I spent the day inside the most expensive hotel suite in America. Despite its astonishing $75,000 a night price tag, I still think it is worth every cent.
The most I've ever spent on a hotel was splitting a $500-a-night room with my best friend in the south of France. But as a segment producer for CNBC, I've been trying to get cameras inside The Mark Hotel's luxurious 10,000-square-foot penthouse suite for almost two years.
The hotel has a strict vetting process, and few people have been inside because of the room's very high price tag (which The Mark confirms is the most expensive in the U.S.; its regular suites start at $1,895). However, the biggest obstacle was that a family had checked in for 16 months (yes, months). When the VIP guests eventually checked out, management approved my request, making it the first time TV cameras have ever been given access.
CNBC's Chris DiLella outside The Mark
So what is it like?
The moment I step into the lobby of The Mark, on New York City's Upper East Side, my eyes are drawn to the bold, black-and-white-striped marble floors.
The hotel's interiors — including the duplex penthouse — are by French designer Jacques Grange. You may not know his name, but you almost certainly know his A-list clients, like the late Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino, a.k.a. Valentino Garavani.
The designer chose the black and white stripes to divert attention from the low ceilings. (It works so well in this lobby, it makes me wonder if I should paint stripes on the floor of my one-bedroom New York City apartment.)
From the lobby, a hotel staff member with a master key takes me to the penthouse on the 16th floor (only suite guests and staff have access).
At 10,000 square feet, it's literally the size of a mansion.
The elevator opens to a small foyer. The hotel's general manager, Olivier Lordonnois, greets me for the tour.
Normally, Lordonnois personally chauffeurs penthouse guests from the airport in whatever car they prefer, like a Mercedes-Maybach or S class, and sees them to the suite. There, a bottle of rare wine or champagne and snacks, like a truffle pizza from Mark Restaurant, will be waiting.
Since I'm not actually staying at the hotel or paying $75,000 a night, my tour of the 15-room suite (enough room for a family and its entourage) starts in the "reception" room. That space alone is almost larger than my first NYC apartment.
From there, we enter the great room, and there's no need for boldly striped floors here. The ceilings are 26 feet high with four large skylight windows cut into the roof line that drench the room in sunlight.
"This is where the old water tanker of the hotel used to be, before the renovation," Lordonnois says, gesturing upward.
The room smells of flowers; it's coming from a giant arrangement of hydrangeas. (Almost every room has fresh-cut flowers.)
Next, we walk through two sets of double doors into the "library" — which feels more like a cool lounge. It has perfectly arranged bookshelves that look ready for a catalog shoot.
The library's fireplace (one of four in the penthouse) looks wood-burning but is fueled by natural gas and lights with the press of a button.
In the formal dining room, I find out breakfast is not included.
"A lot of our guests that stay here, obviously, don't care about breakfast packages," Lordonnois explains. "But if it's important to you, it will be [included]."
Guests typically bring a private chef to cook in the penthouse kitchen, he adds.
The suite has five bedrooms, including two master suites. In both of the master baths, there are fine soaps from the Italian perfumery La Bottega. White bathrobes hang and plush towels are monogrammed with an "M" for "The Mark."
I'm told turn-down service can include everything from ornate and rare chocolate truffles left on guests' pillows to personalized Loro Piana slippers (some of the brand's slippers retail for nearly $700).
Next, we head up the suite's grand staircase to a room enclosed in glass.
Lordonnois refers to this room as the "atrium," and on a sunny day, you'd need SPF up here. The room's glass doors open to a massive wraparound terrace.
The outdoor space is 2,500 square feet. The median size of a new single-family home sold in the U.S. in 2017 was 2,457 square feet, according to the Census Bureau, and in fact this outdoor space is bigger than the house I grew up in. It has much better views, too — of Central Park, which is less than a block away.
The luxury doesn't end within the walls of the suite either.
Lordonnois says "absolutely nothing" else is included with the $75,000 price tag. "The whole idea is that the experience has to be tailored to the guest's taste and what makes them happy," he explains. "The idea is to make their stay an incredible experience."
In other words, it's like that "free" breakfast — it doesn't come with the price, but if Lordonnois finds out nothing makes you happier, then he'll probably comp it for you.
The truth is, though, most penthouse guests blow past $75,000 a night and spend even more on the hotel's over-the-top perks.
At most hotels, you can get 24/7 room service, but here guests can have meals by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has his own Michelin two-star restaurant Jean-Georges, at any time. He runs The Mark Hotel Restaurant and even the hot dog cart outside. (I can tell you his $6 gourmet organic chicken hot dog with kimchi is just as sublime as the restaurant's $36 lobster burger with green chili mayonnaise and Yuzu pickles.)
And if a guest is in the mood for a midnight shopping spree at nearby high-end department store Bergdorf Goodman, Lordonnois' team can oblige.
"We have an agreement with Bergdorf Goodman that allows you to get something at any time of the night and day," says Lordonnois. Not only does the store provide 24-hour access for Mark guests, but an employee "can come to the hotel and do a proper fitting on you at 3 a.m. if you wanted." Guests who prefer in-store shopping can hop on the "Bergdorf Goodman Express," a complimentary door-to-door pedicab ride. (Pricing depends on what exactly the guest is looking for. In some instances, like a fitting or styling, the service is complimentary.)
But perhaps the coolest perk is actually available to anyone who stays at The Mark: its 70-foot-long sailing yacht docked at a downtown marina. Guests typically pay $5,000 for a two-hour charter for two people, plus $165 for each additional person (though Lordonnois says for a penthouse guest who loves to sail, he might offer it at no charge). The food served on board is also by Vongerichten.
Lucky for me, The Mark invites me to set sail down the Hudson to check it out.
So, the $75,000 question: Why is The Mark's mega-suite worth the money?
CNBC doesn't pay me nearly enough to afford five-figure nightly accommodations — the places I stay often come with free breakfast. But if I were planning a dream staycation in the Big Apple with an entourage of family and friends, there's nothing in town that even comes close to The Mark Hotel's penthouse. I'd throw a party on the rooftop terrace and host sunset cocktails on the sailboat every night.
Hey, if I'm going to dream, I might as well dream big.
Christopher DiLella is a segment producer for CNBC's specials unit, covering luxury lifestyle and real estate. He works on the prime time TV show "Secret Lives of the Super Rich."