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.
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.
The DR has got it all: sun-soaked sandy beaches, excellent recreational activities, and oodles of outstanding resorts. Case in point: Paradisus Palma Real-- an all-inclusive, all-suite luxury resort with spectacular ocean views just minutes from the hot spot of Punta Cana. 554 suites feature private terraces, mahogany furniture, flat screen TV, DVD and CD player, and complimentary high speed Internet access. Six restaurants offer a culinary tour of delicious cuisine from around the world (from Mediterranean to Chinese). There are three outdoor pools set in magnificent tropical gardens, tennis courts, a full fitness program at the gym, the ultimate in spa treatments, the Cocotal Golf and Country Club, and a slew of water sports. What more could you ask for? (Did I mention there's unlimited Premium brand drinks at your choice of six bars?)
The secret's out about the charming city of Tallinn, long adored by touring Finns and visitors from other Baltic countries (just a quick 50 mile hop across the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki). Because easyJet started flying to Tallinn in 2004, "the Estonian capital has become the Las Vegas of the Baltics," so says The New York Times, which urges getting there fast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town is a picturesque and well-preserved historical masterpiece full of turreted castles, Gothic spires, and winding cobblestone alleyways. The place to stay is Hotel Telegraaf, the city's only member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Located in the heart of Old Town, the hotel is housed in a 19th century building which used to be the city's telephone exchange station. The facade is elegant; the interiors are luxurious. The Hotel Telegraaf joins the Three Sisters Hotel as the finest in the city (both hotels have the same owners). After an extensive refurbishment, the Hotel Telegraaf opened in November 2006 with 86 rooms, the indulgent Elemis Spa, and the Tchaikovsky restaurant, serving fine Russian cuisine. A word of caution: avoid the booming tourist trap during sultry summer weekends. It's best to travel to Tallinn in the late spring, early summer, or early fall, when the days are still warm, but the tourist droves have vanished.
Noteworthy: This beautiful city has become a tech capital for the region, so you won't have a hard time finding a WiFi spot.
At the southernmost tip of China, off the mainland coast in the South China Sea, there exists a large tropical island called Hainan, covered in greenery and shrouded in a balmy climate. The waters are emerald-turquoise, the sandy beaches are long and white, and the vegetation is lush. Hainan Island is not yet heavily industrialized (even though it's a Special Economic Zone), and the island has become a popular tourist destination because of its bountiful natural beauty. In mid-2007, Mandarin Oriental is slated to open its newest property, a private beach resort nestled in the green valley of the Wuzhi Mountain range. The Mandarin Oriental Sanya will be a peaceful retreat, situated on a secluded sandy cove with a colorful coral reef just offshore, teeming with marine life. The resort will consist of low rise villas within landscaped gardens; its 295 rooms promise stunning views of the sunset over the sea. Other features include a spectacular spa, four large swimming pools, the only outdoor conference facilities in Sanya, four restaurants, tennis courts, high tech gym, and water sports center with snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and deep sea fishing equipment. All just five minutes from Sanya City, and 20 minutes from the international airport.
What could possibly beat the French Riviera? The French Riviera in the off-season, when you can score incredible deals like this one. At the Stein Group's luxurious Cap Estel Hotel, located between Nice and Monaco in the charming village of Eze-Bord-de-Mer, pay for two nights and get the third for free! This special seasonal offer is available January 1- January 7, 2007 and March 1- March 31, 2007. (Lovebirds, forget February!) Situated on its own four acre peninsula overlooking the Mediterranean, this renowned 19th century hotel has played host to royalty, politicians, and celebrities from all over the world. Guests have exclusive access to the private beach, the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, state-of-the-art fitness room, sauna, steam bath and the advice of a private trainer. The hotel features only eight rooms and twelve suites, for the ultimate in privacy and exclusivity. All rooms have a balcony or terrace with sea view, and are equipped with cutting-edge technology.
Adrian Zecha's elegant beachfront masterpiece is certainly a South Beach hot spot, beloved by celebs. The Setai is located in the middle of it all on Collins Avenue, close to the area's best dining, shopping, and nightlife. Since its opening in 2005, the hotel has been heating things up in Miami with its intimate ambience, impeccable service, superb spa, and star-studded facilities. Set amidst tropical gardens and turquoise pools next to the ocean, The Setai boasts exquisite accommodations-- 75 guestrooms and 45 suites stacked with amenities: espresso machines, in-room bars, Bose surround-sound DVD/CD systems, deep soaking tubs and rain showers, luxurious bath products, and flat screen LCD and plasma TVs. But perhaps the most exquisite accommodations of all is the palatial Penthouse: 10,000 square feet of heaven with a rooftop pool and sweeping panoramas of the ocean, beach and Miami skyline. It's the ideal spot for receptions, parties and other special events. This regal four-bedroom penthouse goes for a mere $25,000 a night (and that doesn't include tax).
December 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Wishing you a joyful holiday season from all of us at The Informed Traveler and Five Star Alliance. We'll be back soon with the latest updates and special offers from the most exciting luxury destinations worldwide.
Hip, stylish, and of course the most glamorous rendezvous in town: Felix is Hong Kong's place to see and place to be seen. Created by celebrity designer Philippe Starck, Felix sits on the 28th floor of The Peninsula, long renowned as one of the best hotels in the world. The "Grande Dame of the Far East" is legendary for its opulent rooms, fleet of Rolls-Royce limousines, helicopter shuttle service, and celebrated Peninsula service. The dining experience at Felix is thrilling not only for the contemporary cuisine (try crispy Indonesian crab cakes, grilled Ahi steak, honey tempura King Prawns, and pan fried foie gras with marinated figs) but because of the setting: sexy interiors and lighting, plus sweeping views of the harbor and Hong Kong's skyline. (Did I mention the people watching?) Open daily for dinner from 6 pm to 11 pm; last drinks at 2 am. Dress is "smart casual." Needless to say, reservations are essential.
This winter, escape to Southern Florida's classic landmark for a truly luxurious experience. Situated directly on a private white sand beach, the Italian Renaissance style hotel was founded in 1896 and has been legendary ever since. (And with a Beach club, oceanfront spa, 36 holes of championship golf, 10 tennis courts, kids' programs, four oceanside pools, and excellent restaurants... what's not to love?) Here at The Breakers, L'Escalier offers one of the country's finest dining experiences and is the proud recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award and Wine Spectator's highest honor, the Grand Award. The restaurant now presents the specialty wine dinners of the 2007 Winter Wine Series. Master Sommelier Virginia Philip has invited celebrated winemakers from around the world to present three unforgettable evenings of food and wine pairings. A reception with tastings is followed by a five-course dinner prepared by the exceptional culinary team led by Chef Kevin Ives. Dinners are $300 inclusive of tax and service charge. (The March 5, 2007 dinner is priced at $575). Seating is limited so make your reservations soon.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Featuring Tom Shelton, President and CEO
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Featuring Tom Johnson, Vice President
Monday, March 5, 2007
Clos de Tart and Mommessin Wineries
Featuring Clos de Tart with Sylvain Pitiot, winemaker