IT IS AN EXTRA SPECIAL TREAT TO CHECK INTO A HOTEL IN YOUR HOMETOWN, especially when that town is New York City, the hotel is the Mandarin Oriental (www.mandarinoriental.com/newyork) and the occasion is your honeymoon. This writer was lucky enough to have such an experience for two nights last summer.
The hotel's premier claim to fame is its extraordinary views, as it rises 54 stories above Central Park. In its lobby, on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center, visitors can snack from a bento box or have a pot of tea in the lounge while they face picture windows with straight-on views of the park, or have a full meal in the lauded restaurant Asiate looking down on the bustle of the city below. A second set of elevators whisks guests from the lobby to their rooms.
The most requested accommodations are the Central Park View Rooms because of their expansive vistas of the park and the buildings surrounding it. At 425 square feet, with 11-foot ceilings, these are also the most spacious guest rooms in the hotel, before moving into suite categories. Premier Central Park rooms whose numbers end in 04 or 06 offer the best combination of Central Park and Manhattan skyline views, and Central Park suites ending in 00 are the most coveted.
If you have clients who are partial to sunsets, book them into Premier Hudson River View Rooms, which have soaking tubs from which they can look at the river, a perfect spot to relax after a busy day.
From all suites, guests can see both Central Park and the Hudson River, and guests without river views won't entirely miss sunsets as they are reflected in the shiny surfaces of the facing buildings.
The hotel has one of each of its top three suites: the Taipan, Oriental and Presidential. The Taipan has two bedrooms, 2½ baths and a separate living area with Bisazza-tiled wet bar. Sitting on the 54th floor, it faces west and north.
Suite with a Media Room
The Oriental and Presidential Suites each feature a media room, elegant living and dining area, kitchen with stainless steel appliances, master bedroom and 1½ baths. These two suites are on the 52nd and 53rd floors, respectively, and afford expansive views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. Their kitchens can be stocked ahead of time with your clients' preferred foods and beverages, and the hotel will load the in-room CD and DVD players with requested music and movies. The Oriental Suite can be booked with a connecting room, while the Presidential Suite contains a second bedroom with two beds.
At 2,640 square feet, the Presidential Suite is more than twice as large as the other two top suites combined (the Taipan measures 1,210 square feet, the Oriental 1,800). It also has a baby Steinway grand piano—great for show even if your clients don't play—and both 62-inch plasma and 42-inch LCD TVs.
As befitting the accommodations, the master bathroom in each of these three suites has an oversized soaking tub with views of Central Park, rain shower heads, a double vanity and special his-and-her Hermès and Fresh amenities. Butler service is available upon request.
Generally speaking, the hotel's busy periods are March to June and September to December. Top suites should be booked as far in advance as possible by calling the hotel directly, and they can be most difficult to book during the United Nations General Assembly (September) and over Thanksgiving, as guests can watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from the Oriental and Presidential Suites. The twice-yearly Fashion Week takes up a large percentage of the hotel's inventory, and of course, the first three weeks of December are very busy for the city.
Rooms, except for the top three suites, can be booked via the GDS (code: MO), but if you're requesting a specific suite or room location, it's best to contact the hotel directly. The General Manager is Rudy Tauscher (212-805-8803, [email protected]), but travel advisors sending VIP clients should reach out to Sales Manager Holly Rosenblum (212-805-8817, [email protected]).
Spa, Pool, Fitness Center
One cannot discuss this hotel without lavishing praise on its spa, which covers 14,500 feet. A fitness center and a 75-foot pool with panoramic views of the city and river are on the 36th floor, while the 35th floor houses eight treatment rooms, including two suites, the VIP Spa Suite (which has a fireplace and private steam and shower facilities) and the Thai Yoga Room (with a deep soaking tub).
The most popular treatment is the hotel's signature two-hour Time Ritual, a completely personalized experience that incorporates holistic rejuvenation techniques complemented by Asian-based traditions. The Mandarin Oriental spa's signature lines are ESPA and Somme Institute. Make spa reservations as early as possible with Spa Director Denise Vitiello (212-805-8867, [email protected]).
All hotel guests, even those not getting spa treatments, can use the pool and fitness equipment and relax in the amethyst crystal steam room or "wet area." This consists of a shower-like system that you can control to emit different levels of pressure and a sunken bubbling hot tub (which the hotel calls a vitality pool)—this writer's favorite. The vitality pool has an airbed lounge, composed of pipes in the shape of a chaise lounge that release bubbles both through and between openings in the pipes.
For times when clients are ready to venture out for activity, contact Head Concierge Kenneth Abisror (212-805-8890, [email protected]) to arrange the best seats at shows and performances, private gallery viewings, romantic yacht sailings and much more. There are two luxury house cars to take guests to destinations within a 20-block radius of the hotel. Use is based strictly on availability; no reservations are accepted.
The aforementioned hotel restaurant, Asiate, is popular with locals so agents should be sure to make reservations—or ask the concierge to. (Reservations are accepted up to 30 days in advance.) And, of course, request a window table. A meal touching on chef Nori Sugie's signature dishes would include Caesar salad soup, suckling pig and mango soufflé served with sticky rice ice cream.
For clients wishing to entertain up to 10 people, there's a semi-private dining room that has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Upper West Side on one side and a floor-to-ceiling wall of wine on the other.
Mandarin Oriental guests don't have to even set foot to pavement to dine at some of the city's top restaurants, among them Per Se, Café Gray and Masa, since they are all inside the Time Warner Center. Opportunities to ring up charges of another kind exist at the center's shops, which include Armani Exchange, Hugo Boss and Stuart Weitzman.
Kids and Pets Welcome
For families and other groups traveling together, the hotel has more than 40 connecting rooms, 30 of which are one-bedroom suites attached to an additional guest room. There are several variations in bedding, views and style. Especially recommended are Central Park suites that connect with Deluxe Double Rooms; adjacent Central Park View king rooms can be added for extended families. Most special about this set of accommodations is the stylish living room with a dining table that has a park view.
Accommodations can be baby-proofed, and the hotel can provide cribs, rocking chairs, high chairs and age-appropriate welcome amenities such as coloring books and backpacks.
Special activities for young guests take place during the holiday season. Each year on Thanksgiving Day, for example, the hotel opens its ballroom, which overlooks Central Park and Columbus Circle, so families can watch the Macy's parade while enjoying a continental breakfast buffet and children's activities. And this year, famous chocolate maker Jacques Torres hosted a Chocolate Factory Holiday Workshop where kids made gifts (and ate quite a few bonbons as well!). For more information on children's programs, contact Angela Alleyne, director of guest relations, at 212-805-8800 or [email protected]
Those with four-legged family members in tow will be welcomed with pet amenities such as dog beds, chew toys and food and water bowls.
If clients are considering getting hitched in the city, they will be in good hands with Associate Director of Catering Melina Beckett (212-805-8857). Wedding guests—who are supposed to be looking at the bride—might have trouble taking their eyes off the view, as the 6,000-square-foot pillarless Mandarin Ballroom offers floor-to-ceiling windows positioned for maximum views 300 feet above the park.