The Diamond Standard

While these distinct properties are my top picks to showcase in this issue, there are many more who also deserve recognition. Visit to find out five more of my best recommendations for travel in 2009.

Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi

While palatial is the first word that comes to mind when considering this international resort, it still does little justice in describing its grandeur.

The haute factor: The architecture. Mosaic glass tiles cover 114 domes while the interiors are adorned in acres of gold leaf and the world’s finest marble sourced from 14 different countries.

Crash pad stats: 302 grand rooms, 40 Khaleej suites, 4 Presidential suites, and 16 Palace suites, all befitting international royalty.

Let the feast begin: Twelve on-site dining venues makes this property a mecca for gourmands the world over. Don’t miss the Michelin-rated work of Chef Dean Bouvet at Etoiles Abu Dhabi, as well as the luxe treats at Le Café & Caviar Bar, and the cognacs and cigars from Havana Club.

Arriving in style: Just a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi airport and a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Dubai airport, guests can enjoy a ride to Emirates Palace in their choice of a Maybach, Rolls-Royce Phantom, BMW, or Mercedes Van.

Who stays here: Sir Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, the Hilton family, former French President Jacques Chirac, Susan Sarandon, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Alan Greenspan.

Awarded 5 Stars: 2007 & 2009

Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
Corniche Road GRB 104
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Grand Hotel Via Veneto

This new deluxe hotel, close to the American Embassy, features the vibrant, off-beat Art Deco style that made the 20s roar. Boasting one of the best addresses of the Eternal City, the Grand Hotel can be found on the upper part of the famous street that epitomized La Dolce Vita in Fellini’s movie, at the very heart of Italian fashion, art, and beauty.

The haute factor: The Royal Suite. VIP guests can fully embrace la dolce vita from the private terrace that measures more than 2,000 square feet with a private Turkish bath overlooking the via, a roof garden, and Bulgari amenities.

Crash pad stats: Presidential suites, studio suites, junior suites, and 27 private rooms outfitted with Carrara marble baths.

Let the feast begin: Seafood and Italian restaurants, the Wine Bar, and Sky Bar & Grill located above the via on the rooftop mean that not only will you never go hungry, but your palate will be satiated with Italy’s finest fare.

Arriving in style: Rome Urbe Airport is approximately five miles from the Grand Hotel, while Rome Ciampino International Airport and Rome Fiumicino International Airport are approximately 15 and 24 miles away, respectively.

Who stays here: Eva Longoria & Tony Parker.

Awarded 5 Diamond Star:s April, 2009

Grand Hotel Via Veneto
Via Veneto, 155-00187
Rome, Italy
Almenara Golf Hotel & Spa

Perched high up on the hill in the Andalucian countryside, the Almenara Golf Hotel & Spa is one of only two Star Diamond-rated luxury resort properties in this historic region of Spain.

The haute factor: The recreation. Polo, tennis, spearfishing, and private yacht charters are available to all, but what really goes on here is all about golf. The property, just five minutes away from top course Valderrama, showcases the Almenara Golf Course, designed by Dave Thomas, with 27 holes for up to three different par 72 courses. There is also the 18-hole La Reserva Golf Club as well as the Sotogrande Golf Academy. An equestrian center, racket center, and beach club are also on site.

Crash pad stats: The southern Mediterranean countryside estate features 148 rooms and 12 suites in one- and two-story villas positioned around a central courtyard.

Let the feast begin: Gastronomic delights include international entrées at Gaia, health-conscious fare at Veinteeocho, and upscale piano bar cheer at Pentagrama Cocktail Bar.

Arriving in style: Malaga International Airport is a one-hour drive from the renowned golf resort.

Who stays here: Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh, Sergio García, and Colin Montgomerie

Awarded 5 Stars: 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009

Almenara Golf Hotel & Spa
Avenida Almenara, s/n 11310 Sotogrande
Cadiz, Spain

New York City

The haute factor: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has been a leader in the gentrification of the city and it is now brimming with activity with Star Diamond experiences around every corner.

Crash pad stats: New York’s award-winning hotels include The Carlyle, Trump International Hotel & Tower, the New York Palace, and The Plaza.

Let the feast begin: With 19 Star Diamond award winners, visitors will never have to settle for subpar cuisine while staying in New York City.

Arriving in style: The Mercedes-Benz dealership in Manhattan and American Airlines are both New York winners in our “Automobiles, Airlines, & Cruise Lines” category.

Awarded 6 Diamond Stars: 2009

New York City
Allegria Hotel & Spa

The haute factor: The service. As the only deluxe, full-service hotel on all of Long Island, Allegria Hotel & Spa is going to give serious competition to some of the grande dames that have ruled New York City’s hotel scene.

Crash pad stats: 148 beach chic suites and guestrooms, decorated with a palette of white, beige, cream, and sea blues, which reflects the ocean.

Let the feast begin: Famed French Chef Todd Jacobs brings his Zagat-rated fare to Allegria with the second locale of his restaurant Atlantica.

Arriving in style: Allegria Hotel & Spa is 25 minutes from the JFK Airport.

Awarded 5 Diamond Stars: July, 2009
Allegria Hotel & Spa
80 W. Broadway
Long Beach NY 11561

Mercedes-Benz Manhattan

The haute factor: The Maybach Studio. The new Maybach 57S is currently on display at the Park Avenue showroom.

Divine Designs: Where else but in Manhattan can you visit a luxury car dealership from the fingertips of design demigod Frank Lloyd Wright?

Step into my showroom: The hospitality and attentiveness of the first-class staff makes the luxury experience at this particular dealership worthy of bestowing the Academy’s highest accolade.

Awarded 5 Diamond Stars: 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009

Mercedes-Benz Manhattan
430 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022