Can You Afford To Stay At A Celebrity-Owned Hotel?

Tennis star Andy Murray, one of the U.K.’s most famous athletes and the reigning Olympic gold medalist, recently purchased the Cromlix House Hotel near his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland. Now closed for renovations, the country manor is expected to reopen in the spring, in time for the 2014 Ryder Cup golf tournament.

Perhaps more than any other sport, tennis requires its stars to become globetrotters. The biggest tournaments take place in the world’s most cosmopolitan locales – Dubai, Paris, Madrid, Miami, Shanghai, Monte Carlo – and as much, a multimillionaire star like Murray should know what constitutes a fine hotel.

Still, he’s the rare athlete that has made a foray into hospitality, a hobby (or investment) favored by Hollywood celebs. There’s no shortage of A-listers in the hotel game. And – surprise – staying under their roofs isn’t always a big-budget proposition.

Actor John Malkovich offers the cheapest access to star style. He’s a (reportedly hands-on) investor in The Big Sleep, a chain of budget hotels in England. Basic but contemporary, they advertise rates starting at £29, and reviews commonly cite rates around £50. In Dublin, U2’s Bono and The Edge revamped The Clarence, and rates at the historic property starts at a modest £109.

Director Francis Ford Coppola owns five hotels in Belize, Guatemala, Argentina, and Italy. Both of his top-rated resorts in Belize, Turtle Inn (pictured, top) and Blancaneaux Lodge, ring in under $300 in the offseason (and start upwards of $350 in high season). But La Lancha, his Guatemalan lakefront rainforest lodge, offers rooms in the low season for $125.

Stateside, there aren’t many deals to be had. Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Utah is hard to book for less than $250 per night. Doris Day’s longtime pet-haven coastal hotel, Cypress Inn in Carmel, California, has online rates starting at $185 (plus $30 per pet – a small price for getting to frolic on the beach off-leash and accompany owners to all 12 restaurants). Cooking-show royalty Paula Deen rents her two-bedroom beach house on Georgia’s Tybee Island, named Y’all Come Inn, for around $295 per night.

Yet those rates don’t come close to the prices that Richard Gere and Robert DeNiro command at their New York properties. Gere co-owns Westchester County’s luxurious Bedford Post Inn, where getaways start at $400 per night. DeNiro’s posh pad in downtown Manhattan, The Greenwich Hotel, runs $525 and up – topping even Donatella Versace’s resort on Australia’s Gold Coast, the grand Palazzo Versace (pictured), which starts in the $300 to $400 range per night.

[Photo credits: top, Turtle Inn by Coppola Resorts]

The World Of The Great Gatsby: Long Island’s Gold Coast

The official trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s new film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” was released this week, inciting nostalgia across the Internet for the passion, parties and Prohibition-fueled recklessness of 1920s-era New York City. The film doesn’t come out until Christmas but if you’re hankering for a preview, try visiting Long Island‘s Gold Coast, where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived, wrote and based his famous novel.

Geographically located on the North Shore of Long Island, the Gold Coast’s grand mansions and landscaped gardens beckon visitors to explore the lives of the magnates and tycoons that called them home. Former inhabitants include familiar names like the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Whitneys and Pratts, and nearly all of the estates are open to the public throughout the summer.


One Gold Coast must-see is Old Westbury Gardens, a traditional English manor home that you’ll recognize from films like “The Age of Innocence” and “Cruel Intentions.” Built in 1906, the estate was once inhabited by financier John S. Phipps, who outfitted it with lavish furnishings and artwork. Guests are welcome to tour the home’s interior or stroll around the estate’s rose gardens, walled gardens and pond.

The Gold Coast’s residents weren’t all as traditional as the Phipps. A trip to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum reveals the eclectic nature of former inhabitant William K. Vanderbilt II. The 43-acre complex includes a marine museum, seaplane hangar, natural history habitats and a wide array of quirky ethnographic objects. The on-site planetarium is currently under construction, but it is expected to be one of the most advanced in the country once it is completed.

And if you’re a true literature geek, you can’t miss the Hempstead House or Falaise Mansion in Sands Point, a part of Long Island that Fitzgerald referred to as the “East Egg” in “The Great Gatsby.” Both homes are surrounded by wildlife, nature trails and picturesque spots that are perfect for setting out a picnic blanket and giving the classic novel a re-read.

A Valentine’s Day package for Bachelor fans

Valentine’s Day is coming up really fast and those stuck without plans may think they are out of time to do anything memorable. Think again. Luxury hotels still have some packages available for those a bit light on the thoughtfulness with heavy, deep pockets.

The Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower in Panama is among the romantic destinations included in the 16th season of ABC’s The Bachelor and luxury resort is offering guests who book their stay now through March 31, 2012, the opportunity to experience the utmost in romance with the “Live Like The Bachelor” package.

Offering exclusive amenities, experiential activities and a savings of about 50 percent off rates, the package provides guests with the same romantic escape seen on The Bachelor. The “Live like The Bachelor” package includes:

  • Four-night stay in a spacious Executive Suite
  • Round-trip private transfer to and from the airport
  • Welcome bottle of champagne and rose petal turndown
  • Daily breakfast at BARcelona Restaurant
  • Romantic dinner for two at Tejas Restaurant
  • VIP helicopter excursion
  • Private tour of Panama City including visits to the Old Panama Ruins, Casco Viejo, the Panama Canal and Mi Pueblito
  • Signautre 60 minute couples massage
  • Exotic island expedition on a private yacht, including food, beverages and fishing equipment
  • Complimentary shuttle service to nearby shopping centers
  • $1,000 worth in shopping cards

The price? Rates start at $7,999, plus tax and service charge.

Too much?

The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale is a luxury oceanfront hotel on Florida’s Gold Coast that has water views from every room, balconies in every room, and legendary service plus two Valentine’s Day packages.

A Valentines Day One-Night Escape is $549 plus tax and includes a luxurious Partial Ocean View accommodations at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale along with a gourmet three-course Italian-inspired dinner and breakfast for two in the oceanfront Via Luna restaurant, or in the privacy of your luxurious guestroom and an assortment of romantic welcome gifts including a bottle of fine champagne.

An Ultimate Valentine’s Day One-Night Escape with concert tickets is $1,999 plus tax and includes a One-Bedroom Oceanfront Residential Suite with Club Lounge Access and a dedicated concierge to assist with any reservations or travel plans, Two VIP tickets to the one-night only Andrea Bocelli Valentine’s Day concert, Tuesday, February 14 at the Bank Atlantic Center, private roundtrip transportation to the concert, breakfast for two in Via Luna or in the privacy of your guestroom and romantic welcome gifts of limited edition Jean-Paul Gaultier-designed, fishnet-laced Piper-Heidsieck Champagne and more romantic presents.

Still too much?
Launched this week on Best Western Hotel’s Facebook page is a new “Be a Travel Hero” Promotion which rewards business “travel heroes” for their time on the road away from friends and family. The promotion encourages Best Western Rewards members to build a virtual vacation for their family and friends for a chance to win a grand prize dream vacation and other great prizes, including Best Western Travel Cards and MasterCard Gift Cards up to $500 in value, Avis rental car vouchers and AAA/CAA memberships.

Still need more ideas? Try Gadling’s Couple’s guide to Valentine’s Day hotel packages.


Australia rail travel a bargain for backpackers

Queensland Rail Travel (QR) provides Urban and Interurban rail and bus services throughout South East Queensland in Australia. Looking to deliver a greater number of international tourists to the state’s regional tourism hotspots, QR is offering special savings for overseas backpackers who want to travel between multiple locations

“Backpackers travel to several different locations up the east coast and this new offer gives them the flexibility of being able to move from point-to-point in a quick and convenient way,” Queensland Rail Travel general manager, Max Kruse said.

International visitors who have a valid hostel or backpacker card can save up to 40 per cent off the normal rail travel fare for point-to-point journeys on Queensland Rail Travel’s long distance services.

“Queensland Rail Travel’s network provides the gateway to all the tourism hotspots including the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast, the Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns,” said Kruse.

Rail travel passes are also available for backpackers who want to travel between Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne allowing travelers the flexibility to hop on and off east coast trains over a six-month period.

With five World Heritage-listed sites and other extraordinary places in between, Queensland has lot to offer. Traveling in comfort onboard QR’s traditional and modern trains can make rail travel all the better.

Queensland Rail Photo

Live like your favorite ‘Downton Abbey’ character with this chic hotel package

Fans of the Masterpiece Classic PBS program ‘Downton Abbey‘ have even more reason to be excited. Not only did the cult fave show return to television in the states for its second season last night, but now you don’t even have to escape to the UK to live like your favorite characters.

New York‘s Oheka Castle, located on the historic Gold Coast, is offering a special “Aristocratic Escape Package,” that includes overnight accommodations, afternoon tea, a bottle of Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in your room, continental breakfast and a copy of Season I of the show on DVD. The overnight package $695 and includes an optional $100 upgrade per room category.

Here’s the real question – have you already managed to sneak a peek at the rest of the season online?