How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
Our priority when choosing a hotel is finding one with a few special qualities that set it apart from the rest, and this differs depending on the destination itself. In a city we look for “sanctuary” hotels that are located in the heart of the action; we want to walk to (or easily get to) the top attractions, yet upon returning to our room feel any “city tension” melt away. We want it to be a quiet, relaxing refuge, far from the maddening crowds.
For “getaway” hotels we look for a hotel that celebrates and respects the area we are hoping to explore. For example, a jungle lodge that is respectful of the wildlife and nature surrounding it, that offers spa treatments and personal (not group) activities that promote the local wonders. We also look for hotels that incorporate the beauty of the landscape or city into the guest experience. You’ll find some examples below when I answer what made our top 3 hotels so special.
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?
For a hotel that is both a city hotel and a destination hotel, we would choose Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. For a destination hotel, we would choose St. Regis Punta Mita in Mexico. For a city hotel, Shangri-La Pudong in Hong Kong.
What made them so special?
These are three very different hotels in three very different parts of the world, but they all have one major factor in common. Singularly outstanding treatment of guests.
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok has it all. A bustling city hotel in one of the busiest cities in the world, the it offers a simply amazing level of personalized guest attention and services. Mandarin Oriental Bangkok looks after you from the moment you arrive at the airport with a meet, greet and escort to your executive car or limousine, right to the moment you retrace your steps back to the airport for your flight home. Our driver actually brought all our luggage into the terminal and checked us in for our flight himself. We just had to walk through security and into the first class lounge to wait for our flight. It seemed that ever step we took there was someone looking after our comfort.
They also celebrate their location with gorgeous suites overlooking the busy river Chao Phraya river, and despite being in downtown Bangkok, as soon as you are greeted at the lobby doors by numerous, beautifully dressed staff acknowledging you with a “wai”, you will forget the millions of honking cars, zooming motorbikes and crowds of people as the lobby envelopes you in peace and quiet. A floor butler that would rush to call the elevator for you when he heard your door open, hand you an umbrella or a newspaper or whatever else you didn’t realize you needed until that moment. Also their spa is incredible, located in lush gardens on the far side of the Chao Phraya river, with treatment rooms overlooking little tinkling streams. Attention to guest satisfaction here is beyond compare.
Again, service levels at St. Regis Punta Mita are outstanding. We were brought by private car onto this property, which is gated and private from the surrounding area. Guests are invited to sip cocktails while checking in, staff are happy to introduce themselves. Their rooms and suites are built into the surrounding landscape to take advantage of the lush, jungle-like property. Most rooms and suites have at least a partial ocean view and their Presidential Suites are simply breathtaking.
Looking out over the deep blue of the ocean from your king-size bed, or slipping into your private swimming pool or enormous jacuzzi overlooking the beach at night before bed is unforgettable. Butler service is discrete but friendly and, again, anticipatory of your needs. We loved being able to book a private tour (through our butler) of the Marietta Islands and could walk right from our suite to the dock where the boat departed. We loved their “pop-up” dinners on the beach and exploring their vast property to look for tropical birds and native wildlife. We also loved that the General Manager was on site and meeting and greeting guests regularly while we were there; making sure guests were having not just a good time, but a great time.
Dare I say it again? Service is at every turn at Shangri-La Pudong. We were brought to the hotel and greeted with warmth, smiles and feeling like we were truly welcome. Similar to the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, this hotel is directly at the epicenter of big-city chaos. Horns honk. Buses roar. Immense groups of people surge elbow-to-elbow through malls, overflowing out onto exhaust-filled streets, pulling over-tired children into the next mall. It’s noisy and overwhelming, but you are within walking distance to some of the most amazing architectural sights in Shanghai, and it offers gorgeous suites that overlook one of the most beautiful parts of the Huang Po River, with views over to the world-famous Bund and the diverse architectural styles that make the skyline here so interesting.
A tiny, ancient little fellow, named Larry, was at the elevator every single day. He did not speak a word of English but with a smile in his eyes he would rush to get the elevator for us and once we were inside he would make sure we remembered to insert our card for the club floor and warble away in his language in the most adorable way. Every day, we couldn’t wait to say hello to Larry. We loved that they pressed a certain amount of items every day for free; that they accommodated their turn down service to your desired times, that they sent a welcome amenity to our room to say a special hello to us, and that their Club Floor Concierge greeted us by name every single morning, took the time to remember that we liked to have two black coffees and two orange juices before we looked at the menu. We also saw the general manager circulating regularly throughout the property, greeting guests, speaking with groups and making his exceptional presence known.
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
Outstanding employees, trained to exceed industry standards for hospitality and guest relations. Second, suites with as many luxe features as possible: super-fast WIFI, super-comfortable dream beds, top end linens, fresh flowers, top-end coffee system with limitless access to great coffee, sound-systems to work with the latest personal electronic devices, and LOTS OF EASILY ACCESSIBLE WALL PLUGS to plug all the possible gadgets that today’s guests travel with. Last, superb amenities in the bathroom including a large soaker tub with a view, if possible, an excellent steam shower, and very plush towels.
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…
Huge king beds that are so comfortable it is actually hard to want to get up – and you LOVE the idea of going to bed at night! Delivery of custom-ordered breakfast every morning via an exterior cupboard, so I didn’t have to get dressed before my first sip of coffee! Or the butler service that set up breakfast on the terrace in the morning and rang a bell on the way out to let us know it was ready! Lastly, being greeted as a treasured guest, escorted directly to our suite where check-in is done while sipping champagne. Truly civilized.
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
Having to wait in a line-up to check-in, only to feel rather unwelcomed when greeted by front desk staff. Tiny, dark bathrooms with no decent bathtub and crusty towels! An unappealing view and uncomfortable mattress.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
It is quite fascinating, and truly a concept whose “time has come”.
Where are you off to next?
In a few weeks, we will be guests at two gorgeous properties in Arizona, The ultra-luxurious “Phoenician” where we will be staying at the exclusive Canyon Suites, and at the seductive Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain where we will be staying in one of their most luxurious spa suites. We will be indulging in some spa treatments and assessing the gastronomic scene at some of the best restaurants, both at the hotels and in the surrounding area. Of course, we will be doing a Notable Chef interview or two while we are there, one of New Jetsetters specialties! We also have a special invitation from the general manager of the W Hotel in Scottsdale to come for dinner at their renowned sushi restaurant and check out the pool scene on the WET deck. We can’t wait to share everything on all our social media channels. We will also be featuring these hotels and experiences on New Jetsetters and in a future issue of our luxurious digital New Jetsetters “Gloss” Magazine.
From the moment Deborah Thompson first experienced the world of luxury travel as a child when her family stayed at the distinguished Elbow Beach Resort on the tiny island of Bermuda, she was smitten with the travel bug. Soon she was filling leather-bound journals with details of the beautiful places she was able to visit.
Now she is thrilled to share her words and photographs with the world as she visits some of the most luxurious hotels in the world and indulges in some of the most amazing experiences. With her unique, engaging writing style and ability to connect with some of the top movers and shakers in the luxury travel industry, Deborah is fast becoming one of the top Luxury Travel Influencers in social media today.
As Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief of Newjetsetters, Deborah Thompson is also proud to co-produce New Jetsetters “Gloss” Digital Magazine which features select properties and experiences from around the globe in beautiful HD photography and all-original content which includes not only luxury hotel, airline and restaurant reviews, but also interviews with some of the world’s most interesting people in the restaurant and hospitality field. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.