Luxury hols for the well- heeled
It takes more than marble in the foyer for the world’s top hotels to attract the seriously wealth holidaymaker, Julie Earle- Levine discovers
WHEN James Packer recently tied the knot he did it in style, at one of the priciest, most exclusive hotels in the world, Hotel du Cap- Eden- Roc in the French Riviera. Hidden between Nice and Cannes, the former private mansion was built at the end of the 19th century and turned into a deluxe hotel in the 1950s.
It has had so many celebrities staying there that it lists them from A to Z on its website ( there are several hundred, including George Clooney, Elizabeth Hurley, Sharon Stone and Brad Pitt).
If you are even thinking about staying here, start saving. The presidential suite at Hotel du Cap- Eden Roc costs j4400 ($ 7000) a night. But junior suites are a relative steal at j510 a night.
Philippe Kjellgren, president of Kiwi Collection ( www. kiwicollection. com), a luxury- travel website based in Vancouver, helped to compile a list of other top luxury hotels.
The Swedish- born former fashion distributor started the site after noticing his wellheeled friends were asking him for hotel recommendations.
Kjellgren says the Packers chose one of the most secluded hotels on the Riviera. ‘‘ It is what everyone would like the Riviera to be like, but it is just impossible to find,’’ he says.
‘‘ It’s complete relaxation, away from the paparazzi. The design and decore is truly sensational. You can dine under a huge tree overlooking the coast. It is magical.
‘‘ No one has access to the property unless they are staying there — they do allow a maximum of 30 people per day to book a table at the restaurant, but that is all.’’
So what does it take to be considered a truly luxury property?
Lanny Grossman, director of communications for Small Luxury Hotels of the World, based in New York, believes luxury is not defined by marble in the foyer, high- end amenities in the bathroom or even a big, comfortable bed.
‘‘ Guests can rightly expect all of those things from any decent hotel,’’ Grossman says.
‘‘ What makes a property truly luxurious is exceptional service and the experiences with which the guests leave.’’
SLH ( www. slh. com) calls itself a luxury hotel brand with more than 400 independently owned hotels in nearly 70 countries.
Paul McManus, CEO of the Leading Hotels of the World ( www. lhw. com), which also represents luxury hotels, resorts and spas, backs that view.
McManus says guests expect to find luxury in an authentic sense of place and in an experience peculiar to the destination.
‘‘ Waking up in the Imperial Suite in the Ritz in Paris, there is no question you are in the City of Light.
‘‘ Or if you are at Banya Tree Desert Spa AlAreen, you could be nowhere else than at the edge of the wildlife reserve in Bahrain.’’
So what should you expect if you get to stay at the Hotel du Cap- Eden- Roc, at the tip of the Cap d’Antibes peninsula? Definitely ‘‘ bragging rights’’. The Hotel du Cap’s rooms are where the A- list flocks to, while the Eden Roc pavilion, the main building with suites and private terraces, is accessed via limestone steps and a wide path with scented gardens and a pool, carved into bluish- pink rocks. There are also private villas.
Every room is furnished in a Louise XV and Louise XVI style and has marble bathrooms, DVDs and flat- screen televisions and, of course, plush bathrobes.
Some of the more expensive rooms have balconies or terraces offering views of the sparkling Mediterranean, or the hotel’s private 10ha of lush gardens.
The Packer wedding party stayed where writers and society stars spent their entire summers.
Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and Marlene Dietrich were all guests. Other retreats on a par are: The Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort, Al- Areen, Bahrain, is the only all- villa private pool resort in the Arabian Gulf and one of the Middle East’s most luxurious properties at about $ 2000 a night.
There are 78 villas ranging from 400sq m to 740sq m. The Royal Pool villa has a sprawling master bedroom and oversized bathtub, a private swimming pool, a jet pool courtyard and garden, all set in the desert.
Guests can get massages at a Hammamstyle Turkish spa, ideal after exploring the nearby attractions of forts, the oldest mosque in the Gulf and a wildlife sanctuary.
For about $ 1400 a night, you’ll get an openair villa complete with a pool, landscaped courtyard and steam room, and extras such as personalised in- villa dining ( if you choose not to eat at the resort’s six restaurants) and a health club with 12 private spa pavilions inspired by royal Arabian palaces.
Saudi princes have stayed here, as well as F1 racing car drivers Rubens Barrichello, Philippe Massa and Jenson Botten.
The Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Mexico, also has its share of celebrities who pay as much as $ US15,000 ($ 17,500) a night to stay at the Coral Suite, a five- bedroom beachfront retreat.
Beyonce, Will Smith, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith have all been guests.
The suite was designed by renowned Mexican architect Diego Vilasenor and opened in March. Guests can opt for the private ‘‘ infinity edge’’ pool, or use a cabana at the Tamai pool, where daybeds come with televisions, iPods and internet access. Every hour guests receive cool fruit smoothies, or other treats.
The Coral Suite has deep marble baths, with a rain shower and vichy jets, as well as a media room, private gym and full kitchen for entertaining.
In the Maldives, the Rania Experience in the Faafu Atoll is called an ‘‘ experience’’ because the Rania is not just a hotel but rather the combination of an exclusive- use island and a 26m motorboat. It costs about $ US15,500 a night.
Your group of up to 15 people can choose to sleep in the three- bedroom villa on the island, where you can dine on whatever patch of sand you find most appealingly pristine, or head to the spa villa for a coconut body wrap.
Guests here have included a Saudi prince and his family.
You can spend the night in one of the four TV- and satellite phone- equipped bedrooms on the boat and get in a stroll around a nearby uninhabited island or a dive session before breakfast.
There are 40 dive sites in this atoll alone, with a house reef that attracts turtles and lobsters. Either way, you’ll be pampered to the extreme by your personal chef, dive instructor, spa therapist and butler.
In New York, the presidential suite at the Mandarin Oriental delivers floor- to- ceiling views of the New York City skyline, Central Park and the Hudson River for $ US14,000 a night.
whopping 242sq m space with handcrafted rugs and onyx walls in the bathrooms.
The hotel, located on floors 35 to 54 of the Time Warner Centre in Colombus Circle, attracts celebrities including Billy Joel, Elle MacPherson and Liam Neeson.
When you tire of staying inside, the hotel’s restaurant, Asiate, combines the best of French and Japanese cuisine — with Central Park views up close.
The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental is 1350sq m of total luxury. Bamboo, natural stone and gold leaf set the tone.
At the Ritz in Paris, expect to pay about $ US13,500 a night for the hotel’s best suite.
The Imperial suite is a replica of Marie Antoinette’s bedroom at Versailles, complete with gold leaf mouldings and a four- poster bed with gilded wood and canopy.
The furniture is Egyptian mahogany and 18th century French and there are two bathrooms, perfect for soaking.
Doing it in style: James Packer and Erica Baxter at Nice airport in France
Start saving: The Hotel du Cap- Eden- Roc in France is among the most luxurious and most expensive in the world