Review: Belmond Hotel Cipriani (Venice, Italy)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Today (October 18, 2017): Review of Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy.
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: Giudecca, 10, 30133 Venezia VE,Italy
  • Hotel website: Belmond Hotel Cipriani
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso

An elegant oasis of serenity and style, Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice has a special place in Belmond history as the first hotel in its global portfolio of iconic properties, trains and river cruises. Set on Giudecca Island, a five-minute ride by private launch from Piazza San Marco, Belmond Hotel Cipriani captures everything La Serenissima is famed for and every inch of this iconic hideaway is guaranteed to enchant. Exquisite antiques and local artifacts whisk you back in time, while Michelin-starred gastronomy, charming staff and the only Olympic-sized swimming pool in the city offer modern sophistication. Known as one of the most celebrated luxury hotels in Venice, it is the special air of romance what sets this grand hotel apart from the rest.

Belmond Hotel Cipriani features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Venice.

In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Photos

Click to view slideshow.

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The word-famous Belmond Hotel Cipriani enjoys an enviable setting on the far eastern tip of Giudecca Island, overlooking Venice’s picturesque lagoon and – from its waterfront suites – offering fabulous views of the Venice skyline. The hotel represent a tranquil and exclusive oasis, a world apart from the hustle and bustle of central Venice, where the romantic canals and narrow streets are filled with herds of tourists. Giudecca Island is a secluded destination and retains an authentic, small village-like atmosphere, away from the crowds, which will appeal to most guests.
  • Although the Belmond Hotel Cipriani is located across the lagoon from central Venice, it’s very easy to get to the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’. The property is a mere five minutes from Venice’s central square Piazza San Marco by private wooden motorboat, allowing guests the opportunity to explore the city’s charms, sights, shops and restaurants as much as they want. The complimentary boat shuttle service to/from Piazza San Marco runs every 20 minutes, 24 hours per day, and departs from the hotel’s lovely and picturesque courtyard in front of the lobby.
  • The property’s intriguing history started in 1958 when it was opened by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice and inventor of the Bellini cocktail. The hotel achieved instant acclaim for its relaxed atmosphere and impeccable service, and a decade later, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and magnificent gardens were added to the property. In 1976, the hotel was sold for £900,000 to the Orient-Express Hotel group – rebranded in 2014 as the Belmond Hotel Group –  who not only expanded the hotel into the adjacent 15th century lagoon-front Palazzo Vendramin but also launched the now world-famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express to bring guests from London and Paris to stay at his new hotel. Under the new management, the Cipriani Hotel would soon become one of the world’s leading luxury hotels.
  • The hotel features a classic Mediterranean, pink facade that blends in with the surrounding Renaissance structures. On the inside, the property has a contemporary feel, except of course when you are staying at the historic Palazzo Vendramin across the garden. The intimate lobby – which extends into an adjacant sleek-looking libary, a shopping arcade with window displays, and the restaurants and bar – features a remarkable red and white chess marble floor, sparkling chandeliers and beautiful floral displays, which are all subtile references to the Ventian grandeur. This tasteful mix of modern and traditional elements is further accented throughout the hotel by the presence of antiques, gilded mirrors, and sumptuous Venetian furnishings, including Murano glass chandeliers, Fortuny fabrics and Venetian artworks.
  • The main hotel building embraces a large, lagoon-front courtyard which is home to one of the finest swimming pools in Europe and the only Olympic-sized pool in central Venice. Retreating to this peaceful pool area is a welcome respite after visiting the obligatory Venice landmarks in the sometimes oppressive heat. The massive, rectangularly shaped pool is filled with filtered seawater. There are plenty of loungers around the pool and on surrounding lanes, with several attendants standing by with fresh towels and cool drinks. In honour of the Venice Biennale of Art, celebrated local photographer Marco Rizzo has created an ‘underwater city’ on the bottom of the pool, which gives guests the sensation of swimming into a masterpiece.
  • The hotel offers 96 superbly appointed and exquisitely decorated rooms and suites (many with balconies or terraces). Guests can choose to stay in either the hotel’s main modern building with vistas of the lagoon, or in one of the hotel’s signature suites in the historic Palazzo Vendramin with panoramic views of Piazza San Marco. During my holiday, I stayed in a spacious Junior Suite – located in the contemporary hotel wing – which featured a light, fresh and airy decor, combining Venetian elegance with modern glamour. The marble-clad bathroom was fit for royalty and came with lovely ‘The Merchant of Venice’ toiletries. The suite boasted an enormous private terrace with lounge area and dining table, offering mesmerizing views of the pool and lagoon.
  • The 16 rooms and suites in the former 15th-century palace, the Palazzo Vendramin, are the most desirable and lavish accommodations, especially since many feature Byzantine floor-to-ceiling windows that offer 180-degree views of the Venetian lagoon towards Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace. The 15th century building is linked to the main hotel wing via an ancient courtyard and flowered passage-way.The Palazzo Vendramin’s most extravangt and lavish accommodation is the Palladio Suite, which has its own exclusive dock for guests to arrive and leave in privacy, an airy living room that opens onto a lagoon-view balcony, a private plunge pool and jacuzzi on a terrace surrounded by fragrant jasmine, two marble bathrooms, and a dining area where a personal butler can serve up to eight at an intimate dinner party.
  • Belmond Hotel Cipriani is blessed with its magnificent Casanova Gardens, which are located between the main hotel building and the Palazzo Vendramin. The gardens are named after the legendary lover Casanova who used these very grounds to tempt women out of the monasteries to join him in the adjacent vineyards. The gardens – which once belonged to the wife of the Doge – are as romantic today as they were during Renaissance times. Not only do they feature white roses, cypress, pomegranate, and lavender, but also a small creek and lovely vineyard. The latter is planted with refosco, cabernet and merlot, and used to produce 2000 bottles annually of Casanova Salso, a reproduction of the 18th-century wine for which the region was known. This enchanted eden also supplies the hotel’s restaurants with daily salad leaves, edible flowers and herbs, all cultivated using totally natural, organic techniques.
  • There are four dining venues and three bars to suit nearly all tastes. The focal points for foodies are the hotel’s two acclaimed dining venues, Oro and Cip’s Club.
    • The menu of the 40-seat Oro Restaurant, which received its first Michelin star within two years of its opening in 2014 – reinterprets the hotel’s historic gastronomic tradition using the finest Italian ingredients.
    • The less informal and yet undeniably glamorous Cip’s Club Restaurant still holds a reputation as one of the top spots in Venice, not only because of its mouth-watering food – a mix of Italian specialities and traditional Venetian cuisine – but also because of its alfresco setting on a wooden terrace floating over the lagoon with spectacular views of Piazza San Marco day and night.
    • Giudecca 10 is the hotel’s third restaurant, located along the hotel’s central courtyard with an an alfresco terrace with colorful marble tables overlooking the lagoon. At night, it serves traditional Italian cuisine, while in the morning it is the scene of an exquisite breakfast buffet that is complemented by an a la carte menu.
    • The Porticciolo Restaurant is location by the swimming pool, and open for lunch only, serving alfresco, buffet-style appetisers, brick-oven pizza, pasta, grilled delicacies, and a salad bar.
  • The Belmond Hotel Cipriani is the flagship hotel of Belmond, formerly known as Orient Express until its rebranding in 2014. Belmond is a hotel and leisure company that manages a ultraluxe collection of 49 iconic hotels, trains and river cruises in 24 countries, bringing together some of the world’s most sensational journeys and destinations. It ranks among the most exclusive hotel brands in the world. With Belmond, you can stay in timeless hotels in Venice, Rio and St. Petersburg, embrace the spirit of adventure at Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, glide along the rails through the Swiss Alps, soar across the Andes, or explore the mystifying rivers of Myanmar.
  • Because of its legendary reputation, ultimate privacy, and superb facilities, it should not come as a suprise that the Belmond Hotel Cipriani is a celebrity hotspot. Each year, swarms of A-lister movie stars flock to the hotel for the famous Venice film festival. Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, and Leonardo Di Caprio have all stayed here. In 2014, the hotel was booked for the exclusive use of George Clooney and his guests as the actor tied the knot with British lawyer Amal Alamuddin. The list of rich and famous is a long one but the Cipriani does an amazing job of caring for all its guests whatever their pedigree.
  • The spacious heated swimming pool, red clay tennis court, magnificent gardens, intimate spa, and docking facilities lend the property an undeniable resort atmosphere. The Belmond Hotel Cipriani feels indeed like a resort destination within a destination, and it’s always a pleasure to retreat to this tip of Giudecca Island on the edge of Venice’s picturesque lagoon after a stroll through Venice’s old city center.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Belmond Hotel Cipriani  lives up to its reputation as a stellar place to call home when visiting the magnificent city of Venice. The accommodations, leisure facilities (e.g. pool, gardens), dining venues, and service are second to none. Nonetheless, you may want to know the following when considering a stay here.

  • While many guests may dream of living at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani year-round, the hotel is open for just seven months each year, from the end of March until the beginning of November. It closes for the winter season and reopens in the spring, usually to reveal some great new enhancement.
  • The hotel’s secluded location may be a hit or miss depending on what you want. If you want to walk out of your hotel lobby straight into the mysterious labyrinth of Venice’s cobblestone streets, then this probably isn’t the place for you since the Belmond Cipriani Hotel is located on a tranquil island across the lagoon from Central Venice. However, as said above, this shouldn’t deter you at all as the hotel is only a 5 minute complimentary boat ride from Piazza San Marco (Venice’s central square) and boats run every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day. And IMHO, being away from the crowds is one of the hotel’s best selling point.
  • For some the Belmond Hotel Cipriani may feel a bit old-fashioned. However this style of upscale luxury is impeccably maintained.
  • All this luxury comes at a steep price, which is why the hotel’s clientele tend to be well-heeled couples, celebrities, and families on posh vacations. Keep in mind that this is the flagship hotel of Belmond, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brand, located in Venice, a place where holiday budgets come to die. You should know that going in.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Pool: 9/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Breakfast: 9/10
  • Spa: 8/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Belmond Hotel Cipriani, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
  • Save money: enjoy free VIP perks at Belmond Hotel Cipriani when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Late spring and early summer are the best times to visit Venice as far as weather is concerned. But the city during these beautiful warm days is packed with tourists, meaning that there can be long waits to enter museums and sights. Also during this peak time, finding accommodations – budget or otherwise – can be a challenge. In summer, the city can be oppressively hot, the canals ripe with odor, and the inevitable mosquitoes are bothersome. Venice’s location, in northern Italy on the Adriatic Sea, means that the city has colder, longer winters. While winter can be a great time of year to visit, especially in terms of getting a bargain and avoiding crowds, it can be harsh (the winds that whip off the Adriatic and down the alleyways are bone-chilling).


HOW TO GET THERE

Venice is served by 2 airports.

  • Venice Marco Polo Airport is located 8 km (5 mi) north of the city and it served by most European full-service carriers (click here for a direct link to their websites) as well as by some non-European airlines. Check the Wikipedia page of Venice Marco Polo Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Venice.
  • Treviso Airport is located 20 km (12 mi) from the Venice city center and is served by some European low-cost carriers (click here for a direct link to their websites). Check the Wikipedia page of Treviso Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Treviso.

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HOTEL JETTY NEAR PIAZZA SAN MARCO

HOTEL JETTY NEAR PIAZZA SAN MARCO

HOTEL JETTY NEAR PIAZZA SAN MARCO

COMPLIMENTARY SHUTTLE SERVICE TO HOTEL

ARRIVAL AT THE HOTEL

ARRIVAL AT THE HOTEL

ARRIVAL AT THE HOTEL

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

GABBIANO BAR

GABBIANO BAR

GABBIANO BAR

GABBIANO BAR

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

SWIMMING POOL & DECK

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

THE HOTEL’S CASANOVA GARDEN

SPA

SPA

SPA

GYM

GUEST ROOM FLOOR

JUNIOR SUITE – ENTRANCE

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BEDROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – WELCOME AMENITY

JUNIOR SUITE – BATHROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BATHROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BATHROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BATHROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BATHROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BATHROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – BATHROOM

JUNIOR SUITE – TERRACE

JUNIOR SUITE – TERRACE

JUNIOR SUITE – TERRACE

JUNIOR SUITE – TURN DOWN SERVICE

SUNSET

SUNSET

SUNSET

SUNSET

SUNSET

HOTEL AT SUNSET

HOTEL AT SUNSET

ORO RESTAURANT

ORO RESTAURANT

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – DINNER

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

GIUDECCA 10 RESTAURANT – BREAKFAST

WALKWAY TO WATERFRONT

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

THE HOTEL’S WATERFRONT (WITH CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT)

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

CIP’S CLUB RESTAURANT – DINNER

COMPLIMENTARY SHUTTLE SERVICE TO PIAZZA SAN MARCO

COMPLIMENTARY SHUTTLE SERVICE TO PIAZZA SAN MARCO

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE

SIGHTS OF VENICE


 

Filed under: Trip reports: luxury hotels Tagged: Belmond, Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Cipriani review, Hotel review, Hotel Review Europe, Hotel Review Italy, Luxury, review, Travel, Trip report

Top 10: best luxury hotel brands in the world

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (October 16, 2017): the world’s most exclusive, ultra-luxe hotel brands.

The past two decades, luxurious five-star (and even six and seven star) hotels and resorts are popping up like mushrooms in all corners of the world. Although this is great news for discerning travelers (and I count myself among them), not all new expensive and glitzy hotels meet the standards of a true refined and memorable experience. In my humble opinion, only a few hotel chains succeed at delivering the consistency of unrivalled excellence that luxury-minded globetrotters expect these days. These brands stand out and leave the competition behind with impeccable service, extraordinary locations (whether a beach, city or remote wilderness spot), world-class wellness facilities, superlative gastronomy, spectacular accommodations, and – last but not least – environmental conscious policies. I hereby present you the 10 most exclusive hotel brands in the world, the ones I happily return to again and again when traveling around the globe.

Do you agree or have a favorite hotel brand that didn’t make my list? Leave a comment or take my poll below.

Click to view slideshow.

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10. ST REGIS

St Regis is the most exclusive hotel brand of the Starwood Hotel Group, which was acquired last year by the Marriott imperium. Born of a distinctive legacy and crafted for discerning travelers who desire the finest experiences, the brand established luxury hospitality with the launch of The St. Regis New York  property in 1904. From the moment John Jacob Astor IV opened the doors of his Beaux-Arts masterpiece on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the St. Regis brand has always been associated with uncompromising elegance and bespoke service. Butler service has been a signature feature of the St. Regis experience for more than a century, and St Regis remains the only luxury hospitality brand in the world to offer this personalized service at every one of their hotels. Combining classic sophistication with a modern sensibility, more than 30 St. Regis hotels around the world are committed to delivering exceptional experiences.

  • Official website: St Regis
  • Flagship hotel: St Regis New York, USA. This hotel features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury resorts in New York.
  • My favorite hotel: St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort. This resort features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in the Maldives. Read here my review of this property.


9. MANDARIN ORIENTAL

Over the past 50 years, Mandarin Oriental has grown from a well-respected Asian hotel company into a global brand, and has a rich and proud history which began with the opening of the brand’s flagship property, The Mandarin, in 1963 in Hong Kong. The hotel, which was the tallest building on the island when it opened, soon built up an enviable reputation for service excellence, and instantly became a historic landmark – a status it still holds today. In 1974, The Oriental in Bangkok, which was already acknowledged as one of the world’s most legendary hotels was partially acquired by the group, making the company unique in the way that it has two flagship hotels whose names represented the very best in hospitality. Today, the group is firmly established as a truly global luxury player and operates more than 30 hotels worldwide, with each property featuring a distinctive oriental design (reflecting its heritage) and a unique sense of place.

  • Official website: Mandarin Oriental
  • Flagship hotels: Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, China, and Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Thailand. The latter property features in my list of the best luxury hotels in Thailand and you can read here my review of this hotel.
  • My favorite hotel: Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, Turkey. This hotel features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Turkey, the world’s best family hotels, the most astonishing beach retreats in Europe, and my most memorable travel experiences of 2015. Read here my review of this property.


8. PARK HYATT

Park Hyatt is the most luxurious brand of the Hyatt Hotel Group – based in the USA – which now manages more than 10 distinctive brands in its portfolio, each designed to deliver experiences attuned to the lifestyles, attitudes, values, and aspirations of the guests for whom it is designed. Located in major gateway cities and prime leisure travel destinations worldwide, Park Hyatt hotels are a symbol of luxury, offering impeccable service, world-class spas and state-of-the-art guest rooms, all perfectly tailored to those who expect nothing but the best. Each Park Hyatt property is designed to reflect the unique character of its locale – the chic of Paris, the exotic allure of the Maldives or the all-American style of Chicago. Park Hyatt hotels are especially known for their acclaimed art programs, sleek and minimalist interior design, and exceptional dining venues under the direction of celebrated chefs.

  • Official website: Park Hyatt
  • Flagship hotel: Park Hyatt New York, USA. This hotel features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in New York City and the most stunning indoor hotel pools in the world. Read here my review of this property.
  • My favorite hotel: Park Hyatt Sydney, Australia. This hotel features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most spectacular hotel rooftops, the best luxury hotels in Australia, the world’s best hotels, and hotels loved by celebrities. Read here my review of this property.


7. FOUR SEASONS

Four Seasons is probably the best known luxury hotel brand in the world, with more than 100 properties in five continents and dozens of hotel projects in development. The Canadian-based company has, for nearly 50 years, transformed the hospitality industry in a tale of continual innovation, remarkable expansion and a single-minded dedication to the highest of standards. Four Seasons was founded in 1960 by the young architect Isadore Sharp, but the real breakthrough of the brand came in the seventies with the opening of the Four Seasons London, which set the tone for the future direction of the company and pioneered many of the signature Four Seasons services now delivered worldwide. Although the company went public in 1986, the Sharp family – along with a group of like-minded investors such as Bill Gates and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – took the company private again in 2007 to protect the integrity of the brand well into the future

  • Official website: Four Seasons
  • Flagship hotel: Four Seasons Toronto, Canada.
  • My favorite hotel: Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah. This resort also features in my top 10 list of the best Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in the world.

FOUR SEASONS PRIVATE ISLAND MALDIVES AT VOAVAH


6. ONE&ONLY RESORTS

The fabulous One&Only brand was created in 2002 exclusively for the luxury resort market by Solomon Kerzner – a South African accountant and business magnate – and now features some of the highest-rated resorts in the most idyllic spots in the world, such as the Maldives, Bahamas, and Cape Town. The award-winning collection continues to evolve with the recent announcement of One&Only Nature Resorts, such as One&Only Nyungwe House and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest in Rwanda, building on the success of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in Australia. Each resort in the One&Only collection not only offers unique design and ambiance which embraces the local surroundings, but also an unparalleled commitment to the finest experience on every possible level. Luxurious accommodation is complemented by impeccable service, exclusive wellness sanctuaries, lively entertainment and a host of activities, as well as exquisite culinary adventures from some of the world’s most accomplished chefs.

  • Official website: One&Only Resorts
  • Flagship hotel: One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives. This resort features in my top 10 lists of the best resorts in the Maldives, the world’s best hotel beaches, the world’s best hotel spas, and luxury hotels loved by celebrities. Click here to read my review of One&Only Reethi Rah.
  • My favorite hotel: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in Australia. This resort also features in my top 10 list of the best hotels & resorts in Australia.

EMIRATES ONE&;ONLY WOLGAN VALLEY, AUSTRALIA


5. ROSEWOOD

The Rosewood story began in 1979 when a historic mansion in Dallas, Texas, was transformed into an acclaimed, world-class restaurant and hotel – The Mansion on Turtle Creek – whose success was the blueprint for all subsequent Rosewood hotels and resorts. Today, Rosewood manages a distinctive collection of highly individual, luxurious, residential-style hotels across the globe, including world-famous properties such as The Carlyle in New York and Hôtel de Crillon in Paris. Led by a team of seasoned industry veterans Rosewood’s acclaimed attention to detail, proactive approach to environmental sustainability and dedication to relationship hospitality has earned the group numerous awards and accolades. Each property delivers a one-of-a-kind ambience and style, in which location, culture, history and geography are part of the fabric of the hotel, reflecting the company’s “Sense of Place” philosophy.

  • Official website: Rosewood
  • Flagship hotel: Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas, USA.
  • My favorite hotel: Rosewood London, United Kingdom. This hotel features in my top 10 lists of the most amazing city hotels in Europe and the most luxurious hotels in London. Read here my review of this property.


4. SIX SENSES

Founded in 1995 by the owners of the Soneva brand (cf below),  Six Senses is an award-winning and very unique hotel group, that offers exceptional guest experiences in remote and exquisite locations, whether a virgin territory or adjacent to a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The brand is synonymous with a unique eco-chic design – authentic, personal and sustainable – and all properties are in harmony with their natural or cultural surroundings. Six Senses resorts always adapt seamlessly to host cultures in an environment that evokes wellbeing, supported by outstanding anticipative service and attention to detail. Six Senses experiences are always delivered by a wealth of experts from diverse backgrounds, from visiting spa practitioners and celebrity chefs, to star gazers, marine biologists and even their own paragliding professionals. A key element of all Six Senses properties, the Six Senses Spa concept is a layered approach to wellness that unites a pioneering spirit with treatments that go beyond the ordinary.

  • Official website: Six Senses
  • Flagship hotel: Six Senses Yo Noi, Thailand. This resort also features in my top 10 lists of Phuket’s best ultra luxury resorts and the  best luxury hotels in Thailand. Read here my review of Six Senses Yao Noi.
  • My favorite hotel: Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles. This resort features in my top 10 list of the best luxury resorts in the Seychelles and Africa’s most astonishing beach retreats. Read here my review of this property.


3. BELMOND

Belmond – known as Orient Express until its rebranding in 2014 – is a hotel and leisure company that manages an ultraluxe collection of 49 iconic hotels, trains and river cruises in 24 countries, bringing together some of the world’s most sensational journeys and destinations. With Belmond, you can stay in timeless hotels in Venice, Rio and St. Petersburg, embrace the spirit of adventure at Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, glide along the rails through the Swiss Alps, soar across the Andes, or explore the mystifying rivers of Myanmar. It all began in 1976, when the company received the keys to the legendary Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice. A year later, they began collecting the carriages for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which launched in 1982 to whisk intrepid travellers to La Serenissima in style. Since then, Belmond has grown to a carefully curated collection of travel adventures, each with a rich story to tell.

  • Official website: Belmond
  • Flagship hotel: Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy. This hotel also features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Venice. I will publish my review of this hotel this week.
  • My favorite hotel: Belmond Hotel Caruso in Ravello, Italy. This hotel also features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most spectacular hotel pools and the world’s most spectacular cliffside hotels. I will publish my review of this hotel next week.


2. AMAN

Meticulously designed to frame their natural settings, Aman hotels are renowned for breathtaking locations, locally inspired architecture, and ultimate privacy. Each welcomes guests as if to the home of a close friend, instilling a sense of peace and belonging amid some of the most diverse natural and historical landscapes. It is an approach that has changed little since 1988 when the first retreat was built on Phuket’s west coast. It was named Amanpuri, meaning ‘place of peace’, and Aman was born. Today, embracing 31 ultra-luxe hotels in 20 countries, Aman continues to seek out transformative experiences and awe-inspiring locations around the world. Among Aman’s habitués is a group of passionate repeat customers – self-proclaimed ‘Aman junkies’ (count me in) – who rave about the service and design aesthetic and whose travel plans are determined by Aman locations. I hereby present you my 10 favorite Aman hotels & resorts on the planet.

  • Official website: Aman
  • Flagship hotel: Amanpuri, Phuket, Thailand. This resort also features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Thailand and Phuket’s best ultra luxury resorts. I will publish my review of Amanpuri very soon.
  • My favorite hotel: Amanoi, Vietnam. This resort features in my top 10 lists of the most fabulous luxury hotels in Vietnam, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and the most fabulous Aman resorts in the world. Read here my review of Amanoi.


1. SONEVA

In 1995, Sonu Shivdasani, an Indian-British hotelier, launched the now world-famous Soneva Fushi resort on the deserted Maldivian island of Kunfunadhoo, pioneering a trend for back-to-nature luxury holidays. He also built his house there, together with his wife Eva Malmstrom, a Swedish fashion model, who developed the design and furnishing of the unique resort. They had no idea that their intensely personal vision of a locally crafted villa and environmentally responsible lifestyle would form the basis of a successful collection of world-class hotels, resorts and spas. But that’s exactly what happened. In 2009, the Soneva Hotel group built a second, even more spectacular hotel, Soneva Kiri, on the unspoilt Thai island of Koh. And last year, Soneva opened the most spectacular hotel in the Maldives, if not the world, Soneva Jani. Founded on shared passions and masters of innovation, Soneva is a thriving community working hand in hand with the environment to craft beautiful, beyond bespoke experiences where discovery is a way of life.

Contact me to get a complimentary room upgrade at any Soneva resort.

  • Official website:  Soneva
  • Flagship hotel: Soneva Fushi, Maldives. This resort features in my top 10 lists of the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, the best resorts in the Maldives for snorkeling, the world’s best luxury hotels for a family holiday, and the best luxury resorts in the Maldives. Read here my review of Soneva Fushi.
  • My favorite hotel: Soneva Jani, Maldives. This resort features in my top 10 lists of the most insanely beautiful resorts in the Maldives, the most fabulous overwater villas in the Maldives, the best new luxury hotels of 2016, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and my favorite hotels in the world. Read here my review of Soneva Fushi.


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Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Aman, Belmond, Four Seasons, hotel brands, Luxury travel, Mandarin Oriental, One&Only, Park Hyatt, Rosewood, Six Senses, Soneva, St Regis, Top 10, top 10 2017, Top 10 hotels, Travel

Travel tip: 11 websites that you need to check before you fly

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststips, series, or news.

Today (October 13, 2017): Travel tip: 11 websites to check before you fly.

Before you go the airport, I recommend you to check the following websites. They will make your flight and travel experience as flawless as possible, and provide you all the information you need in case you encounter unexpected problems (e.g. delayed flight, missed luggage).

Think I forgot one? Share your own website recommendations & tips in the comments section below.

LUFTHANSA BOEING 747-800

  • Check in online on your airline’s website, to avoid long queues and thus save time at the airport.
  • Choose the best seat onboard with the help of Seatguru.
  • Check whether your flight has a scheduled on time departure & arrival with Flightaware.
  • Inform yourself about the safety reputation of your airline on Airline Ratings.
  • Avoid flying with one of the carriers listed on the European Union’s black list. The latter represents a list of (unsafe) airlines banned within the EU.
  • Know your rights when your flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked.
  • Know your rights when your luggage is delayed or lost.
  • Check the website of your departure airport and find out what to do. Spending time at the airport doesn’t need to be boring, as more and more airports start offering extensive shopping facilities, museums, and spas.
  • Every country has its own rules for visitors of various nationalities. For detailed and up to date information that is relevant to your trip, I advise you to always check what travel documents and health precautions you need for your end destination.

Enjoy the weekend and stay tuned for Monday when I reveal a new top 10 travel list.


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Filed under: Travel tips Tagged: airlines, Travel tips, travel tips 2017, websites to check before you fly

United B787-9 Polaris Business Class Paris to San Francisco

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Today, I publish the first article in a new series of trip reports regarding the Hawaiian Islands, where I recently enjoyed a sublime holiday. The bulk of these Hawaii trip reports will be published in November & December (as I will first make a small detour via Italy’s most spectacular five-star hotels):

  • Review: United Airlines Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco (today)
  • Review: United Airlines B777-200ER Business Class from San Francisco to Honolulu
  • Review: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Hotel (Honolulu)
  • Review: Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Lanai)
  • Review: St Regis Princeville (Kauai)
  • Review: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (Maui)
  • Review: Travaasa Hana (Maui)
  • Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea (Maui)
  • Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Business Class from Honolulu to San Francisco
  • Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich

Today (October 11, 2017): Review of United Airlines’ B787-9 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco.

On August 2nd 2017, I flew Business Class in a United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) in France to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in the USA. United’s new Business Class concept ‘Polaris’ – launched in December 2016 – was offered on this flight. Polaris, which is named after the brightest star in the Ursa Minor constellation, is the carrier’s most drastic product transformation in more than a decade and is designed to bring a new level of quality to every aspect of United’s premium cabin travel experience, with a focus on better lounges, refined onboard cuisine, excellent bedding, and new stylish kits. Unfortunately, during this trip, I did not have time to visit the Star Alliance lounge in Paris (which does not feature the new Polaris lounge concept anyway) since I had an ultra-short connection (I was flying in from Brussels). Another (small) disappointment was that United’s Boeing 787-9 planes do not feature the new Polaris forward-facing pods yet, as these are currently only found on the carrier’s brand new B777-300ER and some retrofitted B767-300ER aircraft. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a great flight and overall liked the new Polaris concept, which sets United’s service on par with most of its competitors.

On a personal note, my first ever Business Class flight was with United (in 2010), and since then, United has always been my first choice for transatlantic travel. Although I am well aware that United has had its fair share of troubles and negative publicity over the past year, I have always had a good experience with them and never experienced a major problem. Remarkably, all of my transatlantic United flights so far were always piloted with women (which makes me always wonder why there are not more female pilots with other airlines).

United Airlines features in my top 10 lists of my preferred airlines for longhaul Business Class.

  • Trip: CDG-SFO
  • Airline: United Airlines
  • Aircraft type: B787-9 Dreamliner
  • Aircraft registration number: N35953
  • Flight Number: UA984
  • Date: August 2nd, 2017
  • On time departure: yes (9.15 am)
  • On time arrival: yes (11.15 am)
  • Miles: 5583
  • Flight time: 11 hours
  • Seat: 6A
  • Class: Business Class

In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  1. Fact & figures about United’s B787 fleet
  2. Business Class cabin
  3. Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  4. Amenities
  5. Meals
  6. Entertainment
  7. Onboard internet
  8. Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
  9. My verdict (score)

Click to view slideshow.

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 1. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT UNITED’S B787 FLEET

Here are some facts about United’s Dreamliners:

  • United’s B787 are powered by two General Electric GEnx engines.
  • Currently, United has 33 Dreamliners in its fleet, the most of any American carrier. United’s Dreamliner subfleet is composed of 11 B787-8 and 22 B787-9 aircraft. The B787-9 is 20 ft (6 m) longer than the B787-8, and can fly 33 extra passengers and 300 nautical miles further than the B787-8.
  • United was the launch customer in North America for the B787-8 Dreamliner. United will also be North American’s launch customer for the 787-10 and it expects delivery of this aircraft in next year. The 787-10 is a stretched version of the 787-9 and will offer the lowest fuel burn per seat of any aircraft in its size category.
  • United’s merger partner Continental Airlines was the first USA airline to place an order for the B787; however, the B787 would never fly under the Continental brand as United and Continental merged in March 2012 into the new United, a few months before the delivery of the first Dreamliner.
  • The B787 offers up to 20 percent better fuel efficiency per seat than similarly sized aircraft, due in part to the more than 50 percent composite makeup of its structure. The 787 also boasts an enhanced inflight experience including larger windows, larger overhead bins and lower cabin altitude with enhanced ventilation systems that reduce the effects of jet lag.

Read here my comparison of the Boeing B787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.

UNITED B787-9 DREAMLINER


2. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

United’s B787-9 planes seat 252 passengers in total: 48 in Business Class, 88 in Economy Plus, and 116 in Economy Class. The 48 Business Class fully flat-bed seats are spread over two cabins, with a galley in between them: the forward Business Class cabin features 30 seats in 5 rows, while the second and smaller cabin – which is located further back, in front of the Economy Plus cabin – consists of only 3 rows with 18 seats in total. In both cabins, the seats are placed in a traditional 2-2-2 layout and slightly angled towards the windows. Adjoining seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm), which – together with a small partition – offers some extra privacy in case you are seated next to a stranger and at the same time allows enough interaction when you are traveling with a companion. All seats face forward and have aisle access, except for the window seats (where you will have to climb over the legs of your neighbour to get to the aisle).

Albeit not bad, United’s current B787 2-2-2 Business Class layout is inferior to the excellent new 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout that the carrier is currently offering on all of its brand new B777-300ER planes. The good news though is that the carrier will retrofit all of its existing wide-body planes with the new seats over the coming years (some B767-300ER have been retrofitted already).

Click here for a seat map of United’ B787-9 aircraft.

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BOARDING)

THE LARGER BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (ROWS 1-5)

THE SMALLER BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (ROWS 6-9)


3. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

I had selected window seat 6A for the 11 hour flight from Paris to San Francisco. Business Class seats on row 6 are very popular with passengers traveling with young children because of the bassinet that is present in the bulkhead.

The United B787 Business Class seat is similar to the one that Qatar Airways installed on its A330 planes. The soft cushioned seat has a generous pitch of 78 inch (195 cm), which is defined as the space between one point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. With a width of 22 inch (56 cm) – defined as the space between the arm rests – the seat is quite comfortable, even for a 10+ hour flight. Each seat features its own 15,4 inch HD touch screen. Below the TV monitor, you find a drawer which is large enough to store your laptop, and an ottoman which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined. The size of the ottoman differs dramatically depending upon the row: the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the cramp footrests of all the other Business Class seats.

The arm rest that is shared with the adjoining seat features a small shared table (to put a glass and snacks on), the seat controls, and the remote control for the entertainment system. It also houses a moderately sized fold-out tray table which needs to be pulled out for any use (after which you are kind of blocked in your seat). On the other side of the seat, behind the headrest, is a small, somewhat difficult to reach storage compartment, where you find the safety card, a universal AC power outlet and a USB port.

The seat does go fully flat, but again, your sleep comfort will depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6 (which come with large ottomans), the footrests are very narrow, so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.

What are the best Business Class seats on United’s B787-9? Click here for a seat map.

  • All seats in the cabin are excellent for those traveling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 layout.
  • The bulkhead seats in row 1 & 6 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some slight noise disturbance from time to time.

What are the worst Business Class seats on United B787-9? Click here for a seat map.

  • The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a small screen though between adjoining seats which are also staggered by a couple of inches, creating some extra levels of privacy (albeit not enough in my opinion).
  • Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
  • As mentioned above, the footrests are very narrow (except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6), so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.

BUSINESS CLASS SEATS (6A & 6B)

BUSINESS CLASS SEATS (6A & 6B)

BUSINESS CLASS SEATS (6A & 6B)

BUSINESS CLASS SEATS (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A): FLATBED POSITION

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A): FLATBED POSITION

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (6A): FLATBED POSITION


4. AMENITIES

The United Polaris Business Class service provides superb sleeping amenities, aiming at the best sleep in the sky. The plush bedding amenities were all developed by Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s pre-eminent specialty retailers located in Manhattan. During this flight, Business Class passengers had the choice of two different blankets: a quilted duvet and a lighter throw blanket. If you tended to get hot while you sleep, you could also ask for a cooling gel memory foam pillow instead of, or in addition to, the thick Saks Fifth Avenue pillows that was put on each seat before boarding. Mattress cushions were also available upon request, to bring extra comfort to your onboard bed.

Each Business Class passenger also received a stylish United Polaris branded amenity kit created by Saks Fifth Avenue. The kit contained refreshing items from Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa, a newly redesigned signature padded eye mask, cozy yet fashionable socks, plus wellness items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues and earplugs.

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE BEDDING

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE BEDDING

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE BEDDING

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE BEDDING


5. MEALS

The Polaris Business Class experience includes enhanced menus – with chef-designed, multi-course inflight meals – that rotate every three months. The menu for this flight was created by Gerry McLoughlin, United’s chief executive chef, in collaboration with chefs from The Trotter Project, a nonprofit organization committed to mentoring and internship programs for youth interested in the culinary arts.

This flight also featured United’s new signature pre-meal beverage service, where you could choose a sweet and bubbly Mimosa, or create your own savory and spicy Tito’s Vodka Bloody Mary. Since I don’t like alcohol on a plane, I sticked to sparkling water and some hot nuts for apéritif.

I had the following items from the menu, which all tasted great:

  • Starter: smoked salmon, capers, onion, and hard-boiled egg, served with mixed greens, blueberry, papaya, strawberry, dressing and assorted breads.
  • Breakfast entrée: steak and eggs (e.g. grilled tenderloin, scrambled eggs, potatoes, asparagus, tomato).
  • Dessert: vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce (which was one of the items offered on a trolley rolled by the crew through the cabin).

During the flight a small walk-up bar was set up in the galley near the exit door, which offered some fresh fruits, salty and sweet snacks. One could also order a mid-flight hot bite (e.g. beef stew with rice, which tasted excellent).

Ninety minutes prior to arrival, a warm lunch was served. I choose the grilled chicken, served with tomato-basil sauce, vegetable couscous, green beans, and a side salad.

All in all, the meal service on this flight far exceeded all my other meal services that I had onboard other USA carriers so far.

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

HOT TOWEL

APERITIF

BREAKFAST: STARTER

BREAKFAST: STARTER

BREAKFAST: STARTER

BREAKFAST: STARTER

BREAKFAST: ENTREE

BREAKFAST: ENTREE

BREAKFAST: DESSERT

WALK-UP BAR

WALK-UP BAR

WALK-UP BAR

MID-FLIGHT HOT BITE

MID-FLIGHT HOT BITE

PRE-ARRIVAL LUNCH

PRE-ARRIVAL LUNCH

PRE-ARRIVAL LUNCH

CHOCOLATES


6. ENTERTAINMENT

Each seat has a personal 15,4 inch TV screen of very high quality (with bright and clear pictures), and there are tons and tons of movies and TV shows to choose from, including the latest blockbusters, award-winning documentaries and the most popular TV series. In addition, you can listen to over 400 different CDs and a wide range of music channels. The inflight entertainment can be commanded by directly touching the TV screen or by using a handheld remote control which is located in the armrest and also features its own touchscreen, allowing you to watch a different program (e.g. flight map) from the main screen. United also offers more free entertainment streamed to your own personal device than any other airline in the world.

)INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM (REMOTE CONTROL)

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT: FLIGHT PATH


7. INTERNET

United offers WiFi onboard its B787 aircraft. Rates on this flight ranged from $11,99 USD for one hour to $32,99 USD for the entire flight. The speed of the internet was decent for most part of the journey. It’s disappointing though that United doesn’t offer complimentary internet in its premium cabin like some of its competitors.

ONBOARD INTERNET


8. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# CREW: I realize that many – especially American – people are not fond of the service offered on USA carriers (which is also evident from the comments placed on my Youtube clips of USA carriers). However, I don’t share this opinion, and I have always been taken care of very well during every flight, whether with American, United or Delta. The superfriendly and competent cabin crew on this flight was exceptional. The purser introduced herself to all Business Class passengers during the flight and any requests were promptly dealt with. And no, I am not sponsored by United to write down these comments :).

# LAVATORY: There are 3 lavatories onboard the B787-9 for Business Class passengers: one is located behind the cockpit and the two other are located in the galley between the two Business Class cabins.

LAVATORY

LAVATORY

LAVATORY

# VIEWS: we enjoyed clear skies from takeoff to landing, which afforded some stupendous views of Paris (after takeoff), Greenland (mid-flight) and the Bay Area (landing).

LEAVING THE GATE

VIEWS OVER GREENLAND

VIEWS OVER GREENLAND

VIEWS OVER GREENLAND

VIEWS OVER LABRADOR SEA

VIEWS OF SAN FRANCISCO DURING LANDING

VIEWS OF SAN FRANCISCO DURING LANDING


9. MY VERDICT
  • Seat comfort (upright): 7/10
  • Seat comfort (bed position): 8/10 (on condition that you are seated in row 1 or 6 with the larger ottomans)
  • Seat privacy: 5/10
  • Food (quality):  8/10
  • Food (quantity): 8/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 9/10
  • WiFi: 5/10 (works great but too expensive)
  • Service: 9/10
  • Cabin design: 7/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 7.5/10

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Filed under: Trip reports: flight reviews Tagged: airlines, avgeek, aviation, B787, B787-9, Boeing, Business Class, Flight review, Flight review United Airlines, lounge, Luxury, Luxury travel, Paris, Polaris, San Francisco, Travel, Trip report, united airlines

Travel news: this month (September 2017) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series, or news.

Today (September 29, 2017): September 2017 luxury travel news.

Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:

  1. Four Seasons to open its first hotel in Greece
  2. Air France launches a new airline for millennials
  3. Rosewood to open a second hotel in London
  4. British Airways launches new Indian Ocean route
  5. The Ritz-Carlton unveils a tropical paradise in Malaysia
  6. The Ritz-Carlton brings its legendary luxury to Switzerland
  7. Cathay Pacific to launch non-stop services to Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen
  8. St. Regis Hotels debuts in Kazakhstan’s glittering capital
  9. Qantas and Emirates extend their partnership
  10. Hurricanes Irma And Maria destroy Caribbean luxury resorts: an update


1. Four Seasons to open its first hotel in Greece

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts announced plans to bring the first Four Seasons property to Greece on the Astir Palace peninsula. Following extensive upgrades of the Astir Palace hotel, the new hotel will debut as Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens in spring 2018. Conveniently located 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Athens along a pristine shoreline of the Aegean coast, the new hotel will bring Four Seasons’ signature service to Greece for the first time. The iconic Astir Palace has long been favoured by elite international and Greek clientele and stretches across 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine-dotted and scenic landscaped gardens. In preparation for the property’s rebirth as the new Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens, more than EUR 100 million is being invested into refurbishing its facilities. Features will include approximately 300 rooms, suites and luxury bungalows; spa and recreational facilities; state of art conference and event spaces; infinity pools; beaches; a unique beachfront promenade; and more. With interiors designed by Meyer Davis Studio, the concept draws heavily on inspiration from the beauty of the surrounding environment and local culture, embodying a contemporary yet timeless luxury design ethos with unique attention to detail, and establishes a connection to the property’s history. Select food and beverage outlets, conceived by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, will introduce new culinary dining concepts of local and international cuisines.

FOUR SEASONS ASTIR PALACE HOTEL ATHENS


2. Air France launches new airlines for millennials

Air France has revealed the name and branding for its new medium-haul airline: Joon. In its press release, Air France says that Joon has been “designed to meet the expectations of a new generation of travellers and is especially aimed at a young working clientele, the millennials (18 to 35 year-olds), whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology”. The  press release also  proclaims that “Joon is … a fashion brand, a rooftop bar, an entertainment channel, a personal assistant … and Joon does flying too!” Moreover, Joon “will be one of Air France’s priorities in its offensive to win back market share”. To do all this, the 140 Joon flight attendants and qualified pilots from Air France will provide Joon’s customers with a new generation travel experience to six destinations: Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Porto, Fortaleza (Brazil) and – my favorite – the Seychelles. Flights will depart from Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport and be operated by a combination of Airbus A320/A321 and Airbus A340/A350 aircraft. Air France says Joon will be a lifestyle brand but also a “state of mind”. Its visual identity will be based on an electric blue colour code symbolizing the airline’s dynamic attitude, as well as the sky, space and travel. With its chic sportswear look, the uniform of Joon’s 140 flight attendants will reflect the spirit of the company and be made up of classic and modern garments, with slimline trousers, sneakers, redesigned sailor stripes and a sleeveless quilted jacket. Air France is keen to emphasise that Joon will not be a low-cost airline “as it will offer original products and services that reflect those of Air France”, including the possibility of earning and using Flying Blue Miles.


3. Rosewood to open a second hotel in London

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts annouced that it will open a new, ultra-luxury hotel located on picturesque Grosvenor Square in London’s prestigious Mayfair district. Set to be housed in the iconic building which currently serves as the U.S. Embassy, the hotel will be the second Rosewood property in London (I review the first Rosewood hotel in London here) and will open as the sixth property in Europe. The announcement comes on the heels of Rosewood’s successful reopening of Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris. “We are thrilled to embark on this exciting new venture, which will bring new life to this iconic building. The prestigious Mayfair neighborhood embodies elegance, culture, and sophistication, making it the ideal location for Rosewood’s second property in London,” says Sonia Cheng, chief executive officer of Rosewood Hotel Group. The property will offer 137 spacious guestrooms and suites, as well as a variety of dining and entertainment spaces, including five gourmet restaurants. The property will also feature a signature spa, which will provide guests with a luxurious retreat from the bustling streets of London, as well as six flagship retail spaces and a grand ballroom with space for up to 1,000 guests. Esteemed British architect, Sir David Chipperfield, has been selected to oversee the design process, which will reimagine the mid-20th century listed building through elegant interior upgrades while still maintaining the integrity of the property through the preservation of the building’s original, Grade II listed façade.

ROSEWOOD’S SECOND LONDON PROPERTY HAS NO NAME YET


4. British Airways launches new Indian Ocean route

Sun seekers wanting to discover paradise next year will now have even more choice as British Airways launches direct flights to one of the world’s most desirable and stunningly beautiful holiday destinations. From March 24 2018 customers will be able to fly direct from Heathrow Terminal 5 to the Seychelles, making British Airways the only airline offering a non-stop service from the UK. Scattered across the Indian Ocean and famed as some of the most idyllic islands on the planet, flights will take to the skies twice-a-week from March to October and will be operated by the airline’s newest fleet of aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.  The Seychelles offers honeymooners, families and sun worshippers world-famous beaches, crystal clear waters, easy island hopping and colourful coral reefs. With flights taking off on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the route timetable is perfectly positioned for honeymooners and holidaymakers keen to immerse themselves in island-life for longer and book 10 night trips and extend their break. Sean Doyle, British Airways’ director of network and alliances, said: “The Seychelles is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we’re delighted to be adding this collection of islands to our extensive route network. Customers can now get into ‘holiday mode’ even earlier with British Airways’ direct flights from London taking 10 hours, instead of over 13 hours with a connection in the Middle East.  As one of the leading luxury holiday destinations, the Seychelles offers customers a wide range of accommodation and activities in stunning natural surroundings”. Return fares start from £699 in World Traveller,  £999 in World Traveller Plus, £2499 in Club World and from £3499 for First, and are available to book now on ba.com. You can read here (or watch below) my Business Class trip report onboard a British Airways B787 Dreamliner.


5. The Ritz-Carlton unveils a tropical paradise in Malaysia

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company announced the debut of The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi. Set in a tranquil private bay, the resort is surrounded by an ancient jungle, while its beachfront is shelter by trees and gently lapped by the Andaman Sea. Reflecting the beauty and vibrancy of the nearby traditional villages – which are known as Kampongs – The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi incorporates influences from local culture, creating a uniquely luxurious retreat with an authentic touch. Designed by Philippe Villeroux of Kuala Lumpur-based Tropical Area Architects, the resort has been carefully created to fully immerse travelers in the island’s natural ecosystem and local culture. Spacious interiors in the 70 guest rooms, 15 suites and 29 villas are framed by delicate references to Malay architecture, which can be seen in the intricately-designed features, large windows and gabled roofs. The rooms vertical lines fully integrate the living spaces into the surrounding jungle, while elegant overwater villas offer panoramic views of the sea, complete with magnificent Langkawi sunsets. Intended to allow guests to soak up the island’s rich culture and beauty from their first moment, the resort’s Walkway of Wishes entrance offers a warm welcome with a water fountain inspired by the island’s mystical granter of wishes, Tasik Dayang Bunting, ‘The Lake of Pregnant Maiden.’ Each guest will be invited to write their wishes on a flat stone, which is then placed into the water in hopes that it will come true, as the first of many special memories to be created during their stay. The resort is also home to a world-class spa and four distinct dining venues, each overlooking the glistening Andaman Sea offering striking views from sunrise to sunset. From the blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine in Langkawi Kitchen, to western favorites in the Beach Grill, and Chinese seafood in Hai Yan, there are options to delight the palates of all.

THE RITZ CARLTON LANGKAWI, MALASIA


6. The Ritz-Carlton brings its legendary luxury to Switzerland

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, together with the Manz family, announced the completion of the renovation of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix, Geneva, the legendary luxury hotel brand’s debut in Switzerland. Formerly known as Hotel de la Paix, Geneva, the 152-year-old hotel underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, extensive re-design and refurbishment, marking a new era in the evolving story of one of Geneva’s most elegant and historic hotels. Positioned on the shore of Lake Geneva, with exceptional views of the city’s famous Jet d’Eau and Mont Blanc as a timeless backdrop, Hotel de la Paix has defined luxury in Geneva since its inception in 1865. It has also stood at the crossroads of history, inspiring many memorable gatherings including the International Congress of Peace, and has welcomed high-profile guests from across the globe, such as the Monaco Royal Family and notable American actor Orson Welles. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix, Geneva has been thoughtfully renovated to seamlessly blend modern design, functionality and the hotel’s heritage. The newly restored public areas reflect a design concept created around art, time and nature, representing the hotel’s lakeside setting and the city of Geneva. In the hallways of the hotel’s atrium, guests will find an exhibition of tapestries that feature historical figures who played a role in attaining peace, from Giuseppe Garibaldi to Victor Hugo. Its 74 guestrooms, including 14 elegant suites, have been re-styled with a sleek and modern design. Floor-to-ceiling windows fill each room with natural light and are further enhanced by stunning views across Mont Blanc Square, Lake Geneva and the Jet d’Eau. The Grace Kelly Suite, named after the Princess of Monaco who was a regular guest at the hotel, is the hotel’s Presidential Suite, offering sophisticated art deco design and gold leaf gilding, creating an elegant sanctuary.

THE RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL DE LA PAIX, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND


7. Cathay Pacific to launch services to Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen

Cathay Pacific continues to grow Hong Kong’s connections to the world. From summer 2018, the airline will launch pioneering non-stop routes linking Hong Kong with Brussels (my home airport), Dublin and Copenhagen, further strengthening the airline’s network and providing new trade and tourism opportunities between Asia and Europe. Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Officer Rupert Hogg said that the announced services will meet customer demand for non-stop travel to these vibrant cities, while at the same time providing Europe-based passengers with more convenient access to key destinations in Asia and Southwest Pacific through the airline’s home in Hong Kong. “We’re excited to offer the only direct flights between Hong Kong and Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen. These are all fantastic destinations and attract business and leisure travellers from the world over. We listened to our customers’ demands for more options and greater flexibility and have responded by building direct air links with these great cities,” said Mr Hogg. “Growing our reach to new destinations that aren’t served from Hong Kong boosts the city’s status as Asia’s largest international hub and enables us to capture new and important sources of revenue.” Following the recent launch of services to Gatwick, Madrid and Barcelona, Cathay Pacific’s European expansion continues. With the commencement of the new routes, the airline’s network will cover 15 European destinations served direct from Hong Kong. The three new routes will be operated by Cathay Pacific’s state-of-the-art Airbus A350-900 aircraft, which feature the latest seats and cabin design and which have been especially well-received by the airline’s customers. All flights to Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen are equipped with the aircraft’s enhanced inflight entertainment system and Wi-Fi on board. You can read here (or watch below) my Business Class trip report onboard a Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf (a route that will be axed next year).


8. St. Regis Hotels debuts in Kazakhstan’s glittering capital

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of The St. Regis Astana, marking the debut of the brand in Kazakhstan. Created by award-winning WATG and Wimberly Interiors, the hotel’s design takes inspiration from the horsemanship and nomadic culture of Kazakhstan, providing guests with a link to the country’s ancient past. A vision of contemporary living, guests are greeted by a courtyard layout inspired by that of an indigenous yurt. The avant-garde interior combines modern and neo-classical elements with over 400 pieces of contemporary art created by both local and international artists.  Catching the eye of visitors, a captivating hallmark mural found in The St. Regis Bar depicts the golden Samruk, a Phoenix-like bird, which is an important part of Kazakh mythology. The hotel boasts 120 luxuriously appointed guestrooms, including 23 suites with private Juliette terraces presenting unforgettable views of the Astana Park and Ishim River. The St. Regis Astana features two distinct dining venues including The Grill, a contemporary fine dining experience with a personalized table-side presentation serving Astana’s best cuts of meats, fish and vegetables, grilled to perfection. La Rivière, the city’s renowned restaurant, has found a new home at The St. Regis Astana, offering a wide selection of the finest cuisine and wine in the city. The St. Regis brand’s signature Iridium Spa is located on the hotel’s 3rd floor and enables guests to indulge in a range of decadent and specialty treatments in a tranquil environment.

THE ST REGIS ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN


9. Qantas and Emirates extend their partnership

Qantas and Emirates have extended their cornerstone partnership for another five years, making changes to reflect customer demand, new aircraft technology and each airline’s respective network strengths. The key change will see the airlines better leveraging each other’s networks, by providing three options to Europe – via Dubai, Perth and Singapore. Qantas will re-route its daily Sydney-London A380 service via Singapore rather than Dubai and upgrade its existing daily Melbourne-Singapore flight from an A330 to an A380. The existing Melbourne-Dubai-London service will be replaced with its Dreamliner service flying Melbourne-Perth-London. Customer demand for flights between Australia and Dubai will remain well served by the 77 weekly services that Emirates operates from five cities – Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – including seven daily A380 flights. Qantas passengers will still be able to fly on Emirates to Dubai, where they have access to over 60 onward connections on Emirates to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the changes represent an evolution of the partnership to deliver additional benefits for customers, including the millions of frequent flyer members of both airlines. “Our partnership has evolved to a point where Qantas no longer needs to fly its own aircraft through Dubai, and that means we can redirect some of our A380 flying into Singapore and meet the strong demand we’re seeing in Asia. Improvements in aircraft technology mean the Qantas network will eventually feature a handful of direct routes between Australia and Europe, but this will never overtake the sheer number of destinations served by Emirates and that’s why Dubai will remain an important hub for our customers”. You can read here (or watch below) my First Class trip report onboard a Qantas Airbus A380 from Dubai to London, a route that will soon be history.


10. Hurricanes Irma And Maria destroy Caribbean luxury resorts

Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria have caused apocalyptic destruction on the Caribbean islands of  Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Puerto Rico. These extremely powerful hurricanes rank among the strongest ever observed in the Atlantic Ocean in terms of maximum sustained winds and struck the Caribbean region within a time span of only two weeks. During their journeys across the Northeastern Caribbean, both hurricanes have left a trail of catastrophic damage, with many people being killed and some communities being entirely wiped out (such as Vieques Island near Puerto Rico and Barbuda near Antigua). While it cannot compare to the loss of human life and household, many travelers are concerned about their future holiday plans and what damage the hurricanes have caused at their hotels. Several sources are providing daily information and updates regarding the damage of resorts and expected reopening dates, such as the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association and Forbes magazine. Here are some updates – as provided by Forbes magazine – for the Caribean most luxurious hotels:

  • Belmond Cap Juluca (Anguilla): as closed for the season and had no major structural damage. The resort was already in the process of a remodel and will not open until November 2018.
  • Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla: Experienced major damage to the resort and Barry Sternlicht, the CEO of Starwood Capital Group says “The property was ripped apart and it looks like a nuclear bomb went off. Over $20 million in damage”.
  • Necker Island (Virgin Islands): Richard Branson’s home and hotel property suffered severe structural damage.
  • The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (Puerto Rico): received exterior damage and flooding and is assessing new opening date.
  • Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Puerto Rico): received major damage and is not taking new reservations for an unspecified amount of time.
  • The Eden Rock Hotel (St Barth): received heavy structural damage and flooding and are in the process of cleanup and rebuilding. Will not open for visitors until the end of 2018.
  • Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France (St Barth): was closed for renovation and received extensive exterior damage. Not re-opening until 2018.
  • Amanera (Dominican Republic): hotel had already closed for maintenance until November ahead of the storm. Experienced minor damage and is structurally intact. Will open as planned.
  • Amanyara (Turks & Caicos): hotel had already closed for maintenance until November ahead of the storm. Experienced minor damage and is structurally intact. Will open as planned.
  • COMO Parrot Cay (Turks & Caicos): experienced minor damages, mostly exterior (landscaping). The resort was already closed, until November, for renovations so no guests were on the property during Irma. Property in the process of clean up.
  • Belmond La Samanna (St Martin): badly damaged. According to the resort “based on our assessment at this time, we do not anticipate opening until at least April 2018”.

Sir Richard Branson, who lost his house in hurricane Irma, has the following message for you:


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Filed under: Travel news Tagged: Air France, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Four Seasons, Luxury, Luxury travel, qantas, Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood, St Regis, Travel, Travel news

Review: Banyan Tree Lang Co Resort (Vietnam)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Last spring, I enjoyed a great holiday in Vietnam, where some resorts far exceeded my sky-high expectations (and rank among the best hotels I have ever stayed at). Today, I am publishing my last but one trip report about that vacation. You can read all my trip reports here:

  • Review: Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class Düsseldorf to Singapore
  • Review: Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City
  • Review: The Reverie Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Review: Anantara Mui Ne Resort & Spa
  • Review: Vietnam Airlines ATR-72 from Ho Chi Minh City to Con Dao
  • Review: Six Senses Con Dao
  • Review: Evason Ana Mandara, Nha Trang
  • Review: Six Senses Ninh Van Bay
  • Review: Amanoi, most exclusive hotel in Vietnam
  • Review: Avani Quy Nhon Resort & Spa
  • Review: Anantara Hoi An Resort
  • Review: Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An
  • Review: Banyan Tree Lang Co (today)
  • Review: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi ( to be published next week)
  • Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Hong Kong to Düsseldorf

Today (September 26, 2017): Review of Banyan Tree Lang Co (Vietnam).
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: Cù Dù, Lộc VÄ©nh, Phú Lộc, Thừa Thiên–Huế, Vietnam
  • Hotel website: Banyan Tree Lang Co

Located in Central Vietnam, Banyan Tree Lang Co is a ultraluxe, beach-front resort that comes with dramatic vistas spread across a rugged landscape. Here, you can feel the warm waves of the East Sea tickle your toes, and raise your gaze to behold the magnificent stretch of the Truong Son Mountain Range. Guest can choose from palatial laguna, beachfront, or hillside one to three bedroom villas, all coming with their own enormous swimming pool. Surrounded by eco-diverse mountains, spectacular national parks and awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Sites, guests can explore the cultural riches of Indochina, relax on the golden beach or indulge in a time-honoured Asian spa treatment.

Banyan Tree Lang Co features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Vietnam, and my favorite Banyan Tree hotels & resorts in the world.

In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Photos

Click to view slideshow.

*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Vietnam with my online Vietnam travel guide ***


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The ultraluxe Banyan Tree Lang Co resort enjoys a magnificent, remote setting on a 3 km (1,8 mi) long and very wide, red colored beach along the emerald blue East Sea, with the lush greenery of the Truong Son Mountain Range as a backdrop. Formally known as a tranquil hinterland, the rugged landscape surrounding the resort feels majestic and surreal, and is visually striking because of the sharp contrast in color palettes of the natural elements. The secluded location definitely ranks among the most beautiful hotel settings in Vietnam, and it’s not hard to see why this holiday spot was historically favoured by Vietnam’s former royal family (who lived in nearby Hue).
  • The resort is located a 75 minute drive north from Da Nang International Airport, either by a complimentary shuttle bus which runs on a fixed time schedule or by private car (which is currently charged at $75 USD one way). As you approach the resort, the unappealing urban agglomeration of Da Nang will give way to everything you imagine rural Vietnam to be, with rice paddies, grazing water buffaloes and trickling streams against the backdrop of a staggering mountain range. If you booked a private transfer during daylight, make sure you ask your driver to take the Hai Van (sea cloud) Pass between Lang Co and Da Nang, which climbs to an elevation of 500 m (1600 ft) affording stupendous coastal panoramas.
  • The Lang Co development echoes the ethos of Laguna Phuket, Banyan Tree’s flagship integrated resort community in southern Thailand (which I reviewed here). The unique crescent-shaped Lang Co bay – which offers privacy and exclusivity – includes not only the Banyan Tree hotel, but also an Angsana branded hotel, a 18-hole championship golf course designed by Sir Nick Faldo, private villas and residences available for sale, convention facilities, and a plethora of recreational activities. Some might find the construction of a massive resort in this pristine spot of untouched nature rather disturbing from an ecologist’s point of view, but fortunately, Banyan Tree Lang Co’s development is as sensitive to ecology and culture as it is to the needs of its guests.
  • Although they share the same beach, the Banyan Tree and Angsana hotel are two separate entities, each one with its own facilities (e.g. spa, pool, restaurants). Banyan Tree is the most exclusive property aimed at the discerning traveler, while Angsana provides a range of recreational activities and suited for families and friends. While Banyan Tree guests can freely roam and explore Angsana, the opposite does not apply providing extra exclusivity to the premium property. The only exception is the access to the hotels’ restaurants which are open to guests of both properties, doubling your dining options (more on that below).
  • The resort grounds are extensive, but getting around is effortless as complimentary bikes are provided for the duration of your stay in addition to a very efficient buggy service operated by the hotel staff. The Banyan Tree resort and its sister property, Angsana Lang Co, are also connected by an artificial waterway that meanders along the lagoon, with colourful hand-made lanterns and an authentic Vietnamese bridge along the way, a reference to the rich culture to be found in the nearby old town of Hoi An, a UNESCO world heritage site. A small boat ferries guests between the two resorts on a complimentary basis, and it’s quite fun to observe the resort from a different perspective.
  • The resort and its fabulous welcome pavilion make an overwhelming first impression upon arrival: after a drive of several km/mi on a purpose-built road that cuts through the base of the surrounding hills, you reach the resort’s lantern-lit gate that gives way to a majestic courtyard, where a magnificent banyan tree – the symbol of the ultraluxe Banyan Tree brand – takes center stage. From here, a covered bridge lined by pottery leads to another stylish courtyard built around a reflective water pond, where one finds the high-ceilinged reception area, the hotel bar, a boutique shop and several terraces looking out over the surroundings. A majestic staircase descends towards an enormous palace-style door that gives direct access to the resort’s rectangularly shaped pool, two restaurants, and the beach.
  • The stunning architecture and design pays homage to the artistic heritage of past Vietnamese dynasties and the cultural richness of the region. Open courtyards, clay tiled pitched roofs, and wood rafter ceilings in both the communal areas and villa accommodations are inspired by traditional garden houses of the nearby imperial city of Hue. Throughout the property, latticework wall panels, massive wood doors, stone walls and enormous chandeliers are modelled after design elements and patterns that decorate Hue’s citadel walls. The earth-toned interiors of the resort continue the authentic Vietnamese aesthetic themes with Lotus motifs, Asian calligraphy, silk embroideries, accents of regal purple adorn fabrics, bamboo furnishings, colorful murals, and artisanal ceramics.
  • The resort features 49 enormous pool villas, consisting of 32 one-bedroom lagoon pool villas that are set in lush private gardens and 17 one-bedroom beach pool villas that dot the shores of Canh Duong beach. During my holiday, I stayed in a one-bedroom beach pool villa, which was set in its own private and partly walled garden that offered some snippets of sea views through the foliage. The bedroom featured a king-sized bed draped in 1000-thread-count cotton sheets, a ‘hidden’ dark-wood desk behind the bed, and an enormous wall painting of lotus flowers. The bathroom was set in the back of the villa, with his and her sinks featuring Banyan Tree’s signature seaweed motif, a rain shower, and a standalone bathtub. Amenity kits with essentials for personal hygiene were provided. The villa’s highlight was the swimming pool in the garden with ample space for swimming, paddling or simply floating around; there was a jacuzzi in one end of the pool while the other end featured an elegant sala pavilion with daybed.
  • On the rocky outcrop that overlooks the northern end of the beach, the resort offers several hillside residences – some of them not finished yet – which present an array of ownership opportunities. Taking inspiration from Vietnamese traditions and culture, these stylish one-, two- or three-bedroom villas feature private plunge pools, beautiful furnishings, and spacious sundecks. Because they are nestled on a hill at an altitude of 25 to 86 m (82 to 282 ft) above sea level, these villas enjoy phenomenal views of the beach, the mountains, the East Sea, and the beautiful sunrise.
  • The wide range of dining options includes 4 restaurants within the Banyan Tree and a further 3 in the next door Angsana Resort, which can be charged back to your villa. Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant Saffron is not to be missed because of its crafted menu of traditional, mouth-watering Thai dishes cooked with a modern touch. Saffron takes the most of its hilltop position with its wraparound veranda that offers panoramic views of the bay. The resort’s second restaurant, Water Court, is located below the reception area and overlooks the pool area; it is a contemporary open-concept dining venue that serves Vietnamese and international cuisine. Then, there’s Azure, a beachfront, poolside restaurant that serves old-fashioned Italian recipes at lunch time. Finally, Thu Quan is the Banyan Tree’s authentic Vietnamese bar that not only offers an exciting atmosphere but also an exquisitely crafted all-day snack menu alongside an impressive tea selection.
  • The extravagant breakfast buffet is served at the poolside Water Court restaurant, where several cooking stations around the open kitchen display an abundant spread of belt-loosening world-class fare (cheeses, sushi, pastries, cold meats, chilled fizz). There are also a large selection of yoghurts, Bircher muesli, fresh fruits, coffees, and teas.
  • The Laguna Lang Co Golf Club, an 18-hole, par-71 championship course designed by Sir Nick Faldo, delivers a golfing experience that can be enjoyed by skilled and novice players alike. The club is vastly unique in the region and the distinction of the course lies in its variation. Starting in a rice-paddy environment, the course has been cleverly routed alongside woodlands at the base of a stunning mountain range, through sand and waste areas, to the oceanside and back to the clubhouse, with magnificent views of the whole exotic, bucolic landscape.
  • As you would expect from a Banyan Tree resort, there is an award-winning world-class spa on site, with private treatment pavilions located alongside a tranquil lagoon. With remedies containing fresh, aromatic ingredients picked from the tropics such as prune, pandanus and butterfly peas, your senses will be reawakened under the gentle guiding touches of Banyan Tree Spa therapists, who have all been trained at the Banyan Tree Spa Academies in Phuket (Thailand) and Bintan (Indonesia).
  • Although the paradisiacal resort grounds will make it very difficult to drag you out of the domain, there is plenty to do and explore in the surroundings should wanderlust hit. Within easy reach of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the imperial city of Hue, the charming old town of Hoi An and My Son’s historical ruins – culture aficionados will be satiated. The world’s largest known cave passage, Hang Son Dong, is also nearby. Those with a bent for the physical will also find joy in a wide range activities, such as exploring Lang Co by mountain bike, ATV or guided trek.
  • The hotel is managed by the Banyan Tree hotel group, one of the best global luxury hotel brands. The Banyan Tree hospitality company, which was established in 1994, has its roots in Singapore and provide naturally luxurious, ecologically sensitive, and culture-aware experiences for the discerning traveler. I have previously reviewed the equally superb Banyan Tree properties in the Seychelles (my favorite!), Koh Samui, Phuket, and the Riviera Maya.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Banyan Tree Lang Co is one of Asia’s most exclusive and grandest resorts, and the design, natural setting and beach will make a tremendous impression on even the most discerning traveler. Although it’s a great place to pamper and luxuriate all, it’s not perfect and here’s why:

  • The resort is tucked away in what seems like the middle of nowhere, but, in a way, that is what makes it so unique – secluded, private, quiet and serene with its own amazing beach, great dining options, and exclusive facilities. Although the isolated location is part of the appeal for most guests, it’s important to emphasize that the resort is removed from almost everything, so you won’t find any restaurants, shops or night life within a half hour drive of the hotel.
  • While the staff at the hotel is always friendly and will try all they can to make your stay as enjoyable as possible, service is not always very efficient and sometimes inconsistent. This is especially true at the pool area, where service was virtually non-existing during my stay although waiters were around. There are also some language barriers with some members of the staff. While I love the Banyan Tree brand, I have often found their service to be one of their few weak points or even Achilles’ heel if you want to call it that way: the service tries hard but just misses the mark and is definitely not in line with the exceptional service found at some of Banyan Tree’s direct competitors (such as Four Seasons and Six Senses).
  • While the breakfast at Water Court was exceptionally good and Saffron offered some of the best Thai food I ever had, I felt the other dining options lacked a little ambience and served good but not mindblowingly excellent cuisine (something you would expect for the price tag). What I missed the most was the absence of an authentic Vietnamese eatery on site where one could sample the host country’s mouthwatering dishes in an intimate setting. That said, the  Banyan Tree offers two dining options outside of the resort grounds that cater to guests in search of an autentic culinary experience: set on top of floating docks, Viet Long Restaurant keeps its seafood fresh in the waters below within nets, while Bé Thân Restaurant is located in Lang Co Town and serves an extensive range of fresh seafood specialties.
  • Construction of some of the hillside villas and residences – that are for sale – are not finished yet. The outside is complete but the inside is just a shell. While you won’t notice any of that while on the beach or when staying in a lagoon or beach villa, the unfinished villas may be a sight for soar eayes when staying in one of the hill pool villas nearby.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Pool: 8/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Breakfast: 9/10
  • Spa: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 8/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Banyan Tree Lang Co, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
  • Save money: Banyan Tree guarantees that every reservation booked through its website will have the lowest room price (including all taxes and fees) publicly available on the internet. If you find a lower rate within 24 hours of making a booking, Banyan Tree will be happy to match the rate and give you an additional 10% discount on your stay. All you need to do is submit a claim form.
  • Room tip: there’s not much difference in room layout, although the different room categories come with different views. For a room with a fabulous view, you need to book a hill pool villa which overlooks the ocean, beach and mountains. The lagoon rooms are located along a tranquil lagoon although not all of them offer complete privacy as you look across the lagoon into the villas of other guests. Beach pool villas are completely private and enjoy some vistas of the ocean in the distance through the dense foliage.
  • If you booked a private airport transfer during daylight, make sure you ask your driver to take the Hai Van (sea cloud) Pass between Lang Co and Da Nang, which climbs to an elevation of 500 m (1600 ft) affording stupendous coastal panoramas.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Typical for the tropical climate of Vietnam, Lang Co enjoys warm weather year round with a distinct rainy and dry season. The rainy season lasts quite long from September to January, and the constantly heavy showers may put a damper on your wonderful trip. In addition, there’s always a risk for typhoons and floods. On the other hand, the dry season lasts from February to August. The best time to visit the area is the first months of the dry season when the weather is mild and beautiful with moderate temperature, low humidity, and blue skies. If you enjoy sunbathing, I recommend to delay your trip to April or May. From June, temperatures start to soar, making it too hot for most tourists.


HOW TO GET THERE

Banyan Tree is located a 75 minute drive north from Da Nang, the largest city in central Vietnam and the most important gateway to access Central Vietnam. There are frequent direct flights to Da Nang Airport from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as well as international arrivals from Beijing (Northern China), Kunming (Yunnan, South-west China, Shanghai (central China) Singapore, Pakse (Laos), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia),  and Seoul (Korea). Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Da Nang. It’s also possible to get to Da Nang by train from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

A complimentary shuttle from/to the airport is available for all hotel guests. Alternatively, guests may opt for a private car transfer from $75 USD. WiFi is available onboard both transport options. Reservations must be made through the hotel 24 hours in advance.


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TRANSFER TO THE RESORT

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

ARRIVAL COURTYARD

CENTRAL PAVILION: BRIDGE TO LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: BRIDGE TO LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: BRIDGE TO LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: BRIDGE TO LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: BRIDGE TO LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: BRIDGE TO LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: BRIDGE TO LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: WATER POND

CENTRAL PAVILION: WATER POND

CENTRAL PAVILION: WATER POND

CENTRAL PAVILION: WATER POND

CENTRAL PAVILION: BOUTIQUE SHOP

CENTRAL PAVILION: BOUTIQUE SHOP

CENTRAL PAVILION: BOUTIQUE SHOP

CENTRAL PAVILION: LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: LOBBY

CENTRAL PAVILION: THU QUAN BAR

CENTRAL PAVILION: THU QUAN BAR

CENTRAL PAVILION: THU QUAN BAR

CENTRAL PAVILION: THU QUAN BAR

CENTRAL PAVILION: THU QUAN BAR

CENTRAL PAVILION: THU QUAN BAR

CENTRAL PAVILION: TERRACE

CENTRAL PAVILION: TERRACE

CENTRAL PAVILION: TERRACE

CENTRAL PAVILION: TERRACE

STAIRCASE TO SWIMMING POOL

STAIRCASE TO SWIMMING POOL

STAIRCASE TO SWIMMING POOL

STAIRCASE TO SWIMMING POOL

STAIRCASE TO SWIMMING POOL

STAIRCASE TO SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

MAIN SWIMMING POOL

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH

LANG CO BEACH (ANGSANA HOTEL)

LANG CO BEACH (ANGSANA HOTEL)

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

RESORT GROUNDS & WATERWAY

BEACH POOL VILLA: ENTRANCE

BEACH POOL VILLA: ENTRANCE

BEACH POOL VILLA: ENTRANCE

BEACH POOL VILLA: ENTRANCE

BEACH POOL VILLA: ENTRANCE

BEACH POOL VILLA: TERRACE

BEACH POOL VILLA: TERRACE

BEACH POOL VILLA: TERRACE

BEACH POOL VILLA: TERRACE

BEACH POOL VILLA: TERRACE

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BEDROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: BATHROOM

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: GARDEN & POOL

BEACH POOL VILLA: PATH TO BEACH

BEACH POOL VILLA: PATH TO BEACH

BEACH POOL VILLA: PATH TO BEACH

BEACH POOL VILLA: PATH TO BEACH

BEACH POOL VILLA: PATH TO BEACH

HILL POOL VILLAS

HILL POOL VILLAS

HILL POOL VILLAS

HILL POOL VILLAS

HILL POOL VILLAS

HILL POOL VILLAS

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA

BANYAN TREE SPA (GYM)

RESORT AT NIGHT

RESORT AT NIGHT

RESORT AT NIGHT

RESORT AT NIGHT

RESORT AT NIGHT: COCTAIL RECEPTION