The 1,980-room hotel, New York City's largest, isn't the first hotel to discontinue that amenity, but it's probably the biggest. It's all part of a lodging industry trend to cut the frills and concentrate on basic service—a trend that the airlines pioneered with the introduction of controversial fees.
Around the nation and across the globe, hotels are curtailing such extras as business centers, minibars, bellhops, doormen and even traditional front desks for checking in. Yotel New York in Midtown Manhattan, for instance, asks guests to check themselves in at kiosks in the hotel's "Ground Control." And if their rooms aren't ready, Yotel's guests check their suitcases with a robotic baggage storage system.
A: Good question. And one you should ask of your hotel, too. Resort fees, which can add a full 30 percent onto a hotel bill, may cover everything from wireless Internet and gym access to faxing and use of a notary (huh?)—services and amenities that you may have no interest in using. Yet travelers who kick and scream about baggage fees are often surprisingly mute when it comes to these hotel charges. The difference? In the case of baggage, you’re at least paying for a service that you intend to use.
Check in with your dog at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and your pooch will get first-class treatment: a personalized doggie biscuit (name emblazoned in icing), a custom bed and a can of pink hotel-logo tennis balls. But when it comes to flying, "first class" has not really existed for pets.
United is hoping to change that. The airline just announced the opening of a first-class style kennel at O’Hare for pets who are too big to fly in the cabin. Similar to facilities in the airline’s Newark and Houston hubs, O’Hare’s PetSafe kennel promises 28 clean, ventilated and temperature-controlled enclosures, comfy vans that will chauffeur critters to their flights, and staffers who will exercise your pet and, according to the release, “provide grooming and bathing on request” (presumably your request, not Sparky’s).
It’s hard to believe that just a year and a half ago, Mama Shelter was a lone boutique hotel in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, serving up Philippe Starck design, in-room iMacs and high thread count sheets for travelers on a hostel budget. But the Trigano family, who previously set up a little company you may have heard of called Club Med, doesn’t play small.
Now Mama has touched down in Marseille (April, 2012), Istanbul (mid-March, 2013), Lyon (late March, 2013), Bordeaux (October 2013) and eventually Hollywood. Serge Trigano, Mama Shelter’s co-founder with the poet and urban theorist Cyril Aouizerate, made a bet that city tourism would be to the 21stcentury what beach tourism was to the previous one, and with occupancy rates ranging from 85% in Paris to 70% in Marseille, his bet is paying off.
New York's Dan P. Lee looks at the space tourism and notes, "There are at least ten companies seriously engaged in commercial space transport." But what should you pack? (Matt Haber)
This is for people braver than us: Slate directs us to this Atlas Obscura gallery of photos of tourists standing on Kjergabolten, a rock wedged between two cliffs in Norway. (M.H.)
Also for fans of high places, The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Michaels' looks at Belgium's Dinner in the Sky, which allows adventurous diners to enjoy (?) a meal while suspended 180 feet in the air on a crane. Sure, people have been doing this for years, but the advice remains the same: Don't drop your fork. (M.H.)
More space travel news, this time from Cannes: one unidentified bidder paid $1.5 million to join Leonardo DiCaprio on Virgin Galactic's inaugural flight into space. The auction took place at the tony Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, and proceeds went to a nonprofit devoted to AIDS research, as Rebecca Keegan from the LA Times reports. (Peter Schlesinger)
Speaking of Cannes, want to know where the celebs are staying during the festival? Tara Imperatore from The Huffington Post picks the top five hotels where you're most likely to ride the elevator with the likes of Nicole Kidman or Toby Maguire. (P.S.)
One of the senior execs at Accor—the company that oversees popular brands from Sofitel to Mercure—gets caught red-handed for posting fake reviews (and lots of them) on TripAdvisor, Tnooz reports. But it wasn't TripAdvisor's much-hyped fraud detection tool that caught him, making us wonder how many other high-volume fake reviewers are still at large. (Nikki Ekstein)
Delta opens its new $1.4 billion Terminal 4 at New York's JFK, which includes an outdoor Sky Deck. CoolHunting got a sneak preview of the innovative lounge. One word: Bad*ss. (Amy Farley)
Do you have epic plans for this Memorial Day weekend? Whether you do or not, Canon’s new Pixma Comix app—accessible through Facebook—will make your holiday snapshots just a bit more, er, heroic. The easy-to-use app lets you upload photos either from your computer or existing Facebook albums, making four-to-six photo compilations augmented by thought bubbles and call outs (to add pizzazz to your bellyflops and cannonballs). Choose from a variety of comic-inspired layouts and image filters, add your text, and publish straight from the app—it’s a natural way to make the story of your vacation come to life in a playful that’s admittedly more share-able than frame-able.
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
We all know New York is the city that never sleeps—and now that means the director of personal shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, thanks to a new collaboration with The Mark Hotel. Up at 4 a.m. with the realization that you left the outfit you have to wear in 7 hours at home? Have no fear—a new ensemble is just a phone call away. Complimentary messenger services are another benefit of this 24/7 service.
Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.
Big news from Viking River Cruises: they’re launching an ocean-going line. Viking Ocean Cruises’ first vessel, the 928-passenger Viking Star, sets sail in 2015. A few on-board perks we’re looking forward to? Verandas in every category of stateroom; an infinity pool cantilevered off the stern, and a Scandinavian spa, replete with a (yup) “snow grotto.”
In other cruise news, Windstar Cruises' new all-suite yacht, 212-guest Star Pride, has just released its 2014 itineraries. On the docket: the Aegean, Adriatic, Black Sea, and French Riviera. Needless to say, my bags are packed.
Kathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @ThePluckyOne.
This month, travel to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Andes is almost in full swing: if you’re headed to the region and haven’t already asked an outfitter to wrangle your Inca Trail passes, you may be out of luck this season. Luckily, there are plenty of other delightful ways to reach Machu Picchu, which we outline in our Trekking, Walking, and Hiking guide (May 2013). Here’s one of our favorites:
Best for: Creature comforts.
Known as the back door into Machu Picchu, Salcantay is also the area’s highest path (it reaches 15,200 feet). Mountain Lodges of Peru, a string of stone-and-timber inns along the trail, is the only lodge-to-lodge way to reach the lost city of the Incas: take this route on a trip with Wildland Adventures (11 days from $3,800).
Jennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.
Photo courtesy of Mountain Lodges of Peru and Wildland Adventures