May 30, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's a lot of buzz about New Zealand-- above and beyond the publicity generated by the Lord of the Rings flicks. Everyone's talking about this little island nation on the far south end of the Pacific. (Indeed, Conde Nast readers rated the country the #1 holiday destination in the world.) No matter what the season, New Zealand has it all: breathtaking scenery, recreational activities galore, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. Easily the best place to stay on this gorgeous island nation is Huka Lodge, located in Taupo, in the central North Island, and considered one of the world's top retreats. This 20 suite lodge has racked up the awards: Travel and Leisure Top 500 list (the only property in New Zealand with this distinction), Conde Nast Traveler "Best Hotel Rooms in Australasia and South Pacific," Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report "Top 20 International Resort Hotels." And if the awards list seems impressive, you should see the famous guest-list. The guestbook reads like the party of the century.
The setting is magical. Situated in a beautifully landscaped park on the banks of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge is just a short walk from the spectacular cascades of Huka Falls. As can be expected, activities run the gamut from tennis to petanque, hiking to trout fishing, mountain biking to relaxing in the hot pools and outdoor spa. Spacious, light guestrooms are complemented by outdoor terraces and bathrooms with under-floor heating and sunken baths.
As described recently in Stuff NZ:
Huka Lodge is New Zealand's quintessential super-lodge for the globe-trotting rich, royal and famous… Since 2001, all the guest rooms and the Owner's Cottage - the super suite perched on a rise overlooking the first set of rapids - have been rebuilt or refurbished with the difficult aim of combining the comfort of a five-star hotel with a boysy ruggedness befitting its fishing hut origins.
And the dining is exquisite. Hotel rates include pre-dinner cocktails, a five course dinner and breakfast. All meals are communal seating with some private dinning available.
May 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Visitors to Ireland who want to enjoy both the excitement of Dublin and the beauty of the countryside can now partake in the ultimate Irish vacation with the "Town and Country Experience" from Ashford Castle and The Merrion. Located on the country's west coast near Galway City, Ashford Castle is one of the most luxurious castle hotels in Ireland. Its setting is magical: the quintessential Irish pastoral of woods, lakes, rivers and mountains. Along with its delightful accommodations, Ashford Castle is renowned for its recreational activities and country sports, including fly fishing, equestrian center, nine-hole golf course, falconry and sporting clay shooting. The other participating luxury hotel is Dublin's finest five-star hotel. The Merrion is comprised of four restored Georgian townhouses, and now houses 123 guestrooms and 20 suites, the Tethra Spa, and Ireland's only two-star Michelin restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud.
The "Town and Country Experience" offers an exclusive stay at both beautiful properties, with transfers available via limousine, airplane or helicopter. There are three levels available. The Silver Experience is priced at EUR 1,550 per person, based on double occupancy and includes: 3 nights Deluxe accommodation at Ashford Castle, 3 nights Deluxe accommodation at The Merrion in the Garden Wing, full lrish breakfast daily, round-trip airport transfers, welcome cocktail at both hotels, tickets for the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and The Merrion's Art Catalogue, a one-hour massage per person at both hotels, limousine transfer between both hotels, a picnic lunch for two during the transfer, choice of a one-hour Falconry lesson or golf for two with club rental at Ashford Castle. The Gold and Platinum Experiences include additional amenities, such as half-day fly fishing excursion and half-day Georgian Walking Tour in Dublin. This package is subject to availability and includes taxes.
May 25, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Modern and stylish rooms. Home of Manila's top restaurants. Club Floor catering to every need of business travelers. Complimentary internet access in all guest rooms and suites. State-of-the-art Spa and Fitness Center-- arguably the city's best-- with gym, pool, sauna, steam room, and massage treatments. Signature Peninsula service. The only hotel in the Philippines honored in Travel and Leisure's "World's Best Business Hotel" awards. Located in the heart of the business and financial district, The Peninsula Manila is the place to stay in the city. Ideal for business travelers, the hotel is also ideal for leisure visitors to the Philippines. And a luxurious stay at the city's best hotel has never been of better value, with rates starting at $120 per night for a Superior Room. Valid until December 31, 2006.
Georgia's Sea Islands offer a beautiful and exclusive summer escape. Championship golf, incredible dining, lots of Southern hospitality, and the chance to restore your body and mind. Find the perfect hideaway at The Lodge or the completely new, and absolutely stunning, Cloister at Sea Island. The "Golf Escape Package for Two" includes two nights luxury accommodations, two rounds of golf on Seaside, Plantation or Retreat Course or one round of golf and spa treatment of your choice during your stay, an elegant five-course dinner in the Georgian Room, breakfast each morning at any dining venue, Beach Yoga or a Beach Walk each morning, and welcome gift. Valid until November 1, 2006. Starting at $1,195 for The Lodge, River or Nature View at The Cloister. ($1,395 for Ocean View at The Cloister and $1,595 for River View Suite at The Cloister.)
Memorial Day is upon us, which means the start of summer and some exclusive special deals in the Caribbean. One of the region's finest luxury resorts, Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club, the darling of royalty and dignitaries who visit Barbados, has announced some fantastic summer offers. A classic Palladian-style building of coralstone, the spacious 112 room resort is set in a mahogany grove overlooking a crescent of white beach and the turquoise sea. Each of the rooms feature private verandahs and state-of-the-art amenities like plasma wide screen TV, DVD/CD player, and wifi. Here at Sandy Lane, the service is phenomenal, from the chauffeured luxury car that greets you at the airport to the knowledgeable concierge and staff who cater to your every whim. The Summertime promises to be a blast in Barbados, with the annual Crop Over Festival, a colorful extravaganza and celebration of Barbadian culture. Ceremonies, competitions, shows and music, from July 15 to August 7, 2006.
Special Summer Packages at Sandy Lane are a real deal: "Romance in Paradise" includes accommodation in a Luxury Ocean Room at Ocean room rate, bottle of champagne on arrival, one candlelight dinner for two, unlimited non-motorized watersports, full English Breakfast daily, one Catamaran Cruise, spa voucher of $100 per person (or one round of golf on The Country Club per person.) Rates start from $4,750 for a seven night stay. With the "Family Fun" package, three Children under 16 years in connecting room pay 50 percent of the full 7 or 10 night stay. Package includes full English Breakfast daily, unlimited use of the Treehouse Club, one family Sunday Brunch, unlimited non-motorized watersports. Parent's room rates start at $4,250 for a seven night stay in an Orchid room; Children's room rates start at $2,975 for a seven night stay in an Orchid room.
Fodor's recently picked the Top 10 U.S. Golf Resorts, and The Homestead ranked right up there with the best of them:
The resort's Old Course, laid out in 1892, includes the oldest tee in continuous use in the United States. Backdropped by the Alleghany Mountains, the Cascades Course is beautiful during the turning of the leaves in the fall.
Surrounded by stunning mountain views, The Homestead is one of the country's leading historic resorts, known for its luxury spa, excellent recreational facilities, and world-class golf. The Homestead offers a luxurious Summer Golf Special, starting at $249 per night, which includes accommodations, unlimited play (including cart) on the three championship courses including the William S. Flynn designed Cascades Course (ranked as one of the top 100 courses in the world by Golf Magazine in 2005), the Donald Ross designed Old Course and the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed Lower Cascades Course, complimentary use of the driving range and range balls and a complimentary sleeve of Titleist golf balls.
The exquisite Banyan Tree Phuket recently announced the July 2006 unveiling of its new Double Pool Villas. With their 24-hour butler service and in-villa chef services, the 22 new Villas take tropical luxury to the next level. Surrounded by aromatic gardens and constructed along an azure lagoon, each Double Pool Villa features a ten-meter private infinity pool with fiber-optic lighting, a spacious and ultra-private compound (between 1,530 to 2,185 sq meters), full-length glass windows, and direct pool access from the bedroom. In one word: stunning. In addition, guests enjoy unique services and amenities: daily in-villa cooked breakfast, selection of vegetables and exotic fruits with juice mixer, daily in-villa afternoon treats and evening cocktails, 30-minute lesson on "Basic Steps of Massage," an "Intimate Moments" villa setting for a romantic evening with bottle of wine and drawn sunken bath with flower petals, and special turndown gift from Banyan Tree Gallery. Rates start from $2,000 per night. To celebrate the launch of the Double Pool Villas, guests can enjoy a complimentary second night's stay with every night booked from July 1 to September 30, 2006.
Recently Robb Report Luxury Resorts singled out the finest luxury hotels in the world, and among the thousands of resorts reviewed, the Four Seasons Langkawi scored at the top of the best new luxury resorts. (Check out the pic at right and you'll see why everyone's making such a fuss.) First, its location. Langkawi is part of a Malaysian archipelago of 99 islands in the clear emerald waters of the Andaman Sea. The resort's island is one of only two of these islands that is inhabited and offers a dramatic mountainous landscape covered with rainforest, towering granite cliffs, and white sand beaches. Four Seasons Langkawi is set on a one-mile stretch of beach against this magical backdrop. Secondly, the spacious guest pavilions and villas. Soaring ceilings, killer views, traditional Malaysian design elements, wood floors, open verandahs, and outdoor showers. Third, the phenomenal facilities, including the beautifully-designed Spa, new Yoga pavilion (opening July 2006), gorgeous pools with private cabanas, and water sports pavilion on the beach. Lastly, and most importantly, Four Seasons Langkawi is distinguished by its exceptional service. Truly the tropical, luxury beach experience of a lifetime.
The award-winning resort located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia represents the pinnacle of ultra-luxury and elegance. Its classic architecture, sumptuous interiors, gorgeous grounds, excellent recreational activities (including three championship gold courses, indoor and outdoor tennis and a 38,000 sq ft spa), and impeccable service have distinguished the resort for over two centuries. But the National Historic landmark is in need of a little sprucing up, as reported by the Associated Press. The resort will be closing for three months next winter, starting January 2 after the holidays. The project is the most extensive since the 1940's, and is slated for 18 months total. The renovation will include the main dining room, the Tavern Room, Old White Lounge, main kitchen and about 65 guest rooms in the main building, which will be enhanced by new furniture and marble bathrooms. The Greenbrier seeks to restore its Mobil five star rating, which it lost in 2000 after 38 years.
May 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
An unspoiled, uninhabited island at the far west end of The Turks and Caicos Islands is the setting for a unique eco-conscious residential community and boutique resort developed by Ritz-Carlton. West Caicos Reserve-- located 20 minute boat ride from Providenciales-- is dedicated to preserving the island's natural habitat, and has thus preserved 90 percent of it as open space. Construction has just begun for Ritz-Carlton's 125-suite resort, which will be called Molasses Reef, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Overlooking a 2,600 ft stretch of secluded beach, the 125 oceanfront suites are billed as representing "barefoot luxury at its best." The property also includes 75 Ritz-Carlton-managed residential villas-- for owners to realize dreams of life on an uncharted tropical island yet pampered with the world-class service expected of Ritz-Carlton. More than 50 percent of the villas have already been sold (so hop to it!) The resort, along with its restaurants and spa, is scheduled to open in early 2008.