December 13, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
I've heard the talk. Next year we'll be using new e-Passports, which include an integrated computer chip capable of storing biographic info, a digital photo, and other biometric info. Bye, bye familiar, friendly little passports. I guess the hard copy pages of stamps and visas (and the bragging rights associated with accumulating them) are becoming obsolete. Though we'll be able to use our current passports until they expire, I hope. But I'm a little scared about these Smart Cards. This opens a whole new can of worms about privacy concerns, and the security of the stored information. Know anything more? Fill me in!
The Trib's Metromix has it covered. From the glogg-saturated St. Lucia Day celebration at the Swedish American Museum Center to the Pre-Kwanzaa Party in the South Shore, the windy city's full of unique cultural happenings this holiday season.
No hotel space in the Caribbean this winter? Sleep on the beach! Experience the beauty and blissful Caribbean sunshine of the Virgin Islands from a kayak, with Arawak Expeditions. A small, family-run outfitter based in St. John, Arawak was the first company offering sea-kayaking tours around St. John, and they know their territory. With years of experience, Arawak uses the best technology and equipment in leading environmentally-friendly tours in the Virgin Islands National Park. With gourmet meals—prepared nightly on the deserted beach-- to boot. The snorkeling is remarkable, in secluded, untouristed locations. This is adventure travel at its finest. A sample five-day itinerary starts in Peter Island, then involves gentle paddling from island to island, including: Pelican Island, Norman Island, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Sandy Cay, Lovango Cay, St. John.
The holidays are upon us, and for the second consecutive year, The Peninsula Hotels has organized the "Trees of Hope" charity campaign in each of its hotels around the world. They've got gorgeous trees set up in their hotel lobbies, and guests are invited to purchase an ornament to hang on the tree. One hundred percent of the funds are donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. (You can also sample the "Teas of Hope" or "Tree of Hope" cocktails in each hotel, and support the cause.) Live in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Manila, Beijing, Beverly Hills, Chicago or New York, or planning a visit? Get yourself to the Peninsula and help deck that tree!
Le Meridien has announced its first hotel addition since becoming part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts this November. The new five-star Le Royal Meridien Prague, located in a listed building currently used by a bank in the city's Old Town, is due to open in early 2009 and will be the company's sixth hotel in Central Europe.
The Michelin Guide Deutschland 2006 has distinguished the "White Town by the Sea," bestowing an award on the gourmet restaurant Friedrich-Franz in the Kempinski Grand Hotel Heiligendamm. Head chef Tillmann Hahn opened the restaurant in June 2004. The guy's culinary motto? "One cuisine, four aspects." Thus four creative menus-- utilizing the best products from the region and the world—range from Classique, Exotique, Mediterranee, and vegetarian Menu Jardiniere. Framed by the Baltic Sea, the beach and dense forests, the hotel is now blanketed in wintry charm.
The French authorities were peeved at the apparent price-fixing schemes and collusion between the big Parisian luxury hotels, and slapped them with a big fine. Now Le Bristol is appealing the EUR 81,000 fine, claiming the information exchange was purely related to average revenues. Hmm, that makes sense. Good luck guys.
Eva lounged with her man, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, on a recent retreat. What's so keen about the Crescent Court? This Rosewood Hotel is close to all that's cool in Dallas, its boldly colored European style bedrooms the height of luxury, and is home to both a Nobu restaurant and a fabulous spa. Did Eva indulge in a Shea Butter Body Polish or Hotter N' Texas Summer Rock Massage?
Hotel Crescent Court, Official Site
Hotel Crescent Court, Five Star Alliance
Mexican Pres. Vicente Fox is even planning a flag-waving ceremony to advertise the resort area's reopening after that nasty hurricane. But, the Washington Post queries, how ready is it? The resorts to the south, in Tulum and Playa del Carmen, are faring better than treeless Cancun, where about half the town's 27,000 available hotel rooms are open, and a lot of resorts are sadly scarred by eroded beaches.
I told you these guys were good. They just scored big at the seventh annual Luxury Travel Expo today in Vegas, where Sir Rocco Forte—Chairman and Chief Executive of Rocco Forte Hotels—received the Leaders in Luxury Award. His collection of truly exemplary luxury hotels are expanding aggressively across Europe, with hotel openings scheduled for England, Germany and Prague. (The plan—hallelujah!-- is to cover all major European cities.)