LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
September 13, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Le Meridien Tahiti is one of those dreamy tropical locales— you know, the ones with over-water bungalows on stilts over the perfectly clear blue— that travel magazines ooh and ahh about. It's also got a swimming pool with a sandy bottom, a long white-sand beach that curves around a gorgeous lagoon, water sports aplenty (cruise on a catamaran with or without a skipper), tennis and volleyball, and excellent dining options. From now until mid-December, Le Meridien Tahiti has slashed their prices and is offering the "Linger Longer for Less" package, at 50 percent off hotel rack rates. A three-night stay (double occupancy) will set you back a mere $820; six nights-- $1,490. At $249 a night, what a steal.
According to GaultMillau— the influential French guide to restaurants, hotels and wine-- that honor goes to the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland, named "Hotel of the Year" for 2006. The iconic landmark has wowed its high-profile clientele with impeccable service since 1861. And Forbes.com recently rated the hotel's new Cinq Mondes Spa "one of the most luxurious spas in the world."
But according to Andrew Harper's Hideaway report, the best international resort for 2006 is the Four Seasons Punta Mita, the Mexican paradise getaway just 26 miles from Puerto Vallarta (gorgeous oceanfront rooms, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, heavenly spa, and all that jazz.)
What's your vote?
Besides the accolades for its world-class tennis program, the premiere Southern California resort of Rancho Valencia is destined to become a top Spa destination as well. Located just 25 miles north of downtown San Diego, Rancho Valencia is an all-suite hideaway set within 40 acres of lush landscaping. The 43 suites— decked out with cathedral ceilings, hand painted tiles, fireplaces, and private garden patios— seem reminiscent of early California haciendas. This summer, the resort opened its full-service Spa Rancho Valencia, a center for health and well-being which offers yoga and Pilates classes and a well-equipped fitness center (PreCor cardio machines with personal televisions and DVD players) in addition to its superb treatment menu. Each of the ten treatment rooms boast private patios, and the two couples treatment rooms even have fireplaces, outdoor showers, and tubs for two. The Spa also offers a new lap pool (with private cabanas available), three therapy pools, and a Watsu treatment pool. The luxurious treatments incorporate the indigenous plants found at the resort, and pure essential oils of citrus, avocado and eucalyptus. Signature treatments include Zest for Life— a 120-minute treatment starting in the signature Vichy rain room with a rosemary and lemon steam, followed by an uplifting bergamot and fresh lemon zest sea salt exfoliation, and finished with a massage— and the Terra Cotta Clay Couples Clay Bake.
Take advantage of a superb Fall Special, which includes a $75 Spa Credit, with the Suite and Spa and Breakfast Package. Starting from $450 per night, the package includes Suite Accommodations for Two Nights, $75 Spa Credit, per person, and breakfast for two daily, including tax and gratuity. Two-night minimum stay required. Valid through November 17, 2006.
Dating from 1902, Blantyre is a Tudor-country-house estate (modeled after a castle in Scotland) situated amidst 100 acres of impeccably manicured grounds. Critics hail Blantyre as America's Best Inn, its elegant surroundings and superb service conjuring a bygone time of gracious living and refined taste. Here is the ideal spot to enjoy the Berkshires countryside and fall foliage. Recipient of the Mobil Five-Star Award since 2003, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2002, and Andrew Harper's Hideaway Grand Award Winner, Blantyre offers guests an experience of grandeur. Guest rooms feature hand-carved four poster beds, fireplaces, French windows, and lavish furnishings. Play croquet on the tournament-rated croquet courts, hit on the four Har-Tru tennis courts, enjoy the heated pool, relax in the excellent new spa (housed in Blantyre's original Potting Shed), or take to the trails to appreciate the beautiful changing leaves. The hotel is happy to prepare a special picnic basket, decorated with flowers and ribbons, just for the occasion. Dinner, likewise, is a memorable experience (jacket and tie required).
Conde Nast Traveler Gold list. AAA Four Diamond award, 15 consecutive years. Best in Colorado, Golf Digest. Best Romantic Getaway in North America, Mountain Living Magazine. The list of awards is staggering. Situated on a mountain top in a 6,500-acre private wilderness, with sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera is a magical mountain hideaway. After a $5 million renovation in 2004, the 56 luxurious guest rooms have new bathrooms with tumbled-stone floors and extravagant new linens, the Avanyu spa has been expanded to 20,000 square feet with new treatment rooms and amenities, and the acclaimed Mirador restaurant boasts a new private dining area, new menu, and elegant wine cellar.
Besides the excellent winter skiing at nearby Vail or Beaver Creek, The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera is known for its world-class golf. The resort features access to six championship golf courses, designed by several of the greatest names in golf (Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Fazio, Dave Pelz, and Greg Norman). The facilities are excellent, and the scenery absolutely breathtaking. For a limited time, the resort is taking 30 percent off its fall golf packages, which includes two nights accommodations, a round of golf per person, one couples massage, and a dinner for two. Rates are $426 per person, September 5-30, 2006, and $386 per person, October 1-31, 2006.
Though hardly new— the exclusive private island of Cayo Espanto has been pampering guests since 1998— the ultra-luxe resort has put Ambergris Cay, Belize on the map. Just eight minutes by boat from the town of San Pedro on Ambergris, Cayo Espanto has developed the best kind of environmentally-friendly luxury resort. The five oceanfront villas are sprawling in size and feature personal plunge pools, private docks, al fresco showers, romantic mosquito netting over the beds, and 180 degree wrap-around views of the Caribbean. Here, lucky guests enjoy the ultimate pampered relaxation: spa services are readily available, chefs prepare personalized gourmet fare with the freshest tropical ingredients, and activities include fly-fishing, boating and conching excursions, scuba diving and snorkeling the second largest barrier reef in the world (including the famous Blue Hole), and sailing to deserted beaches for a gourmet picnic. Though Belize is less than two hours from Miami, its sparkling waters are still largely undiscovered. Enjoy your own private island at Cayo Espanto.
September 8, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Your own pristine private island accessible only by boat and seaplane, Little Palm Island is a lush tropical paradise listed among the top resorts in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure magazines. The internationally-acclaimed resort has got it all: romantic, spacious guestrooms (outfitted with ocean facing verandahs, private outdoor showers and jetted tubs), a heated lagoon style pool, natural white sand beach (rare for the Keys!), cozy Great Room library, endless array of watercraft choices, and fitness room. But the best part of all is the candle-lit Dining Room. Recently voted the best Hotel Dining Room in the Southeast by the Zagat Survey and number three in the nation, the Dining Room creates a real epicurean experience, sure to delight even the most discriminating of foodies. Executive Chef Luis Pous and his culinary team serve exceptional French-Caribbean plates served in a magical setting overlooking the turquoise sea. (And the service is really unparalleled.)
Easily one of the hottest new hotels in the world, The Standard shook things up in Miami when it opened in late 2005, created by hotelier Andre Balazs as a hydrotherapy playground with communal spa activities. The hotel represents the advanced spa-hotel concept at its finest, with its incredible and innovative spa. (Mud lounge, anyone?) Located on quiet Belle Island, a calm refuge from South Beach, The Standard, Miami is as creative with the names of its room types-- Missionary, Lush, Dry, Wet, and the Full Spread—as it is with the spa features and amenities. Guest rooms are designed in the simple Scandinavian tradition, with plush features including Egyptian cotton sheets and fluffy pillows, day beds, private outdoor living rooms, mood lighting, spa showers, outdoor soaking tubs, mini bars stuffed with yummy organic stuff, Kiss My Face amenities, high speed internet, flat screen TVs, DVD library and CD players.
Now couldn't be a better time to check out this higher Standard, with a hot Autumn deal from the hotel. The Holistic Hideaway is a two-night escape for just $395, which includes Accommodations, Limitless use of indoor and outdoor baths, Turkish hammam, sauna, aroma steam room, sound pool, Roman waterfall, hot tub, arctic plunge and gymnasium, Your choice of either one in-room "Standard" massage or two "quickie" massages, An invigorating "Just Pure" herbal bath, Complimentary access to the mud lounge, Two Yoga classes in The Standard's Movement and Meditation Center, Spa breakfasts for two every morning, and a two-course wholesome dinner for two at The Lido Restaurant. Wow.
Via Daily Candy (The package is just $350 for Daily Candy readers)
The leaf-peeping season is just around the corner, and luxurious New England Inns await your stay. Forbes has defined "a new breed of very high-class New England inns, converted country houses and B&Bs"-- inns that showcase the best of top-tier hospitality and ultra-luxurious amenities. Forbes' annual list of Great New England Inns includes the likes of the dazzling, new Mayflower Inn, home to the "best spa in North America," just a few hours from NYC.
September 6, 2006
By: Courtney W. May
I stayed at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia on the night of July 15th in Guest Room 606 (a deluxe room). I admit I got an awesome rate last minute and because I have a travel agency IATA card (for full disclosure I must mention that), I got a nice rate, but it wasn't free and I made no promises about my reviews. Now I'll cut to the chase and just list for you all of the good (and maybe bad) things to consider on your trip to Richmond.
* The rooms (at least all of the ones I saw) are HUGE (ceilings are tall, windows are large, and the closest had tons of space).
* The city of Richmond is not the absolute greatest view to have -I am not saying it's not bad)- but most importantly - none of the rooms at The Jefferson have views that are into walls, parking garages, or anything like that.
* The hotel pool is indoors, which might be nice in the winter, but Richmond is incredibly hot and in the summer a nice outdoor pool would be really, really nice.
* The Sunday Brunch is everything, plus more, that you've heard about.
* Again, let me say, Richmond is really, really hot in the summer.
* The employees are some of the best I've ever come across (they couldn't have been more helpful).
* I was able to walk to all of the locations I wanted to visit while in Richmond, but if I didn't want to the hotel would have provided a town car free of charge.
* Although not associated with the hotel, the Shockoe Slip area of Richmond is a lot of fun and has great restaurants.
* The guest rooms have a strange layout and you can never expect two rooms in the same room category to be exactly equal - but that is because the hotel was built in 1895.
* It is really hard to get reservations for the Sunday morning brunch - so make sure you reserve early.
* Make sure to ask for a non-smoking room if you don't smoke - you're in tobacco country.
The end result is that I definitely want to go back. I traveled from the DC area (which prices for everything are much, much higher) and wouldn't mind spending two or three weekends in the fall, winter and spring in the Richmond area. Rates for this five star hotel are lower then you will find in more places - yet provide you with some of the best services I have experienced. You may not think you have a reason to visit Richmond, but The Jefferson is it.
More candid photos from the trip can be found in my Richmond, VA Photoset on Flickr.
By: Courtney W. May