Saturday, August 11, 2007

Space hotel to open in 2012--rates from $4M for 3 nights

Finally, a hotel that makes the Poseidon Underwater resort look like a bargain!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Probably the most useful travel resource there ever was for those to whom picking the right hotel is paramount. Use it!
A few tips/thoughts:

*Don't just look at the star rating--actually read the reviews--as many as you can. I see so many people on there who don't do their research, then complain about things that would have been easily discovered by even a quick scan of previous reviews.

*Keep in mind that the hotels ratings are user ratings--not necessarily indicative of the level of luxury the property may offer.

*Also keep in mind that the overall tripadvisor rating of a property may be skewed if the property has recently gone through major changes--for better or worse. By looking at recent reviews, you may find that while the hotel has only a 3* overall rating, the reviews over the past year are all 4* and 5*. This can be due to management changes, renovations, a new chef, etc. Conversely, a hotel may have a 4.5* overal rank, but changes on site may mean that recent rating are all 1*. The rating itself does not tell the whole story.

*Be sure to look at the candid traveler photos--these will generally give you a much better idea of what the resort actually looks like now, rather than what it looked like 20 years ago or after extensive photoshopping.

*You may not agree with this strategy, but I always immediately disregard any review that reads as though written by a 5-year-old. If someone is not even intelligent enough to have a firm grasp on proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I don't believe they are intelligent enough to form a worthy opinion of a hotel.

*Click on reviewers' names and take a look at other reviews they have written. Unless they ave only written a single review, this tactic will give you an idea of the type of properties the user generally visits. In my opinion, the best/most telling reviews come from those who are used to staying in the type of property they are currently reviewing--whether it's a low-end chain motel, a local boutique hotel oozing with local charm, or one of the top luxury resorts of the world.

On the other hand, reviews from those for whom this particular hotel experience was a one-off can often be skewed by the writer's experience and perspective. For example, I have noticed that people used to staying in motels who splurge on a high-end luxury resort will often review the property in one of 2 ways:
-they will pronounce it the most amazing hotel in the world, no matter what they experienced during their stay, as the hotel was so much better than what they are used to--or b/c it was so much more expensive that they assume the experience MUST have been great.
- they will find fault with everything and feel ripped off; because they have no previous experience with luxury travel, they expect that a $500/night price tag means they'll vacation like royalty. When the experience is somewhat different from their expectations, they exact revenge in the form of a bad review.

There is another side to that coin, though: the traveler who is used to staying solely at large 5-star American-chain style properties, who gives a terrible review to a mid-range boutique hotel. Just because he hated the fact that the smaller hotel had no room service, TV, or pool butlers does not mean that you will feel the same. Depending on your personal travel style, you may be thrilled to find a hotel with tons of regional culture, no other choice than to get out to explore and enjoy local restaurants, and a chance to really disconnect from the media monster!

*Take advantage of the forums for your destination! They tend to be very active and informative, and I find them easier to search and navigate than many competing forums.

*Make sure you do other research as well. Tripadvisor is great, but it does not list every single hotel in the world, and information on many less-touristy areas is scarce.

*More sites to check out when researching a trip: -- tons of information and reviews on cruises -- hotel, restaurant, and site-seeing reviews and advice -- just what it sounds like--full trip reviews from real travelers -- information and advice from the publishers of the guidebooks of the same name, as well as deals and user forums -- information and advice from the publishers of the guidebooks of the same name, as well as deals and user forums -- online site for Conde Nast Traveler magazine -- online site for Travel & Leisure magazine -- online site for Islands magazine -- online site for Caribbean Travel and Life magazine -- travel reviews, photos, forums, deals, and articles -- Reviews for some hotels, as well as everything else from electronics to cars

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Amazing new resort opening in Fiji in 2009

Poseidon Underwater Resort will be the only property of its kind in the world, and promises to provide an unparalleled experience...

I will say that for $30K per couple for 6 nights, I would at least expect to be in the underwater rooms the whole time (right now, you only get 2 nights there and 4 in a beach bungalow). Still, it looks absolutely incredible, and the excursions definitely beat out your typical tour!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Atlanta Ritz-Carlton reviews

Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead

Living in Atlanta, my husband and I have stayed here numerous times over the years for various special occasions--including multiple Valentine's Days, anniversaries, and our wedding night. We were also engaged here, so I must admit the hotel holds a special place in our hearts. However, we are also fairly picky travelers, so it takes a lot to entice us to return again and again!

The rooms are not huge, but comfortable and well appointed. I won't bother to describe them, as you can look at photos on the hotel website, but rest assured that the photos you'll see accurately depict the rooms. Ask for a room on a higher floor, and one with a view of Peachtree Rd.--otherwise, you are likely to be staring at the parking garage or neighboring buildings.

The service is a credit to the Ritz brand--friendly, prompt, and personalized. On our most recent visit (a weekend "in-town vacation"), they noted our history, and presented us with complimentary champagne upon check-in. It was a nice touch, and a great way to begin our stay! Another example of the hotel going the extra mile was after our wedding, when we returned to the room to find the staff had put orchids and other tropical flowers all over the bed, and left us a bottle of champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, a plate of fresh fruit and a box of Godivas.

After at least 2 dozen meals over the years in the Cafe, I have yet to have a bad meal. I can't comment on the Dining Room (not a huge fan of heavy French fare), but have heard it's excellent as well. On many nights, the Cafe features live piano music and dancing...maybe not the trendiest or edgiest dance floor in town, but wonderful for an old-fashioned romantic evening!

High tea at the Ritz Buckhead is also a treat. this is one of the few places in Atlanta that still does it properly, with bone china and a wonderful selection of scones, sandwiches, and pastries.

Room service is good, prompt, and has been the proper temperature each time it's been delivered (and after many years of travel, I've found that this is generally as good as it gets when it comes in in-room dining!).

The bar, with its stiff drinks and clubby atmosphere, is a great place for a date..or to find one! If you want to see the real "Buckhead Bettys" (for those of you who have heard of the show of the same name), this is the place to be. A meat market, to be sure, but one featuring filet mignon (often heavily aged, but generally

The location is excellent if you plan to take advantage of Atlanta's best shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. Next door to one of the city's most upscale malls and across the street from another, the Ritz is a great choice for anyone looking to shop 'til they drop. A short (5-10 minute) drive will get you to various boutiques. Many of the city's finest restaurants are within a 10 minute drive as well, and there are several close enough to walk to from the Ritz. Valet parking is around $20 a night, on par with any other city hotel.

All in all, the Ritz is a great value, and in my opinion, the best high-end hotel in Atlanta (as compared with the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta downtown, the Four Seasons, and the Grand Hyatt). I hope this review has been helpful to you, and feel free to email me (address in profile) if you have more questions. Happy travels!

Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta
coming soon

Friday, August 03, 2007

My favorites list...

People always ask what our favorite place has been...and it's a difficult question to answer! We have been lucky enough to have visited many wonderful places, each with unique benefits. But here are a few places that have really stood out...

*Favorite destination for gorgeous scenery: Tikehau, French Polynesia

*Favorite resort: Los Altos de Eros - Tamarindo, Costa Rica

*Favorite hotel room: Frangipani villa at Stonefield Estate - Soufriere, St. Lucia

*Favorite trip overall: Brazil

*Favorite for snorkeling: Tikehau, French Polynesia

*Favorite for a long weekend: Ambergris Caye, Belize

*Favorite domestic destinations/hotels:
Lanai, HI--Four Seasons Manele Bay
Scottsdale, AZ--The Phoenician
Captiva Island, FL--South Seas
San Francisco, CA--Westin St. Francis
Charleston, SC--Francis Marion, Charleston Place

*Favorite airlines:
International: Air Tahiti Nui

*Favorite non-beach destination: Tuscany


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