My 10 most memorable hotel stays of 2012

Following up on the post about my 10 most memorable flights of 2012, I figured I’d also make a post about my 10 most memorable hotel stays of last year. As a reminder you can find a listing of many of my hotel stays in the Trip Report Index. Anyway, here are my favorites in chronological order:

January: Park Hyatt Shanghai

Before the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong was built, the Park Hyatt Shanghai was the tallest hotel in the world. I love everything about the Park Hyatt brand, and had heard especially good things about this property in particular. Between booking through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (and thereby getting the fourth night free) and applying a Diamond suite upgrade, it was a pretty good value as well. The issue is that Shanghai is extremely smoggy, so I often found myself just sitting in the clouds without much of a view. However, once the weather cleared up the views were spectacular from my 83rd floor suite.

March: Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

This hotel would usually be way out of my budget, though sometimes we all do irrational things. The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is the tallest hotel in the world, so I really couldn’t resist, having stayed at the previous tallest hotel in the world just weeks prior. This was my first time staying in a room on a three digit floor, which isn’t something you get to experience every day. Would I pay that type of money again? If I were rolling in dough I probably would, though unfortunately I’m not. But I’m happy to have had the experience, and can now always look fondly up at the Ritz from whichever hotel I’m staying at in Hong Kong.

March: St. Regis Bangkok

I don’t think there’s a city in the world with more reasonably priced luxury hotels than Bangkok. “True” five star hotels can often be had for under $200 per night. The catch is that many of these hotels are starting to show their age, so while the service and amenities are awesome, many of them feel a bit “shabby chic.”

That’s why I love the St. Regis, because it’s only about a year old so is one of the most modern luxury hotels in Bangkok. Service was also very good, and you can’t beat the combination of a luxury hotel at a reasonable price and elite benefits.

May: Hyatt Regency Kyoto

I don’t have especially high expectations of Hyatt properties branded as “Regencies,” which in my mind conjure up images of Portico toiletries (though apparently not anymore) and club lounges with stale apple danishes.

That’s why the Hyatt Regency Kyoto blew me away. It felt like a Park Hyatt in every way, both physically and in terms of the service. Then again, service is consistently excellent in Japan, so that doesn’t really come as a surprise.

June: St. Regis Bal Harbour

This hotel is the newest St. Regis located in the US and just opened this past year. The facilities were stunning and I found the rooms to be tastefully decorated. But beyond that the service was also really, really good, especially by US standards. This is a great alternative to the typical Miami Beach hotels.

July: Ritz Carlton Powerscourt

The Ritz Carlton Powerscourt felt like a super-exclusive, snooty country club, minus the snootiness. The landscape even reminded me a bit of Berchtesgaden.

With Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits this hotel was an amazing value, especially for a short stay. This is an awesome place for a weekend getaway, given that it’s only about 30 minutes from Dublin.

July: InterContinental Bali

I’ve stayed at the InterContinental Bali several times before, and it has always been my “go to” hotel in Bali. I’ve found the service to be extremely genuine and I love the location on Jimbaran Bay.

I also really enjoyed the club experience. While it is priced substantially higher than standard rooms (and even Royal Ambassador members don’t get complimentary upgrades to it), I found it to be well worth the money, given that it’s basically a 24/7 restaurant.

Unfortunately during my last stay I noticed a decline in the club experience compared to my previous visits, so I’ll probably give a new resort a try during my next visit. That being said, I’ll always have fond memories of this place, as it’s where I first fell in love with Bali.

July: InterContinental Berchtesgaden

This was my second time at this particular hotel, and it remains probably my favorite hotel in the world. Not only is it one of my favorite hotels, but Berchtesgaden is one of my four favorite places as well for the beautiful landscape.

December: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi

I was excited to finally stay at the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi after touring the property a year prior. While the hotel is massive I loved the minimalist design and location. While I’ve been to the UAE two years in a row now and will probably be visiting different destinations over the coming years, I would love to return here at some point, as Saadiyat Island (where the hotel is located) is growing quickly.


December: Qasr Al Sarab

I just returned from the Middle East a couple of weeks ago, and finished off my trip with two nights at Qasr Al Sarab, a resort in the desert of the UAE just a few miles from the Saudi Arabian border.

The resort is literally located in the middle of nowhere, and utterly fascinating. I’ll have more on this resort in the next couple of days when the trip report is posted.

What were your most memorable hotel stays of 2012?

Filed Under: Hotels, Travel
  1. I stopped by the Ritz in Hong Kong to have a drink at the bar when I was there early in the year. Impressive, indeed but I too only have bling or miles for much shorter buildings. Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui in HK was a fav stay this past year.

  2. Lucky, now you got to do a 10 most memorable flights in 2012. It does not have to be a good experience, but it does have to be memorable.

  3. So I count 3 Hyatt vs. 2 Starwood. If Hyatt starts to count award stays as elite qualification, I would jump ship right away. For now Starwood is much easy to maintain its status with the cash & points + award stays.

  4. By far my best stay in 2012 was the Conrad Bali, and you need to try it out the next time you’re there (especially with your drive for Diamond status with Hilton HHonors). Terrific property and fantastic suites-only section. I also vote this the best bargain (points-wise) in the Hilton HHonors portfolio…as a Category 5 hotel, stays of 6 nights or longer only set you back 26,250 points/night.

  5. Stayed at the Westin Boston Waterfront for a conference. Not sure how it happened, but I ended up with a Skyline suite. I guess it was neat to have two bathrooms, but the best part was being able to leave the baby at home and get more than 6 hours of continuous sleep =)

  6. Great reviews. I am thinking about dropping down to SPG50 this year and sending rest towards Hyatt. My 24 has been a strike out for me for me every time. Might spend some of those SPG points on a shower 🙂

    Thanks for the report as always!

  7. I find this completely boring!

    You flew around the world to stay in stupid, man made facilities, all look pretty much the same. You are young, barely 25 and all you do is just fly premium cabins, stay in luxury hotels and eat well in these facilities if it is inclusive.

    As a matter of fact you enjoy all this just because the financial system in your country allows it. You don’t have a dime to your name to afford any of this if you had to actually pay for this.

    Ugly and stupid hedonism. Useless boring life. It is just me me me me.

    Go volunteer in third world countries, donate your cloths on trips to the poor, go tracking (Annapurna, Kilimanjaro, Patagonia, Kepler), dive, climb hills to see amazing views, sleep in $10 a night Bangkok or Sri Lanka and you will meet amazing people your age, help the environment, help fight the animal farm holocaust. Take 17 hour buses in India or Nepal (some on the roof of the bus). Collect adventures.

    What will you say in 50 years? That you have been to every IC or hyatt?

  8. All good choices, but you might want to try a truly amazing hotel. Those generally can’t be had for points.

    For starters, I’d recommend the FS Hualalai in Hawaii. It is pricey at $700+, and you can’t get it for points, but it is on a completely different level than anything you mention above. Good to try to get some perspective.

  9. Mic is just jealous. Tries to sound deep and profound but appears like a troll, who doesnt tollerate different perspectives. Excellent reports Ben! And quite adventurous too. Creating amazing first class trips with amazing hotels is an adventure valued by many. There is room for both types of adventures. The world is not a zero sum game.

  10. Mic — plenty of blogs cover the things you wish Lucky would write about…

    Lucky — I’m planning on staying at the Kyoto HR and wondering if you felt it was worth it to use a suite upgrade when Diamons are usually given such nice rooms already?

  11. @ Michael — Unless I’m mistaken they don’t take Diamond suite upgrades, do they?

    For what it’s worth, though, I saw a standard room and the deluxe room I received is definitely MUCH nicer. I’d hate to stay there and *not* get it, since it really is a special hotel and an amazing room. So if you could get a confirmed upgrade to a deluxe room and the opportunity cost to the suite upgrade isn’t too high I’d probably go for it.

    The issue is that they only have a very limited number of deluxe rooms (I be

  12. Two of my stays in 2012 really stood out, when compared to the rest, and neither were major chain hotels:

    Tsuruga Bessou Hinanoza Ryokan at Lake Akan, Hokkaido. The service levels and food (kaiseki dinners and multi-course breakfasts included in the rate) were amazing. Was also nice to have our own private screened-in patio with a stone bath that constantly circulated volcanic spring-fed water. It was a nice spot to watch snow falling over the caldera lake.

    Nkwichi Lodge on Lake Malawi (Mozambique side, near Likoma Island). The lodge has a small number of private chalets, each very secluded. Ours featured a private beach with excellent snorkeling (spotted loads of cichlids), and a veranda that looked out onto a tree that served as a perch for two African Fish Eagles. The lodge is reached by a Cessna 210 flight from Lilongwe to Likoma Island (awesome views from the copilots seat of the 210), then about an hour’s boat ride. During a canoe safari we saw dwarf antelope, hyrax, crocodiles, kingfishers, cormorants, and fish eagles. Nkwichi is remote, unspoiled, and it feels like you’re in a Wild Kingdom episode. The service is also unfailingly kind and friendly. Really nice to have your dinner table set up on a white-sand beach overlooking the lake at sunset. It’s one of the few places I’ve been that I felt completely depressed once we had to leave.

  13. Avaton resort in Santorini, Greece: beautiful sunsets and amazing breakfast served on the terrace.

    Park Hyatt Paris: I stayed 3 times there this year, and once got upgraded to a 2 level suite!

  14. My favorite this year is Jimbaran Puri Bali by Orient-Express, next door neighbor of the IC. We stayed two nights in a suite and two in a pool villa; the later completely blew me away – 3,000 sq ft with a 5-ft deep pool and luxury rooms. I booked thru a local agent and the rate was actually comparable to a Club Room at the IC. Check out my pictures (the blog is in Chinese)

  15. To all those who commented…
    I am not jealous at all. I also have access to the stupid American financial system and able to get the same benefits.
    So I get to fly premium and stay in luxury hotels.
    But that is not the reason for travel. It is to explore foreign cultures, nature and lots more.

    When the purpose is to fly first and sleep in a suit that is pathetic and a sever distortion of reality especially if you are 20.

  16. Mic, yeah sure! Why so worried then about what other people do if you apparently do EXACTLY the same AND can conquer the moral high ground with your feigned cultural and ecological sensitivity? In fact, why bother to comment at all? Is it perhaps because YOU have issues reconciling the two perspectives?

  17. +0.5 on Mic’s comment (except volunteering – which is a scam by itself; “animal farm holocaust” – not a holocaust at all; and noting’s wrong with hedonism).

    It’s easy to get carried away with that kind of travel, just a question if that’s really what you want to achieve in your life, as for me it seems quite point-less.

  18. I would say my most memorable hotel stay last year was a one-night stay at the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa.
    The night was complimentary thanks to American Express. After booking via phone I was assigned a standard room but was able to change that online to a Presidential Suite for the same rate (i.e. for free).
    My first and only time thus far I stayed in such a huge suite.

  19. Stephan, I am not doing anything like this! I don’t fly year round to stay in a hotel only to fly on a similar flight the next day to another hotel that looks pretty much the same just because it doesn’t cost me.
    Alan, to say that there is no animal farm holocaust is exactly like saying 100 years ago that there was no slavery and segregation. Learn the facts. To say volunteering is a scam just shows how much you gave from yourself…
    For sure, this is not the place to get support as most people here just dying to have this kind of useless meaningless boring life.

  20. That’s easy. Number one on my list would be Vanyavilas at Ranthambore, number 2 would be the Tawaraya at Kyoto and number 3 would be Cipriani in Venice.

  21. Going to break my “no debating on the internet” rule one time in 2013 :). @Mic – this blog is essentially Lucky’s “job” and it focuses largely on luxury travel as its niche. Your arguments don’t make much sense in that context, as you seem to be treating this more as Lucky’s “adventures” blog and less as his job…

    I, for one, love my job – but even so it has a magnitude less of an “adventure” factor than this blog does.

  22. @ Baqa — Bing, thank you. I love traveling and seeing places, though I don’t think I can add as much value reviewing a city as I can reviewing an airline. There are MUCH better guides out there for cities than I could ever write, while I think I provide fairly comprehensive reviews of airline products/hotels. Doesn’t mean I don’t love seeing places…

  23. December: Intercontinental Rome De La Ville

    November: Intercontinental Amsterdam Amstel

    September: Hyatt Regency Birmingham

    August: Park Hyatt Paris

    July: Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

    June: Grand Hyatt Berlin

    April: Park Hyatt Shanghai

    March: Park Hyatt Seoul

  24. Best ones for me in 2012:
    -The Namhai, in Danang Vietnam (beautifully located with less tourists (for now!)
    -The Chedi Club, Ubud, Bali (personalised service with your own butler)
    -W Hotel, Seminyak, Bali
    -The Dorchester, London (all time favourite)
    -Le Bristol, Paris (timeless hotel with a restaurant to die for!)
    -Mandarin Oriental, HK

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