By TANIA KARAS
Travelers planning a summer getaway may discover some luxe new amenities in their hotel rooms and cruise cabins this year. The travel industry is picking up in the aftermath of the recession and many of the biggest names in the business are updating and renovating to welcome back guests.
Where the Vacation Industry Is Renovating
The travel industry is under construction, hoping to spiff up in time for summer vacation. What to expect when the sawdust settles.
The downside? A barrage of saws and jackhammers may interrupt that quiet trip you have planned. The number of hotels under renovation doubled from 2010 to 2011, according to hospitality research firm Lodging Econometrics, which expects those numbers to continue to climb this year. Still, guests who can tolerate the racket (and the post-renovation rate hikes) will benefit from perks like updated furniture, new restaurants and revamped fitness centers.
Hoteliers aren't the only ones overhauling to stay competitive. The cruise industry is retrofitting older ships with many of the amenities developed for newer vessels, and airlines are adding more lie-flat seats and in-flight tablet computers. Many of the new renovations pamper the highest-end travelers, but bargain travelers will get some perks, too. Take the airlines: several are offering more in-flight entertainment options, and some are tweaking their seats to give passengers a few extra inches of coveted knee clearance.
Here, a look at some of the latest major renovations in the travel business.
1. Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
In January the resort closed for a six-month, $20 million renovation. The makeover includes a second restaurant, remodeled suites and updated tech-like flat-screen monitors and faster Internet for the hotel's meeting spaces. The resort also added a new yoga pavilion and expanded patio for special events.
2. Celebrity Cruises
The cruise line will debut its complete $140 million, four-ship upgrade in mid-May. Additions include new wine bars, restaurants and expanded art collections. Guests staying in the new luxury cabins get a personal concierge to book spa treatments.
3. Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines is spending more than $2 billion this year on improvements, chief of which are renovated terminals at New York's JFK and LaGuardia Airports. The company is also adding more full lie-flat seats for business class travelers, bulking up in-flight entertainment options and refurbishing seats to give passengers more legroom.
4. JW Marriott Resort in Desert Springs, Calif.
The hotel launched a $25 million renovation project last year in honor of its 25th anniversary. All 884 rooms and suites will get new beds, drapes and artwork. The Palm golf course also got a face-lift, with new tees, bunkers and greens on all 18 holes.
5. Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers
The hotel updated its guestrooms by adding flat-screen, wall-mounted TVs and removing clunky AC units to create more space. The 45th floor lounge was revamped with extra seating and a business center for the working traveler.
6. United Continental
It's the closest you'll get to sleeping on a cloud. United Continental says it will have the most flat-bed seats of any airline by 2013. It's also doubling entertainment systems and in-flight Wi-Fi on more than 150 planes in the next few months. Total bill? $550 million.
7. Hilton Hotels & Resorts
The hotel company is undergoing a three-year, $3 billion renovation plan at locations throughout the world. The Hilton Miami Airport debuted its $15 million makeover in January. The guest rooms' new yellow-orange color palette is meant to evoke thoughts of the Florida sunset, while floor-to-ceiling windows throughout give guests a better view of the manatees and tropical birds in the hotel's lagoon.
8. Norwegian Cruise Line
One of their ships, the Norwegian Dawn, completed a multi-million dollar renovation last May. Updates include the addition of 58 suites and staterooms, a new Brazilian steakhouse, and flat-screen TVs in every guest room.
9. New York Helmsley Hotel
The historic hotel in Midtown Manhattan will stay open through a $65 million overhaul, and will reopen this summer as a Westin Hotel. All 774 guestrooms will be revamped with green touches like LED lighting, water conserving plumbing and recyclable carpets. The hotel is also getting new meeting spaces with teleconferencing capabilities and floor-to-ceiling windows.