Tuesday, May 22, 2012

HOTEL CHECKS ITALY, part 2, Hotel Caruso

CAPRI AND THE AMALFI COAST.

For the romantic spirit or just for romance, few spots beat the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri. Italy's sunny west coast is the perfect distance away for a honeymoon or just for a break between sun, sea and sky. We have just visited some of our Collection properties in this legendary area. Capri Palace and Caesar Augustus on Capri. Hotel Caruso, Santa Caterina and Le Sirenuse on the Amalfi Coast. We include them in our hotel check series on Italy to follow.






Hotel Caruso, Ravello (Amalfi Coast)

Located in the heartbreakingly beautiful village of Ravello, perched just below the clouds overlooking the Amalfi Coast. It is probably the most picturesque village we have ever seen: cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and staircases, local (good quality) restaurants and cafes, beautiful gardens and churches…and almost everywhere you look you have a view of steep hills dotted with colourful traditional houses or clinging to cliffs with the turquoise waters below.

Hotel Caruso immediately strikes you as top of the tops  - and you feel its absolute class right until you (sadly) have to leave.


Like floating between sea and sky

On first sight the infinity pool will literally make your jaw drop open. Pictures do not do justice to how good this is. And it is heated.

 Accommodation

Our terrace - like a dream

The 50 rooms are all unique but every one is charming and boasts a great view. The opening category village views rooms offer the bliss of large garden terraces, overlook the hills opposite and have partial sea views. If you don't see a seaview room then you would be very happy to stay here. However, once you have seen a seaview room you cannot image anything less. We would strongly suggest the upgrade to a deluxe seaview. Our room was one of these and had a spacious terrace and stunning interior with double vanity marble bathroom and views straight from the bed out through the double balcony doors to the ocean. The junior suites and suites are sizeable upgrades and not essential unless you have a strong desire for a living room. If price is less of a factor then the exclusive suites are indeed quite incredible. All rooms come with Bvlgari toiletries and all the other usual accompaniments to 5* accommodation.


Meals

Breakfast is taken at the Belvedere restaurant and is the most stunning location for bfast imagineable. The sun rises opposite you so you can enjoy basking in the morning sunshine whilst looking over the coast. Your breakfast is likely to take twice as long as normal because you will be mesmerized by the views. Food itself is amazing as expected. Extensive buffet plus numerous la carte options. This is also the location for dinner which is again superb and with the sun setting behind you, this time you will see the hills and sea opposite and below you bathed in the evening sun. 



Facilities & activities

The wellness centre is very good and offers a comprehensive range of treatments.

The hotel has a series of terraced gardens cascading down the cliffs and are full of lemon trees, herbs, roses and all other plant life. As well as being a joy to walk around, they do also add to the view from your room.

Service is excellent.

The hotel runs a daily complimentary boat excursion (departs 930am ish for 2 hrs) along the Amalfi Coast which is strongly recommended. Also several daily complimentary shuttle transfers are available to and from Postiano and Amalfi. This means Caruso can be your base for a number of nights.

Offers & added values

Low season offer - Complimentary a' la carte meal for all 4 night stays (Oct 14th – Nov 4th 2012)

Select Added Value – A local welcome amenity


How to get to Hotel Caruso

1 hr 30 min drive from Naples International Airport. From Capri 50 minutes by boat to Amalfi then 30 minutes by car to Ravello.

Who to stay

Romanticists and honeymooners, or anyone seeking the very best.

Note:

our experiences of four other hotels in this wonderful area of Italy follow in the next few weeks.
Note also: The images are in blog style - snapped by a mobile phone camera.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HOTEL CHECK THE PHILIPPINES, part 1, Amanpulo

ANOTHER LAST PARADISE.


There is at least one more last paradise on earth, Amanpulo on Pamalican Island. This Crusoe isle is simply dazzling with tropical beauty and just as stunning as the Maldives, especially in the eyes of "Amanoholics" addicted to Aman’s sublime style and authenticity.



The world's best beach?

Apart from Aman’s gracious yet understated signature, the resort is blessed with the “world’s best beach”, long white sands, tall palms and turquoise water. What is more, Amanpulo has views of mountains on the neighbouring island – an island providing fresh foodstuffs and also hotel staff, thus living up to the Aman reputation for eco friendliness, authenticity and local touch.



Dazzling beauty and peace


For those who find the romance of a small island lasts only a few days, the greater size of Pamalican is a blessing. You can whizz between the 40 bungalows (casitas) on white sandy paths in solar powered buggies, or if empowered by organic gourmet eating enjoy a morning jog around a 5.5 km track. But go early – this is the tropics.

Free daily snorkeling trips leave at 10am and 2pm for an hour of discovery on the fringing reef. Since that is exactly when the Select team chose to eat breakfast and lunch, we took the option of kicking out from the beach to the reef on our own – some 10-15 minutes for an average swimmer. You could also paddle out on a Hobie ocean kyak.

The water is divine turquoise and aquamarine as it lies over pure white sand. Tidal effects are minimal and one can swim all day including low tide. Close to the land swimming is safe even for children. Further out currents can be quite strong.



Activities

Great gym with steam facilities booked free for 30 minute sessions. Pilates studio, yoga retreat and spa: all located on the highest point on the island. Paddle boards, canoes, snorkeling gear and full dive centre available.

30 metre swimming pool




Accommodation

We insist you stay in a beach casita - as we did on our recent visit. All casitas at Amanpulo are identical in design. Simple understated luxury in wood, well maintained but not modern or flashy in any way. All have TV, DVD, espresso machine. Each is spacious with a big bedroom and a big bathroom/dressing area – and an outdoor deck. All casitas come with a club car since island is big to get around. There are also villas with private swimming pools and kitchens.

For families, note that the 2 and 4 bedroom villas are actually 2 and 4 separate houses and not connected. They have a pool and a living room sala in the middle.



Our hammock and beach casita  - privacy and peace

Simple tasteful luxury

Meals


There are 5 restaurants in season. Meal pricing is on par with 5 star resorts – expensive but not exorbitant. Hamburger around 25 euros. Breakfast is a la carte and offers all sorts of delicious things that can make it costly if you indulge freely.


Breakfast


Arrival

When landing in Manila you are met by the Amanpulo representative. A 10 minute minibus ride transfers you to the domestic hangar. Once there relax in the Amanpulo lounge which offers free wifi, Nespresso coffee, snacks and tea sandwiches.
Arrival in paradise...

How to get to Amanpulo
From Manila the flight is on a Dornier twin engine propeller plane which seats 14 people (in 1+1 configuration). Onboard are earplugs, blanket and a useful guide about the island. No toilet on the plane. Flight time is 1h10mins.

Manila is an overworked airport so it’s good to allow 2 hours connecting time at both arrival and departure. On departure from MNL one has to pay a terminal fee of 550 Philippine pesos (approx 13USD) per pax – Visa and Master card accepted.



Some added values

Daily complimentary snacks (sweets and coconut water) are served in the Club House at 3 pm. A daily fruit plate is also brought to your casita. Local bottled water is plentiful and always free even with meals.



Who to stay

Any guest would be happy at Amanpulo due to the beauty of the island, though a sound budget helps.




Families

No specific facilities for children; no kids pool but the big pool at the club house has one section which is not so deep. Nevertheless the island can be great for families it is flat and safe, and during our stay there were plenty of families. Casitas can easily accommodate 1 extra bed, but 2 would be a bit too much.



Weather and best season

Amanpulo has a long season with reasonably good weather. The dry season is November to May. Best months to visit are March and April, while June, July, Aug, September & October bring a risk of typhoon. But even at this time of the year weather can be quite nice. When it rains it usually does not rain for long.


Wind direction on the island changes with the seasons. Ask your Select travel consultant to guide you on which Amanpulo accommodation is best at various times of the year.

NOTE: The images were snapped by the Select team with a mobile phone camera and no retouche work has been done - these are the real colours...