Ritz-Carlton hotels are popping up in prestigious, exotic locations all around North Africa lately, with properties under construction in Marrakech, Morocco (around the Jenan Amar Polo Fields); within the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat; and east of Tangiers on the Mediterranean at Tamuda Bay. And over in Japan, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto will open in early 2014.
If North Africa is a bit out-of-the-way for your immediate travel plans, no worries: there are plenty of fabulous (and affordable) Ritz-Carltons nearer to you. One of my favorite things in life is a big hotel breakfast, which makes me a fan of the Comfort You package. It includes accommodations, breakfast for two, and a resort credit of $50 to $100. A few locations where this package is extra-affordable include:
- Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, $219
- Ritz-Carlton Naples, Florida (the Golf Resort), $259
- Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, $299
- Ritz-Carlton New York (Battery Park), $325
- Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, $319
- Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, $329
- Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C., $269
- Ritz-Carlton Phoenix, $249
- See more locations
Image courtesy Ritz-Carlton Hotels
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This is where I want to spend the rest of my afternoon, on a private island owned by Sandals Royal Bahamian.
Image courtesy Charlyn Keating Chisholm
Jumping ahead just a few short years from Downton Abbey, the 1920s will be the focus this weekend when The Great Gatsby hits theaters. A few packages in Manhattan and beyond are affordable enough so you'll have plenty left over for swilling 1920s-style cocktails.
- The Jane Hotel in Manhattan, in a faded-grandeur century-old building, has rooms that start at a jaw-dropping $99. Yes, they're tiny--inspired by train and boat cabins, they are a mere 50 square feet. But if you want to spread your wings, spring for a Captain's Cabin at $250 per night.
- Over at the Jade Hotel, book the "Gatsby Getaway" Package. You'll get reimbursed for your movie tickets, loaned a hardcover copy of Fitzgerald's book, and handed a complimentary signature Gatsby cocktail. Rates are from $350.
- The Bowery Hotel's lobby has the perfect after-party atmosphere, where you can unwind with a couple of Sidecars. If you want to sneak upstairs, I won't tell; rates start from $445.
- In Atlantic City, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is celebrating in its new "euro-inspired gastro pub," 28 West, with two signature cocktails: Gatsby's Old Fashioned and Fitzgerald's Manhattan.
Cheers! Just leave the car with the valet.
Image courtesy Bowery Hotel CR:Gregory Goode
I finally finished Downton Abbey. I won't spoil the ending of season 3 if you've yet to catch up on Amazon.com, so it's safe to read this post. Just don't follow the next link. (And if you have, OMG! Here's why it happened.)
Are you inspired by the dresses, the hats, the servants, the posh lifestyle? From the States, it could be a bit pricey to replicate the aristocratic, quintessentially British experience--unless you know about a special place on the East coast.
For quite a bit less than just the first-class airfare to England, you can live out your Downton Abbey fantasy with the English Manor Experience package this summer at the Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club. You stay for two nights and revel in poshness: butler-served room service, sparkling wine, bagpipe seranade. You can also arrange to enjoy your choice of aristocratic pursuits; have a ladies' maid updo your hair for dinner, enjoy a private dinner in the wine cellar followed by port and cigars, or spend an afternoon shooting or golfing.
Mary would approve.
Image courtesy the Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club
If you only get to Las Vegas once every couple of years, it seems pointless to have a rewards card, right? It seems you're not going to spend enough every year to get any of the really good perks. Besides, it's not like you're going to stay in the same hotel every time you go--even if it's your favorite.
And then there's M life. The loyalty program for MGM Resorts has a few intriguing twists, making it amazingly useful, even if you're an occasional traveler.
First, there are the resorts. The MGM Resorts banner includes some of the biggest names on the Strip, including the Bellagio, ARIA, New York-New York, Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo. Outside of Vegas, it includes Beau Rivage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gold Strike Tunica and MGM Grand Detroit.
The way you earn points also has a twist. Sure, you can earn them by spending money on dining, gambling and the spa. But after you link your account with TopGuest, you can also earn from just checking in on social media--Facebook, Four Square or Instagram. I got 2,000 points over a couple of days just by checking in to different hotels on Facebook.
And here's the really fun part--you don't heven have to be near the hotels to earn points. When you play myVEGAS, a Facebook game with slots and table games, you can earn points and comps for the real thing. They even give away, for instance, passes to the Bellagio brunch every day.
M life sweetens the deal by making once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime special experiences available as you rise in the tiers of the M life program. I spent a whirlwind weekend sampling as many as I could--here are my top 10 M life moments.
Image courtesy JD Andrews
When it comes to choosing a New York hotel, I'm usually looking for the perfect combination of location and price. New York hotel rooms tend to be pricey and, let's face it, itty bitty. I once shared a hotel room with a friend that had one double bed, barely enough room to squeeze pass each other, and a view of a brick wall. I've seen bigger walk-in closets.
On the other end of the spectrum, there's the fabulous Mandarin Oriental New York. Rooms start at $695 a night--a bit more then I paid for the closet. For that, you're getting much more space, amazing views (take your pick from Central Park, the Hudson River or the Upper East Side), and an unbeatable location high atop the Time Warner Center.
If you're considering the splurge, I recommend booking a package like the Bed & Breakfast, which includes a full breakfast for two (room service or restaurant). Rates start at $759 per night.
If you'd prefer to visit just for the day, you can also enjoy the amazing views from the spa. In addition to individual treatments, half-day and full-day programs are available to all and include a healthy lunch.
Brunch is also an affordable and delicious way to live it up at the Mandarin Oriental. The three-course prix fixe menu, at $54, tempts with Ahi Tuna Poke, Main Lobster Bisque, Eggs Benedict "BLT" and Chocolate Crème Brule, among other delights.
Image courtesy Mandarin Oriental New York
I'll admit it. I've always feared that for a ranch vacation with family I'd have to save up squillions to fly all of us out west. So I was happy to read guest writer Judy Koutsky's report from a recent stay in New York at the all-inclusive Rocking Horse Ranch right here on the right coast, where the kids can go horseback riding through the woods (the ranch has more than 100 horses) and take part in other activities, too, like playing in the indoor and outdoor waterparks, water skiing and pedaling paddleboats around the lake.
The property only has 120 rooms, and Judy writes that the fact that it's not a mega resort had a lot to do with why many of the families she met during her stay chose to stay here, too. She says:
There's plenty to do, but the resort isn't enormous. You don't feel overwhelmed or exhausted doing it all. It's manageable and everything is a short walk from the main building.
Now, that sounds like my kind of family fun. And how's this--springtime rates start from $129 for adults and $49 for kids per day. Check it out!
Image courtesy Rocking Horse Ranch
Spring break is barely behind us and I'll admit it: I'm already thinking about how to keep the kiddos entertained through the lazy (long!) days of summer. Guest writer Judy Koutsky points to upstate New York as an entertaining road trip destination for families in the northeast. And while thinking about making that roadtrip with the gang from Florida gives me heart palpitations, the destination certainly sounds appealing.
Judy recently checked in at a few noteworty properties including Hope Lake Lodge in the Finger Lakes area and the Holiday Inn Binghampton Hotel. She spent the days with her young kids exploring the former hotel's water park (there's fishing, hiking trails and boat rentals here, too) and visiting a minor league baseball facility and the zoo.
Follow along her family's adventure - and follow her lead to plan your own!
Image courtesy Hope Lake Lodge at Greek Peak
You know your cocktail's serious when it comes with a fork. And that's exactly the case with this edible martini, just one of the killer concoctions materializing from the bar at Beach House Turks and Caicos, a newly opened 21-suite property that's the only boutique hotel located directly on Grace Bay Beach.
"The only things frozen at Beach House are the ice cubes and frozen drinks," says Chef Eric Venice, the property's executive chef, adding that everything from the fruit in the drinks to the fish on the plate is as fresh as can be. And ordering cocktails in this corner of paradise, it turns out, is quite a tailored experience. "All of our servers--in the bar, poolside and on the beach--talk with our guests to get to the heart of why they love what they're drinking and then we help them to create something they love even more," says the chef, pointing fresh fruit purees and exotic mixes as some of the essential ingredients.
Sounds divine--I'll take mine on the rocks with a fork, please!
Image courtesy Beach House Turks and Caicos