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If you think that DJ sets, mixology events, sleek common spaces, LEED certification, book signings, and lightening-fast internet don’t sound like hallmarks of most big-brand hotels, you’d be right. But the Renaissance hotels, owned by Marriott, are striving for a more boutique aesthetic these days. Of course, that means having to shrug off the stereotypes of outdated rooms, subpar restaurants, and uninspired common spaces that people associate with big corporate hotel chains. And that means making its newest properties less cookie-cutter and more bespoke than ever.
When you think shipwrecks, images of the ghostly, wooden pirate ships, the Titanic, and James Cameron exploring in a tiny bubble may come to mind. It’s often assumed that to explore a wreckage you’ll require scuba gear and extensive training. While scuba diving will always lure adventurous travelers, snorkeling can be as equally enthralling and much easier on the budget. In fact, scuba dives can cost more than $300 for an hour-long experience. Snorkeling? An entire day may cost a mere $10 for a mask rental. For those of you looking to explore hauntingly beautiful shipwrecks, but aren’t willing to spend the time or money on scuba diving, here are some options where snorkeling the wreck provides an equally intimate view.
Make no mistake, collecting points to use for travel is a hassle. With black out dates and restrictions, actually using them for travel can be an even bigger hassle. That’s why loyalty programs are often overlooked as too conflated or difficult to actually enjoy, but those who put in the effort can be rewarded handsomely. Case in point: I recently used a combination of points to fund a visit to a remote island paradise in the southern Maldives. It wasn’t easy, nor was it straightforward, but it enabled me to travel to a place I could never afford otherwise. Here are five astonishing properties around the globe that may not be so far out of reach after all… Read more
As views go, lakes provide a backdrop that is at once soothing and full of mystery. Unlike oceans, these mighty bodies of water are contained. You can row across their surface, dive for shipwrecks, or simply go bird-watching, all in the safe knowledge that land is never too far away. More than anything, lakes can provide a refreshing change of scenery from days spent shopping in town or hiking in the surrounding mountains.
Here are a few lakefront views worth traveling for.
Known the world over for its gorgeous sunsets, super-friendly locals, and spectacular resorts, lush, laid-back Bali is one of those places you always hear other people talk about and think to yourself, “Maybe one day…” But with airfares being what they are ($2429 roundtrip from New York in January? No thank you!) and an abundance of top-tier resorts (Oberoi, Anantara, Four Seasons, and the recently announced Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which will open in 2015) promising the “quintessential” Bali experience for upwards of $600 per night, it’s easy to be tricked into thinking the idyllic southeast Asian island is for big spenders and honeymooners alone.
But to experience the island’s secluded lagoons, jungles, and white sandy beaches – namely, everything you’re there to see – it’s possible, and in many ways, necessary, to venture out of the five-star resorts and explore Bali’s nature spots on your own. The island is literally teeming with bustling wildlife reserves, beginner-friendly diving spots, and ethereal rice terraces. Below, we’ve picked a few of the island’s most accessible, locally-favored, and,visually stunning nature spots that you can experience all on your own: and cheaply, too.
Take note, a camera will come in handy!
Travelers were up in arms last week when Thailand announced plans to introduce a $16 entry tax for passengers arriving by air and staying more than three days – and a charge of 30 baht (97 cents) for travelers coming into the country from a neighboring state and staying for two days or less.
The Thailand Tourism Authority (TTA) claimed the proposed tax is needed to cover the cost of unpaid medical bills left behind by foreign travelers – although other reports mentioned the tax has been levied in the hope of attracting a ‘better’ standard of visitor, compared, presumably, to the young backpackers drawn to the country’s affordable beach destinations and buzzing nightlife.
In a statement to the press, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) President & CEO, David Scowsill called the proposed tax “one of the more egregious tourism taxes that we have seen”.
Of course, Thailand is not the only country to charge visitors a fee for arriving or departing the country. While many countries include their entry or exit taxes in the price of an airline ticket (Thailand, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic, to name just three examples), a stubborn few still do not allow this. In the interest of you not getting caught off-guard at the airport without the means to cover an unexpected tax, here are a few entry and exit fees worth knowing about:
Looking to expand your travel horizons this summer or fall? We’ve got the deals for you. From Bonaire to Bali to Bulgaria, travel outside the usual domestic or Caribbean destinations and head somewhere truly special this season – and still save in the process. Read more
This year, I spent my very first Christmas away from home, trading in New York’s brisk winter for the balmy beaches of Bali, Indonesia. A lifelong New Yorker, I’m used to having Christmas practically smack me in the face, with the city’s sensory seasonal overload oozing over-the-top holiday window displays; jingle bell-shaking, Salvation Army Santas vying for loose change; bustling Christmas markets and tree-hawking Canadian vendors cropping up on every other corner; and chilly temps only tolerable for their potential to deliver that coveted white Christmas.
In Bali – a predominantly Hindu island that’s part of a larger Muslim nation – setting out to find the spirit of a Christian Christmas required a decidedly more active approach, but with my boyfriend and I intent on celebrating the season in our own special way this year, rest assured, happy Bali-days were there for the taking. Read more
In Bali, hot hotel openings are booming, with the sexy Starwood Hotels brand in particular playing a heavy hand here – three Starwood-branded hotels alone have scheduled openings in just a one-year span.
Yes, Bali’s a long way to come for the American traveler, but I can tell you, having landed in this Indonesian slice of paradise just last week, that this “Island of the Gods” is a journey that us mere mortals really ought to take, with enough top-rated beaches and snorkeling/dive sites, lush vegetation and volcanoes, and hospitable locals and cultural curiosities to satiate the demands of even the most jaded traveler – all at budget prices, to boot.
While here, I’m bedding down at the brand-new Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, which opened its doors on December 1 on the storied shores of Bali’s Kuta Beach, a surfers’ and sunset seekers’ mecca. The Starwood-branded resort’s trump card comes in the form of its sweeping ocean views, best enjoyed with frothy cocktail in hand from the panoramic picture-window lounge (or during the venue’s weekly wine-tasting event); while savoring tasty Italian fare at its Bene restaurant; while splashing about in the outdoor rooftop pool; or while just kicking back and relaxing in your guestroom. Read more
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to spend more quality time with the person you love, then I suggest you enjoy that togetherness someplace amazing! And what’s better or more romantic than a stunning, sun-kissed island? There’s something innately sexy and bond-inspiring about the sea – floating together in gentle turquoise surf, walking hand-in-hand at sunset, enjoying the day’s fresh catch paired with a rum cocktail or a fine wine. So as the new year begins, here are my top 10 picks for the most amazing islands to escape to together in 2012. Read more
If you have a thing for H2O – you love to be near it, in it, over it, or under it – here’s a sampling of some of the unique water-centric features of a variety of resort and cruise ship spas in the U.S. and around the globe. All are located on or near the ocean as well, so it’s water, water everywhere!
Deep Ocean Spa, Bora Bora: If you are planning a romantic getaway or honeymoon, consider the exotic South Pacific island of Bora Bora, where The Deep Ocean Spa at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa (shown above at left) is a water-lovers’ fantasy come true. Features include overwater treatment rooms with glass panels in the floor so you can spy on fish as your back is massaged, and an al fresco hydrotherapy circuit filled with mineral-rich sea water pumped from 3,000 feet below the Pacific. Rooms from $670, treatments from $108.
The Setai Spa, South Beach, Florida
There are heaps of beautiful spas in Miami, but I like how close this one is to the beach and the Love Potion No. 9 kind of theme: Couple’s Love Ceremony includes a 60-minute Couple’s Ancient Balinese Massage followed by a Love Bath – a soak in a Love Potion-filled tub with rose petals. Champagne and canapes included. $500 per couple. Photo above courtesy The Setai. www.setai.com/thespa
We’re already a month into 2011 (and close to Valentine’s Day), so I’m sure you’ve begun thinking about when you can get away with your sweetheart – for an anniversary or birthday – and where to go. Here’s a roster of my favorite ideas:
January: New Zealand You missed out this year, but that gives you time to save for next year and see one of the world’s most beautiful places. It offers a superb mix of outdoor adventure (from hiking to bungee jumping) and excellent food and wine (amazing lamb and world-class pinot noir). It will be summer, so plan ahead and allot two weeks as the North and South Islands combined are about the size of California.
February: Costa Rica This jungle-meets-beach playground – home to loquacious howler monkeys, luminous blue morpho butterflies, and next Monday’s episode of The Bachelor” – is close enough to enjoy on a five- or six-night getaway. Most flights are into the capital, San Jose, but if you plan to explore the Pacific Coast, you can fly into Liberia. Another option, a seven-night cruise on Windstar (www.windstarcruises.com), which also visits neighboring Nicaragua.
This small Indian Ocean island bursts with thousands of Balinese Hindu temples and 3 million Balinese – all of whom seem to be on scooters at the same time! No sense is left untested: Bali is equal parts serene (lush jungles, mystical volcanoes, black-sand beaches), chaotic (buzzing markets, vibrant dance performances, tourist-clogged Kuta beach) and spiritual (delicate incense-and-flower temple offerings, carved goddess figurines, burning funeral pyres). It is a magical place to find – or celebrate – love. And is it ever the place to shop!
Since Bali is an island, it is tempting to think, beach. Certainly, its shores are studded with resorts. The main enclaves are Jimbaran Bay, Nusa Dua, and Seminyak – home to upscale hotel brands such as Four Seasons, Starwood Luxury Collection, and Oberoi. Read more
Backpackers flocking to Southeast Asia for its cheap accommodations, favorable climate, and dazzling natural scenery can trade in crowded hostels for five-star comfort. Sample delectable Balinese curry, dance the night away in Singapore, and watch the sunset on the shores of the Bali Sea from just $1,703 (with fuel surcharge) when you book your package through Singapore Airlines Vacations. Travelers can fly out of every Singapore Airlines gateway around the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York, and Houston.
• Round-trip airfare
• Airport and hotel transfers
• Two-nights’ accommodations at five-star Swissotel The Stamford in Singapore
• Three-nights’ accommodations at five-star Nusa Dua Beach Hotel in Bali
• Daily breakfast in Bali
• Half-day Singapore city tour
• Full-day Bali city tour, including lunch
• Complimentary bus pass in Singapore
THE CATCH: You’ll have to recruit a travel buddy, as rates are based on double occupancy. Taxes of $110 are not included in the package price.
THE DETAILS: Visit www.singaporeairlinesvacations.com to book through August 31. Travel between September 1, 2010 and November 30, 2010, or January 1, 2011 and March 31, 2011.
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