Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver gets 5-Diamond status, plus Maui & Legoland news
A bevy of new Toronto hotels are gunning for five-star status. But the latest Canadian property to join the club is in Vancouver.
The Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver announced Wednesday that it has received the coveted Five-Diamond Award designation from the American Automobile Association, which reviews some 59,000 lodgings and restaurants in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Last time I checked (good luck trying to find it on the AAA website), there were only two Five-Diamond Award winners in Canada. The Four Seasons Whistler has held that designation for several years, while the relatively new Ritz-Carlton Toronto got the nod last year.
There are only 126 lodgings and 53 restaurants with the Five-Diamond rating, Shangri-La officials pointed out.
I did a story in Star Travel a year or so ago that outlines the rigorous testing that goes into the ratings. I tailed a Canadian Automobile Association representative as he inspected a hotel in Montreal and had quite a good time watching him roll back bedside tables to look for dust and peering inside microwaves to see if cleaners had wiped out the spaghetti sauce stains.
They have remarkably detailed criteria for awarding various categories of hotel ratings, including the number of coat hangers in a closet and the style of them and whether hair dryers are wrapped in a nice bag and stored in the closet or bolted to the bathroom wall so you won’t be tempted to steal it. The latter, apparently, is a definite no-no if you want to join the ranks of the Ritz (see photo), Shangri-La and Four Seasons.
“The Five Diamond recognition is one we accept with humility and pride,” said Vito Romeo, general manager of Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver. “It is tremendous recognition of our hotel facilities and amenities, but more importantly of our staff, who are dedicated and passionate ambassadors for the Shangri-La brand, the city of Vancouver and our hospitality profession.”
The new Shangri-La opened for Toronto Film Festival purposes on Friday of last week and I got a sneak peek at Bosk, the signature restaurant, and at the lobby. It’s quite beautiful and I’d think there’s a pretty decent chance they’ll join the five-diamond ranks in a year or two.
If you're looking for something romantic on the weekend, I looked online and the Shangri-La Vancouver had rooms for Friday night Sept. 7 starting at $375.
RECORD MONTH FOR CANADIAN AIRLINES
Both WestJet and Porter Airlines today announced record numbers for August in terms of load factors. As in their best months EVER. Which says a lot about the state of the industry these days and our willingness to pay through the nose. But that's another story.
WestJet was first off the mark, announcing it had an August load factor of 88.9 per cent; best in its 16-year history. The airline flew nearly 172,000 more guests this August compared to August of last year.
"We are extremely pleased to report the highest single-month load factor in WestJet history and I thank our caring WestJetters for their added energy in this record-breaking month," commented WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky. "The demand environment remains strong and we are seeing a growing contribution from our airline code-shares and interline partnerships."
A few minutes later, Porter weighed in with news that it carried more than 260,000 passengers with a load factor of 74.5 per cent in August; both record numbers. Passenger numbers increased 23.8 per cent from the previous year.
“This is the best month we’ve had in nearly six years of operating,” said Robert Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines. “It’s a reflection of the strong passenger experience, brand and customer service that Porter is known for.”
Air Canada reported late in the day today that they, too, had a record load factor. AC reported a record system load factor of 87.9 per cent, versus 87.8 per cent in August 2011.
"This record load factor result for the month underscores our disciplined capacity management and our industry-leading product that continues to earn our customers' loyalty," said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Led by increases in traffic in the Australia, Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America markets of 7.9 per cent overall, and the domestic Canada market of 3 per cent, we generated system wide traffic growth of 0.7 per cent on a capacity increase of 0.6 per cent."HEAVENLY HANA THAT MUCH CLOSER
Here’s a welcome treat for folks in a hurry. Mokulele Airlines is partnering with the fabulous Travaasa hotel in Hana, Maui to provide twice-daily flights from Kahului to the Hana airport. The price? Just $59.
Travaasa, which I have to say upfront is my favourite hotel in the world for its blending in with the coast (see photo at left), simple luxury and the way it reflects its local environment, is offering free flights to any guests booking an all-inclusive or “Total Travaasa” package for three nights or more.
Personally, I think anyone who flies to Hana is a little nuts. The drive isn’t remotely difficult anymore. Sure, there are a million twists and turns but it’s one of the most beautiful drives you’ll find anywhere; past the cute town of Paia, then along the surging surf and windsurfing crazies at Hookipa Beach, then down to the stunning Keanae peninsula, with its taro fields and banana bread snack shack and jagged lava formations that are furiously slapped day and night by pure blue waves. There are beautiful gardens and rest stops along the way with fabulous views of the coast, plus waterfalls and blooming African tulip trees with bright orange-red flowers and the smell of growth and green and sea air. Not to mention a wonderful black sand beach and the fun shops/food stands at Nihiku marketplace, near George Harrison’s former Hana home.
It takes a few hours driving to get there; more if you slow down to enjoy the ride. But it’s one of the great treats of Hawaii. Mind you, the flight would probably be awfully beautiful on a nice day, too!
THIS AND THAT
Legoland Florida is expanding. Less than a year after opening, the theme park has called a press conference for today to announce plans. Associated Press reports that a video file sent to journalists suggests the expanded park will have a Star Wars theme. Legoland is built on the 150-acre site of the former Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven … British Premier David Cameron says the government will hold an inquiry into improving capacity at its over-bulging airports. There’s been a fierce debate in the community about expanding Heathrow, with environmentalists on one side and biz folks on the other (surprise!). Heathrow is operating at full capacity with 1,300 landings and takeoffs every day. Lots of folks want more but Cameron apparently says he won’t let that happen before the 2015 British election.