Looking to splash some cash? Ute Junker takes a global view of what you can expect if you're willing to fork out for a luxury stay.
For $600 a night: try an Asian escape
Your luxury dollar takes you further in Asia. While the best resorts aren't cheap, you can expect an indulgent experience, with spacious private villas and impeccable Asian service.
Hotel: The Nam Hai (website)
Rate: Villas start at US $600 (approx. $584) per night, including breakfast and airport transfers.
I once landed at the Nam Hai in the middle of a monsoon, with rain pelting down so hard that I could barely make it from my villa to the resort's lobby. Fortunately, the resort's 80 square metre villas have been designed for cocooning. Everything in the villa is generously-sized: from the beds to the flat screen TVs to the bathroom. I spent three days in my villa, watching selections from the massive movie library, drinking the complimentary soft drinks, and checking my email on the complimentary wifi. Occasionally I'd move to the covered verandah, from where I could watch the rain pelting down.
If your timing is better than mine, and the weather is cooperating, there are plenty of things to do outside the villas. You could swim in one of the three pools, work out in the health club or on the tennis courts, or take part in free cultural activities, such as embroidery, music workshops and making those classic conical hats. Or hop on the free shuttle service into Hoi An, where you can go sightseeing or have clothes made by the highly-skilled and cheap-as-chips tailors.
Location: Phuket, Thailand
Hotel: Banyan Tree (website)
Starting price: Pool villa starts at 20,653 Thai baht (approx. $666) per night, including breakfast. During low season, packages offer stay 7-nights-pay-5 and stay-4-nights-pay-3 deals.
If you want the highlight of your holiday to be a hand-in-hand stroll down a deserted, postcard-perfect tropical beach, Banyan Tree's Phuket property is not for you. The nearby beach is average at best and, with 150 villas, the Banyan Tree is not exactly intimate. However, the beauty of villa-based properties is that you can simply retreat into your own space, and, once you've checked out the 18-hole golf course, the tennis courts, the gym, and the superb spa - one of Asia's most indulgent – that's exactly what you'll do.
The pool villas sprawl over an impressive 270 square metres, with dramatic décor and an indoor-outdoor aesthetic that makes the most of the tropical surroundings. We love the his n hers' private dressing area, the outdoor bath and, of course, the piece de resistance – a private swimming pool flanked by a Thai sala. Swim naked under the stars, enjoy a private poolside massage – or do both.
For $900 a night: splash out on a flash city suite
In cities like Paris or New York, rooms in the best hotels start at around $500 – and often, what that rate gets you is a space about the size of a shoe box. A suite in a grand hotel is not cheap, but it certainly delivers more bang for the buck.
Hotel: Hotel Cipriani (website)
Starting price: Double lagoon view rooms start US$912 per night (approx. $896) per night.
In a city where almost every building has a history stretching back centuries, it's not hard to find an atmospheric hotel. However, the Cipriani is unlike any other property in town. Perched on the tip of Giudecca island, across the lagoon from St Mark's Square, the Cipriani gives you room to relax. Set amid pleasant gardens, the spacious double lagoon view rooms (around 35 square metres) have glorious sea views, balconies and huge marble bathrooms with supersized bath tubs, separate showers, and a whole array of toiletries. The Cipriani even has a large swimming pool – the only one in the whole of Venice.
The thing that really sets the Cipriani apart, however, is the journey into town. It's just a five-minute trip: but what a trip. As the hotel's launch carries you across the lagoon, you get the full-frontal view of Venice at its best – a real rock star entrance. And in true rock star fashion, the launch keeps running until all the guests are safely back home – so take your time. They'll wait up for you.
Hotel: Claridge's (website)
Starting price: Junior suites start at £555 (approx. $853) per night.
Just walking into Claridge's is an experience. More than any other London lodgings, Claridge's has kept alive the glory days of grand hotels, which is why it has maintained its roster of prestigious guests, all the way from Queen Victoria to modern style mavens such as Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The foyer, decorated with Lalique vases, opens onto a sweeping staircase; the elevators are operated by uniformed attendants, leaving you free to lounge on the sofa; the bar is ultra-chic; even the ladies' rooms are a lesson in glamour. And of course, guests get to take advantage of the hotel's superb concierge service, which will find you tickets to sold-our West End shows, and organise dinner reservations at booked-out restaurants.
At all hotels, however, some rooms are better than others, which is why we opt for the irresistible junior suites. All of them are spacious (63 square metres), with high ceilings that make them feel bigger; our favourite junior suite is decorated by designer Diane von Furstenberg. The chic dove greys and charcoals are enlivened with splashes of fuchsia and purple, and the updated take on the four-poster bed is sumptuous. Yes, it's expensive – but if you ever want to feel like a movie star, this is where it will happen.
For more than $1500 a night: go for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In this price bracket, you're not paying for a hotel room, you're paying for an experience. So choose something that you'll remember forever.
Hotel: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (website)
Price: Suites start US$1580 (approx. $1553) per night, twin share
It's got the setting perched on the rim of the world's largest intact volcanic caldera – all 60 square km of it. It's got the intimacy: just 30 suites, divided into three separate "camps". And it's got the staff: three employees per guest, including your personal butler.
The rounded shape of each suite is inspired by traditional Maasai huts, but the interiors are spectacular. Hardwood floors, raw silk curtains that sweep to the floor, beaded chandeliers, antique velvet-covered furniture and ornate four poster beds create a feel that's halfway between African baroque meets Victorian sumptuousness.
However, people don't come to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge to stay in their rooms. They come here to see the crater's phenomenal wildlife, including lions and hippos, cheetah and elephants, giraffe and zebra. Game drives are included in your room rate, along with meals, drinks – soft and otherwise – and laundry. (Entrance fees to the national park and the crater are separate.) And when you come back hot and dusty after your afternoon game drive, and find your butler has run a bubble bath in your claw-footed tub, scattered the rose petals, and drawn back the curtains so you can enjoy a bath with a view – you'll know the meaning of the word bliss.
Location: The Whitsundays
Hotel: Hayman Island (website)
Price: Beach villas start at $1790 per night twin share
There are plenty of Queensland getaways much cheaper than this: indeed, many of them can be found in the Whitsundays. So how on earth can they justify the price? Simply because this is one of the handful of properties in Australia delivering an international standard of accommodation.
There are only eight of the 120 square metre beach villas on the island, each of which is divided into three sections. There's a sprawling bathroom; a private pool in an open air gallery, flanked by a day bed and an outside shower; and a bedroom that opens onto a verandah from which you step down directly to the beach. If you have meals delivered to your room, there's no need ever to leave, except to go for a stroll along the beach. But the real clincher is the complimentary mini-bar, stocked with all manner of goodies – wine, beer and soft drinks, as well as a range of snacks – and restocked daily. Throw in the free catamarans and excellent food, and this is one of Australia's best luxury experiences.
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