New York-based Ovation Vacations is a top-producing travel agency for Dorchester Collection, Four Seasons, Leading Hotels of the World, Luxury Collection, Mandarin Oriental, Rosewood, Rocco Forte Hotels and St. Regis. Simply stated, luxury travel is their main focus. They specialize in luxury events and over-the-top experiences, including destination weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, bar mitzvahs and the like. So when I ran into Ovation’s CEO Jack Ezon during the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes held Dec. 1-4, I asked him to give me the four hotel openings he is most excited about for early 2016.
“The Faena is going to be a game-changer in Miami Beach, becoming the new center of art in Florida, if not the country,” Ezon says. The brainchild of Argentinean fashion designer cum real estate developer cum hotelier Alan Faena , the hotel is part of the “Faena District,” an official designation that will be a hub for arts, eating, shopping and sunning. Travel + Leisure reports Faena’s backers spent over $550 million just acquiring the real estate .
According to Conde Nast Traveler, you will be ready for your “close-up” as designers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin (think moviesAustralia, The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge and all those amazing costumes) will impress you “from the grand-scale lobby to the bellhop uniforms.” Molecular gastronomy Michelin 3-star chef Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea will bring a pop-up restaurant from Feb. 17 to March 13. There are over 10 types of suites, including the 4-bedroom, 3,549 sq. ft. Faena Suite. It’s one reason I recommend working with knowledgeable travel advisors, like Ezon, who know the important differences – such as which are better for families, with connecting rooms, and which ones are perfect for a party.
Amanera, Dominican Republic
Aman junkies probably already know, but Ezon says, ” Aman’s latest foray into the Caribbean, (Amanera) will certainly be the new hotspot for any sun worshipper. With just 25 casitas (there are six types) it will be one most exclusive and personal Aman experiences in the world.” Puerto Plata Luperon International Airport, about 25 minutes away, can accommodate aircraft up to 747-400s, so you will have to leave your A380 at home. The first Aman with its own golf course (Robert Trent Jones, Sr. renewed by his son Rees) is set on 2,170 acres, and also includes sporting activities from kite sailing to deep sea fishing, horseback riding and biking through jungle trails.
Zemi Beach House Resort & Spa, Anguilla
Zemi Beach House Resort & Spa in Anguilla (opening February 1) “will offer beachfront accommodations all with private pools and kitchens perfect for families. (The name comes from the 3-point stone zemi, worshipped by island’s Taino Indians, who believed it to be the dwelling place of the spirit.) What’s more, its enviable location on Shoal Bay East, one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, makes it one of the most attractive new resorts to hit the island in years,” says Ezon. Conde Nast Traveler ranked it 6th among “Top 10 Island Beaches for Perfect Sand” in the world.
Caribbean Travel Magazine said, “Anguilla’s most famous beach, Shoal Bay East, has it all: a wide swath of creamy soft sand over a mile long; the island’s most extensive buffet of beach bars and restaurants; a comfortable collection of small beach resorts; and an offshore reef that attracts colorful tropicals along with snorkelers, divers and glass-bottom boaters. It’s also the only beach that, during high season, draws enough barefoot traffic to keep it interesting for devoted people-watchers.”
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The hotel is designed by Lane Pettigrew (Le Sport and Jalousie in St. Lucia, La Source in Grenada) and will be managed by Trust Hospitality . The developer is the Goldstein family of New York, whose work includes $1.3 billion in condos and town homes in 19 states, plus over 500,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space. Room inventory will be a combination of hotel accommodations and residences put into hotel inventory. There will be 70 “keys” to start, rising to 129 when the resort is built out by end of 2016. All will have “ocean views” and balconies; some will have plunge pools. There will be penthouses with rooftop pools. There will be five different food and beverage “concepts,” and the resort is the first new build on the island in six years. There is also a Thai spa with with a “gobek tasi (the stone used to generate heat in Turkish baths), sun deck for mud and salt body treatments, outdoor showers and vitality pool.”
Four Seasons Lanai, Hawaii
Lanai has always been one of my favorite places in the world, and has always been closely related to private aviation. Former owner David H. Murdock’s (he still owns 2%) private jet was frequently visible at the island’s airport, with its 5,001 feet long runway. I would often see him walking the resort, paying attention to the small details, when I used to spend my annual 10-day January vacation there in the ’90s. With Larry Ellison (owning) and Four Seasons (managing), the place is about to be reborn, and it will be interesting to see what they have come up with. The island’s two main resorts (Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay) have been closed since mid-year and Manele’s (now Four Seasons Resort Lanai) opening has just been pushed up from March 1 to Feb. 1.
Tom Roelens, a Four Seasons veteran, is the General Manager. Ezon says, “Larry Elllison’s pet project spells elation to anyone looking for something in Hawaii that doesn’t feel like a big box hotel. When it reopens this winter it will by far be the sexiest and most luxurious hotel in all of Hawaii. Set on a memorable crescent of sand overlooking Maui, this private island offers beachgoers a respite from the hubbub of the busier islands without sacrificing any creature comforts – from world class golf to a sumptuous spa.”
There are a dizzying 14 different types of suites, with a 15th type, the 3-bedroom Hulopoe Suite ($21,000/night) coming later next year. There are eight food and beverage concepts, including Nobu.
The Jack Nicklaus designed Challenge at Manele (where Bill Gates got married in 1994) with its dramatic 12th hole will only be available to resort guests, so no crowds.
Lanai was about experiences before hotel marketing folks decided to start churning out “unique experiences” like they were cans of peas. The island has great horseback and off-road trails for ATVs, bikes and hiking. It’s easier to find a deserted beach than one with other people.
The Lodge is still closed and with only 217 keys at Manele, you will feel like you own the place. Permits for sporting clays need to get renewed, so they won’t be available right away. The Lodge and its golf course will remain closed with no reopening date set.