Dominican resort offers ultra-luxe island adventure

Dominican ResortA new Dominican resort has plans to change the travel and tourism landscape in the Caribbean when completed in February 2012. Eden Roc at Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic consists of 34 freestanding suites and three opulent bungalows, each one fully equipped with it’s own private swimming pool, that offer jet-setting guests an unprecedented level of intimate luxury that personifies glamour.

Eden Roc promises to spoil guests further with extravagant amenities such as the resort’s full service spa, three Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses, tennis facilities, Caletón Beach Club, Eden Roc Kids Club, five diverse culinary selections and more.

Located in the uber-exclusive community of Capa Cana, Eden Roc at Cap Cana is a 20-minute drive from the Punta Cana International Airport and private jet landing strip. Home to white haute beaches and tropical rainforests, the Caletón Beach Club offers global luxury clientele everything they may desire.

Families with children will have access to the resort’s jungle-themed Kids Club, designed to resemble a massive tree house complete with video games, mini dining area and Mini Spa, where kids of all ages can enjoy manicures, pedicures and hair styling in style.

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Prices start at $750 per night for an 824 sq ft Junior Suite with a garden view that includes a King bed, private swimming pool, private courtyard with pergola, marble bath with Jacuzzi tub, 2 separate vanities and bidet plus 1 touring cart .

Flickr photo by http2007


Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore opens


four seasons hotel baltimore

“Charm City” gets its first real branded luxury property with the opening of Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore in the Inner Harbor’s chic Harbor East neighborhood. One of America’s oldest cities, Baltimore has gotten more media attention for its portrayal in shows like “The Wire” than it has for its luxe offerings, but, in recent years, has seen the growth of a number of high-end offerings, including Ritz-Carlton Residences, a Kimpton hotel and numerous fine dining restaurants.

Still, this 18-story waterfront hotel is the city’s first true “luxury” branded property.

“All around us the city is coming alive with new excitement and vigour,” said Julien Carralero, general manager of the 256-room hotel. “Now at last we are part of that as we open our doors and invite Baltimore inside, and send visitors who stay with us out into the city to experience the local arts and culture, get to know our neighborhoods, cheer on our sports teams and shop to their heart’s content.”

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Like many Four Seasons hotels, the Baltimore iteration features a large amount of artwork, including John Wigmore’s huge installation of light and paper behind the reception desk. The wide lobby and grand staircase are lit by handblown murano glass fixtures, with pieces that form part of the city’s largest hotel art collection gracing the walls. Throughout the hotel, modern works by contemporary American and international artists are on display, with special emphasis on those associated with Washington Color School.

Of course, our favorite parts of the hotel aren’t what’s on the walls, but what you can do within them – dining options include Michael Mina’s first Baltimore outpost, Wit & Wisdom, a contemporary tavern, as well as a coffee shop, named LAMILL COFFEE after Baltimore native Edgar Allen Poe. In February, the hotel will also open Pabu, an isakaya-style Asian restaurant.

The hotel will also have what is primed to be one of the area’s best spas – an 11 treatment room oasis with two couple’s suites featuring their own soaking tubs. The hotel also has a massive pool overlooking the harbor that will remain at 85 degrees all year round, and a pool bar and grill that is set to open this spring. Of course, there’s also a full-service fitness center and a “unique “wet deck,” a pool-size area immersed in three inches of water that invites splashing toes without messing up your hair.

The hotel is offering $279 rates November 20 through February 29 (excluding December 30 and 31).

Luxury accommodation in the heart of Antwerp


Antwerp is a compact city with bad weather, so while it’s walkable, it pays to be in the center of town. During my visit I stayed at the Hotel Julien, a recently renovated and expanded hotel within sight of the cathedral. In fact, I could see it from my bathroom window!

The Hotel Julien is firmly in the luxury hotel bracket with prices from 195€ ($268) and up, breakfast included. The decor is chic and modern, as you can see from this shot of the lounge. Next to it is a bar and then the breakfast room. There’s also a leafy patio and a rooftop viewing deck that the rain stopped me from ever using. There’s a spa on site as well as a helpful front desk with lots of information about the city and umbrellas to borrow when a nasty wind tears up the one you brought. Tip for the traveler: don’t bring a Spanish umbrella to a North Sea port. It’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight.AntwerpThere’s lots to do within five minute’s walk, including the cathedral, several fine restaurants, a jazz bar, a rock bar, and a vibrant shopping district on Koepoort Straat, with its antique shops, bookshops, music stores, and vintage clothing stores. The walk to the central train station only took me 15 minutes.

To be honest, I don’t really care all that much what my hotel is like. The custom-made linen and trendy photography were a bit lost on me after a long day of sightseeing. If my hotel is convenient and comfortable, that’s all I need, and the Hotel Julien was both of these. If you’re looking for a luxury hotel with a great location, this is a good bet.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.

Coming up next: Amsterdam!

This trip was partially funded by Tourism Antwerp and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.

The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh opens, featuring bowling alley and cigar bar


ritz-carlton riyadh


The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. continues to expand into the Middle East market with their first hotel in Saudi Arabia, The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh. The 493 room hotel in the Diplomatic Quarter is adjacent to the King Abdul Aziz Convention Centre.

Of course, the hotel has to be appropriately palatial – it includes 52 acres of landscaped gardens, a massive fountain, and a one kilometer driveway.

Originally envisioned as a royal guest palace for visiting dignitaries and heads of state, the hotel’s architecture is modeled on traditional palaces and elegant Arabian residences. Native palms, 600-year old olive trees from Lebanon, and water fountains abound.

“This majestic hotel’s prime location in the literal heart of the Arabian Peninsula offers many significant advantages to visiting guests and dignitaries,” said Herve Humler, president and chief operations officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. “We are extremely proud that The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh represents our first hotel into the Kingdom. We have been aggressively seeking the right first location in Saudi Arabia for a number of years, and believe there could be no better place for a Ritz-Carlton than in this” added Humler.

The interior of the hotel is also imbued with a sense of place – guestrooms and suites use the vibrant colors and ethnic textures of the region. Highlights include not just one, but 49 exquisitely appointed two-bedroom Royal Suites, each generously measuring 4,574 square feet and 50 one-bedroom, opulent Executive Suites at 1,022 square feet. Wow.

The hotel also features 62,000 square feet of meeting space, an Aubergine restaurant, a buffet-style restaurant serving Lebanese favorites, Asian and Italian restaurants, a tea lounge and a cigar lounge that will be home to one of the widest selection of Cuban cigars in Saudi Arabia. The hotel also features an indoor six-lane bowling alley, indoor swimming pool and men’s health club with three treatment rooms. Sorry ladies, you’re out of luck here- there isn’t a women’s health club or spa. See more pictures, below:
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*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the hotel has an on-site ICU. This information has since been removed.

Majority of upscale hotels charge for Internet access


Majority of luxury hotels charge for internet access


To be filed under “This does not surprise us at all” comes the news that approximately 75% of upscale and luxury hotels charge hotel guests for Internet and/or wifi access in their room.

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association 2010 Lodging Survey, three-quarters of all hotels in the luxury hotel chain group, a category that includes brands such as the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton, charged patrons a daily fee to access the Internet in their rooms. Compare that to only about two percent of hotel chains classified as “mid-range” that charge for wifi. A CNN article on the survey also noted that some hotel chains that offer both upscale and mid-range lodging brands will charge for Internet at the upscale facility but provide complimentary wifi access at its mid-range brand.We at Gadling have long been of the mind that free wifi is a hotel amenity that should be standard, like clean towels and indoor plumbing. Hell, “No Free Wifi” is the reigning champ of Gadling’s Hotel Madness Championship. So to learn that most luxury hotels are charging a fee for wifi when the overwhelming majority of mid-range hotels is not is enraging [emphasis very much my own].

Of course, the main reason luxury hotels charge a wifi fee is because they can. There is the assumption that anyone paying $500 or up per night for a hotel room can easily afford $10 to $20 per day for wifi. Additionally, many bookings at upscale hotels are paid for with business expense accounts, so who cares about extra internet fees? I care. And so should you.

So I say to you chain hotels, the time has come for you to drop the wifi fees at all of your properties. While you may not increase your customer base, you will win some serious PR karma and – who knows? – perhaps a nod in a future Gadling article.

Think about it, ok?

Photo courtesy Flickr user generated