Archive for the ‘Hotels’ Category

Top 10 Hotel Stays

The TOP 10 FAVORITE HOTELS where I have stayed are:

  • The Ahwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California
  • Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa, Hakone, Japan
  • InterContinental Bali Resort at Jimbaran Bay, Bali
  • Kirawira Tent Camp, Serengeti National Bank, Tanzania
  • The Landmark, London
  • The Lodge at Koele, Lanai
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Kohala Coast, Hawaii
  • Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, Bangkok
  • St. Regis Beijing
  • St. Regis San Francisco

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To go to other posts in the TOP 10 category, click here.

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Conde Nast Traveler Gold List

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Conde Nast Traveler released its annual Gold List for 2010, which lists the top-rated hotels according to the readers of Conde Nast Magazine.  The list is available online through the Concierge.com website, where you can filter the list according to a variety of categories, including:

*  Best Rooms
*  Best Service
*  Best Food
*  Best Location
*  Best Design

You can also browse hotels by geographic area.

To go to the official Gold List 2010 page on Concierge.com, click here.

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To subscribe to Conde Nast Traveler Magazine (12 issues for $12), go to their official website by clicking here.

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Travelers Choice 2010

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TripAdvisor.com, the online community for travelers, announced its 2010 Travelers Choice Awards, which includes the top-rated choices in various categories, including:

*  Bargain
*  Romance
*  Luxury
*  Best Service
*  Relaxation and Spa
*  and more…

To read the rankings in all of the categories, go to the official Travelers Choice Awards 2010 page on TripAdvisor.com by clicking here.

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Travelers Choice 2009

TripAdvisor.com recently released their “Travelers Choice Awards” for 2009, based on an annual survey of their online travel community.  The Awards are organized in the following categories:

* Best Bargains
* Best All-Inclusive
* Best  for Families
* Best Inns and B&Bs
* Best for Romance
* Best in the Top 25 World Cities
* Best Service
* Best Luxury

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To download the FREE 33-page report, go to the official TripAdvisor.com website by clicking here.

Jankenpon highly recommends this annual survey, which has included some great recommendations in previous years, including the Park Hotel Tokyo, a contemporary, spacious and value-priced property in the new high-rise district of Shiodome, which was named the Top Hotel Bargain in a previous annual survey by TripAdvisor.com and Budget Travel.

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Auberge Mendocino

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While in Mendocino, CA, Peggy and Lucy are staying as guests at the pet-friendly Auberge Mendocino, a bed-and-breakfast inn located off Highway 1, near Big River on California’s scenic Mendocino Coast.  Auberge Mendocino features 12 guest rooms in several small buildings clustered on a lovely grass-covered property on a cliff above Mendocino’s dramatic, rugged coastline.  Most of the guest rooms and suites include wood-burning fireplaces and some units have their own private deck.  Guests enjoy a delicious breakfast of fresh fruits, juices, bacon/mushroom quiche, toast and coffee served in the main building.

Most rooms have complimentary wireless Internet access and three rooms are designated as “pet-friendly.”

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Above:  Peggy and Lucy were guests in the Merlot Room, one of three guest rooms at Auberge Mendocino that are specifically designated for pets and their owners.  Below:  A view of the charming Merlot Room, with a wood-burning fireplace and deck overlooking the garden.

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Above:  A view of the modern and handicapped-accessible bathroom in the Merlot guest room.  Below:  A partial view of the comfortable sitting area provided for guests in the small building that houses the Merlot room and two other guest rooms.  This shared space is made available for reading, lounging and relaxing.

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Above:  A view of the side entrance to the Merlot Room, which can be accessed via the main entrance of the building or via this private deck.  Below:  A view of the comfortable deck for the Merlot Room at Auberge Mendocino, which is the perfect setting for morning coffee or an evening cocktail or glass of wine.

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Above:  A view of the charming landscaped garden outside the Merlot room at Auberge Mendocino.  Below:  Peggy (left) and Lucy are relaxing in the comfort of their room at Auberge Mendocino after a long and tiring outing at the beach.  

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To learn more about Auberge Mendocino or to make reservations for a stay in one of their guest rooms, go to their official website by clicking here.

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Photos taken: 7/26/09

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Parque Central Hotel

While staying in Havana, Cuba, we were guests at the Parque Central Hotel, a 277-room, 5-star hotel, located in downtown Havana, near historic Parque Central and the El Prado (officially called Paseo de Martí), a European-style, tree-lined promenade.

Opened in 1999, the Parque Central Hotel incorporates some original structural elements from an historic building that occupied the property, including portions of the facade.  The hotel features two restaurants, a large lobby bar situated within a two-story atrium, a library/living room, gym, full-service spa, business center, currency exchange office, gift shop and an outdoor patio bar adjacent to the rooftop swimming pool and jacuzzi.

Amenities in the guest rooms include wi-fi, mini bar, balconies with french doors, separate bathtub and shower, terry-cloth bathrobes, and large in-room safe.

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Above:  Room 741 featured two queen-size beds, a small table with two chairs, desk and chair and TV console with mini bar and refrigerator.  Below:  The room also included a reasonably-sized working desk, along with wi-fi access.

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Above:  Partial view of the bathroom in Room 741 which featured a separate shower and bath tub.  Below:  A view of the interior courtyard of the Parque Central Hotel, as viewed from the 7th floor.

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Above and Below:  Two exterior views of the facade and front entrance to the Parque Central Hotel, located directly opposite Parque Central.

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Above:  A view of the reception and cashier’s desk in the Main Lobby of the Parque Central Hotel.  Below: A view of the tree-lined Paseo de Marti, a spectacular tree-lined pedestrian promenade that extends from Parque Central to the famous sea wall of the Malecon.

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Above:  a view of the all-day dining restaurant in the Lobby Level of the Parque Central Hotel, where we enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast each morning during our stay.  Below:  A typical initial serving from the breakfast buffet.  The assortment of food included made-to-order omelets, french toast, pastries, yogurt, fresh fruit, including mango and papaya, deli meats, assorted cheeses, breads, and fresh juices.

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To learn more about the Parque Central Hotel or to make room reservations, visit the official website of NH Hotels by clicking here.

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Photos taken: 7/15/09

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Hyatt Regency Cancun

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While staying in sunny and hot (88-degrees and humid) Cancun, Mexico, we are  guests at the Hyatt Regency Cancun,a 295-room resort located directly on the white sand beach of Punta Cancun, with spectacular views of the Caribbean.  The hotel’s interiors and public spaces were recently re-designed and furnished with the “new Hyatt” look– a contemporary, international style that features simple, clean lines, dark chocolate-colored woods, and modern furnishings with a slight retro twist.  Most of the guest rooms offer stunning views of the ocean and the shoreline along the long stretch of Boulevard Kulkukan.

The rooms are nicely equipped with a functional work desk, wi-fi access (throughout the property), coffee/tea makers, full-stocked mini bar, plush terry robes, clock/radio with iPod connector, and comfortable reading chair with ottoman.

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Above:  Comfortable, modern and contemporary furnishings in Room 1110 of the Hyatt Regency Cancun.  Below: The recently refurbished bathroom include marble countertops and a rain shower.

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Above and Below:  Two views of the magnificent azure-colored waters from the balcony of Room 1110.

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Above and Below:  Views of the lobby below and the glass above the large circular interior courtyard of the Hyatt Regency Cancun.

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To learn more about the Hyatt Regency Cancun or to book a reservation, go to the official hotel website by clicking here.

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Wynn’s Encore

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How do you top a spectacular resort like Wynn Las Vegas?  With an Encore, of course.  

During our visit to Las Vegas, we were guests at Encore, the luxe $2.3 billion resort, owned by Wynn Resorts, Limited, which opened its doors in December 2008, after two years of construction.  The Encore, which boasts 2,034 guest rooms and suites, is the companion property to Wynn Las Vegas, the flagship resort which raised the bar in Las Vegas in terms of luxury and resort design when it opened in 2005.   Encore is situated on The Strip, directly next to Wynn Las Vegas, with its own entrances and facilities that are separate and distinct from Wynn.  The two properties are connected via a shopping arcade,  dubbed Encore Esplanade, which features luxury brand boutiques and fashion retailers.  During the early conceptual design stage, it was reported that Encore would be an expansion of Wynn; later, the concept for Encore evolved into a fully-separate resort, with an identity and personality of its own. 

The public spaces of Encore share and expand on many of the distinctive design themes of Wynn, including brightly-colored mosaic tile floors, natural light in the casino and lobby via floor-to-ceiling windows, theatrical and opulent draperies, extensive artwork, and the courageous, bold use of color.  There are also key changes from Wynn, such as more spacious, intimate gaming areas, and closer, better positioning of the guest room elevators to the lobby and check-in area.   In addition, Encore has its own design motif, the butterfly, instead of Wynn’s floral motif. 

Encore includes five restaurants and seven bars, including Sinatra, a Frank Sinatra-themed, 152-seat dinner only steakhouse; Wazuzu, a Pan-Asian bistro with a 27-foot crystal dragon; Switch, a French-influenced surf-and-turf restaurant with walls, ceiling and lights that rise, fall and change every 20 to 30 minutes; Botero, a dinner-only steakhouse themed after the work of Colombian artist Fernando Botero, and Society Cafe Encore, a casual, all-day dining restaurant.

The guest rooms at Encore are large (745 square feet and up) and handsomely-furnished in a black, tan/taupe color palette that evokes Hollywood glamour of the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Rooms with king beds feature separate sleeping and living areas, with a walled divider containing a swiveling flat-panel TV that can be viewed from either side.  Rooms with two queen beds feature a large, single space with a wraparound sofa.  All guest rooms include a comfortable desk and chair, mini bar with refrigerator, luxurious bathroom with double sinks, separate shower and soaking tub, and separate toilet.  Some of the nice guest room touches at the Wynn have made their way to Encore, as well, such as large closets, Bambu lotions and potions, comfy robes (The Best on The Strip), and wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows with remote-controlled curtains.

As with Wynn’s flagship property, Encore also has the Tower Suites with a separate porte cochere, check-in area, and upgraded guest rooms with more luxurious furnishings, as well as more personalized service. 

Our thanks to Encore for a great stay in Vegas, baby.  And hats off to Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts, Limited on another amazing property!

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Above: A view of Encore, the sister property to Wynn Las Vegas, located on The Strip in Las Vegas.  Below:  The feet are pausing to admire the gorgeous, brilliantly-colored mosaic tiled floor, with the Encore’s signature butterfly motif, installed throughout the Lobby level.

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Above:  A view of the main hotel entrance at Encore.  A separate entrance is provided for the Encore Tower Suites.  Below:  The check-in area at Encore features brightly-colored artwork and fresh flowers.

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Above:  Lush plantings throughout the Lobby level help bring the outdoors into the casino at Encore.   Below:  The sign of Wazuzu, the Pan-Asian bistro where we enjoyed a lovely dinner that included a variety of Japanese, Chinese and Thai dishes.

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Above:  A view of the dining room at Wazuzu and the stunning, dramatic crystal dragon that provides the focal point for the restaurant.  Below:  Sinatra, the Frank Sinatra-themed steakhouse features dinner dining only.  Sinatra’s only Oscar statuette (for Best Supporting Actor in 1953 in ”From Here to Eternity”), together with one of his 11 Grammy awards and one of two Emmy awards, currently on loan from the Sinatra estate, are prominently displayed at the entrance to the restaurant, together with other memorabilia and photographs.

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Above:  A view of the handsome, club-like bar at Sinatra.

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Above and Below:  Views of the spacious guest room (Room 3509) at Encore, which features separate sleeping and sitting areas, divided by a countertop with a swiveling flat-panel TV.

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Above:  Guest rooms include a handsome and functional desk and chair, as well as wi-fi ($13/day).  Below:  The guest bathrooms at Encore are among the best and most spacious in Las Vegas. 

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Above and Below:  The bathroom includes a large double-sink, as well as Wynn-signature amenities.

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Above:  A view from Room 3509 looking North along The Strip, with the behemoth (and shockingly grotesque) Fontainebleau Resort, still under construction and expected to open in 2010.  Below:  Another view from Room 3509 looking North along The Strip, showing the huge property for Echelon, the now-abandoned mega-development from Boyd Gaming on the site of the former Stardust Hotel. 

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To plan your visit to Encore and to make room reservations, visit their official website by clicking here.

To go to an earlier post on this blog regarding Wynn Las Vegas, click here.

Photos taken: 3/4-3/8/09

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Radisson Shanghai

In Shanghai, we’re guests at the Radisson Hotel Shanghai New World, which is conveniently located on famous Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s top retail street, and directly across from The People’s Park and the Shanghai Subway.  The hotel, built in 2005, features 520 guest rooms and suites in a 47-story tower that is topped by a distinctive two-level revolving restaurant and lounge.  The hotel is situated a few steps from the Nanjing Road pedestrian shopping mall and a short walk from some of Shanghai’s top visitor attractions, such as The Bund and the Shanghai Museum in People’s Park.

Many of the rooms on the upper floors of the hotel offer excellent views of the Pudong skyline, while other guest rooms on lower floors provide nice views of The People’s Park, Shanghai’s largest park and public gathering place.

The hotel’s signature international restaurant, Epicure on 45, offers a panoramic view of the entire city of Shanghai from the revolving dome on the 45th floor.

Above: The Radisson Hotel Shanghai New World boasts a terrific location on Nanjing Road, just steps away from the busy and world-famous pedestrian shopping mall.  Below:  A view of the hotel’s main, 47-story tower that is topped by a two-level revolving restaurant and sky lounge.

Above:  A view of the hotel’s main entrance on Nanjing Road.  Below:  A view of the marble-clad Main Lobby.

Above and Below:  Room 2001 offered comfortable, attractive furnishings in a nice (if somewhat small) room.  One of the unique features in the room is the motor-controlled shade contained in the glass wall separating the bathtub from the sleeping area. 

Above and Below:  The room’s large window offered a nice view of the Pudong skyline in the distance.

Above and Below: Two views of the hotel’s 24-hour restaurant, called Windows on the Park, which offered a comprehensive breakfast buffet of Asian and western-style dishes.

 

Below:  One of my typical breakfasts at the hotel includes dim sum, dumplings and noodles in soup, and eggs, with fruit, juice and coffee.

To learn more about the Radisson Hotel Shanghai New World or to book reservations, visit their official website by clicking here.

Photos taken: 2/17/09

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Sofitel Xian

During our four-day visit to Xian, in Shaanxi Province, we are staying as guests at the Sofiten Xian on Renmin Square, an Accor Hotels and Resorts Property, which is conveniently situated in the central commerical district of Xian, within the old city walls.  The 432-room hotel, built in 2005, features guest rooms in two twin buildings, as well as four restaurants and two bars.  The hotel shares a large, sprawling and beautifully-landscaped compound, called Renmin Square, with its sister hotels, the Grand Mercure on Renmin Square, the Mercure, and the historic People’s Hotel.

The distinctive, curved “S-shape” of the two building creates interesting interior spaces, particularly in the corridors on the guest floors and within the guest rooms.  Our guest room (Room 5808) is spacious (400 square feet) and well-finished, with light wood paneling, wallcoverings, marble-clad bathrooms, wall-to-wall windows with window seating, and triple window treatments.  Other nice touches include a large work desk with ergonomic desk chair and task lighting, step-in closet, recessed ceiling lighting, overhead rain shower in separate, enclosed stall, deep soaking tub, separate enclosed lavatory, oversized, plush bath towels, robes and slippers, and a wide assortment of toiletries. 

Above and Below: Two views of one of the twin towers at the Sofitel Xian on Rinmen Square in Xian, China. 

Above:  An exterior view of one of the towers at the Sofitel Xian on Renmin Square.  Below: A partial view of the stylish and spacious lobby of the West Tower of the Sofitel Xian.

Above:  A view of the main lobby in the West Tower of the Sofitel Xian.  Below:  A view of the guest room (Room 5808) with comfortable beds, wall-to-wall windows and nice furnishings.

Above:  The guest room was well outfitted with a functional desk, ergonomic chair, task lighting and desk accessories, such as clock, calendar, paper clips, stapler, etc.  Below:  The window seating provided a nice city view of the commercial area surrounding Renmin Square.

Above and Below:  The bathroom was well-equipped wih separate tub and enclosed shower, glass-bowl sink, oversized towels an lots of toiletries and amenities.

Above:  The bathroom also included a separate, glass-enclosed lavatory.  Below:  The step-in closet included four bathrobes (two each of two different styles), slippers, and a large safe (capable of storing most laptops).

Above and Below:  The all-day dining room, Azur, provided a large buffet breakfast with a wide assortment of western and asian dishes, including made-to-order omelets and freshly prepared Chinese noodles in soup. 

Below:  A view (of a portion) of my typical breakfast at the Sofitel Xian– Chinese noodles in soup, eggs, dim sum, fruit, juice and coffee.  What a nice way to start the day in Xian!

Our thanks to the friendly and professional staff at the Sofitel Xian at Renmin Square for their hospitality and wonderful accommodations.

To read more about the Sofitel Xian on Renmin Square, visit their official website by clicking here.  To explore or make reservations at other Accor Hotel and Resorts worldwide, click here.

Photos taken: 2/9-2/12/09

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Crowne Plaza Beijing

 

While in Beijing, we’re staying as guests at the Crowne Plaza Beijing, located on Wangfujing Street, a popular and busy shopping and commercial district in central Beijing.  The hotel features 360 newly-remodeled guest rooms, as well as two restaurants and two lounges. 

The guest rooms are outfitted with the “new look” for Crowne Plaza Hotels, which features furniture with simple, clean lines, tinted glass-walled bathrooms, raised bowl-style sinks, and built-in work surface and countertops.

Above and Below: A view of Room 830 at the Crowne Plaza Beijing, which offered comfortable, tastefully-furnished rooms, including a nice built-in work area.

Above:  A view of the compact, yet efficient and attractive bathroom with raised glass-bowl sink and tinted glass walls.  Below:  A view of the interior courtyard-style atrium of the hotel.

Above:  The large, spacious lobby offered lots of comfortable seating for relaxing or cocktails.  Below:  The casual Essence Restaurant provides all-day dining.

Below:  We enjoyed a daily buffet breakfast at Essence Restaurant which included a wide selection of Asian and western-style dishes, including congee, freshly-prepared noodles in soup, dim sum, made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, cheeses and yogurt, salads, and pastries.  My typical breakfast included fried eggs, dim sum, fried rice, and noodle in soup (as shown here), together with fresh fruit (not pictured) and juice and coffee.  Yum.

  

To read more about the Crowne Plaza Beijing or to book a reservation online, visit their official website by clicking here.  To view a map of the hotel’s location in Beijing via Google Maps, click here.

Photos taken: 2/5/09

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Embassy Suites Waikiki

The adventure in Hawaii continues with an eight-night stay at the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beachwalk, located on historic Lewers Street, one block from the world-famous Waikiki Beach.  The Embassy Suites is part of the all-new Waikiki Beachwalk redevelopment project– a mixed-use hotel, vacation ownership, restaurant, and retail complex– that stretches along famous Lewers Street from Kuhio Avenue to Kalia Avenue.  The redevelopment effort, originally conceived in 1998 and completed in May 2007 at a cost of nearly $600-million, transformed the fading and increasingly tacky area into a more attractive and vibrant destination.  Waikiki Beachwalk is now home to five resorts– Outrigger Reef on the Beach, Embassy Suites Waikiki, Trump International Waikiki Hotel & Tower (nearing completion), Wyndham Vacation Ownership, and Ohana Islander Waikiki

The Embassy Suites property consists of 421 one- and two-bedroom guest suites in two separate 21-story buildings– the Aloha Tower and Hula Tower.  Amenities include a large outdoor swimming pool on the 4th floor deck (called the “Grand Lanai”), gym, complimentary breakfast with signature ‘prepared to order’ omelets, hosted afternoon cocktails and appetizers, spacious guest rooms with separate living areas and mini-kitchens, self-service laundry, complimentary high-speed in-room Internet access and free wi-fi in public spaces, in-room safes, and ocean views in some rooms.  Our guest room– Room 429 in the Hula Tower– is a corner one-bedroom unit with wrap-around windows and two large lanais, together with a tree-top view of the grounds of the adjacent Halekulani luxury resort.

The room is attractively furnished with contemporary tropical-style furniture in neutral colors, as well as reproductions of artwork by local artist Al Furtado.

Service has been consistently warm and friendly throughout the property– from the front desk, to the bell desk to the housekeeping staff.  And the all-valet parking (i.e. no self parking) in the complex is fast and convenient, too.

Above:  The Hula Tower, one of two towers of the completely renovated Embassy Suites Waikiki, part of the ambitious Waikiki Beachwalk redevelopment effort bounded by Lewers Street, Kalia Road, Beachwalk Avenue, and Kalakaua Avenue.  Below:  A view of the vibrant retail and restaurant scene in the Waikiki Beachwalk complex, with the two towers of the Embassy Suites perched above. 

Above:  A view of the pool and lounge area on the “Grand Lanai” on the 4th floor of the Embassy Suites Waikiki.  Below:  A view of the corner Room 429 in the Hula Tower which overlooks Lewers Street and Kalia Road. 

Above:  The separate bedroom in the one-bedroom suite at Embassy Suites Waikiki.  The bedroom featured its own private lanai overlooking Lewers Avenue.  Below: The nicely-appointed bathroom in Room 429 of the Hula Tower.

Below: A view of the open-air dining area on the Grand Lanai of the Embassy Suites Waikiki.  Complimentary breakfasts and hosted afternoon cocktails and appetizers are served in this spacious area, which also includes large terrace overlooking Waikiki Beachwalk.

Mahalo nui loa to the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beachwalk for a comfortable and pleasant stay!

To read more about the Waikiki Beachwalk, visit their official website by clicking here.  To visit the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beachwalk website and to make a reservation, click here.

Photos taken: 1/20-1/28/09

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Farewell, Coco Palms

While staying on the Island of Kauai, I had an opportunity to visit the grounds of the once famous and now abandoned and decaying Coco Palms Resort, located on the eastern shore of the island, near the mouth of the Wailua River.  Originally opened in January, 1953, with 24 guest rooms and four employees, the Coco Palms grew into a large 416-room resort by the mid-1970’s and became the most famous resort on Kauai, hosting dozens of world-famous guests, including Duke Kahanamoku, The Von Trapp Family Singers, Bing Crosby and other Hollywood stars.   

The beautiful beachside property was the home of Kauai’s royalty since the 13th century, including Kauai’s last reigning queen, Queen Deborah Kapule, in the mid-1800’s.  In 1896, the famous 2,000-tree coconut grove, which is the largest of only three similar groves in the state, was planted by William Lindeman, using coconut tree nuts imported from Samoa. 

The Coco Palms Resort achieved fame in the 1961 Elvis Presley movie, “Blue Hawaii,” where many scenes, including the final 20-minutes of the movie, were filmed.  The wedding scene in the movie, where Elvis sings the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” to Joan Blackman, is credited with creating high demand for weddings at the Coco Palms Resort.  During its heyday, the resort was hosting more than 500 weddings annually.

In 1992, the hotel was permanently shuttered following the devastation caused by Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 storm that ravaged the Island of Kauai.  Today, the 18-acre site sits in sad disrepair and many of the low buildings are badly weathered and partially collapsed.  The once beautifully-manicured grounds are littered with debris and overgrown vegetation. 

In spite of various efforts over the past 16 years to redevelop the property as a mixed-use condominium, hotel and spa, the Coco Palms remains gated and closed.  It’s a sad end to a lovely resort with a colorful and rich history.  Farewell, Coco Palms.

Above:  Although closed and in partial collapse, the sign for the Coco Palms Resort remains in place at the entranceway.  Below:  A view of one of the guest room buildings, with broken windows and a sagging roof, from the main parking area. 

Below:  A partial view of the famous coconut grove on the grounds of the Coco Palms Resort.

Above: The original movie poster for the 1961 film, Blue Hawaii, which contained several scenes shot on the grounds of the beautiful Coco Palms Resort.  Below:  A publicity still from the film Blue Hawaii, featuring Elvis Presley.

To order a copy of the film Blue Hawaii on DVD from Amazon.com, click here.

 Photos taken: 1/17/09

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Kauai Marriott Resort

While staying on the Garden Island of Kauai, we’re guests at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, a beautifully-landscaped, 51-acre property situated along picturesque Kalapaki Beach, about one mile from Lihue Airport near Nawiliwili Harbor.   The hotel and vacation ownership property consists of 356 guest rooms, five restaurants, a 26,000-square foot outdoor pool (one of the largest in Hawaii), and spa. 

The hotel was originally built in the early 1960’s as the Kauai Surf Hotel and was expanded and dramatically remodeled in 1987 by real-estate developer Chris Hemmeter, who reopened the hotel as The Westin Kauai, a fantasy resort and new centerpiece of an 800-acre master-planned development called Kauai Lagoons.  In 1992, the property was heavily damaged by Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 hurricane that wreaked havoc across the Island of Kauai, resulting in over $1.8 billion in damages and six deaths.  After remaining shuttered for a while, the property was reopened as the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club.  Although most of the grand, artistic flourishes of the Westin Kauai, such as the gondolas and canals, horse-drawn carriages, elaborate European-style and Asian sculptures and dramatic reflecting lake, were removed by Marriott as part of the transformation in 1992,  the property is still large and impressive.

Above:  Entrance sign to the Kauai Marriot Resort and Beach Club, along Rice Road.  Below:  We were guests in Room 969 in the Kahili Wing, one of five different wings in the complex. 

Above: Interior view of Room 969 which features a spacious lanai overlooking the large swimming pool and Kalapaki Beach.  Below:  A view the swimming pool, Kalapaki Beach and Nawiliwili Harbor from the lanai of Room 969.

Above:  A view of the signature swimming pool– one of the largest in Hawaii.  Below:  A view of the entrance to Nawiliwili Bay and Harbor, taken from the lanai of Room 969

Above:  A view of the lushly landscaped courtyard and koi ponds adjacent to the Main Lobby, which replaced the dramatic and spectacular reflecting lake at the former The Westin Kauai.  Below:  Guests gather around the ponds near the Main Lobby to watch the daily morning feeding of the koi. 

Above:  A view of the colorful, large koi clustered around the perimeter of the pond for their daily feeding.  Below: A view of a portion of the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, taken from the sea wall around Nawiwili Harbor, the island’s primary commercial harbor.

To visit the official website for the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, click here.  To visit the Marriott website and explore other properties, click here.

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Mumbai Hotels Re-open

Mumbai is back.  This week, the luxury Oberoi Hotel, Trident Hotel and Taj Mahal Palace and Tower reopened their doors to guests following a five-week closure resulting from the horrific terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of 164 people in Mumbai last month.  In an effort to regain normalcy, the Oberoi and Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, both of which suffered significant structural damage during the three-day siege, have reopened guest rooms and resumed hotel services in limited sections of the hotel, while repairs continue on the more heavily-damaged and burned areas of their properties.  Ceremonies were held at each of the properties to commemorate their re-opening and to pay tribute to the hotel guests, patrons, and employees who lost their lives or were injured during the attacks. 

According to Bloomberg.com, the historic main structure of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, built in 1903, may not be reopen until Spring 2009 due to the severity of the damage and the amount of restoration work required. 

In an address to the atendees at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower’s re-opening ceremony on December 21, Ratan N. Tata, Chairman of the Indian Hotels Company, Ltd., owner of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, made the following remarks:

“Today has been an incredibly moving day. The Taj has been reopened, after a massive concerted effort, in dedication to all of those who lost their lives in the attacks on Mumbai.  We have heard many stories of magnificent courage and selfless service, not just in the acts of the police and security forces, but also by the staff of the hotel. They have set new standards that we can only hope to aspire to.”

I think it’s a remarkable achievement– and a testament to the strength, determination and resiliency of the people of India– that these luxury properties were able to reopen so quickly following the massive attack last month– an event which has been called by some journalists as “India’s 9/11.”

 

 Above:  A view of the “heritage” wing of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, in Mumbai, taken on 12/21/08 during the re-opening ceremonies.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times (EPA/STR)

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Haveli Hari Ganga

 

While staying in Haridwar, I was a guest at the Haveli Hari Ganga, a charming “Heritage” hotel, with 20 guest rooms in a four-story former private residence, located directly on the Ganga River.  A rickshaw driver from the hotel greeted me upon arrival at the train station to whisk me to the hotel through the narrow, crowded side streets of Haridwar, which are lined with small shops and food stalls.

 The hotel also features a rooftop spa where traditional Indian Ayuervedic treatments are available.  Like nearly all hotels and restaurants in  Haridwar, the Haveli Hari Ganga serves vegetarian meals only and no alcohol.
On each side of the hotel and on the opposite banks of the Ganga, there are large public bathing ghats, with concrete steps that lead directly into the river.  Here, visitors are able to immerse themselves, bathe, wash their clothing, or drink from the Ganga.  
 

Above:  View of the entrance to Haveli Hari Ganga in Haridwar and the cycle-rickshaws used by the hotel to transport guests to and from the nearby railway station.  Below:  A view of the Haveli Hari Ganga Hotel (pink building with arches) taken from the opposite bank of the Ganga River.

Above:  The terrace on the Main Floor of the Haveli Hari Ganga offers an incredible view of the sacred Ganga River.  At night, a fire is lit on the terrace to keep guests warm from the cold breezes rising from the river.  Below:  A view from the terrace with the Ganga River in the background.

Above:  A view of the corridor of the hotel leading to my guest room (Room 204) which overlooks the Ganga River.  Below:  Room 204 was comfortably furnished with many modern amenities, and had windows opening to the terrace, courtyard and hallway.

Above:  View of the spacious bathroom of Room 204.  Two photos Below: The seating area on the second floor which is used for reading, relaxing and to enjoy the view of the Ganga River below.

To read the full series of posts on my Adventure in India, visit the Travel category by clicking here.

Photos taken: 11/15/08 through 11/17/08

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Alsisar Mahal

                    

In Alsisar, a small village in the Shekhawati district of Rajasthan, I stayed at the Alsisar Mahal, a majestic and impressive “Heritage” property, built in 1737 as the palace of the ruling Alsisar king, and converted in 2006 to a hotel.  The hotel is accessed from the main highway via a one-hour drive down a narrow, single-lane road, which required vehicles to pull aside on the dirt shoulder in order to allow cars in the opposing direction to pass.

 

The hotel manager graciously provided me with a personal tour of the property and explained that the grandfather of the current owner was the last ruler in Alsisar.  Following national independence in 1947, he moved from Alsisar to Jaipur.  The palace languished in disrepair until 2006 when it was renovated and reopened as a hotel.  During my visit, the hotel staff was putting the final touches on the latest addition to the property (which had been expanded several times over the past 200 years), including 15 new guest rooms and suites, a new restaurant, bar, billiard room, and conference facilities which are opening in phases over the next two months.  The existing grand main room, which now serves as the dining hall, will be converted to a new Reception and Lobby Room once the new restaurant is opened later this year.

 

My room (Suite 104) is situated in a portion of the original palace, built in 1737, and featured a large sitting room, separate bedroom with four-post, canopied bed, and a large bathroom.  The best view was from the bathroom, which overlooked the large swimming pool and portions of the landscaped garden.On the second day of my three-day stay, I decided to take some time off from sightseeing in order to relax at the hotel pool and to wander around the property.  I later discovered that I was one of only two remaining guests that day, since a large number of guests had departed in the early morning.  Many of the photos below were taken that day or the following day, when the hotel was very quiet, except for the noise of the housekeepers and the remaining construction workers.

 

I also had an opportunity to walk around the small village of Alsisar, which is both a community of residents and a living museum.  There are dozens of old “havelis” (or large homes) in various states of restoration and disrepair which have been opened to the public for small donations.  Their wealthy owners have all moved to large cities across India, but still keep a small staff in the haveli (or nearby) to maintain it.  The basic design of the havelis is fairly similar— two or three story buildings with one or more central courtyards.  The rooms around the first courtyard were reserved for the head of the household and were used for trade purposes during the days of the silk route.  The second floor rooms and second courtyard were used by the wife and family.

 

After three very releaxing and peaceful days in Alsisar, it’s time to hit the road again for the six hour drive from Alsisar to Delhi.  Although the road trip in Rajasthan is coming to an end, the Adventure in India continues in Delhi and north to Haridwar and Rishikesh, along the holy Ganga River.

Above:  A view of the main lane used to enter the village of Alsisar.  Note the name of the hotel painted on the wall to the right.  Below:  A view of the impressive, grand entrance to the Alsisar Mahal. 

Above:  A view of the main interior courtyard which is used for dining and entertainment during the evenings.  Below:  The Main Dining Room which once served as the official grand hall of the palace.

Above:  A view of the lovely swimming pool and lounge area.  Below:  A view of the large, spacious guest room (Room 104).

Above:  Another interior view of the guest room.  Below:  A view of the separate bedroom with large four-poster bed.

Above:  School children in uniform pause for a photo near the Alsisar Mahal Hotel.

To read the full series of posts on my Adventure in India, visit the Travel category by clicking here.

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Hari Mahal Palace

While visiting Jaipur, I stayed as a guest at the Hari Mahal Palace, a stately-looking “heritage” property, built in 1930 by the descendants of Maharaja Prithvi Raj of Amber (1503-1528), featuring 11 suites and guest rooms in a converted, former residence.  The property boasts a large front lawn that is used for outdoor dining, evening entertainment, and on one night during my stay, an elaborate wedding party for about 500 guests.  The main floor was still used as a private residence, with guest rooms occupying the second floor of the building.The guest rooms featured period decor and photographs and were clustered around an open terrace on the second floor.

Above:  Entrance sign to the Hari Mahal Palace Hotel in Jaipur, Rajasthan.  Below:  The stately-looking main building and large front lawn.

 

Above:  Final preparations are being made on the arrangements for a wedding banquet being hosted at the hotel for 500 guests.

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Chandra Mahal Haveli

 

 

After three days in Agra, the road trip in Rajasthan continues with an overnight stop in a small village called Peharsar, located on the outskirts of Bharatpur, roughly 60 miles west of Agra.  While in Peharsar, I am staying as a guest at Chandra Mahal Haveli, a designated “heritage” hotel, which was built as a private residence in 1699 and converted into a small hotel about 15 years ago.  The town and the hotel is accessed via a narrow, partially-paved road from the main highway, in a quiet farming area.

 

The hotel features a total of 19 guest rooms located on two floors in the original haveli (or residence) and in a newer addition.  The rooms include a private bath and those situated on the lower floor of the haveli feature an outdoor seating area facing the interior courtyard, while those on the second floor have a private terrace overlooking the surrounding village of Peharsar and the courtyard below.

 

There is no phone, TV or Internet service in the guest rooms; consequently, you can expect a very quiet, peaceful experience while staying as a guest at the Chandra Mahal Haveli.  A set dinner was served in the evening, with entertainment provided by husband-and wife musicians and their young son, who showcased local folk dancing.  It appeared that there were three other guests (German and French tourists) at the hotel during my stay. 

 

After a night’s rest, I walked around the village of Peharsar, which is a winding collection of partially-paved and unpaved dirt roads, flanked by small homes, many of which had dirt floors and no doors.  The village is well-populated with animals, such as goats, dogs, cows, peacocks, and camels, that roam freely within the small compounds and through the village.  Village residents draw their water from community wells and carry the water back to their homes in metal, plastic and earthenware containers.  There were no signs of indoor plumbing or sewage handling in the village.

 

 

Above:  A view of the sign for Chandra Mahal Haveli from the village road in Peharsar.  Below:  A large padlock is used by guests to secure their individual rooms.

 

 

 

 

Above and two photos Below:  View of the charming, but rustic guest room.

 

 

 

Above:  Morning coffee on the patio fronting the main interior courtyard.  Two photos Below: Views of the interior courtyard of the main Haveli, where dinner is served.

 

 

 

 

Above:  I did some exploring of the fortress-like building and took the narrow spiral staircase up to the roof of the building.  Below:  The rooftop of Chandra Mahal Haveli provided an excellent spot to survey the surrounding village of Peharsar.

 

 

 

Above and Below:  An early morning view of the narrow streets surrounding the hotel in Peharsar. 

 

 

 

 

Above:  The animals in Peharsar roam freely around the dusty streets.  Below:  A woman stopped and squatted to milk a goat, while its calf is also nursing. 

 

 

 

Above:  A view of one of the community wells in the village of Peharsar.

 

The brief stop in Peharsar was an interesting glimpse into rural village life in Rajasthan.  Now, it’s onward to Jaipur.

 

Photos taken: 11/7/08 to 11/8/08

 

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Jaypee Palace Hotel

While in Agra, I have been staying as a guest of the Jaypee Palace Hotel, a modern, sprawling hotel with 350 guest rooms situated on 35 acres of beautifully-landscaped gardens, fountains and pools.  The hotel is part of the Delhi-based Jaypee Group which operates five hotels across India.  The hotel features three restaurants, a full-service spa, Business Center, swimming pool, and tennis and squash courts.  The hotel decor is modern, with an abundance of white Indian marble and dark woods. 

My guest rooom (Room 3116) is handsomely-furnished with wood flooring, gold/brown-colored upholstered furniture, large well-equipped bathroom, and a spacious balcony overlooking a formal landscaped garden with relfecting pools and fountains.  The room is equipped with wireless Internet access and other nice touches, such as hot water maker with tea and instant coffee, shaving kit and toothbrush kit.

Guests also receive a marigold garland and a chilled fruit juice beverage upon arrival.

Other attractive options for accommodations in Agra are the ultra-luxe Oberoi Amarvilas (Conde Nast Traveler 2008 Gold List), ITC Mughal Hotel, A Luxury Collection property from Starwood, and Trident Agra Hotel, all of which are located within 2 miles of the Jaypee Palace Hotel and within 15 minutes drive of the Taj Mahal.

Above: The gleaming marble-clad main building which houses the lobby, restaurants, conference center and other public rooms.  Below:  A view of the main entrance from the porte-cochere.

Above:  One of the two guest room wings overlooking the landscaped gardens.  Below: Corridor to the Lobby on the Main Floor.

Above: Corridor on Floor 3, which houses Room 3116.

 

Above:  View from the balcony of Room 3116.  Two photos below:  View of the spacious, well-equipped bathroom.

Above:  The mini-bar area with well-stocked beverages and hot water maker.  Below:  The comfortable guest room with hardwood floors.

Above:  The feet are already relaxing on the spacious balcony.  Below:  The desk is set-up and ready to go, along with high-speed wi-fi.

Photos taken: 11/4/08 to 11/5/08

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Thikana Delhi

This week I made my first visit to a bed-and-breakfast-style hotel abroad, with a stay at the charming Thikana Delhi, in South New Delhi.  I learned about Thikana Delhi, a relatively-new, 11-room, family-owned B&B through a very favorable review published by the New York Times earlier this year.  The property is situated in a busy residential area along a major thoroughfare, and is about 30-minutes by car from the Indira Ghandi International Airport.  The guest rooms occupy two floors of a four-story building, with atractive, residential-style shared facilities, such as a communal dining table, reading room, business center (with PC, printer/copier/fax and desk), and comfortable outdoor terrace with seating.  All guest rooms are individually air-conditioned with a modern, contemporary bath, and are furnished with local artwork, ample built-in closets, coffee/tea maker, and bottled water.  Complimentary wi-fi is available throughout the property.

Above:  A view of the unassuming entrance to to the upscale B&B, Thikana Delhi.  Below:  The reading room in Thikana Delhi, with comfortable seating and an outdoor terrace. 

 

Above:  A view of Guest Room #1 on the main floor of Thikana Delhi.  Below:  The attractive, functional bathroom in Room #1.

The owners and operators of Thikana Delhi– husband-and-wife team, Atul and Sheetal Bhala– are warm and engaging, and were eager to provide tips and recommendations on places to visit (and avoid) in Delhi.  The staff at Thikana Delhi were uniformly gracious and accommodating, and were happy to prepare meals on-demand, including a tasty mid-afternoon snack of samosas (mmm… yum!).  Plus, Thikana Delhi has its own special mascot– a cheerful 7-year old dachshund who roams around the main floor of the B&B. 

The guests at Thikana Delhi were a mix of savvy (and friendly) travelers from Germany, Italy and France who all seemed to agree that Thikana Delhi is a winner.

Above: Thikana’s official mascot– a 7-year old female dachshund, named “Raisin.”  She’s a sweetie, and obviously well-fed.

Photos taken: 11/3/08

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Mauna Kea Reopens

“What Was, Will Be Once More.”  Following a two-year closure and $150 million in repairs and renovations, the beloved, landmark Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, located on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, has announced a soft opening in late December 2008 and a Grand Re-opening in March 2009.  The hotel closed in December 2006 due to safety concerns following a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that struck the Big Island in October 2006, causing significant structural damage to the 43-year old landmark property, which was recognized in 2007 by the American Institute of Architects as one of the best examples of U.S architecture.

Reservations are now being accepted at the property, and Liana Mulleitner, Director of Corporate Communications for Prince Resorts Hawaii, owner of the Mauna Kea, reports that “We actually have a waiting list,” according to published reports.  Room rates at the resort start at $450 a night. 

When it reopens, the Mauna Kea will become the flagship property of Prince Resorts Hawaii, which also operates the nearby Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and one property each in Waikiki and on Maui.

Hotel refurbishments have focused on the interior, where the number of rooms has been be reduced from 310 to 258.  The more spacious rooms will now include standard luxury amenities such as flat-screen LCD HD televisions and electronics connectivity.  Some rooms also will feature private bath lanai and wall-less “rain” showers.

The Mauna Kea was the brain child of financier and philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller who, as a guest in 1960 of Hawaii Governor Bill Quinn, spotted the future resort area during a flyover.  The hotel is situated on the finest white sand beach on the Island of Hawaii.  “Every great beach deserves a great hotel,” Rockefeller is said to have commented.

In a press statement issued by Prince Resorts Hawaii in August 2008, Senior Vice President Paul Yokota indicated that efforts are underway to help ensure that the hotel provides “service of the highest caliber,” with the hope that the hotel will receive the Five Diamond designation from AAA.  (Currently, only three Hawaii hotels have received this coveted award from AAA– Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Hisoric Ka’upulehu, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, and The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.)  According to Yokota, the hotel will achieve this through a philosophy called “lokomaika’i,” or “sharing goodness from within.”  He states “I was inspired by the Hawaiian word and the value it represents, because it’s not just about doing things.  It’s about where those things come from.  I believe that our investment in our staff is more important than any other element of our resort’s renovation.  Their willingness to share of themselves is where the personality and warmth of Mauna Kea lies.”

The Mauna Kea’s new General Manager is Jon Gersonde, formerly general manager of the legendary Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Oahu’s Waikiki Beach.

Congratulations and mahalo nui loa to Prince Resorts Hawaii and parent company Prince Hotels and Resorts Japan, for saving this magnificent property and investing in its future.   I fondly remember many visits to the Mauna Kea during its glory days in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  I’m hoping that the hotel will bring back their famous, lavish Sunday brunch which was served on the outdoor terrace overlooking the pristine white-sand Mauna Kea beach.

To learn more about the upcoming reopening of the Mauna Kea or to make reservations, visit their official website by clicking here.

To read a previous post on the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (neighbor and sister property to the Mauna Kea), click here.

Above: Excerpt from a direct-mail piece announcing the re-opening of the hotel and featuring the orange/white plumeria– the widely-recognized symbol of Mauna Kea.

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At Red Rock Resort

  

This week I stayed at the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa in Summerlin, Las Vegas, near the famous Red Rock Canyon.  The 815-room hotel is part of the 11-property Stations Casino chain, and marks the company’s entry into more upscale resort-style accommodations.  It’s currently one of my favorite Las Vegas properties, which also include Wynn Las Vegas (and soon Wynn Encore), Bellagio, Hard Rock Hotel, Palms and Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas.

Unlike many other Las Vegas hotels/casinos, Red Rock has done an excellent job separating the hotel/resort/spa from the casino operations, including separate porte cocheres, valets and parking garages.  This means that it’s not necessary to pass through or by the casino floor in order to reach your hotel room.  Guest rooms face either Red Rock Canyon or The Strip. 

 

Above: View of the hotel entrance to the Red Rock Casino Resort Spa.  A separate entrance is designed to serve the casino.  Below: View of the spacious and stylish contemporary lobby. 

Above: Room 16139 is a typical guest room with a view of The Strip (in the distance) and is decorated in a contemporary style, with a brown and green color palette.  Below:  The well-stocked mini bar included a nice assortment of snacks and beverages, as well as a cocktail shaker and martini glasses.  Excellent!

 Above:  The room was nicely designed with functional and handsome built-in items, including a reasonably-large work desk, shelf and flat-panel TV.  Two photos below:  The spacious bathroom was covered in faux-leather wallcoverings, with a continuation of the brown/green color palette.

Above:  View of the expansive resort pool area.  Below:  Sunrise view from Room 16139, with the skyline of The Strip in the far distance.

Three photos below:  Red Rock Casino Resort Spa boasts ten eateries, including Hachi, which specializes in “modern Japanese cuisine” in a ultra-contemporary setting. 

Our meal included edamame, sashimi sampler (shown in photo below), assorted kushiyaki (beef, chicken and shrimp), sushi (eel and avocado, spicy tuna, and tamago), grilled eggplant, chicken dumplings, and vegetable fried rice.  Thumbs-up to Hachi!

These feet will definitely head back to Red Rock Casino Resort Spa!

Photos taken: 10/12/08

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AKA Hotel Central Park

Our visit to NYC this week included a five-day stay at the AKA Hotel Central Park, located at 42 West 58th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), directly behind the Park Lane Hotel and near the landmark Paris Theatre and world-renowned Plaza Hotel.  The hotel is part of the boutique hotel chain AKA, which operates ten hotels in New York, Washington, DC, Arlington and Herndon, VA and Los Angeles, CA (coming soon).  The property calls itself “your New York City pied-a-tierre,” since it offers more residential-style accommodations targeted to longer-stay guests.

Our room– Room 1408– is a one-bedroom unit that features a full kitchen and stainless steel appliances, dining table, marble-clad bathroom, large bedroom, triple-sheet bedding, Molton-Brown bath products, two flat-panel TVs, DVD player and stereo.  The furnishings are contemporary in mostly gray and beige neutral tones, with black-and-white photos of architectural details.  The hotel provides complimentary wi-fi, complimentary continental breakfast (fresh fruits, large assortment of pastries, dry cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee and espresso), and complimentary self-operated laundry service.  Room service is available from a nearby restaurant, since there is no on-premise full-service restaurant. 

The hotel is conveniently located near Central Park and is less than 200 feet from Bergdorf-Goodman on Fifth Avenue.  And, since 58th Street does not receive the heavy traffic of Central Park South or 57th Street, the rooms are remarkably quiet for a mid-town property.

 

Our thanks to AKA Hotel Central Park for an enjoyable stay in NYC!

Photos taken: 9/27/08 

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Churchill Hotel London

During our stay in London, we’re guests at the The Churchill Hyatt Regency London, located at 30 Portman Square, in London’s Mayfair Distrct.  Situated near the Marble Arch and the Marble Arch Undergroun Station, the hotel is within walking distance of Bond Street, Oxford Street, Mayfair and Hyde Park.  The hotel features 444 guest rooms and suites on nine floors, including the Regency Club rooms on the 8th floor.  Dining choices at the hotel include the signature restaurant, Montagu, an Italian restaurant called Locanda Locatelli, and The Churchill Bar.

The hotel underwent a major renovation and refurbishment in 2000 when it was operated under the Inter-Continental Hotels brand; in 2002, management of the property was assumed by Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and renamed The Churchill Hyatt Regency London.

 

Above: Exterior of the Churchill Hotel.  Three photos Below:  Views of the stylish large Lobby.

Room 830, located on the Regency Club Floor, is a somewhat small but very attractively furnished room, overlooking Portman Square.  The room is decorated in beige, bronze and dark moss tones, with contempotary furnishings.  Some of the nice in-room amenities include a flat-panel TV, iHome clock/radio with iPod dock, 110V outlets (in addition to 230V outlets) at the workdesk and in the bathroom, and Molton Brown bath products.

 

Above:  The guest room offers a sunny tree-top view of the nearby park.  Below:  The small bathroom is surprisingly efficient, and nicely equipped with amenities.

The Regency Club Lounge at The Churchill is very spacious and comfortably furnished, with low chairs and sofas– much more impressive than some of the lounges in their U.S. properties.  The Lounge offers complimentary (and hearty) self-serve breakfasts, all-day beverages and snacks, and early evening appetizers and cocktails.   Below: Regency Club Lounge.

Thank you to The Churchill for terrific hospitality and very charming service!

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Wonderful Wynn

Last week I returned to the wonderful Wynn Las Vegas– an oasis of calm and serenity on the noisy and congested Las Vegas Strip.  For four days, I was able to enjoy the large, spacious and handsomely-decorated room (Room 5348) with a magnificent western view overlooking the Wynn golf course.

 

Here are some of the things I love about Wynn Las Vegas:

*  a stunning lobby with playful, imaginative and brightly colored hand-applied mosaic tiles on the floors and sumptuous draperies and canopies;
*  beautiful color palettes throughout the complex, including unique copper-salmon colored wallcoverings in the guest rooms;
*  a handsome, elegant Lobby Bar– called Parasol Up;
*  excellent eateries, including Daniel Boulud Brasserie, the Country Club Steakhouse, and The Buffet at Wynn, which serves up The Strip’s best breakfast buffet;
* a convenient, central location on The Strip– directly next to The Palazzo and Venetian, and opposite the Fashion Show Mall;
* a “no strollers allowed” policy that keeps the public areas of the hotel blissfully free of infants;
* a super-plush silk-and-terrycloth guest bathrobe, which Conde Nast Traveler Magazine has called “the best robe on The Strip;”
* super-sized floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows in the guest rooms, with remote-controlled curtains;
* very efficient and congestion-free valet parking and taxi service, which manages to keep the cars and queues out of view.

Above: View of the Wynn golf course and surrounding area from Room 5348.

AN ENCORE AT WYNN

So what can Wynn Resorts, Limited do for an encore in Las Vegas?  Well, they can build Encore, a new, clone-like tower situated directly next to Wynn Las Vegas on The Strip.  The new Encore, which has already been topped-off and is scheduled to open in January 2009, will feature over 2,000 guest rooms (including Tower suites), five new signature restaurants, 11 retail outlets, seven bars and lounges, an ultra-chic nightclub and a luxurious spa and salon. 

Encore will have two entrances of its own– one for the resort rooms and a second entrance for the Tower Suites, which will avoid the congestion problems at Bellagio and The Venetian, both of which nearly doubled their room capacity with a second tower without adding a separate entrance and lobby.  The Encore tower looks nearly identical to the existing Wynn tower, although its curved building has been rotated about 90-degrees from the Wynn.

According to industry rags, Encore will include some changes from Wynn, including:

*  larger “suite-like” rooms, measuring roughly 700-square feet, that provide separate sleeping and living areas, with a shared, rotating flat TV that divides the two spaces;
*  a different color palette and design aesthetic in the guest rooms, including greater use of mirrors and a more residential feel;
*  the use of “butterflies” as the key design motif across the property (versus the “flower” motif at Wynn);
*  more intimate gaming spaces, with dividers/barriers that separate the tables from the corridors and walkways, in order to provide additional privacy for players.

Sounds great to me!  Let’s all go to Encore Las Vegas!

Above: A photo of the near-complete Encore tower, taken from Room 5348 at Wynn.  Below: The Encore and Wynn towers, shown side-by-side on The Strip.

Photos taken: 8/30/08

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W French Quarter

While in New Orleans this week, I stayed at the W Hotel French Quarter, a small (98-room) boutique hotel situated on Chartres Street in the historic French Quarter.  This is my second stay at this property, and I really enjoy the convenient location within the Quarter, as well as the smaller, intimate size and more rustic design of the hotel.  A larger sister property, the W Hotel New Orleans, is located a few blocks away outside of the French Quarter, and is more similar in size, design and vibe to the standard-issue W Hotel.

My guest room, Room 208, featured a large, spacious terrace that overlooks the front of the hotel on Chartres Street.  It’s a nice spot to sit and relax at the table or on side chairs.  Given the heat and humidity this week, however, I did not spend much time on the terrace, except to admire the view in the early morning and late evening hours.

The room featured the usual W Hotel accoutrements, such as large LCD TV, DVD player, iPod dock, wireless (and wired) high-speed Internet access ($14.95, daily), cotton waffle-weave robes, and Bliss bath products, as well as bubble-gum machine.

  

 

The hotel’s resident restaurant, Bacco, features Creole-influenced Italian fare and is open for lunch and dinner, daily.

Photos taken: 8/9/08

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Warwick Melrose Dallas

While in Dallas, I stayed at the charming and historic Warwick Melrose Hotel, located at 3015 Oak Lawn Avenue, in the Uptown Oak Lawn and Turtle Creek area, ,which is just five minutes by car from the Love Field Airport.  The hotel, built in 1924 as an apartment residence, is a relatively small (184 room) property, that has been attractively and tastefully furnished, with lots of “old world” touches and modern conveniences.  The guest rooms are spacious and handsomely appointed and have nice views of the surrounding residential, mostly low-rise neighborhood.

In the spacious, handsome lobby, the Warick Melrose offers their complimentary, signature chilled cantaloupe juice (yum!) to arriving guests.  And, The Library Bar, in the Lobby, pours excellent drinks in a relaxing, club-like atmosphere– complete with piano entertainment in the evenings.

Here’s a nicely-chilled, well-shaken martini, served in a short, stout cocktail glass (which seems to be appearing everywhere these days) at the Library Bar.  And wow– that’s refreshing after a long day in the hot Texas sun (and humidity)!

Photos Taken: 8/8/08.

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Prince Hotel in Hapuna

I arrived this afternoon at the Hapuna Beach Prince Resort, one of four Prince Resort properties in Hawaii, located on the sunny Kohala Coast of the Island of Hawaii.  The Prince Hotel is undergoing some cosmetic and minor structural repairs in response to the 6.7 magnitude earthquake that struck the Island of Hawaii in October 2006.  Although the hotel is open and operating, some of the public spaces, including the grand open lobby, lobby bar, and two restaurants, are closed while repairs are being made to the property.

 In spite of the construction work and resulting closure of key spaces of the resort, the property is still lovely and commands a wonderful, sweeping view of the ocean, as well as direct access to one of the finest white-sand beaches on the Island of Hawaii.

Room 4814 is located on the lobby-level of the resort and provides lovely views of the ocean and landscaped areas, as shown in the three photos below, taken from the lanai of the room.

The bathrobes in the room displayed the logo of the famous, venerable Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which is undergoing reconstruction following the large earthquake that struck the Island of Hawaii in October 2006.  The hotel is scheduled to re-open in December 2008, as a luxury property with fewer and larger guest rooms.  The hotel, which originally opened in 1965, was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill as a Rock Resort, and received an AIA Honor Award for its distinctive (and now emblematic) design.   In 2007, the AIA included the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on its list of “Top 150″ buildings in the USA.

 

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