The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas offers a heavenly escape surrounded by sparkling turquoise waters and lush tropical forests. From the resort's dazzling white beaches, guests windsurf, parasail, and venture out on scuba diving and snorkeling expeditions. The elegant 152-room resort is about to get even classier, with a new $35 million renovation project. The changes planned include the addition of 24 luxury suites, six spa treatment rooms and a 20,000 sq ft lounge, and overhauls of all three restaurants. The hotel will reopen again on November 1, ready to charm guests for the holiday season. But hurry! There is still some availability for the peak holiday season...
Last year's hurricane season was shocking in scale and scope. And this year, the storms could escalate in strength. As quoted in Travel Weekly:
"The 2006 season will be an active one, with 17 named storms, of which nine will reach hurricane strength, and of those, five will be between Category 3 and Category 5 storms," said William Gray, head of the Dept. of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.Hurricane season (at its strongest from August-October) is thus a big deterrent for tourists to South Florida, on both business trips and leisure vacations. As reported today by CNN, meeting planners are reluctant to book their conferences at this time of year, and thus "Visit Florida last year began offering event insurance up to $200,000 to defray marketing and rescheduling costs if there is a hurricane disruption." Similarly, "to sweeten the deal for leisure travelers, several businesses in the area are offering two-for one packages on diving, sailing and spas." Thus, leisure travelers can take advantage of some excellent bargains promoted by the area's luxury hotels. Many resorts offer guarantees, and hurricane protection, so check ahead. Resources: The Monroe County Tourism Development Council has upgraded its Web site with lots of Hurricane info, including health and welfare issues for travelers, the science of hurricanes, tracking maps, and local emergency plans. Key West Magazine has scheduled an important hurricane feature for their June 2006 issue.
What did I tell you? Abu Dhabi is where it's at. Apparently, the capital of the UAE is aiming for 25,000 hotel rooms by 2015. The latest five-star hotel announcement is the Emirates Pearl, expected to take two years to build and at a cost of $136 million. The coastal hotel's defining feature? A 240 meter high tower (that's 47 storeys) designed by Austria's award-winning architect Dennis Lems:
The tower, which houses 352 spacious rooms and suites and 104 luxuriously furnished apartments all with balconies and Gulf views, sits on a 22 meter high, five-storey podium which features a 20-meter high atrium with five restaurants, service centres, offices, a gym, hair salon, spa, meeting rooms, business centre and shops.
The Emirates Pearl will be constructed with a contemporary twisting glass design. And the hotel's entrance will be marked by a "figurehead sculpture of an Arab hunting scene." How snazzy. And they sure picked a winner of a name for the place.
As CNN reports, the legal battle over designation of "Surf City USA" has officially ended, as Huntington Beach edged out rival Santa Cruz with a federal agency's decision "to grant the town exclusive trademark rights." Easy, dudes! Both spots are world-renowned for their awesome waves. But if you're craving the warmer waters, better head south to Huntington Beach. The town's got an easy-going vibe and quiet elegance, and plenty of opportunities to watch the locals ride the waves in surf competitions.
Looking for lux accommodations? Just a short hop from Huntington Beach in the sun-drenched magnificence of the OC, Newport Beach lures with its recently renovated Fairmont Hotel. It's actually in the final stages of the $30 million renovation, which involves the outdoor area, driveway, and landscaping-- all slated for completion by August 31. The rest of the place is dazzling and new, including the heated sky pool and deck which opens any day now. The Fairmont Gold Lounge and Gold Floor guest rooms-- a "hotel within a hotel" with private check-in and complimentary breakfast and evening hors' d'oeuvres-- will be completed at the beginning of June. The new 8,000 sq ft Spa will open in January.
Take advantage of Only One Way Summer Rates. Rooms are a steal starting at $199 a night.
The Fairmont Newport Beach, Five Star Alliance
Outside Magazine, Surf Guide 2006
It's not too late. Take a break from the Big Apple and head for the hills: the elegant Adirondack hideaway, Mirror Lake Inn, on the shores of Lake Placid. The award-winning hotel (Travel and Leisure loves this spot) is hosting its first annual Festival of Food and Wine in just a few days time. From May 17- May 19, culinary masters and guest chefs will delight guests with their techniques and tasty dishes. What's in store over the three day event? Cooking demos, tastings, wine seminars, and high-profile dinners. The hotel is offering a special package for the event, which includes the following: luxurious accommodations for three nights in a Noonmark room, welcome champagne reception, a wine reception followed by a seven course Tasting menu presented by the members of the 1988 New England Culinary Team on the second evening, and a farewell dinner prepared by the Mirror Lake Inn culinary team the last night. $785 per person or $1240 per couple.
(Plus, after feasting on all that yummy grub, rest assured that there are work-out facilities aplenty at this lakeshore resort, along with plenty of fun in the sun: natural private beach, outdoor heated pool with panoramic views, tennis, Spa, indoor pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.)
And since the demise of Concorde, private jet travel has grown apace, and prices have tumbled. The tour operator Jeffersons specialises in holidays by private jet, and four people sharing a plane can have, for example, two nights at the Four Seasons in Milan starting at a little over GBP 2,000pp.
I sampled a Jeffersons trip to Italy last month, and what made it special was not so much the caviar and champagne on board the jet, or the wonderful hotel, Villa Feltrinelli, where we stayed on Lake Garda, but the sheer lack of stress. Stuck in roadworks on the M1? The plane will wait for you. Fancy bringing back two cases of Italian wine? They’ll load it on to the jet, and then drive you home with it in a limo.
Sign me up! In its fleet, Jeffersons features the Premier 1, Cessna Citation Excel, and Hawker 125-800, and all jets are outfitted with ample space, luxurious furnishings, chilled champagne, soft drinks, and meals. And with Jeffersons, you'll fly to Europe's most luxurious and exclusive hotels.
As if you needed another reason to go to Florence. The newly-opened Villa Olmi Resort, poised on a six hectare estate just outside the gates of Florence, has been renovated into one of the region's most exclusive and enchanting properties. The park and Italian gardens have been witness to centuries of history, dating back to the Renaissance, and the beautiful Villa still retains original characteristics such as 18th century murals. Villa Olmi is comprised of three main buildings: the Villa, the Country House and the Colonica, now gorgeous hotel facilities. The restoration was a careful and diligent process, managed by the Government Service for Monuments. And the hotel, with its focus on privacy and careful attention to detail, preserves an aura of an 18th century private nobleman's home. The 50 rooms and suites don't skimp on modern conveniences; they're loaded with Wi-Fi, plasma TV screens, DVD players, marble bathrooms with jacuzzis, and individual air-comfort systems in-room.
A fast ride on a hydrofoil and you feel a million miles away from the big city. The island's landscape could almost be the flower-studded hills of a Mediterranean isle, surrounded by the deep blue of sea and sky. Welcome to Santa Catalina (here feel free to break into song: Twenty- six miles across the sea; Santa Catalina is a-waitin' for me; Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance.) Even a day-trip from LA can be a rejuvenating escape. Explore the beautiful coast by mountain bike, kayak, or by foot, stroll through the village, or hit the beach and soak up the sun. This month, Islands Magazine features Santa Catalina as one of four American islands to visit this summer.
Introducing the speaker system that also charges your bad-ass fifth generation iPod. The Sonic Impact i-Fusion is the first rechargeable, portable speaker case system out there. The nifty i-Fusion sports a built-in docking station made exclusively for the iPod and iPod mini. With its patented Maxxbass psycho-acoustic technology, the i-Fusion boasts the best sound in its category. Powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery. Also features a durable hard cover case to store and protect you're built in speakers and your iPod. $150
Via Outside Magazine
The recently renovated Gran Melia Fenix offers distinguished rooms and service to the most discerning of visitors to Spain's buzzing capital. The 215 guest rooms are exquisitely decorated in 19th century style, and equipped with cutting-edge technology: domestic control systems, Bang and Olufsen TVs, three phones and internet access, CD player, and electronic mini-bars. All complimented by highly-personalized service and excellent fine dining. Book a suite and enjoy the outdoor jacuzzi with awesome views of the city. But the best part of all is the exclusive Royal Service Floor, where guests are spoiled with the private reception area, butler service, pillow menu, private buffet and permanent bar.