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.
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.
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.
May 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
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.
May 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
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.
But choosing-- (you see Kenyan safari, s/he sees tequila and tanning in Mexico)-- and planning a honeymoon can be more taxing than the actual wedding planning. Just ask The Post. This Sunday, The Washington Post Travel section is devoted to the honeymoon: top 10 destinations; tips on making it a trip to remember; tales from readers (honeymoons worth telling the grandkids about), and the best of all: 5 Couples, 5 Budgets, 5 Honeymoons, a case study of five DC area couples who honeymooned in different ways (Disney World, anyone?)
And now we're looking to our readers for planning tips, packing advice, ideas on memorable locations and luxury hotels worldwide. Just how do you go about picking and planning the perfect honeymoon?
Little Dix Bay is a Caribbean gem on Virgin Gorda beloved by its discerning clientele for its elegant villas nestled among lush gardens, delicious dining venues, and other-worldly Spa. The award-winning beachfront resort just got a little more enticing when it unveiled new renovations and additions, including eight new junior suites and three new hilltop villas. These renovations--including all 100 guest rooms-- are part of a five-year makeover that will be completed in December just in time for high season. Each of the new suites is distinguished by patio and porch with gorgeous sea views and sunsets, and extraordinary outdoor bathrooms that are completely hidden from the water. The interiors are luxuriously appointed with indigenous woods, local stones, and handcrafted furniture and fabrics. The three new villas feature three or four bedrooms, oversized living areas, outdoor showers, private pool and dining pavilion/barbeque area. The magical makeover began in 2000 with the addition of the 3,000 sq ft Children's Grove, where children enjoy creative activities with a professional and fun staff. In 2001, the resort opened The Spa at Little Dix Bay, in its unparalleled cliffside setting, along with two beachfront villas. Eight Rosewood Junior suites were added in 2004, and in 2005, the resort redesigned its restaurants and renovated two-thirds of all guestrooms with completely new bathrooms and outdoor showers. With these extensive renovations, the tranquil and sophisticated Caribbean resort just got a whole lot more luxurious.
May 16, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's just something about Prague. All that Baroque architecture, artists congregating on Charles Bridge, the old-world charm of the city's squares and streets, buzzing nightlife, and romance oozing from each distinct neighborhood. Prague is magical and alluring. In the middle of it all in the captivating Czech capital, the Boscolo Hotel Carlo IV is a majestic historical masterpiece. It is elegant, refined, and absolutely gorgeous-- definitely the place to stay in the heart of Prague's historical center. Behind the neo-classical facade, the appointments are sophisticated: a melange of wood, fine marble, ornate stuccowork, and exquisite furniture. There's a business center, Cigar Bar, excellent Wellness Center with noteworthy indoor swimming pool (its beautiful mosaic floor is pictured), fine dining, and state-of-the-art technology in all luxurious rooms. What's not to love?
Fodor's Travel Wire, Prague's Many Neighborhoods