Hotels with Over the Top Pet Amenities

Affordable Luxury Pets at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Published on August 15th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

1 Hotels with Over the Top Pet Amenities

What recession? Our four-legged friends are reaping the rewards of ultimate pampering, from a luxury pet travel site ( that launched in 2012 to private charter jets (BlueStarJets) that let them fly in a leather seat. Now, Fido can have pretty much everything except the bubbly.

Hotels too are giving pets the ultimate treatment as more consumers start to bring their furry friends along with them on trips. Most pet friendly hotels give their furry guests some sort of treat and provide fresh water in dog bowls in the lobby, but these hotels given them the white glove treatment. Cesar Milan would approve.

The Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Pets at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Suite at the Inn by the Sea

Easily one of the best resorts in the country, the coastal Inn by the Sea is an eco-friendly delight for both guests and their furry companions. Maine’s only Virtuoso property offers doggie massages, a swimming pool for dogs, and a separate dining area near the Sea Glass restaurant for pets with a menu carefully selected by resident Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich. The INNcredible Pets program gives you a signature Inn by the Sea dog bowl, accommodations for you and your pet for two nights, a personalized L.L. Bean dog bed (this is Maine, after all), a 30 minute in-room doggie massage, a nightly entrée selection from the Inn’s gourmet pet menu, turndown service and a locally-made seasonal dog treat. Rates for the program start from $994.

This is one of the resorts that makes me wish I had whiskers.

The Muse Hotel New York

The Muse Hotel, a Kimpton property in New York City has no-fee stays for pets, nor does it impose a size or weight limit which is common with many other hotels. There are also no restrictions for the number of pets you can bring, which could make one wonder if this is a Hotel For Dogs situation. The Muse is nearby to Manhattan’s largest doggie playground with a 15,000 square foot, fenced-in Canine Court boasting an obstacle course, an open field and other doggie amenities. Pets are also invited to shop with their owners at the nearby Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue stores. The hotel also offers a VIP (Very Important Pet) amenity delivered to your room upon arrival, pet bowls and a pet bed placed in your room for use during your stay, dog leash and plastic bowls for dog walks. Any other requests like pet sitting, grooming, walking, massage and acupuncture services can be arranged through the concierge.

You may encounter Ginger, the Director of PR (Pet Relations), a frisky six year old Pomeranian, during your stay.

The Benjamin Hotel

The Benjamin Hotel’s Dream Dog program gives you the option to choose from three sizes of luxury bedding (including an orthopedic version for pets with achey joints) depending on the size of your breed. You’ll get ceramic food and water bowls in a wrought-iron stand with a luxury embroidered place mat, a plush Dream Dog bathrobe for use during your stay, a complimentary treat, extra sheets, sidewalk bags, a welcome note from the General Manager that includes nearby pet resources and pet travel tips.

Lowes Hotels

The Lowes Loves Pets program includes a gourmet room-service menus for cats and dogs prepared by an award-winning Master Chef, creature comforts like specialized bedding, leashes, collars, litter boxes, cat litter, pooper scoopers , dog walking routes, pet place mats, water bowls, treats, poop bags, rawhide bones, catnip, scratch poles, pet walking and pet sitting services.

The San Diego, California location also features a See Spot Surf competition, the first of its kind. These are not for doggy paddlers, they’re for the pro surfing dog!

Hutton Hotel Nashville, Tennessee

The Hutton Hotel’s Happy Tails Program offers guests a room service menu of healthy, organic snacks specifically for pets. Needless to say, plush bedding and stylized water bowls are a given. Your pet will get complimentary Hutton treats & Critter Concierge with service recommendations, as well as grooming services for an addition charge. If signature pet spa recommendations are your thing, they’ve got that covered as well. This is Nashville’s premier pet friendly hotel, and a Virtuoso property.

Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek, Colorado

In-room massages for dogs? Not a problem at Bachelor Gulch. Add that to the twice-daily hikes and you’ll want to sign up as a four-legged guest in this luxurious hotel, with its National Park lodge style cabins. Bachelor Gulch is everything that a winter resort lodge could be, with rustic furniture and over 18o rooms each equipped with tubs prepped for a perfect soak (canine optional). Unhurried and very much in the spirit of mountain traditions, Bachelor Gulch offers Adirondack-style chairs near the Fire Pit (perfect for marshmallow roasting), a spacious rustic lobby and places to tee off nearby. Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s only Colorado outpost is at the Vail Valley property.











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Hotels Celebrate “Skyfall” With Special James Bond Martinis

Hotels Celebrate “Skyfall” With Special James Bond Martinis

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Published on November 7th, 2012 | by Charu Suri

7 Hotels Celebrate “Skyfall” With Special James Bond Martinis

I remember my first Bond film, Goldfinger. Watching it once was not enough and over the years I grew to love the smug smirk of Sean Connery and watch various Bond actors try to take his place. I also loved the classic idioms that became the water cooler talk standard: Shaken, not Stirred being the most famous.

What’s so appealing about Bond is his stoic grace, not to mention his flawless style. From Aston Martins to Martinis, he is savvy enough to always pick the better than best, but far from a cheesy way. While the story origins hail from the UK, America has not been immune to the James Bond charm, and several television networks have Bond marathons during the holidays.

James Bond Martini

Credit: Zone 41 on Flickr

I’m eager to catch Skyfall in the U.S. theaters this weekend. If you want to truly up the dapper quotient and celebrate in style, here are some hotels offering Bond Specials.

The Chesterfield Mayfair, London

chesterfield mayfair james bond

The hotel is offering a pretty impressive James Bond Cocktail Menu with drinks that include The Vesper and Miss Moneypenny. The hotel is also offering a Bond-inspired package which includes two nights’ accommodation, an English breakfast on the morning of the stay, two James Bond Martinis and two tickets to see “Skyfall.”

The Dukes Hotel

Apparently, this is where the writer Fleming penned the words “shaken, not stirred.” He also wrote a substantial portion of Casino Royale. Alessandro Palazzi, is head barman at the hotel and maestro of the martini, and often gives masterclasses to intimate (up to six) groups eager to learn the secret of the super drink. Some tips? A frozen glass, Amalfi lemons, olives from Puglia. There are various James Bond style martinis served here, including the Fleming ’89. Check out its Bond experience options here.

The Draycott Hotel

The Draycott Hotel London

All guests get to experience free “shaken, not stirred” martinis in the hotel lounge, through November 15, 2012 in honor of Skyfall. These refreshments are offered in the evening, along with the hotel’s signature champagne service. A truly romantic hotel, it is located a stone’s throw away from the beloved area I used to live in (Sloane Square), which is all about old world elegance and charm.

American martini-philes, fret not. A new James Bond drinks book by David Leigh is free for Kindle readers (expires today, November 7) and is available here for readers.


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Five Wonderful Reasons To Stay At the Omni Hotels (and Bring Your Kids, Too!)

Earlier this year, I was invited to take part in the Family Travel Conference, hosted by The funny thing is that many of the sponsors did not know I was about to become a mom, but I took it as a sign of good luck and fortune and was thrilled at the opportunity to learn more about family travel from the pros.

All of the participants received an opportunity to stay at the Omni Berkshire Place in New York City, and to learn a little bit more about what sets this brand apart from the rest. For starters, the Omni Hotel chain, which consistently ranks high in customer satisfaction in well-known surveys (such as the ones by J.D. Power and Associates), takes pride in the details. I’ve always said: anyone can give you a room with a bed and a few pillows, but few hotels will make you feel like a special guest.

Omni Hotels are considered boutique luxury hotels (e.g. four stars and above) and operate in several major cities. Here’s what stood out to me about the hotel in general, and why I’d definitely consider booking another room in this hotel chain when traveling.

The Hotel Entrance

You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I certainly look at a hotel based on its entrance (just as I do with Italian restaurants and their bread baskets!). The first impression is extremely important! The Omni Hotels Berkshire Place has a romantic marble lobby that’s tasteful art deco without being overdone. The circular table with copious amounts of fresh flowers is a lovely touch!

Omni Hotels Berkshire Place New York City

Nothing says “welcome” like a gorgeous flower-studded entrance

The Food

A good culinary experience is highly intrinsic to a good night’s hotel stay, and it’s all the better if the menu offers your dream items plus a dash of creativity. When I recently visited the Omni Berkshire, I sat down with the hotel chef Ron Ulczak after poking around the menu. For vegetarians, the Omni’s Fireside restaurant will always find you something (you won’t leave hungry). From season-ready summer rolls to a delicious Butternut Squash Soup (which sounds more fall than summer, but it was delicious nonetheless without being overly spiced with cinnamon and sumac), to the staple burgers and fries, a Fireside meal caters to all demographics.

The menu is chiefly American but with global influences (Ulczak is partial to anything) but there are fun items like “Conversational Piece” (including a popular “Grilled Cheese with Crust not Included“) and “Make Your Own S’Mores” for kids that comes with graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. It’s wholesome and fresh food with a creative twist.

I had a sampler platter that was delicious: vegetarian spring roll, butternut squash soup, and some Middle Eastern Chopped Salad. The pastry chef sent out a kids dessert that’s making its way to the menu soon, called “The Dirty Worm” which is a new, fun dessert with chocolate mousse and whipped cream sprinkled with Oreo cookies on top and a gummi worm coming out (this is part of the summer “Camp Omni” promotion).

“The most popular item for kids on the menu is the Kids Pizza and the Burger,” says Ulczak.

Foot at the Omni Hotels Berkshire

My extremely tasty afternoon meal (from left to right): Mediterranean Chopped salad, vegetarian spring roll, Butternut Squash Soup

The Dirty Worm Dessert at Omni Hotels

“The Dirty Worm”–a new, fun dessert for kids featuring a gummi worm coming out of dish of chocolate mousse, whipped cream and oreo cookies. It’s included in the “Camp Omni” package.

The Rooms

The rooms at the Omni are meticulously maintained, with a turn down service and close inspections by the housekeeping staff. There are various levels of rooms, from the Deluxe Guest Rooms to the Berkshire, Madison and Rodgers & Hammerstein Suites. Because it’s primarily a business hotel, the rooms are elegant but not over the top, with a clean mini bar, storage area and spacious bathroom with plush robes and towels.

What I loved about staying at the Omni was the complimentary “Select Guest Loyalty Program” which gives you plenty of generous perks that are not the norm. For instance, you’ll receive:

  • Complimentary morning beverage delivery (teas, coffees, juices);
  • Pressing of two items of clothing;
  • Free Wi-Fi;
  • Complimentary newspapers;
  • Points towards a future stay.


Each room is comfortable, elegant and tastefully furnished

Many have chairs and room for extras like cots and cribs, in case you’re traveling with kids

Fun Programs (Camp Omni)

In case you’re traveling with kids, there are fun programs that the hotel institutes, so they too can have a great (not just good) time. The hotel chain has launched its summer Camp Omni Package, perfect for the families who want a bit more bang for their buck (valid now through Sept. 16th):

  • 15% discount on deluxe accommodations (minimum two-night stay)
  • Complimentary breakfast for kids 12 and under from the buffet or children’s menu
  • $10 gift card for kids to use anywhere in the hotel
  • Camp newsletter with scavenger hunt that is redeemable for a merit badge and ‘dirt & worms’ dessert upon completion
  • Pre-call from camp counselor (concierge)
  • Welcome amenity with s’mores-flavored marshmallows, collapsible water bottle and a lanyard kit inside a cinch-up backpack

Camp Omni Package Hotel Berkshire Place

camp omni summer package for kids o

Camp Omni Summer Kit for Kids omni Berkshire Place

What kids will receive while enrolling in the “Camp Omni” Summer Package, which runs through Sept. 16th

The Service

Last but not least, it would be remiss to gloss over the service at the Omni Hotels. The service staff is so pleasant and courteous, and they’re very quick to respond to your every need! You may have seen my earlier post about “Surviving Poor Service When You Travel” and thankfully none of what I experienced in that post is applicable to the Omni Hotels.

From the caring bartender to the concierge, the hotel chain has gone through special trouble to train its staff well…and it shows.

The Omni Berkshire Location Details

21 East 52nd Street at Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10022
Phone: (212) 754-5000, Fax: (212) 754-5018

This hotel receives a high approval rating from A complimentary night’s stay was provided but all the editorial opinions are the author’s own.


Five Reasons to Visit Macau Now: Island Builds Largest Sheraton in the World

When I visited the tiny island last October (it is only 30 square km, after all), I didn’t expect to fall in love with the ying-yang of it all. On the one hand, Macau is definitely about the glitz and glam. It’s a bit like Disney for casino and hotel lovers, and yes, I truly felt as though I was in Epcot Center when I visited.

But that’s not why you need to visit Macau now. The island is experiencing such a boom in growth, with worldwide visitor arrivals in 2011 well over 28 million. Most of the visitors are from mainland China, but the U.S. is the primary long haul source of visitors to the island.

There are so many reasons to visit Macau, especially now. Here are a few.

Plenty of room at the Inn: The accommodations are expanding to manage the demand, and currently there are 65 hotels and 32 guesthouses in Macau (23,222 rooms). So, does this mean you can expect to find bargains when you visit Macau? It depends on what you mean by “bargain.” Yes, there are inexpensive options such as monasteries and guest houses.

The Biggest Holiday Inn and Sheraton in the World: The new Sheraton Hotel in Macau will open in 2013 in the Cotai section area of Macau, and will be the largest Starwood property in the world. Not that we’re suggesting to go to Macau just to stay at the largest Sheraton in the world, but it gives you an idea of the size of the demand.

Learn Your Portuguese History: While it may not be obvious, Macau has Portuguese cultural roots that date back 1558 when Portuguese trading was finally permitted on the island. From the Maritime Museum to the UNESCO World Heritage Site The Ruins of Saint Paul, there are places everywhere for you to get a wee bit of knowledge about Macau’s rich heritage.

Spas and Shopping: When I visited, I enjoyed what may well be my most luxurious massage, at the Banyan Tree Spa. In fact, I’d even venture to say it’s worth flying to Macau to experience this royal experience. My massage lasted well over an hour, in a large suite that resembled a house with private patio, and culminated in a fragrant tea service.

Dining:  I had a terrific experience –food-wise–while I was there. You may remember that I savored a beautiful tea ceremony at the Hotel Okura. Macau is a gem when it comes to discovering Portuguese food, and of course, sampling various types of food from China and nearby Asian countries.

Luxe for the Eyes: The elegant lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel, with Dale Chihuly’s work above and a Salvador Dali statue.

St. Dominic Filipino Style Church in Senado Square

The beautiful St. Dominic Filipino-style church near Senado Square. Notice the ceramic mosaic flooring which is itself a swirly work of art.

Older Part of Macau

A quiet street in the Peninsula area of Macau.


Adventures in Macau: The Mandarin Oriental, & Encounter with the Dragon Fruit

After we arrived in Macau, we were greeted by yet another Joao (the name seems to be as common as “John” or “Matt” there), and quickly transported via taxi to our hotel, The Mandarin Oriental Macau.

A beautifully maintained boutique hotel (it’s considered boutique only because of the number of rooms, 231), this hotel is located on the older Peninsula, which was were the first casinos were built. The oldest casino in Macau, the Grand Lisboa, is not too far away from the Peninsular strip. The Mandarin Oriental is also right next door to the MGM Grand, and a series of upscale shops that include Dior and Louis Vuitton. I could only imagine if a character like Isla Fisher in “Confessions of A Shopaholic” were to check into the hotel, her credit cards would need to be kept in the largest ice block on the property!

What struck me as I walked into the perfectly maintained lobby was the flawless customer service. It all started to sink in….I really and truly was in China. The attention to detail here is impressive: every leather chair seemed newly minted, the chandeliers sparkled, and my room was outfitted nicely and there was this cute fruit plate that had a nice medley of known and strange fruit.

That beautiful, spindly purple thing in the middle of the plate…do you see that? That’s the Dragon Fruit, a local specialty. At first I was uncertain as to what to do with it…as with other strange fruit I’ve encountered (jackfruit, also known as sour sop; and initially, pomegranate). Dragon Fruit is an almost tasteless clear fruit studded with what looks like poppy seeds. It’s very Macanese and I was told they make drinks out of this stuff. 

Also in my hotel room, the famed Portuguese Egg Tart, with a custard-like filling in the center.

Each hotel room gives you some kind of view of the Peninsula and Taipa Island: my view from the window was of the Macau Tower, which is famous for its bungee jumping! Apparently people have been going for years to bungee jump from the tower’s peak, at 1,109 feet, and is the largest night-time bungee jumping tower in the world.

Mandarin Oriental Macau

I wish I had learned Mandarin, but I figured all these characters just mean “Mandarin Oriental Macau”

Mandarin Oriental Macau

These were gone in pretty much 60 seconds….with compliments to the chef

Mandarin Oriental Macau

One of the softest duvets I’ve ever slept under…

Mandarin Oriental Macau

A room with a Macanese View: almost sunset

Mandarin Oriental Macau Dragon Fruit

Attack of the Dragon Fruit

Mandarin Oriental Macau Portuguese Egg Tart

A local delicacy

Mandarin Oriental Macau View of the Macau Tower

The view of the Macau Tower from my hotel room. The Tower is the tallest place in the world to do night time bungee jumping

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How the Roger Smith Hotel is Tapping into Social Media, and a $300 Giveaway

We’ve been talking about the Roger Smith Hotel for some time now on this blog, and readers quite enjoyed the Win a Staycation giveaway we held last year.   What’s the giveaway for today?   We are giving away $300 worth of Roger’s Bills to three lucky winners. And what exactly is a Roger’s Bill? It’s a $100 specially made bill that allows you to get that much in value off one of your rooms (a one bedroom or a deluxe suite, and for a minimum of a two night’s stay). The amount can be used at any point during the year, and expires on December 31, 2011. Blackout dates may apply.     The Roger Smith Hotel   To enter, scroll down and leave a comment below. I’ll be sure to pick three winners by April 15th.   Use this for yourself, or give it to a friend who’s visiting the city and in need of a place to stay. What could be better?   We also caught up with the Hotel’s Director of Innovation, John Knowles, who talked about his work with the hotel and raising its visibility through social media platforms.   Butterflydiary: The RS Hotel seems to be very tuned into social media scene. Have you found that it has helped your hotel traffic? How long have you been doing this?

John Knowles: In 2006 we started with a travel video blog and web site. Adam and I went to Barcelona, Spain and put videos on the web site.  The idea was that we were sharing media with someone and opened the notion to someone. Progressively things have become easier to manage.

We also did art installations, videos for Lily’s Restaurant (which is part of the hotel), and the art created a production engine. People who come in and work with us make videos. Taking pictures and posting it to a place where it’s accessible is a very communal event.

Regarding the Roger’s Rooms Giveaway, we did a room per day giveaway last January. That really raised our visibility, and we had other people like Peter Shankman give them away as well.

  The Roger Smith Hotel   Butterflydiary: Is Social Media helping with traffic?

John Knowles: People are more aware of you…absoutely. I know the stats and can gauge the result very clearly and know when, for instance, my mother’s friend Suzy is watching and commenting on my stuff. Twitter is a different level of engagement.

It also has some serious potential. The soil is very fertile and the opportunities that come in — you really begin to look at it, and with these opportunities to do so many great things, you can generate more traffic to your business, and have visitors come back.

It all starts with the sharing of ideas.

  *** Butterflydiary: What are some of the CRAZIEST concierge service requests you’ve received?

John Knowles: I’ve had a request for a mariachi band, and we asked Mama Mexico to create a night of experience in the room and suite. Many have asked for Broadway tickets and TKTS and concierge services.

Butterflydiary: What are some insider secrets on the RS Hotel you can share?   John Knowles: The Penthouse –the room on the 16th floor –has been rumored to be haunted. Different people have different stories.   *** Butterflydiary: Why is Jane Goodall’s picture in every room?   John Knowles: Jane & my father are kindred spirits. Jane sends positivity out in everything she does.


Don’t forget to leave a comment below to win one of THREE Roger’s Bills worth $100 towards your stay at the hotel. Winners will be picked by April 15th. 


Why You Should Choose Sandpiper Bay For Your Next Florida Vacation

If you need a little sun and relaxation after the long winter, and also a spot that will have activities for the whole family, consider the Sandpiper Bay of Club Med for your Florida vacation. Florida has always been a popular destination for vacationers, and is considered a top ten vacation by US travelers, according to the Travel Channel. Sandpiper Bay will impress even the experienced Florida traveler with its beautiful sandy beaches and excellent ocean views. Sandpiper Bay offers a little something for everyone, ranging from relaxing accommodations to gourmet dining to daily excursions without you having to worry about a passport.

Sand Piper Bay Port St Lucie Florida


One of the many reasons why guests are drawn to Sandpiper Bay is the resort’s ability to be tranquil when they need some rest or a hotbed for fun in the sun, when they’re ready to get out there and play. At Sandpiper Bay, guests will always find a plethora of activities ready for them to partake in whenever they desire. There is an activity for everyone to enjoy, and at any time, guests may enjoy recreational activities ranging from tennis to water activities to yoga for no additional charge.


If at any time during their vacation guests are feeling a little adventurous, they can easily book a daily excursion through the hotel. The resort provides excursions for every age range, and even caters certain trips to individuals, couples, and families. Sunset cruises, jetski tours, and deep sea fishing are just a few of the daily excursions offered by Sandpiper Bay, and all are available for minimal additional fees.

Rest and Relaxation

For those who are choosing to simply indulge in some much needed rest and relaxation during their vacation, they may want to consider paying a visit to Sandpiper Bay’s spa and wellness center. Sandpiper Bay understands the importance of inner well-being, and offers a variety of spa treatments and services to ensure all guests are able to feel their best. At the center, guests may enjoy massages, facials, and even consultations with the resort full-time nutritionist or personal trainers for a minimal additional cost.

A Florida vacation is a great way to take a break from the daily grind of real life, and what better way to spend your vacation in a resort that caters to your unique travel needs. Guests have everything they wish to make their vacation enjoyable at their fingertips when they stay at Sandpiper Bay, and are able to enjoy it all for a reasonable cost.

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