As it turns out, the New York Sofitel hotel suite where outgoing IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn (now widely known as DSK) performed his costly sex mischief is not such a big deal at 3,000 dollars a night.
True, three large can get you a very comfortable suite in New York City. Were talking about a one- or two-bedroom suite on a higher floor, usually with delightful views, at the citys best hotels.
For example, the Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle offers one-bedroom suites with floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park for 2,500 dollars.
For those who go for quieter environments, there are 100-square-meter, two-bedroom suites at the Lowell on the Upper East Side for 2,855 bucks. Rents around this price point often buy a private terrace, original artwork, handmade furnishings, marble floors and counters, full-size toiletry bottles instead of travel-size containers, and flat-screen televisions in every room sometimes including the bathrooms.
Over at the now fully renovated Plaza Hotel, a large chunk of which was devoted to private ownership apartments, and located on the southeast corner of Central Park, suites of this type include another little perk: a shared butler, who draws the bath, shines shoes, and keeps the bar stocked with a clients favorite spirits. If all you want to have is Cuervos Reserva de la Familia and single-malt Glenfidich scotch, thats what you get.
According to the trade group Travel Industry Association of America, the average traveler pays just under 100 greenbacks for a room in the United States (the Holiday Inn syndrome), so 3,000 dollars would appear to be the ceiling of profligacy. But in the Big Apple, its not even close. At the Four Seasons, the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula, The Pierre and other upscale properties, presidential suites can run upwards of 16,000 dollars per night.
At the Mandarin Oriental, the top suite spans nearly 300 square meters on the 53rd floor, and enables guests to see both Central Park and the Hudson River. An iPad controls the lights, thermostat, and sound system.
Rather than boring its high-net-worth guests with contemporary artwork, they stock the place with centuries-old Chinese sculptures and parchments. Theres also a full-sized, private kitchen with its own staff. Obviously, chefs have their own entrance.
When you think about it, suite 2806 at the Sofitel is rather medium-scale, since the maid walked in when the guest, DSK, was still there taking a shower. At a really upscale suite, nobody would dare knock on the door unless the guests aides had summoned him or her
Rents over 10,000 dollars a night also buy a certain amount of flexibility for traveling dignitaries. The top room at the Peninsula Hotel, a two-bedroom with a grand piano and private library, comes with an optional third bedroom for security staff. Also, in keeping with Peninsula tradition, suite guests have access to a chauffeured Peninsula-green Rolls Royce, among many other perks.
Swanky designer names are usually linked to the most expensive suites. The US$35,000-per-night Ty Warner penthouse at the Four Seasons was designed by famed architects Peter Marino and I.M. Pei. The 450-square-meter suite has nine rooms and a panoramic view of Manhattan. Penthouse guests enjoy a private butler and a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Phantom or Maybach.
As with permanent housing, you get more space for your dollar outside of Manhattan. The Palms Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas features a 900-square-meter Hugh Hefner sky villa for 40,000 dollars. It has its own private gym, a poker table, and, of course, a rotating bed with mirrored ceiling.
Ive been unusually lucky in getting to know many top suites in Manhattan, not because Ive stayed there but because in my many years as a journalist, Ive interviewed Mexican government officials in their suites at the Pierre, the Waldorf Astoria Towers, the Sherry-Netherland, the Four Seasons and many others.
My personal favorite because of its discreet elegance, tasteful décor and superb service is the Carlyle Hotel in Uptown Manhattan. It doesnt have the humongous suites because, after all, size doesnt matter and how many guests have the time to sit around and play the grand piano?