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

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space -

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.

The

two- bed­room

suite

is

a

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

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