Need last-minute dinner reservations at the hottest restaurant in town? A new passport within a matter of hours? A dog sitter or private plane? Or a knowledgeable personal shopper? Hotel concierges at leading luxury hotels can handle all of these requests, and more. Though their services are often overlooked by hotel guests, concierges are the unsung heroes in the hospitality industry, the stylish and savvy superheroes, the ultimate insiders who can offer the best tips about the city. Forbes has the skinny on getting super star service from concierges during your next trip. Call ahead of your reservation and share your itinerary; the concierge will reconfirm your dining reservations, and perhaps score special discounts (on, say, lift tickets in Aspen). And, advises Forbes, if you want access to the best (whether that's Broadway tickets or nightclub access), "choose your hotel carefully: Your concierge may be only as powerful as the name on the towels." Don't forget to tip.
This winter, enjoy a luxurious retreat at any participating Peninsula Hotel and receive an additional benefit ranging from spa treatment, dinner, traditional afternoon tea, airport transfer, or room upgrade. At the award-winning Peninsula Hong Kong, for example, choose from a 50-minute massage for two by ESPA, room upgrade to Superior Suite, or a set dinner for two at The Lobby. (If you reserve a suite, you can choose a 15-minute helicopter flight-seeing tour for two.) At the Peninsula New York, choose between afternoon tea for two in the Gotham Lounge, room upgrade, or a bottle of Champagne and a selection of canapés at The Bar at Fives. Other participating hotels include the Peninsula Chicago, Beverly Hills, Bangkok, Beijing, and Manila. Available from December 18 to April 8, 2007. In addition, stay in a suite at select Peninsula hotels and enjoy a complimentary second night with the Experience the Suite Life package.
During the month of December, New Orleans is the place to be. More than 100 festivities are planned during the month-long event of Christmas New Orleans Style, a celebration of uniquely Cajun holiday activities in a city that is steeped in traditions of the past. The events kicked off with the December 2 tree lighting ceremony at the French Market on Decatur Street, and continued with La Fête de Noël, a Christmas Market at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on December 3. Throughout the month, enjoy caroling, river cruises, candlelight tours through the historic houses of the French Quarter (decorated for the season), and Reveillon, a Creole dining tradition adapted by participating restaurants with holiday prix-fixe menus. Don't miss the Chef's Holiday Cooking Demonstrations, on December 7, 14, and 21, at The Shops at Canal Place. Acclaimed local chefs share their culinary secrets and favorite recipes (and an abundance of yummy samples are yours for the taking). Demos start at 3 pm and last 45 minutes.
Located right smack in the historical center of Florence, steps away from the Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery, Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy offers luxury, style, and the best personalized service. The exquisite hotel was fully renovated last year, and boasts contemporary Italian interiors styled by Olga Polizzi, with elegant decor and tributes to the designer fashion houses of Florence. Each one of the 102 rooms and suites at Hotel Savoy are stylishly designed with comfort in mind; beds are sumptuous, the technology is cutting-edge, and bathrooms are distinguished by classic marble and mosaic, and filled with Rocco Forte's exclusive range of Italian bathroom products. But perhaps what is most talked about is the panoramic view over the Piazza Republica and Florence, from L'Incontro Bar and Restaurant (one of the most popular restaurants in the city) and the state-of-the-art Fitness Center (where work-outs become sublime experiences). From now through April 2007, enjoy an unbeatable rate of EUR 240 per night with Leading Hotels of the World. Two night minimum stay required.
Slated to open on December 9, 2006, Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort is a 25-acre resort surrounded by natural beauty, where the desert meets the mountains, only 17 miles from the Vegas strip. Escape to the Moroccan style Spa, featuring nine treatment rooms and full-service beauty salon and soothe your soul with massages, skin therapies, manicures and pedicures. Enjoy the two signature pools, swimming lagoon, and cabanas. Play a round on two challenging golf courses, including the 18-hole Reflection Bay Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus signature design championship golf course complete with instructional programs managed by Jim Flick Golf. Savor exquisite dining, and experience exhilarating water sports on Lake Las Vegas-- kayaks, pedal boats, canoes and electric boats-- or cruise Lake Mead. Take advantage of a special introductory offer, from $179 per night, valid for the month of December 2006. (Rates from $199 per night available in January 2007.)
The hottest new hotel in Cancun, ME by Sol Melia Hotels and Resorts, is a sophisticated and stylish spot located on a perfect stretch of powdery white sand beach. The hotel's grand opening of December 16, 2006 has been excitedly anticipated for months. What's in store? Superb modern guestrooms with state-of-the-art technology (pre-tuned iPods and private Jacuzzis) and breathtaking ocean and lagoon views. One of the largest infinity-edged pools in Mexico. The 10,700 sq. ft. spa facility featuring Life Fitness Gym, Hydrotherapy zone with sauna, steam baths, hydro-massage pool, and Relaxation Center for facials, body treatments and massages. Tempting Mediterranean, Asian, and Mexican cuisine. And the Rande Gerber lounge (destined to transform Cancun's nightlife scene). To celebrate the grand opening, get two nights free when you book your stay between December 16 and February 28! Hurry, you must make your reservation by December 15, 2006. (Three night minimum stay required. Voucher for free nights provided at check-in, redeemable for Fall 2007.)
Now is the time to visit the fabled Mediterranean coast of France. The sun is shining but the crowds have dissipated on the Cote d'Azur. And legendary luxury hotels like the Palais de la Mediterranee in Nice are offering excellent holiday packages, to help spur the decision to ditch the usual harried holiday season at home (caroling and shopping overkill) and take the fam on a delightful winter escape. The most fashionable palace in Nice, situated on the Promenade Des Anglais, offers the ultimate Riviera experience with its Art Deco ambience, award-winning Le Padouk restaurant, panoramic poolside terrace, and splendid accommodations. Recently rated among the "Top 75 European Hotels" in Conde Nast Traveler magazine's Reader's Choice Awards 2006, the Palais de la Mediterranee has devised two great value offers for a joyous Christmas and New Year's. The Magical Christmas Package starts at an unbelievable EUR 285 per night, and includes accommodations in a superior city view room, daily breakfast buffet, welcome gift, Christmas lunch or dinner at Restaurant Le Padouk on December 25, complimentary extra bed and breakfast for one child under 12 and unlimited access to the indoor/outdoor heated swimming pool, fitness center, sauna and steam room. Valid from December 22-26, 2006. Two night minimum stay. Sea view room is available for an additional EUR 25 per night. Likewise, the Cabaret Show Time New Year's Package is an excellent value, starting from EUR 425 per night. The package includes accommodations in a superior city view room, daily breakfast buffet, a VIP welcome, New Year's Eve gourmet dinner with beverages such as Champagne Jacquesson Cuvée 730, a French cabaret show and after dinner dancing, unlimited access to the indoor/outdoor heated swimming pool, fitness center, sauna and steam room. Valid from December 28, 2006 to January 2, 2007. Minimum two night stay required.
In recent years, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula-- aka Riviera Maya-- has emerged as one of the hottest destinations on the planet. Upscale design hotels and dazzling eco-friendly resort communities such as Mayakoba are situated just south of Cancun on the stunning Caribbean coast surrounded by lush forest canopies, mangrove-lined waterways, and the azure of the Caribbean sea. Beyond the obvious tropical paradise (and the second largest coral reef in the world teeming with underwater life), there is a wealth of history to explore: the ancient cities and architectural wonders of the Mayan civilization. The Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya is the latest luxury addition, slated to open in 2007 just 30 minutes south of Cancun International Airport and 10 minutes north of Playa del Carmen. Situated among 36 acres of white sand beaches and tropical forests, the resort consists of 128 villas overlooking the Caribbean and the Cenote (sacred Mayan freshwater lake). Villas are spacious, private havens, accessible by winding paths and waterways; guests will be escorted to their villas by golf cart or water taxi. Designed with bamboo flooring, indigenous stone, outdoor bathtubs, rainforest showers, and natural furnishings, the villas are further enhanced with art from highly reputed Mexican artists. The Grand Villas have private pools, and the Villa Presidencial boasts private butler and chef service. Mandarin Oriental's latest hideaway also features a 25,000 square foot spa with treatments drawing from ancient Mayan and Asian traditions.
Georgia's Sea Islands Resorts-- renowned for its championship golf, incredible dining, legendary Southern hospitality, and exclusive accommodations-- offers a wonderful holiday escape this Christmas season for the whole family. Scheduled events include ballroom dancing, classical concerts, themed Christmas trees, gingerbread castles, spiced cider and hot toddy toasts, nightly elf tuck-in for the kiddies, crafts workshops, holiday bingo, and the Reindog Parade for pets with prizes awarded for the most festively costumed pet. Plus, the resort guarantees a White Christmas, with a special delivery of blown snow at the Beach Club for a seaside Snow Day. For a holiday treat, enjoy these favorite recipes from Sea Islands Pastry chefs:
Spiced Pumpkin Cheescake
1 cup Graham crumbs
5 TBSP melted butter
1 cup All-Purpose flour
1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 lbs cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 TSP nutmeg
1/2 TSP ginger
1/2 TSP allspice
1 TBSP cinnamon
1/4 TSP cloves
1-1/4 cups pumpkin puree
4 egg yolks (mixed well)
Press crust into pans. Fill to the top with batter. Bake in a waterbath at 250 F until done. Freeze until set hard. Release from the pans. Yield: 2 9-inch Cakes
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Primex
3 TBSP Molasses
1-3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
2 TSP Baking Soda
1/2 TSP Cinnamon
1 TBSP Ginger
1/2 TSP Cloves
1/2 TSP Nutmeg
1/4 TSP Salt
Cream together the Fat, Sugar and Molasses. Add the egg and mix well. Scrape the bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Scoop using desired ice cream scoop. Sprinkle with grain sugar and bake. 350 F for 20 minutes.
Silverjet is the third luxury airline (joining Eos and Maxjet) to offer exclusive, premium class service between London and the East Coast. The new UK-based carrier is set to launch flights between London (Luton) and Newark, New Jersey on January 25, 2007. Silverjet's 767 aircraft will be configured for 100 seats that lie flat. Passengers will be able to check in as little as 1/2 hour before departure. Perks will include swanky airport lounges in Newark and Luton, comprehensive in-flight entertainment systems, and gourmet meals that customers can pre-order. With the airline's Inaugural Sale, book a flight by December 31, 2006 and score a ticket for $799 each way. (Regular roundtrip fares start at $1,798.)