Revealed: the 'best' hotels in the world according to renowned travel website Mr and Mrs Smith

COOL, creative and sometimes a touch kooky, the winners of the world’s hottest hotels according to Mr & Mrs Smith have just been announced in London.

The charmingly offbeat UK bolthole The Pig — on the Beach, which overlooks Studland Bay on Dorset’s Jurassic coast, has been named Best Smith Hotel 2015. Meanwhile, the ‘sexiest’ hotel sash has gone to Italy’s drop-dead, sensual and grotto-like Bellevue Syrene just near Naples, complete with a four poster bed and your own pool.

And three mega chic Australian hotels have made the hallowed hotel list too. Runner-up to the UK inn is Halcyon House — a bright, bold and brilliant surf-motel makeover at Cabarita in northern New South Wales that has been garnering rave reviews.

As well as taking second place in Best Smith Hotel, Halcyon House was a runner-up in the Best Newcomer category. The other Australian properties named runners-up in two other categories were Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley in ‘Best for Families,’ and Southern Ocean Lodge in the ‘Above and Beyond’ category.

Mr & Mrs Smith is a hotel website, booking service and free-to-join travel club which specialises in finding the world’s most inspiring boutique hotels.

Founded in 2003, Smith has published nine coffee-table guidebooks and maintains a hand-picked and anonymously reviewed collection of more than 1,000 of the world’s most stylish stays at mrandmrssmith.com. It has gained cult-like status for its objective hotel reviews.

‘The boutique hotel industry is at the cutting edge of hospitality,’’ says James Lohan Co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith.

“That’s what we want to celebrate with the Smith Hotel Awards — the places that do things differently, where you come back with stories of chefs creating impromptu dishes tailored just for you, or where the general manager personally drives you the scenic route to the airport.

“We hope this year’s hotlist of 12 winners inspires people to make 2016 the year they go out and find them.’

More than 1,000 hotels in the Smith collection battled for a place in the 12 specially selected categories, including Best Pool, Best Hotel Restaurant and Hottest Hotel Bar.

More than 22,000 hotel-loving members of the public had their say, voting for their favourite stays during the month of September, after which shortlists were put to panels of expert judges.

THE WINNERS:

Best-Dressed Hotel

•Ett Hem, Sweden: ‘Ilse Crawford’s bespoke interior is sublime — timeless and contemporary in equal measure. The design references the traditional Swedish Gustavian colour palette, brilliantly and luxuriously updated with modern and vintage furnishings. It’s an architectural jewel, too,’’ says Neale Whitaker Editor-in-chief, Vogue Living Australia.

Runners-up were The Battery in San Francisco and Ham Yard Hotel, London.

Sexiest Bedroom in the World

•The Roccia Suite at Bellevue Syrene, Italy: ‘In-room massage pool and canopied four-poster in an Italian grotto: Hellooooo hat trick,’” says Immodesty Blaize, Burlesque star.

By the way, bellevue Syrene happens to be in Sorrento, which is on the southern extreme off the azure waters of Naples. I mean, could this place have a sexier location?

Runners-up Sansovino Suite at Aman Canal Grande Venice, Italy and Water Villa 5 at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

Hottest Hotel Bar

•The Zetter Townhouse, London, UK: ‘It’s a masterpiece by Tony Conigliaro that continues to rack up awards and turn out superb bar talent,” says Paul Gabie Founder of 28 Hong Kong Street and CEO of Proof & Company.

Runners-up The Elephant Bar at the Nomad, USA and Cafe Gray Deluxe at the Upper House, Hong Kong

Best Hotel Restaurant

•Oreade at Monteverdi, Italy: ‘This is one very special place, a farm to table homage to the surrounding Tuscan bounty and where chef Giancarla Bodoni serves up delectable Italian dishes from a killer menu, with daily specials thrown in so you can dine with indulgence every night of your stay,” says Tamara Heber-Percy Co-founder, Mr & Mrs Smith.

Runners-up Belmond Le Manoir aux. Quat’ Saisons, UK and Nomad at The Nomad, USA

Best Spa Hotel

•The Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam: ‘A beautiful part of Vietnam and a stunning resort. The spa is set in pavilions: the ultimate in privacy and luxury,” Peony Lim Fashion and lifestyle blogger.

Runners-up Corinthia Hotel London, UK and Dormy House, UK

The Eco Award

•Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia: “I’m amazed at how much they are doing with the environment and the local community,” Livia Firth Founder, Eco Age.

Best for Families

WINNER Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji: ‘This looks like such a dreamy place, both for kids and grown-ups. My sea-creature-obsessed kids would absolutely LOVE to visit here,” Courtney Adamo Co-founder, Babyccino Kids and Instamum.

Runners-up are Aarbella Club, Spain and One & Only Emirates Wolgan Valley, Australia, which we’ve featured in our pics above.

Best Budget Boutique Hotel

WINNER Masseria Cervarolo, Italy: “After recently visiting the region I feel like a traditional Puglian farmhouse is the perfect way to explore the gorgeous surrounding areas, “ Henry Holland Fashion designer.

Best Hotel Pool

Amangiri, Utah, USA: ‘You can’t beat it: the light, the rocks, the pool snaking around this wondrous gleaming edifice that changes colour as the day wears on. The best mixture of natural and sophisticated.,” Melinda Stevens Editor in chief, Condé Nast Traveller.

Runners-up are Rayavadee, Thailand and Cap Estel, France

Above and Beyond

•Huka Lodge, New Zealand: ‘The guest comments on the personalised service of this property are amazing — the general manager personally driving guests to the airport, and the front-desk attendant jumping off her bus as she passed by when she spotted guests they were going the wrong way. They really do go above and beyond the call of duty, and that made this hotel stand out for me.” Amanda Shadforth Founder, Oracle Fox blog

Runners-up Aenaon Villas, Greece and Southern Ocean Lodge

Best Newcomer

• The Battery San Francisco, USA: ‘For all its hipness, San Francisco sorely lacks the type of hotel you get giddy at the thought of staying at. Or at least it did. The Battery practically aches cool. So much so that you want to check in, and stay in … regardless of what’s going on outside,” says Susan Riley Deputy editor, Stylist magazine.

Runners-up Hotel Urso, Spain and Halcyon House, Australia

Best Smith Hotel 2015

•The Pig — on the Beach, UK: ‘The Pig has come of age, transplanting its winning code to the natural playground of the Dorset coastline. Timeless interiors, top-notch food and spot-on service all help it continue to flourish,’’ says Sophie Lam Head of travel at The Independent. The runners-up are Soneva Fushi, Maldives and Halcyon House, Australia.

Follow the conversation in Instagram and Twitter @melissahoyer

This article was originally posted on news.com.au


36 hours on the big Golden Princess from Sydney to Melbourne: genius or simply silly?

OK, SO cruising isn’t for everyone. There are lovers and loathers.

But if it is something you have been tempted to try but worry about potentially being ‘stuck’ on a ship for 10 days, the two-day cruise I’ve just disembarked from gives you a perfect taste of cruise life.

Whether you are ‘Rousey’ and his mates (all in matching embroidered T-shirts and on board celebrating his 40th); a family of six doing a trip back home to Melbourne from a visit to Sydney, gentle retired couples, a gang of race-going mates, a gaggle of girlfriends, or someone like me, who is heading to the Spring Racing Carnival, the journey between Sydney and Melbourne was never more, well, different.

During those 538 nautical miles (that’s around 990km or approximately one hour on a plane) you actually have time to take a tour of the galley and the bridge. And while some of you may roll your eyes with boredom as soon as I mention that, I actually learnt some interesting stuff.

Like this particular ship — the Golden Princess — left Sydney with 150 tonnes of totally fresh produce on board, as the ship was going onto another trip for eight more days.

With a huge Australian guest list, I learned from the head chef Andrea Baiardo, that Aussies prefer lamb over lobster (crustaceans are an American cruiser fave, by the way); that we drink more cocktails than any other nationality on board, tea consumption is greater from Australians and we prefer our beer straight out of a bottle. Standard. (But a nice little slice of Aussie culinary behaviour for you.)

The thing about this ship is that is took about 36 hours to go from Sydney to Melbourne. While that is a big chunk out of any working week, it was, for many, a mini holiday, with one full day at sea and two nights. And there are Wi-Fi packages: so (intermittent) connection guaranteed. Hallelujah!

We arrived in Melbourne very, very early on Friday, having left late on Wednesday, and were picked up by a river pilot about 3am before we sailed into Port Melbourne with all of the fanfare of helicopters flying around the ship with huge “Welcome to Melbourne” flags.

Sure, cruising is not for everyone. But if you pick and choose your on and off board activities — whether that includes lots or none at all — I actually found it a really pleasant way to get to Melbourne.

I got some work done; was in a new environment and like so many of us can do now, worked remotely the entire time. Perfect!

And we haven’t even spoken about the cost yet. (See below for those some pretty impressive details.)

THE GOOD THINGS:

• The food is seriously endless and bloody good. The Princess Cruises group have done a culinary deal with celebrity chef Curtis Stone. There are a handful of dishes (created mainly by Italian chefs) including Stone’s famous roasted pork belly (570 servings of that went down on Thursday night) and his chicken and leek pot pie which are both on the menu in a handful of the ‘smarter’ restaurants on board. And don’t forget there are seemingly countless bars and buffets of all varieties dotted around the ship and the pools.

• Never forget that on a ship, you can do as little as you want or as much as you want. There is no pressure to do a thing.

• On any one day there are personal training sessions, LGBT get-togethers, musical bingo, karaoke madness, origami lessons, pampering seminars and yes, something called the Skywalkers Nightclub. A disco divas paradise. (Of course I popped in!)

• Oh, and there are acupuncture sessions, Zumba classes, trivia challenges, carpet bowls, blackjack tournaments, piano recitals, outdoor movies, ping pong tournaments, impressionists, line dancing lessons and one very full on British Invasion theatre show. Think Rolling Stones, The Beatles et al …

• I love the fact that once you are unpacked, you are unpacked. No schlepping from hotel to hotel or city to city with constant packing and unpacking.

• And if you are not liking your two days sojourn, don’t fret. It is ONLY two days, but I seriously challenge you to find something you will NOT savour. Even looking out to sea from your balcony gives you a sense of quiet, calm, thinking time.

• There were 200 kids on this ship and we saw hardly any — they are SO well catered for that you’d never know they were on board.

• Everyone on board is genuinely friendly — whether that’s because many were en route to the Spring Racing Carnival, who knows? Spirits just seemed to be high as most guests are in holiday mode

• You arrive relaxed, maybe slightly overweight (boy, the food never stops) and provided you don’t get motion sickness, you are going to have a brilliant sleep. I promise.

• The Lotus Spa — the ships signature named pampering posse — gave me the most wicked hot stone massage — my muscles are still reeling in ecstasy. There are also facials, manis, pedis, teeth whitening treatments (yup!) and whatever your beauty heart desires.

THE NOT SO GOOD THINGS:

• Like everything, you get what you pay for — so you’re not going to get caviar and Krug champagne — but this isn’t one of those smaller, much pricier cruises where that is the culinary norm.

• You really have to be careful of your on-board account card, as it is used for drinking, gaming, shopping and spa treatments. It’s easy to rack up ‘unexpected’ bucks you didn’t realise you were spending.

• Like everywhere in life, not every guest is going to be your cup of, well, whatever, but this ship is SOO big it is incredibly easy to avoid anyone who may have rubbed you up the wrong way.

• I am being honest here, but the slight odour from the poor guest who threw up not far from my room took a while to subside but there were plenty of cleaners on duty 24/7 trying getting rid of the stench.

• This particular cruise is not a runway fashion show: I really wouldn’t bother packing anything too grand or glam. The bejewelled earrings and killer designer heels stayed in my suitcase.

• A few guests twirled around the ship sans shoes — something I never quite get — not for any silly style reason but more from a safety point of view. There are a few moments of delicate walkway diplomacy needed.

• Oh, and there is no way you can make the ship go any faster — this is a ‘commitment’ travel. So be prepared.

***

Packages for this particular two night jaunt started at $470 per person. And when you do your sums and work out what you get, it’s mighty good value.

Considering that includes an extremely comfortable room (it had the best bed and fabulous linen), all food, a small balcony with an uninterrupted sea view (that’s an essential, I reckon), as much entertainment as you want, adults-only and all-ages pools, in room TV, a good size bathroom and basically whatever activity you want to do. Yes. It’s great value.

And while the Princess Line isn’t in the incredibly up-market league of Seabourn or Silver Seas or Crystal Cruises, 1.7 million people make a journey on one of the cruise company’s 18 ships each year. And that number is growing ridiculously huge each year. Australians, it seems, love cruising

Sure, it may have only been 36 hours, but it gave me a taste of a new way of affordable and everyday cruising from one major city to the other.

As of today, this ship is now calling Melbourne home over summer and the one thing it is out to prove is that mainstream and affordable cruising has gone from daggy and at-times questionable to fun very, very tasty, super organised and efficient..

And, hey, what a terrific way for my race day hatbox to travel.

Now, it’s time to hop off and gear up to giddy up!

• Melissa Hoyer was a guest of Princess Cruises on the Golden Princess from Sydney to Melbourne just in time to #giddyup!

This article was originally posted on news.com.au


Etihad airways teams up with LUXE City Guides for stylish new business class amenity kits

Etihad Airways has launched a colourful new range of collectable limited-edition Business Class amenity kits, the result of a unique collaboration between the airline and luxury travel brand LUXE City Guides, the straight-talking, highly curated go-to guide for savvy travellers.

The stylish new kits embody the contemporary and innovative flair synonymous with the Etihad Airways brand, and contain inflight amenities and natural facial products developed exclusively by London-based skincare and grooming brand Scaramouche + Fandango.

Six new stylised kit designs have been created by LUXE City Guides for Etihad Airways, inspired by some of the iconic cities on the airline’s extensive global network. The designs for Abu Dhabi, London and Madrid, have been specially produced for Etihad Airways, whilst the Sydney, Los Angeles and Hong Kong kits feature bespoke LUXE artwork. Each kit contains a customised Etihad Airways LUXE City Guide which corresponds to the showcased city,covering everything from hotels and restaurants, to spas, bars, boutiques and bespoke shopping, as well as services, specialists and personal guides.

Scaramouche + Fandango has developed an exclusive unisex comfort kit and skincare offering in collaboration with Etihad Airways. Specially formulated for skincare needs inflight, the range consists of paraben-free products, high in natural ingredients, to enhance onboard wellbeing.

Calum Laming, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Guest Experience, said: “The introduction of these kits is not about providing brand names to our Business Class guests. It is about intelligent design, functionality and providing them with products which are attractive, natural, useful and re-usable. Collaborating with relevant, progressive lifestyle brands such as LUXE City Guides and Scaramouche + Fandango has enabled us to tailor amenities to the requirements of our guests while retaining all the authentic charm and sophistication of the Etihad Airways brand.

“Etihad Airways continues to reimagine the flying experience, setting a new benchmark for innovation and luxury. The introduction of these kits is part of a much bigger journey which was started with the introduction of our new revolutionary cabins on the flagship Airbus A380 and Boeing 787s, and the new service concepts introduced fleet-wide. These collectable kits also reflect the global nature of our business, while simultaneously highlighting the inspiration, style and unique qualities of our home, Abu Dhabi.”

The Abu Dhabi kit uses a unique design pattern inspired by the rich architectural heritage of the Emirate, translated into a style best described as Arabian Modernism. The pattern reflects the Etihad Airways’ brand and colour palette.

Reminiscent of 1960s pop culture, the London kit uses the bold colours of the iconic London Underground map while the Madrid kit features the red and yellow of the Spanish flag in a pattern symbolising the city’s famous annual Carnival.

The initial limited-edition offering will be expanded at a later stage, with new designs and more cities to be launched.

Simon Westcott, LUXE City Guides Chief Executive Officer, said: “Etihad Airways offers one of the best in-flight experiences in the world. In partnering with LUXE City Guides to create its new Business Class amenity kits, Etihad helps ensure that the premium experience extends long after its guests have landed. It is great to be working with fellow innovators.”

The comfort kit features a luxurious facial moisturiser enriched with vitamin E and made with anti-oxidants and essential oils to combat fatigue and the lower humidity levels in the cabin. Triglycerides and essential oils rebalance the skin’s natural moisture. A honey and shea butter lip balm enriched with vitamin E keeps lips hydrated.

The new kits also include a sleep pack containing socks and eyemask, a care pack containing cotton pads and earbuds, in addition to a dental pack and earplugs.


Meet the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world: Shibuya, Tokyo . . .

IT’S one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. Five major crosswalks converge together, and up to 2500 people try to cross the road at each change of lights. But remarkably, it’s orderdly. There’s no pushing and everyone is polite.

That could be because the crossing is in Tokyo, the world’s largest city. Its 34 million residents are used to crowds, and even during rush hour everyone is totally ordered.

The busy crossing is located in the city’s Shibuya district, home to one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations.

It’s a cacophony of noise, of billboards, mega-lighting, neons, cool kids, gigantic buildings and fast strides.

But when the pedestrian light turns green, the race is on and they’re (we ALL are) on a pedestrian crossing mission.

But in among what COULD be a complete schmozzle and pacing disaster zone, everyone gets where they are going with little fuss.

So, yes, I just HAD to give it a go.

Weirdly, and as if in on some kind of automotive cue, the human masses on all four corners surge forward once the ‘walk’ light turns green.

Seen brilliantly from above — like I did from possibly one of the most popular vantage points, umm, the panoramic Starbucks and also from the lift of the Excel Shibuya hotel — every ‘body’ was like a soldier entering battle.

There was no clashing in the middle — crossing the road is more like poetry in motion, a nearly choreographed event (or a fluid Tai-Chi or yoga class, at least) where every movement seemed to be ordered and seamless.

At each given time, the mass of legs and moving bodies may only last a minute, but as soon as that 60 seconds of movement is up, the crossing reverts back to being a sea of bleeting and beeping cars, buses and coloured taxis.

Sure, there are always a few stragglers. (Hello me!) – who use every last second to finally get to the ‘other side’. (Usually busy on a device snapping away.)

It’s funny, but nearly everywhere else in the world a huge pedestrian crossing like this could be daunting.

But weirdly, all of the passing peeps don’t seem as chaotic and mad as those on other major intersections in cities like New York, Paris, London, Melbourne, Sydney or the total madness of Beijing.

Simply, the simple art of walking through a pedestrian crossing at Shibuya is an experience.

Of course there is potential for a bit of human collision, but for some strange reason, it all runs so systematically and ordered.

And who would ever think that this would be something you would want to put on your travel bucket list? (By the way, Shibuya is also the home to Tokyo’s best night life.)

Well, I did. I did it. And it was actually best to experience the crossing at night time.

Even at 9pm, the place was buzzing with mega lights and billboards making it even more exhilarating and exciting.

As simple as it sounds, but how much fun was is to be part of one minute of pure, pedestrian madness and be part of complete anonymity in a sea of humans.

And all with just one common goal: to get from one side of the main streets of Shibuya to another.

Melissa is in Tokyo as a guest of fashion retailer, Max & Co.

Follow the conversation on Twitter and Instagram @melissahoyer


The trip that tainted flying for ever . . .

THE worst thing about flying up the pointy end of a plane (a real #firstworldproblem) is that you never want to go back to flying any other way.

The sheer thrill and the internal shriek factor I felt inside (a feeling I tried to cooly hide when my upgraded boarding pass was handed over at Los Angeles airport last week) made me nearly cry. Tears of joy.

First class travel is up there in bucket list land. Chances are most of us will just dream about it. But when I was invited to try it out on the sky’s big boy, a Qantas A380, on a flight back from Los Angeles, I came home with some very bad news. It totally rocks. And here’s why.

As soon as you check in you make your way to the lounge. Not just any old lounge but the FIRST class lounge, which in itself makes you feel like you have joined the smarty pants society. A glass of champagne and anything you like from the lounge restaurant — one croque monsieur thanks — and it was time to board.

Once on board, and yes, there is absolutely NO queue when you are ushered toward the left of the plane. Well, actually even though you board via the front doors, you actually turn right when you’re travelling first on an A380. Small detail. But hey, it’s first class, so who cares?

OK, so I’m on board.

As soon as I perch myself in my seat (more a suite than a seat) a chilled glass of real deal champagne is gently popped into my hand. It is served, not with a teeny pack of pretzels or peanuts but with two exquisite canapés — a caviar tartlet and a crostini with salsa verde and pickled fennel — all put on a small tray that is above 2J’s magazine holder.

Oh and you pretty much have your own flight attendant too.

My seat is a fully fledged flat bed that rotates so it turns to where your 17-inch TV screen sits, which is just on top of a small extra seat. Or, it can be a foot rest if you are really, really tall.

For most first flyers, the extra seat is there in case you would like to invite a neighbour/partner/travelling buddy/husband/whoever over for dinner and a chat. Personally, I’m happy with my own company for the next 14 or so hours.

My understated and impeccably mannered flight attendant, Sunita came and made up my bed even before we left. And just after that I strapped myself in with a belt that resembled a car seat — the whole, over-the-shoulder extravaganza.

As I was flying from Los Angeles to Sydney — an overnight flight — it was clever for Sunita to make my bed up before I decided to munch on some supper. Saved all the getting up and standing around thing later on.

My choice of mushroom soup with sourdough croutons, a Penfolds Shiraz and a tagliatelle bolognese (OK, I was hungry) was simply sensational and with the addition of Pepe Saya butter (he’s a butter artisan from NSW) it made the meal seem even more special and Neil Perry-esque than if I was having it on land.

I watched one movie, about six brilliant episodes of Emmy-award winning Veep(well, I had just come back from covering the Emmy Awards) and then, without having to count sheep, I blissfully fell asleep.

REASONS TO LOVE FIRST CLASS:

 There is a serious calm and feeling of luxe in first class. It’s like you are the only king or queen of the world for those precious hours and no matter what you ask for, it’s quietly and elegantly attended to.

 A first class seat or pod (there are 15 of them on an A380) takes up about four economy seats so, yes, there is room. Serious room. And as there are no overhead lockers I could have my on-board flight bag within constant reach, which I loved.

 Chic, dark grey PJs: Serious first classers zip straight to the bathroom as soon as the charcoal PJs are handed to them for a quick changeover. I, on the other hand, hang onto them and took them home as my, well, comfy, at-home lounge wear.

 These are serious seats; they swivel 75 degrees, they lie totally flat, give you a massage and one moment you’re facing the front of the plane and the next you’ve swivelled like you’re on a seat on The Voice. Next, you’ve reclined yourself into a flat bed. Oh, and did I tell you that your made-up bed includes a large cotton pillow, a smaller pillow, a seriously comfy and homey duvet, a woollen blanket and cotton sheet that has been fitted over a sheepskin-covered foam mattress? I felt like I was in a very, VERY comfy baby’s pram.

 Loved the mobile charger; the “time to destination” counter; the privacy screens; very smart amenity bags with SK-II products, a small mirror and the trusty toothbrush and toothpaste, which I always forget to bring with me.

 I loved spending at least 30 minutes getting to know my first class digs, especially the aforementioned “time to destination” tablet that doubles as your seat adjuster, entertainment controller, light switch, massage boss and flight path.

 Oh and did I mention that first class peeps are first to get off the plane, which made me feel even more like a rock star than when I first walked on.

 After a 6am arrival — and those pancakes (see above!) — I zipped home, unpacked, put the washing on and felt perky enough to come to the office for the day. Now that’s a mega bonus.

On a side note — OK, a rather big one — it pays to remember that using your points can get you up the pointy end, if you have paid for a full fare ticket. So, if you are in the business of frequent flying and those points are accumulating, hey, give it a go.

The only bad news is, well, there really isn’t any.

Happy flying!

HOW TO GET THERE:

The Qantas A380 aircraft operates services from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles and Dubai, Sydney to Hong Kong, and Dubai to London with its codeshare partner Emirates.

Melissa Hoyer was upgraded by Qantas: the staff probably saw how tired she looked as she checked in.

This article was originally posted on news.com.au