$28M GENESI Superyacht Proves it Can Run on Battery With Zero Emissions

wider, yachts, genesi

Photo Credit: Wider

Wider’s new €26,000,000 (USD $28M) GENESI project is moving along steadily, having recently moved to a new stage in its sea trials. The company has switched focus to the vessel’s lithium polymer battery banks that are at the core of the luxury superyacht’s power supply, reporting that the tests were a total success.

“The yacht ran comfortably at 5 knots in ZEM [Zero Emission Mode] consuming no fuel whatsoever…but the most remarkable and memorable aspect was that she ran in total silence!” remarked Tilli Antonelli, Founder and CEO of Wider in a press release.

Over the course of a few days, GENESI was run exclusively on her 546kWh batteries off the coast of Ancona, Italy. The energy supply, which is apparently strong enough to power the “entire hotel system on board” and its propulsion system, further emphasize the company’s belief that diesel electric technology can easily be applied to a superyacht. 

Top 10: luxury hotel swimming pools with stunning views

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (January 11, 2016): Top 10 swimming pools with the most breathtaking views in the world.

A swimming pool is one of the main attractions of luxury hotel,  and the area where guests will spend most of their time. Indeed, what’s be better on a hot day than lazing by a  pool with a good book and the occasional dip? And that is especially true with pools that not only have a fabulous, infinity-edge  design but also come with jaw dropping views. Here’s my selection of the top 10 swimming pools with the most spectacular views on earth.

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

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10. MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL, SINGAPORE

The most spectacular hotel in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands hotel comprises three 55-storey towers, 2,560 luxury rooms and suites, and 18 different room types. Crowning the three hotel towers at 200 metres (650 feet) in the sky, the Sands SkyPark stretches longer than the Eiffel tower or four A380 Jumbo Jets when laid down. The Sands SkyPark is also home to the world’s largest public cantilever housing a public observatory deck, lush gardens, exclusive restaurants and a stunning 150-metre (500 ft) infinity-edged swimming pool to complete the luxurious experience.

MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL, SINGAPORE

MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL, SINGAPORE


9. ST REGIS PRINCEVILLE, HAWAII, USA

With awe-inspiring scenery and gorgeous beaches, it should come as no surprise that Hawaii is one of the world’s most beautiful islands. And the 252-room St. Regis Princeville lays claim to Hawaii’s most stunning location: a cliff overlooking Hanalei Bay with views framed by lush tropical hills, cerulean blue skies, puffs of clouds and mist, and cinematic sunsets. And it has a pool to match. Situated near the ocean and featuring a swim up bar, it overlooks beautiful Hanalei Bay with the South Pacific’s most spectacular stretch of coastline – the Napali cliffs – at the horizon.

ST REGIS PRINCEVILLE, HAWAII, USA

ST REGIS PRINCEVILLE, HAWAII, USA


8. CASA ANGELINA, ITALY

Casa Angelina is a white-themed boutique hotel that emerges gleaming from the rocks on the Amalfi Coast. The latter is Europe’s most beautiful stretch of coast, where cliffs terraced with scented lemon groves sheer down into sparkling seas, and where whitewashed villas cling precariously to unforgiving slopes while sea and sky merge in one vast blue horizon. The hotel is located along one of the most scenic roads in the world, in the small village of Praiano. The small, sun-warmed, counter-current pool is surrounded by white loungers and parasols and comes with views to die for.

CASA ANGELINA, ITALY

CASA ANGELINA, ITALY


7. VILLA HONEGG, SWITZERLAND

The Villa Honegg is a unique 5-star superior establishment in the heart of Switzerland on mount Bürgenstock. This magnificently luxurious private mansion was built in 1905 and reopened for business in May 2011 following a major refit. For its size, it is unique in Switzerland in terms of what it offers. As a haven of peace and privacy, it enjoys an incomparable setting. The historic building houses 23 brilliantly decorated guest rooms. But it’s the hotel’s outdoor, heated pool, with whirlpool area, that will take your breath away since it offers incredible panoramic views onto a breathtaking scenery across Lake Luc.

VILLA HONEGG, SWITZERLAND

VILLA HONEGG, SWITZERLAND


6. HANGING GARDENS OF BALI, INDONESIA

Overlooking the Ayung River and ancient Dalem Segara temple, this Balinese resort stands on the edge of a stunning valley, surrounded by lush rain forests and picturesque rice terraces. Each villa is designed with traditional Alang Alang thatched roofs in complete harmony with nature. At the geographical epicenter and spiritual core of the hotel, is its remarkable swimming pool, without a doubt one of the most photographed pools in the world.  The striking formation is suspended over the dense rainforest, giving swimmers the unique sensation of floating above the treetops.

HANGING GARDENS OF BALI, INDONESIA

HANGING GARDENS OF BALI, INDONESIA


5. TIERRA PATAGONIA, CHILE

Interior architects Alexandra Edwards and Carolina diPlano aimed to bring the outside in at the Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa. Nestled in the southernmost part of Chile, the hotel sits on a bluff where the South American pampa meets Lake Sarmiento. The 37 double rooms and 3 suites envelop guests in warmth amidst the wilderness. The indoor pool, with its jets and cascades, is on my list because of the breathtaking view over the deep-blue lake to the jaw-dropping peaks of Torres del Paine National Park, the centerpiece of Chilean Patagonia and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

TIERRA PATAGONIA, CHILE

TIERRA PATAGONIA, CHILE


4. CHONGWE RIVER HOUSE, ZAMBIA

Out of Africa, and out of this world! Bordering the pristine wilderness of the Lower Zambezi National Park , this is award-winning safari design at its finest! Sleeping eight guests in four, huge en-suite bedrooms, Chongwe River House is inspired by the towering spires of termitariums, sprouting almost organically from the ground in a series of flowing curves and bends. You can happily to spend the day chilling on the pool deck. The chances are you will see huge male elephants wandering around the grounds or crossing the river. Impala, kudu and many other species come to the water to drink. If you sit long enough, all Africa will come to you.

CHONGWE RIVER HOUSE, ZAMBIA

CHONGWE RIVER HOUSE, ZAMBIA


3. FASANO RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Located on Avenida Vieira Souto in the heart of Ipanema beach, Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro combines the glamour and sophistication of Rio’s most coveted address with the Fasano commitment to excellence. In his first hotel architecture project, Philippe Starck chose to reflect the heyday of the Bossa Nova era in the 50’s and 60‘s, when Ipanema blossomed into the city’s most charming neighborhood. Located on the 8th floor, the chic rooftop infinity pool offers a unparalleled view of world-famous Ipanema beach from an angle that captures Arpoador, the Morro Dois Irmãos and the Corcovado.

FASANO RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

FASANO RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL


2. GRACE SANTORINI, GREECE

Located in the romantic setting of Imerovigli in the northwest of the Greek island, high above Santorini’s Caldera, Grace Santorini is the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the famed Santorini island sunsets that envelop Greece’s Cyclades Islands. The exquisite infinity pool, the largest of its kind in Santorini, offers bathers heart-stopping views and the ultimate transporting experience that defines a holiday in Santorini. The pool overlooks the word-famous caldera, the underwater basin of an ancient volcano, and faces the plug of Skaros, topped with Venetian castle ruins.

  • Hotel website: Grace Santorini
  • Other top 10 accolades: Grace Santorini also features in my top 10 lists of the most beautiful hotel pools in the world and the world’s best honeymoon resorts.
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, complimentary one-way private airport transfers, welcome amenity of bottle of champagne, fruit and chocolates, early check-in, and late check-out).
  • Review: to read my review of Grace Santorini, click here.
GRACE SANTORINI, GREECE

GRACE SANTORINI, GREECE


1. SIX SENSES YAO NOI, THAILAND

Six Senses Yao Noi is my favorite resort in the Phuket area and sets the highest benchmark for island resort living in Asia. The 56 pool villa accommodations provide generous personal space and present an uncompromised lifestyle. Perched atop the resort, you will find the resort’s most stunning private villa: the Hilltop Reserve. In addition to being the resort’s most exclusive dining venue, the Hilltop Reserve has a stunning infinity pool that overlooks the striking limestone monuments that rise out of the Andaman Sea, providing an idyllic backdrop for days of tranquil indulgence.


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The most anticipated hotel openings of 2016

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

Today (January 8, 2016): Travel news: the most anticipated hotel openings of 2016.

Last month, I published my list of the 40 best new luxury hotels of 2015. Today, I explore 40 new luxury hotels that are expected to open their doors in 2016. Some of these hotel openings are managed by world’s most exclusive hotel brands. Please keep in mind that hotel openings do get delayed from time to time, so to avoid disappointment, try not to book a room before the hotel effectively opened.

There is more info and a direct link to the hotel websites below the slide show! If you think I missed one, you can add other exciting luxury hotel openings in the comments section!

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1. SIX SENSES ZIL PASYON, SEYCHELLES

Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles, will be located on the north side of the private island of Félicité, approximately 55 kilometers or 30 nautical miles northeast of Mahe, with access by helicopter from the International Airport or a short boat ride from neighbouring La Digue and Praslin islands. The feeling of being alone in a natural theatre, surrounded by the Indian Ocean, will be magnified by the intimacy of the resort with just 28 one-bedroom villas, 2 two-bedroom villas and 17 private residences, all with private pools. White sandy beaches and azure waters will compliment the picturesque landscape of untouched beauty.

SIX SENSES ZIL PASYON, SEYCHELLES

SIX SENSES ZIL PASYON, SEYCHELLES


2. SIX SENSES BHUTAN, BHUTAN

Six Senses Bhutan will allow guests to experience the depth of this wondrous destination of stunning natural scenery by creating five properties for the ultimate circuit experience. With a total of just 82 guest suites distributed between five intimate lodges, the project will create a Six Senses journey that comprises Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang and Paro. The five guest lodges will reflect the heritage and hospitality for which positions this colourful Kingdom as the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’.

  • Opening date: 2016 (not specified)
  • Hotel website: not yet available
SIX SENSES BHUTAN, BHUTAN

SIX SENSES BHUTAN, BHUTAN


3. ANDAZ MAYAKOBA, MEXICO

The Hyatt Hotel Group has an impressive list of exotic hotel openings in 2016 prepped under its luxury brands, Park Hyatt and Andaz: St. Kitts (cf below), Mallorca (cf below), Bangkok (cf below) and the Riviera Maya. The later, the 213-room Mayakoba resort, will be located about a 40-minute drive from Cancun airport. The gated development – set amid tranquil mangroves and man-made canals – currently contains three resorts owned by Banyan Tree, Rosewood and Fairmont, and Andaz will be the fourth. Each room will be adorned with affluent amenities to energize guests, from nature-inspired artisan decor to open layouts and intuitive construction.

ANDAZ MAYAKOBA, MEXICO

ANDAZ MAYAKOBA, MEXICO


4. PARK HYATT MALLORCA, SPAIN

The first Park Hyatt Resort in Europe will reflect the style of a traditional Mallorquin hilltop village with references of local art and cultural heritage. Situated on the east coast of Mallorca, the hotel will overlook the majestic Canyamel valley, offering views of the Balearic Sea and the town of Canyamel. The 42 spacious and luxuriously appointed guest rooms, and 16 uniquely designed suites, will combine a blend of sophistication and upscale residential comfort with timeless regional accents. The hotel will also offer a sophisticated dining experience centered around a village square, presenting a range authentic cuisines catering to all tastes.

PARK HYATT MALLORCA, SPAIN

PARK HYATT MALLORCA, SPAIN


5. PARK HYATT ST. KITTS, THE FEDERATION OF ST. CHRISTOPHER AND NEVIS

Set on a nearly untouched Caribbean island, Park Hyatt St. Kitts will bring the unparalleled Park Hyatt experience for discerning business and leisure travelers to this idyllic destination in the West Indies. The 5-star hotel will be situated on a secluded area offering white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, overlooking The Narrows, a strait separating St. Kitts and the volcanic island of Nevis. The 134 guestrooms and suites will combine contemporary architecture with a timeless colonial feel that taps into the rich historic roots of St. Kitts. Many of the suites will offer individual rooftop pools with spectacular views of the calm turquoise Caribbean waters.

PARK HYATT ST KITTS, THE FEDERATION OF ST CHRISTOPHER AND NEVIS

PARK HYATT ST KITTS, THE FEDERATION OF ST CHRISTOPHER AND NEVIS


6. PARK HYATT BANGKOK, THAILAND

Park Hyatt Bangkok has its sights set on being the Thai capital’s leading icon of luxury hotels. Located in the heart of Bangkok’s key shopping, business and entertainment districts, the hotel will be housed in the top 24 floors of a twisted-coil structure atop the Central Embassy fashion, dining and lifestyle destination. With design by award-winning New York design firm Yabu Pushelberg, the luxury hotel in Bangkok will feature numerous outdoor terraces with lush gardens, ideal for taking in the spectacular city views. The 222 luxurious guestrooms, including 30 premier suites, will all feature floor-to-ceiling windows.

PARK HYATT BANGKOK, THAILAND

PARK HYATT BANGKOK, THAILAND


7. SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES

The ultraluxurious Soneva Hotel Group, one of my absolute favorite hotel brands, is currently developing what will become known as thé ultimate luxury resort in the Maldives. Soneva Jani will comprise 57 phenomenal villas, including 24 overwater villas with one and two bedrooms which will only be reachable by boat and which will all have an enticing choice of either a sunrise or sunset view. There will be a further 20 one-bedroom Crusoe homes on land plus a choice of 13 three bedroom villas on the beach. Soneva Jani will be located on Medhufaru, a coral reef encircled island with a two-mile lagoon just 30 minutes by seaplane from capital city Malé.

  • Opening date: 2016 (not specified)
  • Hotel website: not yet available
SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES

SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES


8. ST REGIS VOMMULI, MALDIVES

The St. Regis Vommuli Resort will bring the brand’s hallmark luxury services to one of the world’s most magnificent destinations. A 40-minute seaplane ride southwest from Malé airport, the resort will be located on a private atoll spanning more than 20 acres, surrounded by unspoiled beaches and a secluded lagoon with sparkling turquoise waters. The resort will feature 77 luxuriously appointed private villas, all with a distinct contemporary design scheme inspired by the island’s natural materials and color palette. Guests will have access to a tranquil spa, an infinity swimming pool, a dive center, and 4 restaurants.

ST REGIS VOMMULI, MALDIVES

ST REGIS VOMMULI, MALDIVES


9. ST REGIS LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA

The St Regis Langkawi will be situated in an idyllic cove with 85 well-appointed suites and 3 overwater villas, each boasting a spectacular view of the Straits of Malacca. All guestroom will feature the signature St. Regis Butler service with around-the-clock customised service, anticipating each guest’s every need. The hotel will be close to Kuah town, Langkawi’s shopping and commercial centre, and is approximately a 20-minute drive from Langkawi International Airport. Resort amenities will include a swimming pool, gym and function space, with access to expanded meeting facilities at the ultra-modern Langkawi International Convention Centre.

ST REGIS LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA

ST REGIS LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA


10. ST REGIS KUALU LUMPUR, MALAYSIA 

Malaysia will see another high-profile St Regis hotel debut this year. When it opens in April 2016, the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur will be one of the most desired addresses in the richly textured cosmopolitan capital city of the country, within minutes from the National Museum, Lake Gardens and the Bukit Bintang shopping paradise. The hotel will feature 200 luxuriously appointed guest rooms and suites, all boasting magnificent vistas of the bustling metropolis. Three fine dining restaurants, a sumptuous spa and the ever-present, yet unobtrusive St. Regis Butler service will guarantee a six star hotel experience

ST REGIS KUALU LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

ST REGIS KUALU LUMPUR, MALAYSIA


11. ST REGIS CAIRO, EGYPT

The St. Regis Cairo will draw guests to the heart of Egypt’s modern metropolis on the north end of Corniche Road. With sweeping views of the Nile River and proximity to fine shops, restaurants and the pyramids, the hotel will reign as Cairo’s finest address. Michael Graves’ contemporary design will embrace traditional architectural flourishes and graceful geometric lines throughout the hotel’s restaurants and lounge, pools, spa and 23,000 square feet (2.155 square meters) of meeting and conference space. Guests will be able to relax in residential style in 292 lavishly furnished rooms, including 63 suites.

ST REGIS CAIRO, EGYPT

ST REGIS CAIRO, EGYPT


12. CONRAD MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Conrad Manila will become the iconic luxury hotel along the Manila Bay. With a distinctive architecture inspired by the big vessels that ply the bay, the hotel will float atop a high-end retail podium, like a mega yacht, making strong visual and experiential connections to the immediate waters of the bay in front, and the skyline of Makati Central Business District behind. The hotel will have 347 guest rooms, with a high proportion of suites to anticipate and meet the expectations of the growing number of seasoned business and leisure travelers. The 8-storey structure will also house a dedicated sky park.

CONRAD MANILA, PHILIPPINES

CONRAD MANILA, PHILIPPINES


13. SHANGRI-LA AT THE FORT, MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila, will be a landmark, mixed-use development in the heart of Bonifacio Global City (BGC), an emerging contemporary lifestyle district at the centre of Metro Manila and one of the fastest growing urban developments in Asia. Rising 250 metres high, Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila, will be one of the tallest towers in the Philippines. The hotel will feature 576 contemporary and spacious guestrooms and suites with a minimum of 45 square metres and unparalleled city and bay views.

SHANGRI-LA AT THE FORT, MANILA, PHILIPPINES

SHANGRI-LA AT THE FORT, MANILA, PHILIPPINES


14. SHANGRI-LA HAMBANTOTA RESORT & SPA, SRI LANKA

Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort and Spa, Sri Lanka will be surrounded by an 18-hole golf course, coconut plantations and sand dunes to the south. Built along the shoreline, the resort will offer 300 rooms including 26 suites ranging in size from 48 square metres to 240 square metres. All rooms will offer balconies of the ocean breezes. The resort grounds are a natural extension to the region’s wildlife habitat. Yala and Bundala National Parks, Sri Lanka’s foremost bird watching destinations, and over 40 heritage sites will be within easy reach.

SHANGRI-LA HAMBANTOTA RESORT & SPA, SRI LANKA

SHANGRI-LA HAMBANTOTA RESORT & SPA, SRI LANKA


15. AMANEMU, JAPAN

Celebrating Japan’s ancient onsen (mineral hot spring) tradition in scenic Ise Shima National Park, Amanemu will be perched on the verdant rolling shores of Ago Bay, known as the Bay of Pearls, on the west coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Each of its 24 Suites and four Villas will have a private onsen, making the resort the first Aman to integrate mineral hot springs. The design throughout will embrace a classical Japanese aesthetic, giving pride of place to natural materials and soothing hues while framing the exceptional natural surroundings.

  • Opening date: spring 2016
  • Hotel website: Amanemu
AMANEMU, JAPAN

AMANEMU, JAPAN


16. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CENTRE, UAE

In the prestigious Dubai International Finance Centre, the new Four Seasons Hotel DIFC will be a boutique-style sanctuary – ideal for business trips and urban getaways. Stylish and filled with art, this intimate address will feature just 106 accommodations, including 28 suites. The spa, fitness centre and rooftop pool will help you stay at the top of your game, while four options for dining and drinks will be convenient for casual meetings. This walkable urban enclave – home to some of the city’s hottest restaurants and galleries – will be just five minutes from the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa.

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CENTRE, UAE

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CENTRE, UAE


17. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ABU DHABI AT AL MARYAH ISLAND, UAE

The futuristic waterfront community of Al Maryah Island will become home to the 34-storey Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, combining innovative design and legendary personalised care. From the soaring, light-filled lobby to the 190 spacious guest rooms and suites, this sleek urban sanctuary will celebrate expansive views of the bay. Guests will be able to entertain in the five restaurants and lounges, relax in the full-service spa, and then refresh in the podium-level pool with a panorama of Abu Dhabi’s ever-changing skyline.

  • Opening date: Early 2016
  • Hotel website: not available yet
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ABU DHABI AT AL MARYAH ISLAND, UAE

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ABU DHABI AT AL MARYAH ISLAND, UAE


18. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL NEW YORK DOWNTOWN, USA

In South Tribeca – a block from the World Trade Center and minutes from Wall Street or Soho – Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown is adding its classic NYC profile to the world’s most famous skyline. A city stroll from gleaming fashion arcades, or gastropubs and eateries on historic streets, Four Seasons will introduce a level of luxury alive with Downtown’s creativity, confidence and 24/7 vitality. The hotel will have an intimate spa, a 75-foot indoor pool, and contemporary, corner salons with soaring windows for business meetings.

  • Opening date: mid 2016
  • Hotel website: not available yet
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL NEW YORK DOWNTOWN, USA

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL NEW YORK DOWNTOWN, USA


19. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LONDON AT TEN TRINITY SQUARE, UK

Close to international business in the City, Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square will be the third Four Seasons hotel in London. Within a meticulously restored Grade II*-listed landmark from 1922, the 100 guest rooms and suites will blend tradition and trend. Dining highlights wil include Michelin-starred French cuisine, Asian specialties, and casual fare in the spectacular Rotunda Lounge. In the Spa, comprehensive health and wellness treatments will be enriched by a luxury hammam and sauna.

  • Opening date: late 2016
  • Hotel website: not available yet
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LONDON AT TEN TRINITY SQUARE, UK

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LONDON AT TEN TRINITY SQUARE, UK


20. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL AT THE SURF CLUB, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA

On a large stretch of pristine beach and palm-lined Atlantic oceanfront in Surfside, Florida, the glamorous Surf Club, storied private oasis for members from Sinatra to Churchill, will be transported into a bright new age. The respectfully preserved, 1930s clubhouse by famed South Florida architect Russell Pancoast will become the centerpiece for a masterwork of openness and light by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier. With just 77 guest rooms and an expansive oceanfront spa, the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club will embrace sun, sand, sea and sky in a setting both contemporary and timeless.

  • Opening date: late 2016
  • Hotel website: not available yet
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL AT THE SURF CLUB, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL AT THE SURF CLUB, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA


21. ROSEWOOD PUEBLA, MEXICO

Rosewood Puebla will be located within the heart of one of Mexico’s most significant colonial cities, Puebla. renowned for its architecture, churches, traditional cuisine and colorful ceramics. It will be housed in a collection of buildings from different time periods surrounding an intimate courtyard. The hotel will offer 79 guestrooms and suites, a restaurant with outdoor courtyard seating, the Lavaderos de Almoloya bar and a Sense spa. A rooftop bar and swimming pool will offer stunning views over the neighboring Templo de San Francisco.

ROSEWOOD PUEBLA, MEXICO

ROSEWOOD PUEBLA, MEXICO


22. ROSEWOOD PHUKET, THAILAND

The exquisite, secluded Emerald Bay is an ideal setting for Rosewood to debut its first Asia resort. The hotel’s innovative architecture with subtle Thai influences will blend organically and sensitively into the hillside forest landscape while uninterrupted views of the Andaman Sea will be visible from 71 spacious villas and 32 residences. The hotel will have four restaurants, a Sense spa, four swimming pools, a health club with gymnasium, a yoga pavilion, a sea sports pavilion and a tennis court.

  • Opening date: 2016 (not specified)
  • Hotel website: not available yet
ROSEWOOD PHUKET, THAILAND

ROSEWOOD PHUKET, THAILAND


23. W RETREAT & SPA, GOA, INDIA

Besides the two hotels mentioned above, Starwood’s W is also opening another property in 2015, this time in India’s premier beach destination, Goa. The resort will have 105 guest rooms and suites and feature a host of facilities to ensure extremely comfortable stays for both leisure vacationers and business travellers booking tickets aboard flights landing in increasingly popular Goa. With a legacy in India that dates back to 1973, Starwood currently operates 33 hotels in India, and, since 2009, Starwood has opened nearly as many hotels in India as rivals Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott combined.

W RETREAT & SPA, GOA, INDIA

W RETREAT & SPA, GOA, INDIA


24. W DUBAI AL HABTOOR CITY, UAE

The new W Dubai will be part of Al Habtoor City, Dubai’s largest integrated urban resort that will comprise three hotels (a W, a St Regis, and a Westin), three high-rise residential towers, and a Las Vegas-style theatre. The three hotels will collectively present nearly 1,600 rooms, 21 restaurants and lounges, two spas and three state-of-the-art ballrooms supported by 25 meeting rooms. The elevators will whisk guests to the 27th-floor lobby of the W hotel, where they will check in to one of 356 dynamic guest rooms and suites. Here, guests will be able to take in their own perspective of the surroundings, and relax and recharge amid modern décor, technology and indulgences.

W DUBAI AL HABTOOR CITY, UAE

W DUBAI AL HABTOOR CITY, UAE


25. JUMEIRAH AL NASEEM, DUBAI, UAE

Jumeirah Al Naseem will have 430 rooms and suites set among landscaped gardens and three swimming pools. The name ‘Al Naseem’, which means a gentle wind or sea breeze in Arabic, reflects the location of the hotel on the shoreline of the Arabian Gulf and the open aspect of its design, rich in balconies overlooking the sea.  Jumeirah Al Naseem is set to offer a modern-day Arabian experience and will join the grand Jumeirah Al Qasr, the peaceful and recently renovated Jumeirah Mina A’Salam and the exquisite summerhouses of Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf – listed by Tripadvisor as one of the Top 25 Hotels in the World.

  • Opening date: summer 2016
  • Hotel website: not available yet
JUMEIRAH AL NASEEM, DUBAI, UAE

JUMEIRAH AL NASEEM, DUBAI, UAE


26. CAPELLA BAHIA MAROMA RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO

Ideally situated along the Riviera Maya on almost a mile of pristine beachfront, Capella Bahia Maroma will be set opposite the world’s second largest coral reef – the Great Maya Reef and in close proximity to Chichen-Itza, recently named one of the seven wonders of the world. Capella Bahia Maroma will feature individual villas opening out directly to the Caribbean, as well as the only private, championship golf course in the Yucatan with three holes seaside, an Auriga Spa, a beach club, gourmet restaurants and luxurious residences.

  • Opening date: 2016 (not specified)
  • Hotel website: not available yet
CAPELLA BAHIA MAROMA RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO

CAPELLA BAHIA MAROMA RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO


27. THE RITZ- CARLTON PANAMA, PANAMA

The newest addition to the city skyline, The Ritz-Carlton, Panama will bring a touch of luxury and elegance to this beautiful destination. Sharing space with high-end retail within a 29-story development, the downtown hotel will features four dining venues, two swimming pools, state-of-the-art meeting space and a relaxing spa. The hotel will have 220 spacious accommodations overlooking the city’s scenic downtown landscape.

THE RITZ- CARLTON PANAMA, PANAMA

THE RITZ- CARLTON PANAMA, PANAMA


28. THE RITZ-CARLTON LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA

The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, fringed by lush tropical rainforests, will enjoy its own private cove and beach overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Andaman Sea on the island’s south west corner. The 132-room luxury resort, including 42 villas, will sensitively blend in with its surroundings with design elements that reflect the traditional kampong village with interiors by Strickland and Burega Farnell. The resort will also offer a family-friendly escape with three swimming pools, including one specially created for children, and a specially-designed Ritz Kids Club.

THE RITZ-CARLTON LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA

THE RITZ-CARLTON LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA


29. TRUMP HOTEL WASHINGTON DC, USA

Trump Hotel Collection was selected by the U.S. General Services Administration as the developer of Washington’s Old Post Office in one of the most sought-after hotel redevelopment opportunities in the USA. Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C. will feature 263 richly furnished guestrooms and suites, among the largest luxury rooms in Washington, D.C., with lofty ceilings, soaring windows, beautifully restored historic millwork, and glittering crystal sconces and chandeliers.  The three extraordinary Presidential Suites at 2500, 3500 and 6300 square feet will be among the largest in the USA. The 6300 square foot suite facing Pennsylvania Avenue will be the largest in the city.

TRUMP HOTEL WASHINGTON DC, USA

TRUMP HOTEL WASHINGTON DC, USA


30. TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & TOWER VANCOUVER, CANADA

Regally situated on Georgia Street amid downtown Vancouver’s Coal Harbour, Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver will boast 63 stories of skyline-transforming grandeur. In addition to 147 guest rooms, the luxury hotel will include a Champagne lounge, signature restaurant, Trump Spa, and banquet and conference center. It will also be home to Vancouver’s first pool bar nightclub. Above the hotel will be 218 stylish residences, offering residents spectacular views of the North Shore and beyond. When completed, the twisting tower will stand at 616 feet, the city’s second-tallest building once it is completed.

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & TOWER VANCOUVER, CANADA

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & TOWER VANCOUVER, CANADA


31. TRUMP HOTEL RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Located in the elegant Jardim Oceanico sub-district of the famous Barra da Tijuca borough and facing one of Rio’s most magnificent beaches, the 13-story, 171-guestroom Trump Rio will be Trump Hotel Collection’s first property in South America and the only luxury hotel in the neighborhood when it opens in 2016 – in advance of the Summer Olympic games. Expansive guestrooms will boast breathtaking ocean or mountain views, each featuring grey marble floors that seamlessly adjoin private outdoor balconies and terraces. Eleven spacious suites will feature private plunge pools on expansive private patios.

TRUMP HOTEL RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

TRUMP HOTEL RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL


32. ALILA ANJI ZHEJIANG, CHINA

Located in Anji County in the heart of Zhejiang province’s pristine bamboo plantations, Alila Anji will be a peaceful oasis situated on a hillside overlooking a lake, surrounded by the beauty of lush bamboo groves and tea plantations. This exclusive gated resort will be an absolute gem of a retreat that will define the standard for luxury and exclusivity with bespoke service and an array of distinctive amenities. Guests will be able to indulge their senses in the finest dining experiences, a destination spa, and the fresh air and stunning scenery that feels a world away from the city.

ALILA ANJI ZHEJIANG, CHINA

ALILA ANJI ZHEJIANG, CHINA


33. ANANTARA AL JABAL AL AKHDAR RESORT, OMAN

A rare jewel in the rocky contours of the vast Saiq Plateau on Oman’s fabled Green Mountain, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort will be magnificently perched on the curving rim of a great canyon, making it the highest five star resort in the Middle East and the second highest in the world. Rooms and villas of luxurious authenticity will immerse guests in the splendours of Omani culture inside and draw the eye outside to admire canyon, cliff or garden views. A striking infinity pool with a belvedere will set the scene for relaxation. Anantara Spa will harnesses the essence of Arabia with ancient hammam rituals and unique massage experiences.

ANANTARA AL JABAL AL AKHDAR RESORT, OMAN

ANANTARA AL JABAL AL AKHDAR RESORT, OMAN


34. ANANTARA SALALAH RESORT, OMAN

Superbly situated between a beach and natural lagoon on the south coast of Dhofar in Salalah, Oman, Anantara Salalah Resort will be just a 15 minute drive from the airport. Opulently designed to reflect Dhofar’s rich heritage, the striking Middle Eastern design will be inspired by the region’s iconic coastal fortresses. Luxury accommodation will comprise 40 rooms and studios, 8 one bedroom villas and 88 one, two and three bedroom pool villas. Guests will be able to relax at the exotic pool, enjoy a beautiful beach and indulge in Anantara Spa’s luxurious treatments, hammam rituals and male and female wet facilities.

ANANTARA SALALAH RESORT, OMAN

ANANTARA SALALAH RESORT, OMAN


35. ANANTARA KALUTARA, SRI LANKA

In a secluded beachfront location along Sri Lanka’s southwest coast, Anantara Kalutara Resort will offer tropical 5-star luxury to business and leisure guests. The resort, the only one of its kind in the area, will be bordered by the Indian Ocean on one side and the Kalu Ganga River on the other.  Set amongst tropical gardens and swaying coconut palms, the resort will boast 141 stylish Premier and Deluxe guest rooms, suites and pool villas. The essence of the interior design will be traditional Sri Lankan décor with hints of vibrant colours, contemporary furnishings and signature Anantara amenities.

ANANTARA KALUTARA, SRI LANKA

ANANTARA KALUTARA, SRI LANKA


36. VICEROY PALM JUMEIRAH, DUBAI, UAE

Situated at the base trunk of The Palm Jumeirah, Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah will offer 477 spacious guest rooms and suites, all with breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf. With state of the art architecture and innovative design lead by Yabu Pushelberg and NAO Taniyama and Associates, the hotel will feature services and amenities created specifically for the diverse group of guests including spectacular dining venues hosted by world-class chefs and a modern spa.  A beach club and a one hundred meter-long pool will also be complemented by children’s clubs, entertainment and sporting activities.

VICEROY PALM JUMEIRAH, DUBAI, UAE

VICEROY PALM JUMEIRAH, DUBAI, UAE


37. KEMPINSKI HOTEL SUMMERLAND, BEIRUT

Kempinski will open its first property in the “Paris of the Middle East”, close to downtown Beirut and the international airport. Renowned for its golden sandy beach on the Mediterranean coast, the resort will have 153 Hotel keys and 73 luxurious furnished “village” apartments, banqueting facilities designed to attract large –scale conferences and trade fairs along with restaurants, lounges and bars offering refined International, Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine. The resort will also features a private marina with 47 berths, a 1,500 sqm Spa, indoor and outdoor pools, water-skiing, sailing and diving as well as a variety of other leisure activities offered to guests.

  • Opening date: 2016 (not specified)
  • Hotel website: not available yet
KEMPINSKI HOTEL SUMMERLAND, BEIRUT

KEMPINSKI HOTEL SUMMERLAND, BEIRUT


38. KEMPINSKI AL OTHMAN, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA

Kempinski Al-Othman Hotel, Al-Khobar, will boast 141 rooms, 57 suites and 20 elegantly appointed serviced apartments. Nine restaurants and cafes are sure to bring innovative cuisine experiences to the local market. The hotel’s exciting leisure facilities will include a fully equipped gym, a swimming pool and Kempinski’s luxury Resense Spa brand. Corporate guests will be able to avail themselves of various facilities including a particularly impressive suite of function rooms comprising two banquet halls of 1,080 square metres each. The hotel is expected to become Al-Khobar’s leading luxury hotel.

KEMPINSKI AL OTHMAN, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA

KEMPINSKI AL OTHMAN, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA


39. FAIRMONT AMMAN, JORDAN

This luxurious hotel will be situated next to the Fifth Circle in the heart of Amman, less than 30 minutes from the airport, adjacent to the Embassy District, the new Royal Jordanian headquarters, the Abdali Development, as well as the desirable residential community of Abdoun. The Fairmont Amman will feature 300 luxurious guestrooms and suites. For corporate events, weddings and local galas, over 2,000 square meters of function space will be available, including an 800 square meter ballroom.

  • Opening date: 2016 (not specified)
  • Hotel website: not available yet
FAIRMONT AMMAN, JORDAN

FAIRMONT AMMAN, JORDAN


40. NOBU HOTEL SHOREDITCH, LONDON, UK

Nobu Hospitality will open a 156 room hotel at 10-50 Willow Street in the Shoreditch area of London with food and beverage menus to be developed by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa specifically and uniquely for the hotel. As with all Nobu properties, the design will reflect both the city of origin, as well as Nobu Hospitality’s signature east-meets-west philosophy.  The overall interior design is a creative collaboration between Ben Adams Architects and Studio PCH.  Additionally, the hotel will feature banqueting and meeting rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and modern amenities combined with superior service.

NOBU HOTEL SHOREDITCH, LONDON, UK

NOBU HOTEL SHOREDITCH, LONDON, UK


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Hotel review: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (Thailand)

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

Today (January 6, 2016): Hotel review: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (Thailand).

Last december, I enjoyed a terrific stay at Bangkok’s most legendary and ultimate five-star hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Timeless yet contemporary, classic yet cutting-edge, the hotel’s unique blend of luxury and comfort make this a haven of calm that has pleased travelers from all over the world for more than 135 years. The ultra luxe hotels features 339 rooms (most with river views) and 35 suites, in addition to no less than 9 outstanding restaurants and bars, and a brilliant spa.

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Thailand.

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 hotel enjoys a central yet very peaceful and tranquil location in this hectic metropolitan city, whose population now numbers more than 8 million. Excellently situated within easy reach of all Bangkok’s main attractions, the hotel is only a short walk from the city’s famous skytrain, and a short boat ride from the famous Grand Palace.
  • The iconic five-star hotel is spread over two sites with the river in between. The hotel’s main complex (with lobby, room wings, bars, restaurants, and pool) is connected to the  gym, cooking school and Thai restaurant on the facing shoreline by means of charming, teak shuttle boats. Boats run every 5 to 10 minutes, so there is never a long waiting time.
  • The hotel has been an iconic Bangkok landmark for decades, enjoying a reputation for style, service and excellence. The original structure was the first hotel built in Thailand when it opened as The Oriental in 1876. Since then, the hotel has always been the preferred Bangkok address of world leaders, royalty and celebrities. Audrey Hepburn, Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, Sophia Lauren, George W Bush, and David Beckham have all stayed here.
  • The hotel’s grand lobby and reception area make a great first impression. Majestic floor-to-ceiling windows that face towards the Chao Phraya River, two royal elephants guarding the lift landing, and historical “temple bell” chandeliers are faithful to the hotel’s oriental heritage. I visited the hotel in December, during the festive season, and the lobby was sublimely decorated with spectacular flower arrangements everywhere and a magnificent, exotic Christmas tree.
  • Check in at the hotel is quite unique. Instead of the usual check-in at the reception counter, a member of the hotel staff escorted me directly to my room, where the actual check in was done. In addition, the welcome amenities were quite overwhelming: besides the usual welcome drink and fruit bowel, I also received a mini-boat with beautifully displayed macarons. I am not sure though if this is the standard check-in procedure for all guests.
  • The hotel has 358 rooms and 35 suites, spread over 3 wings: the river wing, the garden wing, and the author wing. During my visit, I stayed in a river wing’s deluxe room, which was located on a higher floor and came with superb river views. Featuring traditional Thai touches such as teak furniture and beautiful silk accompaniments, the rich decor of the room was stylish yet comfortable. Furnishings included a king bed swathed in luxurious linens, a desk with multi-region power and communications sockets, and a spacious bathroom with large soaking bath and luxurious amenities.
  • There is a butler on every floor, who sits at a desk near the elevators and is available 24 hours a day to help with any questions you may have about the hotel and its many facilities.
  • The hotel also has several specialty suites, which are among the best accommodations in the Thai capital. Suites in the historic authors’ wing are named after literary figures that once called the hotel their home, such as Joseph Conrad, James Michener and Somerset Maugham. The river wing contains deluxe two bedroom suites named after former guests or personages associated with the hotel including Barbara Cartland, Graham Green, and Jim Thompson.
  • One of the features that I like the most about this hotel, is the presence of large outdoor terraces with tables and sun loungers along the river. This large outdoor space represents a nice oasis of calm in a vibrant environment and gives the hotel a ‘resort-in-a-city’ kind of vibe. It is lovely to relax on the terrace and watch the many varied boats and ships passing by.
  • The hotel has 2 pools, hidden amidst trees and garden so it doesn’t feel like you are surrounded by high-rise buildings. The pool has a separate kids area with a shallow end for the little ones. The cabanas comfortably offer space for four. Water and extra towels are brought right away. I appreciated the complimentary ice cream with sweetcorn and noodle toppings.
  • Since 1974, the hotel has been managed by the legendary Mandarin Oriental Hotel group, one of the best global luxury hotel brands. The group has grown from a well-respected Asian hotel company into a global brand and now operates, or has under development, more than 40 hotels. I have previously reviewed the Mandarin Oriental properties in Bodrum, Shanghai, Munich and Kuala Lumpur.
  • The hotel is one of the two flagship hotels of the Mandarin Oriental group. Yes, you read that right. Mandarin Oriental is probably the only hotel brand in the world to be in the unusual position of having two “flagship”, being The Mandarin in Hong Kong and The Oriental, Bangkok. In 1985, the company rationalized its corporate structure by combining these two renowned properties under a common name, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. But it wasn’t until September 2008 that the hotel formally changed its name from The Oriental, Bangkok to Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.
  • Home to 9 outstanding restaurants and bars, the Mandarin Oriental hotel is not only Bangkok’s most iconic hotel but also the city’s premier gourmet destination. And there is something for everyone: French fine dining at Le Normandie restaurant, traditional Thai at Sala Rim Naam restaurant, seafood at Lord Jim’s restaurant, Chinese cuisine at The China House restaurant, international bbq buffet at the Riverside Terrace restaurant, rustic Italian food Ciao Terrazza restaurant, and casual international dishes at The Verandah restaurant. Since I only stayed one night, I could not try them out all, but I had dinner at the Thai restaurant (where you can choose to sit outside on the riverside terrace or inside and enjoy a Thai show) and the food tasted delicious.
  • The breakfast buffet is served on the riverside terrace along the river and is of very good standard. The selection for breakfast is great, consisting of “oriental” yogurt, fruit loops for the little ones, breads, cheese, cold cuts, dim sum, eggs prepared to order, and many other things.
  • The spa, located accross the river and featuring classic Siamese aesthetics, is quite famous and has frequently been voted by magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler among the best in the world. It offers a range of unique treatments blending contemporary and ancient techniques. I had a 90 minute Oriental signature treatment, which combines Thai and European massage techniques. Before the start of the treatment, I was welcomed with a soothing tea, followed by a foot cleansing ritual and private consultation. Highly recommended!
  • With the rigorous demands of the Mandarin Oriental brand and the incredible number of staff (more than 1300 people are employed by the hotel), it’s not surprising that the service is top-notch and one of the best in the world! You will be treated like Royalty.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a class of its own. There may be hotels that are newer, more modern, and higher, but they do not compare with the timeless elegance of Bangkok’s grand dame. I did not encounter any issues during my stay, but you may want to know the following nonetheless: 

  • With 393 rooms in three wings, the hotel is large and can feel busy from time to time. As one of Asias iconic hotels, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok also hosts many local functions, such as weddings and corporate events, which can make the public areas even more busy. But the good news is that there are always lovely sanctuaries to retreat to, such as the tree-lined swimming pool and the library with cabinets.
  • This is a very posh hotel. In the evening there is a strict “smart dress” policy in the lobby and throughout the hotel, which should be respected. Gentlemen need to wear long pants, and while that definitely contributes to the sophisticated ambiance of the hotel, it can be a bit uncomfortable in Bangkok’s subtropical climate with high humidity (as I experienced myself).
  • The rooms may feel a bit cramped by modern standards. In addition, the decor and furniture of the rooms may feel a bit outdated, but the hotel is currently undertaking a comprehensive renovation so that should be a thing of the past soon.
  • WiFi is complimentary as long as you have made the room reservation online on the official Mandarin Oriental website. If not, you will have to pay for WiFi, which may be a concern for those who cannot live without network.
  • The view from the main pool towards the river is blocked by a small service building. Removal of that building would not only result in a spectacular river view from both the lobby and the pool area, but would also create a more spatious feeling in the pool area itself (perhaps a suggestion for the hotel’s architects when they renovate the pool area in the future).

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8.8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (and/or receiving many free perks).
  • Book a room on the hotel website to enjoy complimentary WiFi.
  • If you get to the hotel by taxi, then do not call the hotel Mandarin as most taxi drivers only know it by its original name, The Oriental (as I experienced myself).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The weather in Bangkok 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 the city); a hot, dry season from March to June, and a rainy season from July to October. As Bangkok holds claim to being the hottest city in the world, 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 high, almost untolerable humidity. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing unsettled, cloudy conditions and, for many, this is a welcome respite.


HOW TO GET THERE

Bangkok is served by 2 airports and this Tripadvisor page gives great insightful information for getting from the airport to the city center.

  • Suvarnabhumi International Airport is located 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of downtown Bangkok and is a major hub in Asia. Check the Wikipedia page of Suvarnabhumi International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to this airport.
  • Don Mueang Airport is Bangkok’s regional commuter flight hub and the de facto low-cost airline hub. Check the Wikipedia page of Don Mueang Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to this airport.

HOTEL EXTERIOR

HOTEL EXTERIOR

HOTEL EXTERIOR

HOTEL EXTERIOR

HOTEL EXTERIOR

HOTEL EXTERIOR

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

LOBBY

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LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

LOBBY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL CAKE SHOP

RECEPTION AREA

RECEPTION AREA

RECEPTION AREA

RECEPTION AREA

RECEPTION AREA

RECEPTION AREA

RECEPTION AREA

RECEPTION AREA

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

LOBBY: HOTEL HISTORY

HOTEL CORRIDOR

HOTEL CORRIDOR

DELUXE ROOM #904

DELUXE ROOM #904

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DELUXE ROOM #904: MACARONS & CHOCOLATES

DELUXE ROOM #904: MACARONS & CHOCOLATES

DELUXE ROOM #904: MACARONS & CHOCOLATES

DELUXE ROOM #904: MACARONS & CHOCOLATES

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DELUXE ROOM #904: RIVER VIEW

DELUXE ROOM #904: RIVER VIEW

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DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM AMENITIES

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM AMENITIES

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM AMENITIES

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM AMENITIES

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: BATHROOM

DELUXE ROOM #904: TURNDOWN SERVICE

DELUXE ROOM #904: TURNDOWN SERVICE

DELUXE ROOM #904: TURNDOWN SERVICE

DELUXE ROOM #904: TURNDOWN SERVICE

MAIN POOL

MAIN POOL

MAIN POOL

MAIN POOL

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MAIN POOL: VIEW ON HOTEL WING

MAIN POOL: VIEW ON HOTEL WING

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MAIN POOL

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SECOND, SMALLER POOL

SECOND, SMALLER POOL

SECOND, SMALLER POOL

SECOND, SMALLER POOL

SECOND, SMALLER POOL

SECOND, SMALLER POOL

POOLSIDE CAESAR'S SALAD

POOLSIDE CAESAR’S SALAD

HOTEL TERRACES

HOTEL TERRACES

HOTEL TERRACES

HOTEL TERRACES

HOTEL TERRACES

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HOTEL TERRACES

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HOTEL TERRACES: BOAT DOCKING STATION

HOTEL TERRACES: BOAT DOCKING STATION

HOTEL TERRACES: BOAT DOCKING STATION

HOTEL TERRACES: BOAT DOCKING STATION

SHUTTLE BOATS

SHUTTLE BOATS

SHUTTLE BOATS

SHUTTLE BOATS

SHUTTLE BOATS

SHUTTLE BOATS

SHUTTLE BOATS

SHUTTLE BOATS

THAI RESTAURANT SALA RIM NAAM

THAI RESTAURANT SALA RIM NAAM

THAI RESTAURANT SALA RIM NAAM

THAI RESTAURANT SALA RIM NAAM

SALA RIM NAAM: THAI FINE DINING

SALA RIM NAAM: THAI FINE DINING

SALA RIM NAAM: THAI FINE DINING

SALA RIM NAAM: THAI FINE DINING

SALA RIM NAAM: THAI FINE DINING

SALA RIM NAAM: THAI FINE DINING

LORD JIM'S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM’S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM'S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM’S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM'S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM’S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM'S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM’S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM'S RESTAURANT

LORD JIM’S RESTAURANT

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

BBQ BUFFET (RIVERSIDE TERRACE)

ENTRANCE TO THE BAMBOO BAR

ENTRANCE TO THE BAMBOO BAR

THE BAMBOO BAR (DURING DAY)

THE BAMBOO BAR (DURING DAY)

THE BAMBOO BAR (AT NIGHT)

THE BAMBOO BAR (AT NIGHT)

THE BAMBOO BAR

THE BAMBOO BAR

THE BAMBOO BAR

THE BAMBOO BAR

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE

SHOPPING ARCADE


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Top 10: my 2016 trips that I am most excited about!

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (January 4, 2016): my 2016 trips that I am most excited about.

The past 2 weeks, I reflected on my most memorable travel experiences of the past year and the biggest stories that dominated the travel industry in 2015. But now that 2016 is finally here, it’s time to look forward and share with you 10 great trips that I have already planned for the coming year and that I am looking forward to share with you in my Wednesday blog posts (which always feature flight trip reports and luxury hotel reviews).

If you have some tips and suggestions for my upcoming trips, please share them in the comments section below!

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10. FLYING FIRST CLASS IN A CATHAY PACIFIC BOEING 777-300ER

In April 2015, I experienced a 24 hour delay when flying Business Class in a Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 from Qatar to Hong Kong, due to a sandstorm and the subsequent incompetence of the airline to deal with the whole situation. While it is not always possible for an airline to eliminate all of the factors that lead to a flight being delayed, it is crucial that there is no compromise in both communication and service for the passengers in such situation. And this is exactly where Cathay Pacific failed, not once, not twice, but multiple times. After the ordeal, I was in touch with Cathay Pacific (making a complaint using the link on their official website) and I was offered 2 upgrade vouchers as a compensation. I will now use those vouchers to upgrade myself from Business to First Class for my upcoming flight from Düsseldorf (Germany) to Hong Kong.

CATHAY PACIFIC FIRST CLASS

CATHAY PACIFIC FIRST CLASS


9. TRYING OUT LOS CABOS’ MOST EXCLUSIVE RESORTS

In December 2014, I had planned a 4 night trip to Los Cabos’ Rosewood Las Ventanas, an ultra luxe resort located on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula that is a favorite among Hollywood celebrities. However, I had to cancel that trip after a category 3 hurricane slammed into Los Cabos, causing severe damage to almost all of the Cabo resorts, who subsequently had to close their doors for months. But the region bounced back from the disastrous hurricane, rebuilding almost from scratch, and all resort properties are back in business. I am now looking forward to return to the area, and finally stay at the famous Rosewood hotel, as well as its neighbour The One&Only Las Palmillas. I am looking forward to find out how these hotels compare to that other high-end Cabo hotel, The Resort at Pedregal, where I spent a holiday a few years ago when it was still managed by Capella Hotels & Resorts. I will also sneak in some whale watching, since this is one of the best spots on the planet to observe these magnificent creatures.

LAS VENTANAS AL PARAISO, A ROSEWOOD RESORT

LAS VENTANAS AL PARAISO, A ROSEWOOD RESORT


8. HIKING IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

The Canadian Rockies is one the world’s most scenic places and one of my favorite destinations. The National Parks of Banff, Jasper and Yoho offer world-class and jaw-dropping scenery, centered around glacial lakes that are filled with deep crystalline waters, mirroring pine forests, dizzying mountains and endless sky. Wildlife is also abundant in these areas, with grizzlies, bisons and wolves roaming free in the forests. And the Icefield Parkway between Banff and Jasper is one of the most scenic drives in the world. I will bring a return visit to the area in September, and combine day hikes and sightseeing with stays at the best hotels and lodges in the area, such as The Fairmont properties in Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff, Emerald Lake Lodge, and Moraine Lake Lodge.

EMERALD LAKE LODGE, CANADIAN ROCKIES

EMERALD LAKE LODGE, CANADIAN ROCKIES


7. ENJOYING ISLAND LIFE IN BORA BORA

The lush strip of land called Bora Bora lies in the South Pacific Ocean’s most mesmerizing lagoon and has, as you probably expect, some pretty awesome beaches. Luxurious bungalows nestled over ridiculously clear waters with Mount Otemanu as a tropical backdrop put Bora Bora atop the bucket list of most discerning travelers. I have booked a week-long Bora Bora holiday in May, which should be the start of the dry season, and I will stay at the St Regis and  Four Seasons resorts, both of them representing the best French Polynesia has to offer in terms of ultraluxe accommodations. I will fly to Bora Bora in Business Class on Air Tahi Nui from Tokyo for just 25 USD (and 80,000 miles from my account with Amercian Airline’s AAdvantage, which I consider to be best loyalty program in the world, even when it will devaluate later this year).

FOUR SEASONS BORA BORA

FOUR SEASONS BORA BORA


6. FLYING FIRST CLASS IN QATAR AIRWAYS’ AIRBUS A380

Qatar Airways has a superb and cutting edge Business Class product on its Boeing Dreamliners (read my trip report here), Airbus A380s, and Airbus A350s, earning the airline a spot in my top 10 list of the best Business Class cabins in the skies (try to avoid their A330s though). Their First Class is a more elusive product, since they only installed it on their Airbus A380 fleet and Qatar only has 6 of these planes in its fleet, mostly deploying them on the Doha-Paris and Doha-Bangkok route. They also offer a far from impressive First Class cabin on some narrow body planes that fly regional routes, and which is somewhat reminiscent of domestic First Class on USA airlines. In February, I will fly in First Class from Doha to Paris, and I cannot wait to report on that, as well as to post a review on the Qatar Airways First Class Al Safwa Lounge at Doha, which is supposed to be the most luxurious airline lounge in the world. I paid 80 euros (100 USD) for the flight, since I used 80,000 British Airways miles (Avios) to book the flight.

Update: I have now completed this trip. You can read my trip report here.


5. SIGHTSEEING IN OMAN

The sultanate of Oman, a growing tourist destination of the Middle East, has always been on my bucket list. I’ve been in the country once, although that was not exactly what you call a sightseeing trip since I stayed at Six Senses Zighy Bay, a sublime resort on Oman’s northern Musandam Peninsula, which is an exclave of Oman, separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates. Oman’s diverse terrain with Wadi’s deserts, beaches, and mountains are areas which make the country unique to its neighboring nations. In addition, its capital Muscat, with its golden minarets in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains reaching down to the Arabian Sea, is described as an “Arabia’s jewel”. During my trip, I will stay at some superb resorts, such as Alila Jabal Akhdar, Al Bustan Palace (a Ritz-Carlton hotel), Shangri-La Al Husn, and The Chedi Muscat.

ALILA JABAL AKHDAR, OMAN

ALILA JABAL AKHDAR, OMAN


4. FLYING FIRST CLASS IN ETIHAD AIRWAYS’ AIRBUS A380

Last year, Etihad Airways introduced an enhanced onboard product for its new Airbus A380 and Dreamliner Boeing 787 planes. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier even pushed luxury to a sky-high new level – and beyond First Class – with the unveiling of its new ‘Residence’ class on board its Airbus A380 superjumbos. The three-section private cabin, designated “the most luxurious living space in the air”, features a lounge area, a bedroom and a bathroom with shower. There is also an onboard butler solely to service passengers in the ‘Residence’, trained by the Savoy Butler Academy in London. While I won’t be flying the Residence soon, I have an upcoming flight in a few weeks from London to Abu Dhabi in Etihad’s First Class A380 cabin, which is in fact an apartment. A friend is joining me, and that’s cool since the the divider between apartments can be lowered to join rooms. I booked the flight for me and a friend for 2 x 30 USD and 80,000 AAdvantage miles.

Update: I have now completed this trip. You can read my trip report here.


3. FLYING FIRST CLASS IN EMIRATES’ AIRBUS A380

Since I will be flying First Class in the A380 cabins of both Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, I though it would make sense to fly an Emirates A380 in First Class as well, so that I can make trip reports about and compare the First Class products of the 3 major Middle East airlines. My post in which I compare the Business Class products of Emirates versus Qatar versus Etihad and which contains several links to my trip reports, is one of my most read articles of the past year. In addition, my Youtube clips about Business Class trips on the Middle East airlines are very popular, and all have more than 100,000 views (my most popular clip – documenting an Emirates Business Class flight from Dubai to Sydney – even has more than 1,500.000 views). So, apparently, there is a lot of interest in the Middle East airlines and their A380s, and the next few months, you will be able to read (and watch) a lot of trip reports of flights with them on my travel blog. I will pay my Emirates First Class ticket by transferring some of my Starwood points to Alaska Airlines‘ loyalty program, which partners with Emirates.

EMIRATES A380 FIRST CLASS SUITE

EMIRATES A380 FIRST CLASS SUITE


2. ENJOYING THE GOOD LIFE IN THE MALDIVES

It’s no secret: the Maldives is my favorite beach destination in the world. And I consider it to be the globe’s ultimate luxury hotspot, synonymous with paradise whether it is for honeymooners, sun worshipers, or scuba divers. Located on the equator towards the south of India and stretching over 800 km (500 mi), the Maldives are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3 km (1,8 mi). The stunningly beautiful islands are blessed with some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, crystal clear blue lagoons, incredible underwater wildlife, and unrivalled luxury resorts that take up their own private island. In January, I will be staying for a week at Soneva Fushi, which is managed by Soneva, my favorite ultra luxe hotel brand in the world. Soneva Fushi is the sister resort of Soneva Kiri, which I consider to be among the 10 best luxury hotel in the world (you can read my review of Soneva Kiri here).

Update: I have now completed this trip. You can read my trip report here.


1. EXPLORING ANCIENT CULTURES IN JAPAN

Japan has been a blind spot on my travel map, but finally, that will be a thing of the past by May. I am looking foward to visit the country of the rising sun, and I hope that Japan’s ancient temples, shrines and traditional geisha districts will offer me a fascinating glimpse into the country’s rich history and heritage. I will explore the temples in the supposedly stunning imperial city of Kyoto, emerge myself in the bustling capital of Tokyo with its dizzying dimensions and flashing neon lights, and I also plan to do some hiking on Mount Fiji. Of course, I will try out several of Japan’s most iconic hotels, so you can expect later this year some reviews on – among others – the Aman Tokyo, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Andaz Tokyo, and the Ritz Carlton Kyoto. I still have to book my Business Class plane ticket though, and I am doubting between All Nippon Airways (which now has a direct flight to Tokyo from Brussels, my hub) and Japan Airlines (which requires a stopover via London or Helsinki). I probably stick with Japan Airlines since they are a Oneworld airline, my preferred airline alliance.

AMAN TOKYO, JAPAN

AMAN TOKYO, JAPAN


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Review: inside London’s most luxurious hotel, the Rosewood

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

Today (December 30, 2015): Review of  The Rosewood London (UK). 

Last month, I spent a weekend at the Rosewood London, currently the finest five-star hotel in the UK capital, with my best friend to celebrate her 40th anniversary. And I although had great expectations because of my terrific stay at their amazing sister property in the Chinese capital – The Rosewood Beijing – earlier this year, the Rosewood London still wowed me in a way that only few hotels do. Words cannot describe how tremendously impressed I was by the design, setting, suite and food. Blending English heritage with contemporary sophistication, the palatial building that houses the hotel has been sensitively renovated to create an ultra-luxurious hotel with the ambience of a stylish London residence.

The Rosewood London features in my top 10 lists of the most amazing city hotels in Europe and the most luxurious hotels in London, as well as in my list of the best new luxury hotels of 2013.

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
  • Rosewood London is the first European property of the Dallas based Rosewood Hotels & Resorts Group. One of the world’s most exclusive, ultraluxurious hotel brands, Rosewood also recently took over a Tuscany resort, and a will debut hotels in Paris and Edingburgh in the near future.  With their London outpost, the ultraluxury hotel chain has taken contemporary sophistication to new heights in the UK capital.
  • The hotel enjoys a terrific location in one of the city’s most historic and lively thoroughfares, High Holborn, just steps from Covent Garden. You do not need to venture far for dining and entertainment, as the Rosewood is close to plenty of restaurants, bars and the West End theatres. The City and capital’s major tourist attractions are not far either, making it is an ideal base for both business and sightseeing.
  • The Rosewood London is housed in a flamboyant and sensitively renovated Edwardian mansion. Designed by Percy Monckton and completed in 1914, the building used to be the headquarters for the Pearl Assurance Company. The subsequent transformation of this historic building from Imperial-era offices into a London luxury hotel was carried out under the guidance of English Heritage, with preservation of the building’s significant heritage features such as the principal facades, the interiors of the former East and West Banking Halls (now Holborn Dining Room and the Bar, respectively) and the grand staircase.
  • Arrival at the hotel is quite stunning: the magnificent street frontage, which is the hotel’s main entrance, features a central carriageway entrance with iron gates and dome leading into a grand Edwardian courtyard. The latter provides a little oasis of tranquillity away from the bustle of the city that is unique among London luxury hotels.
  • Every Sunday, rain or shine, the courtyard hosts a food & living market, which recreates the traditional marketplace shopping experience in Holborn and features products from local growers and artisans. This is yet another unique and lovely feature among London luxury hotels!
  • A dramatic corridor, designated the rose bronze gallery, connects the courtyard to the hotel lobby. The lobby itself is rich and luxurious in every detail, comprising black and white marble mosaic flooring, gilded eglomise glass partitions filled to the brim with quirky art and books, stunning oak armoires and a parchment reception desk. The centre wall features a painting by world-renowned Chilean artist, Eduardo Hoffmann, displaying the rolling countryside surrounding an English country estate.
  • To get you to the higher floors of the property, where you find the rooms and suites, you can take the elevators, or, alternatively, you can make your way up the amazing Italian Grand Pavonazzo marble staircase, located beneath the hotel’s iconic dome cupola.
  • The 262 rooms and 44 suites are among the largest accommodations in London and reflect the style of a British mansion rather than a hotel. I had booked the lowest room category (which is still amazing), but because of the special occasion (my friend’s anniversary), we were upgraded to an amazing Premier Suite. The very spacious suite comprised a hallway, two restrooms, an expansive living room, an airy bedroom and a pampering bathroom in Italian marble with silver finishes. Materials in the suite included lacquer, textured wood veneers and prismatic mirrors. The minibar in the suite was well stocked, with complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Rosewood London’s Sense Spa is located on the lower ground floor of the property. The spa features bamboo walls, soft lighting and wooden walkways over rippling water and pebble stones, providing a restorative hideaway in the heart of London. Facilities include seven treatment rooms (one of which is an exclusive couple’s suite), dry heat saunas, amethyst crystal steam rooms and a shimmering gold leaf and teak relaxation lounge.
  • The hotel has two excellent restaurants, both of them featuring creative, well executed, and refined food, albeit in a somewhat different setting. The Holborn Dining Room, with its oak furnishings, antique mirrors and opulent red leather upholstery, is a bustling brasserie with a menu of British dishes with a twist. The exquisitely designed and more formal Mirror Room, features decorative mirrors, low lighting, fresh flowers everywhere, and lounge seating, and offers fine-dining cuisine in the evening and a sumptuous breakfast in the morning.
  • If you stay at the hotel in the weekend, be sure not to miss the grandiose Sunday brunch at the Mirror Room, which must have been the most spectacular and best tasting brunch that I ever had during my extensive travels around the world. Ingredients are carefully selected from the slow food & living market held in the hotel’s courtyard, and honour the slow food & living principals of sustainable, local, organic and wholesome produce.  There are several main courses to choose from, in addition to 6 different food stations serving everything from charcuterie and smoked fish, to cheese, breads, salads, yoghurts, juices, Perrier-Jouet champagne, a vast array of desserts, and even a chocolate fountain.
  • The hotel’s house bar, Scarfes Bar, evokes a convivial atmosphere with a roaring fire at one end and wooden bar running along the other end. Inspired by the atmosphere of a drawing room and the sophistication of a gentleman’s club, it t features a collection of cosy velvet armchairs and shelves filled with antique books.
  • The staff provides impeccable service with a friendly, welcoming smile, as you would expect from a luxury hotel of this caliber. I also loved the smart, English uniforms for all of the personnel!

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Rosewood London’s exterior, interior, and guestrooms all capture and celebrate the historic character and grandeur of this landmark building and represent the ultimate London hotel experience. I cannot imagine that anyone would not like this ultraluxurious hotel and I highly recommend it. You need to know though the following issues when considering a stay at the Rosewood London:

  • With £60 per person, the brunch is pricey, but when you consider the scale of the brunch and the overall experience, it’s undoubtedly value for money and a brilliant setting for a special occasion.
  • In addition to brunch being pricey, I was not correctly informed about the extra charge for the brunch when you are booked into the hotel on a bed&breakfast base. I was told it was £10 extra per person by the restaurant staff, but at check-out, it turned out to be £30 extra per person.
  • I found the noise of the airconditiong system in the room to be uncomfortably loud from time to time. While it did not bother me to fall asleep, I can imagine that it would be more troublesome for a light sleeper. You can switch off the system though.
  • Because of its popularity, the hotel spa tends to be fully booked days in advance, so make sure to prebook your spa treatment to avoid disappointment.
  • Despite its ultraluxurious setting and style, the hotel lacks a swimming pool.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Rooms:10/10
  • Food: 10/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9,6/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like The Rosewood London. Book a room at the cheapest price and/or receive many free perks!
  • Save money: Enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtusoso (e.g. upgrade on arrival, daily English Breakfast, $100 USD hotel credit, early check-in, and late check-out).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT LONDON

The best time to visit London is in the spring, when the temperatures are mild and the city’s parks are green and blooming. However, spring – along with summer – is also prime tourist season, and hotel and flight prices reflect the surge. You’re more likely to find airfare and accommodation deals in the fall and winter, though you’ll also encounter chilly temperatures. And no matter when you travel, you should pack an umbrella: “Foggy Londontown” experiences misty days and showers throughout the year.


HOW TO GET THERE

London can easily be reached by plane, train or car. For those coming by plane, the city is served by 6 airports:

  • Heathrow (LHR) is the primary international airport serving London. Check the Wikipedia page of Heathrow Airport for the lasted updates on airlines that have direct flights to this airport. It’s a 40 minute drive to the hotel.
  • Gatwick (LGW) is London’s second busiest airport. Check the Wikipedia page of Gatwick Airport for the lasted updates on airlines that have direct flights to this airport. It’s a one hour drive to the hotel.
  • Stansted (STN) is a base for a number of major European low-cost carriers, being the largest base for low-cost airline Ryanair with over 100 destinations served by the airline. Check the Wikipedia page of Stansted Airport for the lasted updates on airlines that have direct flights to this airport.
  • Luton (LTN) is the fourth-largest airport serving the London area. Check the Wikipedia page of Luton Airport for the lasted updates on airlines that have direct flights to this airport.
  • London City Airport (LCY) is fifth busiest airport in passengers and aircraft movements serving the London area, and primarily caters to business travelers. Check the Wikipedia page of London City Airport for the lasted updates on airlines that have direct flights to this airport.
  • London Southend Airport (SEN) is the British capital’s smallest airport. Check the Wikipedia page of London Southend Airport for the lasted updates on airlines that have direct flights to this airport.

ROSEWOOD LONDON

ROSEWOOD LONDON

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HOTEL FACADE: ENTRANCE TO COURTYARD

HOTEL FACADE: ENTRANCE TO COURTYARD

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CARRIAGEWAY: ENTRANCE TO COURTYARD

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HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD

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HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL'S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

HOTEL’S INNER COURTYARD: SUNDAY MARKET

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HOTEL CORRIDOR

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PREMIER SUITE: ENTRANCE

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PREMIER SUITE: WELCOME MACARONS

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PREMIER SUITE: BATHROOM AMENITIES

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HOLBORN DINING ROOM

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HOLBORN DINING ROOM: DINNER

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BAR

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Top 10: the biggest travel stories of 2015

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (December 28, 2015): top 10: the most important travel stories of 2015.

As we wind down 2015, it’s time to start planning that dream vacation. I am excited to share with you in my 2016 blogposts some great upcoming trips such as flying Etihad’s Airbus A380 First Class, a holiday at the Maldives’ most luxurious resort, a tour in Japan, a hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies, and a stay at Bora Bora’s Four Seasons and St Regis resorts (but more on that next week). Now, it’s time to look back at 2015. Last week, I already published my most memorable travel experiences of 2015, and today, I reflect on the 10 biggest stories that dominated the travel industry in the past year.

There is more information below the slideshow.  If you think I forgot one, you can always share your opinion in the comments section below, or take my poll below!

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10. OIL PRICES DROPPED, BUT NOT THE AIRFARES

Today the price of a barrel of oil is averaging about $38 while it was more than $60 last summer. This drop in oil prices, the most significant one in 20 years, is a direct consequence of larger oil supplies (thanks to US soil oil and Libyan oil returning to the market) and reduced demand (because of a slowdown in the Chinese and EU economies). But although the price of oil has slumped almost 50% since last summer, this did not translate in cheaper airfares in 2015 as most airlines did not cut their fuel surcharges and instead used their savings on fuel costs to consolidate their businesses. It is predicted though that this will result in increased competition in the skies, eventually leading to a drop in flight ticket prices in 2016 to a level that fully reflects the scale of the oil price fall.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC IS ONE OF THE FEW AIRLINES THAT DID CUT FARES IN 2015

VIRGIN ATLANTIC IS ONE OF THE FEW AIRLINES THAT DID CUT FARES IN 2015


9. THE GERMANWINGS CRASH SHOCKED THE AVIATION INDUSTRY

Flying is, and always has been, the safest way of travel. Yet, a terrible crash in the French Alps gave a whole new dimension to our great collective primal fear of dying in a plane crash, since it shattered our belief that we can always trust the cockpit crew with our lives each time we get in a plane. On 24 March 2015, a Germanwings Airbus A320, operating Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf was intentionally crashed by the First Officer, killing all 150 souls all on board. While pilots have committed suicide by crashing their planes before, it was the first time that such an event got worldwide media coverage. Following the crash, most airlines have adopted a new flightdeck-occupancy procedure requiring the presence of two authorised persons on the flightdeck at all times during flight.

A GERMANWINGS AIRBUS A320

A GERMANWINGS AIRBUS A320, SIMILAR TO THE ONE THAT CRASHED


8. THE BAHA MAR PROJECT IN THE BAHAMAS TURNED INTO A FIASCO

The $3.5 billion casino resort Baha Mar in the Bahamas, the largest hospitality project ever in the Caribbean, was supposed to revivify the economy of the island nation, and to include the 1,000-room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, the 707-room Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, the 300-room SLS Lux at Baha Mar and the 200-room Rosewood at Baha Mar. Instead, Baha Mar missed all of its scheduled opening dates and is now embroiled in a bankruptcy battle because of a standoff between the resort and its construction company. As a consequence, many travel plans have been interrupted. For example, a bride and groom who were scheduled to have their wedding at Baha Mar in June were unable to get a refund for their 100 guests, who had booked hotel rooms and flights to the Bahamas.

THE BAHA MAR PROJECT IN THE BAHAMAS

THE BAHA MAR PROJECT IN THE BAHAMAS FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY


7. AIRLINE LOYALTY PROGRAMS DEVALUATED

Airline loyalty programs took a turn for the worse in 2015, at least from a frequent flyer’s perspective. In April, British Airways Executive Club underwent a substantial devaluation, with a new award chart that has off-peak and peak travel dates. In the States, Delta and United Airlines moved from a system of points for miles flown to a system of points for dollars spent. And unfortunately, in an uninspiring move, American Airlines announced that by the end of 2016, it will introduce copycat changes to its AAdvantage loyalty program, which I considered to be best frequent flyer program in the world so far. While all these changes are made to please the biggest spenders (which are business travelers), it is now significantly more difficult for leisure travelers to cash in points for free flights or upgrades.

AMERICAN AIRLINES WILL DEVALUATE ITS AADVANTAGE LOYALTY PROGRAM NEXT YEAR

AMERICAN AIRLINES WILL DEVALUATE ITS AADVANTAGE LOYALTY PROGRAM NEXT YEAR


6. GIANT HOTEL CHAINS MERGED

While 2015 was marked by devaluation of airline loyalty programs, there is a good chance that 2016 will be the year of hotel loyalty program devaluations. That is because some big hotel mergers occurred in 2015. In November, Marriott acquired Starwood, creating the world’s largest hotel company that operates or franchise more than 5,500 hotels with 1.1 million rooms worldwide. And this was followed by the announcement that the French-based hotel chain AccorHotels acquired FRHI Holdings Ltd, the parent company of three of the most prestigious global luxury hotel brands: Raffles, Fairmontand Swissôtel. While this may be a good thing to broaden Marriott’s and AccorHotels’s geographic footprint in the luxury segment, it will probably result in the devaluation of hotel points.

MYSTIQUE SANTORINI, A STARWOOD LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL, WILL SOON BE PART OF MARRIOTT'S PORTFOLIO

STARWOOD’S MYSTIQUE IN SANTORINI WILL SOON BE PART OF MARRIOTT’S PORTFOLIO


5. THE AIRBUS A350 TOOK TO THE SKIES

This year, the extra wide body Airbus A350, which offers better air quality, roomier rows, and extra-large windows, entered commercial service. Qatar Airways was the A350 launch customer, but since then, the plane has also joined the fleet of Finnair and Vietnam Airlines. The A350 is the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibers. Its variants seat 280 to 366 passengers in typical three-class seating layouts. The A350 is positioned to succeed the A330 and 340, and compete with the Boeing 777 and 787. As of today, Airbus had received orders for 775 aircraft from 41 customers worldwide. Sinagpore Airlines ordered the Ultra-Long Range A350, a variant that will be able to perform flights of up to 19 hours! You can watch a clip of my trip aboard the A350 below:


4. LOS CABOS MADE AN EPIC COMEBACK AFTER DISASTROUS HURRICANE

In September 2014, a category 3 hurricane slammed into Los Cabos, a resort town located on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and favored by Hollywood celebrities. Many famous, ultra-luxurious resorts, including Resort at Pedregal, One&Only Las Palmillas and Rosewood Las Ventanas, sustained major damage from the high winds and rain, and had to close their doors for remainder of the 2015 season. But in the first months of 2016, Cabo San Lucas bounced back from the disastrous hurricane – rebuilding almost from scratch – and the future of the shining jewel looks brighter than ever. All resort properties are back in business, with new looks and added amenities, and some new properties like the JW Marriott Los Cabos and Thompson’s The Cape opened their doors.

THE RESORT AT PEDREGAL, LOS CABOS, MEXICO

THE RESORT AT PEDREGAL IN LOS CABOS, MEXICO, IS OPEN AGAIN


3. TERRORISM IMPACTED THE TRAVEL MARKET

2015 will be remembered as a year of horrible terror attacks that prompted people to rethink their travel plans. Tunesia’s tourism collapsed after a mass shooting attack on Sousse beach killed 38 tourists, only 3 months after 22 people were killed in the Bardo National Museum in the Tunesian capital. Airlines no longer operate flights to/from Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, after a Metrojet airliner exploded midair, presumably because of an explosive device, killing all 224 people on board. Bombs rocked the capitals of Thailand and Lebanon. And the unthinkable unfolded in Paris with the Charlie Hebdo attack, which was followed by a terrorist rampage 10 months later that left 130 dead. Unfortunately, tragedies like these have a major economic impact on the travel industry. But despite all of this, travel prevailed, and is set to be even bigger in 2016.

PARIS TERROR ATTACK

PARIS TERROR ATTACK


2. TONS OF EXCITING HOTELS OPENED THEIR DOORS

If you are like me, than you love trying out new luxury hotels. Of course, hundreds of luxury hotels open every year all over the world, but I narrowed down the list to my pick of the 40 hottest luxury hotels that opened their doors in 2015 and that you should put on your bucket list since they are transforming their destinations. There are new luxury boutique hotels, beach resorts, safari lodges and hotels perfect for a city-break. Some of these hotel are managed by world’s most exclusive hotel brands. In order to set them apart from the competition, hotel chains are also adding new amenities to their brand new properties, such as mobile key cards (hovering your smartphone over the lock opens the door) or Instagram based hotel bookings.

SIX SENSES DOURO VALLEY IN PORTUGAL OPENED ITS DOOR IN 2015

SIX SENSES DOURO VALLEY IN PORTUGAL OPENED ITS DOOR IN 2015


1. CUBA AND IRAN EMERGED AS NEW EXOTIC TRAVEL DESTINATIONS 

Discovering untouched, unique places will be this year’s chief travel motivator for many. The warming relations between the U.S. and Cuba opens up the Caribbean island nation to travelers in a big way since U.S. airlines are permitted to fly as many as 110 direct passenger flights between both countries in the near future. Some fear though this may mean the end to Cuba’s authentic feel. The lifting of UN sanctions against and easing of diplomatic relations with Iran, has made this Persian nation more accessible, with key areas of interest now deemed safe to travel. With nineteen UNESCO World Heritage sites, exquisite desert landscapes, spice cuisine, and lively markets, the tourism industry is Iran is predicted to boom, with 20 million tourists by 2025.

CUBA OPENS UP TO MASS TOURISM

CUBA OPENS UP TO MASS TOURISM


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Take Our Poll


Travel news: this month (December 2015) in luxury travel

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

Today (December 25, 2015): December luxury travel news.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

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. The Oetker collection expands to the Americas
  2. JAL suspends Paris-Narita flights after terrorist attacks hurt demand
  3. St Regis Hotels & Resorts makes grand debut in Macau
  4. TAM Airlines becomes first A350 XWB operator from the Americas
  5. Accor buys the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel luxury hotel brands
  6. Etihad Airways announces deployment of Boeing 787s on 5 further routes
  7. IHG opens its fifth InterContinental hotel in France
  8. American Airlines launches Premium Economy
  9. Shangri-La Doha, Qatar, is now open
  10. KLM welcomes its first Boeing 787 Dreamliners
JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SUITE

JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SUITE


1. Oetker collection expands to Americas

The Oetker Collection is to expand its portfolio with two new hotels set to launch in Sao Paulo, Brazil and New York, USA. The first is Palácio Tangará in Sao Paulo, which will open its doors in the spring of 2017. Built in the surroundings of the highly regarded Burle Marx Park, whose gardens were designed by Roberto Burle Marx, the hotel will offer 141 spacious guestrooms – including 55 suites – all with beautiful views overlooking the park. Further north in the Americas, in Manhattan, Oetker Collection will open a ‘New York Masterpiece’ in the spring of 2018. Surrounded by the city’s best boutiques and most admired museums the development is located in the former Sony Tower in Midtown Manhattan, originally built as the headquarter of AT&T back in 1984. The iconic, 43 storeys postmodern skyscraper will feature 170 rooms including 60 suites set across eight floors. There will be a cozy yet stylish bar with a beautiful lounge area, a gourmet restaurant, a spa, a fitness centre and a 25 meter pool.

PALACIO TANGARA, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

PALACIO TANGARA, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL


2. JAL suspends Paris-Narita flights after terrorist attacks hurt demand

According to The Japan Times, Japan Airlines will suspend flights between Paris and Narita International Airport next month after business slumped in the wake of the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in the French capital. JAL currently operates one round trip a day between Paris and Narita. Many group tours using the JAL route were canceled after the terror attacks, and the seat occupancy rate fell to about 40 percent from some 80 percent as a result. The carrier believes that demand will not recover any time soon. “The airline will suspend flights between Paris and Narita from Jan. 12 through Feb. 29 except for several days,” a spokesman said. “We will decide whether to resume the Paris-Narita flights in March after observing the situation next year,” he said. JAL will concentrate on flights between Paris and Tokyo’s Haneda airport, which have a higher occupancy than the Narita flights at about 60 percent on average, the spokesman said. The carrier runs one round-trip flight a day between Haneda and Paris.

JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SUITE

JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SUITE


3. St Regis Hotels & Resorts makes grand debut in Macau

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts has announced the much-awaited debut of The St. Regis Macao, Cotai Central in Macau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with more than 450 years of history and cultural exchange between China and Europe. Owned by Venetian Orient Limited, an affiliate of Sands China Ltd, the 400-room hotel is set to elevate Macau’s luxury hospitality landscape with its uncompromising experiences, signature butler service, exceptional culinary venues and grand design – all underpinned by the St. Regis brand’s legacy. The opening of The St. Regis Macao marks the brand’s seventh hotel in Greater China, and will be followed by the unveiling of five new St. Regis hotels in 2016 in the world’s most coveted destinations, including Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia, the Maldives, Changsha in China and Cairo, Egypt.

THE ST REGIS MACAO

THE ST REGIS MACAO


4. TAM Airlines becomes first A350 XWB operator from the Americas

LATAM Airlines Group, made up of LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines, has taken delivery of its first A350 XWB in Toulouse, France. In doing so, TAM will become the first airline in the Americas to operate the all-new airliner and the fourth worldwide. TAM’s aircraft is configured in a premium two-class layout, with 348 seats, consisting of 30 Premium Business Class and 318 Economy. LATAM has ordered a total of 27 A350 XWB aircraft for the Group. The carrier will start operating the A350 XWB commercially in January 2016 between Sao Paulo and Manaus, Brazil, as part of continued training and crew familiarization. This will be followed by operations from Sao Paulo to Miami in March and then to Madrid in April. oday, LATAM is the biggest Airbus customer in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the top 10 Airbus customers worldwide.

TAM AIRBUS A350 XWB

TAM AIRBUS A350 XWB


5. Accor Buys Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel Brands for $2.9 Billion

The French-based hotel chain AccorHotels announced that it will acquire FRHI Holdings Ltd, the parent company of three of the most prestigious global luxury hotel brands: Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel. FRHI has more than 45,000 employees under its brands, and owns 155 hotels and resorts (of which 40 are under development), and more than 56,000 rooms (of which approximately 13,000 are under development). Its portfolio includes legendary properties such as Raffles Singapore, The Savoy in London, Shanghai’s Fairmont Peace Hotel, The Plaza Hotel in New York, 3 Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris, Fairmont San Francisco, Fairmont Banff Springs (Canada), Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego, and Swissôtel The Stamford in Singapore. The acquisition of these three global brands will broaden AccorHotels’s geographic footprint in the luxury segment.

RAFFLES SINGAPORE

RAFFLES SINGAPORE


6. Etihad Airways announces deployment of Boeing 787s on five further routes

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, unveiled plans to fly its Boeing 787s to five more destinations during 2016.  With a phased delivery of five new 787s over a seven-month period, beginning May 2016, the 299-seat 787 Dreamliners will be deployed as replacements for existing aircraft on daily scheduled services to Dusseldorf, Perth, Shanghai, Istanbul and Johannesburg from the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub. Etihad Airways currently operates five 787s, serving Brisbane, Washington, Singapore and Zurich from Abu Dhabi. With a further 66 Boeing 787s due to be delivered over the next few years, the Dreamliners will become Etihad Airways’ flagship long-haul aircraft. Etihad Airways’ newest 787-9 variant will include highly-acclaimed interiors featuring 28 Business Studios and 271 Economy Smart Seats, offering superior levels of comfort, entertainment and in-flight connectivity. On-board décor and lighting have been inspired by contemporary modern Arabian design.

ETIHAD AIRWAYS BOEING 787 DREAMLINER

ETIHAD AIRWAYS BOEING 787 DREAMLINER


7. IHG opens its fifth InterContinental hotel in France

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of the world’s leading hotel companies, unveiled  its latest opening, the InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel in France. The hotel’s historic building was stylishly refurbished by French Architect and Designer, Jacques Garcia, with rich colourful design typical of his opulent style, while preserving the property’s 18th century splendour. The hotel commands pride of place on Bordeaux’s main square, Place de la Comédie, among high-end boutiques and world-class restaurants. The hotel features 130 rooms including 44 suites, and also offers a range of fitness and wellness facilities including an indoor pool and hammam, 10 treatment rooms and a Jacuzzi on the 360° rooftop beach, which beautifully recreates the atmosphere of a summer’s day in the Bay of Arcachon. The Gordon Ramsay Group headed by the internationally renowned, multi-Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay, brings international flair to the fine dining restaurant, Le Pressoir d’Argent Gordon Ramsay.

INTERCONTINENTAL BORDEAUX, FRANCE

INTERCONTINENTAL BORDEAUX, FRANCE


8. American Airlines launches Premium Economy

American Airlines will offer customers more choice by introducing Premium Economy on its international widebody fleet. Premium Economy will offer a new class of service directly behind Business Class, providing an enhanced product offering compared to the Main Cabin. This product will offer a new type of leather seat with benefits that include more legroom, wider seats, priority check-in and boarding, and enhanced meal service. American’s first plane with Premium Economy seating will be its Boeing 787-9, which is expected to enter service in late 2016. American will also add Premium Economy to all Boeing 777-300ERs, 777-200ERs, 787-8s and Airbus A330s over the next three years.  The Boeing 767-300s will not be retrofitted with Premium Economy as those aircraft are scheduled for retirement in the coming years.

AMERICAN AIRLINES PREMIUM ECONOMY

AMERICAN AIRLINES PREMIUM ECONOMY


9. Shangri-La Doha is now open

The Shangri-La Hotel Group has brought its legendary Asian hospitality to Qatar. Its new Doha outpost is centrally located in the commercial district of West Bay, with easy access to the business and diplomatic areas and a direct link to the city’s largest shopping complex, City Center Doha. It is also adjacent to the upcoming Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. The 50-storey hotel blends Asian graciousness with Arabian warmth, offering guests luxuriously appointed accommodation, a variety of exciting dining experiences, state-of-the-art meeting facilities and a host of leisure options. The 272 guestrooms and suites are furnished in warm tones, with floor-toceiling windows that highlight views of the city and the gulf beyond. The rooms feature Wi-Fi-enabled smart TVs, complimentary WiFi access, and the signature Shangri-La beds, as well as spacious bathrooms with deep-soaking bathtubs and walk-in showers.

SHANGRI-LA DOHA, QATAR

SHANGRI-LA DOHA, QATAR


10. KLM welcomes its first Boeing 787 Dreamliners

The “Sunflower” (Zonnebloem) and the “Carnation” (Anjer) are the two first Dreamliners that KLM has taken into operation. By the end of 2016, the KLM fleet is expected to include 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. All of the Dreamliners will be named individually after flowers: a typical Dutch export product that therefore resonates with KLM perfectly. The Dreamliner planes will be deployed on the Amsterdam – Abu Dhabi/Bahrain route and Amsterdam – Dubai route. Later in the 2015/2016 winter schedule, the Dreamliner will also fly to Rio de Janeiro and San Francisco. The Dreamliners flown by KLM feature a revamped cabin, which including KLM’s updated lie-flat business class seats. KLM’s Dreamliners are also equipped for Wi-Fi that works on overseas flights.

KLM BOEING 787 DREAMLINER

KLM BOEING 787 DREAMLINER


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Stefano Pastrovich On the Future of Yacht Design

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

With Genoese Stefano Pastrovich at the helm, Pastrovich Studio continually creates sailing and motor yacht designs that are not only beautiful, but challenging to the status quo. From the beginning of his career collaborating with the Martin Francis Design Studio to being appointed Chief Designer at Wally Yachts, and eventually starting his own company in 2005, Pastrovich has developed a unique synergy with the sea that doesn’t rely on contemporary styles or trends. In fact, if anything, it’s Pastrovich (who looks like he could be the uncle of Jason Schwartzman—Wes Anderson, make this casting happen) who is creating the trends that the rest of the industry is bound to follow. 

Despite being pretty early in the morning, he was kind enough to chat at length over the phone from his Monaco-based office, with the topics ranging from how he stays ahead of the yacht design game and his secret projects to why he doesn’t design jets and what the new era of yachts will look like. Even after we exhausted the topic of boats, the conversation bounced to our shared Montenegrin lineage (the Pastrovich name pops up on some pretty old Yugoslavian maps) and travel plans.Whether you’re super active and can’t imagine a day at sea without jet skiing or you prefer to gaze out at the stars from a lounge deck, this guy knows how to deliver what you need in strange and exciting ways.

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

X-Vintage; Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

Mila Pantovich: Can you tell me a little about your background? How did you come to operate your own design office?

Stefano Pastrovich: I’ve been sailing since I was a child with my parents, so it was natural to design boats. I’d been always thinking, almost like [with] my soul, that I like to do big things. I started with Martin Francis, […] for three years; we did many things together. And then […] I said to myself, “I don’t want to work for anybody anymore. I think I can open my office, but in case I don’t manage to start by myself straight away, […] maybe I’d like to work with Wally Yachts.” So, I went there and it was one of the top [..], I would say the best in terms of the connection between aesthetics, innovation, and challenge. I’m a very challenging person. I don’t like to do what people do; I like to challenge myself. And then at some point, I said, “I’m ready. I’m going to do it myself.” I opened my company in 2005 and that’s it. 

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

WallyPower; Photo Credit: Gilles Martin-Raget

MP: Pastrovich Studio yachts are immediately recognizable and it’s no secret that we love them at JustLuxe; how do you continually create new concepts that top the previous, while staying within your signature style?

SP: I love challenge. [In the past], people spent their time and money to test, to try to do things that did not exist. You didn’t have a society behind [you] to support you with technology; you were growing the technology yourself without knowing if it was going to be good or bad. In those years, the people were challenging more than now. Now it’s more controlled. You know where you go. People don’t risk too much. I like the previous time, so all my projects [are] very challenging. They are not crazy things. Sometimes people say they are crazy. No, no, they are not […] crazy, I’m a guy who likes to march forwards.

The 118-foot WallyPower, she is now considered one of the best yachts in the world. She’s an [iconic] boat; she’s a piece of art. There is no doubt, and it’s not because of me, it’s just coincidence. Sometimes things come out [of a project]; I don’t want to take all of the credit. The point is, when we designed this boat, people said, “What is this? You’re stupid. What have you done? Why did you do this?” People kept saying that for many years and after 14 years, people said, “Ah, you know what? This is an untouchable piece. An unforgettable piece. It is maestro.” That describes exactly who I am. I am a person who is not capable of staying in the moment where we stay now. I have to stay forwards. I have to think in a way [so] I don’t give you what you expect. I give you unexpectation

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Life Saga; Photo Credit: Giovanni Malgarini

MP: Your company states that there shouldn’t be any interruptions within interior spaces, like doors, so there can be a relationship between rooms. How do you achieve creating different auras and moods while maintaining a cohesive style?

SP: Because that’s you. That’s your DNA. You can dress with different clothes, […] but at the end of the story, if you are naked, it is you. So your body is your body. You cannot change [it], but you can shape it into a different style. You can be aggressive, or become very soft. You can give the impression [of different] emotions. The same is for boats. You can find the same rules in all my designs all the time, and then they evolve, they change, they update in a different state, in a different way. [Our aesthetic keeps changing], with the same flow. I get bored [if making] a replica of what I [already] did. Why should I do the same?

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Photo Credit: Daniele Del Castillo

MP: What are the main challenges of re-designing a vessel as opposed to designing one from on a blank piece of paper?

SP: I’ve done many refits that are challenging in the way that you try to clean the project. Most of the time you just need to remove what has been added, which was not part of the soul of the vessel. So many people, they just increase and they hide little by little the real aesthetic, the soul of the boat. So the big challenge is to bring forth the yacht’s DNA. My job is very fun, but then when you go into the construction, it’s quite difficult. Every time you open something [and] you dismantle part of the boat, you discover some more problems. 

On the other hand, it’s faster. When you do a refit, you see your baby much quicker than with a brand new boat. Usually a refit is one to two years maximum, depending on the size of the boat—sometimes it’s five months. You suddenly see the big transformation; she was sh*t, and now she’s a beautiful lady [laughs]. When you do a brand new boat, you have a long wait. For example, we are building two 70 meters and it takes four years. It’s a very long process. But you can be fuller, free to do whatever you want unless you have a client who gives you very strong direction which you don’t like—which isn’t my case. I never have clients giving me directions; they come to me because they like my stuff, that’s it. 

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Coupe; Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

MP: You’ve just secured a new client; how does the process usually work?

SP: They talk about general things that they want in the aesthetic, so you propose the profile, and it’s […] up to the client. Sometimes it’s very helpful when they give their view, because my style is the result of talking to my guys, having discussion—I’m not a painter who paints by myself. It’s part of team work. So sometimes when the clients talk, they help me, because they give me ideas and we can discuss. Maybe it’s not my idea [that’s] the correct one, it’s not their idea, but it’s the in-between. So they give me inspiration, a point of view. […] They say, “If I give Stefano a good message of the lifestyle I have, Stefano can design something to fit this lifestyle. I don’t give you specific details, I give you my generic way of life, what do I do? I do this and I do that. Finish. You are the architect. Find a way. Design that. I like to see the stars. Find a way and make a project where I can see the stars.”

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Photo Credit: Daniele Del Castillo

MP: Do most of your concept designs move on to production?

SP: No, because usually owners like to build something brand new. On my website you cannot see the 70 meters I’m building [for the past two years] and it will be invisible for the next two years. And there are three other boats you cannot see in public because they are invisible. When you do a concept it’s very rare that a customer comes to you and says, “Build that.” There are customers calling and saying, “I like that, but can we do this change, can we do this and that?” So, by the time that you do all these changes, you really change the design. […] Most of the people know me now for the challenging projects. But then when you [ask], “Will you buy this?” They say, “No, you have to be very brave for that, so no, I would prefer something more classic.” That’s typical for the psychology of people. They dream, they say, “Wow, that’s amazing. But if I had the money, no I wouldn’t buy that. I would buy something more secure.” So my brand is trying to […] show my philosophy, which is challenging, but at the same time we do more natural, classic, and more acceptable designs. Otherwise I would be asking for coins under the bridge [laughs]. 

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Sveti; Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

MP: Where do you see the future of yacht design going? Are there any trends that you think are fading or any that you see as growing stronger?

SP: I the future you [will] lose one deck. […] Because I think that in the future, all of this wedding cake philosophy of having many decks that are identical to each other […] will disappear and this will be the transition to go a step forward […], where we have the single volume object. So there are no decks visible from the outside. There will be a single volume, like a monolithic volume. There is a boat on my site which is called Sveti, which is an 150-meter concept design that is a typical example of how it will be. There is another boat which is called Alien, that is another example. 

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Alien; Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

MP: What’s one of you favorite parts of the job?

SP: Anything you build, there are normal buildings […] but then, there is a magic moment. Where the builder, the designer, and the owner are aligned in the same spirit. In the same philosophy, in the same chemical liaison. So magically you come out with an amazing project. Because the project, all projects, are not just because of me, the designer. The project is more than that. There are so many people involved that if you don’t have this chemistry, […] this electrical feeling, you can be the best in the world but [without that] part you won’t get the soul, the DNA that you wanted. It’s very rare, it happens in your life a few times, with a few clients. I had the chance to do one with Wally, […] and this year I’m doing the new big thing. From 2000 to now, […] we’ve been building a boat for one of my big clients. And this will be another maestro. I’ve designed many boats, but she will be something. 

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Wally; Photo Credit: Toni Meneguzzo

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio

stefano Pastrovich, yachts

Photo Credit: Pastrovich Studio