by Bill Burke
Go for a swim at Walt Disney World’s new Art of Animation Resort, and you’ll hear characters from the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo talking to you — from under the water. It’s just one of the details the Imagineers at Disney have added to this newest resort to make it as immersive as possible.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the central Florida vacation kingdom’s newest hotel — featuring 1,120 family suites and 864 studio rooms slotted into Disney’s “value” level pricing.
Spacious Family Suites
Guests enter through Animation Hall — a lobby festooned with giant reproductions of early concept drawings of Disney/Pixar characters. Cast members (that’s Disney-speak for employees) wear paint-spattered vests, representing the artist’s creative process. Entering into the resort-proper just outside the lobby plunges visitors into a vividly colorful world of animated features. The “Finding Nemo”-themed pool — Disney’s largest outside of its water parks — is designed to make guests feel as if they’re living in the undersea world of Nemo, Dory and friends.
The family suites sleep 6 with a master bedroom, a pull-out couch in the living room area and a pull-down bed that also doubles as a small dining table. The suites also include a microwave, small refrigerator and counter space for preparing small meals. The resort, like all others on Disney property, is serviced by Disney’s motor-coach transportation system — which will ferry guests to and from theme parks — and the free Magical Express service, which brings guests to and from Orlando International Airport to their resort.
by Jimmy Im
If you didn’t think hotel discounts could get any more attractive, think again. Launched few weeks ago by TripAdvisor, Tingo is a new booking site that promises users an instant refund of the price difference if the rate at which they reserve a room drops. Sound too good to be true? It’s not.
Here’s how it works: Tingo allows users to book virtually any hotel available on Expedia and then automatically tracks the rates of the property. This means that users don’t have to watch prices on their own to get a better deal, so you’re guaranteed to get the lowest possible rate on the hotel booking. Tingo is the first site to automatically rebook a hotel reservation if the price drops, and consumers save on the difference with a refund (Orbitz has a price assurance policy with a similar plan, but unlike Orbitz, you qualify for a refund at Tingo regardless of whether another traveler has also booked the lower rate).
The company says about a third of rooms drop in price between booking and check-in, and because you’re so busy, you’re not monitoring this. In comes Tingo to watch the prices for you and give you the difference provided there is a price drop (if the price never drops, obviously nothing happens).
by Jimmy Im
It’s not all about free meals and a salsa class anymore.
All-inclusive hotels and resorts are hot right now. In fact, they’re so popular, Starwood opened its first all-inclusive resort, Westin Playa Conchal in Costa Rica last May and, more recently, Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort in Panama in October. According to Trip Barrett, Vice President, Brand Management Latin America: “The opening of the 2 Starwood all-inclusive properties was in large part a response to demand for more vacation packages from our customers.”
All-inclusive resorts are generally booked for their tremendous savings and hassle-free vacations. But with the recession and various sites offering deep-discount deals on hotels with value-added packages, travelers want their money’s worth — and, well, they’re getting it.
This Saturday, Palace Resorts in Cancun is offering guests free tickets to see Enrique Iglesias, who’s actually performing on their property (blame it on the success of Palace Resorts’ first in-house concert last year with Shakira). Guests have priority to see Enrique live; discounted tickets are offered for all guests but those staying 7 nights receive complimentary passes (average ticket costs $300). Similarly, Grand Oasis Resort, another all-inclusive property in Cancun, is having a Dance U Festival. From Feb. 28 to March 31, the hotel has been bringing together a series of acts and parties from famous artists in electronic music, hip hop and dance, with a lineup that includes Kelly Rowland (March 23) and Pitbull (March 30). This is inclusive for all guests no matter how many nights they stay.
Other great all-inclusive perks that are even better than “premium liquor?”
New York City is home to some of the top hotels in the world. Travel Channel may need to add The OUT NYC to that list soon. The city’s first gay boutique hotel is open for business. It’s located in Hell’s Kitchen, on West 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenue. The OUT was planned and built with the gay consumer in mind, including the hotel’s design, living spaces, music and rooms where closets are replaced with shelves.
The rooms –rates start around $200– include wireless, high-speed Internet, flat screen TVs, MP3 docking stations and mini-bars. If you’re looking for a cheaper rate, the hotel has 8 hostel-style rooms that sleep 4 for $99 per person. These rooms have 4 full-sized beds, personal TVs, a bathroom and privacy curtains.
Looking for places in the hotel to relax and unwind? Spend some time in one of the hotel’s three courtyards; workout in the gym; or dance ‘til you sweat in the XL Nightclub, a 14,000-square-foot gay dance club. A new full-service restaurant, Kitchin, is set to open in May. And fear not, the hotel isn’t just for gay patrons, hotel owners say the 105-room resort is straight-friendly.
by Holly Corbett
Paris may be the city of love, but New York is the city of sexiness. There’s enough food porn, chic wine bars and anonymity to put most couples in the mood to let their inhibitions go. If you’re looking to take your sweetheart to New York for Valentine’s Day, check out these hotels that are offering special packages to help electrify your romance.
For Couples Who Want … a Hot Night Out
Try the… The Room Mate Grace Hotel
The boutique hotel boasts NYC’s only indoor swim-up bar, which has a sexy club atmosphere with an extensive cocktail menu and a DJ who spins 5 nights a week. (If you also like to rock out together to live music, bands play regularly next door at Connolly’s Pub). The Room Mate Grace Hotel’s central location on one of the less busy avenues off Times Square is ideal for exploring some of NYC’s more iconic destinations, such as Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park.
Ask for the “Month of Love” specials any time in February and you’ll receive all of the Valentine’s Day necessities: a double room; 30-minute massage for 2; box of chocolates; bottle of champagne; use of the sauna and steam room; and — of course — rose petals on your table. The price without tax and tip is $425, and the regular price would be $810. (If you want only the above features and use of the aqua lounge minus the overnight stay, you can buy the package for $275). Email or call (212) 702-1643.
Hotels in New York City will provide housekeepers with personal panic buttons. This decision comes after a hotel maid’s charge, last May, that she was sexually assaulted by former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Now housekeepers at all of the top hotels in the city will be equipped with the devices.
The new panic buttons, a 29-percent salary increase and health insurance for workers, are all part of a contract proposal presented on Tuesday to the city’s hotel union. The Hotel Association of New York approved the devices last week, which requires employers to give panic buttons to any hotel worker entering an occupied guest room.
In a recent Reuters interview, association spokeswoman Lisa Linden said, “They can quickly and easily activate these devices to effectively summon prompt assistance to their locations.”
So while we’re talking New York City hotels, check out a few of these Oyster.com hotel recommendations in the Big Apple.
Oyster.com’s NYC Hotel Recommendations
NYC Luxury Hotels
Best New York Wedding Hotels
Best Hotel Pools in NYC
Top NYC Hotel Cocktails
Romantic Places in New York City
New York City’s Best Business Hotels
Where to Eat
Nestled along the Tidal Basin with a majestic view of the Jefferson Memorial, the MLK Memorial spans 4 acres in the quiet southwest corner of the National Mall. The remote site is suitable to a memorial of its style and size, but it’s also lacking in obvious places to eat when your out-of-town-guest’s (or your own) stomach starts growling. So before you visit, know your options.
LivingSocial has expanded its portfolio to offer hotel deals. A few months ago, the daily-deal maker launched LivingSocial Escapes, a travel division that offers 1- or 2-night travel experiences. The company provide its members with deals on a few hotels within driving distance and a few choices that would require a quick airplane trip. The airline tickets are not included in the deal.
So here’s how it all works. LivingSocial sends its members a weekly email that touts several hotel deals. The deals are available for purchase for 7 days. The time frame for use varies, but it generally expires after 1 year. “Once you make your purchase, you have to set up your trip, which gives the hotel a chance to sell you an extra night or 2,” said LivingSocial exec Doug Miller in a recent USAToday.com interview. But wait there’s more, members can get a free escape if he or she shares a deal with friends and 3 of them buy it.
Photo: This is the outdoor lounge at the Sheraton Tribeca in the Big Apple, where club
members can enjoy amenities while looking at the city skyline. (Sheraton Hotels)
Sheraton has renovated 103 of its hotels in North America. Starwood, Sheraton’s parent company, kicked off a $6 billion global revamp of the chain in 2007, and now it’s looking to expand in China.
An article on USAToday.com, claims the chain’s makeover has made Sheraton more competitive with other hotel chains, including Marriot, Hilton, Radisson and Hyatt.
Hoyt Harper, Starwood’s SVP of brand management, says the company cut 41 hotels from the chain because they did not meet Sheraton’s new standards, and it wasn’t a cheap move either.
Luxury hotels in Hong Kong are taking Japanese fish, beef and other foods off their menus due to Japan’s nuclear crisis, according to Bloomberg.
The concern is that food may have been contaminated after radiation was released from the deteriorating nuclear power plant.Shangri-La, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons hotels in Hong Kong have all stopped buying fresh foods from Japan even though no clear risk has been confirmed yet.
At the Four Seasons in Hong Kong, chefs are no longer cooking up Wagyu beef, sea scallops and abalone from Japan. The hotel is using products from New Zealand and Australia, according to hotel publicist Claire Blackshaw.
Hotel officials say they won’t add Japanese food back on the menu until the situation stabilizes.