January 2013

Have you been waiting patiently for your favorite hotel to get Oyster’d? We understand, we do. And we’re trotting the globe as fast as we possibly can to bring you more destinations and hotels every day. We investigate every single hotel in person, and that takes time, but we think the results are worth it. Take a look at our newest additions from California, Amsterdam, New Orleans, and Toronto!

Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam

Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam

Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam

The Conservatorium Hotel delivers a true five-pearl experience in Amsterdam’s residential Museum Quarter. It’s housed in a 100-year-old former bank building, and the hotel’s warm, modern design melds seamlessly with the structure; the stunning atrium lobby, for example, is industrial-chic, featuring wood, brick, and glass. The rooms are decorated in earthy neutrals and every detail was considered, from the placement of the electrical outlets to the reading lights by the bed to the high-tech controls for the lighting and blinds; some rooms have duplex layouts and exposed structural beams. Bathrooms are gorgeous, with rainfall showerheads, stone tile, LCD mirror TVs and micro cotton towels. The big, modern fitness center, stylish indoor pool, and lovely spa, all located below ground, are highlights. It’s a premier choice for luxury travelers looking to trade a central location for added space and quiet.

 

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There’s really nothing more English than afternoon tea, so we’ve rounded up our six favorite spots to indulge in London. We found scones, clotted cream, and smoked salmon finger sandwiches, of course, but a few surprises as well — from poetry tea readings to a tea made specially for chocolate lovers. Pinkies up, please!

Watch more Oyster videos here »

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The Gale South Beach

In the 1940s, Gale South Beach and Regent Hotel stood on Collins Avenue, one of South Beach’s main Art Deco drags. Two months ago, just in time for Art Basel, the two properties re-opened as one very hip, very retro hotel. From the young team that remodeled the historic Shelborne Hotel (just down the street), Gale’s brand new interiors  – the restoration clocked in at $35 million — manage to maintain the vibe of a bygone era, while also reaching modern luxury standards. Black-and-white photos (many pulled from ‘40s and ‘50s archives) line hallways and adorn rooms; terrazzo lines the lobby floor; and outdoor signage replicates the hotels’ originals to a T.

Along with a flurry of other hip, boutique openings on Collins Avenue lately (SLS Hotel South Beach and The James Royal Palm, for example), it’s clear that Gale’s serious focus on cocktails, socializing, and retro style will make it a major player with the in-crowd.

Take a photo tour after the jump and keep your eyes peeled for the full review, coming to Oyster.com soon!
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At this point in the season we’re all more than ready for some sun and high temperatures. You only need to check your friends’ Facebook statuses to know that you’re not the only one who’s feeling a little cranky about the recent cold snap. Heading to Miami, or an island in the Caribbean, may be the easiest way to escape the winter chills. But we tend to forget that the U.S.’s winter season can be the best moment to visit tons of great destinations in the Southern Hemisphere and just above the Equator, where the sunny, warm days are in full swing and the dry season starts to kick in. Whether you’re looking to trek to the top of a volcano or discover historic sites in a big city, we’ve got the destination for you. Check out our top picks for escaping the cold, and start packing!

For the Adventurous Type: Costa Rica

The Arenal Volcano is one of the top attractions in Costa Rica, and it is still possible to see some fumaroles activity.

The Arenal Volcano is one of the top attractions in Costa Rica, and it is still possible to see some fumaroles activity.

Costa Rica can be anything from a peaceful oasis to a crowded and touristy spot depending on the time of the year and the region visited — but it’s still far less developed than most popular beach destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean. December through April is the best time to visit, as rainfall drops to a minimum, and days are long and sunny. The country is home to hundreds of diverse habitats, making it easy to enjoy beach days, eco-tourism, and outdoor adventures all in the same trip, and without having to travel long distances. The geography is infinitely varied, ranging from rugged coastlines and bustling towns to misty forests and active volcanoes.

Rico Tico Bar & Grill boasts gorgeous ocean and jungle views.

Rico Tico Bar & Grill boasts gorgeous ocean and jungle views.

A staple in the beautiful Manuel Antonio resort area, the 58-room Si Como No is carefully built into a lush hillside, which means great views and winding paths surrounded by colorful flowers and wildlife. The amenities are a main draw here: two pools, two restaurants, a spa, a movie theater, and a wildlife refuge across the street. Unplugged rooms aren’t particularly luxurious, but you’ll want to be spending your time outdoors anyways.

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Our Newest Photo Fakeouts

by Jane Reynolds on January 30, 2013

Oyster's photo of the pool at the Marigot Beach Club

Here at Oyster, we pride ourselves on intensively visiting, photographing, and reviewing every single hotel we feature on our site. Our photos are undoctored and honest, but on our travels, we’ve found that the hotel’s marketing photos can be heavily retouched or cropped mysteriously. Our Photo Fakeouts are legendary — just look at the Sexy Lady Phenomenon — and we felt it was only appropriate that as we expand our coverage, we expand our Fakeout repertoire, too. So today, check out our slideshow of our newest finds!

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The spa pool at the Bernardus Lodge is a perfect spot to relax on your honeymoon.

This 57-room rustic-luxe retreat in Carmel Valley sits in a lovely setting among rolling hills and vineyards. Details such as vaulted beamed ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces, and chic country-inspired decor help to create an atmosphere that is cozy and romantic. Rooms are especially perfect for newlyweds, featuring stone fireplaces, feather beds, plush white bedding, and patios or decks with private whirlpools. Large bathrooms are another delight, with walk-in showers and two-person soaking tubs. There are several restaurants here — including the famous Marinus restaurant with its chef’s table where diners can watch the chef cook (Julia Child is among the many famous culinary gurus to savor the experience). Additional appealing amenities include an outdoor pool, pool bar, and inviting spa where wine-based treatments are available.

Overall, the Bernardus is a sophisticated, romantic spot in Carmel Valley just waiting for couples to celebrate their nuptials. The lodge ups the ante, however, with the Vineyard Romance Package. Couples are greeted with chocolate, champagne, and a set of monogrammed robes before enjoying a candlelit dinner in their room and having a bath drawn for them by the resident Bath Butler. A couples treatment is also arranged at the spa, as is a VIP tasting at the Bernardus Winery. Cheers to that — and to you! Check out more honeymoon-inspired photos of the Bernardus Lodge here »  Read More »

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Dogs love chillin' during vacay as much as humans do!

Dogs are man’s best friend, so it can be hard to part with our pooches when it’s time to go on vacation. But some find it literally impossible, so instead choose to bring Fido along — and we fully support this. After all, you may have been working like a dog but so have they! So it’s time to let them enjoy some fun in the sun, too. Here are some of our favorite pics of dogs enjoying a little getaway.

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At Oyster.com, we pay close attention to when the marketing hype doesn’t match the reality. And so do our loyal fans: Our revealing Photo Fakeouts have now been viewed by millions of people.

But plenty of marketers deserve credit for running authentic, creative campaigns about their properties. Which is why we were tickled pink this year to be a part of the HSMAI Adrian Awards, which honor creative brilliance and best practices in hospitality, travel, and tourism-related marketing. The ‘World is Your Oyster’ Award, presented by Oyster.com, recognizes the hotel or destination marketing program that best utilizes rich media to inspire travelers with authentic depictions of their unique beauty, personality, style or culture. Entrants were judged on the visual representation of a destination or resort communicated through print and web marketing programs.

The three finalists — Homewood Suites, Extended Stay, and Hampton Hotels — of the ‘World is Your Oyster’ award were visited and reviewed by the Oyster.com editorial team, and at a black-tie gala on January 28th, Oyster.com presented Homewood Suites with the inaugural “World is Your Oyster Award” to recognize the brand’s wonderful, authentic marketing program of their “Be at Home” ad campaign, which was exciting and inspiring, and showcased unique — and accurate — aspects of their properties. The ad claimed that you could make a full, gourmet meal in their kitchens — so we put them to the test! The result? The pork chops were delicious — and they passed with flying colors!

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The Premier Room at the Capella Singapore, Singapore

The Premier Room at the Capella Singapore

1. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Capella Singapore’s $14,000 “Eternally Yours” package includes a Rolls-Royce transfer from the airport, a 5-course gourmet dinner with wine, a “jewelry gift for her,” and a caviar-and-champagne, in-room breakfast.

2. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Taylor Swift and Harry Styles were spotted last weekend singing karaoke at The Greenwich Hotel in New York.

3. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The InterContinental Montreal is offering several packages that include a free night at the Ice Hotel (made entirely of ice!) in the Montreal Snow Village.

4. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Algonquin Hotel has just launched a package that includes meeting Katie Couric, the host of ABC’s “Katie” show.

5. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, spent a few days at Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort, where he booked a $6,000 villa with a private pool and ocean views.

 Check out the answers after the jump!

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Open wide! Fresh fish at the Fisketorget Fish Market in Bergen is waiting to be devoured -- or maybe do some devouring itself.

The Land of the Midnight Sun offers cuisine that is as stunning and unique as the country’s dramatic natural scenery. Known for its strong focus on game meats and fish – as well as its many wonderfully diverse ways of preserving both – Norway is not short on culinary surprises. The country shares a palate with its Scandinavian neighbors, and also has some similarities with the tastes of Alaskans, Canadians, and the Japanese. But when it comes down to it, Norway is its own culinary beast and, due our recent trip there, we can officially say we slayed it. Though the fermented fish did give us pause, we persevered and were not the least bit disappointed. So what are you waiting for? Dig into Norway »

 

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