May 18, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The cat's out of the bag about Playa del Carmen. The cool and classy beach destination on Mexico's gorgeous less-traveled Yucatan peninsula (away from the high-rises, Senor Frog's, and wet t-shirt contests of Cancun) is growing at a staggering pace. Quickly fleeting are the days of uncrowded stretches of white sand beach and evenings at hip beach bars. Among the new hotels popping up as quickly as sand-castles: The new Riu Palace Riviera Maya is the fourth all-inclusive Riu Palace to open in Playa in recent months. And Kor has jumped on the development bandwagon, with the Viceroy Riviera Maya and The Tides Playa del Carmen Resorts and Residences (both slated for 2008), and the recent acquisition of two existing upscale resorts: the 46-room Mosquito Blue and the newly built, 33-room Mosquito Beach. (And the accommodations all promise to be sinfully luxurious...) Flights to Cancun are at a record low right now-- we're talking $129 Chicago-Cancun on United's brand new route-- so best get down there now to see a piece of paradise vanishing fast...
Vancouver's delightful boutique hotel already has plenty of gold in its collection. A fixture on Travel and Leisure's Top 500 list and considered the best hotel in Canada by Conde Nast Traveler readers, the Wedgewood is a delightful European style hotel situated in the city center on Robson Square. The 83 luxurious rooms and suites all feature private balconies and beautiful, plush furnishings. The four Penthouse Suites are currently undergoing a $1 million renovation, and will reopen at the end of May. At 700 sq. ft. each, the Penthouse Suites will feature large private garden terraces and balconies with views of the Robson Square gardens and waterfalls, luxurious Spa bathroom with Jacuzzi tub, walk-in showers and heated limestone floors, living rooms with fireplaces and marble wetbars, and bedrooms with French doors and LCD flatscreen TVs. A truly blissful spot in this cosmopolitan city.
And to add to the awards at the Wedgewood, Vancouver Magazine recently gave top honors to Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge at the 17th Annual Vancouver Restaurant Awards. The restaurant received Gold for Best Bar/Lounge, Gold for Best Hotel Dining and Bronze for Best Formal French in Vancouver. In addition, Bacchus was awarded the title of Best Bar and Lounge in the City, for the seventh consecutive year.
At the world-famous intersection of Rodeo and Wilshire Boulevards, The Regent Beverly Wilshire wows with its signature suites, superb Spa, and unrivaled service. And this legendary address has now been enhanced by a renovation of luxurious refurbishments and newly designed Spa and Pool. The exciting makeover includes the June 1st opening of celebrated Chef Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant and lounge, called Cut and Sidebar. The contemporary steakhouse was designed by architect Richard Meier, boasting a stunning modern look.
Now's the time to find fantastic savings and oodles of family activities at the "Jewel of the Desert." Situated in the heart of Phoenix on 39 lush acres at the foot of Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the Arizona Biltmore is oft-considered one of the world's finest resorts, with its oasis of swimming pools, gardens and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture. The distinguished clientele--including visiting Presidents and celebrities-- enjoy the resort's spectacular facilities, including eight swimming pools, seven tennis courts, 18-hole putting course, fitness center, and full-service European spa. The neighboring Arizona Biltmore Country Club offers two 18-hole PGA golf courses.
With Summer Specials, villas are a steal starting at $299, and classic rooms from $149. The resort is offering enhanced poolside amenities and a full agenda of activities for the whole family to enjoy: from Dive-In Movies (enjoy popular movies on the big screen while floating in the Paradise Pool, or on the deck with Ben and Jerry's ice cream novelties), to S'mores and Salsa making demonstrations and poolside massage. In the Summertime, enjoy the best of the Biltmore.
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
The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas offers a heavenly escape surrounded by sparkling turquoise waters and lush tropical forests. From the resort's dazzling white beaches, guests windsurf, parasail, and venture out on scuba diving and snorkeling expeditions. The elegant 152-room resort is about to get even classier, with a new $35 million renovation project. The changes planned include the addition of 24 luxury suites, six spa treatment rooms and a 20,000 sq ft lounge, and overhauls of all three restaurants. The hotel will reopen again on November 1, ready to charm guests for the holiday season. But hurry! There is still some availability for the peak holiday season...
Last year's hurricane season was shocking in scale and scope. And this year, the storms could escalate in strength. As quoted in Travel Weekly:
"The 2006 season will be an active one, with 17 named storms, of which nine will reach hurricane strength, and of those, five will be between Category 3 and Category 5 storms," said William Gray, head of the Dept. of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.Hurricane season (at its strongest from August-October) is thus a big deterrent for tourists to South Florida, on both business trips and leisure vacations. As reported today by CNN, meeting planners are reluctant to book their conferences at this time of year, and thus "Visit Florida last year began offering event insurance up to $200,000 to defray marketing and rescheduling costs if there is a hurricane disruption." Similarly, "to sweeten the deal for leisure travelers, several businesses in the area are offering two-for one packages on diving, sailing and spas." Thus, leisure travelers can take advantage of some excellent bargains promoted by the area's luxury hotels. Many resorts offer guarantees, and hurricane protection, so check ahead. Resources: The Monroe County Tourism Development Council has upgraded its Web site with lots of Hurricane info, including health and welfare issues for travelers, the science of hurricanes, tracking maps, and local emergency plans. Key West Magazine has scheduled an important hurricane feature for their June 2006 issue.
What did I tell you? Abu Dhabi is where it's at. Apparently, the capital of the UAE is aiming for 25,000 hotel rooms by 2015. The latest five-star hotel announcement is the Emirates Pearl, expected to take two years to build and at a cost of $136 million. The coastal hotel's defining feature? A 240 meter high tower (that's 47 storeys) designed by Austria's award-winning architect Dennis Lems:
The tower, which houses 352 spacious rooms and suites and 104 luxuriously furnished apartments all with balconies and Gulf views, sits on a 22 meter high, five-storey podium which features a 20-meter high atrium with five restaurants, service centres, offices, a gym, hair salon, spa, meeting rooms, business centre and shops.
The Emirates Pearl will be constructed with a contemporary twisting glass design. And the hotel's entrance will be marked by a "figurehead sculpture of an Arab hunting scene." How snazzy. And they sure picked a winner of a name for the place.
As CNN reports, the legal battle over designation of "Surf City USA" has officially ended, as Huntington Beach edged out rival Santa Cruz with a federal agency's decision "to grant the town exclusive trademark rights." Easy, dudes! Both spots are world-renowned for their awesome waves. But if you're craving the warmer waters, better head south to Huntington Beach. The town's got an easy-going vibe and quiet elegance, and plenty of opportunities to watch the locals ride the waves in surf competitions.
Looking for lux accommodations? Just a short hop from Huntington Beach in the sun-drenched magnificence of the OC, Newport Beach lures with its recently renovated Fairmont Hotel. It's actually in the final stages of the $30 million renovation, which involves the outdoor area, driveway, and landscaping-- all slated for completion by August 31. The rest of the place is dazzling and new, including the heated sky pool and deck which opens any day now. The Fairmont Gold Lounge and Gold Floor guest rooms-- a "hotel within a hotel" with private check-in and complimentary breakfast and evening hors' d'oeuvres-- will be completed at the beginning of June. The new 8,000 sq ft Spa will open in January.
Take advantage of Only One Way Summer Rates. Rooms are a steal starting at $199 a night.
The Fairmont Newport Beach, Five Star Alliance
Outside Magazine, Surf Guide 2006
It's not too late. Take a break from the Big Apple and head for the hills: the elegant Adirondack hideaway, Mirror Lake Inn, on the shores of Lake Placid. The award-winning hotel (Travel and Leisure loves this spot) is hosting its first annual Festival of Food and Wine in just a few days time. From May 17- May 19, culinary masters and guest chefs will delight guests with their techniques and tasty dishes. What's in store over the three day event? Cooking demos, tastings, wine seminars, and high-profile dinners. The hotel is offering a special package for the event, which includes the following: luxurious accommodations for three nights in a Noonmark room, welcome champagne reception, a wine reception followed by a seven course Tasting menu presented by the members of the 1988 New England Culinary Team on the second evening, and a farewell dinner prepared by the Mirror Lake Inn culinary team the last night. $785 per person or $1240 per couple.
(Plus, after feasting on all that yummy grub, rest assured that there are work-out facilities aplenty at this lakeshore resort, along with plenty of fun in the sun: natural private beach, outdoor heated pool with panoramic views, tennis, Spa, indoor pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.)