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Luxury Brands Warm Up to Croatia

December 18, 2006 By: Jennifer Merritt Travel Agent

Le Méridien opens five-star Split hotel, Regent has plans for Dubrovnik

With the opening of Le Méridien Lav, Split on December 11,
Starwood Hotels and Resorts last week became the first well-known international
brand to open a property near Split,
, the
largest city on the Adriatic coast. After about $106 million in renovations,
the 381-room property—formerly the Hotel Lav—boasts a five-star rating and
hotel rooms with views of the city and the surrounding islands. Fast

Situated on the water, the hotel sits on the beach front,
with gardens landscaped by the award-winning designer Jim Nicolay of Hawaii. Perhaps the
hotel's most unique outdoor feature is its private marina, large enough for 60
yachts, making the property the perfect destination for boating enthusiasts.
Guests with a propensity for seasickness, fear not, as the Marina Promenade
features shops, restaurants, bars and cafés. The property itself has a
watersports center and indoor and outdoor pool, as well as four tennis courts,
rock climbing and a children's club.

Italian designer Lorenzo Bellini created the hotel's décor,
which flows with the region's warm Mediterranean climate. Beds are draped in a
rich, bright red and the light wood-paneled bathrooms seem inspired by an
Italian outdoor villa, complete with fresh flowers. Amenities may include a
plasma or LCD TV, separate bath and shower and a balcony. Seventeen suites,
including the 394-square foot Presidential Suite, overlook Split and the surrounding islands.

One of Le Méridien's standard rooms, designed by Lorenzo Bellini

"The views are absolutely spectacular." notes John
G.C. Wood, the hotel's general manager. He recommends the Adriatic Suite and
Diplomatic Suites for their beautiful views and comfortable lounge areas.

The hotel is in Podstrana, about five miles from downtown Split, one of the sunniest places in Europe
due to its Mediterranean climate. With the region's hot and dry summers and
warm and wet winters, Le Méridien Lav is open year-round. "Split has many sites to offer, such as the old city center
with the Diocletian Palace, a heritage site,
and the ancient cities of Solin and Trogir," Wood says.

An aerial view of the Le Meridien Lav property, just before its December 11 opening

high season is July and August, and in April, May, September and October, hotel
prices can be reduced by as much as 50 percent, according to Visit Croatia
data. For its opening, Le Méridien Lav is offering a special rate of €97 (about
$129) for a single room and €115 for a double room (including breakfast and

Though the weather certainly inspires outdoor activity, Le
Méridien Lav made sure it wasn't short on entertainment options for guests
within its own walls. Christophe Herbert of Principal Concepts designed the
casino, which features a casual gaming experience with 140 slot machines and 20
gaming tables. There's also a nightclub and seven restaurants and bars,
including fine dining, a brasserie and a champagne lounge. Wood advises agents
to book in advance. The hotel also houses a sun-drenched three-story Diocletian
Spa, based on Roman baths and featuring saunas, steam baths and whirlpools.

Though Le Méridien Lav is the only luxury hotel brand
currently in Split region, that may change in three years when Regent Hotels
and Resorts is expected to unveil its 120-room luxury hotel in Dubrovnik, about
three hours from Split. Expected to open in early 2009, the Regent Dubrovnik's
plans call for similar features, such as a spa and wellness facility,
restaurants and bars.

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