Hotel review: Langham Place, New York, Fifth Avenue (USA)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (January 27, 2016): Review of The Langham Place, New York, Fifth Avenue (USA). 

Located in Midtown Manhattan, near Times Square and Grand Central Station and in the shadow of the epic Empire State Building, the ultra luxe Langham Place Fifth Avenue stands at the crossroads of art, fashion and design. Comprising 157 stylish guest rooms and 57 ultra-luxurious suites, the hotel is designed to inspire and destined to reflect the vibrancy, sophistication and culture of the world’s most inspiring city – The Big Apple.

Langham Place, New York, Fifth Avenue, features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in New York.

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

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

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The Langham Place enjoys a privileged location on Manhattan’s most prestigious avenue. Occupying 400, Fifth Avenue between West 36th and 37th Street, the luxurious hotel has the Empire State building as its neighbor (with some rooms offering a full length view of the world-famous skyscraper). From the hotel, it’s less than a 15 minute walk to other famous New York attractions, such as Times Square, the Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park and Grand Central.
  • The hotel is a towering grid of limestone, concrete and glass, soaring 57 stories into the sky and capped by a distinctive illuminated crown. The chic hotel occupies space up to the 27th floor, with the rest of the building being private residences.
  • Constructed in 2010 as The Setai Fifth Avenue, the Hong Kong based Langham hotel group took over management in 2013 and turned the swank property into The Langham Place. While the Langham name is not well-known to Westerners, it is a well-established Asia-Pacific luxury hotel brand with global expansions that now spans 4 continents. I have previously reviewed the superb Langham properties in London and Chicago.
  • The newly refurbished, elegant lobby is located on the ground floor, and features two enormous, colorful oil paintings by Alex Katz. The paintings – both named Trio – were chosen because of their representation of people in profile, which is a reflection of the image of people walking by on Fifth Avenue that anyone sitting in the newly refurbished lobby sees through the hotel’s floor-to-ceiling windows at street level. The lobby’s dramatic winding staircase complement the chic vibe.
  • The artwork of contemporary American artist Alex Katz is not only displayed at the lobby, but it also prominently showcased throughout the hotel, including guest floor corridors, rooms and suites. Dr. K.S. Lo, chairman of Langham hotel group, choose Alex Katz’s work to be featured exclusively at Langham Place because it best embodies the liveliness of and vibrant lifestyle of New York City.
  • When you step into the lobby, you are greeted by The Langham hotel group’s ginger signature scent, a refreshing, serene and subtle essence of pink roses and ginger flower. The delicate aroma, which is dispersed through the air-conditioning systems, is a very nice and unique touch, and it immediately reminded me of my previous stays at other Langham hotels (such as the Langham Chicago and the Langham London).
  • Embodying the epitome of urban sophistication, the residentially-styled guest rooms and suites are furnished with indulgent amenities and feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows. They are quite spacious by Manhattan standards, averaging about 750 square feet. Most accommodations feature deep auburn rosewood flooring and plush carpeting, creating a subdued ambiance. Langham Place prides itself in offering a large number of suites: out of its 214 rooms, 57 are one- to four-bedroom suites of different designs.
  • During my 2 night visit at the hotel, I stayed in an Empire State view suite which was located on the 18th floor and offered full-length views of the Empire State Building. The corner suite featured a spacious bedroom with a King-sized bed, a separate sitting area, a full kitchen, and closet with washers and dryers. The large, marble bathroom featured a deep soaking tub with separate rainfall shower, and an in-mirror television, great for catching a movie while relaxing in the deep tub. Being a corner suite with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, the skyline views in all directions was nothing short of phenomenal.
  • Rooms have well stocked and complimentary minibar beverages (excluding alcohol).
  • Complimentary WiFi is available to all guests throughout the hotel.
  • The hotel offers complimentary pressing of 5 items of clothing on day of arrival, which is a highly appreciated amenity when you are in the Big Apple for a business meeting.
  • All hotel guests can make free use of the house car, a chauffeured Jaguar XJL, on a first-come, first-served basis within a radius of 10 blocks.
  • The pièce de résistance is of the Langham Place, Fifth Avenue’s two dining venues is the Michelin-starred restaurant Ai Fiori by the Altamarea Group. Ai Fiori – which means “among the flowers” in Italian – features a menu that celebrates the French and Italian Riviera, courtesy of the world-renowned Altamarea Group and Chef Michael White.
  • Measure Lounge, the hotel’s other restaurant which also functions as a bar, has all day casual dining. Cuisine is a modern twist on British comfort food and cocktails are served alongside live jazz every evening.
  • Breakfast is served in Ai Fiori, and is of excellent quality. It features a small continental buffet, and you can order your eggs and other hot dishes from a menu. Complimentary breakfast is not standard at Langham Place, but is included in certain pre-booked packages.
  • Service is friendly, efficient and fast. Nothing I asked for was a problem.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The Langham Place, Fifth Avenue, is hands down one of the most luxurious and celebrated hotel properties in the Big Apple. I loved my stay and I recommend the place to everyone. Yet, I did encounter some minor issues during my stay and there are some things you need to know. 

  • My suite featured expansive floor to ceiling windows with spectacular views of the Empire State building, but unfortunately, the windows were very dirty during my stay.
  • My suite as well as the guest room corridors showed some signs of wear and tear. I noticed stains on the carpeting in multiples areas, and clearly visible defects in the wood covering of some walls. Nothing too bad though.
  • I was told by the butler during the room orientation that the minibar was complimentary, except for the alcoholic drinks. At check out, it turned out that only the minibar soft drinks are complimentary and I was charged for the juices that I consumed from the minibar.
  • While the hotel’s location is very convenient, it is the not the most lively part of the Big Apple at night.
  • Rooms are not entirely sound proof: even on the higher located floors, you can still hear the noise of passing cars in the streets below. But let this not put you off, as I still have the find the first hotel room in New York where you don’t hear street noise.
  • At the moment, the hotel’s spa is closed for renovation. But once it reopens as the Chuan Body + Soul Spa, it will be one of the Manhattan’s best spa facilities. Chuan Body and Soul is the only international spa concept based on the principles of Chinese Medicine.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,4/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like the Langham Place Fifth Avenue, New York.
  • Save money: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking the Langham Place Fifth Avenue via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in and late check-out).
  • Save money: Make use of Langham’s best rate guarantee to discount the cheapest room rate by an additional 25%.
  • Request a room on a higher floor if you don’t want to be disturbed by street noise.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW YORK

Anytime! Each season in Gotham offers visitors plenty of reasons to visit. Early fall offers crisp breezes, bright sun and comfortable temperatures (indian summer) , and may the best time for a visit.  Winter can be cold, but that also means better hotel rates. Spring is glorious and New Yorkers celebrate the thaw by taking to the streets, shopping at outdoor markets, frolicking in Central Park and dining outside. Summer can be unbearable hot, so try to avoid July and August.


HOW TO GET THERE

For those coming by plane, New York City is served by 3 airports:

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is the primary international airport serving the greater New York City area. Check the Wikipedia page of JFK Airport for an updated list of airlines that have direct flights to this airport. 
  • Newark International Airport (EWR), located in the state of New Jersey, is about 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Manhattan. Check the Wikipedia page of Newark Airport for tan updated list of airlines that have direct flights to this airport. 
  • LaGuardia Airport (LGA), located in the borough Queens, is the busiest airport in the United States without any non-stop service to Europe. Check the Wikipedia page of LaGuardia Airport for an updated list of on airlines that have direct flights to this airport. 

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HOTEL BAR

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Top 10: best luxury hotels for amazing award redemptions

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (January 25, 2016): Top 10 most amazing hotels where you can stay for FREE with points.

Almost all major hotel chains own a lucrative loyalty program where their guests earn hotel points that can be exchanged for complimentary stays (so-called award redemptions). Everybody should participate in these programs as they offer exclusive perks and can save you tons of money. I previously published an overview of the major luxury hotel loyalty programs and what they offer (with pros and cons):

  • Starwood Preferred Guest by Starwood hotels, which includes St Regis, W, and The Luxury Collection hotels.
  • Hyatt Gold Passport by the Hyatt group, which includes Park Hyatt and Andaz hotels.
  • Hilton HHonors by the Hilton group, which includes the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels.
  • Marriott Rewards by the Marriott group, which includes The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels.
  • IHG Rewards Club by the IHG group, which includes InterContinental hotels.
  • Sirius by the Jumeirah hotel group.

I hereby present you the 10 best ultra luxe hotels in the world where you can stay for free using your hotel points.

There is more info below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite hotel award redemption in the comments section, or take my poll below!

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10. W BARCELONA, SPAIN

Located in the stunning waterfront area of Spain’s most dynamic and stylish city, W Barcelona boasts unparalleled views of both the Mediterranean Sea and the City of Barcelona from most of its 473 fabulous guest rooms and suites. Rising like a sail from the Mediterranean’s brown sands, it is as much a work of modern art as it is a luxury brand hotel. Designed by world-renowned architect Ricardo Bofill, W Barcelona sets the scene for a spectacular stay just steps from the famous Barceloneta boardwalk.

W BARCELONA, SPAIN

W BARCELONA, SPAIN


9. ANDAZ MAUI, HAWAII, USA

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort radiates luxury at every turn, inviting you to revel in a unique Hawaiian cultural experience. Perched along crescent-shaped shores, the 15-acre beachfront resort immerses its guests in the warm, welcoming spirit of Maui, with Andaz Suites that offer refreshing rain showers and a host of complimentary luxuries. It is a revamp of the previous hotel, the Renaissance, but with all the current incarnation’s urban sharpness and distinctive services, you would never know.

ANDAZ MAUI, HAWAII, USA

ANDAZ MAUI, HAWAII, USA


8. JW MARRIOTT VENICE RESORT & SPA, ITALY

Opened in March 2015, the JW Marriott brand’s first hotel in Italy is located on a private island, Sola Delle Rose, in the Venetian lagoon, just a 20-minute ride across the Lagoon to central St. Mark’s Square by complimentary shuttle service. The resort features 266 contemporary-styled rooms and suites designed by the architect Matteo Thun, in addition to 4 restaurants, the largest spa in Venice, a romantic Church for private events, and a rooftop lounge area with pool offering a dramatic 360° view over Venice.

JW MARRIOTT VENICE RESORT & SPA, ITALY

JW MARRIOTT VENICE RESORT & SPA, ITALY


7. PARK HYATT VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Overlooking Am Hof square (the largest and oldest square in the inner city of Vienna), the Park Hyatt Vienna enjoys a terrific location within the First District of the city, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ultraluxurious property occupies a 100-year-old listed building that formerly served as the headquarters of a bank. The hotel’s 143 spacious guestrooms, including 35 suites, rank amongst the largest in the city, brilliantly combining contemporary style with local Viennese accents.

PARK HYATT VIENNA, AUSTRIA

PARK HYATT VIENNA, AUSTRIA


6. INTERCONTINENTAL BORA BORA RESORT, FRENCH POLYNESIA

Opened in May 2006 as one of the 4 French Polynesian hotels managed by the Intercontinental Hotel Group, this secluded resort is located on a virgin beach on Motu Piti Aau, a coral island on the barrier reef along the eastern side of Bora Bora. The view of the main Island from the resort is unique, especially towards Mount Otemanu, rising majestically across the blue crystal waters of the lagoon. All of the resort’s overwater villas have a spacious shaded terrace and a large private pontoon for sunbathing.

INTERCONTINENTAL BORA BORA RESORT, FRENCH POLYNESIA

INTERCONTINENTAL BORA BORA RESORT, FRENCH POLYNESIA


5. BURJ AL ARAB, DUBAI, UAE

The distinctive sail-shaped silhouette of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, a glittering architectural marvel in the middle of the Arabian Gulf,  is more than just a stunning hotel, it is a symbol of modern Dubai. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah offers oversized suite-only accommodation, with each suite composed of two floors that are connected by a marble staircase. Here, you can soothe your soul in a spa-like bathroom with Jacuzzi, mosaic floor, and full-size Hermes products.

BURJ AL ARAB, DUBAI, UAE

BURJ AL ARAB, DUBAI, UAE


4. AL MAHA DESERT RESORT, DUBAI, UAE

Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, is nestled in a verdant palm oasis, deep within Dubai’s magical dune and desert landscape. The suites, reminiscent of Bedouin tents, are faced far apart, blend gently into the desert, and offer unsurpassed luxury. Beautifully furnished with a unique collection of authentic Arabian artifacts and antiquities, all suites boast private pools and offer spectacular views of the Dubai Desert Reserve and its wildlife (gazelles & Arabian oryx).

AL MAHA DESERT RESORT, DUBAI, UAE

AL MAHA DESERT RESORT, DUBAI, UAE


3. THE RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG

The world’s highest hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is the city’s finest 5 star hotel, situated in the upscale West Kowloon enclave. Located throughout floors 102-118 of the International Commerce Centre, the seventh tallest building in the world and the highest in Hong Kong, all 312 guest rooms and suites boasts unrivaled views of Victoria Harbour and the glimmering skyline of Hong Kong Island. Inside, soaring architectural elements encrusted with custom glass artwork echo the signature glamour of the city below.

THE RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG

THE RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG


2. ST REGIS MAURITIUS

The St Regis Mauritius is a tremendously impressive resort, located in the southwestern side of the Indian Ocean island. Nestled at the foot of the majestic World Heritage site of Le Morne mountain, the resort sits at the edge of a deep blue lagoon with open ocean views. The beach (the finest on the island), its turquoise lagoon (with gorgeous sunset views) and the backdrop of Le Morne mountain create a magical setting, where 172 lavishly appointed accommodations and pampering converge amid the many charms of Mauritius.

ST REGIS MAURITIUS

ST REGIS MAURITIUS


1. PARK HYATT MALDIVES HADAHAA

Situated on a private island just north of the Equator in one of the largest and deepest atolls in the world, North Huvadhoo, Park Hyatt is a strikingly modern design resort. Featuring only 50 villas, on land and over water, these impressive spaces are designed with the utmost comfort and luxury in mind, whether nestled within the island’s tropical foliage, only steps from the ocean, or elevated above the water. All villas feature a minimalist style, floor-to-ceiling windows and every comfort you would expect.


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Helipads, a Spa and an Outdoor Cinema Round Out Feadship’s New Vanish Yacht

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

Photos Credit: Feadship

Feadship unveiled their very first luxury yacht of 2016 last weekend at a ceremony in Isle of Kaag, Holland. Named Vanish, the 217-foot vessel is totally custom-made and features a “free-standing staircase flanked by a glass wall over three decks, an ingenious extendable balcony for the owner’s stateroom and a highly innovative transom design.” 

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

The yacht’s owners were very active in the project, offering tons of preferences that were then carried out by Feadship and Eidsgaard Design. A few standout details include a varnished teak platform that slides out from underneath the starboard companionway, watersports options, a full-height atrium, and helipads on both the sun deck aft and bow area.  

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

The transom’s design is especially clever. The clients didn’t want to feel intimidated by the yacht’s hull while approaching by tender, so Feadship managed to make the backside look friendlier than other vessels of similar size.  

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

Able to accommodate a crew of 17, Vanish also has owner’s quarters with a full deck and lounge area, four guest suits, a VIP stateroom that can be converted into two additional suites, a lower deck beach club, outdoor cinema, six-person Jacuzzi, and a spa with a sauna, massage and hairdressing rooms. 

Helipads, a Spa and an Outdoor Cinema Round Out Feadship’s New Vanish Yacht

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

Photos Credit: Feadship

Feadship unveiled their very first luxury yacht of 2016 last weekend at a ceremony in Isle of Kaag, Holland. Named Vanish, the 217-foot vessel is totally custom-made and features a “free-standing staircase flanked by a glass wall over three decks, an ingenious extendable balcony for the owner’s stateroom and a highly innovative transom design.” 

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

The yacht’s owners were very active in the project, offering tons of preferences that were then carried out by Feadship and Eidsgaard Design. A few standout details include a varnished teak platform that slides out from underneath the starboard companionway, watersports options, a full-height atrium, and helipads on both the sun deck aft and bow area.  

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

The transom’s design is especially clever. The clients didn’t want to feel intimidated by the yacht’s hull while approaching by tender, so Feadship managed to make the backside look friendlier than other vessels of similar size.  

Feadship, yachts, vanish yacht

Able to accommodate a crew of 17, Vanish also has owner’s quarters with a full deck and lounge area, four guest suits, a VIP stateroom that can be converted into two additional suites, a lower deck beach club, outdoor cinema, six-person Jacuzzi, and a spa with a sauna, massage and hairdressing rooms. 

Blog giveaway: win 2 upgrades to Business or First Class

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

Today (January 22, 2016): win 2 upgrades and fly Business or First Class for free.

Today, I am giving away 2 of my systemwide upgrades (from Economy to Business Class, or Business to First Class) with American Airlines to 2 lucky readers of my blog!

There are 2 ways to enter this sweepstake: 

  • One systemwide upgrade can be won by signing up for my newsletter and leaving a comment on this post. This is how to enter:
    • STEP 1: Sign up for my luxury travel newsletter (3x/week) by entering your email address in the box located on the right side (desktop) or bottom (tablet, smartphone) of this page. If you are subscribed already, then no need to do this again.
    • STEP 2: Share your favorite destination in the comments (below this post).
  • One systemwide systemwide upgrade can be won by following me on Facebook. This is how to enter:
    • STEP 1: Follow me on Facebook
    • STEP 2: Share your favorite airline in a comment on one of my Facebook posts using the hashtag #LTEsweepstake.

THE PRIZE

An American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade entitles you to an upgrade of one class (Economy to Business, or Business to First) on all flights of a one way itinerary that is operated by American Airlines or American Eagle (if upgrade space is available). So, your next trip may take place in the following luxurious cabin:

  • Read here my trip report in Business Class in an American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (Los Angeles to London). American Airlines is currently also updating the Business Class product on their older Boeing 777-200 and 767 planes.
  • Read here my trip report in First Class in an American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (London to New York).

American Airlines has the best loyalty program in the world, entitled AAdvantage. Being an American Airlines Executive Platinum member entitles me to a couple of systemwide upgrades per year, and since I still have 2 upgades in my account that will expire by the end of February 2016 (and that I am not going to use myself), I am giving them away.

This giveaway has tremendous value on condition that you have a trip booked (or will book a trip) that meets the following conditions:

  • Paid ticket (not award).
  • Flights must have American Airlines flight numbers.
  • Flights must be operated by American Airlines or American Eagle (not partners).
  • Upgrade space must be available on the flights.
  • The entire one way itinerary must be flown before 28th February 2016.

Enter the competition before February 7th 2016 11.59 pm CET. Two lucky winner will be randomly selected and receive one upgrade each.

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


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Review of the ultraluxe Banyan Tree Phuket resort (Thailand)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (January 20, 2016): Review of Banyan Tree Phuket (Thailand). 
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: 33/27 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Road, Amphur Talang, 83110, Thailand
  • Hotel website: Banyan Tree Phuket
  • Tip: enjoy exclusive VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso

Encircling the sparkling waters of a saltwater lagoon, the Banyan Tree Phuket resort (which also comprises Banyan Tree’s Spa Sanctuary and Double Pool Villas) is a tropical fairytale in Phuket, the Andaman’s most celebrated island. The all-pool villa hotel is a glorious spread of elegant Thai architecture complemented with every modern amenity imaginable. Infused with spa elements, healthy cuisine, award-winning spa and wellness activities, the ultra luxe hotel offers rejuvenation and wellness with experiences to indulge and soothe all senses.

Banyan Tree Phuket features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Thailand and Phuket’s best ultra luxury resorts.

In this review (more info and photos below my slideshow):

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

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The hotel is cradled between a tropical lagoon and the sparkling waters of the Andaman Sea within Laguna Phuket’s exclusive community, a 400-hectare former abandoned tin mining site turned into Asia’s first integrated destination resort. Laguna Phuket is home to 7 luxury hotels, a village shopping centre, and more than 30 restaurants and bars. Complimentary inter-resort transportation by shuttle vehicle or lagoon boat is available round the clock, so that Banyan Tree guests can enjoy the many facilities on offer within the Laguna complex.
  • The hotel is managed by the Banyan Tree hotel group, one of the best global luxury hotel brands. In fact, the Banyan Tree Phuket resort is where it all began for the high-end Banyan Tree brand in the mid-1990s, which has grown since then into a well-established Asia-Pacific brand with global expansions. The Banyan Tree Phuket resort is still the hotel group’s flagship resort. I have previously reviewed the equally superb Banyan Tree properties in the Seychelles (my favorite!), Koh Samui, and the Riviera Maya.
  • The resort is in fact a collection of 3 boutique hotels, all operated under the same Banyan Tree brand: the original Banyan Tree Phuket hotel, the Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary, and Double Pool Villas by Banyan Tree Phuket. The 3 hotels are part of the same vast property, with guests from all three hotels using the same spa, restaurants, and other facilities. The main difference between the 3 hotels is the type of accommodation (and thus price tag), which ranges from luxe (Banyan Tree Phuket), to ultra luxe (Spa Sanctuary), to the epitome of in-villa living (Double Pool Villas).
  • The hotel is very close (a 5 minute stroll or one minute complimentary buggy ride) to Bangtao Beach, a 3 km (1,8 mi) long white sand beach with calm, turquoise waters. The hotel has its own private beach club on Bangtao, and services include individual cushions, beach bag with towels, water, peppermint spray, and cold towel service by Banyan Tree’s dedicated recreation team. The beach club is set up under the trees next to a local beach restaurant, which can serve you a reasonably priced cocktail or noodle dish while you recline in your beach lounger.
  • The open air lobby makes a welcoming impression. It is composed of four connecting structures surrounding a large water pond with fountain, creating the ambience of a floating island. On one side are the front desks, on the other the tour desk, property sales and business suite. Towards the back of the lobby is Saffron restaurant and hotel bar, both overlooking the lagoon.
  • The check-in process is a very smooth affair. Upon arrival, I was given a bracelet made out of Jasmine flowers, and then escorted to a couch within the reception area, to relax with a welcome drink while the staff completed the check in process. I was then given a buggy ride to the villa where my luggage was already waiting for me.
  • During my visit, I was upgraded to a Spa Sanctuary villa, which is one of the best and largest accommodations that I have ever stayed at during my extensive travels around the globe. Whereas in most resorts you’d likely go stir-crazy staying in your room all day, here you’re more likely to feel increasingly content and privileged the longer you remain there. The enormous villa had its own beautifully kept tropical garden, a full-length glass windowed bedroom pavilion floating within a private wading pool, a private spa pavilion overlooking the pool, a personal steam room, his-and-hers dressing areas, and outdoor jetpool with outdoor shower. Of course, the villa also came with its own private pool, which was larger than the communal pool of many hotels; a crystal jetpool was neatly set within the pool.
  • Evening turndown service includes turning on the dramatic pool lights, lighting fragrant oil in the room, and leaving a special Banyan Tree gift on your pillow. One night, the staff put on plenty of tealights around the bed and offered a bottle of sparkling wine.
  • All of Banyan Tree Phuket’s villas are equipped with top-of-the-line amenities such as flat-screen television in the living-room and each bedroom, fully equipped kitchenette (including espresso/cappuccino machine, microwave oven, and more), DVD player, wireless internet connection, and top-grade toiletries. Near the bed are samples of the available bed linens (rayon, linen, cotton, and satin) and pillows (feather, synthetic, foam, and kapok, a material harvested from tropical tree seed pods).
  • The resort grounds are spread out, but getting around is very easy. Golf buggies take you wherever you need to go within the complex, or alternatively, you can hire (free) bikes for the duration of your stay to explore the area.
  • The Banyan Tree has a lovely pool area. A 40-metre (130 ft) long lap pool provides cool refreshment near the spa, and is surrounded by the Japanese restaurant as well as a lounging area that is more appealing to adults in need of tranquility and a serene athmosphere. A separate freeform pool is very popular with families and comes with jet cannons, a pool-set bar, water rapids and Jacuzzi jet-pool. A team of very friendly pool attendants is on hand to provide dedicated pool pampering services. Board games and magazines are also available.
  • An extensive list of complimentary classes ranging from body toning exercises to cardiovascular workouts is available to all Banyan Tree guests. With state-of-the-art gym equipment offering every fitness amenity to suit any gym need, the fitness pavilion provides a healthy sanctuary with an air of serenity.
  • With a spectacular display of scenic lagoons, coconut groves and waving fairways, the spectacular Laguna Phuket golf course is set against the glorious backdrop of sea and mountains. Designed by Max Wexler and David ABell, the 18-hole, par-71 course offers a myriad of multi-faceted challenges suited for players of all levels.
  • Banyan Tree is world-famous for its excellent spa facilities and it is no different at their Phuket flagship resort. Banyan Tree Phuket Spa is a multi-award winning establishment and for good reason: the treatments and massages skillfully dispensed at this world-class spa are based on ancient Thai and Indian techniques and products (Ayurvedic oils) in sumptuous indoor and outdoor settings.
  • If you stay in a Spa Sanctuary Villa (like I did), then you can indulge in unlimited spa treatments.
  • With five dining options – Thai cuisine at Saffron Restaurant, Japanese cuisine at Tamarind Restaurant, international fare at Banyan Café, Watercourt Restaurant, and in-villa dining – the food and beverage department of Banyan Tree Phuket has the assets to please the palate of the choosiest diners. The quality of the cuisine is generally excellent throughout. My favorite gastronomic experience at the resort was Saffron’s 6 course, Thai tasting menu.
  • Breakfast is served at the Watercourt restaurant and is not just a meal, it’s an event. There are about 10 buffet stations in addition to a menu to choose your eggs or other hot dishes. There’s a Thai station, chef’s station, noodle soup bar, sushi, sliced meats, fruit, 10 different break types, pastries, cereals, waffles and pancakes. There are small amounts on display that are replenished every few minutes, so food is always fresh and temperature appropriate. And excellent Champagne is offered as well (for free of course).
  • The beach has a number of local eateries which offer excellent seafood at great prices. So, in the unlikely case that you would get tired of Banyan Tree’s luxury and want to experience something more down to earth and everyday Thai, just walk across the road and you will find plenty of options.
  • If you stay at the hotel in the weekend, be sure not to miss the Watercourt restaurant’s worldclass Sunday brunch, which offers superb seafood (raw or grilled to your liking), quality cold cuts and cheese, excellent international cuisine (e.g. Italian, Japanese), and everything else one could ever think of wanting. The background jazz creates a pleasant atmosphere.
  • The service at the hotel is excellent and even beyond the normal service you would expect from a five star resort. The staff is very professional and speaks fluently English.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The six star Banyan Tree Phuket resort is a beautifully designed, quiet slice of paradise in this tropical corner of the world. I highly recommend it, but you need to know some issues about the hotel:

  • As mentioned above, the Banyan Tree Phuket is a collection of 3 hotels that share the same resort grounds and facilities. In the mid-2000s the original Banyan Tree Hotel added two premium-priced sections: the Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary and the Double Pool Villas by Banyan Tree Phuket. Banyan Tree manages them as 3 distinct identities by packaging them separately. This distinction between the 3 resorts is not always made very clear on the website, but it will have a major impact on your hotel experience. While the original Banyan Tree villas are still very luxurious, they pale in comparison to the ultra-luxurious Spa Sanctuary and Double Pool villas. So make sure that you book the right type of villa when considering a stay at Banyan Tree Phuket.
  • While the original Banyan Tree hotel and Double Pool Villas by Banyan are located within the same property, the Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary villas are located in a site across the street from the main lobby. However, the street is not busy at all, and the Spa Sanctuary villas are located closer to the sea as compared to the other villas.
  • Banyan Tree’s many villas are spread out over the enormous property and most guests lounge all day within the boundaries of their own villa villas, so the resort feels small, exclusive and not crowded at all, except in the morning, when guests from all 3 resorts gather at the Watercourt restaurant. As a consequence, the breakfast buffet was a little too busy to be comfortable. You can opt to have breakfast in the villa as well.
  • The beach is very close to the resort, and buggy service as well as free bicycles are made available to all guests to make the access to the beach easy. Nevertheless, the Banyan Tree Phuket is not a beach front resort nor does it feel like one. Instead of promoting a beach vibe, the resort focuses more on discrete wellbeing, peaceful surroundings and the ultra luxe lifestyle, with an award-winning spa, healthy cuisine, many wellness activities, and a superb gulf course.
  • Banyan Trees has a private beach club on the beach, with umbrellas and chairs set back under pine trees. However, you can move the chair cushion down to the water, but not the chair because of the Thai law.
  • Phuket is a tropical island with lots of trees and gardens, so it does have mosquitoes. Despite the hotel’s many pro-active measures (e.g. fogging, still water treatment, repellents, mosquito nets on request, screen doors), these mosquitos can be troublesome, especially in the rainy season. However, this is the same situation in every resort on Phuket island.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 7/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8.4/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Banyan Tree Phuket (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: I recommend to book a stay at Banyan Tree Phuket via a Virtuoso travel agent, which has the benefit of complimentary VIP perks (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast breakfast, complimentary lunch or dinner for two people per room, early check in and late check out).
  • If ultra-luxury is what you are after, then book a Spa Sanctuary villa or Double Pool villa (an not a regular Banyan Tree villa).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT PHUKET

The weather in Phuket is dominated by a tropical monsoon climate which means there are three main seasons: a cool, dry season between November and February (which is the best period to visit Phuket); a hot, dry season from March to June, and a rainy season from July to October. Expect daytime temperatures to be in excess of 30 degrees centigrade throughout the year (with the possible exception of late December and early January). The two periods April to May and September to October are characterised by very high humidity. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing unsettled, cloudy conditions, as well as lower room rates.


HOW TO GET THERE

The distance from Phuket International Airport to Banyan Tree Phuket is 20 kilometres (12 miles). Travelling by taxi, the cost of the journey from airport to resort is about 1700 THB and takes around 30 minutes. You can also reserve the hotel limousine in advance. Check the Wikipedia page of Phuket Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Phuket.

From Europe, the best connection is with Finnair (via Helsinki), which offers direct flights to Phuket in winter.


HOTEL LIMOUSINE TRANSFER FROM THE AIRPORT

HOTEL LIMOUSINE TRANSFER FROM THE AIRPORT

HOTEL LIMOUSINE TRANSFER FROM THE AIRPORT

HOTEL LIMOUSINE TRANSFER FROM THE AIRPORT

ENTRANCE DRIVEWAY

ENTRANCE DRIVEWAY

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

COURTYARD WITH BANYAN TREES

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

WELCOME DRINK & SNACK

WELCOME DRINK & SNACK

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

BOUTIQUE SHOP

BOUTIQUE SHOP

BOUTIQUE SHOP

BOUTIQUE SHOP

BOUTIQUE SHOP

BOUTIQUE SHOP

BOUTIQUE SHOP

BOUTIQUE SHOP

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

TAMARIND RESTAURANT (JAPANESE CUISINE) SURROUNDS THE LAP POOL

TAMARIND RESTAURANT (JAPANESE CUISINE) SURROUNDS THE LAP POOL

TAMARIND RESTAURANT (JAPANESE CUISINE) SURROUNDS THE LAP POOL

TAMARIND RESTAURANT (JAPANESE CUISINE) SURROUNDS THE LAP POOL

TAMARIND RESTAURANT (JAPANESE CUISINE) SURROUNDS THE LAP POOL

TAMARIND RESTAURANT (JAPANESE CUISINE) SURROUNDS THE LAP POOL

LUSH GARDENS SURROUND THE LAP POOL

LUSH GARDENS SURROUND THE LAP POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL: LOUNGE AREA

FREEFORM POOL: LOUNGE AREA

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

FREEFORM POOL

SPA SANCTUARY: ENTRANCE

SPA SANCTUARY: ENTRANCE

SPA SANCTUARY: LOBBY

SPA SANCTUARY: LOBBY

SPA SANCTUARY: LOBBY

SPA SANCTUARY: LOBBY

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: ENTRANCE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: ENTRANCE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: PRIVATE GARDEN & POOL

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: LIVING ROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: WELCOME GIFT

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: WELCOME GIFT

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: WELCOME GIFT

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: WELCOME GIFT

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BEDROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: BATHROOM

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: AFTERNOON TEA

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BANGTAO BEACH AT SUNSET

BEACH CLUB (AFTER PASSING OF A TROPICAL RAINSHOWER)

BEACH CLUB (AFTER PASSING OF A TROPICAL RAINSHOWER)

BEACH CLUB (AFTER PASSING OF A TROPICAL RAINSHOWER)

BEACH CLUB (AFTER PASSING OF A TROPICAL RAINSHOWER)

GYM

GYM

GYM

GYM

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

SAFFRON RESTAURANT: THAI FINE DINING

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERFRONT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERFRONT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURTRESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURTRESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE: BREAKFAST

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST BUFFET

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST BUFFET

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST BUFFET

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST BUFFET

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST BUFFET

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

SUNDAY BRUNCH

GOLF COURSE

GOLF COURSE

GOLF COURSE

GOLF COURSE

RESORT GROUNDS AT DUSK

RESORT GROUNDS AT DUSK

RESORT GROUNDS AT DUSK

RESORT GROUNDS AT DUSK

RESORT GROUNDS AT DUSK

RESORT GROUNDS AT DUSK

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE AT NIGHT

WATERCOURT RESTAURANT TERRACE AT NIGHT

LOBBY AT NIGHT

LOBBY AT NIGHT

LOBBY AT NIGHT

LOBBY AT NIGHT

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE

SPA SANCTUARY VILLA: TURNDOWN SERVICE


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Top 10: best luxury hotels in Turkey

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (January 18, 2016): Top 10 Turkey’s best ultra luxury hotels.

Turkey is strategically situated at the cross-roads of two continents, Europe and Asia. The country is bestowed with immense natural beauty, spectacular sights, breathtaking architecture, and stunning cultural sites.  From the posh lifestyle at the seaside resort of Bodrum, to the magnificent mosques and exquisite museums in Istanbul, to the wide steppe landscapes of Cappadocia, there is something for everyone’s taste. Here’s my selection of the 10 most luxurious hotels in this fascinating nation.

There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite Turkish hotel in the comments section, or take my poll below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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10. CARESSE, A LUXURY COLLECTION RESORT & SPA, BODRUM

Caresse, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, opened its doors in July 2015 and enjoys a beachfront location in the heart of Bodrum, close to the historic Bodrum Windmills and Bodrum Castle. Beautifully appointed, the hotel’s 67 rooms, 9 suites, and the Caresse King Villa, offer excellent amenities, modern technology, signature Luxury Collection beds, private balcony or terrace and captivating views of the Aegean Sea. Luxury extends to a stylish blend of chic furnishings and tasteful bathrooms that epitomize the concept of lavish comfort. Don’t forget to visit the superb spa, a sanctuary of tranquillity nestled within the resort.


9. KEMPINSKI HOTEL BARBAROS BAY BODRUM

Nestled on the cliffs overlooking pristine Barbaros Bay, Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum is located on a private bay with a ‘blue-flagged’ private beach facing the magnificent Aegean Sea, offering its guests a unique and luxurious vacation. The hotel beckons travelers with its gorgeous white architecture, natural wood accents, and turquoise blue pools. The 149 rooms and 24 suites all have floor-to-ceiling windows with walk-out balconies or terraces that overlook the turquoise blue waters of the Gokova Gulf. The resort boasts a rich variety of restaurants, bars and also has a wonderful spa.

  • Hotel website: Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay
  • Other accolades: Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay also features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Bodrum.
  • Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (upgrade, daily breakfast, 80 euro food & beverage credit, early check-in and late check-out).
  • Review: read here my review of the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay.

8. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ISTANBUL AT THE BOSPHORUS

Located along the Bosphorus in one of Istanbul’s most naturally beautiful neighbourhoods, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosporus is a former 19th-century palace transformed into a hotel sanctuary of luxury and comfort. The 145 guest rooms and 25 suites are an airy fusion of traditional Ottoman architecture and contemporary furnishings. The pillared underground swimming hall (with classical music playing underwater) and hammam are not to be missed! Watching the sunset from the expansive white tile terrace or from the outdoor pool with a glass of wine is unforgettable.


7. D-HOTEL MARIS

High up on the hillside of the magnificent Datça Peninsula, where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet, you will find an exclusive resort that exceeds all expectations. With spectacular and breathtaking views, small islands, luscious pine forests, volcanic mountain ranges, crystal clear waters and five stunning natural private beaches, D-Hotel Maris welcomes you into a peaceful enclave of beauty, serenity and luxury. D-Hotel Maris has 193 spacious, luxurious rooms, suites, a duplex Presidential Suite and an exclusive Villa, all of them specifically designed for the ultimate escape and relaxation, and most featuring a bathtub with breathtaking views.

  • Hotel website: D-Hotel Maris
  • Other accolades: D-Hotel Maris also features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Bodrum.
  • Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (upgrade, daily breakfast, a 3 course dinner at Ruia, early check-in, and late check-out).
D HOTEL MARIS

D HOTEL MARIS


6. ARIANA SUSTAINABLE LUXURY LODGE

Cappadocia is located in the heart of Ancient Anatolia, one of the cradles of human civilization. Here, the earliest cities in world history appeared, about 5000 BC. Immersed in this ancient landscape lies Ariana Lodge, a golden-hued, contemporary hotel named after an ancient sun goddess. Beautiful gardens, which tumble down the hillside, invite you to immerse yourself in Cappadocia’s natural beauty.  Indoors, the hotel is a light-filled space, pairing timeless design with modern styling. Ariana’s luxury suites are exquisitely decorated with 
an inviting ambiance to transform its guest’s stay into a one of a kind experience.

ARIANA SUSTAINABLE LUXURY LODGE

ARIANA SUSTAINABLE LUXURY LODGE


5. AMANRUYA

The Aegean region of Turkey is dotted with spectacular natural scenery, ancient pine forests and scalloped bays. One such bay on the Bodrum Peninsula is home to ultraluxurious Amanruya. Named after the Sanskrit word for peace, ‘aman’, and the Turkish word for dream, Amanruya belongs to the portfolio of Aman Resorts, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand. Inspired by traditional local architecture, Amanruya’s village layout features individual contemporary stone cottages, each with a private garden and marble swimming pool, and stunning views across the forests and coastline.


4. ARGOS IN CAPPADOCIA

Located in the heart of Cappadocia on the site of an ancient monastery in Old Uçhisar Village, Argos in Cappadocia has carefully restored the remains of historical dwellings, underground tunnels and caves to offer our guests not only an unsurpassed place to stay but a unique perspective from which to view this magical land. All designed in a different style, the hotel offers a great variety of accommodations at 6 different mansions, some of them including private cave pools. The historic linseed press (Bezirhane) with its high domes has been converted into a salon, providing guests with a unique concert experience in the historic tapestry of Cappadocia.

ARGOS IN CAPPADOCIA

ARGOS IN CAPPADOCIA


3. ST REGIS ISTANBUL

Nestled in the heart of the exclusive Nisantasi district, the spectacular St. Regis Istanbul is surrounded by shops, dining, art, and entertainment. The property has two signature restaurants: an intimate rooftop terrace venue and an eclectic French brasserie. The hotel’s 118 sumptuous accommodations – including 10 suites, one of them being designed by Bentley – boast a unique identity of discrete luxury, timeless elegance, and compelling grace. All guests enjoy the elevated level of bespoke service of the St. Regis Butler. The hotel openend last year and is my favorite Istanbul luxury hotel.


2. THE BODRUM BY PARAMOUNT HOTELS & RESORTS

Set along the spectacular Bodrum coast with the Aegean Sea as its outlook, the exceptional ‘The Bodrum’ hotel, formerly known as The Golden Savoy and the Jumeirah Bodrum, is nestled in the natural beauty of Zeytinlikahve Cove. With accommodation consisting exclusively of opulent suites and extravagant villas, a private beach and an array of the finest wining, dining and entertainment on offer, the resort is the ultimate paradise for connoisseurs of perfection, indulgence and superlative pleasure. The sumptuous decor may not suite everybody’s taste, but the facilities and views are unbeatable. Up until 2016, the resort was managed by the exclusive Jumeirah hotel group, which also owns Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, but now management is taken care of by Paramount Hotels & Resorts.


1. MANDARIN ORIENTAL BODRUM

With an idyllic location in Bodrum’s secluded Paradise Bay, two private beaches, a range of fabulous gourmet restaurants, a world-class spa and a choice of stylish rooms, suites and villas, this unique 6-star resort will seduce even the most discerning traveler and invite you to lie back, relax and savour the moment. The first beach resort of the Mandarin Oriental hotel group is so phenomenal that it makes the nicest 5 star resorts look like a cheap motel. If you are in need of a luxurious beach break around the Mediterranean basin, then stop looking as this is as exclusive a getaway as you can imagine!


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Take Our Poll


Travel tip: the most helpful websites for frequent flyers

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

Today (January 15, 2016): the best websites for frequent flyers.

With the proliferation of online booking services, the planning in air travel is becoming more and more the responsibility of the passenger. Confronted with a passionate desire for award seats and elite upgrades and an increasingly complex system to book them, every frequent flyer needs as much unbiased information as possible to maximize his/her travel experience at minimal expense. I hereby give you an overview of the best websites that help you to make the most of your miles.

Think I forgot one ? Share you favorite frequent flyer website or blog in the comments section.


1. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR POINTS WITH AWARDWALLET

AwardWallet provides a free service that helps you keep track of all your reward programs, such as frequent flyer miles, hotel and credit card points. AwardWallet supports more than 600 loyalty programs – air, hotel, car rental, credit card and others. Founded in 2004, AwardWallet quickly became a popular choice for both road warriors and casual travelers. Today, over 355,000 active members rely on AwardWallet to manage over 75.9 billion miles & points representing $1.518 billion USD in value. AwardWallet is not affiliated or related to any of the loyalty programs offered by the airlines, hotels or credit cards identified on this website or tracked and monitored using the AwardWallet service.

Why do I advise you to join AwardWallet?

  • There are an estimated 10 trillion unused frequent-flier miles in circulation worth over $165 billion.
  • 20% or more of all frequent-flier miles don’t ever get redeemed.
  • Avoid unanticipated reward expirations and account closures.
  • Stay on top of your assets.

AwardWallet LOGO


2. TRADE YOUR MILES ON POINTS.COM

When launched in 2001, Toronto based Points.com addressed a deeply felt need of  loyalty tracking members, point junkies and mileage aficionados: the ability to easily transfer miles between different accounts. Points.com, which is free to join, is currently the only place on the internet where it is allowed to legitimately trade points and miles. In addition, Points.com facilitates the purchase of miles and points (since many airlines and hotels process points puchases through Points.com), and it offers the possibility to redeem your points or miles for retail gift cards or for Paypal credits. The site currently has 2.6 million users from 200 countries. However, don’t get too excited about this as it comes at a cost, with high transaction fees and terrible exchange ratios. Nevertheless, there are a few scenarios where it makes sense to use Points.com:

  • When you are short of just a few miles to book an award ticket, and you need miles to post in a very short amount of time, then it can be an option to purchase or exchange miles.
  • If you have a small number of miles in an airline or hotel programme that you are never going to use, and which may be expiring, then Points.com is better than nothing.

Points.com LOGO


3. FOLLOW EXPERT MILES & POINTS BLOGGERS

It does take quite some effort to get basic knowledge of how to collect and spend miles & points in the most efficient manner. If you want to gain insights into the world of loyalty and optimize your own loyalty account(s), then one of the best things you can do is subscribe to the newsletters of expert bloggers, so that you will be instantly updated on promotions and receive tricks for earning or spending  your precious miles or hotel points. I have signed up to the newsletter of 6 blogs, and this has helped me tremendously to travel with huge discounts, and even for free. You can find more info on these blogs in one of my previous posts (I will have my own frequent flyer section on this blog in the very near future).

One Mile At A time LOGO


4. FIND AN AWARDSEAT WITH EXPERTFLYER

With increasingly limited availability of award seats on planes and more and more miles and points flooding the system, finding a Business Class tickets for a reasonable number of miles is harder than ever. However, with ExpertFlyer you’ll stay on top of what flights to take, the fares to pay, where to sit on the plane and how best to maximize your elite upgrades and frequent flyer miles. ExpertFlyer gives you a way to check availability of award tickets and upgrades on many airlines, and for a small monthly fee, you will receive an instant notification when an upgrade (or an award seat) becomes available. You can always try out ExpertFlyer with a free subscription for 5 days.

ExpertFlyer LOGO


5. JOIN OTHER MILEAGE JUNKIES ON FLYERTALK

FlyerTalk features discussions and chat boards that covers the most up-to-date traveler information. It’s an interactive community dedicated to my and your favorite topic: travel! That’s right: all travel, all the time. The FlyerTalk forums are open for business 24 hours, 7 days a week. Even better, all travelers — from vacation travelers to mileage junkies — are welcome in the community. You just choose a forum and you can get to the business at hand general travel, airports, destination, luxury hotels, dining information, and – the forums I like the most – conversing about programs and how to make the most of your miles and points:

  • Flyertalk’s miles & points forum: click here.
  • Flyertalk’s travel & dining community: click here.

FlyerTalk LOGO


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Finnair A330 Business Class Helsinki to Phuket

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (January 13, 2016): Trip report: Finnair Airbus A330-300 Business Class Helsinki (Finland) to Phuket (Thailand).

On November 27th 2015, I flew on the Finnair red eye flight from Helsinki Vantaa Airport (HEL) in Finland to Phuket International Airport (HKT) in Thailand. The flight was operated by an Airbus A330-300 (registration OH-LTP). This is my second trip report of a Finnair Airbus A330-300, after I previously published my experience during a Business Class flight from Bangkok to Helsinki (although that was a day flight, not a red eye). While Finnair’s Airbus A330s still feature a decent and above average Business Class product with comfortable lie flat seats, it pales in comparison to the Business Class product that is offered on the airline’s newest flagship aircraft, the Airbus A350 (you can read my review of Business Class trip aboard Finnair’s A350 here). Unfortunately, it does not look like the Helsinki-Phuket route (which mainly caters to the leisure market) will be flown by the A350 anytime soon.

Finnair is a funky airline, that does a wonderful job in profiling itself as a trusted, fresh, and design oriented brand. The nordic company, which is part of the Oneworld Alliance and one of the world´s oldest operating airlines (established in 1923), is one of my preferred European airlines to/from Asia, since flying via Helsinki means that you are flying the shorter and faster route between Asia and Europe. Its hub, Helsinki Vantaa Airport, is a very efficient place for a transit (all the gates and services are located under one roof, with a minimal connecting time of only 35 minutes). And flying Finnair is your best choice if you want to vacation in sun-drenched Thailand, since they are the only European airline to have scheduled flights (from November to April) to both Phuket and Krabi, in addition to their daily Bangkok flights.

Finnair features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best airline lounges, and the best Business Class amenity kits in the sky.

  • Trip: HEL-HKT
  • Airline: Finnair
  • Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300
  • Aircraft registration number: OH-LTP
  • Flight Number: AY37
  • Date: November 27th, 2015
  • On time departure: yes (7.30 pm)
  • On time arrival: yes (10 am)
  • Miles: 5165
  • Flight time: 9 hours 30 minutes
  • Seat: 6A
  • Class: business (D)

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

  • Finnair Lounge(s) at Helsinki Aiport
  • Business Class cabin
  • Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  • Amenities
  • Meals
  • Entertainment
  • Other inflight experiences (crew, lavatory, WiFi, bar)
  • My verdict (score)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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1. FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

Finnair has three lounges at Helsinki Airport: one in the Schengen area (which I did not visit) and two in the non-Schengen area. The latter two lounges are both located between gates 36 and 37.

The original Finnair non-Schengen lounge is accessible to Finnair Business Class customers and Finnair Plus Platinum, Gold and Silver members (+ one guest with Platinum or Gold cardholder), and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire cardholders (+ one guest), when the departure flight is marketed by Finnair (AY code on the ticket). If you are not traveling business class, you can still live large by purchasing a day pass to this lounge for a mere €48. The ultra-white, swanky lounge is very spacious and has a maximum seating capacity of around 300 guests. It has a central seating area as well as an elevated level from where you have a great view on the runway through floor to ceiling windows. Overall, the lounge creates an atmosphere of calm. I visited the lounge in the late afternoon, and several food stations were open to the guests, serving salad, cold snacks (e.g. Baltic herring marinated with tar), Goulash soup, and a hot lunch.

The premium lounge, designed by the Helsinki firm dSign Vertti Kivi & Co, is located adjacent to the original Finnair Lounge, and is available exclusively for Finnair Plus Platinum and Gold members (+ one guest), and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire cardholders (+ one guest), when the departure flight is marketed by a Oneworld airline. The lounge features a classic Nordic design with dynamic changes in lighting, inspired by the Finnish outdoors. Video projections on the walls and ceiling are in tune with the seasons and time of day. The overall decor is more sophisticated as compared to the next-door Finnair lounge, with carefully selected design furniture such as Tulip and Wombs chairs created by Finnish American architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen. Food is also better: upgraded food & beverage selection are plated on Marimekko tableware or served in Iittala Ultima Thule glasses, first designed for Finnair in 1968 by Tapio Wirkkala. The Premium lounge also features a children’s play area, Apple computers, a staffed bar and even a unisex sauna for those wanting to experience real Finnish culture before boarding the plane.

Since I am a Oneword Emerald member, I had access to both lounges, and took a lot of photos, which you can find below. From the lounge, it was less than a minute to gate 36 where the Finnair Airbus A330-300 (registration number OH-LTP) was ready for boarding.

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE

FINNAIR PREMIUM LOUNGE


2. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

Finnair’s Airbus A330s come in 3 layout versions, and on this particular occasion, the flight was operated by an aircraft with a low density configuration (which I found rather strange, since the Helsinki to Phuket route mainly caters to the tourists and not to business travelers). The 46 Business Class seats were spread over 2 cabins: a large Business Class cabin with 32 seats (in 8 rows) located behind the cockpit, and a smaller and more intimate Business Class cabin with only 13 seats (in 3 rows) located in front of the Economy Comfort cabin. Both Business Class cabins were divided by the main boarding door, a galley and a lavatory.

The Business Class seats were placed in a staggered configuration, a so-called Sogerma Solstys layout, whereby the foot compartment for each seat is located between and under the seats in front. The same layout can be found on Brussels Airlines’ A330, Austrian Airlines’ B777, SWISS’ Airbus A330/A340, Delta’s B767, and American’s B767.  The staggered Business Class cabin configuration on this A330 plane comprised 15 single seats, while the remaining 22 seats came in pairs. All seats enjoyed a lot of privacy, as none of the rows quite lined up, so nobody was directly looking into the seat across the aisle. Most seats also had direct aisle access, except for the paired window seats, where the passenger seated along the window had to climb over his/her neighbour’s legs to get access to the aisle.

The design of the Business Class cabin itself looked fresh, airy and trendy with a predominantly soft blue color scheme and some subtle green touches.

Click here for the seat map of this Finnair’s Airbus A330-300.

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

AIRBUS A330-300 (REGISTRATION OH-LTP)

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN DURING BOARDING PROCESS

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN DURING BOARDING PROCESS

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN AFTER TAKEOFF

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN AFTER TAKEOFF


3. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

I was seated in seat 6A.

All Business Class seats on Finnair’s revamped Business Class cabin share the same characteristics: 152 cm (60 inches) in pitch, a width of 53 cm (21 inch), and a 180 degree recline. All seats have at least one large work surface on the side (where you can set up your laptop), with some seats featuring this work space on both sides (a so-called ‘throne seat’). Within that work surface, you will find the seat controls to adjust the seat position (from take-off position to fully flat). You can also adjust the seat cushion, since Finnair’s Business Class seats are not made of the customary plastic foam, but instead, the seat cushions have air-filled chambers. With one press on the button you can either soften or firm up the seat cushion according to your liking, as well as activate its integrated massage function. On the side of the seat, there’s also a power port with international adapters, a personal reading lamp (at eye level), and the meal tray (which is hard to get out). In front of the seat, you will find a large entertainment screen (see below), with the foot compartment below.

The seat is comfortable when you are sitting upright, but it’s a somewhat different story in its lie-flat position. Although it’s a 180 degree recline, the seat (and your lower legs) descends into a space carved out for it in the seat(s) in front, below your entertainment screen. This foot compartment is quite small, making it hard to switch position during your sleep while not waking up, as your legs will constantly hit the walls (although the seats that do not have the ‘throne’ feature – like seat 5L, which I was seated in on my trip from Bangkok to Helsinki – have a little more space for the feet, hence making for a more comfortable sleep). In addition, in its lie flat position, the seat is just 45 cm (17 inch) above the floor, making it quite uncomfortable getting in and out to go to the restroom. This is not the most comfortable lie flat seats in the sky, especially when compared to the superb lie flat seats installed on Finnair’s newest Airbus A350 planes.

What are the best Business Class seats on Finnair’s Airbus A330? Click here for a seat map.

  • The single best seats for solo travelers are the single seats.
  • Single throne seats offer more space (but are less comfortable for sleeping) and can be found in positions 2A, 4A, 6A, and 8A.
  • Travel companions should go for the paired, middle seats, which all have direct aisle access. There are also paired window seats in rows 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, but here the passenger in the window seat will have to jump over his/her neighbour’s feet to get access to aisle.

What are the worst Business Class seats on Finnair’s Airbus A330s? Click here for a seat map.

  • I suggest to avoid the window seats in row 1 since the proximity to the galley may be bothersome, and other flyers tend to bump into these seats when they return from the lavatory.
  • I also suggest to avoid the window seats in row 7, since they lack a window.
BUSINESS CLASS SEATS 5A & 5C

BUSINESS CLASS SEATS 5A & 5C

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6: VIEW FROM SEAT

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6: VIEW FROM SEAT

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

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT A6

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6A IN LIE FLAT POSITION

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6A IN LIE FLAT POSITION

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6A IN LIE FLAT POSITION

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6A IN LIE FLAT POSITION

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6A IN LIE FLAT POSITION

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6A IN LIE FLAT POSITION


4. AMENITIES

A comfortable green blanket, a lovely green pillow, noise cancelling headphones, and an amenity kit were provided. The latter was developed in partnership with Finnish design institution Marimekko. The kit bag featured the distinctive Marimekko prints and contained essential inflight goodies including an eye shade, toothbrush and toothpaste, and Clarins moisturizer and lip balm. Socks, shaving kit, mouthwash, hairbrush, makeup remover wipe were available upon request.

Finnair features in my top 10 list of the best Business Class amenity kits in the skies.

AMENITY KIT, PILLOW, & BLANKET

AMENITY KIT, PILLOW, & BLANKET

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

HEADPHONES

HEADPHONES


5. MEALS

Before takeoff, I was offered a choice of welcome drinks: orange juice, water, or Champagne. I had the orange juice. A small, hot towel was provided to all Business Class passengers shortlyafter take-off. Menus were handed out, and because of the recent introduction of the A350 aircraft into the airline’s fleet, Finnair offered a Signature Menu (using local and organic foods) on this particular flight, which was created by Helsinki-based Executive Chef de Cuisine of Restaurant Savoy, Kari Aihinen.

Because of an incident with smoke in a lavatory, dinner service only started about 60 minutes after takeoff. Mixed nuts were served as an amuse bouche. Next, the starter and main course were both served at once on a single tray (which was kind of odd). Food was good but the presentation was uninspiring. As a starter, I  had the smoked reindeer mousse with lingonberry coulis. It tasted ok (was not a big fan of it though)! As a main course, I choose the roasted chicken breast, sweet potato mash, broccolli, and honey mustard sauce, which tasted good albeit not excellent. Dessert was a Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. All by all, a decent but far from mindblowing gastronomic experience at 40,000 feet! I have to admit that I expected more from the Signature Menu.

90 minutes prior to landing, while flying over the Bay of Bangal, breakfast was served. It consisted of an omelette with smoked salmon, rosti potato with cream cheese, and creamy spinach which. It was ok (but again, nothing special).

ORANGE JUICE BEFORE TAKEOFF

ORANGE JUICE BEFORE TAKEOFF

HOT TOWEL AFTER TAKEOFF

HOT TOWEL AFTER TAKEOFF

AMUSE BOUCHE: MIXED NUTS

AMUSE BOUCHE: MIXED NUTS

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

DINNER

DINNER

STARTER: SMOKED REINDEER MOUSSE

STARTER: SMOKED REINDEER MOUSSE

MAIN COURSE: ROASTED CHICKEN BREAST

MAIN COURSE: ROASTED CHICKEN BREAST

DINNER: CHEESE

DINNER: CHEESE

DINNER: GODIVA CHOCOLATES

DINNER: GODIVA CHOCOLATES

DESSERT: HAAGEN DAZS ICECREAM

DESSERT: HAAGEN DAZS ICECREAM

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST


6. ENTERTAINMENT

In front of the Business Class seat, there was a 15 inches (38 centimetres) entertainment screen which can be skewed and adjusted in brightness. It was controlled via remote control in the seat or by touch. The entertainment program itself was great, with a large collection of movies and TV programs. The cameras installed in the nose and belly of the Airbus also offered some fun moments, especially during landing (with a great view on Phuket Airport’s landing strip).

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: FORWARD FACING CAMERA

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: FORWARD FACING CAMERA


7. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# CREW: Finnair’ crew members – with their chic navy blue designer outfits – are amongst the best and most friendly in the industry, and it was no different on this flight.

# LAVATORY:  There were 3 lavatories for the 32 Business Class passengers (as compared to 6 lavatories for the 221 Economy Class passengers), and 2 of them come with a window. The Business Class lavatory design was very simple, and lavatories were kept clean during the flight.

BUSINESS CLASS LAVATORY

BUSINESS CLASS LAVATORY

BUSINESS CLASS LAVATORY

BUSINESS CLASS LAVATORY

# INTERNET: onboard WiFi is currently not offered on Finnair’s fleet of Airbus A330/A340s (while it is avaible for free for Business Class passengers on the airlines’ new flagship Airbus A350 planes).

# BAR: the plane had a small walk-up bar, where Business Class fliers could graze between meals. There was a selection of sandwiches, pastries, yoghurt, ice cream, fruit, and/or a chocolate. Throughout the flight, the bar was kept fully stocked, and when I was there, flight attendants were quick to offer ice for drinks, cutlery for food and ask if there was anything else I required.


8. MY VERDICT
  • Seat: 7/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Cabin: 8/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8/10

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