March 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
That's right: experience the 2006 Giro d'Italia and ride with Lance Armstrong! Trek Travel-- offering cycling vacations of a lifetime on grand tours through Europe-- designs fantastic Italian cycling adventures. From May 9-May 15, savor the best of the Italian countryside, delightful cuisine, scenic cycling, and quality time with badass champion Lance. The trip details for "Giro d'Italia with Lance Armstrong": 7 days, 6 nights, starting in Piacenza and ending in Forli, moderate (40-70 miles per day), $8500 (double occupancy).
It's that time of year again. MGM Mirage-- which now owns over half of the hotel rooms on the Strip-- is spending a whole lot of cash on its Vegas spring cleaning. $800 million on upgrades, in addition to the $7 billion they're shelling out for the Project CityCenter development, expected to open in 2010. After all, you've got to spend money to make money, as the Las Vegas Sun explains: "the idea is to continue to attract big spenders." Last year they spent big bucks on upgrading a wing of MGM Grand, building high-end Skylofts, adding two restaurants from Chef Joel Robuchon, and serious upgrades at Mandalay Bay. What's in store with this year's spring cleaning? Renovation of the outdoor pool and beach area at Mandalay Bay to add a bunch of new deck space and cabanas. Remodeling of the Rumjungle bar and revamping of the 3950 restaurant, with the addition of a celebrity chef. A new nightclub at Luxor. A new restaurant and bar at Excalibur. A new Japanese restaurant at Mirage. And the biggest upgrade of all: a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the music of the Beatles, to debut in May at the Mirage.
After the tragic mess left by Hurricane Wilma, Cancun is slowly making a comeback. The Presidente Intercontinental Cancun Resort has recently reopened, with some profound improvements. They've renovated each guest room and suite, revamped the Club Floor, redesigned the lobby, enlarged the pool, added a new oceanfront bar with nightly live music, and added a new open air restaurant. Not to mention a wider (and whiter) beach. Actually, as the hotel explains:
due to its privileged location, added more than 15 feet of additional frontage to its spectacular private beach, one of the largest and most beautiful in Mexico and featured as one of the "World's Best Beaches" by the Travel Channel.
Forget the spring break hordes (they're all in Key West and Panama City, anyway); now's the time to head south of the border.
It's not too late to start planning your New Year's Caribbean vacation. The expert travel agents at Five Star Alliance notice that the hot properties in the Carib, Mexico and Central America fill up absurdly fast. Try late Spring/early Summer fast. A trend that is repeated every year. So if you're thinking sunshine for you and your family over the holidays and New Year, especially for places like the Four Seasons Guanacaste in Costa Rica or Peter Island or Amanyara (Turks and Caicos) or anything St. Bart's-- act fast.
Brought to us by award-winning luxury hoteliers Banyan Tree, Angsana Spas are renowned for their rejuvenating therapeutic treatments that emphasize natural ingredients such as native flowers, plants, herbs, and spices. Fusing techniques from East and West, Angsana Spas are located worldwide as both resort properties and day spas. This Mother's Day, pamper your mother (and yourself) with packages designed for women at Angsana Spas around the world.
At the Angsana Spa Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, indulge in the Mother's Glow session (RM250)-- a two-hour treat comprised of a massage and body polish of your choice, as well as a special gift from Angsana Gallery. The Angsana Spa Double Bay and Jamison, Sydney is offering a Sweet Mum package: a two-hour beautifying and pampering session comprised of a massage and facial of Mum's choice. Priced at A$148, available from 1 May to 30 June 2006. Likewise, the Angsana Spa El Gouna, Egypt is showcasing the Mother's Spirit package ($110); its three hours of indulgence include a body polish, massage and facial (choose your favorite treatment from each category.) At the Angsana Spa Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, the Mother's Essential package includes an hour massage and an hour-long facial. Get a discount when you join your mother for the same treatment: top up the R704 single package treatment to a R1320 package for two. Valid from 1 May to 30 June 2006. The Angsana Spa Guam is offering the ultimate Mother Dearest package for $160, including a Jasmine Green Tea Revival treatment and hour-long facial. Lastly, the Angsana Spa and Health Club Dubai Marina will feature the Pampering Mum treatment for Dhs520. Includes a reviving massage, facial and hand balm, as well as a special Mother's Day card or sweet bouquet of flowers included in the treatment room.
Palma de Mallorca-based Barcelo Hotels and Resorts recently acquired the five-star Karmina Palace Hotel along Mexico's Pacific Coast near Manzanillo. The 324 all-suite, all-inclusive resort has long been known as a world-class, premium destination, and the new Barcelo management will surely only enhance that reputation. (Barcelo operates 10 luxury properties throughout Mexico.) This baby-- for which they shelled out $48.2 million-- is rated AAA Four Diamond and offers an 18-hole golf course, swanky accommodations, three restaurants and four bars, eight swimming pools with waterfalls, children's club, fitness center and spa, and a theater. The Barcelo Karmina Palace Hotel is uber-family-friendly, and superior service is not abandoned with the convenience of the all-inclusive plan.
Here in Washington we're already going gaga over the annual flowering of the Cherry Blossoms. The festival doesn't get rocking until next weekend, but the flowers are a-blooming and travelers are enjoying the best time of year to visit the nation's capital. Below I've compiled some articles for your perusal and pleasure:
National Cherry Blossom Festival, Official Website
The Washington Post, "2006 Cherry Blossom Guide"
Fodor's Travel Wire, "Think Pink: Spring Cherry Blossom Festivals"
Fodor’s Travel Wire, "Essential Washington, D.C."
The Informed Traveler, "Luxurious DC Cherry Blossom Package at The Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington"
Change is afoot in the Eastern Europe outpost of Bulgaria. Its 20th century history was marked by the power struggle between paternalistic Russia and wary western Europe (which sought to break up the Russian stronghold and thus carved away Macedonia to the Balkans), but the country is now slated for entry into the European Union in 2007. And as the Financial Times reports, the Black Sea coastal beaches have recently become prime real estate for investors:
The Moscow government has already invested in this area of Bulgaria's coast, with plans to build two five-star hotels on a promontory enclosing the south side of the beach. And more buyers – institutions and individuals from Russia, the UK, Ireland, Spain and France – are circling, eager to get in on Europe's latest emerging market property boom.
Investment in upscale development is good news for Bulgaria's economy, and in addition, the government has realized the importance of legislation protecting the coast: banning high-rise buildings, creating new zoning regulations, and setting aside green space. Looks like Bulgaria is on the path to becoming Europe's new second home hot spot.
Pay $5 for a snack box with a cardboard-tasting sandwich and mushy apple? I don't think so, say many luxury travelers, who are opting for delightful gourmet take-out meals offered by their upscale hotels. As the Miami Herald reports:
...the posh Peninsula Beverly Hills sells takeout platters of blue fin tuna, poached salmon and Cobb salad in narrow cardboard boxes with suitcase-like handles for about $20. Guests at the Hotel Plaza Athene in New York can order a chicken club or shaved roast beef sandwich packed with monogrammed cloth napkins and a reusable thermos from the hotel's "Goodies to Go" menu. Hotels aren't just filling doggie bags with food from their restaurant menus. Some are devising special dishes that travel well and stay tasty at room temperature.Now that's a way to build loyalty among your (happily-satiated) clients.
Holy week in Seville takes place in the eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter (April 9-16 this year): an incredible celebration and melancholy observance at the same time. The cloaked Cofradias (Brotherhoods)-- their eyes and faces hidden by huge conical hats-- process through the city's narrow, winding streets. Some barefoot, burdened with crosses, or huge fantastic floats of the Virgin Mary or Jesus, kneeling in penitence as they circle from their church to the Cathedral of Seville and back-- passing mobs of citizen revelers and eager onlookers. The streets are absolutely packed with extended families (from infants to grandmothers) who gather to watch the processions of 57 brotherhoods carry 116 marvelous floats through the streets. To witness this religious ritual is a once-in-a-lifetime must. Where to stay in the exquisite historical city of Seville? The Hotel Alfonso XIII, of course! Built in 1929, the posh royal palace was inaugurated by the King for which it was named. A fixture on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List, the hotel is the essence of opulence. (Hurry, rooms are still available! My pick are the Moorish-themed rooms, with their tasteful and elegant furnishings.)
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Official Site
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Five Star Alliance