November 25, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Starwood just announced that it acquired the Le Meridien brand of 130 hotels and resorts for $225 million. For the 24 million Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) customers, this means more choice in markets like Paris, Nice, Dubai and London. Additionally, Starwood will gain properties where it doesn't have them currently, in spots like Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Budapest, the Seychelles and Mauritius.
Looking for a winter respite close to home? Charleston, SC will lure you with its sub-tropical climate, history, charm and beautiful architecture. Tour the antebellum homes, play a round of golf at more than 20 courses in the area (including Kiawah, Wild Dunes and the new Arnold Palmer signature course at Rivertowne), or relax on the white sand beaches just 15 minutes from the city center. And this time of year, there are countless special offers at hotels in the area. My pick? The romantic Charleston Place (an Orient Express hotel), with its two great restaurants, elegant rooms, and Spa with horizon edged pool with retractable glass roof. The staff is all about Southern hospitality. Rates as low as $189 are available from November 27-30, and December 18-December 22. Other great deals? Try Kiawah Island Golf Resort, with its zillion activities and trails through nature preserves. For the end of November, rates are a steal at $117.
Charleston Place, Official Site
Charleston Place, Five Star Alliance
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Official Site
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Five Star Alliance
Read about Charleston in The Washington Post’s Vagablog
Vieques has been declared by travel guides to be among the world's best-kept vacation secrets. I guess if the secret's out-- now would be a pretty good time to jump on this special offer at the Martineau Bay Resort and Spa. (Before the hordes descend.) Situated eight miles off Puerto Rico's east coast, the island of Vieques is quiet, secluded, and breathtakingly beautiful. The Martineau's got it all, with tennis courts, pristine beaches, water sports and a world-class spa. Through December 18, rates are $139 a night (double room). Combined with Jet Blue's ridiculously low fares to San Juan, how could you pass this up?
Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Official Site
Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Five Star Alliance
A permanent address that's an everchanging address… now that's a cool idea. Slated to launch in fall 2007, the ship will include 100 luxury apartments, with all the indulgent amenities for which Four Seasons is famous (spa, steam room, pool and cabanas, jogging track and fitness center, even… golf?) Grab a stake before they sell out. From $400,000 for a one-month timeshare for 50 years.
Via Travel and Leisure (flipping through the November issue)
Miles and miles of white sand beach, lapped by turquoise. Private terraces overlooking the sea, buildings designed from hand-cut coral stone, a serpentine infinity pool with aromatherapy mists and iPod minis aplenty. An absurdly perfect spa. The paradise of the Caribbean only 600 miles southeast of Miami! Take advantage of this special offer: Stay four nights at The Palms, and get one night free! Starting at $575 a night (plus tax), which includes airport transfers and all that jazz. Make your ressies by November 30. Offer valid for the month of January 2006.
The Palms, Official Site
The Palms, Five Star Alliance
"Throughout history, only a handful of structures have had the power to change history." The great pyramids, Empire State building, Eiffel Tower, and... the Burj Dubai? Pretty bold, if you ask me, but this development is being billed as "the most exclusive address in the world," not to mention the world's tallest building. This will be the site of the first of the Armani Hotels and Resorts, scheduled to open in 2008. Emaar Properties is supposedly investing $6 billion in its Burj Dubai project. Opposite the tower, The Old Town Island will feature residences, boutique offices, spa and retail outlets.
The brand voted Europe's Leading Luxury Hotel Brand has announced plans to open a hotel in the heart of the Czech capital. Not new construction-- this jewel will be created out of (count 'em) five historical monuments. The most significant of which is ancient St. Thomas' Monastery, dating from the 1400s. Courtyards, wine vaults, elegant garden squares, and cloistered terraces-- galore. The 101 ginormous rooms enjoy fantastic views over the city. (The Presidential Suite is a measly 150 sq meters.) I'm awaiting its opening with bated breath. (Not til 2007, folks.)
In the rugged wilderness of West Texas, between Big Bend National Park and the Mexico border, lies a unique destination resort situated on a 25,000-acre private estate. Lajitas is surrounded by the awesome scenery that—as Architectural Digest explains—inspired Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign into law the creation of Big Bend National Park. This exquisite landscape is etched with the history of the infamous characters from the Old West. The lodging? This ain’t tents around the campfire. Along with the resort’s endless array of activities, Lajitas offers luxurious cowboy chic. Of the 92 rooms, no two are alike—each outfitted with plush robes and lavish Agave amenities. (Suites and private haciendas also available.) The resort has designed a host of fun and clever packages. The “Ultimate Golf Package”—with unlimited golf and lunch on the course—is $250 a night. With the optional 19th hole in Mexico, Ambush at Lajitas is the world’s only international course. Unlimited rounds of golf are complemented by unlimited carts, balls, and beverages. My fave is the “So You Wanna Be A Cowboy” package, where guests participate in a slew of activities, starting with a custom-fitting of cowboy boots. Next on the agenda? Learn how to use a gun of the Old West at Greasewood Flats, Lajitas’ very own cowboy action shooting range. After breakfast on Day 2, head out on a trail ride to the Buena Suerte Mine and Ghost Town, then star-gaze by a roaring campfire while enjoying a gourmet feast. Starting at $400 per person.
Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Official Site
Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Five Star Alliance
Heading to your favorite Argyle on Sunset? Don’t be dismayed at its apparent disappearing act. The hotel has morphed into the Sunset Tower Hotel, a name-change that I believe goes back to the hotel’s roots 76 years ago. Anyone know for sure?
Sunset Tower Hotel, Official Site
Sunset Tower Hotel, Five Star Alliance
The Four Seasons Toronto has designed a fabulous new package, to pamper its fashion-focused guests afflicted with holiday shopping fever. Starting at CAD $315 a night, guests are treated to luxurious accommodations, late check-out, and an exclusive shopping passport with savings at over 40 shops in the chic Bloor-Yorkville district. On top of that, guests receive a Four Seasons Toronto shopping bag, containing bottled water, power bar, bath salts, Toronto shopping map, and a Goods and Services Tax rebate form. Starting November 21, 2005.
Four Seasons Toronto, Official Site
Four Seasons Toronto, Five Star Alliance