by Peter J. Bates

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Top Hotels in 2011...And My 2012 'Wish List'

During the first month of the year, I like to pause and consider all the hotels I’ve been privileged to visit – and will encounter the coming year – during my global travels. In the spirit of ‘recaps’ and ‘lists’ that celebrate the launch of a New Year, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the top five hotels I experienced in 2011 as well as the top five properties I can’t wait to discover in 2012.

Top 5 in 2011

Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives – Nestled 75 miles south of the equator on Villingili Island on the Addu Atoll in the Maldives, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa is exceedingly exceptional in every regard. Fabulous accommodations (132 villas in all), a superb roster of outdoor activity (such as biking, tennis and fishing), watersports (including diving, a huge passion in the Maldives), the CHI spa, superior dining, and flawless service make this luxurious tropical resort that is truly family friendly a gem in the glorious Maldives. Created on a deserted island from scratch, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa is a dreamy vacation getaway that is one of the few places I can confidently say allows the ‘globe-trotting road warrior’ in myself to actually relax. I visited last summer and I can’t wait to return.

Corinthia Hotel, London – Several new hotels emerged on the scene in London, and the Corinthia may be the best new property there. I’m in the city at least twice a year so new hotels are always on my radar. The Corinthia’s design is striking and impressive; bold and cutting-edge spaces (that are open and welcome tons of natural light) and spectacular workmanship enhance the stunning city views. Innovative culinary dishes and the revolutionary ESPA Life spa concept also make the Corinthia a distinct stand-out in London. It sets a new standard for luxury and style in one of the most cosmopolitan and culturally-rich cities in the world.

Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad – I travel to India several times a year, and for me in 2011, the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad was the most remarkable I visited in the country because of the painstaking restoration. This 60-room beauty genuinely captures the essence of the grand palace era in a triumphant manner. The personality of the Nizams can be experienced throughout, from rare furnishings and unique artwork to spectacular savory cuisine. Of huge appeal is the massive 101-seater Dining Hall – a great draw for groups. Hyderabad itself is growing in popularity, and I believe the city will garner more attention in the future as both a business and leisure destination for India-bound travelers.

The Peninsula Shanghai – One of my favorite things about this new five-star hotel is the brilliant, sweeping views of the Bund, day or night – they complement Shanghai’s distinct skyline in such dramatic fashion. This hotel was built to the highest specifications of grandeur and luxury with state-of-the-art facilities against a backdrop that blends historic architecture and Art Deco-inspired design. I particularly favor the complimentary international phone calls – a huge benefit for me so I can ring my family back home in the U.S.!

Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah – I was extremely impressed with this stunning mountain retreat, which I visited both personally and for business (for an event that took over the entire hotel). What has been developed here is a brand new ski resort – think ‘mountain chic’ – tucked into a picturesque, snow-capped (or flower-filled, depending on the season) landscape with amazing facilities at every turn. You can challenge yourself on the slopes, indulge in soothing therapists at the spa, play billiards, or head to charming Park City for exploration of great shops, galleries and restaurants. The hotel is ideal for families, couples and groups.

On My 2012 Radar

My travel schedule sometimes requires the handiwork of a magician to make it flow seamlessly! My global travels continue in 2012, and this year I greatly anticipate experiencing the following properties:

45 Park Lane, London – This hotel, a member of the Dorchester Collection, opened last September and the buzz is intriguing – a discrete location in Mayfair that draws a hip crowd, plus it is the home of Wolfgang Puck’s first venture in Europe (CUT at 45 Park Lane). I expect to be in London several times this year, including the Summer Olympics, and plan to make sure 45 Park Lane is on my itinerary.

Le Maison Blanche, Shelter Island – An eight-room intimate property near pristine Crescent Beach, Le Maison Blanche embodies the ‘beachy Hamptons lifestyle’ in a divinely tranquil setting. When I have a weekend to recharge my soul and spirit this year, I intend to head to these sun-kissed shores of Shelter Island and relax among Le Maison Blanche’s luxury appointments.

SLS at South Beach – I can’t wait to drop in to this hotel once it opens (expected in April 2012). Word is that this follow-up to the SLS flagship in Los Angeles will be ‘dressed to impress’ with rooms designed by Philippe Starck, magnificent culinary options, and an energizing nightlife.

Mandarin Oriental in Paris – Situated among exclusive fashion houses and nearby the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay is the Mandarin Oriental in Paris. Beautifully decorated accommodations, an exquisite spa, extensive leisure activities, and gourmet dining entice me to call the Mandarin Oriental ‘home’ on my Paris journey in 2012.

The Imperial, Delhi – This hotel is one of my usual haunts when I travel to Delhi on business (where the accommodations, facilities and level of service are impeccable) but 2012 marks the first occasion when I will be there with my family, making my next visit a true treat!

I’m quite confident that in the course of my 2012 travels, my list of hotels that I enthusiastically wait to experience will grow, which already has me thinking of what will be on my ‘top 2012 hotels’ list to be compiled a year from now! I’d also like to note that none of the hotels listed above are clients; I’ve stayed at them either on business or personal vacation.

I welcome your thoughts on what ranks on your ‘top’ lists for the past and coming year. Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2012!

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