Luxury travel: Ritz-Carlton announces first hotel in Abu Dhabi

The Middle East is set to get a little more glitz and lot more glamour. The Ritz-Carlton just announced an agreement with Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) for a waterfront hotel in Abu Dhabi, and Gadling got a sneak peak at some of the hotel designs.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal will have 447 guestrooms and suites, as well as 85 villas. The Venetian-inspired hotel is set in a crescent shape across 54 acres and has its own private beach overlooking the Grand Canal. A highlight for guests of the hotel will be the villas, which range in size from 968 to 1,400 square feet, and come complete with outdoor terraces that overlook the Grand Canal and personalized butler service.

“We are delighted to be bringing The Ritz-Carlton renowned levels of hospitality to the power capital of the United Arab Emirates,” said Herve Humler, president and chief operations officer of the Ritz-Carlton, in a statement. “The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal hotel will be a welcome landmark, and together with the owning company Abu Dhabi National Hotels, we will create a prestigious luxury hotel that will be the highlight of the new waterfront development.”

In addition to the spacious rooms, sweeping views and stunning architecture, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal will also include:

  • The Ritz-Carlton Club located on a private floor accessible only by elevator key. As with other Ritz-Carlton Club levels, the Abu Dhabi club will feature five complimentary food and beverage presentations throughout the day and a dedicated concierge service.
  • ESPA, a 21,500-square-foot spa with its own separate entrance.
  • Fitness center and outdoor tennis courts.
  • Three restaurants, including an Italian restaurant, steak and seafood restaurant, Middle East restaurant and an Asian restaurant.
  • A rooftop terrace, which will offer food and beverage service.
  • Two poolside bars.
  • Lobby lounge and bar area, also serving drinks and small bites

The show-stopper of this property, however, lies outside the hotel. The 17,222-square-foot swimming pool provides a stunning backdrop to the Renaissance-era influenced hotel. This clearly calls for a few new swimsuits and some designer hats to help shade the Middle East sun.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, is expected to open in late 2011.

Starwood hotels plans to recycle hotel shampoos, soaps

Some hotel guests take the mini soaps and shampoos from hotel bathrooms, others leave the pint-sized amenities behind – which option is better for the environment?

Did you know your unused hotel toiletries could be put toward recycling efforts to help people in need?

That’s the premise behind Clean the World, a social enterprise working with hotels around the world in an effort to help improve lives and protect our planet.

In an effort to give back, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. inked an agreement with Clean the World on Earth Day to collect and recycle hotel soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and gels to help fight the global spread of preventable diseases. The deal would include around 500 Starwood hotels in North America (Starwood’s brands include St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, W®, Westin®, Le Méridien®, Sheraton®, Four Points® by Sheraton, Aloft®, and Element).

.”Our North American properties represent more than 176,000 rooms, each of which offer the highest quality soaps and bottled amenities to our guests on a daily basis,” says Denise Coll, president of Starwood Hotels in North America, in a statement. “This partnership amplifies our commitment to corporate social responsibility, and it also should make every member of our Starwood family feel better about the role they play each day in caring for our Earth and the people who inhabit it.”

According to Clean the World, an estimated 1.6 million pounds of hotel soap may be recycled each year through this partnership.

Readers: Will you think twice before swiping your hotel bath amenities now?

CheckYourRoom.com launches hotel personality quiz

You’re probably used to booking a hotel room based on price, distance from the city center or local landmarks. You likely look at room size, what amenities are offered and whether or not there are any upgrades or promotions available. But, what if you could take that booking process one step further and add a bit of “you” into your hotel search? That’s the latest premise behind CheckYourRoom.com’s new booking tool, “What Room Are You?”

CheckYourRoom.com, a Paris-based travel startup that launched in beta earlier this year, wants to give travelers the opportunity to book a specific luxury or boutique hotel room with all the essentials like price and location, but throw ina little human touch, too. The recently launched quiz “What Room Are You?” on the booking site takes travelers through a series of lifestyle-related questions, then recommends hotels around the world based on their preferences.

Intrigued, I got a sneak peak of the new quiz and took the personality test for a spin.
The first question asks about food preference. I chose “Italian Classics” and moved along to question number two, which asked about my fashion style. I was able to quickly rule out options (a) and (c) (Preppy Classics and Bohemian Chic), and for the sake of this quiz went with “Ultimate Fashionista”, just to see where it would take me (and because some days I think I’m quite fashionable). The next series of questions asked me choose my favorite artist and then my favorite hero, from a list of four people. I was asked like I do on a Friday night (go out for drinks), what type of music I listen to (pop/rock) and what dream car I would drive (a Bentley).

After answering all seven questions, I was returned a list of nine hotels from London to Nice that fit my profile, but more importantly, stayed within my budget range.

Taking the quiz doesn’t allow you to enter in specific information like destination or distance from tourist attractions, however, the site does offer a basic booking engine where you can add in your requirements. There’s also the Room Concierge, a personalized room recommendation service that collects your individual hotel and room requests and returns results based on your information.

The “What Room Are You?” personality test is by no means a scientific way of determining what hotel you’re best suited for, but for those travelers who aren’t married to fixed price or destination, it’s a nice way to introduce new places to an upcoming trip.

As for me? I learned that while my luxury travel preferences haven’t changed much over the years, my personality test revealed I was the “romantic” type (the site will tag as one of four personalities: romantic, adventurous, classic or modern). As a “romantic” type, I like my hotel rooms to “feel cozy and warm – like a home away from home.” Not a bad assessment, especially since the majority of the hotels the site recommended to me were in Paris.

While this might not be the end-all for travel search engines, it’s a nice change of pace from the booking engines of price, location, and date.

Readers: What do you think? Would you book a room based on a personality quiz?

Dolder Grand revives the artists of 80s at Live at Sunset

You can run, but you run far enough to get the music of the 1980s out of your head. True 1980s music fans wouldn’t even try and there’s good news for them: your favorite artists of the 80s (and a few who started in the 1970s) are taking the stage at the annual Live at Sunset concert at Dolder Grand in Switzerland.

This year’s concert takes place from July 13 – 24 and features John Mellencamp, TOTO, Chicago, Joe Cocker, Tom Jones and others. While you try to get “Rosana” out of your head, here’s a breakdown of the Dolder Grand‘s special package for the event:

  • 1 night stay including Garden Restaurant breakfast
  • 3-course pre-concert dinner in the Garden Restaurant (beverages excluded)
  • Premium seat concert tickets
  • Late checkout until 4:00pm (for those music lovers who go overboard)

The price to relive those precious moments of the 1980s starts at approximately $804 for a single occupancy room and $1,146 for double occupancy. Lighters, acid-washed jeans and aerosol hairspray not included.

Luxury Travel: London’s most expensive suite to open at Lanesborough Hotel

Have a few extra Euros to spend? The Lanesborough Hotel in London can help put those extra pence to good use. In May, London’s luxe hotel will open its 4,000-square-foot Lanesborough Suite for a cool £14,000 (approximately $20,000 USD) a night (plus VAT).

The signature suite makes use of Lanesborough’s Michelin-starred restaurant, personal butler service, and offers some of the best views of Hyde Park, but is it worth $20k? You decide.

The suite has four bedrooms, two living rooms, five bathrooms, a kitchen and a dining room. The decor aims to “blend 19th century elegance and 21st century opulence,” according to ehotelier.com, who received artist renderings of the London hotel suite. In an interesting twist of typical hotel layout plans, the suite will be located on the hotel’s first floor and have floor to ceiling windows. (We like the concept of feeling like you’re walking into your own home with a suite on the first floor, but we’re a little weary about the lack of privacy this might invite.) Guests will have access to 24-hour butler service, a chauffeur-driver Rolls Royce and its own personal bar.

The Lanesborough Suite is scheduled to open at the beginning of May, so if you aren’t U.K.-bound for the Royal Wedding, or have a few extra to spare after buying the new couple’s wedding gift, we suggest you head over to the Lanesborough and live it up luxe-style for the night.

[For artist rendering photos of the massive suite, click here]