The World’s Best Hotel Service 2015
When Amber Gibson checked in at London’s The Goring Hotel this past June, she was encountered a common annoyance of travel: her room was not ready yet.
“They graciously apologized and asked if they could ‘bother’ me to have a glass of champagne at the bar while I waited,” says the food and travel writer from Chicago. “Umm, yes—you can ‘bother’ me every day of the week with a glass of champagne.” Gibson loved her “sumptuous suite,” she recalls, “but it was really the service that was most memorable.”
Gibson wasn’t the only person to get such friendly treatment from The Goring: the Belgravia hotel made the top 10 among Travel + Leisure readers for the best hotel service in the world.
Among the top 20 winners (including a six-way tie for first place, and a four-way tie for No. 20), service goes far beyond helping you with your bags. A few winning hotels offer round-the-clock butler service, and several winners employ concierges who belong to the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or. One winning hotel in London even boasts that its staffers outnumber guests by two to one. But readers also applauded hotels that offer intangible service: friendly staffers who seem authentically warm, rather than merely polite.
Certainly, The Goring did more to win Gibson’s loyalty than just ply her with bubbly. After checking in, she realized she’d left a sweater at another hotel. She asked The Goring to give that property a heads-up that she would come to get it. “There was no need,” she says. “When I got back after lunch, it was already hanging in my closet. I don’t think I'd stay anywhere else in London now. The Goring really won my heart. ”
No. 20 (tie) Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Oahu, HI
Disney hotels have become expert at coddling both parents and kids, and this branch of the mouse-ear empire ranked at No. 2 in the U.S. for families. After all, its kids club—Aunty’s Beach House, run by a muumuu-clad matron—is complimentary for kids ages 3 and up, which is a huge boon for parents who need downtime at the spa or beach. The hotel also charmed the multigenerational crowd with its variety of pools, the snorkel-friendly Rainbow Reef, and free evening entertainment, from hula dancers to Disney movies on the lawn. And as a nice bit of mahalo value, Aulani charges no daily resort fee.
No. 20 (tie) The Peninsula Beijing
This hotel in Wangfujing brings its A-game (and A-list brands) to the service-loving, luxury shopping crowd: the hotel’s onsite Arcade features names such as Hermes, Prada, and Tom Ford. And like the Peninsula in Hong Kong, the Beijing branch offers rides to and from the airport in a Rolls-Royce (or, if you want to go low-key, a Mercedes or BMW). Even with its grand marble staircase in the lobby, the 525-room hotel is perhaps looking to bolster its design ranking for next year: the rooms are now undergoing updates that will be completed by late 2016.
No. 20 (tie) Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris
This century-old hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei scored highly with readers for its prime geography: right on the fashionable avenue Montaigne, with clear views of the Eiffel Tower from many rooms. And while plenty of luxury hotels will arrange a ride from the airport for you, the Plaza Athénée can have a hotel staffer come meet you as you step off the plane, then walk you to customs or baggage claim. For optimum sleep in your Louis XV- or Art Deco-styled room, you can browse a pillow menu that includes wheat, anti-stress, millet, and horsehair options. The Plaza Athénée also made the top 20 for its dining, thanks in large part to the crystal-ceilinged Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée; for a fee, you can explore the wine cellar and do a tasting with one of its sommeliers.
No. 20 (tie) Rosewood Mayakobá in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Because it can be such a trial to make your own spa appointments and dinner reservations, this hotel, set over a lagoon, has in-room butlers who can handle all of those issues, as well as draw bubble baths or set up your day trip to Chichen Itza. Readers also applauded the luxe privacy of the rooms: the 18 sleekly-decorated suites have private plunge pools, outdoor showers and rooftop terraces. This is not the place, meanwhile, for doing run-of-the-mill tequila shots: rather, the hotel regularly offers guests fine-tequila tastings at Agave Azul, its sushi and tequila lounge.
No. 19 The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, British Columbia, Canada
Readers expressed mixed feelings about the secluded location of this B.C. resort: it’s on the thickly forested Tofino Island, about five hours from Vancouver, but once here, most readers were delighted to be so far off the grid (or almost: a new fiber optic line is boosting the resort’s connectivity). The staff helps immerse you in the rugged environs by offering free guided rainforest hikes on Sundays, suiting you up with a slicker for winter-storm watching on the bluffs (a favorite local pastime), or just leaving binoculars in your room for spotting bald eagles in the treetops. The hotel also gets props for free babysitting during dinner.
No. 18 Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park in New York City
Right off 5th Avenue and Central Park, this 259-room hotel could afford to be snooty, but readers gave it accolades for feeling casually friendly anyway. Just ask the concierge, for instance, and you can help feed the hotel’s carriage horses every day at noon. If you book a room on the Club Lounge level (which, happily, does not cost that much more than regular rates), you get access to all-day snacks, an in-room telescope, and butler services. As a testament to the high level of service, every member of the multilingual concierge team belongs to Les Clefs d’Or.
No. 17 Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, Mexico
This casita-style resort, 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta, got raves from readers for making guests feel warmly welcomed—and it ranked at No. 1 for family-friendly hotels in Mexico, Central and South America. Besides the lazy river, families can take advantage of the complimentary kids club (like all Four Seasons), a 2,400-square-foot game room and free muffins for early risers (plus coffee for parents). Whether you want to take the kids or not, you can also charter, for a fee, the resort’s 55-foot yacht for a spin around Punta Mita and Bahía de Banderas. Certainly, you don’t need to bring kids to feel pampered here: the hotel also tied for fifth in the region for romance.
No. 13 (tie) Little Nell in Aspen, CO
With the diversions of beautiful-people-watching in the lobby and the gas fireplace in your room, actual skiing can start to feel like an afterthought at this 92-room Aspen institution. But then, you’d miss out on getting to use the Ski Concierges, who can store your gear, warm your boots and set up both lessons and inter-mountain transfers for you. Given how many guests bring their pooches, the hotel also offers a special pet menu, dog-walking services and even a Puppy Jet Lag kit, since altitude sickness can be a real b— uh, bother. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the hotel also ranked at No. 5 for its bar scene, from the jalapeno margaritas at Ajax Tavern to the Silver Lining (a blood-orange version of a screwdriver, topped with an edible Aspen leaf) at Element 47.
No. 13 (tie) Four Seasons Hotel Amman in Amman, Jordan
Readers placed this hilltop hotel, built of stone and glass, in the top 5 of all hotels in the Middle East and Africa. Located just five minutes from the Sweifiyah Financial District, the 192-room hotel caters especially well to business travelers, with flexible check-in and check-out times and a 24-hour, multilingual concierge. Execs can also enjoy civilized downtime: the outdoor pool politely limits the hours that rabble-rousing kids may swim, and offers complimentary poolside misting and sunglass-polishing.
No. 13 (tie) Ashford Castle in Cong, Co. Mayo, Ireland
The word “magical” comes up a lot from readers when describing this 13th century castle, which was once home to the Guinness family and recently got a $75 million makeover. The hotel ranked at No. 2 in Europe for its time-machine-worthy rooms: four-poster beds, original fireplaces and well-sourced antiques. The hotel also scored well for family vacations, thanks to the complimentary “LEGO butler,” a personalized bedtime story at turndown and, according to one reader, staffers who will cheerfully regale kids with stories of the resident leprechauns. Set on 350 green acres—with its own falconry and archery range—the resort also made the European top 10 for locale.
No. 13 (tie) Kempinski Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Munich
This 297-room hotel in the heart of Munich makes a regal first impression as you step into its lobby, crowned with a stained-glass dome. Rooms, meanwhile, offer a blend of contemporary and old-world flair, including reproductions of artwork from the Pinakothek Museums. You have access to butler service—for unpacking or making reservations—but if you feel shy about chatting with the butler, you can just use your in-room iPad to place room-service orders or send in a request (say, that you’d like to rent one of the reasonably-priced Vespas to scoot around town). Despite its King Ludwig II-style pomp, the hotel also ranked at No. 11 among European hotels for being a solid value.
No. 12 Primland in Meadows of Dan, VA
This sleekly woodsy hotel in the Blue Ridge Mountains could probably get away with offering mediocre service: it tied for first among U.S. hotels both for its design aesthetic and its rooms, featuring stone fireplaces, exposed wood beams and even a few treehouse-style cabins. But readers liked the depth of offerings: Aside from the in-person concierges, the hotel’s app lets you schedule specific do-not-disturb time spans, choose your pillow or even request some truffles. Readers also raved about one insider perk of staying here: easy access to the on-site observatory, where you can examine the heavens through the professional-caliber telescope and hear talks by resident astronomers.
No. 11 One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos Resort in San José del Cabo, Mexico
This was a small, insider-y resort when it first opened in the 1950s, with just a couple dozen rooms and an assortment of Hollywood luminaries as guests. Today, the resort has 173 rooms, but it has won loyalty from guests for retaining that tiny boutique-inn vibe: staffers call you by first name and offer unique amenities, such as free fresh-fruit popsicles, oxygen shots and foot massages by the pool. With its tequila and mezcal lounge overlooking the Sea of Cortez, the One & Only also placed at No. 1 for hotel bars in Mexico.
No. 10 The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, India
This opulent resort on the grounds of an 18th-century Shiva temple made readers swoon so much that they ranked it in Asia’s top 5 for romantic ambience. Adorned with gold-leaf frescoes and chandeliers, the resort could even spoil you for camping: Aside from its plush rooms and villas, the resort features several luxe tents, accented with block-printed fabrics, golden thread and post-maharaja-era A/C. And lest you think you could lose yourself in the 32 acres of resort grounds, you can always call reception, using one of the path-side phones, and request that a golf cart come fetch you. Even with its over-the-top vibes, the hotel ranked highly for good value.
No. 9 Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, MT
This all-inclusive, dude-ranch-style resort in the Bitterroot Valley successfully lassoed the affections of readers, who liked that their itineraries were tailored nicely to their tastes—whether that meant wine tastings, fly fishing or escorted cattle drives. Readers applauded the friendly, above-and-beyond staffers, who pride themselves on overhearing your wishes, then granting them—like finding that pretty feather you saw on the trail; readers also liked the fabulous log cabins with stone fireplaces and high-end Western art. The hotel tied for third in the U.S. for its upscale take on ranch cuisine, like grilled Texas quail with bourbon sauce, or espresso mousse for dessert.
No. 8 Inn at Palmetto Bluff, A Montage Resort in Bluffton, SC
Comprised of 50 porch-screened cottages, surrounded by live oaks and Spanish moss, this resort ranked at No. 1 in the survey for families, perhaps because it’s the kind of place where you can happily stay put for the whole vacation. You get free use of bicycles during your stay, and the kids club offers such diversions as pirate treasure hunts, crabbing lessons or pointers from the resort’s golf instructors. Since the kids are occupied, the grown-ups have more freedom to play tennis, go horseback riding or just sit in a rocker—an activity called “porching” here—while being handed a glass of sweet tea. The resort is about to expand by 150 more rooms, but still ranked at No. 5 in the world for its quaint design.
No. 7 Peninsula Bangkok
Whether or not you need to take the house Rolls-Royce or helicopter from the airport, this Peninsula ranked as the No. 1 hotel in Asia for business travelers, and No. 3 in the world. Once you’ve checked in, you can also ride, for free, one of the hotel’s four shuttle boats, which make nearly 650 trips a day to three area piers. The hotel made the survey’s top 5 for its executive-friendly rooms (all of which have views of the Chao Phraya River): they come with two international-direct-dial phones, your own fax number and a fresh bowl of fortifying fruit every day. For decompressing after your meetings, the hotel’s spa—featuring the signature Royal Thai massage, unlocking 10 pressure points—also ranked in the world’s top 10.
No. 1 (tie) Egerton House Hotel in London
This 28-room townhouse-turned-hotel in Knightsbridge was praised by readers for feeling like a comfortably plush home—one run by friendly staffers who are known to arrange for a guest’s birthday cake without being asked. One staffer in particular was named repeatedly: Antonio the bartender, beloved for his disarming demeanor and world-class martinis. Even if you never venture into the hotel’s intimate bar, you’ll be greeted on arrival by a glass of bubbly or a cup of freshly brewed tea. Rooms are regularly re-stocked with fresh flowers and fruit, as well as nightly treats and an old-school hot water bottle.
No. 1 Castello di Casole in Casole d'Elsa, Tuscany
Readers were exuberant about this hotel, which was built around a 10th century castle on 4,200 acres, because they felt immediately connected to the Tuscan landscape: The hotel also won 1st-place ties in categories such as romance, design and cuisine. All rooms come with welcome bottles of estate-made extra virgin oil and vino, while the bilingual concierges can help set up dinner reservations, tours or cooking classes. Indeed, the “home cooking” at the hotel’s Ristorante Tosca may have been a big part of guests feeling connected, too, thanks to dishes like the spinach risotto with duck breast and raspberries, or house-made Sicilian pistachio spaghetti with wild boar from the hotel’s preserve.
No. 1 (tie) The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA
At first glance, this small property in rural Virginia is primarily a foodie magnet, run by James Beard Award-winner Patrick O’Connell. But readers awarded it the first-place tie for service because they said they were treated as though there was just one room here, not 24. Housekeeping tidies up your room not once (or twice) but three times time a day, and your rate includes both breakfast and afternoon tea. One reader liked how his waiter, at breakfast, drew him a map of local produce stands worth visiting. The locally-sourced restaurant—with a menu emphasizing classic French cuisine and a 14,000-bottle wine cellar—also earned the Inn at Little Washington the No. 1 cuisine ranking among U.S hotels.
No. 1 (tie) The Goring in London
This is where Kate Middleton stayed before her royal wedding, and readers gush that they love this hotel because the staff has a knack for learning your name quickly, and making anyone feel like a VIP. (The hotel’s head concierge belongs to Les Clefs d’Or, but merely goes by “Big John.”) If you stay in a suite, you’ll even get the automatic services of a footman, dressed in a scarlet tailcoat and a gold-trimmed vest. The 69-room, family-owned hotel also made the top 20 for its cuisine—an elegant take on English classics—and the Goring Dining Room won its first Michelin star this year. For brunch, try the lobster-accented Eggs Drumkilbo, once the favorite of the Queen Mum.
No. 1 (tie) Hotel 41 in London
This boutique hotel’s tucked-away location—across from Buckingham Palace’s Royal Mews—gives it an air of exclusivity, but its staffer-to-guest ratio (2 to 1) really brings home the hotel’s commitment to service. The 41 also got raves from readers for keeping you well-fed: the rotating selection of complimentary tea and treats runs from breakfast time until 1 a.m. Despite the upscale environs, readers commented that the friendly service is never stuffy: One commented that the family’s cat enjoyed the pet-friendly property so much that even she didn’t want to leave. With its striking black-and-white rooms, the hotel also made the survey’s Europe top 10 for cool design.
No. 1 (tie) The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, India
This dome-topped resort on the banks of Lake Pichola was once a royal hunting ground, and it tied for first place by still making guests feel like maharajas. Readers loved the private boat ride you take across the lake to arrive at the hotel (and for a fee, you can take a covered shikara back on the water at sundown, for canapés and stargazing). The hotel also tied for first in the survey for its rooms, which come with elegant dark woods and peacock-blue accents (to match the feathered creatures wandering outside), as well as a 24-hour, on-call butler. Given the views of the lake and city, the hotel also ranked at the top for its prime locale.