Each year luxury travel’s finest hotels and resorts are recognized for a variety of outstanding qualities – everything from the finest culinary experience to stunning design to an innovative children’s program. At the recent Virtuoso Travel Week conference in Las Vegas, 2014’s shining stars were honored for their excellence as the Best of the Best Virtuoso hotels.
With a portfolio of more than 1,000 hotels, resorts, villas and private island retreats in more than 100 countries, it was difficult whittling the final Best of the Best Virtuoso hotels down. Editors of Virtuoso Life, the network’s flagship lifestyle magazine, researched and selected nominees in the ten categories. Then Virtuoso polled its 340 agencies and their nearly 9,000 luxury travel advisors to vote on and ultimately select the winners. The victors are also featured in the September/October 2014 issue of Virtuoso Life.
The 2014 Best of the Best Virtuoso hotels are:
The Four Seasons Lion Palace is a gorgeously restored 19th-century palace. A work of art itself, the hotel is just two blocks from the famed Hermitage. Opened in 2013, restorers studied every detail to ensure historic accuracy. Rooms are decorated in palettes of yellow and blue, with fine wood furnishings acquired throughout Europe.
L’Abeille is a standout even in a city full of standout restaurants. The owner of two Michelin stars, the restaurant serves contemporary French cuisine that changes with the seasons. A diner may sample such creations as foie gras coated in chocolate, Brittany blue lobster with steamed claws and roasted tail, and Iberian suckling pig served five ways.
When you hoist a glass at the King Cole Bar, you’ll join the legions of celebrities who have also done so, including Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon. The sophisticated lounge, open since 1948, is famed for the signature drink it invented, the Red Snapper. You may know it better as a Bloody Mary.
The Pinocchio Experience is a hands-on crafts workshop inspired by the tale of the famous wooden puppet with the growing nose. In a three-hour workshop, children choose a wooden object such as a pencil case. An art restorer then guides them in decorating the object, using skills typical of Florence’s artisans.
The signature green tea scent of the Bulgari Spa helps calm all who are lucky enough to enjoy its treatments. Sessions in the two-story complex focus on both relaxation and wellness. They include a four-handed massage with two therapists, a 24-karat gold anti-aging acupuncture session, and emotional healing therapy.
Qasr al Sarab is located in the heart of one of the world’s largest deserts, and the activities it offers make the most of its stunning setting. Guests can ride on camels or mountain bikes, go on a desert safari, enjoy land sailing (where winds power a go-kart), or dune bash, driving an SUV through the desert.
Cuixmala is situated on 25,000 acres, which include preserved rare dry tropical forest, hidden lagoons, abundant wildlife and three miles of pristine beaches. It’s a working organic farm that produces 75% of the resort’s culinary needs. Virtually all its staff are from nearby communities, ensuring the local area enjoys the economic benefits of tourism.
The Park Hyatt New York has a dream location, across from Carnegie Hall and within strolling distance of Central Park and Fifth Avenue shopping. Its eye-catching design features a swirling spiral staircase in a striking modern lobby, with museum-quality art throughout the hotel. Guestrooms are especially spacious for Manhattan and feature incredible views.
After working in hotels from Maui to New York to Bangkok, Chan came home to Hong Kong in 1994. She worked her way up to become the first woman and first Asian to manage the brand’s flagship property. No detail is too small for her to ensure clients have an exquisite experience, and she personally inspects rooms being readied for VIP guests.
Rosewood London, opened just last year in the heart of the city, has already made a big splash. Housed in a century-old building, the décor blends English heritage with contemporary sophistication. The piece de la resistance is the Grand Manor House Suite, which boasts six bedrooms in its own wing, with a private entrance, elevator and postal address.