January 25, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Cancun's most luxurious resort, the AAA five diamond Ritz-Carlton, has unveiled a brand, spanking new Culinary Center. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the $500,000 recreational kitchen facility features the world's finest equipment from Viking Range Corporation. Guests explore an exciting approach to food and wine with classes, demonstrations, and tastings. Rory Dunaway, the chef de cuisine, shares professional techniques and recipes through interactive, hands-on cooking experiences. Participants learn the secrets to authentic Mexican cuisine, and-- with Wine and Tequila tastings-- learn about beverage culture and how it is linked to culinary traditions. The Center utilizes the freshest, local ingredients for its two-hour classes, which feature three to five themed recipes. Guests can select from a menu of 12 different themed sessions a week: Monday's Cooking Without Heat class focuses on light, low-fat delicacies using marinades, lime and other ingredients (think ceviche and sushi), while Wednesday's Tuscan Dinner Party introduces classic Italian recipes using fresh ingredients and authentic techniques. Ritz-Carlton's Culinary Center is open six days a week. Wine and Tequila tastings are offered at 6:30 pm in the evenings.
January 23, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
This could be heaven on earth. Situated on the sun-kissed Kohala Coast of Hawaii's Big Island, the AAA five-diamond Mauna Lani Resort is surrounded by a stunning landscape of volcanoes, lush rainforests, endless beaches, and waterfalls. There's tennis, water sports, a children's camp, two championship golf courses, an epic Spa (with a naturally heated lava rock sauna and Aquatic Body Therapy facility), Sport and Fitness Club, and five exquisite dining venues. Because the choices are endless-- a round of golf on the challenging North Course (built on a lava bed older than the Kaniku flow?) or a massage at Hawaii's premier Mauna Lani Spa?-- the good folks at Mauna Lani have made the decision a bit easier for their guests with the "Pick Your Passion" Package. With a full array of exciting options, this package may be the perfect way to discover your favorite activity at the most romantic spot in Hawaii. The "Pick Your Passion" Package includes lodging and one certificate per person (per room night) valid for one of the following: breakfast, lunch or dinner, day of unlimited golf, Golf Academy Session, Spa treatment, personal fitness training, snorkel or sunset cruise, scuba dive, and a volcano helicopter tour. Starting at $595, available until December 19, 2007. So stay five days and discover five new passions.
The AAA five-diamond Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is Hawaii's premier golf resort. Surrounded by sweeping greens, a historic pineapple plantation, and the rolling blue of the Pacific, the resort is Maui's finest. (It's home to the season-opening, champions only, PGA TOUR event: the Mercedes-Benz Championship.) The facilities take your breath away: six tennis courts, a basketball court, a 10,000-sq-ft three-tiered swimming pool, two outdoor whirlpool spas, nine-hole putting green, croquet and bocce ball lawn, shuffleboard, the 7,000-sq-ft fitness room and spa, and a secluded beach. As if this wasn't enough, the celebrated resort has just announced plans for a big-time transformation. The detailed renovation will feature enhanced dining restaurants, upgrades to the Spa, additional children's activities, 363 renovated guestrooms, and 107 full-ownership Residential Suites. Inspired by the natural beauty of the islands, the interior design concept will use indigenous materials (such as coconut and shells) and feature traditional Hawaiian artwork. Construction kicks off on July 2 and is scheduled for completion by the Holiday Season 2007.
Talk about exceptional customer service. Jamaica's preeminent luxury resort, Half Moon, just introduced a pre-arrival concierge, to help create the ultimate, unique vacation experiences for its guests. The pre-arrival concierge service will gather guest preferences before the guest actually arrives to create a customized itinerary that will include anything from pre-arranged tee times at the resort's newly-renovated golf course, to spa treatments, dinner reservations and off-site excursions. Crave organic snacks for the mini-bar? Now guests can make special requests for items in the mini-bar, in-room amenities, and special deliveries for birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions.
Experience the benefits of individually customized service while enjoying excellent savings at Half Moon with the Winter Escapes Packages. Guests reserving Half Moon's luxurious Royal Villas this winter can receive up to $1400 in resort credit! With the Winter Escape package, guests of the Royal Villas who book a minimum of 5 nights will receive a resort credit of $1000 for a 5-bedroom villa, $1200 for a 6-bedroom villa and $1400 for a 7-bedroom villa. The package also includes daily breakfast as well as round-trip airport transfers in Montego Bay. The credit is applicable for restaurants, activities and other services at the resort.
Half Moon's villa rates start at $2000 per night for a luxurious 5-bedroom villa and features the exclusive services of a private butler, cook and housekeeper. Villas range from five- to seven-bedrooms with private en suite bathrooms, spacious living room, dining room and private pool. Guests also have use of two golf carts to traverse the 400-acre resort.
The Winter Escape package is also available for guests staying in any of Half Moon's 204 hotel rooms and suites. Valid for stays through April 15, 2007, with black-out dates from February 14-22, 2007.
January 17, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It's no wonder the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club is the recipient of the coveted AAA five diamond award, one of only 30 such resorts in the United States. With its opulent accommodations and top recreational facilities, this 300 acre oceanfront resort leaves nothing to be desired. Miles of windswept Florida beaches. 36 holes of golf. 15 hydro tennis courts. Four heated pools. Bicycling, boating, and fishing. Excellent restaurants and lounges. Children's Playground and Nursery... Truly a landmark in American hospitality, the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club has indulged three generations of guests since its celebrated opening in 1928. To quote Zagat: "rooms and service are rated extraordinary to perfection."
But now Ponte Vedra Inn and Club has improved on perfection-- with the November opening of its new, sophisticated spa. At 30,000 square feet, the state-of-the-art facility is the region's largest. Situated on three acres amidst signature waterfalls and water sculptures, the spa offers an extensive menu of over 100 services including the Lomi Lomi Massage, Fiji Tropical Isle Coconut Scrub, Rose Hydrating Cocoon, Hydra Pure Hydration Facial, La Stone Therapy, Body Polish, Hot Paraffin Manicures, Pedicures, and Hair Care. There is even a Men's Barber Shop on-site. Escape to Florida's sunshine and indulge in some luxurious spa treatments at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. For a limited time, guests can take advantage of the Spa Getaway Package, which includes lodging and a pampering spa service, from just $269 a night (based on double occupancy). Available through February.
January 16, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Stressed out by your wedding planning? Before the honeymoon--even before the wedding--why not try a Minimoon, the quick getaway for the future bride and groom to remind each other, amidst all the wedding stress, why they agreed to tie the knot... Indulge in a little pre-wedding relaxation, and celebrate your future marriage at Peter Island, the idyllic Caribbean Classic. The legendary resort, consistently awarded one of the world's best places to stay, combines the sophistication and exclusivity of a private island retreat with the understated elegance of the BVI. Accessibly only by boat or helicopter, Peter Island is 1,800 acres of lush, tropical beauty, and features five beaches, a private yacht, tennis courts, scuba diving, and an incredible staff. Here's the skinny on Peter Island's De-stressor for the Stressed-out Bride and Groom Minimoon: The package includes a welcoming bottle of champagne and an invitation to a gourmet vintner dinner, choice of a day trip to St. Thomas (Tuesday and Saturday) or to Virgin Gorda (Thursday), a trip to the Peter Island Loop to watch the sunset including wine, fruit, and cheese, a private spa experience for two at one of the the Spa at Peter Island's private, seaside bohios, a private dinner on the beach (tiki lights and all!), and a special departing gift to help prepare for marital bliss. Package includes four nights accommodations in an Ocean View Room, all meals and most activities. Rates start at $4,490 per couple, from January 4 through April 15, 2007. From April 16 through November 16, 2007, rates start at $3,205 per couple.
January 12, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
No longer a backpacker's tropical paradise, the island of Koh Samui is getting a luxe makeover with a plethora of new hotel openings. First up, the W Retreat and Residences-Koh Samui, the third such luxury resort in the world for the stylish lifestyle brand, following the debut of the fabulous W Maldives in September 2006 and the W Vieques, scheduled for 2007. The Koh Samui retreat, slated for late 2008, will be an upscale, 70 villa property which will include 20 residential units for purchase. Situated on the secluded Maenam beach on the north shore of the island, the new W will have a prime position to enjoy Koh Samui's best windsurfing and snorkeling sites. Of course guests can enjoy all the stylish services and amenities they've come to expect at W Hotels and Retreats: the signature Living Room and lounge, trendy restaurant, 24-hour concierge, and Whatever/Whenever service.
Likewise scheduled for late 2008, the new Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa is to be located on the exact opposite of the island, overlooking Aow Thai Beach on Koh Samui's southwest tip. (It doesn't get any better than this for contemplating the dazzling sunsets.) From its perch on a hill, the 118-villa resort will feature panoramic views of the Gulf of Thailand and outlying islands. Surrounded by lush coconut plantations, the resort will offer a variety of fine dining restaurants and bars, a world-class spa, and meeting and business center facilities. The luxurious villas will be enormous, with plenty of outdoor space for private plunge pools and sundecks.
Located at the world-famous Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Echo restaurant serves diverse and delicious flavors of Asia in a lovely setting accented by vibrant decor and Asian-influenced art. The menu is composed of the Five Elements; make your selections from Wind (small plates to begin the journey, Fire (the wok), Water (beverages, sushi, seafood and shellfish), Earth (meat, game, poultry, and produce), and to complete your trip, Flavor (desserts and sweets). Back by popular demand, Echo is resuming its wildly successful Demo and Dinner Series this January. Enjoy a series of interactive evenings with the restaurant's most popular Asian dishes prepared before your eyes. The four-course dinner features a half-price specialty drink to complement the cuisine and is priced at $70 per person. The series begins with The Art of Japanese Cuisine on January 10, 2007. The Art of Thai Cuisine will take place on February 7, followed by The Art of Chinese Cuisine on March 7, and The Art of Vietnamese Cuisine on April 11.
Soft sandy beaches. Excellent scuba diving. Beautifully colored colonial houses and architecture that is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A vibrant cultural melange (including Arawak, Dutch, Spanish, West Indian, Latin, and African). Lively nightlife. Curucao has it all. And in the winter months, these islands-- about 35 miles north of Venezuela and a 2 1/2 hour flight from Miami-- host one of the best festivals in the Caribbean: Curacao's Carnival. As described by Fodor's:
Starting in early January, street dances, parades and parties -- called "Jump-ups" -- get underway every weekend through the end of Carnival. The main parades, featuring fantastic floats and costumes, take place in February and early March. (Parade routes vary from year to year, so ask your hotel concierge about special seating for tourists.)
Where to stay? Hotel Kura Hulanda Spa and Casino is the only five-star hotel in Curacao. A member of Leading Small Hotels of the World, the hotel and its new sister property, Lodge Kura Hulanda and Beach Club, are located in central Willemstad, overlooking the glorious St. Anna Bay. Kura Hulanda is itself a museum, offering a superb collection of 18th and 19th century architecture in this Dutch Colonial historic district. The 80-room luxury boutique hotel is nestled within a village complex which is part of this exciting historic and environmental preservation project. Take advantage of an excellent Winter Value Rate of $210 per room, per night at both properties, available until April 8, 2007.
January 8, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's been a lot of hype about the launch of Nicky Hilton's first boutique hotel, the Nicky O in South Beach. The New York Times hailed it a Hotel of the Year, listed alongside such exciting properties as The Peninsula Tokyo, Amanresort's newest boutique in New Delhi, and the Brazilian jet-setter's paradise of Warapuru.
Want a big name in hotels, but not a megachain like Hilton? Then check into Nicky O South Beach, a 95-unit condo hotel in Miami from Nicky Hilton, who is branching out beyond her handbag and jewelry businesses. Expected to open next spring, the hotel promises ''fashion, glamour, celebrity and an unparalleled social environment,'' at least according to its Web site, which carries as much information about Ms. Hilton as it does about the hotel.
Nicky's promised a hip, celebrity-packed hot spot. The hotel will feature E! News Tickers in prominent places, photos of all of her buddy celebs, cupcakes at turndown, and designer suites, including a 5,000-square-foot penthouse designed by Roberto Cavalli. But there's a hitch. (Or maybe a few.) The hotel has been dogged with woes aplenty: ongoing delays, a lawsuit, and a premature reputation of notoriety inspired by HotelChatter's savvy sleuthwork. We're yet to see whether this dabbling in the family business will actually pay off.