These lists are notoriously unreliable; half the properties don’t open on time, and the other half tend to suck when they do. All the same, who doesn’t love a list to kick off a new year? So having searched through the entire internet and only been scammed eight times and learnt a whole lot about foot fetishes, this is my list of the best luxury openings of 2023.
Top of my list is London- cos I’m lazy and it’s the nearest to me.
The Peninsula Paris is a brilliant hotel, but it’s often forgotten because of the abundance of more brilliant nearby hotels. Will the same happen in London? Only time and psychics will tell. A stupendous amount of money has been invested in building a new hotel beside Hype Park and right next door to The Lanesborough – a place so expensive that they charge you just for looking at it. With the Peninsula under construction for the last few years, that’s a hefty bill. Hopefully, they’ve got Tesla shares stocked away, I hear it’s a great investment.
However, Mandarin Oriental has realised that if you want to be anybody, Knightsbridge isn’t enough – you need to be in Mayfair, so that’s where they’re opening their second London property. I don’t particularly care for Mandarin Oriental soft product, but they know how to make things look pretty, so what the hell, all is forgiven. Speaking of brands I often stay clear of, there’s Raffles at the OWO. It’s not exactly in the part of London I want to be in – it’s near 10 Downing Street, so you’re surrounded by psychopathic, incompetent wankers, but then that is my demographic. It is yet another property designed during the era of our lord and saviour: 0% interest rates and free-flowing money. Will it be able to compete against the best? Probably not, but don’t get all cheeky and start thinking for yourself; I’ll tell you later this year.
Oetker is already in the elite, so I pay attention when they announce a new opening. I’ll even close one of my 936 tabs to read the press release. First up is another property that was due to open last year, Hotel La Palma, Capri. With only 50 rooms and suites, these are often the charming European properties that shine. Can they install the magic of Hotel du Cap? I don’t know and have no idea why I keep asking myself questions I don’t know the answer to. Oetker will also open The Vineta Hotel in Palm Beach, so we can all stalk Tom Brady in luxury.
Outside of Vienna, Austria is weak on the luxury scene. Even inside Vienna, it’s not particularly strong, seeing that a Park Hyatt is one of the better options. That changed last year when Rosewood Vienna opened, and now they’re opening their second property, Schloss Fuschl, sat beside a lake. It’s not opening until late 2023, which often translates into “2024”, which is a shame as it will miss the summer season, but perhaps that’s a good thing as they’ll have longer to find their feet. They’re also opening in another downtrodden market, Munich, and are trying their luck in Hawaii with Kona Village. I’m not overly excited from the pictures but they are becoming a top-tier luxury group, so maybe they’ll surprise my scepticism with a healthy dose of decency.
Much as their Paris property disappointed, I cannot help but hold out hope for Bulgari Rome. Their Dubai property is brilliant, London somehow shines amongst the darkness they call interior design, and if I were a betting man, I would suspect their Maldives property (opening 2025) will be an actual competitor to Cheval Blanc and Velaa. In the meantime, they’re opening in Rome, a city I consider the most beautiful in the world, made ugly by the fact that you can only really only count on Dorchester Collection’s Hotel Eden for a luxury solution. Let’s hope it’s not just copy/paste London again, but they’ve tried something new. They can’t keep using a 10+ year-old hotel as their boilerplate. But they probably will.
Time & Tide, Future Found Sanctuary in Cape Town looks like an interesting option and potential competition to Ellerman House’s villas. The luxury mafia would disown me if I didn’t mention Aman Niseko, the fourth Aman to open in Japan. Normally an Aman would be much higher on my list, but they seemed to make Tokyo so brilliant that they had nothing left to give to the other Japanese properties. It’s not a property that particularly excites me, but we’re still near Christmas so I’ll include it as a gift.
Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino, Greece. Another Mandarin, even when I say I don’t like them? Well, it’s because Greece is a beautiful country that seems to have escaped the clutches of luxury. On the mainland, you’ve got the choice between Amanzoe and erm errr, yep, that’s it. So maybe this will be a good thing, even if all it manages to do is make Amanzoe up its game. Elsewhere in Greece is One&Only Kéa Island – might it actually happen this year? Originally set to be an Aman, this might help One&Only continue on their recent upward trajectory.
Waldorf Astoria Platte Island, Seychelles – normally any resort proclaiming itself six stars is going into my memory bank reserved for con men like George Santos and long forgotten about. Add onto the fact it’s a Waldorf Astoria (parent company Hilton) and I’d typically spend as much time on it as a discussion with a Russian troll. However, Waldorf Astoria, have really stepped up in recent years with their Maldives property having a great reputation. Plus, Seychelles is in desperate need of new properties. With Cheval Blanc not having an opening date and Fregate reopening in 2024, there’s not much else to get excited about.
In Dubai, Dorchester Collection, The Lana opens later this year. I’m not excited about it in the slightest, it’s just that Dorchester Collection don’t do misses. They don’t do the Greatest Hits either, but they try and push against that ceiling; those poor, repressed sovereign wealth fund rulers in Brunei. Southern Ocean Lodge version 2.0 is on the way; The Homestead (come on, who doesn’t wanna see if this turns out to be the greatest property on earth)? And finally, Angama Amboseli, just because the owners will find great joy in my criticising it. And I’m all about joy.
There are, of course, many hotels that didn’t make this list. Like anything that begins with the word St and ends with Regis, or Six Senses, or even Mandarin Oriental, if I had any sense. There’s not much happening in the Indian Ocean or Caribbean this year either, and Asia is still pretty quiet, which is understandable based on the economic damage of covid. Overall, it’s not a very exciting list.
My takeaway is similar to last year: the exciting properties are the private islands, villas and exclusive-use properties – the type of properties that take some finding and sometimes deliberately don’t get the attention. Last year, it was exclusive use properties like Reid Creek Lodge, La Cigale Estate and Le Grand Jardin Cannes. It seems covid has scared us into never wanting to see another human being ever again, and the market has responded.
What’s on your list?
The pricing for an ocean front one bedroom suite at Rosewood Kona Village is an insane $6,400 a night in winter 2023 before they tack on everything else it takes to stay. With that sort of pricing, they’d have to deliver a more than sublime quality and experience for every single thing…
I am skeptical.
I’m not reading about Michelin star Chef restaurant dining with extensive a la carte menus for dinner;
Built-in coffee & tea bars in each room
Toto Neorest NX2 heated toilets in every single bathroom… Heated towels drawers… Heated bathroom floors. Screens on every openable window and sliding doors so you can keep the bugs out.
Nor large, adult only heated pools, well separated from under age 18 heated pools; or numerous shade cabanas by said pools with under counter refrigeration and freezer drawers, flat screen tv’s and fans in the ceiling for air circulation, etc.
Sound mitigation to keep noise muted to 50 Db at most, so any event related noise, music, etc. doesn’t become intrusive for any guests in their accommodations
Complimentary use of Golf carts to get around the property if it is 82 acres.
Any offers that are actually generous. One for longer stays (stay 7 nights and pay for 5, for example); or something including complimentary airport pick-up and drop-off; an offer of a daily food & beverage allowance package that would actually cover a 3 course meal for a family of four; a series of 60 minute spa treatments; ANYTHING before an insultingly meager $150 dollar credit for an opening stay.
Staying at the new(ish?) Sainte-Anne villa on the grounds of Hotel Du Cap this summer. Will report.
I go to Greece every year and this last summer tried the Four Seasons Astir Palace. I wouldn’t recommend the 2 main hotels, but the bungalow ocean view pool suites are sublime. You can walk out your suite down a stone path to swim in the sea and lay out on comfy loungers with an umbrella that has a service call button. Sushi and rose – check. Great service, food very good, lots and lots of goodies and extras. Every possible request is answered promptly by clicking an iPad. Bliss. Plus, possibly the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in at a hotel. Very happy to have this option when I need to be near Athens, as the previous stays at other properties had been pretty dreadful. The helipad is also very convenient if you’re wanting to visit other islands.
I stayed in 2021 and wasn’t impressed. I’d go if I needed to be in Athens but otherwise wouldn’t return.
Tom – which Raffles properties did you try and what exactly didn’t you like about them? I had some great experiences at their Singapore, Dubai, Cambodia and Bali properties.