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Luxury hotels use social media to push summer incentives

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 29, 2012 06:21 AM

If social media has taught us anything, it's that no matter how many followers, fans or pins you have, you're eligible to win just about anything. In the travel industry, the rewards are even more appealing. By simply checking in, posting a photo, or filling out a Facebook form, travelers have a chance at winning everything from free hotel amenities to weeklong stays. To capitalize on the social media craze, some luxury hotels are hosting social media contests to get travelers in the mood to share.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts celebrates social media day

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is hosting specials on June 30 - also known as "social media day" - for its fans on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Restaurants and lounges throughout the Fairmont hotel portfolio will offer complimentary appetizers from 3pm on that day, and guests will also have the opportunity to a receive 25% discount at the same outlet until August 31.

Here's how it works:

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New hotel opens on Nantucket

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 27, 2012 08:39 AM

Just in time for the summer rush, Nantucket welcomes a new hotel on its quaint little land. The Chapman House, the island's newest boutique property, just opened at 20 North Water Street. The hotel is part of Lark Hotel's portfolio, which already has the 18-room Veranda House on Step Lane in Nantucket.

The Chapman House - which labels itself a "Retro-chic Nantucket hotel with a hip edge" - has 11 guest rooms, each with a different interior design that reflects the island's playful demeanor. The rooms were designed by Rachel Reider Interiors of Boston.

room41 copy.jpgRoom 41, located on the third floor, has a queen bed, private bath and shower, iPad, Apple TV, AC, iPod docking station, houndstooth chair, custom drapes and fabrics, padded headboard and WiFi access. This room rents for $159-$339 a night. Photo credit: The Chapman House

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Cell phones in-flight: Virgin announces plan to allow phones at 35,000-feet

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 26, 2012 06:00 AM

It's been a catch-22 debate for over a decade. If you could use your cell phone in-flight, there's a lot of work, catching-up and planning ahead that can be done before you reach your destination. But not using your cell phone during a flight has given workaholic travelers a nice break from being constantly reachable - any time, anywhere - not to mention the distraction it would cause other flyers. So where's the happy medium?

cell-phone-flying.jpgThere might not be one, but in this debate majority wins. More people want to use their cell phones in flight, therefore, more airlines are looking at ways at making that feasible.

According to a story in The Independent, Virgin Atlantic recently announced plans to allow in-flight mobile phone calls for passengers traveling between London and New York on the carrier's new A330 Airbus. The cell phone access at 35,000-feet will allow travelers to send and receive text messages, make phone calls and have web access to emails. The catch: it will also prove a great distraction to those guests who were hoping to get some quiet time on the long-haul flight.

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Dramatic Designs: Cave Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 25, 2012 08:11 AM

Sure you can find good beer and wine in Germany, but equally as important as what you're drinking is where you're drinking it. Today's Dramatic Design will make traditional pubs a little jealous.

Located in Hamburg City, the Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg is built into a former water tower, and is one of the trendier hotels in Germany's Sternschanzenpark area. The hotel has 226 rooms, 13 conference and meeting rooms, a fitness center and serene sauna area, but it's the hotel's Lifestyle Bar "Cave" that grabs the attention of tourists and locals.

The Cave Bar is located in the historical vaults of the old tower and flanked with German red bricks. Whether you choose to relax with a glass of wine, enjoy a German brew, or let one of the bartenders create a crafty cocktail for you, the ambiance of the Cave will suck you in.

The hotel did a fantastic job of bringing a modern feel to its historical roots. The bar glows an iridescent white light that matches the cocktail tables throughout the bar.

Cave bar copy.jpg

*Photo courtesy of Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg

Readers: Your thoughts?

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle
Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze

Facebook weighs in on the world's most "social" landmarks

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 21, 2012 06:08 AM

FB-social-landmarks.pngImage courtesy of Facebook
Gone are the days of traditional postcards that would document a traveler's adventures to those back home. Today's travelers don't waste any time while on the go. Instead of searching for stamps they're turning to social media sites to document their trip.

Foursquare is packed full of tips and suggestions for popular places, and Twitter has consistently served as an immediate travel tool for those in between itineraries, or needing a last-minute hotel, restaurant or bar suggestion. Since Facebook enabled check-in on its site, more travelers - whether they're exploring a new city or checking out a new find in their hometown - are sharing their favorite spots with the social network.

So, where is everyone, and where will you find other travelers when you're out exploring the world? Facebook measured check-ins made in 25 cities worldwide to determine the world's most social landmarks:

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Study shows the dirtiest surfaces in hotel rooms

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 19, 2012 08:46 AM

File this story under "things you wish you didn't know" and then make sure you have enough antibacterial hand wash with you when you travel.

Best-Western-Housekeeping-uses-UV-wands-high-touch-md.jpgA study released by the University of Houston, with participation from Purdue University and the University of South Carolina, showed the most contaminated surfaces found in hotel rooms. The biggest germ culprit: the TV remote.

Other highly contaminated surfaces in hotel rooms include the obvious ones - the toilet and the bathroom sink - but also less obvious places like the bedside lamp switch. The areas that tested with the least amount of bacteria included the headboard on the bed, curtain rods and the bathroom door handle.

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Dramatic Designs: Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 18, 2012 06:11 AM

florence_fourseasons_001p.jpgLuxury hotels spare no expense when it comes design and decor, seeking the ultimate "presence piece" that makes a startling impact when you first come upon it. And then there are those hotels that are just lucky enough to happen upon historical works of art from some of the greatest artists of past generations.

This week's Dramatic Design comes from Florence at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. When the hotel started renovations to the 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and 16th-century convent, they unveiled original frescos that actually set back the opening of the hotel.

The frescos were painted by Bertoldo di Giovanni (one of Michelangelo’s instructors) and date back to 1555, according to the hotel historians. You'll find these dramatic works of art in some of the guest room suites (other suites have painted ceilings featuring scenes from everyday life of the Renaissance) as well as the lobby, which features 12 bas-reliefs of mythological stories painted by di Giovanni.

While you're visiting, don't miss a walk through the Giardino della Gherardesca, one of the largest gardens in Florence, which spans 11 acres and is adorned by giant shade trees and vibrant flowers. The garden was kept private and unseen for hundreds of years, until the hotel opened in 2008.

*Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Florence, Italy

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle

New England escapes: Tanglewood and The Berkshires

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 15, 2012 06:19 AM

Tanglewood at dusk (Photo Credit -Stu Rosner).jpgTanglewood at dusk. Photo Credit: Stu Rosner

There's no mistaking the beauty of the Berkshires. Whether cuddled up by the fire during a snowy winter day or sitting under the stars on a hot summer night, the Berkshires has a way of bringing us back to a much more simplified life - and reminding us that it's the simple things that often make the best memories.

This year, as Tanglewood prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Berkshires is gearing up for a whirlwind summer of regulars and guests eager to take in a bit of what makes this New England enclave so special.

What to do: Tanglewood was inspired by a group of music-loving summer residents in 1937. Every summer since (except during WWII years 1942-45), Tanglewood became a second home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and drew the likes of musical luminaries spanning various generations including Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tony Bennett and James Taylor. Ask any New Englander what their favorite thing to do in the summer is, and you'll likely hear "a night at Tanglewood" mentioned alongside "a Red Sox game" and "a weekend on the Cape."

This year, Tanglewood celebrates its 75th Anniversary with a mind-blowing lineup of musical guests, new programs and star-studded events including appearances by James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams and more. Tickets are still available for many of the summer concerts at Tanglewood, so don't miss a chance to sit under the stars and listen to some of the best, internationally-renowned musicians and artists.

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Travel tips: Finding the best hotel rates

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 13, 2012 08:22 AM

hotel-rates.jpgIn all my years writing about travel, the two questions I'm most often asked are: "What's your favorite hotel in the world?" and "How do I find the best hotel rates?" Despite what you might think, the latter is easier to answer (though I'm happy to share my thoughts on what hotels I love most).

Finding a great hotel rate doesn't take a physics degree, a miracle or a magic wand. It takes patience, reasonable expectations, a basic understanding of how room rates are factored, and a polite demeanor. If you're seeking budget rates at luxury hotels, you will be disappointed. However, if you pay attention to what's included in a luxury hotel room rate package, for example, you might be surprised at how much money you actually save when you choose the bundle, instead of purchasing rooms, meals and entertainment a la carte. The best rates aren't always posted online, so calling a hotel and simply asking about what's available can yield some great results. Of course, credit cards, loyalty programs and thinking outside the box help when you're looking to grab the best hotel rate possible.

Don't believe me? Take it from another expert source. Condé Nast Traveler Senior Editor Lisa Gill recently appeared on the Today show to offer the best ways to get a deal on hotel rooms. Here's a recap of her tips:

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Nobu Hotel in Las Vegas reveals design, says bookings start Oct. 1

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 12, 2012 06:09 AM

Las Vegas is about to get a bit of zen.

The celebrity-chef branded Nobu Hotel finally debuted its intended look. Nobu Hospitality partners including Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper, along with designer David Rockwell and principals from Caesars Palace, gathered yesterday at the original Nobu restaurant in New York City to give guests a glimpse inside what will be the world's first Nobu Hotel, set to open in Las Vegas late 2012.

Rockwell and his firm Rockwell Group said the distinction between the Nobu Hotel and Caesars Palace will be dramatic. A stark contrast from the ostentatious, over-the-top decor of the Las Vegas hot-spot, Nobu will greet guests with wood tiled surfaces, sleek technology, and Japanese-inspired carpets and wall coverings that includes elements of cherry blossoms and Japanese Zen gardens.

The hotel will have 181 rooms, including 18 suites, that will offer Las Vegas Strip or garden views. Rooms will be set in neutral colors with hints of purple and aqua, and feature special calligraphy drawings and Japanese seascapes, adding a sense of calm to an otherwise chaotic city scene. Bathrooms will feature rich teak fittings, stone tiles, oversized walk-in showers, and a teak bathing stool, a commodity seen in traditional Japanese bathhouses. Bath amenities will be supplied by Natura Bisse, with a blended rosemary and white tea scent that was created exclusively for Nobu Hotel. Custom art by up-and-coming Japanese artists will be displayed throughout the hotel.

nobu-bedroom.jpgGuest room at the soon-to-open Nobu Hotel. Photo credit: Nobu Hotel Caesar's Palace

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Dramatic Designs: Ireland's Lismore Castle

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 11, 2012 05:41 AM

photo (3).JPG
It was hard to pick just one thing to highlight at Lismore Castle. After all, the 17th-century castle in Lismore, Ireland, has some of the most unique, rare and esoteric art and artifacts in the world.

Van Dyck paintings hang above antique brass candlesticks, centuries-old tapestries drape the interior stone walls of the castle's sitting rooms, and newer, modern paintings have been placed on the walls next to heirloom pieces. During the four days I stayed at Lismore Castle (more on that later), I spent more time staring at the walls of the castle then I did exploring the town. Since there is so much to ogle over here, it's worth showcasing a few of the most amazing pieces, instead of picking just one to highlight in today's column (see photos below).

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Weekend escapes: Father's Day hotel deals

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 8, 2012 10:22 AM

Rest and relaxation is in order for Dad. After all, manning the barbecue, organizing game days and planning weekend road trips is hard work. Plus, the man did keep that secret from Mom and didn't ask questions when you needed an extra $50 for that must-have-can't-live-without-latest-and-greatest-everyone-has-one item. So, why not treat Dad to a little fun for Father's Day.

Hotels and resorts around the U.S. are hosting some great weekend getaways to celebrate Dads on Sunday, June 17. From fly-fishing to zip-lining, I've rounded up some great getaways -- near and far -- that fit any father's personality. Whether your Dad likes to get out and explore, or just wants an hour alone with a good book, there's a weekend getaway that's perfect for him.

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YOTEL sets sights on South End for new Boston hotel

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 6, 2012 05:56 AM

Boston is fast becoming the hotspot for new boutique hotels. Earlier this year, The Revere Hotel opened in what was formerly The Radisson in Boston's Theater District. Now comes word that the trendy YOTEL hotel group has its sights on Boston for the group's next hotel opening. I caught up with YOTEL's CEO Gerard Greene for the details on what's rumor, and what's reality.

"We are very confident that Boston will be the second hotel for Yotel in the U.S.," Greene told me over email, citing the South End as the most likely location for the hotel.

UK-based YOTEL just announced a partnership with real estate development and investment firm The John Buck Company to create a "dedicated real estate fund platform focused on the expansion of the brand in North America." As part of the agreement, YOTEL and The John Buck Company will jointly identify, acquire, develop and redevelop YOTEL properties in select major U.S. metropolitan cities. On the expansion map: Boston and Chicago.

So what makes Boston so intriguing? According to Greene, it's our diverse culture and historical roots.

"Well we are British so makes sense to go back to our roots in the U.S.," said Greene. "Boston has a great culture of innovation which fits a great environment for Yotel’s unique, affordable luxury hotel concept and hopefully will allow us to fit right in."

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Best hotel rooftop bars in the U.S.

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 5, 2012 07:07 AM

mad-party.jpgMad46, located at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, is open seasonally and hosts events and parties throughout the summer. Photo credit: Mad46.

Whether you're sipping sangria, muddling mojitos, or just cooling off with a crisp beer, the environment in which you enjoy your summer cocktails can make all the difference between a dull evening and a memorable summer night. Outdoor areas are at a premium, but as more hotels turn their rooftops into social spaces, more guests and locals are showing up after work and on the weekends to enjoy the scene, take in the views, and taste the creative cocktails served by master mixologists.

Photo gallery: The best hotel rooftop bars in the U.S.

In my opinion, it's the view that gives the rooftop bar that special spectacular. In Shanghai, the Ritz-Carlton Pudong's Flair bar on the 58th floor provides stunning views of the famous Bund. In Bangkok, the Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree gives spectacular views of the city, while in Rio de Janeiro, the Fasano hotel's rooftop bar is only open to guests, and offers killer views of Copacabana Beach and the Rio skyline. And here at home in Boston, the Colonnade Hotel reigns supreme when it comes to summer rooftop romps.

So where are the best hotel rooftop bars in the U.S.? From New York to California, I found the hottest places to hang out up top, enjoy some crafty cocktails and take in the views that will rival anything you'll see from the sidewalk.

You can cheers to Lady Liberty while enjoying Processco from the tap at the new Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown New York, or watch the Empire State Building light up while you're tasting the famous mojitos at Mad46 at the Roosevelt Hotel. Rub elbows with the rich and elusive at the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills, or sip native wine from the Nines in Portland, Ore. Wherever you choose to cheers, there's a rooftop ready for you.

Photo gallery: The best hotel rooftop bars in the U.S.

Mandarin Oriental offers spending credits for summer stays

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 4, 2012 12:32 PM

MO-bedroom copy.jpgGuestroom with park views at the Mandarin Oriental New York.

There's nothing travelers like better in the summer than a good deal. It's even sweeter when the deal comes from a luxury hotel. The Mandarin Oriental kicked off summer with a sweet deal, that includes daily hotel credits at any Mandarin Oriental property in the world.

Here's the deal: Stay two nights at any Mandarin Oriental hotel and enjoy a daily spending credit between $25 and $200, based on the hotel and room category booked. The daily credit can be used for dining or spa, and is based on the best available rates at the time of booking.

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Robb Report picks world's best luxury travel experiences

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 2, 2012 12:23 PM

Want to go where the elite go, where the rich and fabulous hide out and where the lavish bath in luxury amenities? Luxury lifestyle magazine, Robb Report, recently published its "Best of the Best" issue naming the best hotels, resorts, spas, golf courses and vacation homes in the world.

Whether sipping cocktails at the highest bar in the world in Hong Kong or putting on the green at the best golf course in Hawaii, these experiences will undoubtedly last a lifetime. And isn't that what travel is all about: the experience.

Ritz_HongKongKowloon_00036_ltn_920x518.jpgThe Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong Premier Executive Suite living room

Here are the top winners from Robb Report:

Hotels: The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong. The hotel still holds the title of the "highest hotel in the world" and isn't afraid to boast it. The swimming pool, fitness center, and bar on the 118th floor of the hotel provide guests with the best views of Hong Kong and the islands. But it's more than just the views that capture the hearts of travelers. Ritz-Carlton is consistently rated top in customer service and performance, and the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is no exception.

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About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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