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Appealing to today’s more value-conscious upscale traveler, luxury line Crystal Cruises has added all-inclusive amenities to their standard pricing. These new benefits began with Crystal Symphony‘s first transatlantic voyage from Miami to Lisbon on March 19 (the next all-inclusive sailing will be the Crystal Serenity‘s trip from New York to London on May 8).
The new all-inclusive pricing includes prepaid gratuities for housekeeping, butler, and dining staff, an impressive selection of fine wine and premium spirits in the restaurants, open-bar service throughout the ship, 24-hour room service, and more.
As repeat passengers, my husband and I anticipated exceptional cuisine and a world of imaginative itineraries when we had the pleasure of taking an 11-day cruise through the Panama Canal in January. It was the perfect time of the year to sail from Costa Rica into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, stopping at the colorful ports of Curacao, St. Maarten and St. Thomas before arriving in Miami.
Unfortunately, it was too soon in the year for us to take advantage of Crystal’s all-inclusive pricing – but there’s always a next time. Read more
Romance is revving up all over the place during the month of February, from sun-kissed beaches to sophisticated big cities. Here are 25 deals and packages – from Fort Lauderdale to Fiji, Maine to Madrid, and St. Kitts to Sedona – that you can still book to make this Valentine’s Day the most memorable ever:
IN THE U.S. & CANADA
The Grand Del Mar: Unplug and relax with the “Disconnect Package” at the luxurious The Grand Del Mar near San Diego (shown above at left) and you’ll get one night’s accommodations (with the room TV unplugged and upgrade upon booking if available), berry-infused champagne cocktail upon arrival, choice of a 60-minute couples massage, or a 2-hour horseback ride for two, breakfast in bed for two, and late checkout, from $795/night. Read more
Escape to a private St. Thomas beach this summer with the Morning Star Marriott Beach Club’s “VIP Morning Star Experience” package. Stay at least four nights now through September 30 in order to slice at least $90 off regular room rates and receive a $200 food and beverage credit valid at the resort’s three beachfront restaurants (Coco Joe’s, The Sandbar at Havana Blue, and Havana Blue Restaurant). Even groovier: The VIP treatment includes an iPod shuffle to use on the beach and on the plane ride home, as well as $25 iTunes gift card, so you can whip up a playlist worthy of paradise.
THE VALUE: This is the lowest priced package the resort has offered all year. You’ll save at least 30 percent on rooms, which normally start at $289. The $200 food and beverage is enough for either breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two at Coco Joe’s or an upscale meal with plenty of wine at Havana Blue. Plus, the iPod shuffle is yours to keep (a $49 value).
THE CATCH: You must stay at least four nights to reserve this package.
THE DETAILS: Visit the hotel’s website or call 800-228-9290 and use promo code SO9 to book.
WE’VE GOT MORE:
Summer is off-season in the Caribbean and Mexico – so it’s the perfect time to score a great rate (starting at $230/night) at a five-star resort you might otherwise not be able to afford. Yes, it’s hotter and more humid at this time of year, but you can generally expect good weather for at least the next eight weeks, as hurricane season doesn’t typically kick into gear until late July. Here’s a sampling of what’s being offered at 10 luxurious resorts ideal for a honeymoon, anniversary, or special romantic getaway.
Four Seasons Resort, Nevis: With the “Stay Longer – Third Night Free” package (valid until September 30, 2011) at this newly renovated 196-room resort, set on Pinney’s Beach (shown above at left) on tranquil and historic Nevis, room rates begin at $345 per night for a king-bedded Deluxe Mountain-Side Room (that’s just $230 a night after the free night is applied). Rates on Deluxe Ocean-Side Rooms are $545 per night, or $363.33 per night with the free night applied. The resort also features four restaurants and a relaxing, colonial cottage-inspired spa.
A centuries-old island paradise by day and maritime party town by night, St. Thomas in the USVI offers a plethora of activity options for visitors. From May 1 through August 31, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, a popular St. Thomas shores mainstay, is offering a 5-night package for four people, for just $1,338 (including all taxes, fees, and surcharges) – this averages out to under $70 per person, per night. The 5-night stay includes oceanview room accommodations, a welcome cocktail per person, a complimentary bottle of Cruzan rum upon arrival, $21 in food or beverage credit per person at Iggies Beach Bar at the resort ($84 in total), and a happy hour Sunset Cocktail Harbor Cruise on a catamaran.
THE VALUE: This package rate actually factors in a free stay for the third and fourth guests!
THE CATCH: The price includes a 7 percent gratuity, so plan on shelling out a little extra cash for good service. Also, this deal is honoring the 21 anniversary of Iggies Beach Bar, so it is not applicable to stays for children.
THE DETAILS: Call 1-800-524-4746 to reserve Iggies 21 Birthday travel deal. Travel from May 1 through August 31. For more information about the resort, visit www.bolongobay.com.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Visit our St. Thomas Travel Guide for more trip-planning tips and information.
Check out our Travel Search price comparison tool for great rates on airfare to St. Thomas.
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You could spend a pleasurable week at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas without knowing you had at your disposal the skills of former Olympic windsurfer Paul Stoeken, but that would be a shame.
Along with members of his certified team, Stoeken, owner of Island Sol Water Sports, runs the Ritz-Kids Sailing Camp, held every weekday at the property for kids ages 8 to 13. You’ll pay $110 for the first child and $95 for each additional kid, and if you know what sailing lessons usually cost (a lot more) this is a good deal. Each lesson is tailored to your child’s skill and interest level. Kids can train on windsurfing equipment, a dinghy called an Optimist Pram (that your child will likely call Optimus Prime, if your child is anything like me) or a Hobie cat, the most popular craft among campers.
Ok, take 2,000 gay American men, sprinkle with internationals from Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, and more, place them on a luxury cruise ship stocked with booze and top notch food, add in Caribbean islands, shake it all up, and you can’t help but have an amazing travel experience. Atlantis Events offers about six cruise programs per year, and I had the good fortune of taking one to the Caribbean this past March sailing on the Celebrity Solstice. I cannot convey enough positive reviews of the experience.
Initially, a German friend prodded me to sign on to the cruise. I admit that I was reluctant at first since I’ve tended to prefer independent travel. But I was delighted by my experience with both Atlantis and Celebrity. While Celebrity (or one of Atlantis’ other partners) runs the cruise, Atlantis organizes all the ship programs, including entertainment. All aspects of the cruise were outstanding – the ship’s design and facilities (the Celebrity Solstice offers a very tastefully designed Art Deco style), food, shows, excursions, and parties. For my review of the ship, click here.
If you are thinking about a quick three- or four-night romantic getaway, early December offers the perfect mix of opportunity and deals. Traditionally a slow period for hotels and resorts, this small window between Thanksgiving and Christmas serves up both stellar rates and fabulous weather in such sunny hotspots as Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, Florida, and Arizona. Here are five deals at leading luxury resorts — Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, and Fairmont — that will let you book a five-star getaway for as little as $159/night:
Summer rates on Caribbean cruises have begun to decline now that fall is within reach. If you can push off that vacation a bit longer, you’ll save a bundle on island-hopping cruises and can put that cash towards a deluxe cabin upgrade.Our editors have uncovered an autumn itinerary aboard Holland America’s latest upscale ship, the ms Eurodam, with balcony staterooms priced for less than the cost of interior cabins on similar summer voyages. Most balcony cabins on a 7-night cruise are priced well over $1,000 – especially on a newer vessel – but with this offer you can experience a taste of luxury from just $699.
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