Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO THE MALDIVES, part 3, Soneva Fushi





PARADISE BAREFOOT CONTINUED
Now we visit the little sister of Soneva Fushi: much loved Soneva Gili.

On Soneva Fushi all the villas are on the beach, hidden away in the jungle, but on Soneva Gili they are all on stilts over their own lagoon, so it is a completely different setting.

Another beautiful flight to get there. This time we followed the pilot’s example and left our shoes in the luggage. After a quick boat ride we arrived barefoot at Soneva Gili and checked into our Villa Suite on one of the jetties.

Like Fushi, they are all in local wood and natural materials, enormous villas with lots and lots of space and a large sitting area. Here you have an amazing lazy view of the underwater world. Your private deck has cargo nets where you can lie and look down at the marine life.



Soneva Gili does not have its house reef close to the villas, as experienced at Fushi, and the lagoon floor is mostly covered with sand. However this attracts some new and very beautiful creatures. Plenty of blacktip reef sharks are seen everywhere, from your villa, from the lunch restaurant and whilst snorkeling. Big stingrays and eagle rays are also found in abundance around this area as well as many different kinds of puffer fish. Here you never really need to snorkel, you can just lie in the cargo net and the fish will come to you.



Smaller than Fushi, this place is primarily about relaxation. You are more or less forced to relax and enjoy yourself. The fact that neither you nor the staff wear shoes brings you closer to everything – not just to nature but to the staff. The relationship you have with them becomes very natural and fluid. When you meet the general managers walking around, they too are in their light linen clothes, bare feet, and at least give the illusion of being utterly relaxed as well. It is an amazing feeling to sit casually dressed with your feet in the sand, eating gourmet food and having the choice from an extensive wine list with mostly organic wines.



The resort offers 45 overwater villas including 8 water residences, 7 Crusoe residences and the Private Reserve including two master suites and guest room. The Crusoe accommodations and private reserve are indeed very private as they stand alone in the Indian Ocean reached only by boat. Guests get private rowing boats but can also use the shuttle.



Other facilities include an overwater spa, freshwater pool, gym, tennis, PADI dive centre with a purpose built dive boat – a typical Maldivian Dhoni.

AIRPORT & TRANSPORTATION
Soneva Fushi is a scenic seaplane flight of around 35 minutes from Male’ International Airport. Soneva Gili is 20 minutes by speedboat.

FLASH BACK – QATAR TO MALE’
A perfect start. Qatar airways business class delivered us fresh and ready, with plenty of leg room, Lanson vintage champagne and good choices in food.





At Male’ airport the pampering continued. Whisked off to a private lounge we could order special CDs for our room and book spa treatments, refreshed by hibiscus iced tea. Then we were lead to a light propeller plane for a stunning scenic ride. 45 minutes and a couple of stops later…. The pilot stepped out of the plane barefoot…

See our last blog on Soneva Fushi…

IN A COCONUTSHELL
The Maldives is paradise on earth, and this is how you should spend your time in paradise: relaxed and calm, with your feet in soft, white sand…

The sand was whiter then we dreamed of, the ocean even more beautiful and full of life then we imagined and, what is more, during 10 nights at Fushi and Gili we have been more relaxed than for a very, very long time.




NOTE: In blog style, these are our own informal snapshots. For the hotel's own images see our Select Collection website.

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO THE MALDIVES, part 2, Soneva Fushi





PARADISE BAREFOOT:FUSHI.
The pilot steps out of the plane and whispers: You will love it here. She is barefoot: how appropriate for a trip in barefoot luxury. At the tiny floating Soneva Fushi International Airport, the first thing our Mr Friday does is collect our shoes: No news no shoes. “No shoes” makes your holiday start on the right foot – totally carefree. Jetlag pours off us in the soft sand amidst absolutely breathtaking beauty.

Our home is a villa suite with private pool, hidden in the jungle with a pathway leading down to the beach.





The villa is massive, almost 600 sqm with large saltwater pool and huge outdoor bathroom area. On the inside you have everything you need, from makeup mirrors, different sitting areas, espresso machine and lots and lots of space.

This is basically what Mr. Crusoe would have built if he had more time and a flair for luxury. All of the water is purified on site, no water flown in from Europe. Everything here is focused on balance and sustainability.






Our high expectations of beauty and space wildly exceeded, it is time for another high expectation, the food. So we took our bikes (all guests get bikes) to the main restaurant. Here, now and every lunch time we were pampered with sushi and sashimi, along with plates of mixed salmon, tuna, snapper and reef fish caught a few hours before.


Our favourite lunch





Beachside sand-in-toes dining


The resort has three restaurants. The rest of the food followed the same theme, as locally produced as possible (even mushrooms) – and absolutely wonderful, enjoyed in beautiful and casual settings.









The delicatessen room



Wicked desserts




There are 65 villas, each just a few steps from your own stretch of white sandy beach. A Six Senses Spa provides beauty and body treatments, steam rooms and sauna. Tennis junkies relax – there are tennis courts too. And for those who come for the underwater magic, a dive centre with latest high-tech diving equipment, offering PADI certification within a week. And naturally, there is snorkeling.

Soneva Fushi has a beautiful and very rich house reef: turtles, rays, triggerfish are quite common snorkeling sights. While diving, schools of eagle rays, moray eels, clown fish and other beautiful marine life are all around you in a fantastic abundance.

We snapped this image just off our beach.








And so a week went by in barefoot paradise. Our next stop will be Soneva Gili…


Note: In blog style these are our own spontatneous snapshots. For images by Soneva Fushi see our website.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

HOTEL CHECKS DUBAI, part 3, Madinat Jumeirah






KID'S PARADISE


MADINAT JUMEIRAH is a large resort with three separate hotels all interconnected by water canals with boat shuttles. The outdoor area is beautifully landscaped and must be a paradise world for children.

The hotel was completely full but we managed to see a Deluxe Room in Al Qasr (The Palace); it is 55 sqm, with balcony, and can take two extra beds. They have lots of connecting rooms but will not confirm that you get one until check in. Al Qasr and The Palace each have 292 rooms.







We also saw one of the 29 summer houses that create the elite area Dar Al Masyaf. The summer houses hold 9 to 11 rooms. Each has a welcome lobby area with a butler. Every evening they have happy hour with complimentary drinks. Three summer houses (27-33 rooms) share one pool area. The Gulf Summer houses are the closest to the beach and these buildings house 11 rooms. The rooms in the summer houses start at a generous 60-65 sqm.



View over to the famous Burj al Arab.


Who should stay?


Families who are looking for a big resort with lots of facilities including the Wadi water park for children, watersports, and 44 restaurants and bars. Forty-four places to choose from, offering different cuisines and exotic drinks!




Facilities


The water park is great. For smaller children this water park is probably more suitable then Aquaventure at Atlantis. On site you find a souk with 75 shops and Talise Spa melding traditional ideas with international techniques; health club with trainers; hair salon. Watersports include windsurfing, sailing, diving and banana boat. Free wifi in the lobby. Free cable internet in the rooms.

Summary


Not a boutique hotel. A huge 5 star resort with two big hotels and summer houses. The guests have a great experience, with plenty to do on site, including a waterpark that also suits smaller children.



Note: In blog style we have used our own informal snapshots by mobile phone.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

HOTEL CHECK DUBAI, part 2, The Ritz-Carlton



CLASSIC INTIMACY ON THE BEACH
Serene in the heart of the Dubai Marina, The Ritz-Carlton is a more intimate resort with only 138 rooms. Amidst its landscaped gardens, the hotel feels quiet and calm in a warm and positive way. The sandy beach and clear water are beautiful - possibly the nicest beach feeling in Dubai.

We arrived into a splendid lobby that is very classic and traditional. A harpist and violinist added to the sense of harmony, even at midday.


The rooms are traditional five star, with nice classic bathrooms.










Floors 5 & 6 are the club floors.



The Deluxe rooms on the club floors are the same as the other deluxe rooms. The only differences are:

• Access to club lounge
• Nespresso machine
• DVD player

The room categories are:

• Deluxe Room
• Deluxe Room Club Floor
• Executive Suite
• Club Suite (Executive suite on the club floor)
• On top of that they have 2 premium suites.


Facilities
Four dining options include Italian and a Bedouin tent by the Gulf serving Arabic cuisine. There is also a Spa with sauna, steam room, hair and beauty salon, gym, four tennis courts, two squash courts, kid's club, and of course the pool area with three swimming pools including a swim-up bar and a children's pool.

Who should stay?
We recommend the Ritz-Carlton to couples and families who want a quieter and smaller resort, really nice beach and good outdoor pool area. The facilities are 5 star - not Dubai-style "six star" yet, but things will change with an ongoing construction project.






Location
On the water just by the JBR Walk which is a fantastic location. When you walk straight out of the hotel, in front of you are many restaurants, cafes, shops and so on. This is a big advantage for most holiday-makers.

You should know
The hotel is constructing another wing so the hotel will go from 138 rooms to 301 rooms. The other wing will be completed June 2012. Once it is completed all the old rooms will be refurbished bringing up the deluxe standard of the hotel.

Though construction is going on, it does not seem like a problem. The heavy work is already done and there is not much noise or disturbance at all. The construction area is walled off.

Summary
We really like the location of this hotel. It is a big advantage to be able to step out of the door and have all the dining and other options. The beach is nice and the hotel is very traditional and classic. A solid product which will be truly great once the new wing is ready in June 2012.

Note: In usual blog style, our images are our own informal mobile phone snapshots taken during our visit.












HOTEL CHECK DUBAI, part 1, One&Only Royal Mirage






DUBAI. The city that reaches for the sky - always bigger and better, full of fantasy and excitement. But still a place to relax in the sun. We paid a visit to the Big Apple of the Middle East to check out our favourite properties and keep in touch with our special contacts at the hotels. Our first stop was our top seller One&Only Royal Mirage.

O&O Royal Mirage

With its Arabian Nights touches of arches, domes and courtyards, this hotel is a contrast to the skyscrapers of Dubai - it is low rise and extends through huge gardens, lush lawns and immaculate flower beds. It is a large resort consisting of 3 hotels, The Palace, Residence & Spa, Arabian Court.

We stayed in the Palace. We had a Superior Suite which is the second room category - a generous size and perfect for a couple who wants more space and a separate living room. Definitely to be recommended.

A new jetty and lounge have opened which is the best place for a sundowner drink, with a trendy atmosphere, music, fire and so on. From this jetty there is also a boat shuttle to One&Only The Palm which leaves a few times a day.


Who should stay
We recommend The Palace or Arabian Court for families and The Residence for couples. The atmosphere both in The Palace and Arabian Court is exuberant, with people and children enjoying themselves. This was most apparent around the pool and in the breakfast restaurants. Obviously this is really relaxing for families, who don't have to feel their kids are an intrusion.

Location
On the water just by the bridge leading to The Palm. 20 minutes by car to Dubai Mall, 10 minutes to Mall of the Emirates, 10 minutes to Atlantis The Palm, 10 minutes to The Walk.

Facilities
Nice outdoor pool area with green lawns, lots of palm trees. Spa, fitness centre, 4 swimming pools, tennis courts, Kids Club, watersports.

You should know
No WIFI in the hotel. For guests staying at The Palace - you can use the gym in The Residence which is bigger than the one at The Palace.


Wrap-up
A big 5 star resort perfect for families. The fantastic thing is that all Select clients get a very special treatment. The sales department personally checks all the rooms prior to arrival for our guests to make sure there is a welcome card and so on.



Pool and bar area


Superior suite in the Palace


The Residence


Courtyard

Note: Pictures are informal snaphots by Select Collection during our stay

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

HOTEL CHECK MALDIVES, part 1, One&Only Reethi Rah





It is the one and only REETHI RAH - so loved that guests often try to book holidays years in advance.

Arriving at Male to check out both old and new resorts in the Maldives, our first stop was this wonderful resort, so loved by our top luxury clients. We did not even have to identify ourselves to the Reethi Rah team waiting in arrivals, they simply whisked us away to the waiting yacht. Easily the most special vessel in the harbour! High gloss mahogany and cream leather interiors, Espa products, cold towels, drinks and the attentive crew makes for a very comfortable 70 minute ride to the island. There is a sunbathing deck should the weather permit, although it is overcast and drizzling when we arrived, but still very warm.

A huge entourage awaits on the jetty for a welcome to paradise, including the Resort Manager: Warm greetings are exchanged between staff and arrivals: Happy Anniversary! Welcome back! Welcome to Reethi Rah! ‐ all very personal and sincere. A great first impression, despite the jet lag, and we have not even set foot on the island!

Embarking on a site inspection with Stephen, the Sales Executive, the sun appears by magic! We visit the dive centre, children’s club, spa, dining outlets, boutique, and finally when we arrive at our Beach Villa I am blown away…. The design is stunning ‐ high ceilings, dark Balinese woods, the sense of space and privacy is overwhelming. Outside there is dining space, sunloungers, a hammock and your own section of the beach. Totally secluded from neighbouring units; villas are at least 12 metres part.

We have had many clients deliberating about spending the extra on a villa with pool. You will not feel too deprived if you opt for just the beach villa. The feeling of the sand on your feet, proximity to the ocean and the total privacy is so special. The villa interior decoration is the same for all categories, with the overwater and additional bedroom options alternatively depending on the guest requirement.






The food is outstanding. We dined at Reethi, the main restaurant and experienced the Maldivian Buffet (weekly, Saturdays presently) which was varied, beautifully presented and of excellent quality. There is also the atmospheric Fanditha, for Middle Eastern influenced cuisine and Tapasake for Japanese which is exceptional quality, easily comparable to the finest London Japenese restaurants, although expensive.

Breakfast at Reethi, buffet or a la carte is an extravaganza, and the service all around the resort is impeccable. The GM and Resort Manager were ever present and approachable.

There is entertainment 6 nights per week with a resident band in the bar, traditional Bodu Beru dancing on Saturdays performed by some of the Maldivian resort staff. A truly fabulous top luxury resort. Dress up and be outgoing, or stay low key in your own piece of paradise at your villa.

For more relaxation - the spa provides natural healing therapies, Vitality Pools, Crystal Steam rooms, sauna, Lifestyle Showers, fitness centre and beauty salon. There are also 2 swimming pools, simulated grass tennis courts, motorized and non-motorized water sports, dive centre.

Dive Sites:

One can snorkel off the beach - but diving is the way to see the real underwater magic. From shallow reef dives to deep‐sea wrecks and shark dives, the Reethi Rah Dive Centre offers 29 different dives appealing to a variety of skill levels and areas of interest.

How to get to Reethi Rah:

70 minutes by luxury yacht from Male' International Airport

Final comment:

We simply loved it!




SNAPSHOTS OF SOME NEW RESORTS BELOW - WAIT AND SEE WHICH MAKE OUR NEW SELECT COLLECTION 2012-2014













Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MYKONOS, part 2, Mykonos Grace



GLORIOUSLY GREECE & GRACE
You have to book far ahead for this chic boutique hotel located just north of trendy Mykonos town. With days still warm at the end of September, we found Mykonos Grace was a romantic spot for couples to relax in stunning surroundings. Yet in only 5 minutes, the hotel shuttle gets you down town to where it all happens.

We stayed in a deluxe room with plunge pool (most rooms at Mykonos Grace have plunge pools). The room was small but chic, and the view from the big furnished terrace was amazing (room 51). This is a blue and white world – gloriously Greece.

From the hotel you have only 2 minutes walk down to the sandy beach (ask in the reception for towels). Here you find several tavernas that serve typical Greek food.





The Restaurant in the Mykonos Grace also serves really delicious and exclusive food. The breakfast is a la carte so everything is very fresh.

We were really impressed with the exclusive dining that Mykonos had to offer – it’s hard to find anything better in the whole of Greece. Just to mention two of them.

Gola: Here you have a lounge atmosphere feeling with a nice view overlooking of Mykonos. The Mediterranean food is just fabulous. Gola is located between Hotel Grace and the Town.



Interni Ristorante: This deluxe Italian Restaurant is one of the 10 best restaurants in Greece. Interni is located in the heart of Mykonos Town. Your nightlife in Mykonos can easily start from here. And go on till dawn...


Interni fresh lobsters

Both restaurants are perfect for our top luxury Select Collection clients.

Back to the hotel. It also offers a big shared swimming pool and relaxing terrace with generous sunbeds and breathtaking view.



You even get wonderful views from the library - a big library with huge balcony where you can take a drink or just relax..



The hotel also has a small spa and a small small gym – with two people training it would feel really cramped!

We did try treatments at the spa and were really impressed. Though the spa is quite small, the steam room had plenty of space and it was pleasant to relax there before the treatment.

We really like Mykonos Grace and found the staff very friendly. Starting from the first moment when we were offered champagne at reception...



HOW TO GET TO MYKONOS GRACE
15 minutes by car from Mykonos International Airport. Complimentary minibus transfer