This thread got some great responses, and I thought I'd bump it back up in the hopes that some of the newer posters might join in. There are quite a few very experienced travelers here, and any suggestions of favorites from all of you are bound to be excellent. Thanks!
good idea Claasenam to bring everyone's attention to this thread again. There must be lots of people out there with excellent suggestions. As well as the two I had previously mentioned, another one,if you want to bring out that Regal trait in you, is the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Cheers!
So many amazing places and experiences but I'll go with the first thing that popped into my mind;
Spending my 35th birthday at Khwai River Lodge in Botswna. The morning began with presents brought to the room from the staff - a hand carved wooden rhino and a woven straw bracelet.
The moring game drive couldn't have been better - all the animals came out to wish me a happy birthday. Then in the afternoon ouramazing guide stopped by the edge of a lake, served champage and told wonderful stories until the sun went down.
Our surprise at dinner was a private table set up high in a tower with sweeping views on the cosmos. For dessert the staff assembled and serenaded us with tribal songs.
That really sounds very special. You must have had a wonderful time and are left with wonderful memories too. OK, the presents the staff gave youmay not have much value in terms of cost but I bet they are one of the most treasured presents you have been given.
Our best hotel experience was at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in Bangkok. The staff exceeded our expectations on every encounter, and the breakfast and dinner buffets served were some of the most memorable dining experiences. On our anniversary, they even sent up a cake that said "Happy Honeymoon". While the message was lost in translation, the gesture was appreciated in full.
You are so right, Mary. I've stayed in more beautiful (elegant) places, Like Singita in South Africa. But it was the welcoming atmosphere and sense that we were part of a family that made Kwai so special. We just had fun there.
And the presentswere nothing I would have ever bought for myself but I absolutely love and treasure them.
Cruisinred - sorry to take a while to post back - been away on business a couple weeks...back now and good to see the reponses.
New Zealand has a large number of world class luxury places to stay and I will be advising many of them of the LL site and will even look at starting some of my own auctions soon (I am a top-end inbound operator based in NZ myself). I am aware of the places you mentioned in the South Island and they are great, but it would be fantastic to start seeing some more on offer! If you need any tips on planning your trip then drop a post and I'll do all I can to help.
I am looking to compile some holiday options and put them to the LL auctions in the next 6 months, so watch this space...!
It seems like what makes the hotels a favorite are the above-and-beyond steps they take to make the time spent there personal and special. I love Travelfan's story about the lost luggage and impromptu toga party! And the birthday celebrations/anniversaries are always more special when they are acknowledged by the hotels. For me, those special moments are crucial to making "the cut" on my personal list, alongside the design of the hotel. I'm an interior designer and always looking for new ideas which so many of the top hotels seem to provide.
You want to hear about a "bad Hotel Experience". This is what I found on the TripAdvisor when I checked out the Marais House Bed & Breakfast in Paris: I'll post it here for what it is worth since LL is offering this as one of their LL properties. In the properties defense, I must say there was another review on TripAdviser that said everything was just fine and that Mr. Yann-Gabriel Hentschke was charming and very helpful.... but the review below is alarming.
This is a direct copy from the TripAdvisor Review:
"Let me tell you a story about how our long awaited trip to paris was ruined by a deceiptful and cheating innkeeper. my partner and i had wanted to splurge on this vacation and stay somehwere special. after reading about marais house in "town and country" and [---] and looking at their website, we contacted the b&b directly. it should be said that the pictures on the website are great and convey a very cozy and luxurious environment. when i called marais house to make reservations i was told by the owner, Yann-Gabriel Hentschke, that he only accepted cash and that i would have to pay 700 euros in advance through paypal. i thought that since i had read about marais house in "town and country" it must be a reputable establishment. so i paid him 700 euros with a balance of 200 to be paid upon arrival (we were staying three nights, with a charge of 300 euros per night).
here's where the trouble started.
upon arrival the room just did not live up to the photos. it was dingy. there was a cigarette butt on the floor and an inch of dust covering every surface. to top it off, the place was freezing and the elevator was broken. when i confronted mr. hentschke about the cigarette butt and dust he got very defensive. he said that if we didn't like it we should just leave. well, we had just arrived in paris and had nowhere else to stay. he said that he didn't want people staying at his establishment if they weren't happy. all i wanted was for him to be aware that the room was dirty. for 300 euros a night surely we should have at the very least expected a clean room. i told him we had no intention of leaving, that we didn't have other accomodations. he said, too bad, he didn't want guests who didn't want to be there. basically, he threw us out. when asked if he was going to refund our money, he said of course. he disappeared for a few minutes, came back and said he had done it. we had no other choice but to go out in the paris streets, luggage in hand and hope that we could find new accomodations. we don't speak french, by the way! luckily i had remembered the name of a hotel that a friend had mentioned and we managed to find it. thankfully, they had a room for us. (hotel bourg tibourg, which by the way, i recommend highly!)
here's where things get even worse. when i checked my email later that day i saw that there was no refund for me from paypal. when i emailed mr. hentshcke to ask why he hadn't refunded my money, as promised, he wrote back to say that he couldn't figure out how to use the refund function on paypal and that he called his accountant who would take care of it when he returned to the office in four days, which is when we would be returning to new york. unfortunately, i took his word for it. the refund never took place. after several emails to mr. hentshcke, pleading with him to refund my money, he finally relinquished 100 euros. and now he refuses to communicate with me further. basically, my partner and i spent about 15 minutes at Marais House before we were asked to leave, and we were charged 600 euros!
Paris was great, but it would have been better if we hadn't had to pay for two hotels!!!"
Since we are currently living in Paris, I tried to check out the Marais House. I called the owner, Mr. Yann-Gabriel Hentschke, but on my three tries I was repeatedly asked to call back and that it was inconvenient for the owner to have me come by, because the hotel was full, or a group had unexpectedly taken over the entire town house. In short, I never got to see the place, but as I noticed, the Marais House is no longer on the LL property list.