Silversea Silver Cloud in London for the Olympics

Don’t you wish you were sail­ing aboard this ship as it sailed under London’s Tower Bridge, where the 2012 Olympic Rings are promi­nently dis­played! This is Silversea’s Sil­ver Cloud at the tail end of a 16-day voy­age from Copen­hagen to London.

Upon arrival to Tower Bridge, port author­i­ties needed to raise the Olympic Rings so Sil­ver Cloud could safely sail beneath the bridge (see photo at left).

Guests were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime sail-in with spec­tac­u­lar views as the city of Lon­don read­ied itself for the Olympic Games.

In the pic­ture below, the ship is tied up along­side the HMS Belfast.

Sil­ver Cloud departed Lon­don last night for a 9-day sold-out voy­age from Lon­don to Reyk­javik, Iceland.

Four Seasons Milan Opens Spa In A Convent

There are spas, and there are spas—places so spe­cial that you can’t help but want to visit. The new spa at the Four Sea­sons Hotel Milano is one of those. Now open to hotel guests, the hotel has con­verted a 15th cen­tury for­mer con­vent with the help of renowned designer Patri­cia Urquiola, craft­ing a unique city retreat amidst 200-year-old vaulted ceil­ings and brick walls.

The design is all Ital­ian, using native mate­ri­als, warm col­ors and ameni­ties like warm­ing stones to cre­ate a relax­ing ambiance for guests.

The spa fea­tures just seven treat­ment rooms but boasts ameni­ties like a Turk­ish bath, sauna, Scot­tish shower, Techn­o­gym fit­ness stu­dio and sig­na­ture hair salon by Rossano Fer­etti. Guests enjoy treat­ments branded by names like La Prairie and Sodashi, a com­bi­na­tion of the ultra-luxe and the natural.

Right now, the hotel is open only to hotel guests, but will open to the pub­lic in the fall. We can’t wait to visit.

Five Culinary-Inspired Spa Treatments

Often times, before I get to a des­ti­na­tion, I’m not sure what I’m going to write about. Most stories—or, at least, the best stories—come from the unex­pected, only unfold­ing after I’ve truly immersed myself in a place. And many times, the story doesn’t truly reveal itself until I go some­where else; mean­ing that I might find some­thing inter­est­ing in Hawaii, but I don’t find the true story until I head to Mex­ico, Whistler, and Turks & Caicos. Such was the case for this story, one cen­tered around the grow­ing trend of spa treat­ments that incor­po­rate food (some good enough to eat!). 

It all started ear­lier this year when I found myself at The Four Sea­sons in Whistler, British Colum­biaOn the evening of my arrival, I dined at the award-winning steak­house on prop­erty, Side­cut. The very tal­ented chef, Edi­son Mays, offers nearly two dozen choices of house­made spice rubs to com­ple­ment his vari­ety of steak cuts (Edison’s Medecine on the Kobe steak is not to be missed!). The next day, after an after­noon on the slopes, I headed to the spa, where I dis­cov­ered that Mays had devel­oped a sim­i­lar line of bespoke rubs to use in spa treat­ments. The ser­vices, like “The Awak­en­ing” (a rub made from epsom salts, cit­rus zest, cit­rus and lemon­grass essen­tial oils), didn’t offi­cially hit the spa menu until June, but they’ve already taken the spa by storm. If you’re headed to the area, I highly rec­om­mend the “Romance Rub”, a blend of Epsom salts, cin­na­mon and cin­na­mon essen­tial oil that brings blood and nutri­ents to the skins sur­face and relieves mus­cle ten­sion.

No mat­ter where you are, though, you’ll likely be able to find other culinary-inspired spa treate­ments on the menu. Here are four more I can per­son­ally vouch for:

At the recently ren­o­vated spa at The Regent Palms in Turks & Caicos, guests can choose from a vari­ety of culinary-inspired treat­ments, like the indige­nous island “Zareeba” treat­ment, a ser­vice where guests inhale an aro­matic steam from a blend of freshly brewed ther­a­peu­tic herbs, or the “Ori­en­tal Essence Cer­e­mony”, a ginger-infused salt scrub inspired by ancient Asian and Indian tech­niques using an aro­matic spice sachet filled with smooth peb­bles and soaked in warmed exotic oils. 

The 50,000-square-foot Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea in Maui recently launched two new treat­ments based on the power of the “Niu,” the coconut palm tree in Hawaii known for cre­at­ing radi­ant, smooth skin. The Royal Niu Coconut Dream for Two is a win­ner! The two-and-a-half hour treat­ment employs fibrous coconut husks (nat­ural exfo­lia­tors) to apply a mild coconut scrub, which is fol­lowed by a coconut but­ter body cocoon, com­plete with a scalp and foot mas­sage. Next comes a 25-minute coconut milk bath, fol­lowed by The Royal finale, a 50-minute mas­sage employ­ing coconut oil, shells and husks.

The spa at Grand Velas Riv­iera Maya takes guests on a culi­nary jour­ney through Ancient Mex­ico with treat­ments like the “Cof­fee Ritual”, an exfo­li­a­tion fol­lowed by a relax­ing cir­cu­la­tory mas­sage with cof­fee oil extract, the “Cocoa Rit­ual”, which uses a smooth, fresh mint choco­late cream to leave your skin invig­o­rated and full of vital­ity, the “Puri­fy­ing Vanilla Facial”, a deep cleans­ing treat­ment, or the “Olive Clay Wrap”, which begins with a honey exfo­li­a­tion fol­lowed by a puri­fy­ing hot clay mask made with guaraná-mate, and a cold clay mask made from olive and mint (both of which boast ton­ing and slim­ming effects). 

At Travaasa Austin’s award-winning spa, you don’t want to miss the “Invig­o­rat­ing Avo­cado Wrap”, which uses sump­tu­ous avo­cado body but­ter blended with essen­tial oils of laven­der, pine, orange and lemon to bal­ance, purify and tone. Other foodie-centered treat­ments include the “Ancient Purification”, which begins with an organic pan­ela sugar scrub made from fos­silized Dead Sea mud and organic herbs of chamomile, dan­de­lion and lemon balm, and the “Detox­i­fy­ing Juniper, Olive Stone Exfo­li­a­tion & Pol­ish”, which employs juniper, sea­weed and cypress (all of which have a rep­u­ta­tion for puri­fy­ing and revi­tal­iz­ing the body and mind and jump-starting the metabolism).

Dispatch from Donna: Dazzling Thailand

This is travel writer Donna Hull’s last install­ment of “Dis­patch from Donna,” a weekly update dur­ing her 52-day voy­age aboard Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner.

On the last week of our 52-day Regent Marinercruise, Alan and I add a daz­zling jewel to our cruis­ing crown—Thailand.

The intro­duc­tion begins when Mariner ten­ders at the resort island of Ko Samui. For me, the time in Thai­land does not begin with a lus­trous start. Because of my desire to ride an ele­phant, we’ve booked one of Mariner’s free excur­sions, “Ele­phant Riding.”

Guests are fer­ried by small, air-conditioned vans to a rub­ber plan­ta­tion, ele­phant sanc­tu­ary, and beach stop. The tour is well run and pleas­ant enough, but the ele­phant sanc­tu­ary reminds me of a run-down cir­cus. After rid­ing in an ox cart, watch­ing a cook­ing demon­stra­tion by our guide, attend­ing a mon­key show fol­lowed by ele­phants per­form­ing tricks, we finally climb aboard the Asian ver­sion of a pachy­derm. He (or maybe she) plods along beside the rudi­men­tary hous­ing area for sanc­tu­ary workers.

The golden sand at Lipa Noi Beach, our final excur­sion stop, saves the day. Walk­ing along the shore reminds me that Thai­land is known for beau­ti­ful beaches. Next time, I’ll join other cruise guests for a day of leisure at Chaweng Beach or sched­ule one of those two-hour Thai massages.

Laem Cha­bang is Mariner’s port entry to Bangkok. With two nights in port (and three full days), options for explor­ing the area range from long, multi-hour day excur­sions to Bangkok, spend­ing a cou­ple of nights off the ship in Bangkok, or remain­ing on Marinerto lounge around a quiet ship after dis­cov­er­ing the nearby sights of Pattaya.

Mariner offers a free bus trans­fer to Bangkok, or cruis­ers can choose an excur­sion that ends at the Shangri-La, where many pas­sen­gers have pre­vi­ously booked an overnight stay through Regent. Alan and I made our own arrange­ments also at the Shangri-La, sav­ing money in the process.

Using the “Grand Palace and Emer­ald Bud­dha” excur­sion as our entry into Bangkok, we once again find our­selves on a long bus ride, this time on a mod­ern high­way that gives us the oppor­tu­nity to observe life in another coun­try. Although our guide claims that Thai­land has an agri­cul­tural based econ­omy, you wouldn’t know it from the dozens of fac­to­ries that are vis­i­ble from the bus win­dow. Acres of con­tainer stor­age facil­i­ties house row upon row of ship con­tain­ers each stacked six units high.

The drive to the Grand Palace takes us through Bangkok’s China Town, known for jew­elry stores sell­ing every form of gold orna­men­ta­tion. The bus nego­ti­ates nar­row streets as almost every female pas­sen­ger presses her face against the win­dow glass to bask in the golden glow while mak­ing a men­tal note about a return-shopping trip.

Inside the Grand Palace grounds, golden-roofed build­ings daz­zle us. A hot sun glints off of the col­ored glass mosaics that seem to cover every sur­face of the palace struc­tures. Some archi­tec­tural ele­ments are encrusted with semi-precious stones. It all com­bines into one bril­liant kalei­do­scope of col­or­ful buildings.

At the Royal Monastery of the Emer­ald Bud­dha, vis­i­tors must leave their shoes on the side­walk below. As this is an active place of wor­ship, no cam­eras are allowed and observers must either sit with their legs crossed or move quickly through the build­ing after gaz­ing at the Jade Bud­dha located on a tall platform.

When the bus drops us off at the Shangri-La Bangkok, Alan and I are sur­prised with an upgrade to the exclu­sive Krungthep wing. After a wind­ing jour­ney through the sprawl­ing com­plex, we dis­cover that we’re spend­ing the night in a one-bedroom apart­ment with a bal­cony over­look­ing the Chao Phraya River.

After a night spent explor­ing on our own through the hot, steamy tents at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, we return to watch the night boat traf­fic from our bal­cony. The next day we return to Laem Cha­bang via Mariner’s free shut­tle bus, wish­ing that we had booked an extra night in Bangkok for vis­its to the Reclin­ing Bud­dha, a long boat river ride or an explo­ration of Thailand’s ancient cap­i­tal Ayuth­haya. But our time onboard the Mariner is draw­ing to a close. A re-packing job waits for us at the ship.

Dur­ing this 52-day jour­ney, we’ve seen des­ti­na­tions that are now marked off of our “been there, done that” list. And through Mariner’s intro­duc­tion to Japan, China, and Thai­land, we’ve dis­cov­ered coun­tries that we’d like to explore on a deeper level.

When Mariner docks in Sin­ga­pore, our cruise life will be over—for now. As Cap­tain Felice Patruno says when end­ing his noon-day announce­ments from Mariner’s bridge, “Ciao. See you later.”

Luxury Family Accommodations Near Walt Disney World

If a trip to Walt Dis­ney World is on your family’s agenda, one of the first deci­sions you’ll need to make is where to stay. Though many fam­i­lies enjoy stay­ing at one of Walt Dis­ney World’s resorts, some folks opt for a lux­ury resort off the Dis­ney cam­pus.  Some appre­ci­ate a break from the “magic” in the evening. Oth­ers plan to include vis­its to Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, Sea World, Bush Gar­dens, or some of Orlando’s other fam­ily ori­ented attrac­tions.  When it comes to the incred­i­ble ser­vice and sophis­ti­ca­tion the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, the Wal­dorf Asto­ria Orlando, and the Peabody Orlando have to offer, there are some trav­el­ers for whom noth­ing else will suf­fice. Here’s a brief run-down of Orlando’s finest lux­ury accom­mo­da­tions off of the Walt Dis­ney World campus.

Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

At the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, you’ll dis­cover an oasis of sophis­ti­cated tran­quil­ity after a fun but exhaust­ing day at the amuse­ment parks.  Since it’s twelve miles away from Walt Dis­ney World, it’s close enough for con­ve­nience, but far enough to truly feel like a retreat. Tai­lored to fam­i­lies, this ele­gant Ital­ian palazzo inspired resort offers an abun­dance of fam­ily related ser­vices and activ­i­ties.  All the rooms offer a bal­cony with a lovely view, large white mar­ble bath­rooms with dou­ble sinks, sep­a­rate show­ers and tubs, and Bvl­gari bath prod­ucts. Upon request, the staff will even pre­pare your room with help­ful things such as toys, games, kid-sized robes, cribs, high chairs, step stools and children’s bath prod­ucts. You’ll enjoy their sig­na­ture robes, nightly turn­down ser­vice, and the Ritz-Carlton Spa which even lit­tle ones ages 2 and up can enjoy.

The resort offers a lovely heated out­door pool with lux­ury cabanas, equipped with lounge chairs, ceil­ing fans, flat screen TV’s and more.  For your lit­tle ones, there’s a pirate ship play­ground with splash-pad and spray­ing fish area. While the kids are at the Ritz Kids pro­gram offer­ing a mul­ti­tude of activ­i­ties includ­ing ten­nis, scav­enger hunts, dance par­ties, and crafts, you can enjoy the 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course or expe­ri­ence the many eco-activities such as bird watch­ing, kayak­ing, nature hikes, fly-fishing. There’s also an evening pro­gram “Kids Night Out” from 6pm-10pm. The resort also shares ameni­ties with the JW Mar­riott next door, includ­ing their kid-friendly lazy-river pool.

The Wal­dorf Asto­ria Orlando

The Wal­dorf Asto­ria Orlando sits next to Walt Dis­ney World, offer­ing easy access to the parks, and lim­ited views of the Magic King­dom and the nightly  fire­works from some of the rooms, while at the same time pro­vid­ing a sanc­tu­ary of peace and quiet at the end of a busy day. The resort has many sim­i­lar design ele­ments of the beloved Wal­dorf Asto­ria New York, such as the infa­mous clock in the lobby, but has been infused with a Florid­ian twist.

You’ll find a sooth­ing tran­quil décor in rooms, which pos­sess such ameni­ties as Egypt­ian cot­ton linens, high def­i­n­i­tion TV, and Ital­ian mar­ble bath coun­ters with dual sinks. Enjoy fam­ily time in the zero entry pool with lux­ury pool cabanas, which offer com­pli­men­tary drinks, fruit plat­ters, Wi-Fi, and HD flat screen TV’s, or even try the lazy river pool at the Hilton next door.

While the kids are off enjoy­ing the WA kids club, “Kid’s Concierge” which fea­tures arts and crafts, scav­enger hunts, relay games, and gam­ing equip­ment, you can try the Rees Jones Cham­pi­onship Golf Course or immerse your­self in the exclu­sive Guer­lain spa. You’ll have the plea­sure of choos­ing from an array of treat­ments such as the aro­mather­apy wrap, and Five-Senses Hydrother­apy. There’s also a jog­ging path, water aer­o­bics, and sur­rey bike rentals available.

The Peabody Orlando

This clas­sic lux­ury hotel is sit­u­ated next to the Orange County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, and there­fore caters mostly to con­ven­tion guests. But the Peabody Orlando can still be a nice choice for fam­ily lux­ury, espe­cially for those with slightly older chil­dren. Like the orig­i­nal Peabody in Mem­phis, the famed Peabody ducks wad­dle through the lobby to the foun­tain twice a day, accom­pa­nied by John Philip Sousa’s “King Cot­ton March”.  The lobby’s clas­sic ele­gance and style is a wel­com­ing site for weary amuse­ment park lov­ing families.

Rooms offer such ameni­ties as flat screen HDTV’s, bath­room mar­ble counter tops, mini LCD TV’s in the bath­room mir­ror, and waf­fle weave bathrobes. Nightly turn­down ser­vice is avail­able upon request. Though not a sprawl­ing resort, the hotel still offers many ameni­ties found at them, includ­ing ten­nis courts, two pools with cabanas, and a fit­ness enter. Enjoy an array of options at the Spa such as the Sig­na­ture Mango Gin­ger Infu­sion or the Revi­tal­iz­ing Mud Wrap.  Although there is no kids club or spe­cial children’s activ­i­ties planned here, the Peabody’s major ren­o­va­tion in 2010 included the addi­tion of a children’s zero-entry grotto pool, with a slide, kid-friendly water­fall, and playground.

Island Paradise: InterContinental Bali Resort Review

The world is a beau­ti­ful place… a very big, beau­ti­ful place and it can be dif­fi­cult fig­ur­ing out which des­ti­na­tions should top your “must-visit soon” list. I had always wanted to visit Indone­sia, but I was more focused on Komodo Island (to catch a glimpse of a real-life dragon) than on Bali. But, when I sat down to plan a spe­cial birth­day trip for my hus­band, a game plan to visit Bali and Hong Kong fell per­fectly into place. I will admit that it’s quite a trek from New York City to Jim­baran Bay, Bali, but it was worth every sin­gle mile!

Bali is blessed with many options when it comes to lux­ury vil­las, resorts, and guest houses. For this par­tic­u­lar trip, we selected the Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal Bali Resort in Jim­baran Bay. We’d had an excel­lent expe­ri­ence with the Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal chain in French Poly­ne­sia in May. I also had my heart set on stay­ing at the Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal Hong Kong on the way home from Bali so we thought, “Why not make it a trifecta!”

The resort is ideal for first-time vis­i­tors to the island as it’s just a 10-minute drive from Ngu­rah Rai Inter­na­tional Air­port and is nes­tled between Nusa Dua and Kuta. While some trav­el­ers feel that Jim­baran Bay is too close to the air­port, we liked being within walk­ing dis­tance of the var­i­ous fish restau­rants lin­ing the beach.

See below for some pho­tos and addi­tional trip details. You can also read my com­pre­hen­sive Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal Bali Resort review at LuxuryCruiseBible.com

There are six swim­ming pools here, includ­ing the Main Pool, pri­vate Club Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal Pool, and the Bali­nese Bath Pool (pic­tured above).

The lovely on-property Spa Uluwatu also offers mas­sages in bales at the beach’s edge.

Sev­eral mer­maid foun­tains hold court at the main pool at the Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal Bali.

Spread over nearly 35 acres, the Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal Bali offers three lev­els of accom­mo­da­tion: Resort Clas­sic, Sin­garaja, and Club Inter­na­tional (which also encom­passes suites). With 418 rooms and suites, it’s one of the larger resorts in Bali.

There’s a huge lily pond that attracts birds through­out the day who are hop­ing to catch a meal.

We highly rec­om­mend the Inter­Con­ti­nen­tal Bali. The staff is friendly and accom­mo­dat­ing, the grounds are well-kept, and the restau­rants serve con­sis­tently deli­cious meals. This would be a per­fect pre– or post-cruise home away from home and we hope to visit Bali and this resort again soon.