By Terry Trucco
We love best hotel lists, so when Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards for the top hotels of 2011 landed in our e-mail box today, we clicked on as fast as we could. Hmmm. Did you know the top hotel in the world is . . . the Golden Well (U Zlate Studne) in Prague, Czech Republic?
We’d never heard of the place so eagerly scoured Trip Advisor’s write-up and visitor photos. With 17 rooms and two suites, this “small, luxury boutique hotel near Prague Castle’s walls” offers air conditioning, room service “during limited hours” and in-room massage. And though there’s no fitness center, “aerobics, basketball, boating and bird watching are nearby.” The pictures – clean, simple rooms, updated traditional décor — reminded us of a slightly more upmarket version of Paris’ sweetly efficient Hotel-de-Fleurie, a small Left Bank hotel we like– pleasant, comfortable, dependable but not the Savoy. But according to Christian 004 of Brussels, Belgium, “everything was impeccable” at the Golden Well.
The second top hotel in the world was Anastasis Apartments in Imerovigli, Greece — “a romantic getaway – nothing but the best,” writes Robynies of Brisbane, Australia.
And the third top hotel in the world? Riad Le Calif in Fes, Morocco – “amazing Riad in Fes,” opines Leogetz of Sao Paolo, Brazil.
We’re partial to New York hotels, for obvious reasons, so since none made the world cut, we checked out the top 25 US hotels. Coming in at number eight was the Casablanca Times Square – “Probably the best hotel I’ve stayed in,” writes SR202 of Gainsville, Florida – a stylish boutique with a not-too-in-your-face Moorish theme. (The Casablanca also came in ninth for top service in the US.) Though we haven’t stayed recently, we generally liked this small hotel when we reviewed it for The New York Times shortly after it opened. (We like the Library, a sister hotel, better.) But this is the best hotel Trip Advisor contributors believe New York has to offer?
Scrolling further, we spotted the Ace NYC coming in at number six among the world’s ten top trendy hotels. Yes! And it was hard to disagree with Jansson-Olsson’s verdict: “A hotel at its best except boring location in the evening.” Still, we’d have added others, like the Standard, the James or the deliciously quirky Crosby Street, to name a few. None is perfect but they’ve got style to spare – and that rates high on our trendometer.
So what to think? We like Trip Advisor for the wide net it casts, plethora of heartfelt opinions and up-to-date commentary. You’ll always know if a hotel is in the midst of a renovation or if the pool needs repair if you read the latest reviews. We think Trip Advisor’s contributors provide useful information about individual hotels. It’s easy to read a list of reviews, disregard the ones that sound too good – or too horrid – to be true, and come away with a pretty clear picture of a property. That’s why we include Trip Advisor reviews – and those of other reader review services like Yelp and Raveable – next to every review we write at Overnight New York.
But algorithms aren’t humans. When millions of reviews get mixed together – luxury hotels and hostels, urban hotels and island resorts, boutique hotels and chains — things get messy. Definitions blur, even when categories appear to be clearly set. One person’s luxury hotel is another’s three-star. One’s idea of a trendy hotel is another’s notion of a classic. And service? Easy to recognize but tough to quantify. We hate to disparage the Golden Well sight unseen, but is this really the top hotel in the world?
Of course, top 25 lists are designed to drop jaws, spark thought and provoke discussion. For that, this year’s Trip Advisor list gets an A.