Space is a luxury in Manhattan. Numerous are the times I’ve opened the door of a Manhattan hotel room to find a tight, viewless square. It feels hopelessly modern to consider that most of those hotels are apartment conversions, and that what feels tight as a hotel room must have felt stifling as a permanent residence. But Manhattan’s allure draws a steady stream of visitors, and finding space for them all can be a challenge.
For travelers like me, who bring more provincial notions regarding living space along with us to the Big Apple, the Conrad New York Midtown delivers, and it delivers in luxurious style.
The smallest guestroom here is a palatial—not just by NYC standards—425 square feet for shorter stays. Rooms graduate on up through arena-sized apartments (1,425 sq ft) or the bi-level penthouse suite that at 2,700 square feet could most aptly be described as “acreage”. There’s even a 1,200 square foot “atrium” suite that has a greenhouse sitting area with omnidirectional views of Midtown and Central Park.
The hotel describes the rooms as “residential-style,’ and that’s certainly accurate. My Park View One Bedroom Suite had an adorable dining table for two with comfy leather chairs, subdued color tones with curated art (there are also original works by Matisse and Warhol to be found around the hotel), a large woven sofa and a custom dark wood console with drawers for everything from minibars to china for the Nespresso machine. Of course, that’s all more noticeable without the 52nd-floor view of Central Park competing for attention, but all much-appreciated comforts nonetheless.
There aren’t a huge number of Conrads in North America. Most have concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region since the brand’s founding nearly four decades ago. Solidly Hilton in hospitality ethos and execution, Conrad properties focus on making stays memorable with distinctive, bespoke room designs and furnishings, and a blend of technological and personal service delivery.
Perhaps the most distinctive moment during a stay at this Conrad is the arrival experience. Guests enter the lobby to immediately face a disarmingly lifelike sculpture of a woman in a bathing suit and swim cap reclined on a large inflatable pool swan. There’s detail down to the water droplets, and it’s irresistible to reach out and touch the swan to make sure it’s actually a sculpture and not inflated. Local artist Carole Feuerman is behind the conversation piece, which is designed to project impressions of feminist strength.
For travelers whose visitor ethos is to pretend they live there, these apartment-style rooms do the trick so well travelers will feel the urge to game plan their next co-op board meeting while in residence. Not that there’s anything to complain about—plush beds with 300 thread count sheets, blackout curtains, plenty of closet space and bedside outlets, glass-walled showers with meltaway showers adorned with Shanghai Tang bath amenities—there’s little to not love.
When it’s time to dine, the culinary team at the hotel’s restaurant Dabble has guests well set up. There’s food available from 6:30 in the morning through midnight, and there’s a cocktail program that will satisfy even veteran mixologists. I was particularly taken with the French Pear, a concoction of Grey Goose La Poire vodka shaken with lime and topped with an egg white foam infused with New York honey. They’re also pouring from a delightful international wine list.
Breakfasts are as one would expect in quality and selection for a Conrad, although the kitchen’s execution is as flawless as during the dinner hour, which is refreshing. The dinner menu, however, is a star.
A mix of shareable elevated bar snacks (think citrus-marinated olives or habit-forming rosemary roasted Marcona almonds) sit alongside hotel entrée favorites that dispense with fuss and fancy (let’s face it, if you’re eating in the hotel you’re not seeking culinary fireworks). Nevertheless, entrees are home runs for hungry travelers: Vancouver Island Salmon, New York Strip steak or a rich Long Island Duck with plum compote are a couple of the more generous options.
The luxury of space is evident throughout the hotel, but it’s perhaps most notable in the gigantic fitness room, which also has residential touches such as wood-paneled walls with wainscotting and pumped in fragrance. There’s no nook, no alcove where guests feel anything but uncrowded, and for New York City that’s really the true luxury.
Guests looking for spacious accommodations, solidly luxurious service and amenities and a fantastically convenient Midtown location will find their zen at this lovely Conrad.
I’ve seen rates from $360 per night plus tax.
The hotel does not charge a destination/resort/amenity fee.
Park views, and of course, the lobby sculpture, which is titled “Leda and the Swan”.
Good to Know
Shanghai Tang bath amenities aren’t generally available for public sale, so if you like them, request a couple extras “for the road”.
Premium suites are outfitted with Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryers.
Comments & Discussion
Rangiroa’s Hotel Kia Ora: Luxury on the Reef
After a couple of years traveling to French Polynesia, I began to notice that the territory’s resort hotels are generally populated by two types of visitors: those that are pleased to be there, and those that are pleased with themselves to be there. Both types can be found on virtually any island; it’s the proportion that changes from island to island.
On Rangiroa, there seemed to be more of the “pleased to be there” types, and it was clear many of them had been before by the way in which they pattered amongst themselves in the air-conditioned van lumbering down the island’s single concrete slab road between the airport and the Hotel Kia Ora.
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Rangiroa is one of the largest atolls in the world. It’s so big that the island of Tahiti can fit entirely inside its lagoon, and land isn’t visible from the lagoon’s center. An atoll, by the way, is essentially the bones of a taller island that once existed. Volcanic islands crept up out of the oceans eons ago, and over time became encircled with coral reefs. Over millions of years, the islands sank back into the ocean under their own weight, eventually submerging and leaving lagoons surrounded by the coral.
Atolls are the remains of those islands, little more than vegetation growing out of the reefs themselves, which barely come more than a few feet above the ocean’s surface. Unlike “high” islands with mountains that can capture clouds and moisture coming off the sea, the atolls essentially have a marine environment, not unlike an oceangoing vessel.
With cloud cover constantly blowing right across the surface of the lagoon and the atoll, it rains every day, but only for a few minutes—just enough to keep the island relatively lush, even though rainfall runs through the crushed coral ground so quickly the island often feels quite dry, in a fascinating paradox considering the ocean is visible from both sides of the narrow strip.
The surf pounds on the white coral sands from the ocean side of the atoll, while on the lagoon side it’s as tranquil as a millpond. The reef acts like a filter for sediment, which makes the lagoon shockingly clear, and when it’s sunny the water reflects a brilliant aquamarine that slowly melds to sapphire blue out into deeper water.
The Hotel Kia Ora sits in a coconut grove on the eastern half of the islet of Avatoru. Like many resorts in French Polynesia it’s a collection of thatched roof pool villas, beach, and overwater bungalows separated by tall windy coconut palms waving in the constant breeze that wafts from the ocean to the lagoon.
Guests are deposited under the shell chandelier on the open-air lobby to welcome drinks and cold towels to complete registration paperwork and chat with the activities coordinator about how to fill their days. Cars, bicycles and electric scooters can be had by the hour or day, or guests can avail themselves of the resort’s dive center. The resort can also arrange excursions to the blue lagoon or pink sand beach for snorkeling and lunch.
The Blue Lagoon excursion is a full day in a small boat, setting out across the atoll’s lagoon to a collection of islets of white sand surrounding a deep blue lagoon of striking contrast to its surroundings. There’s plenty of snorkeling with black tip sharks and other marine life in the lagoon, a demonstration of palm frond weaving, and a beachside barbecue lunch offer in view of black crested seagulls.
Back at the resort, days are spent rising to take breakfast in the Te Rairoa Restaurant where eggs are cooked to order and baguettes are served with fresh fruit and house made coconut preserves. After that, it’s a difficult decision of heading back to a garden bungalow to relax in the private plunge pool, snorkel in the lagoon, lounge by the infinity pool or perhaps take a spa treatment.
Lunches are typically pasta, fresh island fish or the Polynesian specialty poisson cru, a raw fish salad marinated in coconut milk and citrus. Dinners on a la carte evenings feature island seafood, meats from Australia and New Zealand and a host of other international dishes. Also on offer is wine from grapes grown locally on Rangiroa—the only known wine made from grapes grown on coral. Tours of the winery can be arranged at the activity desk.
During the day, light meals and snacks are available in the overwater Miki Miki Bar, which stays open for cocktails late into the evening. After a long day in the sun at the Blue Lagoon, a refreshing shower followed by a decadent ice cream sundae and perhaps a frozen cocktail from the bar is a pleasing antidote.
On Wednesday and Sunday evenings, a lavish Polynesian buffet is on offer along with the resort’s Polynesian show. In a smaller community like Rangiroa, the show is an intimate, organic affair, and many of the performers are young students of Tahitian dance who bring infectious exuberance to their craft.
Accommodations are comfortable and spacious. My garden bungalow had a cold plunge pool, outdoor shower, outdoor bath, plenty of sunny and shady seating, along with a concrete wall for privacy. Unlike private homes on the island, which must collect and store rainwater (atolls have virtually no potable groundwater), the resort has a desalinization plant. As a result, the water from every tap is entirely potable, although the resort does also provide bottled water daily.
In the lobby, there’s also a Tahitian pearl and gift shop that also sells limited sundries and stamps. Otherwise, it’s possible to rent a car or scooter and visit one of the stores on the island to resupply.
Speaking of pearls, the Tuamotus are the main center for pearl production in French Polynesia. On Rangiroa, Gauguin’s Pearl is the largest pearl farm, and they provide daily demonstrations of pearl production with free pickup from the hotel in an air-conditioned van. Other pearl shops dot the island’s single road, many without the benefit of air conditioning.
Other parts of French Polynesia might be known for glitz and status, where visitors conspicuously consume and compare the square footage of their bungalow or the international luxury brand of their resort. Many stay just long enough to check the box and disappear to the next spot on their bucket lists without ever finding themselves captive to French Polynesia’s languid spell.
On Rangiroa that spell is unavoidable. While the Hotel Kia Ora is certainly a luxury property, it’s luxury with an inherently local sensibility. Here, familiarity is fast, the guests are most likely repeat visitors and everyone is pleased to be there.
Rangiroa is roughly an hour from Papeete by air. Air Tahiti operates daily flights.
Rates start around $420 USD per night plus tax during the low season.
Anything with water in it is a sure bet, whether it’s the glassy lagoon or the tranquil private plunge pools in the pool villas.
There’s no loyalty program but that doesn’t prevent a high percentage of return guests.
Good to Know
The hotel offers transfers to and from the airport for a nominal fee.
Guest rooms are equipped with WiFi.
The hotel’s rental cars are late model with good air conditioning.
Staff at the hotel and the pearl shops are generally multilingual and speak very good English. Excursion operators often speak transactional English; conversation ability with non-French speakers can be limited, and tour narration is typically more extensive in French.
Comments & Discussion
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