Above: Mandarin Oriental Palace, Lucerne

New & Noteworthy: December 2022

Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern

Our latest collection of travel news, our last roundup of 2022, covers notable hotel openings, a new spa at Claridge’s and a walking trail in Bhutan.

Oetker Collection Comes to Palm Beach

The Vineta is near the iconic Worth Avenue Clock Tower, West Palm Beach, Florida – Sean Pavone / Adobe Stock

Judging by recent events, the Baden-Baden-based Oetker Collection luxury hotel brand is clearly in the ascendant. The company’s portfolio already contains such legendary properties as Le Bristol Paris and Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, while Hotel La Palma in Capri is one of the most anticipated openings of spring 2023. Now, Oetker is coming to North America, having acquired The Chesterfield Palm Beach. This venerable property, located just two blocks from Worth Avenue, opened in 1926 as the Lido-Venice, but shortly thereafter was renamed The Vineta Hotel. (It only became The Chesterfield in 1989.)  The Vineta name will return, and a comprehensive renovation of the Mediterranean Revival structure will be under way soon. It will be led by Paris-based designer Tino Zervudachi, who plans to lower the room count from 53 to 41 and create a much more youthful and place-specific environment. The legendary Leopard Lounge, ground zero of Palm Beach’s high-season social life, will be transformed, and an entirely new poolside restaurant will be added. Palm Beach already has some excellent hotels, the White Elephant and The Brazilian Court among them, but under Oetker’s tutelage, I suspect that The Vineta will significantly raise the bar.

Claridge’s Stunning New Spa

New spa pool, Claridge's, London

For the world’s leading luxury hotels, a spa is nowadays mandatory, and in this respect, if few others, Claridge’s was deficient — until now. The red-brick 19th-century grande dame is located on Brook Street at the heart of London’s Mayfair district, clearly not an ideal address at which to find generous amounts of space for a lavish new wellness facility. In 2015, work began on an excavation of a remarkable five-story subterranean extension. To allow the hotel to remain open, with its demanding guests undisturbed, much of the digging was done by hand. Seven years later, in September 2022, Claridge’s Spa finally made its debut. Its design is the work of noted interior architect André Fu, who found inspiration from numerous trips to the temples of Kyoto. Thus it’s not very English, aside from accents of limestone and oak. The 7,000-square-foot facility contains seven treatment rooms, each with a private bath, as well as steam rooms, saunas and a swimming pool lined by stone columns and cabanas. The spa’s products are the result of a collaboration with Augustinus Bader, and there are salons  by celebrity hairdresser Josh Wood, nail artist Harriet Westmoreland and Ross J. Barr, “acupuncturist to the stars.”

Four Seasons to Debut in Luxor 

Rendering of accommodations, Four Seasons Hotel Luxor

One of the great mysteries of travel — there must be an answer, but despite diligent inquiries I have failed to discover it — is the long-standing lack of a first-rank hotel in Luxor (ancient Thebes) on the east bank of the Nile in Egypt. True, the Old Winter Palace Hotel, which opened in 1908, is still receiving guests, but its luster has dimmed. It is now part of the French Sofitel chain, but it has not been restored and upgraded like the group’s other celebrated property, the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel Aswan. All of this is strange, because Luxor and its environs contain the greatest concentration of antiquities in Egypt, including the Temple of Karnak, the Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings and the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut — hence the city has a constant and unending supply of affluent visitors. However, it seems that someone at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has finally taken note. In 2025, the group plans to open the 200-room Four Seasons Hotel Luxor. The new property will be in the center of town, close to the Luxor Temple, and all accommodations will have views of the Nile. At last, one of the most extraordinary places in the world will have a hotel worthy of its mystique and allure.

Lucerne Belle Epoque Revival

Presidential Suite living room, Mandarin Oriental Palace, Lucerne

Surveying an exquisite Alpine landscape of Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus, the Palace Luzern has been a Swiss institution for more than a century. It was built in 1906 by hotel entrepreneur Franz Josef Bucher, for the then-outrageous sum of 4 million Swiss francs. His ambition was to make it the finest hotel in the world. Wars and financial crashes brought about changes of ownership, but in 2015 the Palace was acquired by Chinese investor Yunfeng Gao. After a lengthy renovation, it reopened in September this year as the 136-room Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern. At the time of writing, only two of the four restaurants are open: Quai 10, which serves Mediterranean food at the edge of the lake, and Mozern Bar & Brasserie, the social center of the property. However, these will be joined in early 2023 by Minamo, a six-seat counter for kaiseki cuisine, and Colonnade, a grand modern-French restaurant with a panoramic lake view. There, Israeli chef Gilad Peled, formerly of Michel Roux’s Le Gavroche and Gordon Ramsay’s Le Pressoir d’Argent, in London and Bordeaux, respectively, will do his best to attract the attention and acclaim of the Michelin inspectors. No self-respecting Swiss grand hotel could possibly be complete without a superlative spa, and here this role will be undertaken by Spa Bellefontaine, a wellness center employing the anti-aging (and not inexpensive) Bellefontaine skin-care range. Although there is no swimming pool, during summer guests can enjoy the floating lake pool at the front of the hotel.

Above: Mandarin Oriental Palace, Lucerne