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In the world of luxury travel, few providers hold a candle to Abercrombie & Kent. A&K travel conjures up images of elegant, five-star accommodations, customized itineraries with expert guides, the finest of Michelin-rated dining, and cushy modes of transportation. And, of course, the hefty price tag that comes with all of those extravagances.
Looking for all that glitz on a budget? Consider A&K Connections, a new line of luxurious journeys for small groups of 24-28 guests that offers 17 itineraries from six continents. Some of the available destinations include Australia, France, India, Morocco, and Peru. I recently joined A&K on a preview of their “Spain: Seven Cities tour” to see firsthand what Connections is all about.
The cities that make up the title include Barcelona, Granada, Marbella, Gibraltar, Seville, Cordoba, and Madrid. Tally up the day-trips to Malaga, Ronda, and Jerez, however, and you’re looking at a whopping ten cities packed into a ten-day tour. The preview trip was condensed into seven-days. Needless to say, at times, this felt like a break-neck pace, even with Gibraltar sliced off the itinerary. I’d imagine the ten-day version to be just slightly less speedy.
Despite the pace, it’s hard to say which part of the trip I would eliminate to slow things down. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Simon Butler-Madden, an A&K vet who built many of the Connections itineraries, included all the sights we saw; the trip provides a cohesive overview of Spain’s diverse history, and how that history affected all aspects of modern Spanish and Catalonian culture. Read more
For decades, Abercrombie & Kent has been known as one of the travel industry’s premiere luxury tour operators. The company’s safaris, Antarctic cruises, and adventure tours combine nature, culture, and the pinnacle of comfort. While this made for amazing travel opportunities, it also priced a great many people out of their offerings. Now, however, comes exciting news that A&K will be launching a more affordable line of tours called Connections. Priced 30 percent lower than the standard A&K trips, Connections trips still focus on exotic destinations and luxury. The company has an ambitious plan in place to maintain its brand while making their trips accessible to a greater percentage of travelers. Read more
See San Diego’s luxurious side for less – stay at a 4.5-star boutique hotel in the city’s chic Gaslamp Quarter for $175 per night. This offer from the eco-friendly Hotel Palomar San Diego cuts advance bookings made at least twenty days prior to your stay by 20 percent (a savings of $44 per night). Travel is available through December 31.
Stay in a Deluxe Guest Room with a plush king bed. Accommodations provide modern comforts such as an MP3 alarm clock, HD cable TV, an organic mini-bar, and a glass rainforest shower. Don’t forget to bring pets along – the hotel is as pet friendly as can be, with no fees or size restrictions.
The Hotel Palomar San Diego’s sleek decor is woven throughout each room and the hotel’s many onsite facilities, which entertain locals and tourists alike. Cool off in an outdoor swimming pool, then dry off on the pool deck with a cocktail from the rooftop bar and lounge. Workout in a state-of-the-art fitness center, or indulge in a rejuvenating treatment at the hotel spa. Try an appetizer or a full meal of innovative cuisine at the Saltbox restaurant. Palomar guests are also treated to nightly wine tastings. Read more
When you think of “Gay Travel” certainly gay cruises, circuit parties, or clothing-optional guesthouses come to mind. But what about the ancient city of Varanasi? The Zambezi or Victoria Falls in the heart of Africa? Or a spiritual retreat high in the mountains of Tibet? Newly launched Wilde Travels is set out to change that – and offer a 10 percent savings to first-time customers through August 31, 2012.
Following the Miami-based company’s soft-launch in April, owner Jacob Marek – a former marketing manager for the Kenya Tourist board and a Patagonian tour company – officially pressed the “Go” button on the luxury tour operations with an emphasis on gay and gay-friendly guides, boutique accommodations, and above all customization. No gay group tours here (for now).
Far be it from me to decline hotel amenities. I enjoy an ocean view, complimentary chocolates, and plush robes as much as the next traveler, but even I’m baffled by some of the “upgrades” that hotels offer. A television in my hotel bathroom is one such vexing luxury. For all the grousing and moaning about how filthy hotel rooms can be, apparently people have no qualms about lingering in an allegedly clean tub and watching their stories until their fingers get pruney.
When it comes to bathing in hotels, all I ask for is good water pressure. If I can rinse myself off without having to pool water in my cupped hands and splashing it on my torso, I’ve hit the hotel hygiene jackpot. I don’t require a rain faucet directly above my head (it’s an inefficient attack angle for the water), heated bathroom floors, or a television by the tub.
At La Samanna on St. Martin, guests are enveloped by a sense of calm that belies the busy byways and beaches of other parts of this heavily-touristed island in the French West Indies. Here, wrought iron gates guard white stucco structures entwined by tropical blooms while the 55-acre beach that fronts the resort, Baie Longue, is peppered with just a few fabulous-looking people. La Samanna is, bar none, the best place for an upscale celebration, discreet escape, honeymoon, or even destination wedding on St. Martin.
So, it’s big news that this luxury resort, run by Orient-Express Hotels, is switching it up and moving ahead with extensive renovations. Out of La Samanna’s 83 rooms, 30 rooms have been completely redesigned while 20 have received an update with new furniture. The remaining rooms and public areas will be finished from September 1 – November 2, when the resort will close while work is ongoing. The décor in the newly-renovated rooms features a blue and white motif with white travertine floors, marble bathrooms with ceiling showers, shabby-chic style couches, and oceanview terraces. Some suites also have private plunge pools.
We’ve talked about designer hotels before (see our Top 10 List and Armani Hotel Milan blog post, for example), but the trend for fashion-branded hotels is really taking off, and the new year brings a notable upcoming opening in London from well-known fashion house Bulgari, and several hotels from Versace and Missoni are in the works.
Bulgari London is set to open in the spring of this year, making it the fourth Bulgari hotel, with the first three in Milan, Bali, and Tokyo. According to the vision of Bulgari hotels, “each property shall be located in the most prime luxury neighbourhood [sic] in the city,” and the London property is no exception – it’s located on Knightsbridge in the heart of the city. And of course, the hotel is nothing if not luxurious, with custom-built details, luxurious and rare materials, and Italian cuisine. www.bulgarihotels.com
When you book a trip to the recently opened Paradisus Resort in Playa del Carmen, be sure to visit the YHI Spa and Health Club, a 20,000-square-foot luxury oasis. The spa boasts 14 massage cabins, two outside cabins, and a Whirlpool bath for water treatments.
As you enter the YHI Spa, you are greeted by a warm staff of spa professionals and personal trainers. Enjoy a luxurious treatment, then relax in the complimentary Whirlpools, dry and wet saunas, and steam rooms. You can also purchase massage oils, makeup, incense, and other essentials at the Spa Boutique.
The YHI Spa offers both couple and individual massages and personal outdoor showers. My favorite features at YHI were the array of burning incense that created a different ambiance in every room. The spa also offers a great full-service salon for hair, makeup, manicures, and pedicures, which is perfect for guests who are getting married at the resort or simply want to look special for an evening out.
For general trip-planning information, see our Playa del Carmen Travel Guide.
Tired of reading about the typical all-inclusive Mexico resort? Take a second look at the Paradisus Playa del Carmen, one of the finest all-inclusive properties in the country with a unique concept. This brand new resort is really two resorts in one – a family resort, Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralada, and one for adults only, Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla, with communal restaurants located in between the two.
Just minutes from the Cancun International Airport, the Paradisus is a hidden gem situated on the Caribbean with views of the island of Cozumel in the distance. The resort boasts 14 restaurants, 10 bars, complimentary life-enriching classes (including sessions on Mexican wines and tequilas), and a 20,000-square-foot spa and health club.
Stay at The Sebastian, a luxury Vail resort this ski season and receive two free lift tickets on each day of your stay – an added daily value of $160! With this exclusive deal from ShermansTravel, you’ll also receive two spa treatments, daily breakfasts, and welcome drinks. Stays at The Sebastian start at $250 alone, meaning you essentially receive the lift tickets and amenities for free.
The Sebastian is Vail’s newest boutique hotel, a 4.5-star resort in the heart of Vail Village. It offers luxurious room accommodations, an indoor pool and hot tubs, a fitness and wellness center, a full-service spa, a variety of upscale and casual dining, and much more.
Book by November 30 to snag this exclusive luxury deal!
THE VALUE: Save hundreds of dollars on lift tickets, spa treatments and extra amenities from this luxury Vail resort.
THE CATCH: A minimum stay of three nights is required.
THE DETAILS: Call 800-863-2325 and mention ShermansTravel.
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