Friday, April 30, 2010

Navigating The Hotel Star System

"It's a five-star hotel!" But what exactly does that mean? And is a five-star hotel really worth a hundred dollars more a night than a three-star hotel? It doesn't help that the same hotel may have three different ratings depending on the travel website you visit or the tourist guidebook you read.
If you're blinded by these perplexing little stars, you're not alone. Read on to learn more about the intricate hotel star rating system.

Star Light, Star Bright. Is That Hotel Rating Right?

The star rating system was designed to measure the quality of hotels. While you may assume a one-star rating means a "disgusting hole in the wall where illegal activities take place" and a five-star rating means "Oprah Winfrey stayed here and loved it," that's not always the case.

First of all, Europe and the U.S. use different hotel star rating systems. In Europe, hotels are generally rated on a four-star system, with four stars being the best hotel room money can buy. On the other hand, the U.S. uses a five-star system to rate hotels.

And there's more to these star ratings than meets the eye. A one-star rating doesn't always suggest a bloody shoot-out recently took place in the hotel - it may simply mean that the hotel offers basic rooms and limited amenities. (Find out how to have a fun and budget-friendly summer adventure in 7 Ways To Save On Summer Getaways.)

Reaching for the Stars
So, who determines how many stars each hotel receives? In Europe, local government agencies and independent organizations hand out star ratings to hotels. In the U.S., stars are rewarded by a variety of different groups, from travel guidebooks and national consumer travel associations to travel agencies and websites.

To make things more confusing, each travel website has their own hotel star system. So, the same property may receive three stars on Travelocity, five stars on Orbitz and four stars on Expedia. Luckily, most of these travel websites and associations provide a consumer guide to their personal hotel star rating system.

For the most part, the North American hotel star system breaks down like this:

One-Star Rating: The Bare Necessities
A one-star hotel is simply a place to rest your head for the night. Generally owned by a sole proprietor, these hotels offer modest rooms with nothing more than a bed and bathroom. There are no restaurants on site, but there should be one within walking distance of the hotel.

These hotels don't offer extra amenities or special services. In other words, you're not going to get a nightly turndown service with a Godiva chocolate
on your pillow here. However, you should have access to nearby public transportation and reasonably priced meals and entertainment.

Two-Star Rating: A Few Extras
Although similar to a one-star hotel, a two-star hotel is generally part of a larger chain as opposed to privately owned. (Think Econo Lodge or Days Inn.) The accommodations are similar to a one-star hotel - simple and basic. However, two-star hotel rooms include a television and phone. . (If you're a long-time air traveler, you've probably noticed that flying means pulling out
your wallet a whole lot more often. Find out what's fallen off the list of airline freebies in 7 Air Travel Perks That Used To Be Free.

Plus, these hotels typically offer an on-site restaurant or dining area and a daily housekeeping service. The front desk at a two-star hotel is usually open 24 hours a day

Three-Star Rating: Moving On Up
Three-star hotels are typically part of larger, first-class hotel chains, such as Marriott, Radisson and Double Tree. These hotels are generally more stylish and comfortable than one and two-star hotels, and they offer a wider range of services and amenities, which may include a fitness center, a pool, business services, an on-site restaurant, room service, conference rooms and valet services.

The hotel rooms are larger with higher-quality, contemporary furnishings and often include fancy extras like flat-screen TVs with extended cable. Three-star hotels are located near a major expressway and local attractions, and they are often geared toward business travelers.

Four-Star Rating: Upscale Comfort
Also known as superior hotels, four-star hotels are large, upscale establishments complete with first-rate service and tons of extras. The spacious rooms are beautifully designed with premium furnishings and include luxurious touches like lavish bedding and fine bath products.

Four-star hotels offer loads of special services and amenities, including concierge services, fine dining, multiple pools and hot tubs, high-class fitness centers, bell hops, room service, valet parking, day spas, limousine services and an array of special suites. (A staycation can be just as enjoyable as a vacation, and can enrich your life for the whole year. Find out more in 9 Summer Staycations That Feel Like Vacations.)

Five-Star Rating: G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S.
Now we're talking lifestyles of the rich and famous. Five-star hotels are the most luxurious hotels in the world. These fine establishments boast extravagant lobbies, unparalleled service and unequaled comfort. Five-star hotel are generally architectural works of art, featuring cutting-edge interior design and opulent furnishings.

As a guest in a five-star hotel, you will not have to lift a finger (except for when you hand over that platinum credit card, of course.) Many of these hotels provide their guests with a personal butler or designated concierge. The massive five-star guest rooms are glamorous and elegant, often including premium linens, a personal Jacuzzi tub, a large-screen Plasma TV with high-definition cable, a DVD player, high-speed internet access, fresh flowers, lavish bath products and speedy, around-the-clock room service.

For the most part, five-star hotels also offer gourmet restaurants, on-site entertainment, state-of-the-art fitness centers, multiple heated pools and hot tubs, valet parking, spa services, tennis courts and golf course access. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams!

There's no question that the hotel star rating system can be vague, confusing and downright arbitrary. However, with a little bit of research, it is possible to pinpoint the perfect hotel to suit your unique needs - and your budget.

While you're doing your hotel homework, you should also check out what other hotel guests have to say. Many travel websites include guest ratings in addition to their regular star ratings. Often, the best information comes straight from the horse's mouth.

Above all else, take hotel ratings with a grain of salt. You may not get a truly objective opinion on a hotel until you stay there yourself.

Article Posted: April 26, 2010 9:57AM by Amy Bell
Navigating The Hotel Star System -

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Celebrity Cruises, Cruise Travel, Cruise Caribbean

Celebrity Cruises' four Solstice-class ships, which are sailing together in Europe in summer of 2011, will also be cruising through the Caribbean later that year and into 2012.

The cruise line's Caribbean itineraries range from four to 14 nights. Celebrity Silhouette will sail from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ, offering 14 alternating Southern and Eastern Caribbean voyages.

Celebrity Equinox will sail 15 alternating 10- and 11-night 'Ultimate Caribbean' cruises out of Fort Lauderdale.

Celebrity Constellation will say a host of 14-night Southern Caribbean cruises round trip out of Fort Lauderdale. And Celebrity Century will offer 12-night Eastern Caribbean sailings out of Baltimore.

These four ships have been added to the already four ships that sail to the Caribbean: Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Xpedition and Celebrity Infinity."

Apr 23, 2010 By: Meagan Drillinger TravelAgentCentral

The Best of the Best Cruises

Let's face it. We all love "best of" lists. Be it accolades from industry insiders or polls voted on by seasoned travelers, everyone has an opinion on what constitutes the best room, best value, or best experience, and we are all ears. We sorted through some of the popular 2009/2010 lists and compiled a collection of which cruise lines took top honors. Think of them as the Oscars of travel, only they rate excursions instead of art direction. Read on to see who took the top prizes -- and what makes them so special.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal has clinched the pole position on
Travel + Leisure's World's Best list for large-ship cruise lines for an impressive 14 consecutive years. What sets it apart? Exclusive offerings like a sushi bar by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, celebrity entertainers, and Berlitz language instruction.

American Safari Cruises

Citing access to places big boats can't go, travel critic Howard Hillman names American Safari Cruises as top choice for an Alaskan expedition. The deluxe yachts only carry between 12 and 36 passengers and get up close and personal with glaciers and grizzly bears alike.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line is the overriding family favorite and garnered top honors among mega-ships for activities as well as service in
Condé Nast Traveler's 2010 cruise poll. Disney characters come to life onboard, with kids' imaginations in tow, and parents get a coveted pass to the magical kingdom called

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is a multiple winner in
TravelWeekly's 2009 Magellan Awards, including best overall large cruise ship, best suite design, and best pool design. The newest member of their fleet is the 16-deck, 220,000-ton Oasis of the Seas (the most expensive cruise ship ever built) which features seven "neighborhoods" with 21 restaurants, 4 pools, and a Central Park with 12,000 trees.

Voyages of Discovery

Selected Best Value in Specialty Cruises by the World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society three years running, Voyages of Discovery caters to seasoned travelers who value exploration over extravagance. The mid-size vessel makes long trips to uncommon destinations like Kenya and the Ukraine with onboard naturalists and cultural specialists to enrich the journey.

by Catharine Lo AOL Travel & News Posted Apr 13th 2010 11:10 AM

Friday, April 23, 2010

Voyage through blue heaven: Bora Bora Cruise

Never been to cruise or want to experience a place where you want to fall head over heels in love. And if you are not a cruise person, and yet want to know what is like going on crusie?

Nomade Yachting Bora Bora is the perfect and idealistic cruise for you. The luxury yacht just contains some 30 cabins only and on board there are rarely more than 50 people as guests.
Nomade Yachting Bora BoraExploring Bora Bora Island along with Taha'a, Raiate'a, and Huahine, there is something magical and heavenly feeling about it. As you will be floating in the blues of Bora Bora, for a week, nothing will be able to match this voyage not even the biggest resorts or big named cruise liners for the kind of special services they are able to provide and most of all important the beauty this voyage will make you experience of the amazing islands.
Bora Bora island, will not need any introduction, for such is its beauty, nature and ambience. With adding of the cruise experience, you will be enthralling and regaling in this mind blowing combination which is awe inspiring.
From the moment you’ll be swept up from the Bora airport, you will be having a week long of pleasures and leisure’s, fun activities to just simply relaxing on the deck. While on the cruise you will be all busy throughout the week dinner shows, with private motu picnics, local musicians show, dancing rae rae that is Tahitian drag queens tantalizing in between. You can chance on beach volleyball, swimming, and getting sun tan while relaxing or reading your favorite book. On the board avail for spa treatments, and there is visit from traditional Polynesian Tattoo artist. Also you will visit pearl farms and go for exciting shark-feeding… a total extravaganza. …
Nomade Yachting has two elegantly designed private yachts which are delightfully stylish and chic in every way

    The private yachts are distinguished and more cosmopolitan and contemporary in style; the two ships presents as a svelte profile. Private Yachts have been constructed in Australia from the combined workings and talents of the Austal Ships and the Oceanfast Yachts, creating yachts utterly unique.
    Each yacht has own personality with its own tone and settings. One yacht has dark woods, and another has light woods and both encompass fashionable design. The yachts successfully merge Polynesian art with of audacious dream of Swedish design studio, together with Tillberg Designs and along with original inspiration as given by the ship’s owner.
    All the famous Stark, Ralph Lauren, Kenzo, Noguchi, and Yanagi have cohabitate in harmony way with their artwork and with elements especially commissioned by the Polynesian artists that is creating ambiance- novel and simply breathtaking.
    The design and décor of the ship is awesome in itself, which will add to the vibe, with tiniest of the alcoves, smallest of corners sheltering gracious statue or majestic carved “Tiki,” all showcasing a contrast to wealth of the romantic white and black photography that poise the hallways, adding the nuances and shades such as will feed the emotion, sooth the mind and calm the eye. Just so much like heaven isn’t it!
    Nomade Yachting to Bora Bora has created treasures of attractions, events and activities that are unique in worldwide.
    Tevairoa motu

    Nomade Yachting will give you altogether a new experience of cruising, with no more crowds. Suits budgets and is for family vacation and even idealistic for couples on honeymoon. Nomade Yachting cruise of Bora Bora will be most memorable experience of all.

    Posted April 7, 2010

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    The Girls Great Getaway

    Ladies, take a break from your fast paced life and escape to a Costa Rican paradise. You’ve heard about Costa Rica’s gorgeous coastline, warm waters, and tropical weather, but do you know all of the life changing experiences that await you?

    Costa Rica’s continuous temperate climate and frequent flights in and out of the country’s 2 international airports make it the ideal, affordable location for a quick getaway or an extended vacation any time of the year. And here at Costa Rica Luxury Rentals and Tours, we’ll help you put together a customized girls getaway package for you and your girlfriends, or all for yourself.


    We understand that sometimes you just need to leave work at the office, the kids at home, and your man behind, and spend some much needed quality time with yourself and your friends. Your worries and stresses will melt away as you sink into our bubbly jacuzzis and pools located right outside your condominium rental. Get your feet out of those heels and sink them into soft sands and warm ocean waters, or sneak away with a good book for the day to a secluded beach tucked away below the cliffs.

    You and the girls will want to take advantage of our full service, beautifying spa treatments offered on location. Add on a professional massage or a yoga class to complete your total wellness experience. During your one on one private beach yoga class, held in the cooler morning or evening hours, you will be enveloped by the soothing sounds of waves and the sweet, fresh scents of local flowers and fauna as you balance your mind, body, and soul. As if you haven’t been pampered enough, imagine finishing off your evening with fine wine, an international gourmet meal, and dancing into the night to live local bands. Costa Rica provides you with it all!


    Maybe you want to take a walk on the wild side while away from home. Costa Rica is also the perfect location to explore your adventurous side. You’ll have stunning views of the rainforest below as you hold on tight and soar across the trees on the countries various canopy tours. If you want to enjoy the sights from above without the adrenaline rush, many of the national parks have elaborate suspension bridge systems strung among the trees, where you can pause to take in the sights and sounds of Costa Rica’s wildlife. Yes, that is a family of monkeys in those trees!


    If it’s more physical activity you and your friends crave, river rafting and volcano climbing are two of the most popular and plentiful eco friendly activities available in the country. Whether you’re a novice rafter or expert thrill seeker, Costa Rica is filled with rapids of all levels to conquer. And if you’ve never seen an active volcano before, you can hike or ride up on horseback, explore the crest, and see the lava flow. One of the most amazing things about Costa Rica is how in touch you are with the countries natural wonders no matter what activity you choose.

    No matter how you choose to spend your time in Costa Rica, you will leave refreshed and invigorated, having experience just a touch of all that our country has to offer.

    Author Resource:- CR Luxury Rentals is the premier choice for the discriminating traveler who expects and demands 5 star luxury and customer service, plus we offer fantastic Costa Rica condo rentals that are perfect for any type of vacation.
    Article From Your Travel Articles

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    5 Essential Destinations for your 'Bucket-List'

    If you’re putting off making one, don’t, you must get started ASAP! Everybody needs a bucket list, for how could you ever forgive yourself if the worst happened and you’d forgotten your lifetime aspirations? As you grow with age and forget about your youth, it’s possible to forget the fantasies which were once all that mattered and become engrossed in the importance of life.

    Just about everything in life is achievable so why not get the most out of it? After all, we’re only here once! Most people will think about things such as running a marathon, skydiving, driving a Ferrari and bungee jumping, but what about the places in life we’ve missed? Wasn’t there always just one special place that you had your heart set on visiting? Here are the top 5 destinations good enough for anyone’s bucket list:

    1. Paris-What could be more romantic than overlooking the city from above after ascending the Eiffel Tower, walking along the Seine with your fiancee or sipping fine wine sat in the street of an open-air cafe. With the beautiful language filling the streets, sublime restaurants tempting you to dine and precarious nightspots lining the corners, it’s no wonder that this stimulating city is the most popular tourist destination in the world.

    2. Australia-Go beyond your wildest dreams and discover the mysterious Ayer’s Rock where you’ll witness one of the most stunning sunsets ever seen. For a trip you'll never forget, stop off at the sparkling Sydney harbour and surrounding golden sands. This cosmopolitan city offers stylish shops, suave restaurants, the infamous opera house and recognisable bridge. See the Great Barrier Reef with your own eyes and if you get chance, explore the bush for yourself.

    3. Maldives-Live the dream on one of these sensational islands spread across the sublime Indian Ocean, escaping reality for at least a week. Relax and unwind on your tropical isle, snorkel the crystal clear waters and swim with the creatures of the deep or laze on your lounger with a good book in hand, absorbing the soaring sun rays. As the evenings draw to an exquisite close, watch the dramatic sunset, head out for some fine food then relax with your loved one under the night’s sky with an ice cold sumptuous cocktail.

    4. Florida- Treat the child in you and relive your youth in a Disney filled, jam packed holiday. Visit Walt Disney World to meet the mouse himself, Mickey, explore Universal studios to check out Hollywood’s finest stunts and discover how the astronauts jet off into space at the popular Epcot . Every child will love it and each adult alike, it’s one of those things in life you’ve just got to try.

    5. Greece-It’s difficult to pick just one as there are so many stunning Greek Islands! Although one stands out like a rare diamond sitting among dull, dusty stones. Think dreamy days, sparkling shores and relaxing nights and you’ve found yourself in Samos. This shimmering island sits proudly in the Aegean Sea and offers everything you could want from a traditional Greek holiday.

    Holidays in Samos boast lush green landscapes and small, local tavernas where you’ll be welcomed with a shot of ouzo and open arms, each time you visit.

    Laura Elliott
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