Friday, 28 March 2014

Inside the world’s most luxurious cruise ship suites

THE butler’s at your beck and call, the champagne’s on ice and the views are ready to impress.
Welcome to cruise ship life at the top end of town.
It’s a few rungs up from bunk-bed berths where the only luxury is peering through portholes.
We’re talking suites bigger than houses - and prices almost as large.
From swish spas to fancy fittings to gourmet in-suite dining options, these top-class cruising options let you kick back and enjoy the spoils of your splurge in some of the best digs on offer at sea.
And since everything is brought to you, you won’t even need to find your “sea legs” in one of these well-serviced suites.

Queen Mary 2
Grand Duplexes
There’s champagne and strawberries on arrival and a nightly pillow chocolate provided with turndown service. But the little luxuries are the only thing little about this suite experience. You’ve got 685sq m over two storeys to spread out in (about three times the size of an average Aussie home) - with huge private balconies to enjoy. There’s butler service, exclusive access to the Queens Grill Lounge and in-suite dining from Queens Grill menu. Fit for royalty, these residences-at-sea are aptly named the Balmoral and Sandringham suites.
Sample price: $95,000 for a 14-night Transatlantic crossing for two ($6800 per person per night).

Crystal Symphony
Crystal Penthouse
Can’t decide between relaxing in the bath, staring at the horizon or watching telly? Never fear, the Crystal Penthouse has you covered with its ocean view bathrooms, which feature jacuzzi tubs and TVs. These 300sq m suites are attended by a penthouse attendant and butler and are kitted out with glamorous furnishings such as a Swarovski chandelier and crystal pedestal sink in the powder room.
Sample price: $43,500 for an eight-night China-Japan cruise for two ($2700 per person per night).

Oasis of the Seas
Royal Loft Suite 

If music (and money) is your thing then you’ll probably be expecting a piano in your suite and the Royal Loft doesn’t disappoint, with a baby grand part of the deal. Spread over two levels totalling 148.6sq m, these suites feature panoramic views, a 81.2sq m private balcony with jacuzzi, a wet bar and two dining areas.
Sample price: $24,000 for a seven-night Caribbean cruise for two ($1700 per person per night).


Luxury electric car for children, reasonable price questioned

When it comes to luxury electric cars for kids the Broon from Henes Co., Ltd provides attractive little vehicles that come with 4-wheel drive and a sound system. What more could the everyday child want in life, well looking at the pricing these luxury models seem to be so reasonably priced they are accumulating plenty of interest from adults.

The red car shown in the image above is part of the Henes Broon F Series and this sporty option is a step up from the average form of transport for kids. In an informative article on Wired they discuss the specifications of this third-generation Henes Broon, and document the slick exterior as some may regard these more of miniature cars to a toy.

Everything from disc brakes to independent suspension systems can be found on these models with differential steering regulated by aluminium-alloy gear trains, as well as four-wheel drive on the fully loaded versions. The doors, hood and trunk all open up like they would on a normal car including functional tail lights, brake lights and headlights, as well as turn signals.

Inside the main cabin these motors are available with a swank leather seat, an MP3 player with stereo speakers and a removable 7-inch Android tablet, which can double up as an infotainment centre and dashboard. In addition, there is also a “simulation mode” that can be used with the tablet to teach kids about driving and racing onscreen.

A Bluetooth remote allows parents to take over control for those little petrol-heads that may get carried away and there are plenty of optional models available as Henes commences work with big names like Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Porsche. Each motor has a top speed of around 10mph, although this can be restricted to 5mph by concerned parents.

Although the prices have not been fully finalized yet, a Henes rep gives us the impression the fully loaded versions of the F, T and M series will retail for around $800, although optional features could bump this up. Either way, we feel that $800 is a very reasonable price and by looking at them we expected these to go for much more, in fact, I’ve even thought of getting myself one. Check out the models on offer on the official Henes webpage here.

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New €100 Million Ferrari Land Theme Park Racing To Barcelona in 2016

If you're a huge luxury car aficionado you may already know about the Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi, which opened in November 2010. Well, that park must be doing pretty well, because the auto brand just announced their plans to build a second park — this time in Spain.

PortAventura Entertainment S.A.U. (a subsidiary of Investindustrial) just signed an agreement with the luxury car brand for Ferrari Land, a theme park dedicated to your favorite prancing horse. The build site is within the PortAventura resort and theme park just outside of Barcelona — which already attracts four million visitors a year, half of whom come from outside of Spain — and will stretch across 75,000 square meters of land. Ferrari promises that the park will have a variety of attractions for car fans of all ages, including "Europe's highest and fastest vertical accelerator."

After being exhausted after a long day at Ferrari Land, you can crash for the night in the first Ferrari-themed luxury five-star hotel that is going to be built inside PortAventura. The hotel will have 250 rooms, restaurants, and a driving simulator.

The overall project is expected to cost around €100 million (which is USD $167 million) and will be opening in 2016 — which actually isn't that long considering all of the work that will be going into this plan. 


Guide to fab decor

Redecorating your home! You went to the best of showrooms, picked up furniture and furnishings. But still that feeling of great ambiance, that smell of luxury is missing and you cannot figure out why.
Let’s see. First impression is very important. Luxury is an experience which conspires to seduce your senses. The tag of being expensive, making it a luxury is a bygone era. What was luxury yesterday is a necessity today, hence making luxury subjective to individuals. None-the-less “living a luxury life” will transform your imagination to opulence and elegance. Luxury home is not just a big space with good amenities, it is a sum total of dedicated services to every need that sets apart luxury homes from others and transform the lifestyle.

So start with your entrance door and let it make a statement. Entrance door speaks a lot about the person staying in the home. Entrance door should definitely be tough with good withstanding to rain, scorching sun and intruders but yet it should be elegant enough to make a first impression. The main door can be done in wood, or veneered or even being in metal. But it has to offer a certain amount of resistance to the wear and tear. Choose the handle and hinges which describe the aura of the home. It is always advisable to extend the design of the chawkhat on the walls by wooden paneling or stone cladding, so that the door gives a larger and louder image. Even a contemporary minimalistic house should have an inviting, versatile and beautiful door. As you enter a house, luxury is described both visually, aromatically and audible distinctly. The dark wooden flooring with silk rugs, a luxurious couch, with overfilled cushions, an interesting light fixtures are all picture perfect for a peaceful abode. Just a few simple steps would add that extra tint of luxury:-

Add flowers to get freshness into the home. They add unmatchable beauty and liveliness and are soothing both visually and aromatically.

Candles specially aromatic ingrain in memory and add an associate to the experience of pleasantness. Besides being inexpensive, candles are stunning.
w Lighting plays a make or break role in the interiors. Besides artificial lights, sunlight is important for the spirit of the room. Adding dimmers to light where ever possible is an economical way to change the mood of the room.

Colours are known to have a profound effect on human mood. The neutral tones inspired by nature is a safer choice for luxury interiors.

The mattresses is an essential part of your bedroom. Add extra cushions and pillows to your bed in various sizes. The number of cushions in all cases make the bed look welcoming. Buy bed sheets which are soft and appropriate to your mattresses size. The best choice is white or soft pastels. Soft rugs placed besides your bed have two added advantages. Besides making the room look warm, they act like an insulation between your cold feet and the cold floor.
A decluttered clean look is visually pleasing. Keep all the clothes, books in their proper places.

For your bathrooms, invest in the oversized plush towels. If possible add a towel warmer as the feeling of warm towel after the bath can only be felt and not described.


Bentley’s life in luxury’s fast lane means 200 mph

Some cars seem bigger than life, and the Bentley Continental GT Speed is one. Behind the graceful winged B badge on the nose sits a twin-turbo W-12 engine that cranks out 616 horsepower and drives this deliciously beautiful coupe through all four wheels to a top track speed of 205 mph. It’s a supercar with traditional British luxury, but without the flash of a Lamborghini or Ferrari.

In spite of its twin-turbo power, this Bentley can be used every day, although I did feel a bit silly taking it to the supermarket. All-wheel drive gives it outstanding traction that I sampled during a recent snow. Equipped with winter tires, the car scrambled through the snow like it was dry pavement.

The Continental GT Speed, with a sticker price of $229,340, is the second-most expensive car I’ve ever driven, exceeded only by the Rolls-Royce Wraith. Thanks to the good folks at the U.S. office of Bentley Motors for trusting me with it for a week.

Bentley is a British company with a proud performance history. W.O. Bentley built his first car in 1919. Autocar magazine reviewed that car and said, “For the man who wants a true sporting type of lightbodied car for use on a Continental tour, the three-liter Bentley is undoubtedly the car par excellence.” Those words would be just as fitting today as they were then, and they were the inspiration for Bentley using the Continental name. The Volkswagen Group took ownership of Bentley in 1998.

Mash the throttle and the W-12 responds with a rush as constant as water from a fire hose. The thrust feels endless, given the fact that the GT Speed whooshes to 60 mph in 4 seconds and continues to the vaunted 200 mph mark. It buzzes the highway like a low-flying personal jet, and anything less than triple digits feels like slow motion. One of my friends described the acceleration as that of a carnival ride.

COURTESY PHOTO COURTESY PHOTO The engine was created by merging two narrow-angle V-6 engines on to a common crankcase. The four rows of three cylinders loosely resemble a W.

Fuel economy is rated at 13 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway and requires a one-time $1,700 gas-guzzler tax. I averaged 16 mpg in mixed city and highway driving. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be shifted manually.

Open the door and you’re greeted with white-letter gauges, glittering chrome trim, quilted leather, cross-stitching on the leather steering wheel and knurled chrome surfaces on everything you touch. You sink down into the car like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes. The smallish side windows, big dash and center console give asked if she should wear pearls. I laughingly suggested a mink. When I dropped by her house, she came out wearing a big smile and her mother’s mink collar. At the end of our ride, she left the mink in the car for others.

The Continental GT is also available with a 500-horsepower V-8, an engine that is likely to be popular because it consumes less fuel but provides performance only a few ticks slower than the W-12.

Putting more than 600 horsepower to the pavement requires a suspension designed expressly for the task, and brakes that are more than a match for the engine and the car’s 5,115 pounds. The Speed’s front disc brakes, nearly 16 inches in diameter, looked as big as pizza platters behind the delicate 21-inch wheels, but they erased speed with incredible ease. Carbon ceramic brakes are optional.

The Speed sits slightly lower than the standard GT, and the suspension has more aggressive tuning. The ride, even in Sport mode, is surprisingly compliant, given the low-profile tires. On the highway, the car glides, yet never floats.

The backseat is tiny, with very little legroom, but I had friends who did squeeze in for a short distance.

¦ Price: The base price was $217,000. Options included contrasting stitching, carbon fiber dash panels, red brake calipers, a rearview camera, heated steering wheel, valet key and leather on the shift paddles. The gas-guzzler tax was $1,700. The sticker price was $229,340.

Luxury lifestyle firm moves to bigger premises in Northampton

Luxury lifestyle retailer The White Company has announced it is relocating to a new warehousing and distribution centre in Northampton. 

The company is moving from Brackmills Industrial Estate to larger premises at Aviva Investor’s Swan Valley Distribution Park - also home to brewery giants Carlsberg - due to continued business expansion.
It has taken 191,114 sq ft of warehouse space on Cob Drive, on a 20-year lease, with a ten-year break.
The White Company specialises in supplying everyday luxuries for the home and began life as a 12-page mail order brochure.

Today it has more than 50 retail stores.
CFO for The White Company Phil Clarke, said: “The White Company has made a decision to relocate its existing premises within a five mile radius of its current location in order to protect the current distribution and contact centre teams and to demonstrate a real commitment to invest in our people in Northampton.”

Swan Valley is comprises 154,603 sq ft of warehousing space and 31,474 sq ft of offices on a self contained site of 8.2 acres.

Mike Green of Aviva Investors, said: “Swan Valley is one of our flagship distribution parks and we expected strong interest in this unit.”

The industrial estate now boasts an impressive list of tenants including major brands such as Carlsberg, Levi’s, Morrisons, Royal Mail, J Sainsbury and BMW.
The White Company is set to complete the move later in 2014.


Friday, 7 March 2014

The Bugatti Dynamic Drive Experience Wants You to Push the Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse to Its Limits

Buying a Bugatti Veyron is already pretty darn cool, but the luxury car brand took it a step further by offering their customers the chance to take a Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse out for a test spin — which they announced last year. Called the Bugatti Dynamic Drive Experience, four events are planned to happen annually throughout the U.S. and Canada, and according to GT Spirit, the first one of 2014 was held on California's famed Route 74.

“Driving a Bugatti is an incredible experience. It is the most powerful and fastest production car in the world and is outstanding in terms of driving dynamics but also in terms of usability”, said Dr. Stefan Brungs, member of the board of Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. for sales, marketing and customer service. “We modeled this new event format that is centered around driving the 1,200-hp Vitesse on the greatest roads in America with the opportunity to fully experience the car both on windy road courses and at high speeds on long straightaways.”

The scenic Route 74 is known for being one of the most dangerous in the states, mainly due to its narrow roads and high traffic, and gives some pretty stunning views of the Senora Desert. Dangerous curves and fantastic sites? Sounds like the perfect backdrop for test driving the 1200hp, open-top Grand Sport Vitesse. If driving the $3M supercar seems a little intimidating (you're only human), not to worry because Bugatti lends you a professional instructor who will give you tips on how to handle the car. When you're not driving, you get to enjoy five-star treatment and events, all while getting to rub elbows with Bugatti's representatives.
The very first event was held last year in Las Vegas, and the French auto brand is hoping to keep this going in the years to come. If you want to take part, you should contact Bugatti directly.


Why High-End Luxury Brands Are Losing Their Luster

"The best things in life are free. The second best things are very, very expensive," the queen of elegance Coco Chanel once stated. And she was right. In the world of "true" luxury, the relentless effort to create something that's in a class by itself was always rewarded with a sky-high price, which only an exclusive group could afford.

During the last half decade, however, an emerging "luxury for less" or "affordable luxury" industry thrives on emulating what once was considered exclusive and making it accessible to the masses. But, "true" luxury was never meant to be accessible. And this massification is causing an identity crisis, one that could have severe implications for high-end luxury brands down the line. The baffling questions 2013 was a rather mediocre year for some of the biggest luxury houses.

For instance, from 2010 to 2012, Louis Vuitton (NASDAQOTH: LVMUY ) experienced double-digit organic revenue growth rates, recovering quickly from the 2009 downturn. During 2013, though, the luxury behemoth's growth rate saw a moderate, yet worrisome decline to 8%. Owner of high-end brands such as Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent, Kering remained mired in stagnation for all of 2013 with consolidating revenue from continuous operations posting a 0.1% reported change over 2012.

Kering's largest luxury house, Gucci, recorded the weakest fourth-quarter sales in the last four years while its revenue sunk 2.1% in 2013. Some of the factors that underlie this rather disappointing performance include a challenging European economic climate, shifting consumer behavior in emerging markets, especially China, as well as the country's new anti-corruption campaign that bans lavish gifts. Even so, these headwinds could have been counterbalanced by increasing demand coming from the ever-growing population of global Ultra High Net Worth families, the luxury industry's niche clientele.

This group's combined wealth edged up over $1.5 trillion in 2013, reaching nearly $28 trillion, according to the UBS/Wealth-X 2013 World Ultra Wealth Report released last September. Where did all this money go? Apparently not to Gucci handbags. The redefined borders of luxury Based on the report's key findings, 65% of the world's ultra wealthy families are first-generation upstarts while around 80% of them are "self-made," meaning that they may not fit with the aspirational consumer profile many luxury houses target. These people gained upper-class status not by keeping tabs on the latest fashion trends, but rather by setting sights on growing their businesses.

They may not be as savvy about luxury brands as the those companies would like them to be. At the same time, an unfolding "democratic fashion" movement tolerated and, in some cases, enhanced by luxury brands themselves is indeed disrupting the luxury industry. This "democratic fashion" movement, which enables "affordable luxury" brands to take products once reserved for the rich and transform them into lower-priced alternatives, has never been more relevant. Yet, its influence often goes unnoticed.

 It's slowly but surely fueling more price-conscious consumer behavior, notably among Chinese consumers. Given the fact that over the next five years Asia is projected to generate more UHNW individuals and wealth compared to the United States and Europe, luxury brands could be missing out on a unique opportunity to resonate with the "new rich." How did we get here? It all started the moment the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, and Jimmy Choo begun courting popular, high-street retailers such as H&M.

When a high-street retailer with a nightmarish store environment teams up with a high-end, well-regarded designer and promotes the product as an insanely cheap, but still luxury good, what does that say about the luxury industry as a whole? It sacrificed service and quality for the altar of profit and shifted from being the essence of an aspirational lifestyle to nothing more than a facade. Where has that led us? 65% of international high-end retailers analyzed by design consultants Knight Frank and Woods Bagot, including Prada, Hermes, Gucci, and Burberry (LSE: BRBY ) , failed to reach their target number of store openings in China, the home country of the world's top consumers of luxury goods.

On the other hand, lower-priced, fast-fashion retailers like Zara and H&M beat their expansion plans. Not to mention Coach (NYSE: COH ) is taking China by storm, capitalizing on the current "luxury for less" norm. It's giving Louis Vuitton a run for its money by selling $400 handbags, as Bloomberg reported. Final thought To end with another one of Coco Chanel's inspirational quotes, "in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." You can't be a brand that sells to everyone. Trying to reach the thirsty masses while risking your brand integrity will not get you far.

The "true" luxury industry needs to steer clear of everything "accessible" simply because, by definition, luxury was meant to be exclusive. It needs to focus on making sure that the ultra-rich families don't lose sight of it. And the only way to achieve that is by letting them know about the story behind the product and luring them with a one-of-a-kind, personalized shopping experience. There’s a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it’s one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Maria Sharapova Presents Personalized Porsche During Sochi Olympics

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova happens to be from Sochi where the Olympics are currently in full swing — so of course she paid a visit to the epic event. And to spice things up a bit the Porsche Brand Ambassador brought a personalized ride: the Porsche Panamera GTS “by Maria Sharapova." Taking full advantage of the Porsche Exclusive customization program, the athlete’s Panamera is painted in classic Carrera White, an appropriate color for the winter games.

The Panamera GTS, one of the sportiest models in brand’s acclaimed four-door range and the top non-turbo offering, comes equipped with a naturally aspirated 4.8 liter V8 engine good for 440hp at 6,700rpm. It accelerates from zero to 60mph in 4.2 seconds and reaches a top track speed of 179mph. The base price of the GTS in the U.S. is $113,400, while options can add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost.

Some of Sharapova’s custom details on the car include black LED main headlights, tinted LED rear lights, black tailpipe covers on the sports exhaust system, and black 20-inch Panamera sports wheels with red brake calipers. Inside you’ll find extended espresso leather trim with decorative cream colored contrast stitching and carbon fiber accents. The instrument dials and vehicle key are painted to match the Carrera White body color. The front and rear headrests are embossed with the Porsche crest and the armrests are customized with the “Panamera GTS” model logo, while the carbon fiber door guards feature “Maria Sharapova” lettering.
“Creating and specifying a very personal Porsche Panamera GTS was such an exciting undertaking,” Sharapova says. “It opens the door to a whole new design sensibility and allowed me to bring my own personal aesthetic. It’s an ingenious melding of the design world with automotive personalization.”