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.
This is barefoot luxury at its finest. Originally built by Laurence Rockefeller, Little Dix Bay resort is a Caribbean hideaway on the tranquil island of Virgin Gorda. Its elegant villas are nestled within lush tropical gardens overlooking the sea. With the completion of the recent five-year renovation project, the resort has unveiled eight new junior suites and three new hilltop villas, distinguished by patio and porch with gorgeous sea views and lovely outdoor bathrooms that are completely hidden from the water. The three new villas feature three or four bedrooms, oversized living areas, outdoor showers, private pool and dining pavilion/barbeque area. The makeover began in 2000, continued in 2001 when Little Dix Bay opened its award-winning spa in its dramatic Cliffside setting, and revealed a total restaurant redesign in 2005, along with the remodeling of all the remaining guest rooms. To celebrate the completion of this massive $25 million makeover, the sophisticated resort is offering a special deal, unheard of during the peak winter season. Until December 5, 2006, when you book a stay of five nights during January 2- February 10, 2007, you get the sixth night for free. Rates include guaranteed room upgrade, use of water sports equipment, the fitness center and sparkling new tennis courts. Hurry, only a few more days left to book this promotion!
Via Travel and Leisure Hot Deals
As winter blankets the city, London welcomes the yuletide season with seasonal spirit and festive celebrations. Head to the West End and watch a Christmas Classic like The Nutcracker, join in with the carol singers and merry revelers, skate across one of the many outdoor ice rinks, gather around the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, explore the plethora of Yuletide fairs, and of course shop 'til you drop on the best shopping streets in the world. The capital is at its festive best, decked out with lights and brimming with good cheer. To celebrate the season, Red Carnation Hotels is offering luxurious and fun-filled breaks at their three four-star London hotels-- The Chesterfield Mayfair, The Rubens at the Palace, and The Montague on the Gardens-- with a special Magical London package. The package includes two nights stay, welcome gift upon arrival, Santa Claus hat, full English breakfast daily, tea for two with Christmas cake, taxi to Oxford Street to see the Christmas lights and start your Holiday Sales Shopping (plus shopping map), and a stocking filled with seasonal goodies for those staying Christmas day. Upgrade to an Executive Suite and you'll enjoy a decorated Christmas Tree in your suite and a visit by Santa on Christmas day (if children accompany the guests). Magical London package rates start from: The Chesterfield – GBP 360 for the Double Room and GBP 620 for the Suite package; The Montague – GBP 330 for the Double Room and GBP 480 for the Suite package; The Rubens – GBP 330 for The Double Room and GBP 480 for the Suite package. The Magical London package rates are based on double occupancy for two nights, inclusive of taxes. Available until January 7, 2007.
Congratulations to Wynn Las Vegas, the first Vegas resort in history to win the coveted Mobil Five Star Award for its Tower Suites and one of only 37 hotels in the US to receive this rating. Since its opening in 2005, Wynn Las Vegas has epitomized over-the-top luxury in Sin City. The utterly decadent facilities include 19 fine dining establishments with celebrity chefs, superb spa, incredible casino, lots of retail and convention space, and its own 18-hole championship golf course (the only place on the Strip where guests can tee up right outside the front door). And in a place where the rooms are nothing short of magnificent, the Tower Suites are truly over-the-top. Private VIP check-in at the exclusive Tower Suites lobby. Floor-to-ceiling windows. A whopping 640 square feet of comfort and convenience. The latest technology, including VOIP telephones, fax, high speed Internet access, automatic bedside drapery and lighting controls, and flat screen LCD high-definition televisions. Luxurious bedding and spa-like bathrooms. In-room massage and beauty treatments. A terrace with private pools.
One of only 37 properties in the US to receive the Mobil Five Star Hotel Award. Recognized as the "Best Small Hotel", "Best Rooms" and "Best Service" in the Zagat 2007 Survey. And the Number One US Hideaway, awarded by Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report in September. Welcome to Twin Farms. Nestled on 300 bucolic acres in central Vermont, this small luxury hotel recognizes the importance of premier, personalized service. The property features only 20 guest rooms, but boasts a staff of 85 dedicated employees to attend to guests' every need. (How's that for a staff-to-guest ratio?) Accommodations are luxurious, spacious, and distinctive; no two of the 20 accommodations are alike, from the suites in the Main House to the graceful cottages built of stone and wood (including a log cabin in the woods and a 3,000 square foot chalet built for two). Guests enjoy the lovely library, 26,000 bottle Wine Cellar, Game Room, croquet court, museum art displayed throughout the property, and the celebrated spa, Out of the Woods. In the winter, there's Hot Rum Toddies in front of a roaring fire, skiing, ice skating, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and sleigh rides.
Tee-up, Relax and Rejuvenate at Quail Lodge, located on the sunny side of the Monterey Peninsula in scenic Carmel, California. Situated on 850 scenic acres overlooking the rolling green fairways, Quail Lodge is only minutes from the white sand beaches and galleries in charming Carmel By The Sea. This resort property is an ideal jumping off point to discover the magical Monterey Peninsula, Pebble Beach, and the magnificent Big Sur Coast. Beloved for its championship gold and luxurious spa, Quail Lodge also offers great dining options within this idyllic natural environment. The Winter Golf and Spa Escape Package includes accommodations and breakfast for two plus choices of either two rounds of golf OR two 50-minute spa treatments, OR one round of golf and one spa treatment. It is an incredible value starting at $335 nightly. Available until March 31, 2007.
The Homestead is the winter playground for generations of families. Ranked among the world's top spa and golf resorts, the National Historic Landmark is located in Virginia's Allegheny mountains, where a plethora of outdoor activities are at your beck and call: skiing (with the excellent Sepp Kober Ski School and its staff of international instructors), snowboarding, snow tubing, ice skating, snowmobile tours, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Indoors, there's the world-class spa, bowling, movies, video games, heated pool, billiards, and family games. Folks have been flocking here since the 1700s to "take the waters" at the historic hot springs and naturally-heated pools. And they continue to flock to this timeless retreat to enjoy the world-class facilities and beautiful setting. The Winter Fun Package at The Homestead starts at just $109 and includes luxurious accommodations, breakfast daily, use of fitness center and outdoor pool, and afternoon tea in the Great Hall. Children 12 and under eat breakfast free. Children 18 and under stay free.
Coming in 2007: the gorgeous, newly renovated La Mamounia-- legend of Marrakech-- will open after a major makeover by celebrated interior designer Jacques Garcia, mastermind behind the new Hotel Fouquet's Barriere in Paris. According to Garcia, even grand hotels of seeming perfection like La Mamounia need touch-ups every few years. As quoted in the NYT, " must all be updated regularly. It's like face-lifts: a little injection once in a while is better than one big scar." Located in the heart of Marrakech with views of the desert valley and snow-capped peaks of the Atlas mountains, La Mamounia is set within idyllic 300-year-old gardens and surrounded by the city's 12th century ramparts. The beautiful gardens are tended daily by 40 gardeners; the thousands of flowers and trees and numerous lily ponds create a tranquil eden in the midst of this Imperial city. For over 80 years, La Mamounia has embodied the grand traditions of Moroccan hospitality.
Announcing the December 21, 2006 reopening of the Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach. The Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond luxury resort is located just eight miles from Palm Beach International Airport, and features 310 elegant guest rooms, massage and fitness center with extensive spa menu, outdoor pool, fabulous oceanfront dining, and seven acres of oceanfront beach. After a massive five-month renovation project, the resort will showcase an additional swimming pool, three new restaurant concepts, a 3,000 square foot oceanfront terrace, newly expanded Ritz Kids and new Ritz Teens Programs, and a new 28,000 square foot Grand Spa (to debut summer 2007). Other luxurious additions include a resort-wide Wifi network, the installation of flat screen TVs, a new oceanfront suites luxury room category, and a new foyer with an unobstructed ocean view.