News & Reviews News 6 month summary of 2018 (Jul > Dec)

As part of my final review of 2018, here’s a short summary of everywhere we stayed between July and December.  A series of firsts here: first visit to Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and all of South America; first experience using a guided expedition in Peru; the first time I’ve ever been to New York with more than $10 to my name.  And the first time I realised what a pervert Jean-Michel Gathy is, with his obsession with see-through toilets.

July

Baur au Lac

Arguably better located than The Dolder Grand, almost certainly better rooms (not suites), and certainly less miserable staff around, but I couldn’t help but miss that tranquility that The Dolder Grand has to offer.  A hotel that will neither delight nor disappoint you.  If you want to be in central Zurich it is the best option.

Park Hotel Vitznau

Like finding out your soul mate is actually Hannibal Lecter.  A variety of disappointments, but not enough to make us reconsider having our wedding here next year.

Chedi Andermatt

I heard nothing good, but I left feeling good.  Ignoring their idea of what a toilet door should be, the rest of the hotel is a beauty.  A delightful spa, good food and reasonably priced.

Yes, that is the toilet. Yes, that is the toilet with the door closed. No, I do not know how that is not banned by the United Nations.

La Reserve Geneva

An anomaly in the portfolio.  Whereas Paris and Ramatuelle are phenomenal properties, Geneva looks they were given it instead of a pair of socks at Christmas and weren’t sure how to politely return it.  Someone once told me “Four Seasons is never the answer”.  In Geneva it is.

Hotel de Crillon

One of the most beautiful city hotels, in one of the most beautiful cities.  Fix the soft product and it will be legendary.

Ritz Paris

One of the most over-rated city hotels, in one of the most beautiful cities.  Fix everything and it will be semi-decent.

August

Baccarat, New York

You can’t polish a turd, not even with crystal.  The tiniest bedroom I’ve ever had (or at least on par with Rosewood London) in a suite, single vanity, awful view, average everything else. It felt like everything is shiny and beautiful, but nothing manages to stand out from the bling. I would go elsewhere next time.

Rosewood, Vancouver

Good food, awful room, average hotel.  The best of a bad bunch in this fine city.

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort

Still taunts me, as I am unsure if it’s actually even remotely good.  I think so, but I know for certain it’s not worth the price.

Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver

Awful.  Just awful.

Peninsula Beverly Hills

A short, but sweet stay.  The Peninsula brand continues to impress me.

Kokomo Private Island

Not as good as the $100m build costs would suggest.  Once the prices come down it will be a more-than-reasonable offering within Fiji, but for now there’s Laucala breathing down their neck and laughing in their face.

Laucala

Still not perfect, but an absolute mad house of enjoyment.  Our favourite hotel of the year.

Joy

Hotel Bel-Air

A short, but even better stay than The Peninsula.  The Dorchester brand continues to impress me.  Having explored some of the other properties in Beverly Hills, this would certainly be my choice.

The Setai, Miami

I used to hate all Miami hotels.  Hate them, I tells ya.  I would consider them good for Miami, dreadful for anywhere else.  Then The Setai managed to turn things around after new owners came in and everything was alright in the world.  Yet then they defaulted to being somewhat idiotic during this stay, causing a variety of mistakes that retaught me a valuable lesson: don’t go to Miami.

September

Amanzoe

My 7th stay and amongst the best ever.  What a turnaround from last year, when they collectively ruined my and Lucie’s year, along with the entire Greek economy.  It was that bad.  Now it’s back to its brilliant best and, by jove, I loved every second.

Amanzoe

October

Singita Mara River Tented Camp

It’s Singita, but not as we know it.  Far too basic for my liking.

Singita Mara River Tented Camp

Singita Sasakwa 

What.  A.  Lodge.  I cannot even begin to understand who they thought they were competing against, when they decided that they must have 2 tennis courts, 3 boutique shops, Netflix in every room, high-speed Internet throughout, a full-size pool table and a fully featured spa and gym.  It reads more like a Bond villain’s weekend pad than a safari lodge.  Oh, and the animal sightings and guide were superb.

The only thing not at the lodge in Sasakwa

Singita Sabora

A brilliant lodge, packing in all the features I would have expected in Mara River Tented Camp.  It’s tented, so it’s still rustic, but they really managed to make it a truly luxurious experience.

Singita Sabora

Bisate Lodge

A bucket list experience that managed to live up to the hype.  A great lodge, with an even better experience to go with it.

Ol Donyo

Anywhere that presents the bedroom as open to the elements and  surrounded with insects, is not going to win my approval.  The facilities, such as the stables and hide by the watering hole, are very cool, but the lack of game viewing meant my bloodthirsty nature was not appeased.

Damn, I want to go back

Mara Plains

Like Mara River Tented Camp, just with bigger rooms.  And the best game viewing I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Certainly not the standard of Singita in terms of luxury, but if you’re on safari to see something die, there’s no better way to see it than here.  Other than jumping out in front of a pride of hungry lions whilst dressed as Bambi.

The 5 Musketeers

Cottars

Not even Great Plains luxury.  I am a man of luxury, and it is not to be found here.  For those who really want to go back to nature.

Hemingways

A bit like the Saxon of Nairobi, minus the service.  Such a beautiful property, but in being there less than 24 hours we suffered a variety of errors, not least finding someone’s nail in our bathroom.

November

Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath

Beautifully reminding me why I decided to not bother visiting any English countryside properties this year.

Hotel Borg

Just my luck that I’d leave one nauseating hotel and find myself in another.  I never thought I’d say this, but thank god a Marriot has opened in Reykjavik.

The Retreat at Blue Lagoon

Bloody brilliant

December

Vik Chile

Beautiful, beautiful property, but badly in need of some proper management.

Spot the member of proactive staff

Awasi Patagonia 

Basic, but the service and food made up for it.  The hassle to get here outweighs the benefits, though; I’d rather have gone to Switzerland.

Awasi Patagonia

Sol y Luna

Another boutique property that did everything possible to make please us, but their stinginess was always lurking, like a monster under the bed.  In the end, they fell that bit short.  Still recommended, but we would try somewhere else next time.

Sol y Luna

Hiram Bingham

Not a hotel, but as expensive as one.  Worth doing, but only once.  Like donating a kidney.

Onwards to Machu Picchu

Hotel B

Short, flawless stay.  The room sizes may sound small, but size only matters when you ineffectively use it.  As they say.

Hotel del Parque

A surprising joy.  The feel of the Raffles Singapore, sat within your own private park (on Monday and Tuesdays).  Shame it’s facing the airport, but that really is all there is to complain about.

Pikaia Lodge

A wonderful property in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  The Galapagos is the worlds most boring country.

“Killll meeee”

Four Seasons Casa Medina

As with a few others on this list, even during a short stay, how they managed to screw up so many times is a wonder, but it is still a beautiful hotel.  I would return.

The Lanesborough

I still find myself starring at the craftwork throughout this hotel, even 2 years after their refurbishment.  I just wish the soft product could compete against The Connaught, especially on Christmas joy.

Conclusion

Not bad at all.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 28th Dec '18

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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