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LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
 
FSA LogoThe Luxury Hotel Insider: Exclusive luxury hotel deals, features and special rates from the luxury hotel experts at Five Star Alliance. 
 
Named one of Tripbase's Best Luxury Travel Blogs for 2011, below are Five Star Alliance's newest articles featuring exclusive information on luxury hotels worldwide including special offers and deals at the world's best hotels.

Finding a Hotel in the Caribbean for the Holidays

November 28, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

St Lucia

Attempting the impossible task of booking a luxury hotel in the Caribbean for the holidays? Most luxury hotels have been booked solid for months. But don't be discouraged in your quest for a well-deserved (albeit last-minute) Caribbean respite! I've found a few delightful gems that still have availability:

Casa Colonial in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic: Long stretches of white sand beaches. Elegantly furnished all-suites hotel. World-class spa. Conde Nast Traveler's 2005 Hot List. Impeccable service. Enough said.

Casa Colonial, Official Site

Casa Colonial, Five Star Alliance

Anse Chastanet Resort, in the lush mountain paradise of St. Lucia. With 600 acres of tropical foliage, the soaring peaks of Petit Pitons, and extraordinary beaches, this is paradise on earth. Romantic and secluded. Scuba, spa, waters sports and mountain biking.

Anse Chastanet, Official Site

Anse Chastanet, Five Star Alliance

Petit St. Vincent Resort is available for the Christmas week, though not the post-Christmas week. Individual cottages set on a 113 acre privately-owned island of exquisite white sand beaches.

Petit St. Vincent, Official Site

Petit St. Vincent, Five Star Alliance

Martineau Bay Resort and Spa (which I've blogged about recently) in the idyllic, secluded island of Vieques, near Puerto Rico.

Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Official Site

Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, Five Star Alliance


Hot Destinations: Charleston, South Carolina

November 24, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Charleston, SC

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


Special Offers: Martineau Bay Resort and Spa in Vieques, Puerto Rico

November 24, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Martineau Bay Resort and Spa

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


All About Belize: Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn

November 23, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Turtle Inn

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.


Living Large at Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout

November 22, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Cowboys at Lajitas

In the rugged wilderness of West Texas, between Big Bend National Park and the Mexico border, lies a unique destination resort situated on a 25,000-acre private estate. Lajitas is surrounded by the awesome scenery that—as Architectural Digest explains—inspired Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign into law the creation of Big Bend National Park. This exquisite landscape is etched with the history of the infamous characters from the Old West. The lodging? This ain’t tents around the campfire. Along with the resort’s endless array of activities, Lajitas offers luxurious cowboy chic. Of the 92 rooms, no two are alike—each outfitted with plush robes and lavish Agave amenities. (Suites and private haciendas also available.) The resort has designed a host of fun and clever packages. The “Ultimate Golf Package”—with unlimited golf and lunch on the course—is $250 a night. With the optional 19th hole in Mexico, Ambush at Lajitas is the world’s only international course. Unlimited rounds of golf are complemented by unlimited carts, balls, and beverages. My fave is the “So You Wanna Be A Cowboy” package, where guests participate in a slew of activities, starting with a custom-fitting of cowboy boots. Next on the agenda? Learn how to use a gun of the Old West at Greasewood Flats, Lajitas’ very own cowboy action shooting range. After breakfast on Day 2, head out on a trail ride to the Buena Suerte Mine and Ghost Town, then star-gaze by a roaring campfire while enjoying a gourmet feast. Starting at $400 per person.

Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Official Site

Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Five Star Alliance


Trans-Siberian Railroad Gets a Makeover

November 21, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Moscow Church

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.


What’s Hot: Marlon Brando’s South Pacific Paradise

November 16, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Marlon Brando Atoll

After yesterday’s verbiage—sheesh! I’m wiped out!—I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. There are rumors milling that Tetiaroa-- Marlon Brando’s private atoll in Tahiti—will be an exclusive eco-resort in 2008. The Brando (as it’s been dubbed) will require a $40 million investment, as there’s no electricity or running water on the island. I wonder if there’s a line already queuing for the 30 bungalows?


The Caribbean’s Best Kept Secret: Bocas del Toro, Panama

November 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Bocas del Toro Aqua Lodge

Beautiful white sand beaches framed by tropical forest. A small-town Caribbean vibe. Marine parks with abundant coral reefs attracting marvelous fish and animal life. A snorkeling and scuba-diving paradise. Welcome to Bocas del Toro, Panama. To reach these islands off the country’s Caribbean coast (close to the Costa Rica border), one could opt for a short flight. Or one could be more adventurous and choose the water taxi, an experience in and of itself. The boat ride travels through old canals formerly used by the banana plantations. Peer down into the clear Caribbean-blue water, and you can see fish swimming beneath the gnarled roots of the mangroves. Where to stay? The (still-quaint) town has undergone development in recent years so that there are luxurious accommodations aplenty, in addition to cheaper hospedajes. Check out the environmentally-friendly Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge, which topped Luxury Travel Magazine’s 2005 A-List. Each bungalow is built on stilts over the crystal clear sea, your own private terrace providing vistas of jumping dolphins at sunset.


Heli-Skiing in Alaska and Switzerland

November 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Alaska Heli-Skiing

I admit it; I’ve never done it. But after a few beers the other night with a couple who lead springtime Heli-skiing tours in Alaska, I was well on my way out the door. Who needs the tropics when I could ski snow-capped peaks and glacier-carved mountains all by my lonesome?! (And I’m no ski junkie.) Up in Alaska, the winter season runs from late February until May. Heli-skiing operations like Points North Heli-Adventures (utilizing over 1,000 sq miles of skiable terrain in the Chugach mountains) provide an average of 20-25,000 feet of vertical per day. (Excursions average 6-10 heli runs and $850-900 a day.) I checked out a feature in Outside Traveler’s Winter issue, which was equally as convincing about heli-ski tours in the central Alps. Apparently heli-skiing trips in Switzerland used to be rather boring—a daytrip appended to a traditional lift-skiing vaca at the big resorts. But this season, adrenaline hounds can experience SwisSkiSafari’s Ultimate Journey, as described by the Outside author:

“a four-day, five-night, fine-wine-and-slide luxury tour that zips skiers around the country’s top resorts in privately chartered B3’s and Bell 407’s. You start in Verbier (about 1,000 miles east of Geneva), then fly east to Zermatt and Saas Fee, making backcountry drops in between—wherever the snow is best. Doing 5,000- to 7,000-vertical-foot runs in a single push can hurt, but returning every evening to top-notch digs and massages blunts the pain.”

Bring it on! Can anyone advise me-- additionally-- about good operators in the Rockies?


Travel in Rajasthan, India: Camel Trekking Near Jaisalmer

November 12, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Camel

Last Stop: Hope You’ve Enjoyed Today’s Ride

The city of Jaisalmer is like a fairy-tale castle out of “Arabian Nights.” Dating from 1156, its amber-colored walls blend with the surrounding elements and seem to emerge from the desert sand. Located at the edge of the Thar Desert, near the border of Pakistan, Jaisalmer was founded on the historic crossroads of lucrative trade routes. The “Golden City” was an important gateway for the camel caravans from Central Asia and grew prosperous from this trade. Thus within the scorching heat of the desert, this remote frontier settlement developed a beautiful and isolated cultural tradition. For years the city was unscathed by outside influences, its rulers the last to succumb to British rule.

The 800-year old Jaisalmer Fort looms 30 meters over the city. Enclosed within its ramparts is an entire living city, the narrow lanes lined with shops and beautiful Jain temples dating from the 12 century. The citadel preserves a medieval way of life, its resident craftsmen weaving traditional rugs and designing silver jewelry. Stroll through the cobblestone streets of the old city and see the havelis, the mansions of the rich and powerful Jain merchants. These businessmen hired stonemasons to design their sandstone mansions, the facades delicately carved like intricate sculptures. Patwon ki Haveli is the most elaborate and magnificent of all the Jaisalmer havelis.

Where to Stay?

From Jaisalmer, visitors can venture on overnight camel expeditions into the Thar Desert. The ride? Blankets are piled high across the camel’s hump, the reins in hand elaborately decorated with leather tassles. The vistas? An endless sea of sand stretching in all directions, the dunes shifting and changing in the wind. But a word of warning: camels can be full of personality, and lots of gas. I mean, so flatulent—LAWD!-- they stink to high heaven.