Category Archives: Luxury

When royals go on vacation, they stick to luxury

Royal vacations are the stuff of myth and murmurs. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, was caught on camera having her toes sucked by her financial advisor in St.-Tropez. In the days before she died, Princess Diana was seen in Sardinia lounging on the yacht of a then little-known billionaire playboy, Dodi Al Fayed. And a fairytale proposal between the future King of England, Prince William, and his college sweetheart, Kate Middleton, took place in a remote wilderness lodge facing Mount Kenya.

Slideshow: Where the royals vacation

Royals might have day jobs like no one else’s, but when they choose to get away from it all, their vacations become iconic — and at times infamous. Titled aristocracy can pick anywhere in the world for their playground, but season after season, you will find them in the same sandboxes.

    1. Travel abd Lesiure

    2. Secret Celebrity Hideaways

    3. America’s Best Cocktail Bars

    4. America’s Most Scenic Roads

    5. Coolest Disney Rides

“I’m very fond of Greece,” says Princess Padmaja Mewar, 31, of Udaipur, India. (The House of Mewar is the world’s oldest dynasty, dating back 77 generations to A.D. 734.)

“With its own beauty, culture, and heritage, I love it. I feel different there than I do anywhere else in the world; it’s probably the only place that I feel I can relax.”

While heads that wear the crown can’t always rest easy, they do take breaks. Travel + Leisure takes you to the regal island retreats and elite wilderness resorts where the nobility pack their tiaras away and let loose.

The summer season sees imperial yachts anchoring off Europe’s majestic ports of call, like Costa Smeralda on the Italian island of Sardinia, where Saudi princes own many of the villas that dot the shore and sloping hills.

In winter, nobles seek the peerless beaches of Mustique, a three-square-mile Caribbean island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. With only one small hotel, the island — which was “discovered” by Princess Margaret in the 1960s — is an exclusive club for villa rentals, with weekly rates that rival the cost of college tuition.

And for wind-whipped, adrenaline-filled Christmas, the slopes of the Swiss Alps have long provided sovereigns like Prince Charles with excitement and exclusivity. The short days of winter also leave plenty of time for après-ski partying with the well-heeled.

While royal destinations might be grander than our simple ditch-the-desk getaways, the vacations themselves might not be so different after all — filled with relaxation, adventure, and an opportunity to leave the royal pains of everyday life behind.

Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

America’s best affordable hotels

What would the perfect hotel stay in Charleston, S.C., include? How about a white-gloved doorman welcoming you into an antebellum mansion, where you can relax in period-style rooms furnished with four-poster beds? The Planters Inn in Charleston delivers this experience — and best of all, it’s not as expensive as it seems.

    1. Travel abd Lesiure

    2. Secret Celebrity Hideaways

    3. America’s Best Cocktail Bars

    4. America’s Most Scenic Roads

    5. Coolest Disney Rides

With its central location and overflowing southern charm, it’s no surprise that Planters Inn is a favorite of travelers. But its affordable rates have catapulted the 64-room property to No. 6 on the list of America’s Best Affordable Hotels, as voted by Travel + Leisure readers in the World’s Best Awards Survey. And all the winning hotels deliver stellar service, luxurious amenities, and rates of $250 a night or less.

Slideshow: America’s best affordable hotels

So where can you find the highest concentration of these affordable gems? Las Vegas, of course: Five of the top 20 properties are located on the Las Vegas Strip. Stay at The Palazzo (No. 4), a smart choice for those who love to shop, as Barneys department store is located on the ground floor. Or choose Encore at Wynn (No. 16); you can enjoy the sun’s rays from an oversize lounge chair at the 60,000-square-foot beach club, or even while playing blackjack (the tables abut floor-to-ceiling windows).

It’s easy to find travel deals in Las Vegas. Sin City is still absorbing more than 6,000 hotel rooms added by the opening of CityCenter and the Cosmopolitan. This saturation of hotel options, along with higher gas prices, will keep the city’s room rates down, according to a recent report by Moody’s Investors Service. So if you’re looking to save money, head to the desert: Las Vegas will be a great value for travelers straight through the hot summer months.

For those who prefer history to hedonism, there’s The Greenbrier (No. 17), in West Virginia. This quintessential American retreat in the Allegheny Mountains was the setting of a Cold War fallout shelter for the House of Representatives and the Senate; the bunker is now open to tours. Meanwhile, Dorothy Draper interiors still draw design aficionados, and active types love the property’s adventure zone, bowling lanes, and indoor ice rink. And it’s all just $249 a night.

Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

De-stress in the world’s strangest spas

You’re lying on a massage table, but instead of the masseuse’s hands, snakes slither along your back. They weave through your hair, nibble on your eyelashes, and curl around your toes.

    1. Travel abd Lesiure

    2. Secret Celebrity Hideaways

    3. America’s Best Cocktail Bars

    4. America’s Most Scenic Roads

    5. Coolest Disney Rides

You can get one of these odd massages on a farm in northern Israel. There and at the rest of the world’s strangest spas, you’ll be immersed in unforgettable, oddball situations that all somehow share the same common goal—to help you heal and relax.

Slideshow: World’s strangest spas

The spa industry has exploded in the last decade: there were 20,600 spas in the U.S. in 2009 compared to 5,689 spas in 1999, according to the International Spa Association. Storefront nail salons also increasingly offer massages and facials. To stay competitive, spas try to stand out through unconventional treatments and locations, such as a Czech brewery that specializes in hot-beer baths.

“Spas have become experts at offering treatments that let spa-goers experience what the local area is all about while still getting the results they crave,” says International Spa Association President Lynne McNees.

Taking this strategy to the extreme, Chiang Mai Women’s Prison Spa lets you experience what life is like for local inmates, who are trained in the traditional art of Thai massage as part of a prison rehabilitation program.

Story: Canary Island spa simulates life in the womb

Prisoner-style uniforms are required for patrons at an entirely different kind of oasis: the five-story, 100,000-square-foot Spa Castle in outer Queens, in the shadow of New York’s LaGuardia airport. It’s easy to spend the entire day exploring this theme-park-like space, which includes jade and gold igloo-shaped saunas, plunge pools, and a food court dishing out authentic Korean barbecue.

Teri Cunningham appreciates Spa Castle for both the relaxation and the entertainment value. “After making the rounds from the dipping pools to the hot saunas to the ice room, we love to hang out on the lounging sofas upstairs watching the planes land,” she says. Brooklynite Jonathan Ames was also won over by Spa Castle’s quirky charm; he featured the spa in an episode of his HBO cult favorite Bored to Death.

If you find yourself bored of choosing between Swedish and deep-tissue, you know the cure: an appointment at one of the world’s strangest spas. Just be prepared to travel for it. Israeli farm-owner Ada Barak would like to bring her snakes to us in America, but the FAA says: no snakes on a plane.

Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

The best new hotels of 2011

Forget check-in counters. When you arrive at the wrought-iron gate of the Shangri-La Paris, a historic mansion near the Seine, a staffer will greet you by name before escorting you through the marble-clad, chandelier-lit lobby. In no time, you’ll be sipping jasmine-scented tea and admiring the Eiffel Tower view.

    1. Irene evacuations spread to Northeast

      Evacuation orders widened Thursday to include parts of Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and more North Carolina counties, while rough waves from the hurricane caused eight injuries in Florida.

    2. Humble soldier saves 4, gets rare medal for heroism

    3. The annoying ways our co-workers eat lunch

    4. Dog mourns at casket of fallen Navy SEAL

    5. How can Gmail, Lady Gaga help land you a job?

This latest creation from Shangri-La opened in December 2010 and stood out among the hundreds of hotels we tested for our annual It List, a compendium of the world’s most noteworthy new hotels. As we do every year, T+L editors and writers logged thousands of miles in search of the next best new hotels for you to lay your head.

Slideshow: It List — The Best New Hotels 2011

In Las Vegas, we found a newcomer that will thrill design geeks and food nerds: the 52-story Cosmopolitan, architect David Rockwell’s buzzed-about tower. Rooms have Fornasetti wallpaper in the closets, a generous soaking tub, art you will actually think about, and stacks of Phaidon books bedside. Be sure to make an advance reservation at one of Cosmopolitan’s top-notch restaurants by Scott Conant (Scarpetta), Bromberg Brothers (Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar Grill), and José Andrés (Jaleo; China Poblano). The city expects 2.8 million travelers this year, and many are clamoring for seats at new culinary hot spots like these.

Foodies will also flock to Mazzorbo island in Venice and the Venissa Ristorante Ostello — another of the year’s best new hotels. Here, the former chef of Milan’s Hotel Principe di Savoia, Paola Budel, helms the kitchen, serving innovative dishes such as pan-fried lagoon eel to up to 12 guests. Rates that start at $156 are an added treat, especially as hotel rates in Europe have seen double-digit-percent increases this spring, according to Smith Travel Research.

Back in the States, there isn’t a more famous name in the New York hotel world than Donald Trump, and his three entrepreneurial scions are behind downtown Manhattan’s newest tower, Trump SoHo. In a city with almost 7,000 new hotel rooms under construction, Ivanka set the property apart with her modern design touch — from the puckered-leather headboards to streamlined bathrooms. The exotic twist? The city’s first hammam, inspired by Ivanka’s travels in Istanbul.

Whatever perk you have in mind — from camel rides in Abu Dhabi to wine tasting from a Queenstown lodge — you’re sure to find it among our collection of the year’s best new hotels.

More from Travel + Leisure

Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

UAE airline brings the bling to first-class travel

We’ve all been there. After milling around the gate for what seems like forever, you trudge down the jetway and board the plane, only to stand there in the aisle in first class like some redheaded stepchild while the privileged few relax in their oversized seats, peruse their multiple-choice menus and sip their complimentary beverages.

If that sort of scene bugs you, you may want to avoid booking a seat on Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. Already known for its over-the-top luxury that includes lie-flat beds, personal loungewear and sliding privacy screens, the carrier is now upping the first-class stakes even higher.

Recently, the airline began offering new amenity kits for female passengers that include a cosmetics purse detailed with Swarovski crystals. Sorry, guys, but you’ll have to make do with a black-leather cufflink box, which comes with a Schick Xtreme 3 razor and shaving cream.

But, wait, there’s more.

In October, the airline will start providing an onboard chef for its first-class passengers. Promising “five-star” service, the carrier is recruiting 100 chefs who will cook meals to order and tailor dishes based on passengers’ particular tastes and preferences.

Of course, such service doesn’t come cheap. A roundtrip “Diamond First” ticket between New York and Abu Dhabi in mid-July will run you a cool $15,070.

Considering a comparable economy-class ticket costs just $2,106, you might want to consider packing a lunch, a bag of crystals and your own Elmer’s Glue.

Other stories you might like:

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.