April 17, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Surf in Europe?! You betcha. Complete with bros and babes and board(ie) shops galore. Forget the Cote d'Azur-- in the summer months, Biarritz is where it's at. Europe's surf mecca is also a chic Atlantic resort town, steeped in the rich history and culture of the Basque country, just ten miles from the border with Spain. Before surfers discovered Europe's best break and catapulted Biarritz to the world's top ranking surf spots, 18th century doctors recommended the seaside climate as therapeutic for sick patients, who made the haul from all over Europe. The cat was out of the bag, and royalty and high-rollers inevitably followed the herd to this Atlantic paradise. In 1854, the wife of Napoleon III-- Empress Eugenie-- constructed an elegant and stately Palace on the beach, where guests continue to descend today for unparalled luxury. Following the tradition of art de vivre, the Hotel du Palais continues to indulge its privileged guests with elegant refinement, luxurious touches and impeccable service.
Hotel du Palais, Five Star Alliance
After three years of construction and $350 million spent on resort redevelopment, Georgia's exclusive Sea Island hot spot is ready to dazzle. The elegant 1928 hotel-- regularly hosting royalty and international dignitaries through the 20th century-- was ready for some work, and the new Mediterranean style main building (with the meticulous restoration of the legendary Spanish Lounge) is absolutely stunning. Guests are already shelling out the dough for coveted guest rooms, the summer season promising to be booked solid. And who can blame them? The epitome of Old World elegance, these rooms feature wood beamed ceilings, 500-thread count Italian sheets, Turkish stone baths, Bulgari White Tea toiletries, antiques and original art, and are draped in custom-designed hand-loomed Turkish rugs. Of course, there's also the appeal of the attentive private butler service and impeccable Southern hospitality. Additional developments are in store for this award-winning resort: the construction of a new Spa at Sea Island is slated to open in October, and the Beach Club is expected in Summer 2007.
The Cloister at Sea Island, Five Star Alliance
In a week, Westin is opening the doors to luxury in its first property in the South Pacific. Say hello to the new Westin Denarau Island Resort and Spa, Fiji. A five-star oasis surrounded by tropical gardens and long, palm-graced sandy beaches. The old Sheraton got a $15 million makeover and morphed into a brand-spanking-new Westin, its style and architecture designed to reflect Fiji's cultural heritage. The resort's new Heavenly Spa is the largest in Fiji. Set within a 1,350-square meter meditation garden, the Spa features eight Fijian-style treatment bures and two suites, a Vichy shower treatment room, a hydrotherapy room, a wet-edge lap pool, and Jacuzzi. Hit the gym (Westin's WORKOUT Powered by Reebok fitness center is packed with state-of-the-art equipment), soak up the rays by the three-tier swimming pool, enjoy the beach and extensive water sports program, or play some tennis or golf. The introductory rate of $183 a night is almost too good to be true. The special promotional offer includes luxurious accommodations, full breakfast, a spa credit, complimentary dinner for two, and complimentary champagne in room upon arrival. Available through June 30, 2006. But keep in mind that from April 20-October 2006, the resort is still undergoing minor construction, refurbishing the remaining guestrooms.
Truly the first of its kind, Shangri-La's newest venture in the Middle East is three-hotels-in-one, and it single-handedly ups Oman's luxury hotel rooms by 60 percent. Set within 124 acres of landscaped gardens, overlooking the mountains and gorgeous waters of the Gulf of Oman, the Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa is just 20 minutes from downtown Muscat. The destination resort is comprised of three hotels (Al Waha, Al Bandar, and Al Husn), 19 restaurants and bars, three private beaches, 6,000 sq meters of swimming pools, and a CHI spa. And don't fret; this oasis hideaway isn't without its own nightclub. With the third hotel (Al Husn) now opened, the resort counts 680 sea-facing rooms with private balconies, terraces or patios. The separate Chi Spa Village will be fully operational in May, consisting of private villas for rejuvenating treatments, three freshwater swimming pools, 19 (count 'em!) food and beverage outlets, meeting rooms and an open-air amphitheater. Did I mention the Oman Dive Center, Kids Club, Dolphin and Whale-watching trips, and marina? O- Man!
April 12, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Take your pick between Ritz-Carlton's two, sun-kissed Naples hotels and get fantastic discounts this summer. From your guestroom balcony in the AAA Five Diamond Award Golf Resort, gaze out over the rolling green of the 36-hole Greg Norman-designed Tiburon Course. Or if golf isn't your thing-- take a room with a Gulf View at the elegant Ritz-Carlton Hotel Naples, a grand seaside resort with exceptional amenities including spa, pool, and gorgeous beach with watersports. Between June 1 and September 30, the "Summer Sand and Sun" package starts at a mere $159 per night at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort and $199 at Ritz-Carlton Naples. Additionally, they're giving out resort credits left and right: stay for three nights and get a $100 resort credit (for dining, spa treatments, resort apparel in the gift shop, go wild!), five night stays score $200 credits and when you stay a full week: $300.
Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples, Five Star Alliance
Ritz-Carlton Naples, Five Star Alliance
April 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
This summer, Spain's Costa del Sol and the French Riviera promise to be packed--the stretches of sand back-to-back (or butt-to-butt?) full of sun-worshippers from colder climes. Why not look further west for a European holiday, far from the traditional (and well-worn) tourist circuit? Portugal, rich in history of mighty ocean navigation and past epochs of sprawling international empires, is an undiscovered delight. Outside of the capital city of Lisbon, the Costa de Lisboa is marked by gleaming white sand beckoning beach lovers and surfers alike. At the town of Sintra, surrounded by lush forests and the geyser-like eruptions of waves breaking at Boca de Inferno, discover the pastel Palacio Nacional da Pena. Or head to the fantastic southern coast; the Algarve is dotted with splendid coastal resorts and quaint fishing villages lined with brightly colored wooden boats.
Could Atlantis get any more mammoth? The kitschy celebration of the Lost Continent of Atlantis has these stats: 2,300 guest accommodations (the Royal Towers, Coral Towers and Beach Tower), 35 restaurants, a goliath casino, the largest ballroom in the Caribbean, and a marina that can hold the biggest and baddest of the private luxury yachts. Not to mention the 11 million gallons of swimming pools with water slides and cascades, and marine exhibits with a whopping 50,000 live animals. Kids go gaga over the replica Atocha (the Spanish galleon with oodles of sunken treasure that a Florida treasure-seeker uncovered) at the Kids Club, and apparently guests consume over 1 ton of lobster tails per week. Just what doesn't this resort have? Enough space (!), of course. Atlantis continues to undergo a massive development, which will include the Residences at Atlantis, an exclusive condominium-hotel for lucky owners to enjoy the casino and water activities galore, all year round. Additional features of the $1 billion development project include 1,450 rooms by next spring (including a luxury all-suite hotel), an expansion to the water park, a new dolphin facility, 100,000 sq ft of additional meeting facilities, and the new Nobu restaurant from world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Another luxury ship with permanent ocean residences is a good thing, as rumor has it that the Four Seasons Cruise Ship is almost sold out. The Magellan-- to be completed by the summer of 2008-- will be limited to 200 private homes, including 16 penthouses. The exclusive $650 million ship claims it will "redefine luxury for the discerning traveler":
The facilities and services of the world's finest resorts are part of everyday life aboard the Magellan. On-call housekeeping staff, a world-class spa and marketplace, a 24-hour concierge staff, indoor and outdoor pools, six restaurants, a 450-seat theatre featuring Broadway-quality entertainment, a casino worthy of Monte Carlo and a 8,000 sq.ft greenhouse with onsite horticulturists are just a few of the conveniences that make living aboard the Magellan a unique experience.
Add to that the luxury of visiting 300 unique ports of call as you circumnavigate the globe. Now that ain't too shabby.
As featured in the April 2006 Travel and Leisure, Gaia Hotel and Reserve, located near Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park, is Costa Rica's newest luxury hotel. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels, this tropical boutique property is situated among the lush coastal rainforests of the Pacific coast. The terraced suites and villas overlook these incredible natural surroundings, a pristine nature reserve packed with exotic wildlife and chattering white-faced monkeys. This is a luxurious retreat, appointed with modern amenities, spa, gym, pool, and private butler service to attend to guests' every need. Gaia presents eco-tourism at its best, a project designed for the preservation of the natural reserve and protection of local flora and fauna for future generations. For a limited time, the resort is offering the "Soft Open Special" during the construction of their new Clubhouse, which will house the spa, gym, conference room, business center and game room. Take advantage of rates up to 20 percent off, starting at $240 per night (studio for two people), minimum three night stay, valid until April 30.
Follow the likes of Trista and Ryan (of Bachelorette fame) and countless celebs on this elite private island resort that Andrew Harper's calls "as close to heaven on earth as you're likely to get." 500 acres of bliss for only 14 couples at one time, and a staff of 150 to provide for and pamper them. Turtle Island is truly one of the world's finest and most romantic resorts. Settle into your elegant "bure," a traditional hand-crafted thatched cottage with outdoor verandahs overlooking blue lagoons. Rates are all-inclusive, including all gourmet meals, all drinks including alcohol, massage, deep sea fishing, horseback riding, private picnics, scuba diving, and countless other activities. And now is the time to fly free to Turtle Island, as the resort is offering two free coach tickets from Los Angeles and free seaplane transfers, with a seven night stay. Nightly rates start at $1,975 per night, per couple (Grand Bure accommodations). Travel must be completed by May 11, 2006.
Turtle Island, Official Site
Turtle Island, Five Star Alliance