January 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The Alps are melting. According to an important feature in the February issue of National Geographic (RUN, don't walk, to the newsstand for this one), scientists are estimating that "the Alps have lost half their glacier ice in the past century, 20 percent of that since the 1980s; glaciers in Switzerland have lost a fifth of their surface area in the past 15 years." The glaciers are receding—driving some resort owners to drastic measures like buying white blankets to cover 15 acres of glacier during the summer—and the snow has stopped falling. Which isn’t helped by the 12 million trucks and 50 million cars that cross the Alps each year, their fumes trapped in a nasty greenhouse of emissions within the valleys. This is more than bad news for the region that worldwide symbolizes a wondrous winter playground for international jetsetters and local farmers alike. There are 600 ski resorts nestled in this dramatic mountain range that stretches across eight nations, half of which are predicted to close in the coming decades. For those passionate about Alpine adventures, this means adopting a philosophy of environmental sustainability while packing your bags ASAP for St. Moritz. Badrutts Palace Hotel, of course, here in the birthplace of the Alps winter tourism.
Can they send the funds to Paris Charles de Gaulle instead? The airport is the pits. I'm sure when it was constructed in the 70's, it was considered the epitome of cool. A space age vision of the future. Escalators and moving walkways ascending and descending hills through the maze of flashing white lights, crisscrossing the vast circular interior through plastic tubular structures. (The French tell me it resembles-- um-- camembert cheese.) Good luck trying to find the shuttle to the TGV. (It would require a map and pages of carefully detailed instructions.)
27 holes of championship golf in the sultry desert heat at The Phoenician. Nine gorgeous pools overlooking Camelback mountain and the red rock desert landscape. A phenomenal spa. And the city's dazzling culinary display and rockin nightlife. Now couldn't be a better time to visit Scottsdale. If those aren't reasons enough: the legendary destination resort recently completed a $20 million makeover. Guestrooms and casitas are all newly furnished (bed linens, wall hangings, artwork all in earthy desert tones), with divine new beds, and loads of new technology and upgraded bathroom fixures (lighting, floor-to-ceiling Italian marble, oversized tubs.) Of course the lobby, lounges, restaurants and public areas weren't overlooked, and the Spa and Fitness Facility was injected with a healthy $250,000 of new stairmasters, ellipticals, Life Fitness strength training machines and 15" individual televisions in all cardio equipment. The best part of the makeover? The Oasis swimming pool complex with new poolside cabanas, all new surfacing and decking, teak outdoor furniture, and underwater sound.
Via Travel and Leisure February issue
The Phoenician, Official Site
The Phoenician, Five Star Alliance
January 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
HotelChatter gives us the scoop about the Waldorf, just as the Hilton Hotel Corp. announces its new lux brand: The Waldorf-Astoria collection. The timing couldn't be worse. Now the Grand Wailea, Arizona Biltmore, and La Quinta Resort and Club, along with New York's legendary hotel-- slated to be newly managed by Hilton under this exclusive new brand-- will be stained by the very same Waldorf name. Talk about a PR nightmare.
Rumor has it that Acqualina-- the exquisite new boutique resort from Rosewood-- will open its doors for guests in February. Located in Sunny Isles, Florida, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Acqualina is billed as a European architectural masterpiece (everybody's talkin!). Indeed, the resort's got it all: two-storey oceanfront spa, private beach club, superb dining, poolside cabanas and three gorgeous pools to choose from-- depending on your mood (will that be the infinity pool or tranquility?) The long-awaited debut was originally scheduled for November 2005, so I'm not holding my breath for an ontime opening.
Acqualina, Official Site
Acqualina, Five Star Alliance
The award-winning hotel is back and (almost) ready for action. After Hurricane Wilma took out most of Cancun's hotels and sweeping white sand beaches, construction and renovation has been nonstop, and this gem is set to open on May 1. Luxurious oceanfront suites with balconies, an elegant spa, rooftop tennis, and plenty of golf nearby... located smack in the middle of Cancun's Hot Hotel Zone. Welcome back.
Redeem awards for unrestricted travel on any airline? Or take those miles and stock up on goods like iPods, Bose sound systems or lux spa treatments? No, this is not a joke. Just when almost every other airline out there has raised the number of awards necessary to get a free ticket (and upped the blackout dates), Eos-- the premium airline I've obsessed over before-- has introduced a brilliant frequent-flyer program. Both Travel Weekly and the Online Travel Review are talking it up this week. (And it's easy to understand why.)
Abu Dhabi plays catch up with the incredible development going on in nearby Dubai, with the latest AED 800 million project, dubbed BTB (that's Between the Bridges, guys). Due to open in Feb 2007, the complex will be packed with luxury villas, executive apartments, and a five star hotel. That's music to our ears.
Four Seasons has set up camp (literally) in Thailand's mysterious Golden Triangle (didn't this used to be scary, opium-producing backcountry?) It seems the hotelier is jumping on the "rustic luxury" bandwagon, catering to a crowd that yearns for adventure, yet can't do without the spa touch of Four Seasons. Thus you can mount an elephant, raft down the Mekong, and meet the local hill tribes-- and return at night to one of 15 Four Seasons tents, with hand-hammered copper bathtubs (imagine hauling that into the wilderness on the back of some beast-of-burden), down pillows and supersized robes, and wifi access. Yep, you heard that right. A riverbank tent with wifi and multi-line phones. Other swank services include five-course dining, spa, and free-form pool.
The aging resort and casino sits on some 63 acres of prime Strip-front property, and the Boyd Gaming Corp. sees four sparkling, new hotels (including a Shangri-La) where Stardust's decrepit 1,500 rooms used to be. The developers will welcome Echelon Place—the $4 billion complex with 5,300 rooms, spas, casino, restaurants and bars, meeting facilities and a 4,000-seat theater– in 2010. Besides the Shangri-La, the Morgans Hotel Group (of Mondrian and Delano fame) is keen on the scene.