12/12/12 Wedding at Jumby Bay
Book a wedding date to remember at Rosewood’s exclusive Antigua resort. Book the Once in a Lifetime Package and receive accommodations for three nights for 80 of your closest friends, private “White Night” party, cocktail and wedding reception, ceremony and more. Want to know how exclusive this place is? It once denied access to Princess Diana. Rates start at $230,000 for a three-night wedding event for up to 80 persons (40 rooms).

A 12/12/12 Promo You Can Afford
In honor of 12/12/12, Affinia Hotels in NYC and D.C. are treating guests to a special low rate of $112.12 for Sunday night stays available for booking on Dec. 12 between 12 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. only. Those looking to extend their stay beyond Sunday, can also receive 12 percent off any additional nights booked. This limited-time offer is available for travel from Jan. 2, 2013 – March 31, 2013. To book visit www.affinia.com/Dec12 and use promotional code TWELVE.

Gamble The Day Away
Packages to top gambling destinations on the last triple-digit date of the century are considered very lucky. OneTravel.com has packages bookable by December 9 available for as little as $437 per person for four-night stays in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.End of the World Cocktails at Renaissance Hotels
Celebrate doomsday with decadent cocktail treats at Renaissance hotels throughout the U.S., or, if you’re like us, celebrate in your living room with these delicious recipes!

Mayan Sacrifice
1/3 oz. Patron Silver Tequila
1/3 oz. Bacardi 151
1/3 oz. Grenadine
2 Dash Creole Bitters

Mix ingredients together in a mixing glass over ice. Shake and strain into shot glass. Ensure shot has sufficient red coloring.

Survival Punch
2 oz. Death’s Door White Whiskey
1 oz. Peach Schnapps
1 oz. Orange Juice
1 oz. Cranberry Juice
¼ oz. Velvet Falernum
Blood Orange Bitters, to taste
Rosemary Sprig

In a shaker over ice, combine all ingredients and shake. Strain using funnel into bottle. Serve full bottle with 2 rocks glasses filled with ice. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Hallucination Celebration
1 1/2 oz. Lucid Absinthe Superieure
5 oz. Champagne (fill glass)
Gold Flakes or Leaf

Sprinkle desired amount of gold flakes in champagne flute. Carefully add Absinthe. Fill glass with champagne. Garnish with gold flakes.

Hotel Openings: Four Seasons Goes To Africa
A few years ago, we told you that glamping was a thing. Now Four Seasons has gotten on the trend with the opening of Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Tanzania, the first of the brand’s properties in Sub-Saharan Africa (two additional properties are planned in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and an exclusive beach resort on the island of Zanzibar). This 77-room lodge features 12 suites with plunge pools, five free-standing villas, two restaurants and two bars. The hotel will offer a full-service fitness center and spa as well as opportunities for game drives. (Psst: Really want to get to Africa? We reported on another brand new lodge from the Singita brand last week.)

Hot Hotel Scene: Miami
We spent a night in Miami last weekend and explored some of what the hottest city on the East Coast has to offer, just in advance of its poshest event of the winter season, Art Basel, going on now. SLS South Beach, a Philippe Stark-designed masterpiece, is undoubtedly the center of Collins Avenue cool, with its Hyde Beach club, Jose Andres restaurant, and old school campground decor. We’ve also heard great things about The James Royal Palm, another boutique brand’s entrance into the Miami hotel world, and the soon-to-open B South Beach. We stayed at Hotel Beaux Arts, a unique hotel-within-a-hotel concept that’s a one-of-a-kind experience within the Marriott brand. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Port of Miami and downtown, this super high-tech hotel has rooms full of Bang & Olufsen amenities. While we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the sink, we sure did feel like a high roller, and, thanks to the in-house (well, in the attached JW Marriott Marquis) basketball court, movie theater, golf school, and virtual bowling alley, you could too. This would be an ultimate bachelor party destination.

Stunning Cruise Line Art, Both In And On Ships

cruise

Cruise lines traditionally devote a great amount of resources collecting art that will adorn the walls of individual staterooms and public spaces. Thoughtful collections help ship designers tie in a central theme that often runs throughout the interior of ships and sometimes on the exterior as well. It’s a high-stakes game of procurement and placement that can transform a ship into a floating display.

Not Your Mother’s Art
Travelers who have done a cruise vacation on any number of mainstream cruise lines know about art auctions on board. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Art auctions are a profitable revenue stream for cruise lines that entice participants away from the pool deck or casino with free champagne during the event. Called into question on numerous occasions, the value of art bought at sea is difficult to nail down and commonly appraised much lower on land.

Put that thought out of your mind. The cruise line art we’re talking about today is the real deal, featuring creations by top tier artists like Romero Britto, Thomas Kincade and Peter Max.

Bringing Big Names Along For The Ride
Partnering with obscure and well-known artists, works take the form of paintings, lithographs and sculptures ranging from the traditional to over-the-top custom pieces designed specifically for a certain ship.

Royal Caribbean brought Peter Max along for the ride on inaugural sailings of giant Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, and an on-board Britto store where works from Romero Britto are featured.

Thank cruise line art programs for sparking the idea of branding that has brought partnerships with celebrity chefs, big-name entertainment and normally land-based service providers to sea.

Not Just Inside The Ship Either
Norwegian Cruise Line announced recently that David Le Batard (AKA “LEBO” ) was chosen to create the hull art (pictured above) for the new 4000-passenger Norwegian Getaway to be based in Miami.

“Norwegian Getaway will be Miami’s ship and, therefore, we wanted to ensure that her hull was designed by an artist with strong ties to Miami and the Latin community,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer in a press release. “Having begun his career in South Florida, Dave is an artist that is entrenched here. His work adorns the city and I’ve learned that he is also a genuinely nice guy. He is a shining star in Miami, as well as the global art community.”

Similar to the close pairing of sister-ship Norwegian Breakaway to New York City, the cruise line is going down the same road with Norwegian Getaway hosting a South Florida theme. On Norwegian Breakaway, it was Peter Max designing hull art that features images of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.

On Norwegian Getway, set to debut in February 2014, Batard will add images of a mermaid, sun, swirling waves, palm trees and pelicans to support the ship’s South Florida theme.

Art, The Experience
Also on the exterior of a ship, the imagineers at Disney Cruise Line took the ship’s satellite transmitters, normally an eyesore, and made them into something unique. On the top forward deck of the Disney Fantasy, Satellite Falls is a new Disney Cruise Line feature that adds “a gentle water curtain to one of the ship’s satellite transmitters,” says Inside The Magic of this video. “The surrounding area features a relaxing open deck with views of the front of the ship”




Celebrity Cruises takes art to unique places as well. When last year’s Celebrity Silhouette, sister-ship to Celebrity Reflection debuted, Gadling reported that Celebrity had commissioned Kurt Werner, the inventor of 3-D street art, to create an innovative art installation at the New York Stock Exchange. Stock Exchange employees had fun “relaxing” on the hammock and “grilling” on what was then the industry’s first outdoor, interactive grill restaurant, called The Lawn Club Grill.

Spare No Expense On Art
Setting sail this week for the first time, new Celebrity Reflection features a $4.1 million collection of art that in one way or another supports the “reflection” theme on the ship. Over 6,000 works make up the ship’s collection, part of the Royal Caribbean International company inventory that spans over 40 ships.

What goes into creating an at-sea art collection? Purchasing art works or commissioning specific works by international emerging, mid-career and established artists is key as we see in this video:




Engaging Passengers
Art runs through ships as an element of the cruise experience we don’t hear a lot about. Its there and those who take the time to look are often surprised by the captivating quality of works at sea. Also at sea, some lines engage passengers, teaching and challenging them to try something new, creating art of their own.

Celebrity Cruises has a hands-on program on their Solstice-class ships and others that have been “solsticized” adding popular features to older ships. The Art Studio, a new venue on The Lawn Club has along for the ride two artists-in-residence who offer hands-on classes in many creative arts. Master Artists from The ArtCenter South Florida also host art classes, lectures and demonstrations on topics ranging from jewelry making to sketching and painting.

Passengers on Princess Cruises can choose from about 20 courses per voyage from four core subject areas – Culinary Arts, Visual/Creative Arts, Photography and Computer Technology. Ceramics or pottery are popular with passengers who fire their creations on board to take home later. Digital travel photography and watercolor techniques are also offered.

Just about every major cruise line has an onboard art collection they are proud of and they want passengers to know all about it. Hosting tours, both with an art expert along and self-guided, cruise lines take passengers on a voyage within a voyage. Enabling those who appreciate fine art an additional at-sea experience, the art we find at sea adds an extra dimension worthy of our consideration.

[Photo Credit- Norwegian Cruise Line]

Budget Holiday Travel Possible With New Way Of Thinking

holiday travel

The desire for holiday travel is here. We want to visit friends and family sometime between now and the new year. Still, to recover from economic challenges, travel-related businesses are operating differently than they may have in years past, making that desire for holiday travel more difficult to achieve. Today, there can be a lot more to consider when planning holiday travel than getting time off work, choosing convenient flights and arriving with gifts for all.

“It’s not just tight family finances making travel tough,” says a Detroit News article. “Airlines struggling to save on jet fuel and other expenses have cut the number of flights, leading to a jump in airfares. Those hitting the roads face high gas prices and rising tolls.”

In the past, filling the tank of the family car with gas, planning which route to take and where to stop along the way was about all it took to make it to our holiday destination. Today, travelers on a holiday road trip make sure to have plenty of travel funds available to keep that tank full, check with their favorite mid-way motel to see if it is still open and pack food rather than buying it along the way.

Previously, a seemingly unending number of flights to major destinations had picky travelers looking to fly at a convenient time, in seats together and on their favorite airline. Today’s reduced flight capacity has travelers settling for a flight close to what they had in mind at a price that won’t break the bank.

Still, there are steps that travelers can take to hold down costs, steps that can make the difference between being able to afford holiday travel or not.Packing- Fees for checked bags don’t seem to be going away any time soon so many travelers are re-thinking just how much clothing they really need at their destination. Throw out the old packing list and take a look at reducing what we take along down to one carry-on and a personal item that will fit under the seat.

Use those miles- For those who have been hoarding miles for a future, unknown trip, right now may be the time to dust them off and use them up. Airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rentals and more that might have fit into the holiday travel budget nicely in the past might not now without some work.

Leverage the Internet like never before- From meals to hotels, entertainment venues and more, information on just how much expenses along the way might be is readily available online. Planning each meal of a multi-day trip in advance alone can add up to huge savings vs. just stopping at some place that looks good. Avoiding expensive breakfast in hotels and eating less expensive lunches than dinners can be helpful too.

Utilize Public Transportation- Whenever possible take advantage of this least expensive option to get from point A to point B. Many cities with subways and/or rail transportation systems have smartphone apps to help plan and budget trips in advance too.

Weigh Options- Take the extra time and compare flying to driving or train service. A two-hour flight might not take all that much longer driving when we consider time to get to the airport, through security and to the gate as well as time getting off the plane and out of the airport. It can easily take me longer and cost more to fly from Orlando to Miami vs. just getting in the car and driving there.

Engage Everyone- Social networks have us talking to people around the world easier than ever before. Why not ask a favorite blogger, online group or business for tips on navigating their city, product or travel-related service. That’s a good way to go with planning and also while in-transit, as many travelers have found out tweeting a problem to airlines, hotels and other companies.

In the end, some big savings can be had by just thinking about travel differently.

Do I really need three pairs of jeans and six shirts for this trip?
The locals manage to use the subway system just fine, can’t I?
I have never been on an Amtrak train; is now the time to try?

Checking in with online sources can get us thinking in the right direction as we see in this ABC News video:




[Photo Credit- Flickr user jazzowl2003]

Hotel News We Noted: November 10, 2012

secrets the vine cancunIt’s official, and hopefully you’re not too blue about it. We’re in for four more years of President Obama, but that doesn’t mean Washington (hotels) are any less excited about inauguration. We’ve been tracking what our favorite properties are doing to prepare, but also what’s going on in the hotel world at large for this week’s “Hotel News We Noted.”

As always, send us questions and comments via email, and don’t forget that our annual Black Friday / Cyber Monday roundup is fast approaching. If you know of a great deal, sent it out way.

Hotel Openings: The James Miami, Four Seasons Beijing, Kukui’ula Club Cottages, Andaz Amsterdam
It’s a big week in the world of hotel openings! Here are the highlights:

  • The James has expanded their brand to the hot, hot, hot Miami with the opening this week of The James Royal Palm. The renovated property (formerly The Royal Palm) will join The James’ brand of boutique hotels in New York and Chicago.
  • Prefer something a bit more exotic? Four Seasons has opened their first hotel in China’s capital this week. The 313-room property is close enough to be useful to downtown business travelers and leisure guests seeking access to China’s many cultural attractions too.
  • We’ve had our eye on Hawaii for some time now, as airfare from the East Coast has been unusually affordable. On our next visit, we’re excited to check out the new Kukui’ula Club Cottages on Kaua’i, 15-single family cottages right next to the main Plantation House. Hello, if the President rents a private home while in Hawaii, why shouldn’t we?
  • Hyatt’s most hip brand just got a bit cooler, thanks to the opening of the new Andaz Amsterdam. What makes it a haute hotel opening? Awesome art (think in-room video art installations), a bicycle repair shop on-site (the city’s first) and a new step forward for the brand, as it’s the first Andaz in mainland Europe.

Hotel of the Week: Secrets The Vine Cancun

It takes a lot for us to express a desire to visit Cancun, a city better known for spring break than relaxing resort vacations. We’re intrigued by the new Secrets The Vine Cancun, an upscale take on the all-inclusive option. The adults-only resort is inspired (as The Vine name suggests) by wine, and includes a bar with 3,000 wine varietals, sommelier-led classes and tastings, wine-inspired spa menus and private chefs dinners. It’s not a trip to France, but it’s still pretty cool.

Happening Hotel Package: Bond, James Bond at Trump Toronto
In celebration of Toronto’s special “Designing 007: Fifth Years of Bond Style” exhibit and the newest Bond film, “Skyfall,” Trump Toronto has launched a totally over-the-top package we’re dying to try. The $17,007 “Shaken Not Stirred: Bond on Bay” package includes a two-night stay in an Executive Suite on the hotel’s 30th floor, offering fantastic downtown views, access to a Continental Bentley GT for duration of stay, all meals, including dinner with champagne at STOCK™ Restaurant Bar & Lounge for two for the duration of the stay, admission for two to the exhibition and two movie passes to a Bond film at TIFF Bell Lightbox, as well return limousine service, designer cocktail dress and Hugo Boss tuxedo with private fitting at The Room, courtesy of The Hudson’s Bay Company, a spa experience at Quartz Crystal Spa™ that includes a couples massage, hair and makeup for her and manicure for him, a martini “Shaken not Stirred” lesson at Suits Lobby Lounge and an in-room bespoke chocolate from the Chocolate Lab at STOCK Restaurant Bar & Lounge, as well as complimentary fruit and cigar box. Stays are available through January 20 using code PKG007.

[Image Credit: Secrets The Vine Cancun]

Travel Brochure Finds: The Best Key Lime Pie And More From Florida

Travel Brochures

Travel brochures found at any given destination compete for our attention. Local tour operators want us to choose them over others. Convention and visitors bureaus work to highlight all their city has to offer. Florida, the land of theme parks, beaches and year-round sun is no exception.

Racks of colorful point-of-travel brochures can be found in airports, at hotels, highway rest stops and just about any other place that travelers are likely to gather. On a road trip from Orlando to Miami, we stopped at turnpike rest areas along the way and picked up some of the travel brochures that crowds of visitors seemed most interested in.

travel brochuresKissimmee, Florida is home to must-see theme parks Walt Disney World Resort, Seaworld and Universal Studio’s Orlando Resort. From world-class resorts to RV campgrounds, Kissimmee offers a variety of choices for any age or interest.

Special events held throughout the year range from June’s Silver Spurs Rodeo to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights coming up November 3 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, running through January 3.

travel brochuresKey West, Florida calls itself America’s Island Paradise for a number of reasons. Walking tours are a good way to see some of the island’s best attractions but trolley tours are also popular.

The Key West City Cemetery offers a quiet tour of Key West’s past, featuring a memorial to American sailors who died in the explosion of the USS Maine in 1898 along with legendary headstones that read, “I told you I was sick,” and, “At least I know where he’s sleeping tonight.”

A visit to Key West Audubon House and Gardens, Key West Harbour and the Florida Eco-Discovery Center make for a nice day and don’t forget a piece of Key Lime Pie, served at a variety of locations. Download a Key West vacation planner here.

travel brochuresButterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida, is one of a number of attractions that host aviaries filled with butterflies and free-flying birds. This one lets visitors enter their man-made tropical rain forest, a living habitat with a mist-filled cave and a cascading waterfall.

Butterfly World features six aviaries, live butterflies, Hummingbirds, an Insectarium, a Butterfly museum and more. Open seven days a week, Butterfly World is the largest butterfly and bird park in the world.

travel brochuresMiami Seaquarium is a 38-acre tropical paradise that is home to Lolita The Killer Whale, Salty the Sea Lion and everything else one might expect from an aquarium located minutes from the ocean.

At Dolphin Harbor, visitors can connect with one of the ocean’s most intelligent creatures doing a deep-water swim that has no swimming or height restrictions.

In addition to sea life from sea turtles and manatees to sharks and stingrays, unique to Miami Seaquarium are a number of animal and tourism experts on hand to share information and answer questions.

Here’s more about Florida, featuring Florida swamps, working cattle ranches, beautiful lakes and streams, and incredible wildlife.



[Photo Credit: Chris Owen]