September 2009

On this week’s episode of AMC’s hit Mad Men (spoiler alert!), little miss Peggy Olson and Duck had an, um, “encounter” at The Pierre. This isn’t the first time the storied NYC property has made a cameo on the show; in season one, Don Draper had an awkward meetup with department store heiress Rachel Menken in the hotel’s white-tablecloth restaurant to solicit her help with an ad campaign.

These days, those white tablecloths are gone. In non-TV-world, the iconic Manhattan hotel just debuted a new, refreshed look this summer after undergoing a $100 million renovation — and obviously (recent upgrades or not) the look of The Pierre as depicted on Mad Men, set in the early 60′s, isn’t quite the same Pierre we’d visit today. Would you, Mr. Modern Ad Exec, still take the office hottie to this place to charm the panties off of her? Or has it been of an “in with the plasma TV’s and out with the sensual elegance” sort of situation? Let’s scope it out, shall we?

Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 7 (Photo: AMC)

Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 7 (Photo: AMC)

A traditional room at The Pierre in 2009

A Traditional Room at The Pierre in 2009

Then: um, looks like a fancy old hotel with lots of ornate details and a carpet that you probably don’t want to spill red wine on.

Now: Some of the finishes seem to be the only remaining old-school touches left in the room — though the 2009 issue bedskirts and fluffy pillows certainly do make the bed seem quite a bit more plush than Mad Men’s interpretation of the old room. Though it’s hard to compare the morning-after sexy factor without a naked lady in bed.

Read More »

{ 1 comment }

Here’s a special surprise for everyone: beaches in Hawaii are crowded. Just like Vegas pools.

Listen, all we’re saying is that you shouldn’t expect the beach behind your Hawaiian hotel to look much like the beach that particular hotel has pictured on its website. The real thing may be a different beach altogether, a big patch of sand densely populated with children and their inflatable beachgoing companions, or, you know, up against a mammoth construction site.

These wouldn’t necessarily qualify as photo “fakeouts,” per se — more like “somewhat misleading inclusion of photos of deserted beaches in photo galleries on hotel websites.”

Observe:

In Hyatt Regency Waikiki's photo gallery

In Hyatt Regency Waikiki's photo gallery

Our Hyatt Regency Waikiki beach experience

Our Hyatt Regency Waikiki beach experience

Hilton Hawaiian Village shows no people in the water

Hilton Hawaiian Village shows no people in the water

Oh look! People in the water. And a parking lot!

Oh look! People in the water. And a parking lot!

 

In conclusion: you won’t have the beach to yourself. You know, in case you were confused.  

{ 3 comments }

Though we’re certain you don’t need to be reminded, photography is a major part of what we do at Oyster. Each of our reporters has gone through extensive photography training; they’ve taken each and every photo (100K+) you’ve seen on the site.

As the photo editor here at Oyster, my team and I have taught the reporters everything they know — and we’ve sifted through hundreds of thousands of photos to get to the ones you see on the site. Our new Travel Photography Tips series will share some of what we’ve learned along the way.

In the video above, I kick things off by explaining how to clean your Nikon D700 to ensure that your post-trip buzz isn’t killed by photos with unsightly lens smudges or dirt. (Note: these tips apply to almost any digital SLR – not just Nikons!)

Read More »

{ 3 comments }

A newly-renovated room in the historic wing

A newly-renovated room in the historic wing

What does a $60-million renovation of an iconic Hawaiian hotel look like? Apparently, it looks like this.

Starwood Luxury Collection’s Royal Hawaiian (on Oahu), a.k.a. the ”Pink Palace of the Pacific,” has just come off a pricey makeover — and those dolla bills certainly weren’t used to tone down the resort’s signature girly-hued decor. Also (and this is pretty important): only the guestrooms in the historic wing have been renovated; the rooms in the tower haven’t undergone any upgrades yet.

But: the new rooms have quite a bit going on, no? While the still-to-be-renovated rooms sport the look of, in the words of our reporter, “subdued rooms from generic midrange hotels like the Hawaii Prince Waikiki,” the new decor in the historic wing looks…busy. Patterns on the walls, the chairs, the carpet — it’s all quite modern and fun and colorful, but it can’t possibly be everyone’s taste, right? Maybe not ideal for the bachelor party before an island wedding?

If you’re into the whole zen, calming-white thing, we’d suggest checking out the Halekulani instead. If the photo of this room alone was too much for you, maybe you should just sit at your desk and flip through pretty pictures of beaches to chill you out.

{ 2 comments }

So romantic and peaceful!

So romantic and peaceful!

Cranes, clouds and crowds

Cranes, clouds, and (small) crowds

Oh no! The quiet beach paradise this couple seems to be enjoying in the above marketing photo of the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort on Oahu does not seem to be quite so serene these days. The flawless expanse of blue sky shown in the promo pics seems to be… not such a flawless expanse anymore.

Oh, no, no. In fact, the beach scene you see on the right – complete with cranes and unsightly green construction fencing — is what you’d experience if you and your loved one took a hot stroll on the sand in your breezey vacation attire today. The cranes and mess just beyond the sand happen to be the earliest stages of the massive coming-in-2011 Disney Vacation Club Resort Hawaii — and when all 21 acres of that beast are completely built up, there’s not gonna be a whole lot of serenity to be had on that beach at all.

Regardless of the construction, the throngs of splashing and screaming children don’t make for a very romantic scene right now anyway. Oh, reality.

{ 4 comments }

In case you didn’t catch it, Oyster’s Senior Editor, Will Begeny, was on TV again. This time, he chatted with Better TV about the most popular hotels for celebrities in New York City.

Privacy, discreet service, and fancypants amenities are the major factors that the rich and famous consider when selecting a hotel — and we dish the dirt on the fanciest under-the-radar Big Apple properties that have seen the most famous faces.

Check out the video above, and be sure to take a peek at our lists of Celebrity Hotspot Hotels in New York, Las Vegas, and Miami.

{ 0 comments }

Renaissance Relaunch Party

Renaissance Relaunch Party

Last week, we hit up Renaissance Hotels’ official brand “re-launch” at the Hotel 57 in Manhattan (which is now a Renaissance property). Across the pond, plenty of folks were partying in Paris at the Renaissance Arc de Triomphe several hours earlier to celebrate the new look of the Marriott-owned chain the same way.

So: when a not-too-trendy hotel chain like Renaissance gets the word out about a total image revamp by throwing much-hyped, almost-simultaneous parties on two different continents, what kind of vibe might we expect the newly-refreshed brand to deliver? From what we saw at the Hotel 57 party, Renaissance is going for trendy, chic, and modern — and according to David Marriott (Regional Vice President of hotel operations for NYC, Baltimore, and Philly), the brand is aiming to compete with W Hotels.

Renaissance, listen: we’ve gotta be honest. We never knew you had it in you to pull off a W-ish vibe, but we’d be inclined to believe you’ve got the goods to go head-to-head with Starwood’s trendiest brand after this party. At the soiree, we mingled with (er, “mingled with” is a little strong — let’s go with “followed around”) Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley and the beautiful Brooke Shields while sipping on Absolut cocktails among the funky, fresh, inventive decor. There were sparkly dresses a-plenty, a few A and B-list celebs, DJ’s, drunk people, and contemporary light fixtures. If we squinted real hard, we would have thought we were hanging out at one of W’s Living Room bars.

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

The Caribbean Collection

The Caribbean Collection

This collection of all-inclusive resort bracelets belongs to one Oyster reporter. Seriously. Just one of us. The colorful display of classy plastic in this photo is what Briana R. calls her “Caribbean collection,” a dazzling and fashionable array of wrist accessories accumulated from the all-inclusive resorts she’s reviewed in the last few months.

Fly, fabulous, and free jewelry: just another perk of the Oyster reporting gig.

{ 1 comment }

Holiday Inn, Manhattan 6th Avenue

Holiday Inn, Manhattan 6th Avenue

While some hotels are trying to stay competitive in this tougher-than-ever market by rolling out creative packages, offering quirky-cute amenities, and renovating individual properties (’tis the age of the flat-screen TV — anything else is officially outdated), some big-name chains are getting busy on a much larger scale and revamping their entire image.

One of the most radical (and impressive) cases of rebranding we’ve seen in the last two years has been Holiday Inn. The old iconic wallet-friendly standby’s parent company, IHG, launched a billion-dollar overhaul of the brand in 2008 to give a whole new look to every part of the brand’s image — from the logo to the entrance lighting — and the new modern touches are slated to be in place across the chain by the end of 2010.

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

David Cush, President and CEO, Virgin America

David Cush, President and CEO, Virgin America

As President and Chief Executive Officer of the hip and affordable airline Virgin America (an Oyster fave), David Cush spends 7 to 10 nights a month in hotel rooms. He’s seen it all — the good, the bad, and the amusing — and some of his best hotel experiences have even helped to inspire and shape the Virgin America passenger experience. To kick off our Oyster Interviews series, we chit-chatted about hotels, Wi-Fi, and comfy hotel beds with Mr. Cush, the chief of the hip jetsettin’ crowd himself. Enjoy.

Oyster: We had a memorable experience on our very first VA flight to Vegas. So, naturally, we’ve gotta ask this first: What’s your favorite Las Vegas hotel?
David Cush: The Hotel at the Mandalay has a special vibe.  It has all of the action that you would expect at a large Vegas hotel, including a great pool scene, but when you retreat back to your room at The Hotel, you could be a million miles away from the Vegas scene.  A couple of hours of that is sometimes necessary after being in Vegas for a few days.  It also has a great rooftop restaurant and club.

Oyster: Your airline has Wi-Fi for a fee on every flight.  So, when it comes to hotel Wi-Fi, do you think of it as a great ancillary revenue source or must-have free amenity?
David Cush: It’s an interesting question. When I stay at a hotel that charges for Wi-Fi, I tend to use my cell card rather than pay. Of course, in the air, you don’t have that alternative. As far as Wi-Fi in the air goes, the investment is much more significant than providing Wi-Fi in hotels. Each aircraft costs about $100,000 to outfit and the ground network cost millions to construct. In order to recoup that investment and justify upgrades to the system, the revenue is necessary.  So far, our guests agree and are more than willing to pay for the service.  We have 20-25% take rates on some of our longer transcon flights.

Read More »

{ 3 comments }