Friday, December 31, 2010

EliteTravelGal's Top 10 Luxury Hotels of 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, it's time to pay homage to 10 luxury hotels that completely blew me away this year. I criss-crossed the globe to preview new hotels, and also to revisit some properties that are new and improved after impressive redos. From Santorini to Sonoma, here's my "Top 10 of 2010" list:

As I'm here in Las Vegas for New Year's Eve, I'll start with props for The Cosmopolitan. In a town where more is more, this hotel exudes elegant style. The stunning Chandelier Bar; an entire floor of celeb chef-driven restaurants (Jaleo to Comme Ca to Scarpetta); a vintage-inspired, chic room decor; two gorgeous pools; and high-tech touches everywhere--coupled with staff that smiles like they mean it--makes this my new favorite hotel in Vegas.

The second US property from AmanResorts, Amangiri, makes my list for its sheer uniqueness and Zen-inspiring setting on the border of Utah & Arizona. Leave it to Aman to bring the best of Asian style to such an All-American setting (pictured). Yoga with a view was just one fun highlight of my stay.

I fell in love at first sight with The Surrey, located on Manhattan's Upper East Side, upon its reopening. Stylish design, spacious rooms & suites, a cool rooftop bar, terrific gym, and a staff that goes above and beyond to please make this my uptown favorite in the city that never sleeps.

My 2010 list also includes a downtown Manhattan fave: The Robert DeNiro-owned Greenwich Hotel. I felt like a special guest in this boutique, residential-style property that also houses the fab Locanda Verde restaurant. Cozy, clubby furnishings, huge rooms, free WiFi + free minibar, amazing baths, a Japanese spa and a living room-styled private bar are reasons I so enjoyed my weekend stay in TriBeCa.

Further afield, The Armani Hotel Dubai, wow'ed me with its uber-sleek design. How could it not, it's designed by Armani after all! I also loved its sister property, The Address Downtown. Warmly designed spacious rooms & suites with fountain views, beautiful restaurants & bars, ultra-friendly staff and an amazing Club Lounge make this hotel ideal for families to business travelers. The location steps away from the 1,200-store Dubai Mall is another selling point!

Santorini is one of those destinations I plan to revisit time and again. The Caldera area of Oia ranks up there with the most beautiful settings I've encountered in decades. The family-run Canaves Oia hotel--with a newly added second wing and a unique-to-Oia elevator--sits in a prime cliffside location to view the famous Santorini sunsets, while enjoying fabulous, authentic Greek cuisine before retiring to your beautifully furnished suite with a view.

On the list of hotels that get better with age, The Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara impresses from the minute you arrive. I love the junior suites with steam showers in the baths as well as the private, individually decorated cottages dotting the oceanfront property. The newly renovated Casino Club--open to members and hotel guests only--is a terrific addition for its oversized pool, beach access and alfresco restaurant. The setting, spa, and Sunday Brunch also impress.

One of the biggest surprises of the year came during my first visit to Sonoma, CA. The family-run, 18-suite Farmhouse Inn sits right in the heart of the Russian River Valley and is worth a visit for the incredible dining experience alone. But you'd miss out bigtime if you don't stay for a few days in one of the new Barnhouse Suites, complete with four-poster beds, fireplace, jetted tub-for-two, steam shower, upscale shabby chic furnishings, and the best concierge staff in the region who will get you VIP'ed at the best boutique wineries in the Valley. One of my favorite weekend getaways of the year, hands down.

Rounding out my list of new hotels I loved this year is Grand Hotel Via Veneto in Rome. My clients also loved this city-center property for its unique art deco-meets-modern style, personable staff (a huge positive in Rome!), and welcoming, comfortable ambience.

It goes without saying that all of the above hotels take amazing care of our clients, and of course that is the key reason we love them all. There are too many others to list that do the same, and we can't wait to see what 2011 brings!

Let us know if we can help you plan an amazing visit to any of our 2010 favorites...or recommend properties worldwide we know will best fit your business or leisure travel needs! Contact me anytime via email stacy@elitetravelinternational.com, find me on Twitter @elitetravelgal and be sure to like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/elitetravelinternational for insider tips on top hotels all year long. Happy New Year!

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