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The Hotel Detective's Best Hotel Rooms Of 2013: Part Two

December 21, 2013
Part two of The Hotel Detective’s Best Rooms of 2013 takes you from traditional luxury destinations (Gstaad, Lake Como) to new outposts (Fogo Island Inn) and even up into the sky (the best Business Class seat). You can read longer write-ups of most of them on the site. (Fogo Island Inn and Grand Hotel Tremezzo will be described in much more detail in March.)

This duplex penthouse at Gstaad’s first new luxury hotel in 100 years is on a residential scale, a virtuoso display of woodwork   and understated color orchestration (ivories, oxbloods, and green-grays). The highlight is the second-floor, cathedral ceiling spa relax-room, one of the most extraordinary hotel rooms that The Hotel Detective has ever seen: sculptural gas fireplace, large windows cut into the sloping roof, steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi on the terrace, and massage room. The suite comes with a chef. You may not even make it down to the hotel’s Restaurant Sommet, which received a Michelin star this year.

Luxury in about the last place you’d expect to find it: an island off the north-central coast of Newfoundland.The scenery is  spectacularly bleak and the history a tale of rugged souls making a subsistence living by fishing for cod—until the fishery
collapsed in the ‘60s. The hotel opens up both vistas to you, the latter through one-on-one encounters with Fogo Islanders. All the rooms face the ocean, but the suites (at the end of the building shown here), with their window walls, make you feel nature’s vast sway and man’s tenuous hold on it here.

Orient Express EXPR +0.00% revived this vintage hotel, which sits on the heights above Santa Barbara. The rooms have been beautifully decorated in a contemporary Santa Barbara idiom. What makes some of them singular is the ocean view. Room 703, a Premier Bedroom, has a grandstand ocean view from the porch, a corner fireplace, and a good sized living room—and it’s far from the most expensive room. Given the view-value ratio, THD would make this his first choice. An even better value-for-view is 702, a Superior King, the lowest level room, but because of property’s quirky layout, it is blessed with a fine ocean view. Other such rooms include 102, a Craftsman Superior Suite; 2303 and 2703, which have perfect ocean sightlines from the terrace; 2904, 05, and 06; 3101 and 02, with 02 having a bigger deck and a slightly better vista.

This Relais & Chateaux may be the best-kept hotel secret in North America. It occupies a rambling 1897 house that seems made for a boutique hotel. The steeply pitched gable roofs promise romantic attic rooms, and the syncopated rhythm of the windows on the front, architectural eccentricity. The hotel delivers both.

Get a one-bedroom Grand King Suite for the Bay of Fundy views, either the aptly named Pinnacle (no. 16), which has a garret feel and an expansive water view from the balcony, or Earl (no. 18), which has a huge roof deck. One step down is a Grand King Room and the one to get is the second-floor Queen Room. Stepping down in price again, THD would nab the second-floor King Suite for its window-wall and long terrace.

The hotel is in the handsome town of St. Andrews, a tidy grid of Georgian and Greek Revival houses and shingle-style mansions from the Gilded Age, when the town was Canada’s version of Newport, Rhode Island. It’s just over the Maine border and right on the Bay of Fundy.

This hotel on Lake Geneva has a tower with two fabulous rooms. The 19th-century Grande Chevalier Suite (1,400 sq. ft.), a historical monument, has a muscular beamed ceiling, elaborate (if sober) woodwork, rich red wall covering, and stained-glass windows. Want to feel like a Cardinal? Here are your private quarters. The elaborate Neo-Gothic style woodwork of the Riviera Suite (710 sq. ft.), on the other hand, appears more suited to a captain of industry or a financier. The bed is dramatically placed and the room has a 360-degree view of Lake Geneva, the only room that does.

compactly designed by James Park Associates, which also did the Eastern & Orient Express train. The wingchair style seat, at 34 inches the widest business class one in the air by far, folds down to become a 76-inch-long bed. It has reading lights (two brightness levels) on each side to supplement (and soften) the overhead light. There’s a place to stow your shoes so they don’t end up pinioned beneath the seat once it’s extended, and there’s a cubby for your briefcase. The seatback flanking the monitor holds a bento box of compartments that pop open at the push of a finger—a place to stow your glasses, the power outlet for your computer, a one-glass drinks tray, and a make-up mirror. Practicality, vanity, pleasure, and power, all in one place, rigorously thought-out, trim as a typesetters tray, a tiny studio apartment in the air that made flying New York-Singapore a nice get-away from the world.

Open the door to one of the six new Rooftop Suites here and the view of Lake Como just washes over you. Simple as that. Of course, the suites offer space, with the Rooftop Penthouse the largest, but it’s the view of the lake that holds you. Downstairs the hotel is old-fashioned—a billiard room, a room for reading the paper, demi-grand dining room—yet not at all stuffy, in fact, slightly jazzy in its décor.