by Peter J. Bates

Monday, February 11, 2013


Last week, I shared with you some of the distinctive destinations and magnificent hotels that I discovered last year. In Part 2, I am offering more from my “best“ list as well as some of the places I’ll be exploring in 2013. As I mentioned last week, none of the places or companies listed below are current clients – I visited them for business or leisure.

Best Hotel Concierge: Giovanni at Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong
I have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong more times than I care to count, and it wouldn’t be the same without Giovanni – one of the property’s best assets! He has been the concierge there for more than 30 years. He knows every customer, and is exceedingly helpful and knowledgeable. He knows this city inside and out and is skilled at recommending the right restaurants or experiences for guests. Plus, he can finagle anything in Hong Kong!

Best Unexpected Experience: Holiday Fireworks in Sydney and the London Olympics

You can spend a lot of time curating what you hope will be an unforgettable vacation, but sometimes it’s those unanticipated moments that rival for the best holiday memories. I had two such moments in 2012 – viewing the awesome New Year’s Eve fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House, and experiencing the gracious hospitality of the volunteers during the London Olympics (they were so visible and helpful – a reflection of fine British spirit).

Best Hard-Hat Tour: Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, London

I was fortunate to participate in a hard-hat tour of the soon-to-be-unveiled Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard in London. Shangri-La will literally take its level of hospitality to new heights when the company opens a property (in June 2013) occupying floors 34 – 52 of the iconic tower, one of Europe’s tallest buildings (and boasting a remarkable design). From the stunning sample guest room, I was awed by the incredible London vistas of the Thames River and the city beyond. A destination bar on level 52 will likely become one of the city’s “must visit” places.

Best Renovation: The Peninsula, Hong Kong

The make-over of The Peninsula in Hong Kong (which is celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2013) marked a revitalization of the luxury brand. All rooms feature a chic new design (in a color scheme of ivory, walnut and chocolate) and revolutionary technology that really does work (such as customized tablets pre-set in one of five languages) – all while maintaining the hotel’s classic elegance.

Best Discovery of The Year: River Cruising in Europe

People have been talking about river cruising but I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the appeal until I took my first river cruise last year with Viking River Cruises. The quality of the ship was excellent, and the itinerary was terrific. River cruising is a wonderful way to see Europe – it is casual and relaxed, and allows you to truly absorb the culture and brilliant setting.

On The 2013 Calendar

Looking ahead in 2013, where do I hope to visit?

Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia – This summer, my family and I will be flying to Iceland and Copenhagen and then cruising with stops at Stockholm and St. Petersburg.
Marrakech – I have never been here, and I can’t wait to discover the charm, style and intrigue that make this destination such a hot topic of conversation.
Istanbul – I last visited here in 1995 on the QE2. There has been so much development since then, and I am excited to re-immerse myself in the exotic city.
Dubai – It has been more than a decade since my last trip there. As we all know, the development has been ferocious, and I am keen on seeing it first-hand.
Abu Dhabi – 2013 will mark my first visit here, where the juxtaposition of a city by the sea and a desert landscape entices global visitors.


Café Royal in London – This was always a popular meetings venue but it re-opened in December 2012 as a luxury hotel and member of The Leading Hotels of The World.
The Langham Chicago – I did a hard-hat tour and it truly looks terrific. Located in the old IBM building, this hotel will re-open in the summer.

The new restaurant Jean-Georges Vongerichten will open this summer at the Inn at Pound Ridge in Westchester, New York. Word is he’s converting the 150-seat space into an upscale dining establishment. I can’t wait to make my reservation!

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