With the help of another top travel agent, this issue of
DG Amazing Experiences brings you new hotels you will want to consider, this time from Oahu to Budapest, Mallorca and St. Barts.
We also give you some insights into whether or not it's worth shelling out $10,000 for an American Express Centurion card, a unique private jet design (and I do mean unique) as well as a "glamping" idea if you happen to be in Tokyo over a weekend and want to get out of town.
I hope a
ll your trips are amazing experiences!
DG Amazing Experiences
Please Note - DG Amazing Experiences is not commercially affiliated with any of the resorts we profile or travel advisors we reference.
1. Custom Windows To Pimp Your Private Jet
Embraer is tapping into its expertise in design garnered from its aerospace and defense unit to give you and your fellow passengers a view that will be the envy of other jet owners.
The observation window concept (below) is available on the Lineage 1000E, whose list price is US$ 53 million. The completion of the Lineage is done in-house. Unlike many private jet "concept" ideas, the manufacturer's VP, Marketing and Interior Design Jay Beever tells me this one is ready to go.
2. Is The Centurion Card Worth $10,000?
You probably have heard about the American Express Centurion Card, commonly referred to the "black card," although there is a VISA-issued card by the same name.
When the card was launched in 1999, the chairman of my company received one gratis as he was on a board with the then chairman of American Express. Later on he was able to renegotiate the annual fee, which is now at $2,500 for U.S. addresses. The initiation fee is now $7,500.
At one point there was an impressive list of airline partners, however that has been whittled. There were also surprise gifts such as free hotel stays, something that seems to have been reduced. Certainly at the beginning, nothing said you were a big dog like whipping out your black card. It was an attention grabber when for the first couple years, servers didn't know what it was, providing an extra spotlight moment of ooohs and ahhhs.
Last week I read an assessment from Brian Kelly, a blogger who writes about accumulating frequent flier points and recently signed up for the Centurion Card.
His first comment was there is no mileage bonus, something for folks who chase mileage awards and upgrades can be quite lucrative. While you may not feel it's worth chasing miles, Kelly points out last year a
Chinese art collector
earned 170 million Amex points
buying a painting with it.
The current partner shiny cards include Platinum from Delta Air Lines, which is below the top tier of Diamond and some VVIP levels you can get if your company is a big corporate client. There is also Starwood Gold status, which is below the top tier Platinum, however two additional points. Within Platinum Starwood offers extra perks for Platinums who stay 75 and 100 nights per year, so you will be well down the totem pole if you are depending on an SPG Gold card for recognition. Plus, SPG will be combined into Marriott Rewards at some point after the two companies' upcoming merger. There is also Hilton HHonors Diamond status, the top level in that program, and IHG Priority Club Platinum Elite, not the top level.
If you are not chasing points, then it comes down to the Centurion Concierge. Kelly reports, "
I've only been a cardholder for a handful of months, but I've already successfully tasked my concierge with getting me reservations at hot restaurants (like the Drunken Dragon in Miami Beach at the last minute on a Friday night) and researching African safaris for an upcoming summer trip. My concierge is extremely attentive and eager to please. It's hard to put a value on this service, but if utilized correctly, the Centurion Concierge can save you time and money by finding the best deals."
Lou Hammond who owns a travel focused PR firm in New York, but doesn't count American Express as a client says, she has had the Centurion Card for over a decade. She says she uses it frequently to obtain reservations at hot restaurants when clients need help. "It's amazing. It works 80 percent of the time, and it saves my PA a ton of time," she says. She believes having the card gets better service.
That said, if you don't task your PA with helping arrange dinner reservations, or if your PA needs some help in that area, the concierge service could be valuable.
"Only time will tell whether the Centurion Card is worth it. So far the service is better than I expected...Paying $10,000 for a credit card with no sign-up bonus was a hard pill to swallow."
Advertiser Spotlight: Presidential Aviation
Presidential Aviation offers bespoke aircraft management solutions to suit the interests and lifestyles of private jet owners both under Part 91 and Part 135.
The company is focused on making private aircraft ownership the most rewarding and enjoyable experience for owners through comprehensive management services that include repair and maintenance at their in-house FAA-approved 14CFR part 145 Repair Station.
Presidential Aviation's fleet include aircraft from Gulfstream, Bombardier, Dassault, Cessna and Hawker.
3. Hot New Hotels in Oahu, Budapest, Mallorca and St. Barts
McCabe World Travel
is a great example of why luxury travel advisors are enjoying a renaissance. Anne is out of the office at least 50 percent of the time, checking out the newest hotels and resorts to personally inspect them for her high-end clientele, taking inventory of the best suites and villas, as well as the ones to avoid.
We all have different tastes, so advisors like Scully match the seemingly endless takes on luxury to the desires of each client. The really good ones also know the floor plans at the hotels and resorts they sell so they can recommend the best rooms and suites. I recently asked Scully to give me some new hotels opening soon she is most excited about.
Four Seasons O'ahu Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii
Four Seasons O'ahu Ko Olina
opens May 27, the group will have a resort on Oahu to complement Maui (which just added two Presidential Suites), the Big Island and Lanai (which Feb. 1 reopened one of two resorts. The Lodge at Koele remains closed).
According to report by
Travel + Leisure, r
ooms in the high-rise are "decorated in a modern Hawaiiana style, with local woods and banana-leaf wall coverings; they all come with a lanai, and face the ocean or a lagoon. There will be two kid-friendly pools, but adults can also find quiet time in a separate pool and beach area. Dining options range from a grab-and-go coffee bar (great for those East Coast guests up early!) to a line-to-table seafood restaurant to an Italian spot with a wood-fired oven."
Scully praises the variety of suites, the championship golf course and the 35,000 sq. ft. spa and says, it will attract everyone from honeymooners and destination weddings to corporate meetings and incentives and large family groups, as well as individual travelers..
There are nine standard suite categories, plus three signature suites with floor plans below.
On the fourth floor, the three-bedroom Presidential Suite (above) is 3,840 sq. ft. The Pacific Ocean is the star, with every room in the suite offering full ocean views. There is private access to the rooftop Sky Terrace and Lounge. The suite has its own multimedia room.
On the 17th floor, the Penthouse Suite offers views from every angle. The suite's main feature is the expansive terrace measuring 800 sq. ft., big enough for morning yoga, evening cocktails or a private dinner for family or friends. During the winter months, the terrace offers views for whale watching.
The suite's two bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms include a private living room for the master. The suite also has a service kitchen for dinner parties.
Above is the 11th floor
Ko Olina t
hree-bedroom suite, designed for a family or group of friends. AT 4,070 sq. ft., in includes a small pantry, dining room, living area and oversized lanai. The master bedroom measures 1,195 sq. ft. You can dine overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
If you're wondering, Ko Olina is the opposite direction from Waikiki when you land at Honolulu International Airport. It's 24 miles from downtown Honolulu. From HNL you can transfer via helipad or speedboat directly to the Four Seasons. The closest airport is John Rodgers Field (JRF) with an 8,000 ft. runway six miles from the hotel.
There is an 18-hole golf course, ranked by Golf Digest in its list of Top 75 in the U.S.
The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest
Ritz-Carlton has been in the midst of an aggressive expansion that has raised ranks of its properties over the century mark.
Anne Scully says she likes its entry into the Hungarian capital "located on the Pest side with great views of St. Stephen's Basilica in the front and the great fashion street to the rear."
She adds, "Their top suites will attract world class affluent travelers (who appreciate) incredible Hungarian art and design."
The property features
170 guest rooms and 30 suites
and is a
few minutes walk from the River Danube
walking distance to World Heritage sites and other attractions
. If you are visiting on business, there is
a ballroom (2,500 sq. ft) and five meeting rooms (4,572 sq. ft.) that hold up to 180. For fitness, there is an
ndoor pool with natural daylight through a glass roof and an
There are five suite types, leading with the Ritz-Carlton Suite (1,240 sq. ft.) on the top floor with private balcony and pictured above. You can also connect a king room. Next is the Chairman Suite at 1,080 sq. ft., also on the top floor with city views from its balcony and a connecting king room. Carlton Suites at 670 sq. ft. feature city or square views, separate living room and bedroom and access to the Club Lounge.
Both Junior Suite types (Club and regular) include separate living room and bedroom and are each 625 sq. ft.
Opening in June, Scully likes Park Hyatt Mallorca with its "heavenly suites to enjoy the sunsets of Canyamel Valley." She says, "Sip your sangria from your jacuzzi on your spacious wrap around terrace. You now have the best of the island, hotel brand and Presidential Suite to make that special moment become a lasting lifetime memory."
Park Hyatt's newest location features
142 550-sq. ft. guestrooms, 14 Park Executive Suites of 1,100 sq. ft and two Presidential Suites of 1,700 sq.
For dining, there is The Balearic Restaurant featuring the strong culinary values of Mallorca. Located off The Plaza de la Torre, the Bistro is an all day dining café, featuring freshly baked breads and pastries, locally made empanadas, croquettes, pizzas and international comfort food. The Tapas Bar offers an inclusive social space with an outdoor terrace where guests can enjoy freshly prepared tapas, artisanal wines from Mallorca, mainland Spain and further afield, and cocktails created by skilled mixologists. The South Asian restaurant is designed as a private villa featuring Asian dishes from China, India, Indonesia and Thailand.
If you are planning to be there for business, there is a 2,500 sq. ft. ballroom
with a backdrop overlooking the Canyamel Valley. A traditional Mallorquin courtyard offers a relaxed and comfortable setting. Recreational facilities include a landscaped poolside terrace featuring three pools, two which are heated and a separate children's pool. There is a Wellness Centre and Spa with seven treatment rooms, including two couples treatment rooms. There is a 24-hour access Fitness Centre offering cardio and weight equipment. There is the adjacent Country Club which includes an all purpose sports field, two tennis courts and further recreational and fitness facilities including an indoor heated and an outdoor pool. There is also a dedicated Beach Club within five minutes of the hotel. Local activities include mountain Biking, alpine walking, horseback trekking, on and off road cycling, sea fishing and active water sports.
Le Barthelemy Hotels & Spa, St. Barts
The 46-room Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa is located on a calm bay, with 600 feet of beachfront, featuring a "chic, simple, natural approach with local touches of French flair." Design features "authentic materials, wood, and light soothing colors, the décor ensures harmony with the landscape and the turquoise blue ocean."
Scully says, "
Le Barthelemy promises to be the new sophisticated St Barts style resort yet with an elegant infusion of Parisian touches," adding, "They needed another property there."
Of the accommodations, 80 percent will be beachfront or ocean facing; with 20 percent overlooking gardens. The resort is "children friendly featuring planned kids activities" and will have Aux Amis restaurant managed by Guy Martin, Two Star Michelin Chef from Paris
Several suites include a private garden with plunge pool. Others have
terraces overlooking pristine waters. There is an infinity edge swimming pool and a full spa.
4. Glamping In Japan
If you travel long-haul to Asia, I am sure you've frequently spent weekends in a city hotel. If you like the outdoors, but miss it when you are on the road,
on the slopes of a hill overlooking Lake Kawaguchi, near Mt. Fuji, is Hoshinoya Fuji, billed as Japan's first "glamping resort."
Instead of a campground, there are cabins equipped with air conditioning and bathrooms "to ensure absolute comfort." A third of each cabin's floor plan is located outdoors, to allow guests the experience of sitting by a roaring fire. There is a series of wooden platforms in a red pine forest, a short climb from "base camp"--where guests can participate in camping activities.
The guestroom is "a place where one sleeps and wakes up." The idea is to go out hiking, canoeing, bird and wildlife spotting. There is a group dining room, and you can organize your own barbeque.
5. One & Only's 14,000 Sq. Ft. Villa
in Los Cabos continues to rack up shelves of awards. I've counted six more so far this year. Last December it unveiled a new four-bedroom retreat. The 14,000-square-foot
is reminiscent of a glass house with floor to ceiling glass doors, providing views of the private infinity-edge pool, Sea of Cortez, and Los Cabos from every room. The Master Bedroom alone is 870 sq. ft. and you get a private chef. There is an "inclusive full bar selection" offered for guests. You can have spa treatments in your villa. Los Cabos offers a variety of spectacular villas, and Villa One enables those of you who enjoy the villa experience to also combine it with five-star hotel service and facilities.
Rates during the summer price at $8,000 per night.
6. Special Reports Library
DG Amazing Experiences Special Reports give you comprehensive inside information that is a "must-read" before you go. See links to some of our most popular Special Reports below:
Special Report: Four Seasons Maui Resort at Wailea - A look at two very different, new Presidential Suites.
Join Geoffrey Kent for a once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Palau by private jet and superyacht.
Mukul Beach Golf & Spa - A new playground for adventure travel, sport fishing, golf and a unique spa on Nicaragua's Pacific Coast.
In Zurich's luxury hotel scene, the Baur au Lac offers a grand dame experience with modern amenities in a central location.
The Haven aboard the Norwegian Breakaway - Is it possible to have a luxury experience on one of the world's largest cruise ships?
The first report from Crystal Cruise's new 62-person yacht Crystal Esprit, including its two-man submarine.
We travel through Asia, the Middle East and Europe to pick the best villas and residences at nine Six Senses properties.