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In Bali, hot hotel openings are booming, with the sexy Starwood Hotels brand in particular playing a heavy hand here – three Starwood-branded hotels alone have scheduled openings in just a one-year span.
Yes, Bali’s a long way to come for the American traveler, but I can tell you, having landed in this Indonesian slice of paradise just last week, that this “Island of the Gods” is a journey that us mere mortals really ought to take, with enough top-rated beaches and snorkeling/dive sites, lush vegetation and volcanoes, and hospitable locals and cultural curiosities to satiate the demands of even the most jaded traveler – all at budget prices, to boot.
While here, I’m bedding down at the brand-new Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, which opened its doors on December 1 on the storied shores of Bali’s Kuta Beach, a surfers’ and sunset seekers’ mecca. The Starwood-branded resort’s trump card comes in the form of its sweeping ocean views, best enjoyed with frothy cocktail in hand from the panoramic picture-window lounge (or during the venue’s weekly wine-tasting event); while savoring tasty Italian fare at its Bene restaurant; while splashing about in the outdoor rooftop pool; or while just kicking back and relaxing in your guestroom. Read more
Celebrate the soft opening of Panama’s newest hotel, the Westin Playa Bonita Panama, with their exclusive Westin Indulge Package. Guests will stay in a green view room starting from $285 per night or an ocean view room from $295 per night. Included in the nightly rate is daily breakfast in bed for two, sparkling wine and strawberries upon arrival, and a late check-out of 4 p.m. The $100 million upscale hotel is based along the gold sands of Playa Bonita Beach with the lush rainforest providing a backdrop. With six restaurants, four bars, three infinity pools, and VIP lounge, the resort is a destination unto itself. Couple that with its location 20 minutes from the bustling capital, Panama City, and travelers will experience all this diverse destination has to offer. Travel is valid through April 3, 2012.
THE VALUE: The inclusions are valued at $97.
THE CATCH: It’s high season, so expect an increase in airfare costs.
THE DETAILS: Visit www.starwoodhotels.com to book your stay.
The budget-minded brainchild of the sexy Starwood chain, Aloft Hotels has quickly emerged among the industry’s tech-savvy front-runners, offering guests a bevy of in-demand tech amenities (free Wi-Fi in all of its properties; popular social media campaigns; innovative in-room plug-and-play systems that connect guests’ gadgets to the hotels’ flat-screen TVs). Now, several of the brand’s sleek hotels are in the midst of piloting what’s proving to be a wildly successful “Smart Check-In” program, which allows on-the-go guests the freedom to automatically check into their hotel rooms without ever having to make a pesky check-in stop at the front desk.
The program works something like this: Powered by radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, participating guests receive a text message on their mobile devices on the day of their stay, which gives them their room number and immediate and direct access to their rooms, via a keycard (the card is sent out to Select Starwood Preferred Guest members who have enrolled in the pilot program). The SPG/Aloft-branded RFID card can also be used for on-site bar, restaurant, or retail purchases, to boot. Participating properties include Aloft Lexington (MA), Aloft Harlem, Aloft Brooklyn, Aloft Dallas, Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park, and Aloft London – check out the program’s promotional video over at YouTube for more deets.
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Last summer Marriott was among the chains pushing free breakfast, and that’s still the case at their Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, and SpringHill Suites properties. Likewise, select JW Marriott and Marriott Hotel & Resorts will feed breakfast to a couple of adults and all kids under 12 through September 5 for stays booked before August 22.
My kids’ problem with breakfast, especially on the road, is that it’s the meal that commands the least amount of interest, so by 11:30am they’re lobbying for lunch, and for my brood that’s easily sixty bucks. If your family’s like mine, then you might already be a fan of Holiday Inn, where up to four kids 12 and under eat free any time of day at the hotels’ on-site restaurants.
The Holiday Inn deal has three terms that are fairly typical of such offers: Kids need to order off the children’s menu; at least one grown-up has to order a qualifying entrée off the regular menu; and room service is not part of the deal.
Of the 94 new properties Starwood Hotels & Resorts is opening worldwide this year, an impressive 47 of them are in the Asia-Pacific region. After checking into the sparkling W Taipei in April (just a couple of months after its Valentine’s Day opening), I can say the company should be confident in that ratio.
W Taipei is a high-end hotel reminiscent of the Park Hyatt Tokyo (W Taipei is not quite at the same level, but the fact that they conjure such a comparison is impressive). Both are located in highly desirable districts in their respective countries’ capitals, offer sexy bars and lounges to pass the night away, claim amazing high-above-the-city views from their guestrooms, and provide memorably superior customer service.
Where to go is another question. Do you want beach or desert? Skiing or nightlife? Cultural explorations or opportunities for romance? Killer cuisine or golf? (Gays golf, right?) What about all of the above? When the anywhere-but-here bug bites, it’s easy to lose yourself in the multitude of daydreams. Thankfully, Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched a new site just in time for you to sate that summer gaycation craving.
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