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Marrakech

Cruise Ship in Sydney HarborWelcome to wave season! At the very end and beginning of every year, cruise lines roll out promotions for sailings through the next year – sometimes even two – in hopes of booking passengers early. The deals can take the form of steep discounts over 50 percent, 2-for-1 fares, onboard credits, free airfare, and other special packages. For you, this means that there’s no better time to go big – or at least dream about it. Here, we offer eight unbelievable cruises for the ultimate nautical adventure… Read more

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This year, March has come in like a lion and gone out like some kind of lion-velociraptor hybrid. With a bunch of late-season storms walloping parts of the U.S. and others shivering through an extended cold spell, it’s easy to forget that spring has officially arrived. While you’re waiting for the weather to catch up with the season, close out March in Africa, where more manageable climates, majestic beasts, arid deserts, and stunning architecture await those with an adventurous spirit.

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La Villa des OrangersI spent a good deal of time researching places to stay in Marrakech before my April visit. Deciding between a more traditional riad (think small palace with a courtyard) or a larger hotel/resort outside the city’s Medina or old town is a major consideration. Since my friends and I stayed several nights at the Palais Namaskar, a fantastic destination resort in the nearby Palmeraie region, I wanted a more traditional experience in Marrakech, preferably in the Medina, where mud brick ramparts enclose winding narrow streets packed with shops, food vendors, mosques, and homes.

My pick is La Villa des Orangers, which I wholeheartedly recommend. This Relais & Chateaux property strikes the perfect balance between traditional riad and full-service hotel (such as La Mamounia and Le Royal Mansoor), offering a decent-size swimming pool, onsite restaurant, gym, and hammam/spa. There are also several stunning libraries and sitting rooms with fireplaces. Read more

Palais NamaskarIf you want to stay at one of the most outstanding resorts in the world, consider a trip to Morocco for at least two nights at the Palais Namaskar (aka “The Namaskar”), which truly deserves “six stars” for going above and beyond any five-star property in every way. If you’ve seen the movie Sex & The City 2, imagine the palace in Abu Dhabi where Carrie and the girls stayed. It’s that impressive.

Two friends and I had the good fortune of spending a few days at this luxury property, the latest to crop up in the desert-oasis Palmeraie region (technically part of Marrakech), when it opened in April. Read more

Six Days in Morocco

May 16th, 2012 by

OK, I know that Morocco may not be on the top of everyone’s bucket list. In my case, I had several friends fly over for my birthday celebration in Paris, and then three of us decided we wanted to go somewhere more exotic. Since I had already been to several places in North Africa and the Middle East, but not Morocco, I quickly honed in on Marrakech, the country’s most popular destination for good reason: It has luxurious places to stay, excellent food, a friendly population, good nightlife options, and a number of noteworthy cultural sites. (It also has good connections from Paris, about three hours away.) Read more

La MamouniaCelebrities expect and get the very best. This high end clientele pulls in to tip-top spots around the globe, at properties as iconic as they are.

These six sexy properties have played home away from home to everyone from the Obamas to Madonna, providing the perfect respite for royalty, rock stars, and heads of state. So, whether you are looking to globe trot, celebrity spot, or simply live in the lap of luxury, you may want to hunker down in one of these world class properties for otherworldly accommodations and simply the best spa treatments on the planet. Enjoy…

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Ceiba Del Mar Beach Spa and ResortThe clock is quickly ticking, but all you lovebird procrastinators (or maybe you’re just spontaneous) still have 19 days to book a last-minute Valentine’s Day getaway. The big day falls on a Monday this year, making it perfect for a long weekend. My inbox has been flooded with possibilities – from great deals to extravagant splurges. Here are 14 packages worth perusing:

1. Cities Across North America: The “Magnifique Romance” package at Sofitel (www.sofitel.com) – which includes accommodations, chocolates, flowers, champagne, and room-service breakfast – is available throughout North America (Montreal, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago-Water Tower, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles) with rates starting at $140/night if booked by February 13.

2. Riviera Maya: Ceiba Del Mar Beach Spa and Resort, located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast just south of Cancun (shown above at left; courtesy of Ceiba Del Mar Beach Spa and Resort), has a four-night “Romance Experience” package that includes accommodation in an oceanview suite, a champagne cocktail welcome, a private candlelight dinner for two with a bottle of wine, and a 50-minute couples massage, from $1,440 for four nights.

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donnalamamouniaexterior-resize.jpgMarrakech is one of those mystical places long beloved by eccentric socialites, writers and rock stars – a city of “heat and madness” infused with the soothing aromas of rose water and orange blossoms and the sweet flavors of mint tea and almond milk. And for culturally curious couples, it is deliciously, deliriously romantic – just seven hours by air (with a connection in Casablanca) from New York or an easy add-on from a European city such as Paris or Madrid.

The most indulgent way to experience this quixotic, pink-hued city is to stay at La Mamounia (shown above), the circa-1923 luxury hotel on the edge of Marrakech’s throbbing medina that re-opened last September after a three-year, multi-million-dollar facelift by celebrated interior designer Jacques Garcia. The result – a lavish kaleidoscope of Moroccan-meets-Deco décor – is an inspired, French-infused playground for anyone with 1,001 Nights fantasies. Read more

marrakech_edit.jpgRubbing elbows with Spain, Western Sahara, and Algeria, Morocco marries these cultures with its own diverse history into an exotic, Afro-European folktale. This Bedouin journey begins in romantic Casablanca, and continues on to Fez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then, visit Meknes, an imperial city built one thousand years ago, and finally wind down in Marrakech, a walled-in haven of mosques, palaces, and tombs – all the while returning to your five-star hotel room to cap off each fascinating day.
 
THE VALUE:
•    Round-trip flight from New York City (worth up to $1,200)
•    All domestic, ground transportation in Morocco
•    Five-star hotel accommodations
•    Daily breakfast and dinner
•    Comprehensive tours with an English-speaking guide

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marrakechguestroom1_edit.jpgDon’t have the time or monetary resources to fly to far-flung locales such as Morocco? Visit New York City instead. Between January 4 and February 28, the newly-renovated, Moroccan-themed Marrakech Hotel on the Upper West Side has nightly rates starting at just $99/night – over 20 percent off regular prices! In addition, the boutique hotel is giving guests two free tickets to the Top of the Rock ($42 value) – an observatory 70 stories high with unobstructed, panoramic views of New York City.

To book, visit www.marrakechhotelnyc.com, or call 212-222-2954.

trans.gifAbout the Hotel: Situated near Central Park, the Marrakech Hotel received a facelift in 2008 and contains 125 guest rooms outfitted with white European bed linens, down comforters, flat-screen televisions, as well as massage shower heads in each bathroom. The hotel also features a Moroccan lounge and Sookk Thai Asian Restaurant.


Tented Suites at Kasbah Tamadot

After a few days moseying around the Medina, ducking donkeys and evading mopeds on the crowded, narrow streets, I started hankering for some open space, fresh air, and downtime. So, I headed to Sir Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot, a spectacular hotel, formerly a Berber palace, set in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, about an hour’s drive south of Marrakech. Branson renovated the castle and opened it as a hotel in 2005, making sure that the entire place optimized views in every direction: To the north, a river valley backed by limestone and forested mountains, to the south, the snow-capped peaks of the high Atlas Mountains, and, to the east, the mountainside Berber village of Tansghar. But the views are only part of what makes this place so magical. It’s an exotic fort full of Asian antiques and Moroccan furnishings. Read more

One of the coolest things about Marrakech is the juxtaposition between the chaotic and dusty, ancient streets of the Medina and the tranquil, sumptuous riads (traditional Moroccan homes turned hotels/guesthouses) that lie hidden within the Medina’s walls. And I’m not exaggerating when I say hidden. When we arrived in Marrakech we were instructed to go to the small parking lot at the Bab Doukkala Mosque so that someone from our riad could come meet us (with donkey and wagon in tow for our luggage) to lead us through the maze, impossible to navigate on your own if not first guided. We walked past food and crafts stalls, narrowly escaped death by moped more than once, and arrived at an intricately carved door – not so different from the dozen or so doors we passed on the way. Inside, we found a surprisingly chic, and quiet, sanctuary.  The Riad Noir D’Ivoire, one of my favorite riads, is beautifully decorated, with two courtyards, a bar, cigar room and wine cellar, a slender pool backed by a wall with a 21-foot-high waterfall, hammam, and several nooks that extend off the courtyards for lounging, sipping wine, and planning out the day’s adventure. Read more

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