Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces spent a mere $27.1 million for one of the hottest hotels in Sydney. On its first venture in Australia, Taj dubbed the boutique property BLUE Woolloomooloo Bay, an apt name for the luxurious marina surroundings on the Wharf at Woolloomooloo. Indeed, this is a perfect location: a hop from the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the central business and shopping districts. Distinguished among the top hotels in Sydney-- on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List it was among the "Top 3 Best Hotels for Location in Australia/South Pacific"— BLUE also has an acclaimed restaurant and bar. (The Water Bar was named one of the "Top 5 Bars in the World" by Wallpaper mag in 2004 and one of the "Top 10 Bars in the World" in 2003 by CNT.) The 100 lavish guest rooms—including 36 stunning Loft Rooms-- retain authentic characteristics from the renovated historic wharf structure, but emanate urban chic and are equipped with all the latest technology. Not to mention sensational views of Sydney Harbor.
It's not too early to start planning your summer getaway. And why not think the UK countryside? Here's a favorite spot that the mags gush and rave about-- Harpers & Queen (Nov 2005) ranks the Summer Lodge as one of the 100 Best Places in the World:
With deckchairs scattered on sprawling lawns and trays laden with afternoon tea, this wisteria-clad Relais & Chateaux hotel in the beautiful Dorset Downs feels delightfully English – an atmosphere that extends into 24 extremely pretty, individually decorated rooms and suites.
X-factor: The lovely indoor pool, which is housed in a glass conservatory that looks out on the kitchen garden.
The room to choose? Why the master bedroom, of course. Room One was originally designed for famed writer Thomas Hardy and boasts a magnificent open fireplace and four poster bed overlooking the beautifully manicured English country gardens. Though you can't go wrong with the Ivy Cottage and its private hot tub in the courtyard garden.
Summer Lodge, Official Site
Summer Lodge, Five Star Alliance
February 6, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Leave it to the NYT to spill the secret: Rome in wintertime just can't be beat. Off-season hotel rates, end of season sales means shopping galore, the perfect lack of gawking crowds, and a plethora of (warm) indoor cultural activities. Where to stay? The stunning, historic Hotel de Russie (this is one of Rocco Forte's many European gems) boasts gorgeous terraced gardens and central courtyard, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city near the Spanish Steps. And the Spa—with Turkish steam bath, hydropool, jacuzzi and sauna—ain't too shabby either.
Hotel de Russie, Official Site
Hotel de Russie, Five Star Alliance
No joke. Private white sand beach and gorgeous tropical lagoons, luxurious rooms with ocean-view balconies, the Angsana Spa (need I say more?) and that famous Thai hospitality. All for $90 a night at the newly-renovated, newly-opened Dusit Laguna. It's back, and better than ever. Looking for a more active holiday? You name the sport. What don't they offer. Tennis, mountain biking, waterpolo, windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, basketball, volleyball, sailing, kayaking, pitch and putt golf, and-- for the Frenchies-- Jeu de Boules. Rates are absolutely unbeatable (have I mentioned that they start at $90 a night?)-- including both breakfast and dinner. Book travel before June 30th, 2006.
Dusit Laguna Resort, Official Site
Dusit Laguna Resort, Five Star Alliance
TripAdvisor reviews are pretty shameful, resounding with sentiments of disappointment about the overpriced little rooms and office park location. Has the hotel slipped since it lost its Four Seasons identity? Or have the negatives always plagued this place? Though certain trademarks—awesome eats, exquisite balcony views (over the Fashion Island shopping mall, the Pacific shimmers in the distance), superior service and a damn good spa—have stuck around, despite the management change. Besides, where else is there to stay in the OC?
Now you can explore the legendary Caribbean private island resort-- considered the best place to stay the world over—by land as well as sea, by exploring the crystal-clear waters of the British Virgin Islands while onboard the luxurious 41' sailing yacht Silmaril. Peter Island, the largest private island in the BVI and accessible only by boat or helicopter, offers an exquisite Ashore/Afloat package, which includes two nights on the yacht, and two or five nights of resort accommodations. Starting at $5,571 for 4 nights stay, from Jan 4-April 30. This is romance and luxurious seclusion at its finest; the island is a stunning natural paradise of lush mountains and secluded white sand beaches. Offering oodles of watersports, divine dining and a spa—150 feet from the water— with extraordinary specialty treatments... what could get better than this?
Peter Island, Official Site
Peter Island, Five Star Alliance
February 1, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
You can't beat the Washington Post "What's the Deal?" for superlative Weekly Travel Specials—this week's highlight a much needed Winter Spa Renewal package in the heart of California's magical Sonoma wine country. The elegant Hotel Healdsburg, set on the historic town plaza, is the setting of the much-acclaimed Dry Creek Kitchen, where famed chef Charlie Palmer goes Sonoma-fresh with local, organic ingredients. Enjoy this brilliant cuisine, gardens and pool with jacuzzi, luxurious spa, and the tranquility of Sonoma's surrounding wine country with discounts of $220 for a two-night stay. The Winter Spa Renewal package includes two nights accommodations, $500 worth of spa treatments, and breakfasts. A steal at $876 for two people, available Sunday-Thursday through March 31.
Hotel Healdsburg, Official Site
Hotel Healdsburg, Five Star Alliance
January 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Discover the "Lost City of the Incas" and the incredible natural beauty of the Amazon Basin while cocooned in luxurious comfort at this rustic boutique hotel. Located in the heart of Machu Picchu's Historical Sanctuary in the cloud forest (formerly known as Aguas Calientes), the hotel consists of 83 rooms and suites set in whitewash cottages spread over 12 acres of streams, waterfalls and lush forest, reached by stone walkways. The hotel itself is the setting for enormous biodiversity: the world's largest collection of native orchids (372 species) as well as wild hummingbirds and butterflies. Rooms are charming yet sumptuous, decorated with local handcrafted Andean architecture, alpaca bedspreads, and deluxe kits of handmade, organic amenities and aromatherapy products. Likewise, the utterly-divine spa incorporates a mystical Andean approach, with 100% natural botanical products.
Located on the Big Island's Kohala coast, the AAA five-diamond resort is surrounded by a lush volcanic landscape chock full of waterfalls, rainforests, active lava flows and even snow-capped mountains. And Mauna Lani is a destination even among these wonders, recognized worldwide (almost suffocating with accolades) for its 25,000 sq ft spa, top tennis facilities at the Sport and Fitness Club, and white sand beach, where lucky guests can witness the whale migration just offshore. Escape this winter to an ocean view room or private bungalow, and get a fifth night free! In addition, the hotel is offering a $100-$200 per room per night resort credit (depending on room type) for stays March 1-May 30. But hurry! You must book the "Springtime Early Bird Special" by the end of Jan.
Mauna Lani, Official Site
Mauna Lani, Five Star Alliance
27 holes of championship golf in the sultry desert heat at The Phoenician. Nine gorgeous pools overlooking Camelback mountain and the red rock desert landscape. A phenomenal spa. And the city's dazzling culinary display and rockin nightlife. Now couldn't be a better time to visit Scottsdale. If those aren't reasons enough: the legendary destination resort recently completed a $20 million makeover. Guestrooms and casitas are all newly furnished (bed linens, wall hangings, artwork all in earthy desert tones), with divine new beds, and loads of new technology and upgraded bathroom fixures (lighting, floor-to-ceiling Italian marble, oversized tubs.) Of course the lobby, lounges, restaurants and public areas weren't overlooked, and the Spa and Fitness Facility was injected with a healthy $250,000 of new stairmasters, ellipticals, Life Fitness strength training machines and 15" individual televisions in all cardio equipment. The best part of the makeover? The Oasis swimming pool complex with new poolside cabanas, all new surfacing and decking, teak outdoor furniture, and underwater sound.
Via Travel and Leisure February issue
The Phoenician, Official Site
The Phoenician, Five Star Alliance