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CRUISE PLUS: HOTELS
CRUISE PLUS: HOTELS
Americans like to jet into town and
race aboard a cruise ship just hours
before the anchor goes up. Other
nationalities book budget hotels, tumble
into bed after a late-night flight and arrive
at their ship feeling stressed and tired.
I prefer to be picked up in a limo and
swept to a five-star hotel with a glass of
champagne in my hand. Then I can rest
Because the hotel limo driver usually
phones ahead, a manager greets my wife
and I and we are escorted to our room,
where often more champagne awaits, along
with fruit and chocolates. Now that ’s the
way to relax and de-stress.
Sure, it costs a little more. But it ’s worth
every penny. Sleep in late and enjoy all that
a five-star hotel has to offer, then on the
third day arrive at your ship – in that hotel
limo – rested and ready to enjoy every
minute of the cruise.
At the conclusion of the cruise, I often
repeat the process at the disembarkation
port, if it is in a different city. On long
BANGKOK Lebua at State Tower is
Bangkok’s finest five-star all-suite hotel. The
137 large suites offer vistas of Bangkok and
the Chao Phraya River. Every suite has a
bedroom, living/lounge room, kitchen and
laundry. It is a home away from home. There
are several restaurants to choose from, but
Sirocco, the world’s tallest Mediterranean
restaurant and the nearby Sky Bar are local
favourites and booking is essential.It has
the distinction of being named “the most
stunning rooftop bar you’ ll ever see” by
The New York Times and is the highlight of
Bangkok’s nightlife scene. This hotel was a
main location for the film The Hangover Part II.
ATHENS Entering the lobby of the Grande
Bretagne (a Luxury Collection Hotel) is
almost like stepping into a regal palace, with
intricate moldings and classical decor. After
a fast check-in we headed to our room,
which was spacious and elegant with a great
view overlooking Syntagma Square and
Parliament House. Some other rooms look
towards the Acropolis. In virtually all cases,
higher floors are preferable.
HONG KONG Hyatt Regency and Mandarin
Oriental are two favourites. The Hyatt has
a Club Floor, which is open early to late.
Complimentary breakfast is served there, as
John Pond averages six to eight cruises a year. He is also a senior
reviewer for Trip Advisor, the comparison site that hotels live or die by.
So where does he stay before and after a cruise?
well as snacks throughout the day. The Club
Floor also hosts a sensational evening Happy
Hour with gourmet canapes and a large
selection of alcoholic and soft drinks that
make it hard to leave. Our Harbour-view
room offered great vistas of Hong Kong
Harbour through the wall-to-wall window,
complete with window seat.
MADRID The Westin Palace is located in the
cultural and financial heart of the city in the
very centre of the “Art Triangle” between the
Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia museums.
The hotel is across the road from Parliament
and within walking distance of the Royal
Palace and the Opera House. We particularly
loved the most elegant dining room and the
champagne with breakfast.
SAN FRANCISCO Tr y The Handlery, a
three- to four-star hotel that is popular with
Australians. I would estimate that over 50
per cent of guests are Aussies. It’s good value
and close to all the action – a three-minute
walk to Macy’s and Union Square. There is
a relatively new wing, which I recommend,
and a mini suite called, I believe, Grandma’s
Suite, used by the family’s Granny. Not all the
bells and whistles of five stars, but extremely
comfortable and ideally situated in the flat
section of a city of hills. I always stay there.
It has great staff and a wonderful restaurant/
bar on the ground floor called The Daily
Grill that is typical of old San Francisco.
There are lots of restaurants in the area in all
price ranges, and it’s a short walk to almost
everything – including the cable cars.
SINGAPORE The Fairmont Hotel is in the
heart of Raffles City, literally on top of the
Raffles City Shopping Centre, to which
the hotel has direct access from its foyer.
This makes the sometimes tiring job of
shopping a breeze. The shopping centre
offers just about every sort of product one
could desire, from first-class tailors to art
galleries. Another plus is the MRT railway
station situated off the shopping centre. A
room with Club Floor access is, I believe, a
must. The rooms are modern and functional.
Our balcony offered views over the hotel’s
large pool and tennis courts. The hotel has
15 restaurants and bars, so dining options are
no problem. The hotel also has one of Asia’s
largest spas and fitness centres.
NEW YORK I really enjoy staying at a four-
star property called Hotel Beacon. I love this
hotel. Every New York attraction is minutes
away by bus or train. The apartment-like
suites make one feel at home and the market
opposite offers every food delight. Although
I have stayed at some of the best hotels in
the world, this one is a winner for comfort
and really feeling at home.
PUERTO RICO Hotel El Convento, originally
a convent, is close to just about everything,
including some great outlet stores. I would
rate this hotel four-star with a five-star
experience all round. The Daily Manager’s
Reception, which features a variety of wine
and hors d’oeuvres served on La Veranda
Terrace, is not to be missed.
MELBOURNE Park Hyatt has been voted
the best hotel in Melbourne and it certainly
deserves the title. Our suite had all the
amenities one would expect in a five-star
hotel. I particularly liked the very large
walk-in dressing room. Coffee pod machines
were appreciated. In the front-facing rooms,
the French balcony doors opened, allowing
lots of fresh air, which I love. A lounge and
very comfortable seating made watching the
cable TV pleasurable. A his-and-hers shower
recess and twin basins made our stay so
much more liveable.
MACAU Hyatt again. We chose to stay
on a Club Floor of the Grand Hyatt, where
many extra luxuries are afforded. Apart from
sweeping views, the Club Lounge offers
a great place to relax, read or send emails.
The Club Lounge, available to Club Floor
guests, is worth every penny of the slightly
additional room cost. The staff seem to know
your name almost immediately and go out of
their way to please.
flights to Europe, I go a step further and
break the flight in, say, Singapore, Hong
Kong or Dubai and stay two nights.
I am often asked about my favourite
cruise hotels. There are so many – but
here’s my pick of those within 10 kilometres
of cruise terminals.
HAWAII I particularly enjoy the Sheraton
Waikiki, which is right in the heart of all
the action and on the beach. The property
has many shops off the foyer including
an excellent convenience store that sells a
variety of products including fresh fruit
and snack food. There are also jewellery,
clothing, beachwear, chocolate and
cookie shops to tempt guests. There is
an adults-only pool and one that is child
friendly. When staying in Waikiki, views
of the beach and Diamond Head are
almost mandatory and Sheraton Waikiki
has perhaps the best, so a high floor is a
must. A ground-floor disco rocks every
night and is extremely popular with guests
DUBAI: There are so many outstanding
hotels in Dubai, but the most expensive
and lavish is the Burj al Arab. It’s certainly
On arrival we were escorted to our
two-storey suite by an elegant supervisor
who took care of all check-in requirements
in the suite’s fully equipped office. We were
introduced to our butler, who offered to
unpack our bags – what a great start. We
climbed the stairs to a huge bedroom with
floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking Dubai
and the Gulf. Words can hardly describe the
opulence and comfort, the only problem was
it was so outstanding we hardly left the room.
There was one surprise. All the suites have
large ceiling mirrors above the enormous
beds. Perhaps 40 years ago I might have
approved. I asked our butler if most guests
liked this and he said most “older” guests
preferred not to have the mirror and that, for
a fee, it could be covered. It took four people
on ladders to do this. My money would have
been better spent in the hotel’s elegant shops.
Alcohol is not permitted in the UAE, but
this ruling seems to stop at the doors of all
the major hotels, where there is no shortage
Lebua at State Tower, Bangkok
Burj al Arab, Dubai
Grande Bretagne, Athens
Grand Hyatt, Macau
Hotel El Convento, Puerto Rico
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