With vivid pops of color and other cool design details, Eau Palm Beach’s new Breeze Ocean Kitchen restaurant is a vibrant addition to the Florida dining scene.
Chic California Suites
Paséa Hotel & Spa: SoCal, So Good
There’s a new luxury hotel on the block in Southern California. Just a stone’s throw from the Huntington Beach Pier, the Paséa Hotel & Spa debuted in June as the newest addition to the Meritage Collection, which includes four other luxury properties across California and one resort in Kauai. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Paséa has a contemporary design scheme inspired by it setting; think local artwork and distressed wood finishes.
A cozy breakfast nook is one of the homey, retro touches that give the luxury boutique Hotel Carmel its cool California vibe.
Facilities run the gamut from a fitness center and yoga classes to the sparkling pools and Balinese-inspired Aarna Spa featuring ESPA products. Bicycles are complimentary, and there’s even a Paséa-branded pedicab to take you to the beach. Tanner’s, the signature restaurant, serves California cuisine with Pacific views. Did we mention the Beach Butlers? They can hook you up with sunscreen, surf lessons and more.
Paséa also aims to become a destination event venue with expansive meeting/event space in a prime oceanfront spot. There are 11 meeting rooms with all the latest audio/visual technology, plus an 8,400-square-foot ballroom abutting the Ocean Lawn. Tip: The Blue Room has its own fire pit on a terrace.
Kitted out with FRESH bath products, Keurig coffeemakers and custom Frette linens, the 250 guestrooms afford sweeping views of the coastline from private balconies. Nice Touch: The hooded sweatshirt bathrobes. You’ll also find top-notch technology; guests can open their room doors with their own mobile device, and adjust their room ambiance with the Evolve Temperature and Lighting Control System.
The best room in the house is the Penthouse Suite, which comprises 1,900 square feet. From this perch, guests are privy to 180-degree views over the ocean. The sprawling bathroom has both a rainshower and a freestanding tub. Luxe perks include a full-service kitchen and the double-sided fireplace separating the dining room and the entry hall. Penthouse guests also get access to a cabana at the pool for a day.
Hotel Carmel: Retro Boutique Chic
Another hot new debut in California is Hotel Carmel which opened in mid-May after a $2.5 million renovation. Formerly the Dolphin Inn, this luxury boutique hotel exudes a cool California vibe in the heart of Carmel village. Retro touches abound: a cassette player with 300+ tapes in the lobby, board games like backgammon, and vintage beer cans decorating the walls of Brophy’s Tavern, the onsite restaurant and watering hole. There’s also a juke box.
Hotel Carmel is just a few blocks away from sister property La Playa Carmel, the historic mansion known as the “Grande Dame of Carmel.” The brainchild of surfer turned hotelier John Grossmann, this hotel duo is grounded in its local setting. For example, adorning the walls, you’ll notice Big Sur coastal photography by Matt Schwartz of She Hit Pause. And the billiard room also doubles as a boardroom, accommodating 15-25 people around the pool table. The hotel’s beating heart is the newly expanded courtyard, an inviting hangout space where guests gather by the fire pit or the oversized Jacuzzi. In the evenings, the Lobby living room hosts a complimentary wine hour.
There are only 27 cottage-style rooms and suites, 14 of which offer fireplaces. There are also Private Balcony rooms on the Courtyard Level. Top Digs: The suites at Hotel Carmel come with a king bedroom, a separate living room with fireplace, and the best part of all: a vintage-style kitchenette and dining area.
The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur offers a variety of suite accommodations with expansive views of the city.
St. Regis Kuala Lumpur: An Artful Debut
St. Regis has exported its signature butler service to Malaysia’s capital. Hot on the heels of the debut of The St. Regis Langkawi, the luxury hotel group opened The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur in May with an impressive art collection and Taka by Sushi Saito, the first restaurant outside of Tokyo for Michelin three-star Chef Takashi Saito. Indeed St. Regis is on a roll, with three more luxury properties slated for 2016 in the Maldives, Changsa and Cairo. Starwood’s ultra-luxury brand aims to expand the collection to 50 ultra-luxe hotels by the year 2020.
With sweeping views over the capital, The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur is part of ONE IFC, a premier mixed-use development, which is situated in the Kuala Lumpur Sentral Precinct (KL Sentral). In decorating the hotel, G.A. Design took their design cues from the luxurious Manhattan apartments that inspired the original St. Regis in New York over a century ago. The 208 guestrooms are the largest in the city, and each comes with walk-in closets, complimentary daily pressing and unpacking/packing by the signature St. Regis butlers. The best room in the house is the Royal Suite, a palatial pad accessed by private elevator. Perks include an in-room gym, massage room and an outdoor terrace with panoramic views.
The hotel’s comprehensive facilities have upped the luxury quotient in Kuala Lumpur. There’s an Iridium Spa, a fitness center, a yoga room, an outdoor pool and over 100,000 square feet of event space. The six restaurants and lounges include Crystal rooftop bar and The Drawing Room for the famous St. Regis Afternoon Tea.
Shangri-La in Sri Lanka: Parks and Recreation
With a slew of new, design-driven hotel openings, Sri Lanka is emerging as the destination du jour. The latest to debut is Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa, which is the first in Sri Lanka for the Hong Kong-based luxury hotel company. Set on the country’s southern coast with access to the Yala and Bundala National Parks, the resort is nestled on an estate measuring more than 140 acres — making it officially the largest resort in Sri Lanka. It’s surrounded by coconut plantations, a pristine private beach and an 18-hole golf course.
There are 300 rooms, including 21 suites, overlooking either the tropical gardens, the golf course, the lagoon, or the Indian Ocean. Facilities include Shangri-La’s signature CHI, The Spa offering Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments; a health club; a sunset pool; a free-form lagoon pool; and the Cool Zone Kids Club complete with a drone flying area, water park and a trapeze. Of the numerous F&B outlets, we’re intrigued by the sound of Sera, which was “inspired by the famous hawker stalls of Southeast Asia.” Note: The resort is also marketing itself as a destination wedding venue, with a large ballroom and additional conference/function rooms.
Sanctuary Chief’s Camp has a prime location in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
Luxury Lodgings in Africa
Sanctuary Retreats: A Boon for Botswana
Sanctuary Retreats is taking the luxury safari experience in Botswana to another level. Newly rebuilt, Sanctuary Chief’s Camp reopened on June 1 as a flagship property for the brand whose collection comprises river cruise ships and luxury safari lodges in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Good to know: Sanctuary Retreats constructed a solar farm — one of the biggest in Botswana — to supply energy for the camp and help minimize its environmental impact.
Botswana is increasingly on the luxury traveler’s radar, and the Sanctuary Chief’s Camp has a prime location in the famous Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, a top safari destination for its game viewing. Additions include a new bar, library, a fitness room and an orientation room for guests to learn about the Delta. The original rooms have now tripled in size; the 10 new pavilions come complete with private pools, outdoor showers, and bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the views while soaking in the tub.
The crème de la crème is the new Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite, named for the safari pioneer. Measuring over 2,000 square feet, this retreat is fully staffed with a chef, waiter and a dedicated housekeeper. Nice Perk: The suite comes with its own private vehicle and guide. Designed with a kitchen, indoor lounge, deck and private boma with a fire pit, the Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite can accommodate from two to six guests, and is a nice retreat for honeymooners or groups of friends.
Leeu Estates: A Vintage Five-Star Retreat
In other exciting news out of Africa, Leeu Estates debuted in mid-June in South Africa’s Franschhoek Valley. Famed for the vineyards planted by French Huguenots in the late 17th century, the valley boasts gorgeous scenery framed against a dramatic mountain backdrop. Leeu Estates is a five-star hotel with just 17 rooms and suites, situated on a working wine farm. This is the third boutique property for the Leeu Collection, which also comprises Leeu House and Le Quartier Français, both located in the Franschhoek village. (Outside South Africa, the Leeu Collection is behind Linthwaite House, a country retreat in England’s Lake District.)
Nestled on almost 170 acres of vineyards and landscaped gardens, Leeu Estates is home to an extensive art collection, The Dining Room for South African cuisine, a winery / tasting room, and a conference facility. For some indulgent R&R, the Leeu Spa showcases a unique product range made with organic, wild-harvested ingredients. There’s also a gym stocked with all the latest fitness equipment.
From the linens to the artwork, luxury touches abound in the guestrooms. Special attention has been paid to the marble-clad bathrooms, designed with under-floor heating, double vanity sinks, stand-alone tubs and heated towel racks. Top Digs: The Executive Suites with terrace, and the Cottages. For example, the Vineyard Cottage is comprised of an Executive Suite with terrace and a Deluxe Room, which can be privatized in its entirety. The largest cottage is the 4,510-square-foot Max House, which is located in the original gabled building. Nice Touch: All room rates include breakfast, a fully stocked minibar and one complimentary wine tasting of Mullineux & Leeu wines per guest.
Cool Culinary Coups
Palm Beach Eats
One of the best resorts in Florida, Eau Palm Beach continually racks up the awards for its luxe facilities and service. This is sunny resort living done right: a private beach, a dreamy spa and room balconies with hanging chairs for a restful respite catching the ocean breeze. Now there’s another reason to fall in love with the Eau Palm Beach. Breeze Ocean Kitchen debuted this past spring as the resort’s latest culinary concept and social hub.
A vibrant addition to the local dining scene, Breeze Ocean Kitchen exudes Palm Beach style with vibrant pops of color. Cool design details include Trina Turk pillows, tile art by Jonathan Adler, and chairs from the Phillippe Starck Play collection for Dedon. Don’t miss the “look out” bar where you can watch the sunset while sipping a classic cocktail (try the “Bahama Mama” flavored with Black Rabbit cold press coffee along with rum, coconut, orange, pineapple and lemon juices).
Executive Chef Josh Thomsen has dreamt up whimsical touches for the menu in collaboration with Chef de Cuisine Kevin Knieriemen. The menu features Floridian cuisine accented with Caribbean and Latin American flavors. Signatures include the “Local Caught Ceviche” and Cubano Tacos, made with Berkshire pork, home-made pickles, Swiss cheese and mustard.
In the evening, suspended lanterns and a “runway fire feature” light up the lounge space, where you can catch live entertainment and cap off your meal with a “spiked” milk shake like the Cuba Libra, concocted with rum, cola and vanilla ice cream. Tip: Take advantage of the nightly tapas menu after 5 p.m., with conch fritters, mahi mahi tacos, wagyu beef sliders and more.
A member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Legend Collection, Eau Palm Beach has 310 guestrooms, three tennis courts, two pools, event space and a children’s club.
‘Feed Your Wonder-lust’
In Peru, JW Marriott El Convento Cusco is breaking out a new “Feed Your Wonder-lust” package this summer. Guests who book this package will be able to explore the Sacred Valley of the Inca on horseback, dine on a six-course meal at Pirqa Restaurant and more. The entire experience includes a three-night stay in a Courtyard Terrace Room; full-day excursion to Machu Picchu, including round-trip fare via Peru Rail Expedition, lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge and entrance tickets; full-day journey excursion to Maras and Moray, with horseback riding and snacks; and — the pièce de résistance — a six-course chef’s tasting dinner for two at Pirqa Restaurant.
This package, which start at $2,725, can be booked through December 31 for travel through April 30, 2017; reservations must be made at least seven days in advance. The daily resort fee is $25 and includes two Pisco Sours, daily breakfast buffet for two, complimentary water in room, in-room oxygen system, daily Wi-Fi, $25 spa voucher, $10 restaurant voucher and historical hotel tour. To book, advisors should use promo code ES7 and packages start at $2,725.
Luxe Food Experiences All Around Mexico
Luxury tour operator Artisans of Leisure has just introduced a new series of private cultural tours in Mexico that are ideal for culinary travelers, among others. A sampling of some of the available experiences on various itineraries includes a private tasting tour in Mexico City, street food tour in Puebla, chocolate tasting in Oaxaca, visiting a mezcal distillery near Oaxaca, an excursion to vineyards and wineries outside San Miguel de Allende, learning about tequila production in the town of Tequila, a coffee-roasting and cheese-making tour at a luxury hacienda in the lush Colima countryside and private cooking lessons to learn regional cuisines in Oaxaca, Puebla, Merida, Los Cabos and San Miguel de Allende.
Other aspects of the new tour series will focus on local culture and crafts, indigenous flora and fauna, anthropology, artisan villages, folk art and contemporary galleries, yoga and family-friendly activities. All Artisans of Leisure tours in Mexico include sightseeing with expert private guides and accommodation at luxury hotels, such as Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F., in Mexico City, Rosewood Mayakoba and Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa in the Riviera Maya, Rosewood San Miguel de Allende (set in a former bullring in Zacatecas) and a colonial-style Relais & Chateaux hotel in Guanajuato.
Queen Mary 2’s Queens Grill Suite sports a sleek, up-to-date look following the ship’s lengthy dry dock this spring.
A Cruising Cornucopia
A Queen’s Majestic Return
Following a $132 renovation project, which Cunard says is one of the most significant refurbishments it’s ever undertaken, the line’s majestic flagship, Queen Mary 2, sailed into Southampton Water on June 23, flanked by Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. After that, Queen Mary 2 set sail for New York and will continue a schedule of transatlantic crossings.
The refresh, which includes a new interior design and new guest experiences, takes inspiration from the original Queen Mary that launched in the 1930s. The Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites and restaurants have been redesigned and refurbished, and the Britannia staterooms are set to be fully renovated by the end of the year. The ship also added 30 Britannia Club staterooms, 15 Britannia single staterooms and five Britannia inside staterooms.
The public spaces and restaurants were also transformed, with the former Winter Garden turning into the Carinthia Lounge. The ship now has a new specialty restaurant, The Verandah, and it has completely refreshed and restructured the Kings Court buffet area.
For travelers with pets, the ship has added 10 more kennels and a Liverpool lamp post and New York fire hydrant. Finally, the ship has received a complete repaint of the exterior, as well as technical enhancements and structural changes.
Antarctica Anniversary Adventures
Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic has added two new departures to its Antarctica 2016 season, with additional “Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent” departures scheduled for November 6 and November 16. The tour was created to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the first citizen explorer voyage to Antarctica led by Lars-Eric Lindblad. The two new departures will take place aboard the National Geographic Orion.
The 102-guest ship will follow the 14-day “Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent” itinerary. During the trip, guests will encounter penguins, arctic birds and whales, and have the opportunity to kayak among icebergs. Zodiac cruises will sail past leopard seals in their natural habitat, while land hikes will be guided by an expedition leader, eight veteran naturalists, a National Geographic photographer, a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, and an undersea specialist.
Rates for “Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent” begin at $13,360 per person based on double occupancy in a category one cabin. Guests on the two additional departures will also receive international economy roundtrip airfare between Miami/Santiago, and charter airfare round-trip between Santiago/Ushuaia.
Fathom’s Onboard Experience
Fathom has released new details on the onboard entertainment and culinary experiences for its Dominican Republic sailings. Onboard regional cuisine was created by Dominican Chef Emil Vega, who leads the development of Fathom’s specialty restaurant concept Ocean Grill. Chef Vega brings a modern aesthetic to traditional Dominican Republic cuisine, inspiring culinary creations that add a perfect touch to Fathom’s onboard food offerings. From a Grilled Seafood Salpicón to Crema de Frijoles Negros, guests can enjoy a wide range of Dominican and Cuban inspired food and culture, helping them further immerse and understand the cultures they will experience.
Also onboard, guests can participate in impact workshops, dance and cocktail classes, and various leisure activities and entertainment options while preparing for their on-ground experience. They also may purchase products ranging from artisan crafts to hand-crafted jewelry to sustainably produced attire to environmentally friendly beauty products at Fathom’s retail outlets.
Fathom’s core onboard programming includes sessions with Impact Guides, the first people Fathom travelers meet when they board the Adonia. Impact Guides introduce travelers to the Fathom experience and share additional information and guidance to equip them for the week.
Travelers can celebrate at a Superpower Party that helps them discover their own individual superpower and unleash their inner greatness. During an onboard Spanish class, they can learn popular Spanish expressions, practice Spanish language pronunciation and learn basic conversational phrases, which will be invaluable for approaching their time onshore.
Karisma’s Expansion Plans
Hotel Company Set to Add 10 Jamaica Hotels
Travel Agent was on hand in June for a monumental signing between Karisma Hotels & Resorts and the Jamaica Tourist Board. The deal was officially signed by Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s minister of tourism, and Ruben Becerra, vice president of corporate affairs and business development for Premiere Worldwide Marketing, the exclusive worldwide sales and marketing representative for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, at the historic Devon House.
It calls for 10 new Karisma Hotels & Resorts properties representing 5,000 new rooms in Jamaica. All of the rooms will be ready within the next 10 years, with the first scheduled to open around the summer of 2018, Becerra told Travel Agent. Dubbed “Sugarcane,” the resort represents an investment of more than $100 million, Rafael Feliz, Jr., corporate brand manager for Premier Worldwide Marketing, told us last year.
Sugarcane will be located in the parish of St. Ann and is about 40 minutes from the Montego Bay airport. It is also 10 minutes from the famous Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios. Mandy Chomat, vice president of sales and marketing for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, told us in December that it will be the only area in the Caribbean with such a concentration of luxury hotels.
Several Karisma Hotels & Resorts officials told us that there has been no official discussion on whether the company’s new Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts brand will be included in the resort complex.
Nickelodeon’s iconic orange blimps are among the few, subtle branding touches guests will note at the new Nick Punta Cana resort.
Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana Debuts
Travel Agent recently returned from the opening of the new Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We found that the best aspect of the 208-suite hotel, the brand’s first international property, is that the Nickelodeon theme of the hotel can be as big or as little as a guest wants.
Contrary to what we originally envisioned, Nickelodeon is not thrown in your face. Instead, there were just subtle reminders. Travel Agent was expecting to enter a room with Sponge Bob Square Pants wallpaper and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pillows. That was not the case. In fact, there are hardly any Nickelodeon logos here. Instead, the Nickelodeon touches are basically subliminal.
Nickelodeon’s colors of green and orange are sprinkled everywhere in the resort, from the orange and green pillows in the rooms to orange and green glasses at some of the hotel’s restaurants. Perhaps the biggest Nickelodeon feature of the rooms are the replicas of Nickelodeon’s signature orange blimp placed in front of the beds, but even those did not say Nickelodeon on them. Look for a complete report on this resort in an upcoming issue of Travel Agent.
Re-Introducing the Ritz Paris: Grander Than Ever
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider’s blog at www.eyepreferparis.com and publishes a monthly blog on TravelAgentCentral.com.
Anxiously waiting for more than four years for the Ritz Paris to reopen after a major renovation, we finally got to see the results last week.
Pictured: The reborn, 118-year-old Ritz Paris has retained the luxury appeal of an early era while bringing its amenities firmly into the 21st century.
The big question on everyone’s mind in the luxury hotel and travel industry when it closed was, will the legendary hotel opened by Cesar Ritz in 1898 retain its image of luxuriousness associated with a past era, or will it fall victim to catering to modern day guests looking for something new and exciting. The answer is now visible: The hotel has gracefully and masterfully edged both sides of the fence.
When walking through the lobby and visiting the public rooms on the main level, it seems like the familiar Ritz we knew and loved still exists, but on closer inspection we can see subtle updates. In fact, we were given an unexpected tour by one of the staff when we entered the hotel. She pointed out the changes and the things that almost stayed the same: a new tea salon with handsome oak wood walls named after one if its favored guests, Marcel Proust, serving French high tea along with Proust Madeleines; retractable glass roofs now covering the Bar Vendome and the formal l’Espadon restaurant, allowing for year round dining; and a third kitchen for the Ecole Ritz Escoffier cooking school.
A hotel gem, The Hemingway Bar, thankfully has been virtually untouched not only in its décor, but also its bartender, the world famous Colin Field, has stuck around. Instead of taking time off during the renovation, Field has been busy inventing new cocktails to celebrate the reopening, including a Bloody Mary where the client chooses their own seasonal tomatoes to go into their drink.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated new feature is the opening of the first Chanel spa in the world, Chanel au Ritz Paris, a perfect fit because Coco Chanel resided at the hotel from 1934 to 1971. The former Art Deco spa has been transformed, spanning two stories with seven treatment rooms exclusively using Chanel beauty and skin care products. The stunning mosaic tiled pool remains as part of the Ritz Club, along with personalized fitness programs. Australian hair stylist David Malett is at the helm of the beauty salon, promising women a glamorous ultra-natural chic look.
The renovation was assigned to Thierry W. Despont, a French architect and interior designer based in New York. On his last visits to the hotel before the renovation, Despont could see the hotel was tired looking and in need of a makeover, but he wanted to maintain its essence. Another major deciding factor for closing and upgrading the hotel was that it had lost its important certification as a palace hotel, a distinction only given to a handful of the top hotels in Paris.
Following the trend in recent luxury hotel renovations, he decreased the number of rooms, making the new rooms larger and having as many suites as there are rooms, 71. The Imperial Suite and the Coco Chanel Suite have been redone with a mixture of refurbished antiques and replicas, and a new series of themed suites has been introduced, including the Mozart, Maria Callas, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Proust. Although figures have not been verified, the cost of the renovation has been put at 200 million euros, but hotel industry insiders say it’s estimated to be as high as 450 million euros.
Despont also had a grand vision for the inner garden, an underutilized space. He wanted to create a Versailles-inspired formal garden and enlisted French landscape artist Jean Mus to carry out his vision by planting two dozen linden trees, along with ivy and white roses, in the 21,000-square-foot space, creating a stunning oasis in the middle of Paris.
Other new highlights of the hotel include a shopping arcade that links both sides of the hotel with top international designer brands, an underground ballroom that accommodates over 400 guests and a private tunnel under the Place Vendome that leads guests to the parking lot. The Ritz boutique has many clever souvenir gifts with the Ritz logo and an exclusive limited edition Monopoly set designed just for the hotel.
A fire last January delayed the opening of the hotel by three months. As of today only 90 rooms are available, as the other 50 rooms on the rue Cambon wing aren’t yet suitable for guests due to the fire and will reopen next year. —Richard Nahem