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Rajasthan Deluxe Tour vs. Ultra Luxury Tour???

Rajasthan Deluxe Tour vs. Ultra Luxury Tour???

Jul 30th, 2004, 08:54 AM
  #1  
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Rajasthan Deluxe Tour vs. Ultra Luxury Tour???

While I would love to visit the very best that India has to offer, I am finding the price differences between deluxe hotels and the very best hotels to be a huge difference.

While I do expect a 25-30% price hike, or even a 50% price hike, instead it is literally double the price for the very best places as opposed to a true 4*, or in some cases possibly 5* hotel/lodge.

For example, here are two packages, a deluxe package and an ultra luxury package.

DELUXE
Delhi, The Park Hotel
Agra, The Taj View Hotel
Jaipur, Jai Mahal Palace
Ranthambhore, Sawai Madhopur
Bundi, Haveli Brij Bhushanjee (only option)
Udaipur, Udaivilas

ULTRA LUXURY
Delhi, Imperial Hotel
Agra, Amar Vilas
Jaipur, Raj Vilas
Ranthambhore, Vanya Vilas
Bundi, Haveli Brij Bhushanjee (only option)
Udaipur, Udaivilas

The cost is literally double for the ultra luxury package and works out to about a $300 per night difference.

Both packages will give me a private car and guide throughout and will include all my entrances to museums/forts/etc.

It works out to about a $4,000 difference. I bet $4,000 goes a long way in India. If nothing else going with the lower priced option would pay for my airfare and give my wife and I nearly $2,000 spending money.

But...on the other hand, not being a Hindu, I only intend to visit this world once! Who knows when or if I will have the opportunity to return to Rajasthan???

In one sense I want to be, well...sensible, and in the other sense I want to say, "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" and book the very best, no matter the cost or consequences.

I guess this is when that I need to figure out for myself, but I just needed to vent.
Roccco is offline  
Jul 30th, 2004, 09:04 AM
  #2  
owl
 
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Roccco,

You might want to consider Sherbagh in Ranthambhore. Another poster recommended them and they have luxury tents. I myself would prefer a luxury tent in the wilderness to a more fancy and manicured Vanya Vilas. When I looked at the website pics of Vanya I thought it looked a little too "manufactured." I like luxury in the city and being close to nature in the wilderness.

When we were in Namibia last year we went for just under the ultra luxury and were very happy with our accomodations and service (and with our extra cash, which we spent gladly on art). Even though we can afford these ultraluxuries, I feel more relaxed on vacation when I know I got a good value. Just my two cents.
owl is offline  
Jul 30th, 2004, 09:37 AM
  #3  
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Owl,

Thanks for the Ranthambhore recommendation. I am willing to sacrifice certain things and I am probably looking at a package that will fall somewhere in the middle, and this will provide certain not to be missed highlights while also providing me with enough saved money to buy my airfare from LAX - Delhi. I really prefer to save my frequent flier miles for Southern Africa, as this is VERY, VERY expensive from Los Angeles, nearly $2,000 per person, making the $1,100 per person to Delhi appear to be a bargain.

I think I can live with the following itinerary:

Delhi, 3 nights at Imperial Hotel in Heritage Room (instead of Heritage Suite). This is still an upgraded room and measures a very comfortable 450 sq. ft.

Agra, 1 night at Amar Vilas in luxury room w/ balcony w/ Taj Mahal view (as opposed to 2 nights...I will spend a 2nd night in Bundi in a $100 per night room as opposed in Agra in a $500 per night room).

Jaipur, 3 nights at (Taj) Jai Mahal in a suite (better than a normal room but still hopefully $200 per night less than Raj Vilas).

Ranthambhore, 3 nights at Sherbagh. These tents are about $250 per night, or half the price as Vanya Vilas.

Bundi, 2 nights at Haveli Brij Bhushanjee. The best room will be $100 per night and Bundi is probably a lot more interesting and clean than Agra, so a 2nd night here makes more sense. Bundi is said to have the most magnificent fort/castle in all of Rajasthan and there is supposed to a lot of activity at the marketplace at night, as well as very little pestering from vendors. Still under the radar for most tourists. Only 80,000 residents in Bundi.

Udaipur, 3 nights at Lake Palace Hotel. This will be the big treat and a fine way to finish off the tour. If my schedule stays the same, I should spend my 34th birthday enjoying breakfast over Lake Pichola before flying home, crossing the international date line and enjoying a birthday dinner at home or my favorite restaurant!
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Jul 30th, 2004, 09:57 AM
  #4  
epi
 
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The lake Palace is a wonderful choice. When I read your first list, I was surprised it wasn't on it. The rooms are not elegant, but the setting is magical. I think of all the hotels we have stayed in, that one sticks with us the most. We could see and hear people washing their clothes on the steps across the water, saw sunrise coming up over the palace across the way. Have a wonderful trip.
epi is offline  
Jul 30th, 2004, 10:12 AM
  #5  
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epi,

It is a difficult choice, the new and over the top accomodations at Udai Vilas, or being in the fairytale like setting of the Lake Palace Hotel, knowing that it is not as sparkling as Udai Vilas but that it is supposed to be one of the most romantic hotels in the world. Seems as unique, or moreso, than Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, where my wife and I enjoyed 3 nights last August.
Roccco is offline  
Jul 30th, 2004, 10:23 AM
  #6  
 
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Roccco,
This is a very interesting post to me because I'm coming to the same conclusion for our trip to India in November. India offers some of the best hotels in the world (Udiavilas etc) but at the same time there seem to be great values too. Because we'll be in India for over four weeks I've had to consider the budget more carefully than for a shorter trip.

The American travel press don't give India much coverage but it seems we hear most about the ultra-lux category(Oberoi Vilas etc) or possibly the ultra ultra lux category... the new Aman properties including Aman-i-Khas which are in their own category.

UK CondeNast Traveller has a broader approach, there was a great article of few years back on the palace hotels of Rajasthan and we're definately interested in some of these places...

http://www.cntraveller.com/Special_F...Palace_Hotels/

I'd also recommend i-escape a British site which offers really detailed reviews of a number of properties in Rajasthan.

We're considering Deogarth Mahal and Rohet Garh which are highly recommended in the British press (Tatler etc)

http://www.i-escape.com/country_summ...a%3A+Rajasthan

I do think one important caveat is that the categories of 4*/5* may have less meaning outside of the US. That family run heritage hotels may not be as efficient or as service "perfect" as some but it depends on whether you can see the charm in this.

I suppose part of the answer to your question is what the $4000 would buy you for your next trip to Southern Africa? Will it mean your next trip will happen any faster?

I appreciate owl's position on the question of value, it can allow you to relax. I had some friends who recently visited Auberge du Soliel in Napa and had a miserable time precisely because the service wasn't perfect and at $600 plus per night you can get pretty steamed, pretty fast when they seem off hand.However there are places like Post Ranch in Big Sur (California) that also cost and arm and a leg but you leave feeling (despite the obscene price tag) somehow it was worth every penny!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Jul 30th, 2004, 11:39 AM
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The deluxe package is just fine. More than just fine. You'll be very happy.
glorialf is offline  
Jul 30th, 2004, 04:53 PM
  #8  
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gloria...thanks for the feedback.

welltraveledbrit...thanks for the excellent links.

About returning to Southern Africa, whether or not I go all out on this trip, I should be able to return as long as I can manipulate my wife into a 4th consecutive year. If I am successful at that, then I do believe I should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize or other sort of presigous award! I haven't failed yet, so I am optimistic, although it would be an abbreviated trip of Mala Mala (3), Simbambili (3) and Cape Town (4).

Anyway, back on the subject of India, unfortunately most Americans idea of an exotic vacation is surrounded by other Americans in Cancun or Hawaii and as a result, the truly exotic locations do not receive much press even in the more sophisticated publications like Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure. It is always such a treat when I come across bookstores or newsstands that sell the UK version of Conde Nast Traveler.

I don't know if it was you or another Fodorite that had told me about the nice writeup in the most recent Conde Nast Travler. Unfortunately this must have been in the UK version because when I eagerly opened my new Conde Nast Traveler there was absolutely nothing about Zambia to be found.

The links have swayed me to reconsider staying at my originally planned Jaipur destination, Samode Haveli. The Conde Nast Traveler or i-escape link stated that it has just undergone a massive facelift and listed other details that I would have found nowhere else. Considering that a suite will only cost $200 per night, this place is an excellent value.

I am a bit concerned about Sher Bagh in Ranthambhore. Coming off a bad experience at Kulefu Tented Camp in Lower Zambezi, I think both my wife and I will pass on tented camps in wildlife areas for awhile. I have good reason to believe that Kulefu Tented Camp, as big a letdown as it was, is still better than Sher Bagh which isn't fortunate enough to have the Zambezi River at its doorstep. So, I think that the Sawai Madhopur Lodge, belonging to the prestigous Taj group of hotels, may be the better option. I do like the fact that they belong to the Taj and that there is a swimming pool, air conditioning and other modern conveniences.

I think ultimately I am looking at a pretty expensive package but at least I will tame it some by including places like Samode Haveli in Jaipur, the (Taj) Sawai Madhopur Lodge and Haveli Brij Bhushanjee in Bundi. Then there will be some very nice treats included such as the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, Amar Vilas in Agra and the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi. Also, although it is the most expensive place in my itinerary, I do think that I would enjoy two nights at Amar Vilas, but I do not want this to cut down on any other parts of my stay.

So, this looks like a pretty good package to me:

New Delhi, 3 nts at Imperial Hotel in Heritage Room

Agra, 2 nts at Amar Vilas in Luxury Room w/ balcony w/ Taj Mahal view

Jaipur, 3 nts at Samode Haveli in Sheesh Mahal Suite

Ranthambhore, 3 nts at Sawai Madhopur in Junior Suite

Bundi, 2 nts at Haveli Brij Bhushanjee in Suite w/ Castle view

Udaipur, 3 nts at Lake Palace Hotel in Luxury Room w/ Lake view.

16 nights seems perfect...long enough to hopefully really get the spirit of India but not so long that I burn out too much and get homesick.
Roccco is offline  
Jul 30th, 2004, 11:41 PM
  #9  
 
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Love your itinerary but would surely change your Jaipur hotel into the Rambagh Palace (prices ok). And then in Udaipur......Go for the Udaivilas and have lunch (and look around) the Lake Palace once. when I was in Udaivilas 2 couples moved from the Lake Palace.
Alejandra is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 12:12 PM
  #10  
 
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I've been observing the amount that you have spent on your travels in Africa and am wondering why the cost is a concern. Why not just go for the best? You may have to do Sherbagh at Ranthanbore anyway due to limited availability at Vanya Vilas and we are considering staying there as well.
Craig is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 12:12 PM
  #11  
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Alejandra,

Thanks for the advice. Udaipur is a tricky situation. There is the very beautiful Devi Garh, 28 kilometers outside of Udaipur that looks deserving of attention, and then there are Udai Vilas and the Lake Palace Hotel. I may just end up staying two nights at Devi Garh and two nights at either Udai Vilas or Lake Palace Hotel.

I am not aware of the location of the Rambagh Palace but I have read that the Samode Haveli is in the middle of all the action. While this may usually be a turn-off, because Jaipur is supposed to have such fabulous shopping and half the reason for visiting in the first place is so my wife may shop her heart out, I do like the location of the Samode Haveli. I do like the fact that the Samode Haveli does not permit tours of the hotel and/or non-guests to use the facilities.

How is the location of the Rambagh Palace???

I did receive a price I am able to live with for the following itinerary:

Delhi (3) Imperial Hotel in Heritage Room
Agra (1) Amar Vilas in Luxury Balcony Room
Jaipur (3) Samode Haveli in Sheesh Mahal (mirrored) Suite
Ranthambhore (3) Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge in Junior Suite
Bundi (2) Haveli Brij Bhushanjee in Suite w/ Castle/Fort View
Udaipur (3) Lake Palace Hotel in Luxury Lake View Room

I figure that I can still keep at under $3,000 PP by adding an extra night in Agra. Also, I do think that Udai Vilas would be roughly the same price, or just a little more, than the Lake Palace Hotel. Personally, I am very impressed with the facilities and grounds at Udai Vilas but I am being swayed by those individuals who are saying that the Lake Palace Hotel is not to be missed.

I am very concerned if guests are getting up and leaving the Lake Palace Hotel to instead go to Udai Vilas. Only once in all my life have I ever done such a thing (at the Loews Le Concorde Hotel in Quebec City). From personal experience I know that a place has to be pretty disappointing to get up and leave. Instead my wife and I were much happier at a $100 per night bed and breakfast down the street after spending our first three nights at the incomparable Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.

It is just not possible to start out at some great places like Amar Vilas towards the beginning and then be happy with an inferior product at the end. The end of the trip should always finish with a bang, so that does have me leaning back towards Udai Vilas, or 2 nights at Devi Garh and 2 nights at Udai Vilas.

I definitely need to do more research on the Rambagh Palace. To me, the Jai Mahal Palace looks fine, and I do not want to go too much over $3,000 pp, so I do have some tough decisions to make.
Roccco is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 12:17 PM
  #12  
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Craig,

Believe it or not, I am not made out of money. I place a very high emphasis on travelling in style and living a good lifestyle, but in all honesty I am very lucky each and every time I am able to pull off one of these trips.

As expensive as my Africa trips seem to a casual observer, they were truly luxury on a budget. There are places that are twice as expensive, but I was able to take advantage of low season pricing and able to stay at some places that are mostly undiscovered as of yet. As a matter of fact, while the masses continue to flock to South Africa every year, in my opinion, the true undiscovered gem is Zambia.

Like anybody else, I want the very best values possible. While I may be looking for value in a $300 per night place as opposed to a $50 per night place, the principle is still the same. Nobody likes to overpay.
Roccco is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 07:59 AM
  #13  
 
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Roccco, If you travel early morning from Delhi to Agra i m pretty sure you ll fine with just 1 night at the Amarvillas, 2 nights in Agra is not needed.
About the Rambagh location: perfect, Jaipur is a nice city but shopping wasnt as good as we expected, 3 great shops that i still have names of somewhere, in Udaipur shopping is good too. Just if you want stones (Gems) Jaipur is better. high quality Pashminas are to be found everywhere, i have names of good shops in Udaipur too.
About your hotel Samode Haveli, its getting trashy, go to the Asia forum there are plenty of comments on that place. Here I copy on a post: Message: This is an overhyped hotel recommended on this forum. I stayed there in Dec. in their most expensive suite - the Maharaja suite with mirrors as a travel agent had suggested. Horrible room - dark and foreboding, no windows, low ceilings, and several different levels within the room that makes it dangerous to trip and fall on the hard granite floor. The pool was freezing, the lawn was neglected, the hotel car service (which you need to use should you want to go out for dinner...there are no easily available taxis in Jaipur to hail on the street) was a complete rip-off, and to top it off, it is in a very noisy part of town and we were startled by loud pounding India dance music at 2am coming from a nearby party.

This is just one post so dont follow it too much. I m just telling you that after a day or even after few hours shopping in Jaipur you are the happiest man to arrive back at the Rambagh. Its 2 minutes by car from the center, pretty perfect, if you walk out you can walk to MI road (shopping). The Rambagh is fantastic, the rooms, the grounds, the service, i loved all about it. There is a nice outside bbq, and other good places to eat, an very old train "the Steam" is turned into a bar. Go for it.
And go for Udaivilas....... no regrets... check on the Asia forum India, again lost of posts about whether to pick the Lake palace or Udaivillas.
few pictures on my website www.madelza.nl



Also on the Rambagh, lots of
Alejandra is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 08:01 AM
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posts.
How do you book your trip, cos the person arranging it all for me was perfectand got great rates. Ask me if you want to know his name.
Alejandra is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 08:03 AM
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Oops, i just realize we are in the Asia forum, i guess got confuses since i normally read your posts on the africa one. Never mind
Alejandra is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 09:11 AM
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While Samode is a great place, it does not bear comparison to Rambagh, on any count. Let's put it this way - Rambagh was the residence of the King, Samode of one of his ministers.

Locationwise, Samode is close to the tourist shopping areas - not meant as a compliment - whereas Rambagh is near the main shopping areas of Jaipur.

While I was pretty upset when I read he post quoted above advising people not to stay at Samode, and said so in reply, I have to admit if you are taking the tour that have described, Rambagh is THE place. Where in the world will you find a hotel with more then 25 acres of garden in the heart of the city?
Rajhelp50 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 10:30 AM
  #17  
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Thanks for all the information on Rambagh Palace and Samode Haveli. Because I wish to be in Jaipur for the Elephant Festival/Holi celebrations, it would probably be very disruptive at the Samode Haveli. However, I do like the fact that the Rambagh Palace has a polo field, since this is likely where the Elephant Polo will take place (last time I checked this was a daytime activity and should not disrupt the guests in the late night).

So, given what has been said about everything in the recent threads, I may just want to spend one night in Agra to help keep the costs down and to keep the tour to 15 nights.

I am 99% sure that I will go with three nights at Udai Vilas as opposed to the Lake Palace Hotel or a combo including Devi Garh. It is too disruptive when there are too many 1 or 2 night stops along the way. I just finished a guided tour of Italy six weeks ago, and it was 2 nights here, 1 night there, 2 nights here, 1 night there, and I hated all the moving around. So, this is what looks like the best thing for me, especially since my wife and I had a bad experience at a luxury tented camp in Zambia following Italy, and that tented camp will probably put Sher Bagh to shame, so the last thing I want is a tented experience, unless it is Vanya Vilas, in Ranthambhore. Therefore, the Taj Sawai Madhopur looks like a great option, especially in one of their very spacious junior suites.

I will probably book the following, but if I can afford to upgrade any places prior to my actual visit, I will definitely do so (although there isn't much to upgrade here)

Delhi - Imperial Hotel in Heritage Room (possibly upgrade to Heritage Suite later), 3 nights.

Agra - Amar Vilas in luxury balcony room w/ Taj Mahal view, 1 night (possibly expand to 2 nights later)

Jaipur - Rambagh Palace in Historical Suite which is only about $70 per night more than the level below, 3 nights

Ranthambhore, Taj Sawai Madhopur, 3 nights in junior suite (possibly upgrade to Vanya Vilas at a later time)

Bundi, Haveli Brij Bhushanjee, 2 nights in Suite w/ Fort view. Although Bundi is an unknown quantity to most, I think I would like two nights here. Each guide book I have read (Lonely Planet and Frommers) absolutely rave about this place and its nighttime marketplaces and activities. If I waste one night at least it will be at a place that only costs $100 per night.

Udaipur, Udai Vilas in luxury room w/ lake view and semiprivate pool, 3 nights.

Because I will be going in late March to very early April, I am hopeful that all the places will not be sold out and that I may upgrade to better rooms once onsite for a very negligible cost, as opposed to booking them in advance. I guess this mostly applies to Udai Vilas since Jaipur is sure to be packed for the Elephant Festival/Holi in late March but I am hopeful that Udai Vilas will not be so packed in very early April.

Thanks again for all the help. Once I pay my credit card bill, this trip is mine (to pay off for the next six months)!
Roccco is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 12:37 PM
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In Oct 2002 I have made a similar trip, including Udaipur, Kota, Bundi, Ranthambore (you are likely to see tigers ... on photo in the dining room of the lodge), Agra (do not miss out on Fatepur Sikra close by), Delhi, etc. The differences of hotel prices can indeed by considerable.
I have very good and reasonable experiences of several India trips with an agency in Delhi. They handle everything in concertation with you and over the net. Very flexible and responding well to the inevitable unforeseen factors popping up during the trip. Incentives is their name. Mrs Chibbi and the agency's owner Anup really go out of their way to provide good and reasonable service. Their address is:

[email protected].

Contact them with my compliments and recommendation (Marc Van den Reeck, Abu Dhabi, UAE). They know me well from several India trips in the recent past. Good luck
cram is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 01:45 PM
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Roccco - I think our outlooks on traveling are pretty similar - I just had to ask the question. Thanks for your response BTW, in February 2005, we are doing:

Agra, Amar Vilas 2 nights (Superior Deluxe Room with Terrace) We arrive in Delhi early moring - now starting to wonder if that is too much, although it is our first destination in India after a long trip and we will likely be tired.

Jaipur (via Fatehpur Sikri), Raj Vilas (Deluxe Room) 3 nights

Ranthambore, Sherbagh (Deluxe Tent) 2 nights (waitlisted for Vanya Vilas)

Delhi (via train), Imperial (Heritage Room) 4 nights, 4 full days (depart 5th night)

Craig
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Aug 1st, 2004, 02:20 PM
  #20  
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Cram,

Perhaps I am reading too much into your post, but are you suggesting that even with 3 nights in Ranthambhore and 5 or 6 wildlife drives that I am still unlikely to see a tiger???

Craig,

Your itinerary looks good. I would leave the 2 nights in Agra alone since it is your first stop.
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