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.
January 5, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The tiny island of St. John-- accessible only by boat or ferry-- is the least developed of the US Virgin Islands: a paradise of tropical forests, white sandy beaches, and turquoise waters teeming with tropical life. Nestled within the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, the exclusive resort of Caneel Bay has been celebrated as one of the finest in the world since it was founded by Laurance Rockefeller. Caneel's accommodations have been artfully constructed to blend into the landscape-- the seven secluded beaches and 170 lush acres surrounding the property. Here, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts will host the newest chapter of its exclusive Hot Type Author Series with world-renowned writer Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and The King in the Window. From January 27-31, 2007, Gopnik will host a series of private dinners where guests will have the exclusive opportunity to discuss his past works, his adventures in Paris as well as his most recent book, Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York. The Hot Type Author Series Program debuted at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort, with Michael Gross, and has been praised by Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report as the "most unique hotel amenity" of 2005.
January 4, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Renowned French architect Gilles Saint-Gilles has transformed his bold vision into sublime reality with the beautiful Villa Camilla, which opened on Panama's idyllic Pacific coast in December 2005. "I want to live a refined lifestyle that doesn't compromise my childrens' future,” so says the architect, who has created a luxurious, exclusive retreat in harmony with the spectacular natural surroundings of lush green hills and sparkling Pacific. With a team of European craftsmen, Gilles built on-site workshops to train local artisans who have designed virtually every component of the guesthouse and private homes on-site: teak doors and shutters, bamboo ceilings, terra cotta brick floors, Chiriqui stone walls, and parquet floors patterned from purpleheart wood mixed with French oak wine caskets-- the ultimate mix of the Old World and New. This attention to detail has also been focused on the natural environment, as Gilles' team has restored the Tropical Dry Forest eco-system that originally existed in the province, providing wildlife habitat for the future. Villa Camilla (and its aesthetically magnificent guest rooms) is just one aspect of this elegant oceanside community; it is possible to purchase one of 71 lots and Saint-Gilles will custom-design the home to build on it.
Plan a winter escape to the sandy white beaches and azure waters of the Caribbean and enjoy spectacular savings at the brand new Westin St. Maarten, Dawn Beach Resort and Spa. Just minutes from the Princess Julianna Airport, the new resort features a full-service spa, fitness room, fully-equipped dive shop, Vegas-style casino, and the largest freshwater infinity pool on the island, including a swim-up bar and hot tub. Of course the 308 luxurious guest rooms are appointed with Westin's signature Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath. With the Grand Opening Special Offer, stay four nights, and receive 25 percent off. (Valid from January 2- April 16, 2007; black-out dates are from February 16-February 22 and April 6-April 12.) In addition, guests can take advantage of the January Resort View Special and enjoy rates from $199 per night when you stay four nights between January 2-January 21, 2007.
PS. Don't forget the new passport requirements as of January 2007. For air travel to and from the US and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean, travelers will be required to have a passport to re-enter the US.
Amanresorts is synonymous with luxury, its worldwide collection of boutique resorts spoiling guests with indulgence and idyllic surroundings. Indeed, the 2006 Zagat Survey named Amanresorts the world's leading international hotel group. Aman's flagship, Amanpuri, is located on the island of Phuket overlooking the turquoise Andaman Sea. Interspersed throughout coconut groves, the guest pavilions boast outdoor terraces and private pools. The Spa is simply sublime, its individual treatment rooms complete with steam showers and outdoor lounge areas. So what better place for supermodel Kate Moss and her long-time rocker boyfriend to tie the knot? The Daily Telegraph has all the rumored deets on the New Years Day ceremony:
At 1:30pm Thai time the Babyshambles singer and Moss exchanged vows in the picturesque private gardens of their five-bedroomed GBP 4,500-per-night villa at the Amanpuri hotel. Wearing a white Galliano shift dress and her blonde hair loose, Moss reportedly looked on adoringly at her groom, who was dressed in an all-black linen suit and his trademark pork pie hat. For the ceremony, the gardens and villa were decorated with flower petals, fragrant jasmine, orchids and a floral archway. White and pale pink lotus flowers decorated the pool. With security at a maximum, staff guarded the perimeter of the villa, preventing any uninvited guests from wandering in.
December 29, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
And then there were three. The media went wild when Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas set sail: the 208 ft, 160,000 ton mega ship with a capacity for 4,000 passengers. The world's largest passenger ship featured all sorts of never-before-seen facilities like rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink with Willy Bietak's Ice Skating Musical Extravaganza, mini-golf, boxing ring, water park, and top-deck surfing simulator pool called "Flow Rider." Royal Caribbean's second Freedom-class ship, called Liberty of the Seas, will debut in May 2008. It will depart Miami on Saturdays for seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries. (Ports of call include San Juan, St. Maarten, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.) And the cruise line recently announced that there is a third ship under construction in Finland, which will be dubbed Independence of the Seas. The sister ships will all share the same signature amenities, including the 1,215 sq ft Presidential Family Suite which sleeps up to 14.
December 28, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
These days (and it's about time), it's become trendy for hotels to go green. But Fairmont's been at it since 1990. With its award-winning Green Partnership program, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have led the pack in their dedication to protecting the environment and minimizing the impact of hotel operations. Each of Fairmont's luxury hotels focuses on waste management, water and energy conservation, habitat protection, and community outreach. Fairmont is all about developing sustainable practices for the hospitality industry.
In 2005 Fairmont introduced Eco-Innovations, hotel-based environmental initiatives that encourage partnerships, learning, and guest experiences while addressing a universal environmental issue in a way that hits close to home. For example, Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu-- located within a World Biosphere Reserve-- has created the Adopt-A-Beluga Program, to help the threatened St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population.
Recently, Fairmont created a partnership with the World Heritage Alliance, a joint initiative of the United Nations Foundation and Expedia, to promote conservation, sustainable tourism, and economic development for communities located in and around World Heritage sites. This is really good news for threatened sites like Cambodia's Angkor Wat temples. Leading the new partnership will be the Fairmont Mayakoba, a luxurious, eco-friendly resort located on Mexico's Mayan Riviera, which will work with an award-winning local tourism network from the nearby Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. This reserve comprises 1.3 million acres of tropical ecosystems and is home to 23 different archaeological sites of pre-Columbian Mayan culture. Guests of Fairmont Mayakoba will experience this marvelous World Heritage Site with tours that guarantee minimal environmental impact. Sustainable tourism is the way to ensure that sites are protected for the enjoyment of all travelers now and in the future.