May 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Whether you're chilling this weekend in Boise or Budapest... The Informed Traveler and Five Star Alliance wish you the best for a fun and happy Memorial Day Weekend. We'll be back next week with some exciting special offers for luxury travel.
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.
Discover this boutique gem in the heart of historic Santa Barbara. With only 23 luxurious guest rooms and suites, the Inn of the Spanish Garden is an intimate and romantic hotel that epitomizes the history and tradition of Spanish Colonial Santa Barbara. Constructed in 2001, the two-storey hotel is of Spanish-Mediterranean inspired architecture, with white adobe walls, red tile roofs, ornate ironwork, courtyard fountains, vaulted ceilings and arches. All rooms are luxuriously appointed with quality, modern amenities including gas fireplace, Internet access, cordless phone with voicemail, deep soaking tub, and French press coffee maker. In addition, each room features a private balcony or garden patio. The Inn has an open-air fitness room overlooking the heated swimming pool and sundeck, and offers in-room spa services. Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast with espresso drinks and newspaper, and evening wine bar.
If Wynn's signature restaurant is identified by a first name, the chef must be pretty darn good. Indeed, Zagat describes Alex Stratta as one of the "very best chefs" in Las Vegas, having learned his cosmopolitan gastronomic savvy while working under Alain Ducasse. The luxurious four-course prix fixe menu ($120) is a hedonistic delight-- perhaps the dining experience of a lifetime. His artistic French cuisine combines the freshest seasonal ingredients and includes dishes such as foie gras ravioli in truffle bouillon with duck confit salad. The entrance is dramatic-- descending a grand, hourglass-shaped staircase to arrive in the elegant and romantic dining room, designed in a European style with inlaid wood and crystal chandeliers. Zagat raves:
the staff "goes out of its way to ensure a wonderful evening", and "perfect touches" like "the seat-side purse ottoman" for a clientele "who actually remembers to dress" guarantee a reprieve from "the shorts-and–flip-flops" "Vegas culture."
But don't bring the kiddies (children under five are banned from the premises).
Wynn Las Vegas, Five Star Alliance
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.
With airfares to Europe skyrocketing, this promotion is almost too good to be true. Maxjet Airways-- all business class and low airfares too-- flies luxurious transatlantic service between London Stansted and New York and Washington. The service is sensational: gorgeous pre-departure lounges, signature gourmet meals, on-demand entertainment, and deep-recline, all-leather seats onboard. From now until June 2, you can fly the luxury airline with discounted fares of just $1,000 roundtrip. Now that's a steal.
The former Pan Pacific has morphed into the new JW Marriott San Francisco. But touches of the classic SF establishment remain: its dramatic atrium lobby (three floors with skylight ceiling), elegant guestrooms with tasteful, contemporary furnishings, and its air of romance and sophistication. Located in the heart of the city in Union Square, surrounded by upscale shopping, fine dining and art galleries, the JW Marriott boasts one of the best addresses in San Francisco. The hotel is just a hop from the Moscone Convention Center, Nob Hill, and countless SOMA museums. There's creative California cuisine and a well-equipped fitness center. For better or for worse, the JW Marriott is definitely a business-oriented, convention type hotel, with 14,000 sq ft of event space and business with state-of-the-art technology. But it's a classy and luxurious spot nonetheless.
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.)
In a city with a superb culinary scene, Four Season's Chartwell Restaurant shines at the forefront. Recognized as one of Vancouver's finest restaurants, Chartwell has received numerous accolades including the 2006 AAA Four Diamond Award, 2006 DiRoNA Award, 2006 Vancouver Magazine, 17th Annual Restaurant Awards "Bronze - Best Hotel Dining", and 2005 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its "Outstanding Restaurant Wine List."
Four Seasons Vancouver has recently appointed Miami's Rafael Gonzalez as executive chef. He has worked in some of the country's most revered kitchens, starting off in Miami at Le Pavillon, then moving on to New York where he was mentored by David Bouley, chef of the famed four-star Bouley Bakery, Chef Eric Rupert at Le Bernardin, and Chef Jean-George Vongerichten at Jean George Restaurant. His last stint was at The Pierre, where he was Executive Sous Chef. Gonzalez is an outstanding chef, and can also handle a large kitchen; at Chartwell he will be overseeing 1,200 to 2,000 meals a day and managing four sous chefs and 33 employees.
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.