December 19, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Let the countdown begin. With Christmas a week away, a few-days escape may be the highest priority on your wishlist. Look no farther than The Setai, the eight-story art deco landmark in South Beach. Set amidst tropical gardens and exquisite pools, The Setai has a spa like no other, with luxury suites to match. Black granite baths, rainwater showers, espresso coffee-makers, and equipped with cutting-edge technology. Christmas rates start at $900, including breakfast.
The Setai, Official Site
The Setai, Five Star Alliance
No hotel space in the Caribbean this winter? Sleep on the beach! Experience the beauty and blissful Caribbean sunshine of the Virgin Islands from a kayak, with Arawak Expeditions. A small, family-run outfitter based in St. John, Arawak was the first company offering sea-kayaking tours around St. John, and they know their territory. With years of experience, Arawak uses the best technology and equipment in leading environmentally-friendly tours in the Virgin Islands National Park. With gourmet meals—prepared nightly on the deserted beach-- to boot. The snorkeling is remarkable, in secluded, untouristed locations. This is adventure travel at its finest. A sample five-day itinerary starts in Peter Island, then involves gentle paddling from island to island, including: Pelican Island, Norman Island, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Sandy Cay, Lovango Cay, St. John.
The Michelin Guide Deutschland 2006 has distinguished the "White Town by the Sea," bestowing an award on the gourmet restaurant Friedrich-Franz in the Kempinski Grand Hotel Heiligendamm. Head chef Tillmann Hahn opened the restaurant in June 2004. The guy's culinary motto? "One cuisine, four aspects." Thus four creative menus-- utilizing the best products from the region and the world—range from Classique, Exotique, Mediterranee, and vegetarian Menu Jardiniere. Framed by the Baltic Sea, the beach and dense forests, the hotel is now blanketed in wintry charm.
Mexican Pres. Vicente Fox is even planning a flag-waving ceremony to advertise the resort area's reopening after that nasty hurricane. But, the Washington Post queries, how ready is it? The resorts to the south, in Tulum and Playa del Carmen, are faring better than treeless Cancun, where about half the town's 27,000 available hotel rooms are open, and a lot of resorts are sadly scarred by eroded beaches.
Ready, set, sweat! Head to the beach for an early AM power walk, followed by rock-climbing and then a little yoga. After an afternoon of kayaking, get pampered with a deep tissue massage. Welcome to Bikini Boot Camp, at Amansala, an eco-chic resort near the cliff-hugging Mayan ruins at Tulum, Mexico, overlooking the sparkling Caribbean and white sand beaches of the Yucatan. Boot Camp ain't so bad when it's in such a purty place. After Hurricane Wilma's recent devastation, a few Yucatan hotels are back up and running, Amansala included. Set on the beach, 14 palapas are casually elegant: decorated with mosaic-tiled bathtubs, bohemian details and beds draped with mosquito nets. The dining cabana offers delicious communal-style meals, such as fresh caught grilled fish, mangos, jicima salads and other yummy low calorie selections. One-week camp is $1842, and includes six nights accommodations, all meals, two bike excursions, kayaking, yoga and exercise classes, two massages and one Mayan clay treatment, and all entertainment.
Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines just announced a new version of its Big 'S' Sale with prices starting at $19 each-way for domestic and Caribbean travel. Though serious restrictions apply, and the lowest fares are available for midweek winter travel, Smarter Travel investigated and still found savings of more than $300.
Fly to Mexico on American from $198 R/T. Destinations include Cozumel, Cancun, Los Cabos, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City. Valid through March 31, book by December 15. This sale is hot!
December 3, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Half Moon, Montego Bay is celebrating the big 5-0 and has thus come up with some pretty sweet packages. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and space is available for the winter holidays, so why not book the "Take Me To The Moon" package? From $589 a night, includes swank accommodations, sumptuous food and—could it be?—unlimited beverage, unlimited use of the fitness center and tennis courts, a welcome gift with champagne, and round trip airport transfers. Chill on the palm-dotted beaches or in your choice of 50 freshwater pools, unwind at the spa, partake in the water sports, or challenge yourself on the world-class tennis courts and golf course. The dining options? For a self-contained little paradise, the restaurant choices are almost (surprisingly) limitless.
Half Moon, Official Site
Half Moon, Five Star Alliance
Miami's getting hotter, with a new Viceroy hotel planned for 2008. The Kor Hotel group's hotel-residence project combines their famous luxury boutique concept with condominiums. Who's designing the Viceroy Icon Brickell? Rumor has it that it's the architecture firm Arquitectonica and legendary designer Phillipe Starck... Talk about a dream team.
Think Mexico for pre- or post-holiday recuperation! With 56 ocean view rooms, Casa del Mar is a hacienda-style resort set in lush gardens overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Play a round of golf at the Robert Trent Jones II designed championship course. Head to the spa for an outstanding signature treatment like the Tropical Exfoliation, where the skin is buffed with fine milled coffee and dried coconut, and then massaged with coconut massage oil. In the evening, dine under a poolside palapa. With the Relax 33 special package, save 33% off regular rates, starting as low as $269 a night for a Deluxe Oceanview Room. Offer good December 1-20, 2005, and January 2-15, 2006. Minimum 2 night stay required.
Scheduled to open on December 15, the new Ritz-Carlton is the most talked-about news of the season. This resort is destined to set new standards for luxury hotels, with an all-star cast contributing to the resort's conception: Greg Norman designed golf course, Tennis by Nick Bollettieri, two restaurants by Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, NYC, the world's first spa inspired by La Prairie's Silver Rain (did I mention that this is one of the Caribbean's largest?!), and an aquatic education program run by Jean-Michel Cousteau. The best part? There is still availability for December holidays! But hurry; book those rooms fast!
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Official Site
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Five Star Alliance