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2018 Luxury Hotel Highs and Lows

2018 Luxury Hotel Highs and Lows

Old Dec 26, 18, 12:49 pm
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2018 Luxury Hotel Highs and Lows

As with 2017, I thought it would be nice to review the highs and lows of the past 2018 year. I hope we might do this for every year!

For me, this was a very SPG/Marriott centric year as I tried to maximize my Ambassador elite status and benefits before the August 18 integration.

THE HIGHEST--

1. Suiran Kyoto (May 2018): one of our all-time favorites*, near perfect stay, unique authentic Japanese ryokan/Western hotel hybrid experience, incredible Arashiyama location, amazing F/B, salivating for next stay
2. St Regis New York (March 2018): one of our all-time favorites*, near perfect stay, Table 55 perhaps our most memorable F/B experience ever, incredible concierge team, unquestioned top choice for us in NYC
3. St Regis Florence (Oct 2018): one of our all-time favorites*, made us love Florence when Belmond Villa San Michele never did, incredible F/B, authentic Florentine experience, amazing concierge, also vastly preferred over FS Florence (unless you want a pool)
4. Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (May 2018): if not for Suiran would be among our all-time favorites, near perfect stay, incredible F&B, amazing suite/decor, slow start but concierge came through big time, amazing service recovery
5. St Regis Punta Mita (Jan 2018): one of our all-favorites*, second stay even better than first, incredible service/responsiveness, amazing F/B, amazing beachfront villa with private pool, felt like a second home
6. St Regis San Francisco (July, Sept, Nov, Dec 2018): one of our all-time favorites* and most visited luxury hotel for us in USA, stayed 4 times in 2018, always upgraded to my preferred Metropolitan Suite, always treated like super VIP, great F/B, concierge has 100% success rate even for Michelin 3* bookings, love SoMa location, amazing bar, proximity to so many amazing restaurants, my one home away from home
7. Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho (May 2018): almost amazing enough to be one of our all-time favorites, amazing hard product almost as impressive as Aman Tokyo, excellent soft product, incredible Ambassador recognition/treatment, incredible concierge, very good F/B, a few English language issues, and yet still more impressive to us than Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, and Four Seasons


THE HIGHS--

8. St Regis Houston (Dec 2018): a regular favorite, always excellent and supremely comfortable stay in upgraded Astor Suite, always incredible service, a bit dated hard product, always great F/B, excellent location for me, way better than Four Seasons
9. St Regis Osaka (May 2018): a little dated but extremely comfortable hard product with generally excellent service and F/B, love the bar, Italian restaurant worthy of 1 star, tremendous Ambassador recognition, excellent location. some concierge flubs but good recovery
10. SLS Beverly Hills (Oct 2018): world class F/B, nice renovation with amazing suite, amazing Ambassador recognition/treatment
11. La Bandita Townhouse Pienza (Oct 2018): a true gem and unique boutique hotel in beautiful location, shockingly good hard product, wonderful charm/hospitality, wonderful service/concierge
12. Ritz-Carlton Boston (March and April 2018): just beats the W by a hair, wonderful F/B, excellent service recovery after air con fail, feels a bit higher end than W, nice renovated hard product (except for bathroom)
13. W Boston (April 2018): great hard product, great soft product, nice service, great Ambassador recognition/treatment, a very nice W
14. St Regis Atlanta (April 2018): beautiful but dated hard product now being renovated, great service recovery after check in and air con fails, amazing sense of place, amazing public spaces/lobby/restaurant, incredible F/B, more character and better location than Four Seasons


MIDDLE OF THE ROAD--

15. St Regis Bal Harbour (Oct 2018): nice but dated hard product, many service fails, nice location, good Ambassador treatment/ recognition and service recovery, air con issues, incredible Royal Suite upgrade, amazing beach service
16. Atlantis by Giardino Zurich (Oct 2018): spectacular hard product let down by shocking uneven service, air con fails and management misses, incredible F/B, beautiful retreat feel/location, would give second chance but risky
17. Ritz-Carlton San Francisco (Nov 2018): nice hard product and soft product, curious air con fail, rigidity to service, decent Club, OK location, very friendly staff, excellent F/B, unwillingness to accommodate large dog while FS and StR do, I still vastly prefer the St Regis
18. Four Seasons Atlanta (Atlanta 2018): chic and modern hard product, good central location for business, disappointing wifi, good F/B, not much in the way of public spaces/lobby, preferred the StR location by far, pleasant for work stay


THE LOWS--

19. Ritz-Carlton Dallas: overpriced, terrible air con, terrible and unacceptable wifi, not impressive bar/disappointing drinks, truly great Fearing's restaurant, I would pick W Dallas next trip, not worth it
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Old Dec 26, 18, 5:14 pm
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Nice selection of Starwood/ Marriott hotels
Can't offer such a list. This year I didn't had a real highlight. Mostly it was solid, sometimes even disappointing because of too high expectations (Finca Cortesin) Overall only 6 hotels in 2018 if I count correctly. Very shameful year..... But already booked more for 2019😉
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Old Dec 26, 18, 5:29 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Nice selection of Starwood/ Marriott hotels
Can't offer such a list. This year I didn't had a real highlight. Mostly it was solid, sometimes even disappointing because of too high expectations (Finca Cortesin) Overall only 6 hotels in 2018 if I count correctly. Very shameful year..... But already booked more for 2019😉
That just means you have more funds and more incentive to travel for 2019!
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Old Dec 26, 18, 6:04 pm
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Originally Posted by bhrubin View Post

That just means you have more funds and more incentive to travel for 2019!
Always think positive😉
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Old Dec 26, 18, 6:48 pm
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Highs - - Low ( s ) 2018


Thanks for starting this thread , bhrubin .
Jet lagging , but here is my list for now . Possibly more details later .

THE HIGHEST --

Amanusa ( February ) , farewell our long time Nusa Dua home

Huka Lodge , NZ ( March )

Amankila ( June )
Amanusa Villas ( June )

COMO Treasury , Perth ( June )

Amanpuri ( July )

MOHK ( November )

Amanemu ( November )

AmanTokyo ( November )


THE HIGHS --

Matakauri , Queenstown , NZ ( March )


MOKL ( August )

Ritz-Carlton Kyoto ( November )

St Regis Osaka ( November )

Amadria Park Hotel Milenji , Opatija , Croatia ( December )


MIDDLE OF THE ROAD --

The Spire , Queenstown , NZ ( April )
Majestic , Malacca ( January , August )

E & O , Penang ( October )


THE LOWS --

Intercontinental , Papeete ( March )

The George , Christchurch , NZ ( March )
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Last edited by FlyerEC; Dec 27, 18 at 6:58 am
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Old Dec 27, 18, 4:03 am
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I'm not usually one to reminisce, but this thread got me thinking about my travels this year. Overall, I wouldn't say it was my most interesting year in terms of traveling—lots of trips to the same places and many nights in very forgettable hotels. But there were some high (and low) lights.

HIGHS
1. Landmark Mandarin Oriental HK (Jan 2018) – This set the bar high for the year. There are flashier, taller, shinier hotels in HK. But I tend to gravitate towards understated luxury, and in my opinion the LMOHK nailed it. Excellent room (especially the bathroom!) and spa. The concierge team was outstanding—responsive, eager to please, and nothing was too much trouble. Amber was one of the best meals of the year. And of course, the location is second to none if you want to be on HK Island.
2. The Chatwal NY (Feb 2018) – I am perhaps a bit weird in that I very much enjoy a nice staycation every now and then, and over the years I have tried many different hotels in NYC. The Chatwal was a particular stand out this year for me. I was upgraded to a gorgeous suite with a terrace. I didn't really use the concierge much, but all the staff with whom I interacted could not have been more helpful or friendly (a few $20 bills might have been exchanged, but that's how things are done here I suppose). Breakfast at Lambs Club each morning was sumptuous.
3. Proper Hotel SF (multiple stays) – This one might be somewhat controversial. Unlike bhrubin, I am not enamored with the St. Regis (see below). The Proper is a relatively new hotel in a "transitioning" neighborhood of SF, and I recognize that for some the location of the hotel will be a turnoff. I loved the location, though: steps from BART and Muni and closer to the parts of SF that I like to be in when not working (but still close enough to work). The hotel itself is stunning in my opinion (and so quirky in a good way)—the beds are amazing, I love the bathrobes and Aesop products, Villon is awesome, and the rooftop bar is gorgeous (and of course, as a guest of the hotel, you get to skip the line). This hotel has been added to my go-to list for SF.
4. The Palace SF (multiple stays) – I am generally not a fan of grand dames, but I love the Palace (probably in the same way that bhrubin loves the St. Regis), especially since the rooms have been renovated. This year, I was always upgraded to at least a junior suite, and though I don't mind the base-level rooms here, the suites really are something else. I love having breakfast, and especially weekend brunch, in the Garden Court, and the pool on the top floor is much appreciated. Also love how the hotel is steps from the BART and Muni, and somewhat removed from the craziness of the Westfield/Union Square area.
5. The Perry Lane Savannah (Aug 2018) – Not everything was completely open when I was there (the hotel opened in June I believe), but it was a memorable stay nonetheless. I loved the aesthetic of the rooms (and the free cookies). The staff were charming—special props to the server I had for breakfast in the restaurant each morning, who by the second morning knew how I liked my coffee and remembered that I didn't touch the melon in the fruit plate on the first morning. Overall, I think this hotel was the perfect blend of southern charm and modern sensibility.

MEH
1. The Temple House Chengdu (Jul 2018) – Maybe I went in with too high expectations, given all the accolades this hotel (and its sister properties in HK and Beijing) have received, but this stay was good but not great. To start with the positives: the room (I was in a Studio 70 room) was gorgeous and truly an oasis; breakfast in the morning was high-quality and offered a nice mix of Chinese and western options; Bruce, one of the hotel's drivers, was friendly, knowledgable, and overall simply amazing; and the location was good (attached to the upscale Taikoo Li shopping complex and relatively close to the metro). But what really stood out to me were the multiple little service slip-ups: having to remind the service team that I had asked them to book tickets to the Sichuan Opera, having to remind the front desk that I had booked a car to Dujiangyan, and then arriving at the Panda Center to find that I was not on the list of volunteers for the day, even though I had asked the hotel to arrange it (luckily it all worked out). The language barrier also didn't help matters, but that's probably on me more than the hotel.

LOWS
1. Claremont Club & Spa, Berkeley (Dec 2018) – I needed to be in the East Bay, and the Claremont seemed like a good choice. To give them credit, I found the public spaces pretty impressive. But other than that, everything else failed to impress. I had booked a junior suite but was relegated to one by the ice machine on the first floor overlooking the parking lot (I had to keep the shades drawn otherwise those walking by could see in). The suite itself, although recently updated, was meh. The only real interaction I had with the staff was ordering room service and having them not follow two simple requests. Also, I found that calling Lyfts/Ubers was a pain because the property has multiple gated (but unstaffed) entrances, and the gates malfunctioned almost every time the driver would try to leave (I felt bad for the drivers who wasted so much time).
2. St. Regis SF (Sep 2018) – This was my second time at this hotel (the first being a few years ago, which also left me less than impressed). The problems started at check-in with the front desk agent at first not recognizing my Platinum Premier status with SPG/Marriott and wanting to charge me more for a room on a higher floor (I didn't even try for a suite, given it was a short stay). I ended up on the 20th floor without having to pay more (after the agent obsequiously apologized and then tried to cast the blame away from himself), but the room was less than impressive. One, it felt small. Two, the shower and the water pressure in the shower were unimpressive. Three, the blackout shades/curtain didn't block out all the light. Also, because it was a standard room, no butler service—not a big deal, but still worth mentioning. Honestly, I think I would have had a much better stay if it hadn't started out on the wrong foot, but I was glad I was staying only for one night. The Proper and the Palace will be my go-to hotels in SF.

In sum, I would say that all of the hotels on this list are objectively wonderful hotels; the difference between highs and lows for me really boiled down to the service and interactions I had with the people. Sometimes it's the little things, the little touches here and there, that leave the most indelible impressions. Truly first-world problems.

Here's to a wonderful, luxury-filled 2019...
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Last edited by flyingeph12; Dec 27, 18 at 4:19 am
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Old Dec 27, 18, 5:38 am
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Highest:

Iceland - Deplar Farm where we took over the whole place for one week during the winter. Great accommodation, amazing bar man, all the equipment you want!

Kenya - Ol Jogi... an amazing level of service...surpasses any Aman or 4S we've been to. Beautiful property... perfect for people who prefer ultra-luxury over seeing the safari.
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Old Dec 27, 18, 8:37 am
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Highest

Singita Sasakwa
Singita Sabora

Very nice

Borgo Egnazia
Four Seasons Anguilla
St Regis Bal Harbour
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Old Dec 27, 18, 10:00 am
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Stratospheric
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Los Cabos, Mexico (Rosewood)
The Signature Villa comes at a pretty penny to be sure. But it is perfection.

Highs
The Savoy, London (Fairmont)
Nothing beats a Thames view from a Savoy suite.

Chileno Bay Resort, Los Cabos, Mexico (Auberge)
Get a villa with private pool. Ours had ocean view. Fab food.

Rancho Valencia, San Diego, California
Gorgeous, delightful. Exceptional, spacious spa.

The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Iceland (with assorted quibbles)

OK

Lows
Peninsula Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (exterior being painted, no notification at booking and no recovery)

CordeValle, San Martin, California (Rosewood)
No there there.

Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland (Rocco Forte)
Annoying and egregiously expensive with no guid pro quo.


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Last edited by KatW; Dec 30, 18 at 12:28 am
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Old Dec 27, 18, 10:09 am
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Highest

Four Seasons Dubai Jumeirah Beach

All requests went fulfilled. Treated very well by Leonardo and staff. An overall excellent and enjoyable stay.
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Old Dec 28, 18, 4:41 am
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I do enjoy looking back on the year! For full disclosure I have mark with a * the hotels that I stayed in as part of a press trip

Highest

Aman Le Melezin, Courchvel - My ski loving husband persuaded me to come along with him for the first time. Aman Le Melezin was a wonderful ski hotel that was perfect for a first timer as they helped us with absolutely everything including putting on our boots for us, carrying our skis etc.

Cavas Wine Lodge, Mendoza, Argentina - A gorgeous vineyard property in Mendoza. We had a beautiful villa surrounded by vines. Great food and wine. Very personal service.

Awasi Atacama - A highlight of our South America trip. A beautiful lodge though lacking in view and facilities such as a spa we absolutely loved the personal service and food. The only lodge in the Atacama where you get a private guide, the others organise group excursions.

Awasi Patagonia - Also a beautiful property with private guides. We were unlucky with the weather though and couldn't do as much as we hoped.

Il San Pietro Positano, Italy - a dream hotel for me totally and utterly gorgeous. Private beach, Michelin star restaurant, amazing views.

Kasbah Tamadot, Atlas Mountains* - another beautiful property Staying in a Berber tent, amazing service, beautiful views.

Amanzoe, Porto Heli - Very popular on here, I don't think I need to say much about this place!

Hotel Eden Rome* - I visited the recently refurbished hotel having stayed four years ago before the changes. Everything about this place is flawless.

High

The Thief, Oslo - Not much to say but a great luxury choice in Oslo. Good location.

The Storfjord, Alesund, Norway - Beautiful cosy property, Fjord views, quite isolated and perfect for relaxing. Service isn't quite up to scratch we had to carry our own suitcases through the snow.

The Pig on the Beach, Dorset, UK and The Pig in Hampshire, UK - Both part of the Pig Collection of hotels, popular in the UK. Rustic luxury and not to everyone's taste - my husband didn't like it and thought our room was like a garden shed! I loved it though. Very small, more a restaurant with rooms and very small spa. Good value for money.

Four Seasons Hampshire* - Stayed on a press trip to see the refurbishments and new restaurants. The new parts are looking great, service is good. Rooms still need fixing up.

Payk Hyatt Buenos Aires - Beautiful property, considered the most luxurious in the city. Great location.

Ritz Carlton Santiago - Only stayed one night as part of an offer with Awasi. It was the best of any of the Santiago hotels we saw.

Le Sirenuse, Positano - No doubt a beautiful property but I can't put this in the highest as the public areas were full of tourists taking selfies. The pool didn't feel private despite being for guests only, it's too close to the restaurant. Very bad value for money, the room was less than half the size of the room we had at Amanzoe but twice the price.

Villa Des Orangers, Marrakech* - My second time staying here, last visited ten years. A riad style hotel, it's been beautifully maintained.

Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens - Great choice for Athens, beautiful views and service.

Soho Farmhouse, Cotswolds UK - this is still my favourite hotel in the UK, we've stayed several times as its an easy country retreat from London. First time I stayed I was very impressed by the attention to detail but it seems to go down every time as it becomes more and more popular. They've added a loads of extra rooms which I think is a big mistake. We shall see!

Das Central, Austria* - Lovely ski property. Not as good as Aman Le Melezin but a great luxurry choice that's cheaper.

Middle
Renaissance Santiago - A decent place to stay in Santiago. The Ritz Carlton is better.

Hotel Romeo Naples - Not much choice in Naples. Romeo was decent, has a pool with a view and Michelin-starred restaurant but you wouldn't be wowed.

Soho House Barcelona - a bit of a disappointment. Service of the rooftop is very slow and the pool is tiny, impossible to get a seat around it. Would return for the great atmosphere but wouldn't necessarily stay.
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Old Dec 28, 18, 5:14 am
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Originally Posted by SilverSpoon View Post
Amanzoe, Porto Heli - Very popular on here, I don't think I need to say much about this place!

Hotel Eden Rome* - I visited the recently refurbished hotel having stayed four years ago before the changes. Everything about this place is flawless.

Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens - Great choice for Athens, beautiful views and service.
Already booked Eden for 2019 and strongly consider the other 2 for a trip later in 2019.
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Old Dec 28, 18, 5:47 am
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Already booked Eden for 2019 and strongly consider the other 2 for a trip later in 2019.
Enjoy Eden, I absolutely loved it! The location is great too. Away from the crowds but still only ten minutes walk to the Trevi Fountain.

Highly recommend the other two.

Last edited by SilverSpoon; Dec 29, 18 at 4:08 am
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Old Dec 28, 18, 8:27 am
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Highest
Park Hyatt Aviara (October) - wedding stay and they really made it rain on us
FS Dubai Jumeirah Beach (June) - continue to treat us so well
FS Dubai DIFC (April) - same as Jumeirah Beach
MO Hong Kong (November / December) - phenomenal service, no complaints
Park Hyatt Milan (December) - upgraded room, high quality breakfast and all requests were quickly fulfilled

High
Bulgari Dubai (July, August, December) - would’ve been highest but some slip ups in recent stays
MO Guangzhou (April) - textbook service and still fresh hard product
Park Hyatt Paris (January, May) - still one of the best properties in the Hyatt system

Middle of the road
Andaz Singapore (January) - nonexistent service but good hard product in a poor lux hotel market
Rosewood London (January) - nice but wouldn’t stay on a vacation
Park Hyatt Saigon (January) - nice hotel, terrible spa, nothing to write home about but clean and comfortable
Anantara Al Sahel (February) - nice and modern but needs to be cleaned more thoroughly. Fun activities if you can’t make it to Africa
Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar (August) - good escape from the UAE summer heat and very new and modern facilities. Lack of F&B outlets and service needs some work
Andaz Tokyo (December) - decent service and a still very modern hard product

Will never return
FS Mumbai - tired, dirty and worn down hard product. Service as terrible, particularly with the concierge pretending to communicate with my chaffeur
Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Desert - on the face of it, great looking hard product, however the showers don’t drain, the tubs are dirty and scratched despite the refresh. Service and F&B is absolutely terrible, 20-30 minute wait for buggies. The only highlight is Farmhouse, their evening restaurant although that’s not worth it to return

Will update once I finish up the year at FS Kyoto
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Old Dec 28, 18, 10:55 am
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Love this thread as always @bhrubin - thanks for starting.

Disclaimer: most if not all the stays below were hosted by the hotel.

HIGHEST

Amanoi - it falls just short of the Amankila/Amanjiwo/Amanpulo mark for me, up there with Aman-i-Khas. Incredible hard product with great design, really good food and service too.
Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong - apart from a couple of very minor things I thought they could improve on (bit ofa spartan welcome...) and my feelings on the room design aside, this is seriously an excellent hotel with a superb hard product and one of the best city hotel spas I've seen, service to match, and excellent food.

HIGH/VERY GOOD

137 Pillars House - excellent location (but def something to consider in Chiang Mai in terms of where you want to be), great design, good hard product with good maintenance, good food, good service.
Fullerton Bay - difficult to judge service on a one night stay but what I asked for they delivered on. Really good hard product, excellent location with good views (just get a Bay View).

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

The Sanchaya - Didn't expect this at all. Nice easy 'staycation' type of place from Singapore, surprisingly good beach, great design. Needs work on maintenance and service.
Ritz Millenia SIngapore - I was here for an exhibition which makes it difficult to judge - all things considered (huge exhibition) service was really good. Didn't really sample too much food but it was average. The views are stunning (best in Singapore? Probably - especially with that bath...), but the hard product is just so, so poor that I can't seem to get over that. Probably the worst hard product I've seen in a city hotel in a long time.

LOWS

Four Seasons Koh Samui -
Surprise hotel of the year for me, in a bad way. I expected a lot more here. Good location (bearing in mind it's Koh Samui), really good hard product with good maintenance. So many service mishaps and bad food (and one great meal - breakfasts were decent).
The Murray - same with The Four Seasons Samui, this really should be higher. The hotel is one of the most photogenic city (non-palace/historic) hotels I've seen, Sir Norman Foster (and partners) first foray into hotels. Maybe built wtih Instagram in mind, but damn it it's so pretty! Rooms and the hard product in general are superb (and one of the few rooms where the TV size matches the distance from bed despite being far away). Falls flat on the food and the non-caring service. Maybe a bit harsh to judge it as a low instead of a mdidling especially considering recent opening.
The Putman Hong Kong - not really a luxury hotel; more serviced apartment turned boutique hotel. For value for money in Hong Kong, if you don't mind the no frills approach (no real lobby, no breakfast lounge/restaurant/cafe but a great location in Sheung Wan) but want the space, this is the place to be. The full floor suites are 1,000+ sq ft, and if you get a high floor, you will have quite a nice view too of urban Hong Kong, with the Kowloon skyline/harbour peeking in the distance. The design is pretty good but some furnishings could do with simplicity rather than just being made to look good - e.g. the sofa... Where it falls short is in service and in maintenance which could improve. Needs far more attention to detail and care - got given towels on the second day by housekeeping that were badly ripped, for instance. But that's partly reflected in the price (seen the full floor suites at ~USD 250/night++, full floor suites with high floor/harbour view at ~USD 300/night++). Only a low by my/this forum's standards - taking into account the pricing (and therefore maybe it's not a luxury hotel to begin with), it's a solid middle.
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