To celebrate the Vault – our take on loyalty points – and to get you in the mood for treating yourself to a little luxury, Juliet Kinsman makes some valuable VIP-treatment Smith hotel recommendations…
Bulgari Hotel, Milan, Italy
Why book? As the name suggests, this elegant Italian design hotel in Milan is as glamorous as boutique city boltholes come. Even to those who don’t have a Swiss bank account or a safe the size of a fridge-freezer, it’s clear that the hospitality outpost of this jewellery and luxury goods dynasty is going to be a place where style and service are of the highest carat. For those who think a hotel should be anything but a home from home, but a soothing, neutral-toned five-star escape from everyday life, the Bulgari Hotel is a dazzling option. And where else would it be located than but a stroll from Milan’s fashion quarter?
Laying on the luxe Luxuriate with a ritual in the Bulgari Hotel spa then relax between, say, a hammam and a four-hand massage, either on a candle-shrouded cream-coloured day bed or in a glimmering gold, mosaic swimming pool. Or unwind alfresco; uniquely within Milan’s city walls, the Bulgari Hotel boasts beautiful leafy, emerald-green gardens.
Rates €650–€4,400, plus 10 per cent VAT.
The Setai, Miami, Florida, USA
Why book? Set in the heart of Miami’s Art Deco area, the Setai may be slap bang on South Beach’s oceanfront, but its soothing Asian-infused interior feels a world away from the hurly burly of this hip Florida hub. The choice of three swimming pools is reason alone for sunworshippers and water babies to book this as their holiday base, while 21st-century travellers will be seduced by super-spacious suites enhanced with every possible mod con, from vast Dux beds clad in Irish linen and Lavazza coffee machines to rainshower-augmented en suites and state-of-the-art audio-visuals.
Laying on the luxe Spa? Check. Acclaimed bars and restaurants? Of course. But where the Setai is unrivalled in matching guests’ every mood is with its pools’ water temperatures set to differing degrees. And time spent in swimwear doesn’t get more indulgent than when treated to a view of that almost-always blue sky melting into the glistening Atlantic horizon.
Château de Bagnols, Beaujolais, France
Why book? This magnificent French château lovingly restored by Lady Hamlyn stands proud in prime Provençal wine-tasting country where the sprawling rural views alone are likely to make you lightheaded. That, or the Michelin-starred fine dining and delicious local Beaujolais. Over-the-top traditional opulence has been honed to satisfy modern-day sensibilities with original frescoes and restored Renaissance features complemented by five-star facilities and second-to-none service.
Laying on the luxe You mean, apart from the gilt-festooned furnishings, acres of rich fabrics and heavenly foliage-filled grounds? Gourmets will revel in the culinary offerings – Michelin-starred Salles des Gardes is suitably regal, while le Salon d’Ombrage entices guests to dine on the terrace under age-old lime trees. And no truly sybaritic stay would be complete without a trip to a spa for one of the Château’s classic beauty treatments.
Rates €445–€915 for the rooms; €2,250–€2,500 for the apartment; from €25,000 a night for exclusive occupancy of the entire château (this rate is inclusive of the €10,000 minimum spend on food and drinks). Breakfast from €32.
Hotel de Russie, Rome, Italy
Why book? If this luxury five-star grand dame is good enough for international dignitaries and a glittering host of celebrities, then you can be sure this glamorous boutique hotel in the Italian capital will cater to your every wish and whim, however diva-like your demands. Situated between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, Hotel de Russie is but a stroll from many of attraction-rich Rome’s awe-inspiring sights – so when you tire of playing A-lister, you’re well poised to see grade-A sights, both ancient and modern.
Laying on the luxe The bloom-filled sprawling terraced garden is a one of Hotel de Russie’s most special delights, and a room overlooking it is an added way of appreciating it. And how better to enjoy cocktail hour than with an aperitivo here in the balmy months? As beloved by its esteemed clientele, the sunken courtyard and tiered verdant grounds feel utterly private and perfectly romantic.
Rates €737–€3,740, including tax.
Cayo Espanto, Belize
Why book? This tiny private tropical island in the Western Caribbean, off the coast of Belize, is a honeymooner’s fantasy. Nature-lovers are spoiled with the flora and fauna, and those with a real appetite for adventure can head to the mainland to explore Belize’s jungle-clad mountains and world-class Mayan ruins. Water-loving thrill-seekers can go scuba diving or snorkelling in the second largest barrier reef, anglers can enjoy fly-fishing metres from their villa. Then again, doing absolutely nothing is rarely as appealing as when you’re anchored to the private deck of one of Cayo Espanto’s six villas, each with its own butler.
Laying on the luxe Utter exclusivity is the ultimate allure with this luxury Caribbean resort. Every villa bar one has its own private plunge pools, although to really live the Cayo Espanto dream, get the keys to two-floored, treehouse-like Casa Estrella, which is situated right in the sea itself.
Rates $995–$2,249, including all meals, snacks and drinks (except champagne, wine and spirits); excludes nine cent tax and a 15 per cent resort fee.
Gramercy Park Hotel, New York, USA
Why book? Dark, sexy, eccentric and deliciously fragranced – Gramercy Park Hotel’s sex appeal is palpable from the moment you step foot into Ian Schrager’s revamped Manhattan institution. Artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel’s influence has ensured GPH is a triumph of imagination and creativity; an oversized Venetian-glass chandelier hangs from the Cypress-beamed high ceiling above, a 14th-century-inspired hand-woven French rug is underfoot, and vast modern-art masterpieces hang on the walls. The over-the-top and Renaissance-themed guest rooms are an antidote to anyone suffering minimalism fatigue and quirky bespoke furnishings fashioned from anything-but-ordinary materials such as needlepoint tapestries, rich velvets and antiqued mahogany are pure fantasy.
Laying on the luxe GPH has more than its fair share of see-and-be-seen hangouts in which to taste and sip today’s most fashion-forward flavours with those-in-the-know. Enjoy a cocktail in the Rose Bar or Jade Bar, mingle alfresco on the Private Roof Club and Garden, and wow your tastebuds in the sultry celebration of Old Shangai in Wakiya, Gramercy Park’s destination Oriental restaurant. Or if you’re not feeling sociable, take advantage of in-room gentlemen’s club-reminiscent drinks cabinets, and sip your own concoctions in cut crystal to the sounds of a ready-loaded iPod – just some highlights of GPH’s exemplary attention to detail.
Rates $495–$3,700. Excludes breakfast and taxes.
Baglioni Hotel, West Kensington, London, UK
Why book? This balconied white-exterior boutique bubble of Italian elegance is on the doorstep of Princess Diana’s world-famous Kensington Gardens residence. Inside, the Baglioni Hotel is glossy and bold, with discreet nothing’s-too-much-trouble service, and butler-tended suites fit for royalty. Even though the Baglioni Hotel is in one of London’s best-served districts for bars and restaurants, epicureans might find they stay put as the Brunello Restaurant is acclaimed for its sophisticated take on Tuscan cuisine. And tempting diners to linger over lunch or supper here in West London is a 500-strong wine list.
Laying on the luxe If it was good enough for that queen of special requests, Mariah Carey, you know this Italian hotel’s a professional when it comes to delivering la dolce vita. Heck, the Baglioni Hotel even offers an unpacking and packing service, has a personal shopper at your beck and call (after all, Knightsbridge is but a credit card’s throw away) as well as hair and make-up services to ensure you’re superstar-standard photoshoot fit. Take your decadence to the next level with a spell in the Rejuvenation Spa and revel in total escapism thanks to sweet-smelling, soul-soothing Espa treatments.
Rates €650–€4,400, plus 10 per cent VAT.
Hotel Daniel, Paris, France
Why book? Whether you love Paris in the springtime, Paris in the summer, or indeed Paris at any time of year, 18th century-inspired Hotel Daniel is a luxury boutique hotel perfect for a special-occasion stay in the French capital. Befitting of its eighth arrondissement address, Hotel Daniel is as distinguished as its Champs-Elysées and rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré locale might suggest. Hand-painted wallcoverings, exotic antiques and handpicked objêts d’art lend regal reception rooms and individually decorated suites an intimate, otherworldly air.
Laying on the luxe If ‘location, location’ is your mantra, you’ll feel perfectly spoiled before you even get to the check-in desk. But the more demanding of travellers will get an extra frisson from the beautiful interior when seated in the baroque surroundings of Hotel Daniel’s restaurant, Le Lounge, where Mediterranean- and Asian-tinged French cuisine comes courtesy of award-winning chef Denis Fetisson.
Rates €350–€740. Breakfast: Continental, €24; American, €34.
Amanyara, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
Why book? If it’s soothing contemporary design perched on a pristine coastline you crave, as well as tranquility and outdoor thrills in equal measure, Amanresorts has it licked. For an unadulterated dose of that winning formula, a stint in a pavilion or villas at Amanyara is guaranteed to match anyone’s wildest Caribbean holiday fantasies. Indeed if such a thing as a hotel dictionary existed, under the entry for ‘luxury’ you’d find a reference to the look and feel of these all-white wooden suites that open out to Amanyara’s coconut-hugged turquoise waters near the Bahamas.
Laying on the luxe When you tire of soaking up the sunshine from a day bed on the mile-long private beach or alongside the 165ft onyx-hued pool, there is a fully equipped dive school waiting to escort you to the coral reef of the Northwest Point Marine National Park. But if that all sounds too taxing – don’t worry. We won’t tell anyone if you barely budge from your beachtowel.
Rates Low season, $1,100-$1,700 (villas $3,950-$9,750); high season, $1,450-$2,050 (villas $5,200-$12,000), including non-spirit bar drinks. Excludes breakfast, 10 per cent service charge and 10 per cent tax.
Maia Luxury Resort & Spa, Mahé, Seychelles
Why book? Ever have those days where you gaze out the window wishing you could be whisked away to paradise? That’s when an Indian Ocean coral-island landscape such as Mahé‘s probably pops into your thought bubble. Palm-framed, snow-white beaches and crystal-clear cobalt waters are the obvious tropical temptations, but what makes Maia’s 30 thatched villas truly enticing is this low-key-luxury resort’s unfaltering commitment to relaxing its guests. If only they could bottle it.
Laying on the luxe Nature has taken care of the breathtaking Seychelles setting – and Maia Luxury Resort & Spa has added every other conceivable vacation delight for anyone seeking pure R&R. The biggest pull of all is its silver-and-sapphire oasis, the Maia Spa. Beauty here isn’t just skin deep; prettifying treatments don’t come more effective than these exclusive La Prairie possibilities, and with transcendental meditation, yoga, shiatsu and qi gong on offer, healing here reaches the parts other spas can’t reach.
Rates Low season, €1,590–€2,200; high season, €2,300–€3,180. Includes breakfast, and tax and service at 17 per cent. A seven-night minimum stay applies between 22 December and 6 January.