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
I know, I know --I just wrote about this man's marvelous digs in the Belize jungle. But having witnessed the Turtle Inn by moonlight, I'm dazzled enough to blog again. The deets? Luxury ecotourism at its finest. Situated on a sweeping bay of white sand, in the tiny fishing village of Placencia, the 11 cabanas and 6 villas are serenely situated amongst carefully landscaped gardens-- the coconut palms outlined at night by artfully placed lights. At the Turtle Inn, it's all about the details: the entrance-boardwalk over a turtle-filled pool, handsome waiters in sarongs, a display of sand and shells over the t.p. dispenser, and of course Coppola wines stocked in the mini-bars. The best part? A conch shell phone! to communicate with the front desk. The cabanas are absurdly big, designed in a Balinese theme with all imported hardwoods and thatched roofs. The outdoor showers are exquisite-- set in their own private tropical gardens. And as the jolly gardener proudly informed me, "No AC, No TV." When the director's not in residence, his villa is up for grabs, complete with private entrance, huge pool, and attentive butler service.
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
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.)
I kind of love that the entrance (a decidedly BIG wooden door) is unmarked. Only a coolly-clad bouncer marks the entrance to swankdom. Step inside and it's a colorful world of uber-romance. Enjoy a glass of wine on the patio or winter garden (choose from 85 varieties of wine by the glass). Of the Mediterranean/Californian fare—all organic-- even the salads are drool-worthy. Though some reviewers are prone to deem it "so hip it hurts," I’d choose 4 out of 3 meals a day at this joint.
A recent article in the Royal Gazette highlights the top honor bestowed on Cambridge Beaches—chosen by Five Star Alliance as one of the world’s most luxurious beach resorts. Situated on its own private 25 acre peninsula, the cottages at Cambridge Beaches are each unique-- individually decorated and designed. This is the oldest resort of its kind. Apparently one of the buildings (almost 300 years old) was built by a privateer!
Cambridge Beaches, Official Site
Cambridge Beaches, Five Star Alliance
The legendary New Orleans establishment has opened again with a full range of services. The Windsor Court is well-known as one of the world’s finest hotels, with overly-spacious suites, superb service and cuisine, and the finest collection of European art in the South. In its 20 year history, the Windsor Court has remained a fixture at the top of all the World’s Best lists (Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, Andrew Harper’s Hideaway, you name it…) Post-Katrina, the hotel is not only housing clients associated with the city’s rebuilding, but is also offering a “Returning Home” rate for locals who need a place to stay while overseeing home repairs. The rate of $235 a night includes suite accommodation, breakfast for two in the New Orleans Grill, and parking. Additionally, the hotel can stock your refrigerator with groceries and configure the in-room phone line to accept forwarded calls from your home or business.
The Windsor Court Hotel, Official Site
The Windsor Court Hotel, Five Star Alliance
At last week’s World Travel Awards, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality group was recognized as the “Middle East’s Leading Hotel Brand.” In addition, Jumeirah’s hotels in Dubai—the Burj al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, and Jumeirah Emirates Towers—received a bounty of accolades. The Burj Al Arab, Jumeriah’s flagship, was honored as the “World’s Leading Hotel,” not surprising for the hotel most often recognized as the world’s most luxurious. Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, received four awards including Middle East’s Leading Resort and World’s Leading Conference Resort. Additionally, the Emirates Towers won two prestigious awards: World’s Leading Business Hotel and Dubai’s Leading Hotel. (Notably, last February Jumeirah’s business hotel launched the Chopard floor, an entire floor devoted to female business travelers.) Since its establishment in 1997, Jumeirah has won over 130 international travel and tourism awards. Starting in early 2006, Jumeirah will take over management of the Essex House in New York.
Burj al Arab, Official Site
Burj al Arab, Five Star Alliance
Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, Official Site
Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, Five Star Alliance
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Official Site
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Five Star Alliance
Thrilling news: the Sunday Herald reports that the Trans-Siberian railroad is about to go lux. The adventure across eight time zones of Europe and Asia used to be about stamina and endurance, rather than Orient-Express style opulence. (Seven days and 5,772 miles across the vast, empty landscape of the world’s largest country.) Manchester-based GW travel is spending $23 million on 12 new carriages, each new compartment to be equipped with en-suite shower, double or twin beds, a sound and video system, individual air conditioning and a safe. And of course there’s the bar car, enhanced by live musical entertainment each evening. Starting in 2007, a two-week journey in the Gold Class compartments will cost $11,000-- while accommodations in the silver class will set you back $9,000.