October 2009

Our reporters are almost always on the road reviewing hotels in new cities — sleeping in the beds, eating at the restaurants, checking out the pool scenes, and snapping thousands of photos of it all — and we’ll be launching plenty of new destinations on Oyster.com in the coming months.

So what’s in the pipeline? The photos below might help you guess which US city some of our reporters are mailing their postcards from.

Where in the world...

Where in the world...

...should you put out your cigarette in the park?

...should you put out your cigarette in the park?

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It’s been all quiet on the blog front these past few days because, well, we’ve been on a little tropical vacay. Nine of Oyster’s finest hit up the Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica for a four-day weekend excursion — and we did it in style. Since we were traveling in a large group, we shacked up in one of Half Moon’s lavish Royal Villas — ours was a seven-bedroom setup with a private pool — and, of course, we did our job even when on vacation and came home with plenty of photos.

So, what does throwing down $1750 $1480* per night (kicked up to $2800 during the high season!) get you at Half Mo0n? In addition to your villa’s own butler, cook, and housekeeper, your bronzed and boozey body will be enjoying the following:

A private pool

A private pool...

Two stories of awesomeness
…two stories of beachy chic decor…

*Note: price updated to reflect the deal we got by booking with Half Moon’s Fall Break offer: we’d booked a Garden View 5-bedroom villa and were upgraded to a 7-bedroom villa upon arrival; we paid $5912.60 for all four nights, which came out to $164 per person, per night. Wow. Additionally, groceries for 9 people for a 4-day, 4-night trip came out to $560 total.

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Per Se New York

Thomas Keller's Per Se

[Flickr/ulterior epicure]

New York City has thousands of restaurants, but for one of the highest concentrations of high-end dining, Columbus Circle is hard to beat. Home to the massive Time Warner Center, the Midtown West destination houses Thomas Keller’s Per Se, the ostentatious sushi den Masa, the second location of the refined Italian restaurant A Voce, and the oft-forgotten Porter House New York, whose “rich, buttery” steak so impressed the former New York Times dining critic Frank Bruni. These hotels are close enough to all the restaurants that you could leave at 7:45 a.m. and still make your 8 p.m. reservation. Read More »

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The Plaza Upper East Side

The Plaza

[Oyster]

New York’s obsession with everything Gossip Girl has helped turn the sometimes stodgy Upper East Side into a destination for more than just polo aficionados and old-money matriarchs. But after shopping Madison Avenue’s boutiques, hobnobbing at the Neue Gallery, and dining at Daniel, where should you stay? These three hotels are your best bets. Read More »

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Bouley TriBeCa

Bouley TriBeCa

[Flickr/ulterior epicure]

New York’s Greenwich Hotel garnered lavish critical praise in May 2009 for chef Andrew Carmellini’s new restaurant Locanda Verde, which replaced the lackluster and universally, uh, panned restaurant Ago. But the hotel’s neighborhood, TriBeCa, has four other dining options well worth a visit for a special night out.

Bouley: The flagship of chef David Bouley, who’s been cooking in TriBeCa since 1985, this French-inspired restaurant is best known for its $95 six-course degustation menu that New York Magazine critics declare “ethereal.”

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St. Paul’s Chapel

[Flickr/p_a_h]

New York certainly has its share of restaurants and boutiques du jour that come in and out of fashion faster than skinny ties. But it’s also a fascinating place for history fans, since it’s one of the oldest cities in the United States. These four spots in Lower Manhattan are must-sees for anyone interested in the past.

Federal Hall: A National Park Service administered memorial, this Greek revival – or more accurately Federal style – building at 26 Wall Street was, in 1789, home to the first United States Congress and is also where George Washington was sworn in as president, when New York was, for a short time, the capital of the young United States. Open Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Stay at Gild Hall, five blocks away. Read More »

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Wild CougarWe like to keep abreast of the latest in hotel package offerings, and this one from the Hotel Diva in San Francisco is certainly titillating, if also a wee bit tacky: the boutique property, part of the (female-run!) small West Coast chain Personality Hotels, is shilling a hotel package that shamelessly promotes and encourages Cougardom. That is, the act of being a Cougar — a female on the prowl for younger male playthings. Stupid and gimmicky? Sure. But since the haters are probably gonna hate, we’re gonna tell you a little secret: it’s not a terrible deal.

You could spend 50 bucks on your monthly Botox injections (kidding, sort of), or you could add that 50 bucks to your room rate at the Hotel Diva and get all these Cougar-friendly amenities with the Cougars With Personality package — oh, and everything comes in pairs, so you can bring your wingwoman, too:

  • A one-night stay ($159.00)
  • Two Hanky-Panky animal-print thongs ($22.00 each)
  • Two Lemon Drop cocktails
  • Two $25 Gift Certificates for the Epi Center MedSpa ($50.00 – and yes, they do Botox)
  • Professional bra fittings at Nordstrom (free, though the reminder that the ol’ ta-tas may be a bit closer to the waist than they were the last time you got a professional bra fitting is probably priceless…)
  • “A list of San Francisco’s hottest Cougar bars” (we assume this is where young dudes hang out)

A standard room on October 30th is $159; with the Cougar package, you’re looking at a rate of $209. So for $50 you get at least $100-worth of goodies – who says an older woman can’t have a cheap, hot night if she doesn’t mind being a cliche and is prepared to take responsibility for causing irreparable psychological damage to her children by openly identifying as a Cougar?

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Hotel’s Photo:

Looks like fun! Everyone's smiling!

Looks like fun! Everyone's smiling!

Oyster’s Photos:

No smiles here.

No smiles here.

...but there IS an umbrella in the corner.

...but there IS an umbrella in the corner.

Oh, look. A photo pulled off of a hotel website featuring people smiling and laughing in a gym, a place where people are (typically) neither smiling nor laughing.

Where have we seen this before? Oh, right: here and here.

This one comes from the Hotel Nash in Miami, whose fitness center promises “enough cardiovascular equipment to work every part of your body.” But the photos shown on the “fitness center” section of the website promise… well, a totally different room.

So: when you see model-ish people on a hotel website goofing around in a space that looks like it might be a fitness center — and they’re smiling, laughing, and appear to be having fun – you probably have a photo fakeout on your hands.

The dude in the orange and white shirt totally knows it, too. He can’t even look you in the eye.

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A luau at The Grand Hyatt Kauai

A luau at The Grand Hyatt Kauai

So, as you may have gathered, we just got back from Hawaii. We spent a good chunk of our bronzed post-trip bliss sifting through the thousands of photos we snapped during our time in the Aloha State — and plenty of the most stunning images we came home with were snapped outside the hotels we reviewed. Oyster’s photo editor, Atif Ateeq, has sorted through the thousands of photographs our reporters brought back to Oyster HQ and has handpicked some of his Kauai favorites.

Go ahead — do some desk daydreaming. We won’t tell your boss.

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Question: Mom in NYC
We are looking for the following vacation criteria – thank you in advance for your help!

  • Less than 3-hour direct flight at reasonable times from New York (preference Newark Airport)
  • Likely great weather in December (Christmas-New Years time)
  • Super-luxury  hotel
  • A range of food options onsite
  • Excellent service
  • Short ride from airport
  • GREAT for YOUNG kids (1 and 3 years old)
  • Has many fun activities for kids
  • OK to bring kids to meals
  • Everything in walking distance, or nearby enough that strollers work for the youngest child (1-year-old)

Answer: Will Begeny, Oyster’s Senior Editor
Thank you, NYC luxury mom, for your specificity—this is just the kind of question a hotel expert lives for. To match the efficiency of your request, I’ll forego the wordiness and get right to business:

Option 1: One and Only Ocean Club; Paradise Island, The Bahamas

The private beach at the One and Only Ocean Club

The private beach at the One and Only

The shallow, zero-entry pool at the One and Only Ocean Club

The zero-entry pool at One and Only

Outclassing the already upscale Atlantis mega resort (its sister hotel, right next door), the considerably more intimate One and Only Ocean Club easily fits into that “super-luxury” category—personal butlers, a tranquil spa, a world-class golf course, an exceptional restaurant helmed by the esteemed Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten, and amazing gardens that culminate in a reconstructed 13th-century Augustinian Cloisters (shipped over, piece by piece) are just a few of its highlights. But even with all its peace and exclusivity, it’s also an excellent place to bring a young family, given its superb beachfront, ideal pool, and themepark’s worth of attractions next door.

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